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The State of the 2020 democratic race. TRANSCRIPT: 9/6/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Anita Kumar, Franco Ordonez, Rick Wilson, Tom Bevan, Rick Wilson,Matt Apuzzo

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, a stormy week comes to an end with Donald Trump wrestling with the national media and the National Weather Service.

The good news, Alabama was spared by the hurricane.  The problem for Trump may be more about economic numbers and polling numbers.

Plus, this is why our military and their dependent families apparently can`t have nice things.  The wall Mexico refuses to pay for, instead will come out of the Pentagon budget.

And in case you`ve missed them, if there`s been something missing from your life these past six weeks, Congress returns on Monday as we look back at this summer of our discontent as the "The 11th Hour" gets under way on a Friday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 960 of the Trump administration.  That means we are 40 days from the 1,000-day mark, which is equal parts mythical and meaningless, and around here it means, by the way, this broadcast first came on the air three years ago tonight.  But I digress.

This nation and our Bahamian neighbors spent this week tracking and dealing with and running from Hurricane Dorian.  It also consumed our President`s week, though, not in the usual way.  He has spent days trying to prove he was right in warning that Alabama was in the path for impact from the hurricane.  And it`s very important to him.  He`s returned to it about a dozen times on social media.

Then there was this, of course, in the Oval Office, the map, the work of government storm forecasting professionals with an added hand-drawn loop to extend the cone of uncertainty to include, you guessed it, Alabama.  "Washington Post" reports that according to a White House official it was Trump who used a Sharpie to mark up the map, though NBC News has not matched that particular bit of reporting.  Trump was asked about the alteration earlier this week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And that map you showed us today, it looked like it almost had a Sharpie --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don`t know.  I don`t know.  I don`t know.


WILLIAMS:  Tonight, it appears the White House has found someone within the Commerce Department willing to give the President air cover though not by name.

Tonight, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which includes the National Weather Service, has release an unsigned statement saying that the information provided to the President through Monday demonstrated that at least, "tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama."  By the way, they had the same chance of hitting the White House as they did Alabama.

While Trump remains fixated on this issue, several reports this week indicate he`s about to enter a more intense period of campaigning.  He has a rally set for Monday in North Carolina, another set for September 16th in New Mexico.

Latest Gallup polling shows his approval rating at 39 percent while 57 percent disapprove.  This week a poll of voters in the battleground State of Wisconsin show Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders running ahead of Trump while he was tied with Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris.

Trump has also been under increasing pressure to lead the way on new gun control legislation after a series of mass shootings in Ohio and Texas claimed 38 lives.

On Monday Mitch McConnell said in a radio interview he`d bring new gun laws to the Senate floor if Trump showed his support.  This week Trump seemed all over the place on his commitment.


TRUMP:  Been having a lot of phone discussions and some meetings with different people in the Senate and in House of Representatives.  And we`ll be making some pretty good determinations pretty soon.

I support safety for our citizens.  I support keeping guns out of the hands of sick people, mentally ill people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If it took closing some of the loopholes in background checks and maybe even extending the waiting period, would you support that?

TRUMP:  We`re going to take a look.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you think-- will you get backlash from the NRA, sir?

TRUMP:  Maybe.  The NRA wants to do what`s right, too.  I really believe that.


WILLIAMS:  Meanwhile, Trump made a controversial end run around Congress to get the Pentagon to pay for the border wall.  The wall was a signature campaign promise.  This week he tried to justify the move.


TRUMP:  I think Secretary of Defense spoke with members of Congress and explained it to them.  And I think he felt very good about it.

We have thousands of people who tried to rush our country, I think that`s national security.  When you have drugs pouring into our country, I view that as national security.  And he had very good conversations with various members of Congress.


WILLIAMS:  Today, one member Democratic member of Congress from a border state made it clear how she felt about it.


REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX):  We have a President who is absolutely obsessed on feeding red meat to his supporters.

We all know that a wall, which is incredibly fiscally irresponsible, does not stop asylum seekers.  It does not make our country any safer.  In fact, the words of this President are what makes our country unsafe.  The rhetoric, the policies, and diverting money away from national defense.


WILLIAMS:  Amid all of this as we said, get ready, Congress comes back next week and gearing up to resume investigating the President, including a crush of new inquiries, more than 60.  Here they all are, ranging from abuses of power and impeachment to a new look into whether Trump used his position as president for private profit.  This comes after revelations that Vice President Pence took a 180-mile detour to stay at Trump`s hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland.  House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings, Democrats from New York and Maryland, respectively, are demanding documents from the White House, Mike Pence, Secret Service, the Trump Organization, all by September 19th.

This week, Trump was asked about Pence`s stay at his themed resort.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Can you speak to your involvement in the Vice President`s plans to stay at a Trump property in Ireland?

TRUMP:  Well, I had no involvement other than it`s a great place.  It`s Doonbeg, I own it.  It`s in Ireland.  It`s beautiful.  It`s wonderful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You didn`t suggest that he --

TRUMP:  No, I don`t suggest anything.


WILLIAMS:  And that brings us to our lead-off discussion on a Friday night after the week we`ve had, Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent, Associate Editor for POLITICO, Franco Ordonez, White House Correspondent for NPR, and Rick Wilson, veteran Florida man, veteran Republican strategist whose views about our President are best expressed by the tittle of his book "Everything Trump Touches Dies."  Good evening and welcome to the broadcast.  Welcome all of you back to the broadcast.

Anita, I`d like to begin with you.  As the man on T.V. says, but wait, there`s more.  And it comes from of all places, POLITOC tonight.  And here is the story.

"In early spring of this year, an Air National Guard crew made a routine trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies.  What wasn`t routine was where the crew stopped along the way, President Donald Trump`s Turnberry resort, about 50 miles outside Glasgow, Scotland.  Since April the House Oversight Committee has been investigating why the crew on the C-17 military transport plane made the unusually stay, both en route to the Middle East and on their way back to the luxury waterside resort, they have yet to receive any answers from the Pentagon.  The inquiry is part of a broader previously unreported probe into U.S. military expenditures at and around Trump property in Scotland."

I`m going to ask the control room, Anita, while we have our conversation to rerun that scroll of existing and proposed investigations.  When I ask you what comes of the toll of all of this, just tonight`s story added on top of the pile?

ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, I mean, this is something we really haven`t talked about.  You`re scrolling through these other investigations.

What we`ve continued to hear about Trump properties for the last two years is this thing called the emoluments clause, the foreign emoluments clause that the President should not be taking money from foreign governments.  What we`ve barely heard about is the think we`re talking about tonight, which is President of the United States is not supposed to get any other money, profits from the taxpayers besides his salary.

So all these times that Mike Pence and his children and himself stay at these properties, Secret Service, the military, other agencies are right there along with him and putting money into Trump hotels.  This is a whole another line of inquiry that we haven`t really seen much about but these members of Congress want to start looking.

WILLIAMS:  Franco, there`s further reporting tonight that these air crews were walking around this resort feeling ill at ease because they had the clothing they had and they were certainly not dressed for the surroundings.  Will anyone, Franco, in the White House be surprised by just tonight`s latest story?

FRANCO ORDONEZ, NPR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  I mean I certainly think that today`s story regarding the airmen is going to, you know, raise some eyebrows, even in the White House.  But as Anita is saying, this is not something that`s new.  It`s not just the airman, it`s not just Mike Pence.  You know, watchdog groups have been conducting FOIAs since the beginning of the administration requesting thousands of documents that show receipts and documents of all these type of incidents.

You know, Secretary Ross has been at the Trump hotels more than 20 times.  Pence has been more than 20 times.  Secretary -- you know, several different Cabinet members as well as family have been there raising questions, as Anita said, about the domestic emoluments charge -- clause.  And this is something that is really going to continue, I think, to the -- more questions are going to come.

WILLIAMS:  Rick Wilson, it`s unabashed.  It`s happening seemingly in plain sight.  And this is why our friend Chris Matthews at least one night a week refers to the Trump family appending seemingly in plain sight. This is why our friend Chris Matthews at least one night a week refers to the Trump family as the Romanovs.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  They are, Brian.  And I tell you one thing.  Look, it`s been a minute since I was in the DOD, but I can tell you, it`s part of regulations in the DOD that air crews are not to stay overnight at civilian facilities unless it is mission essential.  They`re supposed to go from military to military facilities, and I`m pretty much sure that staying at a Trump golf resort is never mission-essential for a U.S. Air Force or Navy crew heading over to the Middle East to the active theater of combat in the Middle East.

This is some other element of the Trump grift.  It is some element of the Trump scam.  These are people who have obviously managed to corrupt folks down the chain and sent the signal that at the minimum to send a signal, that if you stay at Trump resorts maybe he`ll like you more.  And I think it`s an extraordinary moment where, you know, we`re seeing it in real time that they`re forcing these airmen to land their C-17s off military airfields somewhere close to a Trump resort in order to stay there.  It is an unbelievable level of corruption.

WILLIAMS:  And Rick, you do remind me we have a network of air bases with names like Aviano, the air basis.

WILSON:  We do, indeed.

WILLIAMS:  We have maintained along with Brits, and the French, and the Germans for exactly this type of thing.

WILSON:  Indeed.  And I think -- I don`t know the exact number right now.  I think it`s five in Britain that would handle the C-17 right off the top of my head.  So, somehow I`m thinking that landing at a Trump golf resort is not like landing at Hertfordshire for instance, or Bentwater, or wherever we got still bases operating in the U.K.  It`s very much a symbol of a corrupt and corrupting administration.

WILLIAMS:  I`ll see you`re hurt for (INAUDIBLE) add you in Mildenhall, which I think is still up and running.

WILSON:  You will indeed.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Franco, this also brings us to the story of the wall, which also involves the U.S. military, i.e., not getting construction projects they were counting on.  Now, some Republicans have whispered this week what political malpractice this is.  Some of these programs are in red states with 2020-eligible senators.

We have named a few here on the screen.  This is pork barrel politics 101.  Military construction programs in your district, in your state, that`s what makes politics go round.  And what are you hearing about the wisdom behind this?

ORDONEZ:  No, absolutely.  I mean, you`re talking jobs, you`re talking positions.  This is very important not only to -- for all parties, Democrat, Republicans.

What I`m hearing from my sources, if you`re in the administration, this is something that Trump -- President Trump has talked about doing for a while, taking money from other parts of the government to do this.  But, look, this is -- and Democrats, as you know, are calling this, you know, this is hurting U.S. forces.

This President has shown that this is an issue that is important to him, it`s a priority and he`s willing to take from other aspects of the government.  The criticism of that is that it`s raised vulnerabilities that are not there -- that were not there before.  DHS, he`s movingly money from FEMA and other organizations, raising vulnerabilities.  And now he`s taking from the military.  So there are going to be a lot of questions about whether he is putting the United States in other danger by taking these moves and focusing so much of the priority on the border and immigration enforcement.


WILLIAMS:  Anita, we have spilled gallons of ink, if we still use such a thing, on how pliant and complacent beyond boot-licking, boot-laundering Trump`s Republican Party members have become around him, yet I`ve heard it theorized this week.  If you want to see a split among Republicans between senators and this White House, this will do it because will them have already bragged on the fact that they`ve brought these dollars back home for military construction.

WILSON:  Right.

KUMAR:  Well, I don`t know.  There maybe a lot of times in the last couple years where I said, "Oh, well, this is it."  This is the time that we`re going to hear Republicans speak up, and we don`t usually.  So I`m not going to out on a limb on that.


KUMAR:  But, yes, there are definitely Republicans that are not happy for the reason that Franco just mentioned.  This is jobs and important facilities back home in their districts, important things that members of Congress have promised.

So, what you are going to see is a couple things, though, behind the scenes.  You`re going to see, I think, lawmakers, Republicans talking to the White House, talking to the President, complaining to him whether they do that publicly, I don`t know.  But it`s also going to make it very difficult for the President to go to Congress and ask for things.  And that`s where we are next week when they return, right?  He has been pushing them to pass the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.  He will be unveiling some gun -- firearms legislation, whether that`s something that`s strong or not, we don`t know yet, but he`s going to be asking them about that.

He has other things that he`s going to be asking for down the road before the end of the year.  And so this is going to make it very tough for them to say to him, "Hey, we want to work with you," when he did this.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Rick, what do you make of the current state of the polling?  I don`t know much, but 39 approve, 57 disprove doesn`t seem great?

WILSON:  Well, you know, look, basically the Republican Party dragged the guy out from behind a waffle house.  He was pissing on the back wall.  They would find a more popular candidate than Donald Trump in terms of the overall national electorate.

But, you know, look, this is where Trump lives.  He lives in a boundary, a low boundary in the high 30s, a high boundary in the mid-40s.  He`s going to be always there depends on how crazy he is that day and how much damage he`s done to the economy in any individual day.

But all those things, you know, that is a zone where Trump is actually comfortable.  He`s okay thinking he can win with just the base of the GOP, even though the things he`s doing are causing the party to have enormous damage, even in red states that he should be doing well in.

Look, I mean, South Carolina, pulling military contractor money out of South Carolina is just dumb, North Carolina, just dumb.  These Senate seats, they`re going to be up in 2020.  He`s doing damage to these guys.  And the fact they cannot speak out against him, that they must be silent, is an enormous political risk for them coming up in the election.

WILLIAMS:  With that, to Anita Kumar, to Franco Ordonez, to Rick Wilson, our thanks for starting off our conversation so well tonight.

And coming up for us, Democrats running for president to send on the granite state this weekend to win over voters and endorsements.  We`ll have the latest reporting from one of our reporters on the ground.

And later, the campaign promise that every American committed to memory we have no choice.  Problem is, the President couldn`t keep it.  "The 11th Hour" is just getting started on this end of week, Friday night.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This campaign just can`t be about beating Donald Trump.  It has to be a movement, grounded in American values and ideals that define this nation best.

KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I see a great deal of enthusiasm on the ground, and it is going to be a function of working hard and earning the vote of everyone.  And that`s what I intend to do.


WILLIAMS:  So 19 Democratic presidential candidates will converge, all of them at New Hampshire State Democratic Convention this weekend.  It`s a chance for the contenders to pitch their cases to the first in the nation primary voters.

The Real Clear Politics average of polls gives us a snapshot of where the race stands.  Joe Biden slightly ahead with 21 percent in New Hampshire, Senators Bernie Sanders 19 percent at second, Elizabeth Warren rounding out the top three with 15 percent.

As we will remind you often, in New Hampshire, Sanders and Warren are local candidates from neighboring states, so there`s a lot of voter familiarity with them because they receive free media.

Back with us tonight, NBC News Correspondent, Mike Memoli who`s covering the 2020 campaign for us and Tom Bevan, Co-founder and President of Real Clear Politics.  Gentlemen, welcome.

And Mike, I want to take you back to the beginning of summer when you first went out on the road.  The last time your suitcase had that new suitcase smell.  How has the Democratic field changed as you`ve watched them?

MIKE MEMOLI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Brian, it`s a little bit smaller now.  We talk about 19 candidates going to be on stage here in Manchester for the convention tomorrow.  You know, that`s down 20 percent from the bigger field that we started with just months ago.

But I think what`s interesting is as big as the field still is, by historical comparisons, it does feel increasingly like a three person race.  We have Joe Biden occupying that center, moderate lane, very much playing up that electability argument.  And you have Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders clearly fighting for that progressive energy, trying to make the case that this is more about the heart than the head in this Democratic campaign, not just about who can beat Donald Trump.

And for these other candidates, it`s about really finally establishing a rationale to stay in this thing, frankly.  And so tomorrow, it`s an opportunity for some of these other candidates in front of a room full -- an arena full, frankly, of activist from across the state to make the case for why in a state that has favored in the past, underdog candidates, that has given a shot for those candidates who can maybe don`t have the biggest resources compared to the front-runners, but still can surprise and win over voters one at a time, that they still have a reason to be in this race.  And that`s going to be, frankly, a daunting task.  But we`ll see how they fare tomorrow.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Tom, give the folks watching tonight a viewer`s guide to polling out of New Hampshire.  What should be believed, what shouldn`t?  Is any of it, as this point, worth a bucket of warm maple syrup?

TOM BEVAN, REAL POLITICS CO-FOUNDER & PRESIDENT:  Well, that`s a tough question.  I mean, look, the last poll out of New Hampshire, actually, had Bernie Sanders leading by six percentage points, and that`s different from the other polls that we`ve seen, all those have had Joe Biden leading.  So it may be an outlier, we don`t know.  We need to get more polling from New Hampshire.

But it certainly looks like it`s competitive.  It`s the most competitive early state of all of them right now.  And the fact that Joe Biden`s campaign was sort of downplaying New Hampshire and talking up the fact that this other new Englanders in the race, I think, speaks to the fact that it`s competitive up there right now.

And I would also point out to remember, independents can play.  They are about 35 percent to 40 percent of the electorate.  And they can play and either pull Republican ballot or Democratic ballot.  And all the action is on the Democratic side this time around.  So you can look for the candidates to also -- they`re going to be speaking to activists, but they`ve also got to have some language in there and give a nod to some of the independents.

WILLIAMS:  And Mike, let`s go a bit deeper on something people might have heard this week, the Biden camp downplaying Iowa and New Hampshire.

MEMOLI:  Well, it`s interesting, Brian.  I think -- you`ve actually heard the vice president himself say of Iowa, that it is a must-win, frankly, that he does have to perform well there.  I think this idea that he`s the most electable Democrat in the race takes a real hit if he doesn`t perform well in Iowa.  But New Hampshire absolutely, they have been downplaying expectations partially for the reason that you articulated which is that neighboring candidates tend to do well here.  We saw John Kerry in 2004, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton was somebody with a very well-known identity.  The Clinton`s have a special affinity for New Hampshire and yet Bernie Sander beat her handily here.

And so, they do want to make it, you know, seem as if they come in here with the advantage Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warrens, of course he has that firewall in South Carolina so we can endure (ph) that.  But I say Tom makes a great point not just because he was my old boss at Real Clear Politics, because he`s right on the nose, that Joe Biden has been making a case for the moderate vote, for the independent voter.  And I think that`s sort of a sleeper here in New Hampshire that they think they can win over not just because he`s making angle argument about Donald Trump but, in fact, he`s making a more pragmatic case to voters.

WILLIAMS:  And OK, Tom, when people hear the story out today that the Republicans have canceled primaries in South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, and Kansas, what should they make of that?  How common is that?

BEVAN:  Well, there is precedent for this.  It`s happened -- both parties have done it and it`s not unusual for -- when presidents of that party are running for re-election for some states to cancel their primaries.  I mean, we did see -- and yes, there`s talk that the Trump folks have been working behind the scenes to do this, to try and shut down any challenges to Donald Trump.  I don`t think Donald Trump`s in danger of losing the nomination to anyone who`s running against him.  But it does give a chance for his critics to step up and say, "Look, this is unfair, they`re trying to shut us down."  And certainly his challengers, Joe Walsh and Bill Weld getting a little bit of extra oxygen to make their case against Trump.

WILLIAMS:  To Mike Memoli, to Tom Bevan, gentlemen, we`ll have you both back, of course, thank you so much.  Glad to reunite boss and former employee.  Really appreciate it.

BEVAN:  Thanks, Brian.

MEMOLI:  Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up for us, President Trump is posting videos about how successful this summer was.  We`ll talk about that and what has him and the Democrats preoccupied when we continue.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I`m not opposed to the Green New Deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I love the vision of the Green New Deal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I`m a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am in favor of the carbon-free America.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA):  There are a lot of ways that we try to change our energy consumption and our pollution.  Some of it is with light bulbs, some of it is on straws, some of it, dang, is on cheeseburgers, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Would you support changing the dietary guidelines?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You know, the food pyramid?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  To reduce read meat specifically?



WILLIAMS:  So that was just a sampling of the Democratic presidential candidates, what they had to say on CNN earlier this week about climate change during Wednesday`s seven-hour town hall, a similar two-night event is coming to this network.

As we mentioned here last night, the Trump campaign was listening and they sent out an email called 10 Eye-Popping Moments from Democrats` Green New Deal Town Hall.  We thought that this topic especially necessitated the return of Rick Wilson.  So we`ve asked to speak privately with him for just this segment.  Rick, before you do, I want to show you the Fox News treatment of the said subject from just tonight.



TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST:  Starting to figure this out.  Straws for me but not for thee.  Don`t like it?  Tough.  Stop your whining and eat your insects or your pets, or your neighbors.  We`re heading out for a cheeseburger.


WILLIAMS:  Speaking of cheeseburgers, tonight Laura Ingraham seemed to dine out on what looked like read meat with two incandescent bulbs and a number of plastic straws in the middle.  Rick, we`re having a little fun here, but given the work that has paid for your home over the course of your professional life, if I asked you to, could you not put together an ad for the Republicans to come at the Democrats this way?  They`re coming for your light bulbs, your straws, your cheeseburgers, any other read meat you`ve got around the house, your guns, certainly, and the keys to your Ford F- 150?

WILSON:  Well I drive an F-250 super duty diesel, so yes they became after that first off the top.  Look, this is a classic example the Democrats absolutely not getting what this election is about.  It is a referendum on Donald Trump, full stop.  All of this policy chatter they`re talking about, all they`re doing is giving the Trump ad makers fodder for extraordinarily dumb and yet incredibly effective ads they`re going to run to the Trump base over and over again repeating that message.

They`re after your straws, they`re after your hamburgers, they`re not going to let you grill in your backyard.  They`re taking your gun, they`re taking your truck, they`re taking your -- they`re going to make you eat worm meal or whatever the hell else that`s coming up.  This is why the Democrats, they get in this policy debate that they think is relevant and it`s just not the case.  Policy in presidential campaigns doesn`t matter.  Re- elections are always an incumbent -- a referendum on the incumbent.

And so folks who think that they`re going to go out and say my 800-page energy plan which includes eating worm meal is going to sell voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida, in the swing states are out of their damn minds.  So, you know, I know they all want to go out and be the most virtuous about climate change or the most virtuous about energy or what have you.  It`s just terrible politics and terrible optics.

WILLIAMS:  Rick, because you and I are old enough to remember this past spring, we want to pause for just a moment to remind the folks watching of the headlines we witnessed out of this White House just this past summer.  For example, late June --


WILLIAMS: -- "New York Times" first reported the President approved military strikes against Iran, but then abruptly called them off.  Remember that one.  The President then met with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong- un at the DMZ.  July 4th, Trump held behind his rain shield his salute to America event on the national mall with military flyovers against a cloudy backdrop.  He went after four Democratic members of Congress known as the squad telling them to go back to the countries they came from.  And he called the Baltimore district of Congressman Elijah Cummings disgusting and rat infested.

Trump also added this about American Jews.


TRUMP:  Where has the Democratic Party gone?  Where have they gone?  Where they`re defending these two people over the state of Israel?  And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.


WILLIAMS:  Then there was the President`s interest in buying Greenland.  He abruptly canceled a trip to Denmark, annoyed over that country`s prime minister had to say about the U.S. buying Greenland.  You`ll recall the President also, quote, hereby ordered companies to leave China, even though he lacks anything approaching the power to do that and sent the market down.

Axios reported the President suggested multiple times that the government explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes.  Luckily that was not needed to spare Alabama this time around.  The President said he would like to hold next year`s G-7 meeting at his Doral golf resort in Miami then denied there were bed bugs at same resort.  Just last Friday, the President posted what appeared to be a now-former classified photo of a failed Iranian missile launch.

Rick, I`m tempted to say go.  How do you look back?  What stands out to you from this summer of 2019?

WILSON:  Brian, the summer of 2019 will be remembered as the point where everyone in America who wasn`t completely in the bag for this guy looked at the corpus of all these crazy events, all these insane statements, and they said to themselves, you know, this guy is crazier than an outhouse rat.  He is absolutely bonkers.  There is no consistency under this, there`s no three-dimensional chess, there`s no strategy.  This is just a guy who says whatever is on his brain at that moment.

Whatever he wakes up with when he`s rage tweeting on the toilet at 8:00 in the morning is what he says.  He doesn`t have any sense of control or discipline or strategy.  This is all exactly what`s in his brain at that moment and that`s terrifying to anyone who recognizes that he has control over 7,000 nuclear weapons in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

WILLIAMS:  Reminiscent of the title of the essential Bill Withers` song, who is he and what is he to you.  Thank you for pointing out on twitter --

WILSON:  Yes, indeed.

WILLIAMS:  -- the now-essential remix of said song.  Didn`t know you were a fan.  Rick Wilson, thank you so much.

WILSON:  I am, indeed.

WILLIAMS:  -- for everything and --

WILSON:  Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  -- goodbye to everybody on Periscope.

Coming up for us, devastating cyberattacks over a decade ago are now considered a blueprint for the Russian interference that has moved in our country to stay.  We will talk to "The New York Times" reporter who`s been gathering the elements of this story when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  Welcome back.  Because someone has to these days, "The New York Times" is examining a Russian interference operation over a decade ago that was very similar looking back to what happened here in 2016.  In a new episode of the television show the chronicles in "New York Times" called "The Weekly" on FX and Hulu, that man "Times" reporter Matt Apuzzo looks at methods Moscow used to disrupt democracy in Estonia back in `07, and the warning signs that were missed.


MATT APUZZO, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  When I was in Washington and we were covering the Russia story, we had this massive time line document.  And one of the first things on the time line was Russia hacks Estonia.  I was really interested in this Estonia story.  It just has this feel of, like, a missed warning sign.  And so I`m kind of wrestling with this idea about whether Estonia was a one-off, whether it was a cyber attack, or whether it was really the precursor to (INAUDIBLE) in 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, the proverbial canary in the coal mine.

APUZZO:  It feels a little bit like now we look up and we say how did we not see an influence campaign coming?  The CIA has been fighting influence campaigns with Russia forever, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, yes, but from 9/11 at least through 2007, the major focus off the agency was the terrorist threat, certainly not necessarily Russia.


WILLIAMS:  So that`s the setup and it does gets your attention.  And with us for more, the aforementioned Matt Apuzzo, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for "The New York Times" based in Brussels.  And Matt, maybe because tonight is our third anniversary, I`m going to mention on this broadcast for the first time the actor James Woods, who, after 9/11, calls the FBI and says when I think about it, I realize I was on a flight that was a dry run for 9/11.  FBI came to his house.  He is questioned about it and he gave them all the details of what he saw happening in the first class cabin.

Now, in the post-9/11 world, we have morphed from being chiefly concerned about terrorism to now very concern about this.  Can this rightly be called a dry run for perhaps what we saw in Brexit and perhaps what we saw hit us in 2016 that has moved in here to stay?

APUZZO:  I think, Brian, and happy anniversary, by the way.

WILLIAMS:  Thank you.

APUZZO:  But I do think it`s safe to call it a dry run, although I guess I would say it wasn`t really that dry.  I mean, and this is a case -- what happened in Estonia was, the Russians figured out that the best way to influence politics is to tear at the fabric where the seams are.  In Estonia, that was a natural division between ethnic Russians and ethnic Estonians and it work to great effect.  There were riots in the street, somebody died, and then they layered on top of that a series of weeks of cyberattacks.

And they used this information, this is an era before social media, so they were using comment sections on news websites to push out propaganda.  It has all the hallmarks of what we saw here in 2016, but it was like the early stages.  I think in Estonia, they`d say it wasn`t dry.  We endured a month of cyberattacks and riots in the street, but it sure is -- all of the aspects that we saw here in 2016.

WILLIAMS:  OK.  So how did they look at it for best practices the way a company might have, and how did they get better at it by 2016?

APUZZO:  Well, so I think you have to look at both sides of the Atlantic on this, right?  Russia obviously learned that natural divisions are the best way to influence a democracy.  And so in the United States that means immigration, religion, guns, race.  In Estonia obviously that meant national identity.

And in the United States, what lessons did we learn?  Sort of no lessons from that.  We were really -- as a country, we`re really preoccupied with the terrorism fight, the expanding war against al-Qaeda, the aftermath of torture, warrantless-wiretapping, what are we going to do in Guantanamo.  And Estonia was seeing it at all just as an issue of hacking.

How do we harden our infrastructure, how do we protect our computer systems?  Nobody really thought of Estonia as an influence operation and so nobody went back and looked at the lessons learned and used them to prepare for 2016.

WILLIAMS:  And a reminder to our viewers that the Russian goal was to break up the Atlantic alliance and turn friends into enemies.  With that, Matt Apuzzo, we`ll be watching this week`s edition of "The Weekly" on Sunday night.

We thank anybody around here willing to get up at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, especially in a place as beautiful as Brussels.  So thank you.  Always a pleasure to have you, Matt Apuzzo from Brussels.

Coming up for us, who will pay for the wall?  Well we now know it won`t be Mexico.  We will break down, however, projects right here in the U.S. that are losing their funding so that the wall can go up.



TRUMP:  Who`s going to pay for that wall?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison):  Mexico.

TRUMP:  You better believe it, and they`ll do it.  And who`s going to pay for the wall?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison):  Mexico.

TRUMP:  Who?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison):  Mexico.

TRUMP:  Who is going to pay for the wall?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison):  Mexico.

TRUMP:  Who?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison):  Mexico.


WILLIAMS:  Well, except as we all know, they didn`t pay for the wall and they were never going to as was frequently predicted going back a long time, including by former Republican strategist, former Republican Steve Schmidt right here on this network.


STEVE SCHMIDT, FMR. GOP STRATEGIST:  We see here the con man being exposed.  The people have come to see the wizard and the wizard has promised them the great wall of Trump paid for by the Mexicans.  But at the moment, for the unveiling of the wall, it appears to be an invisible one.  And where are the pesos?  Where are the Mexican pesos that the American people were promised would pay for this wall?  There are no pesos.


WILLIAMS:  In fact, we learned this week the Trump administration is taking $3.6 billion with a "b" dollars away from the Pentagon to pay for the wall.  In all, 127 military projects will suffer both here in the U.S. and at military bases around the world.  The list as you can see is long.  You can find it on the web.  It includes scrapping plans to spend money on firefighting stations, hazardous waste facilities, basic infrastructure.

"New York Times" highlights this example.  "For almost two decades, families at Fort Campbell, the sprawling Army base along the Kentucky- Tennessee border have borne the brunt of the country`s war efforts as steady clip of troops with the 101st Airborne Division and from Special Operations units deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.  This week the families discovered they would not get the new middle school they were expecting so that President Trump could build his border wall."

Of note, that military base located in Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell`s home state.  A teacher at the existing school put it this way at Fort Campbell, "Most of our students don`t know what it`s like to live in a world without war, where you don`t have to worry about mom or pop being killed.  The one big benefit of this school is that we try to support all those emotional needs".

And this reminder, Congress refused to hand over money for the wall.  Remember, the government shut down over it.  Trump then declared a national emergency, and so here we are on a Friday night in September.  And after another break, coming up for us, the massive storm, the massive need that has been left in its wake.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go here tonight comes to us courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the folks who run the national weather service which is, was, and remains the very best at what they do on earth.  But up to space we go for this magnificent loop from the spectacular goes weather satellite.  Watch as day gives way to night tonight and the lights of the population centers come into view.  Also a vivid reminder of just how big Atlanta looks in the night sky.

But mostly, look at how big and sprawling a storm system this still is.  From Delaware to the Canadian maritime, scraping pass New York`s Long Island, the cape and islands in Massachusetts, and passed the main coast unbelievably.  Hurricane warnings are posted tonight for Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.  The hurricane that started life as a collection of thunderstorms off to western coast of Africa is expected to make landfall in Halifax perhaps as the worst storm they`ve had there in 15 years and then still continue its loop over the north Atlantic.

And then there is the grim business of what is already done in places like Abaco in the Bahamas.  The warning today from their government to be prepared for a staggering death toll, hundreds up to thousands are still missing tonight.  Here is our report from there tonight from NBC News Correspondent Morgan Chesky.


MORGAN CHESKY, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS (voice-over):  Tonight the Bahamas facing a new threat, with conditions deteriorating and thousands unaccounted for, frustration is boiling over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don`t allow us to suffer any more by this day and the other night.

CHESKY (voice-over):  Home after home, destroy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I got my two boys, my wife and I.  And we don`t have anything now.

CHESKY (voice-over):  On Abaco Island, everyone we met, including Nicole Leavens (ph) says help can`t come fast enough.

NICOLE LEAVENS, RESIDENT, ABACO:  Now there`s no more Marsh Harbour.

CHESKY (voice-over):  Nothing?

LEAVENS:  Nothing.  Our hopes, gone, everything gone.

CHESKY (voice-over):  We visited the town of Marsh Harbour on Abaco Island.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A little bit of food and a little bit of water for now, but how long that going to last us?  You see?  That`s the million dollars question now.

CHESKY (on camera):  Here in the Bahamas, the buildings have to be built to withstand a category 4 hurricane.  But just a quick look around in any neighborhood shows you the difference with the category 5 and what it can do.

(voice-over):  The coast guard rescuing more than 200 people so far.  They`re critically injured, air lifted to safety.  But the prime minister pleading for patience.

HUBERT MINNIS, PRIME MINISTER OF THE BAHAMAS:  We can`t move all of you at one time.  But the boats will be coming in.  Boats will be coming in and aircrafts.

CHESKY (voice-over):  Others pitching in.  Royal Caribbean Cruise line turning nearby ships towards Grand Bahama, dropping of tens of thousands of meals.  Ferries now going to several islands, transporting hundreds to safety.  Many crowding the docks to get out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As Bahamians, we have to band together.  That`s how I grew up.  That`s the Bahamas that I know.

CHESKY (voice-over):  A country coming together to keep their paradise from falling apart.  Morgan Chesky, NBC News, Abaco Island.


WILLIAMS:  So as the storm pulls away from the U.S. tonight, please don`t forget it will never be over for the people you just saw, the wonderful people of the Bahamas, because their islands will never be the same.

That is our broadcast for tonight and for this week.  Thank you for being here with us.  Have a good weekend and good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.


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