STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Breaking tonight, we are just 10 hours ahead of testimony from the Acting Director of National Intelligence. Lawmakers tonight who have now read the whistleblower complaint describe it as really troubling and deeply disturbing.
And then, there is the memo detailing a call between two leaders who came face to face today, in this evening, Donald Trump tangled (ph) the prospect of releasing more high-level conversations, revelations that could rock the White House.
Plus, Democrats navigate the perilous politics of impeachment. We have got the latest blockbuster reporting on all of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Wednesday night.
Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Brian Williams. Day 979 of the Trump administration, the eve of congressional testimony from the Acting Director of National Intelligence and the inspector general, and we have brand new revelations about the whistleblower whose explosive complaint touched off the impeachment inquiry now underway.
"The New York Times" reports new details about the intel officer who raised concerns about Trump`s phone call with the president of Ukraine. "The Times" reports the conversation, "raised alarms not only about what the two men said in a phone call but also about how the White House handled records of the conversation, according to two people briefed on the complaint. The whistleblower identified multiple White House officials as witnesses to potential presidential misconduct who could corroborate the complaint, the people said. Adding that the inspector general for the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, interviewed witnesses. Atkinson also found reason to believe that the whistleblower may not support the reelection of Mr. Trump and made clear that the complainant was not in a position to directly listen to the call or see the memo that reconstructed it before it was made public."
Today the White House released its notes from that call between Trump and the Ukrainian President Zelensky. That was made on July 25, exactly two months ago. The document, which is not a verbatim transcript, but is based off of notes and recollections of a conversation, the document confirms reports that Trump asked for an investigation of Joe Biden and his son.
Trump in the conversation reminds Zelensky, "we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. The United States has been very, very good to Ukraine." The response from Zelensky, "We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps. Specifically we are almost ready to buy more javelins," that means the anti-tank missiles from the United States for defense purposes.
Trump continues, "I would like you to do us a favor, though. I would like you to tell us what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say crowd strike. I guess you have one of your wealthy people. The server, they say Ukraine has it." He then mentioned William Barr. "I would like to have the attorney general call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it."
President Trump then brings up Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney, "Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. I will ask him to call you along with the attorney general. Rudy very much knows what`s happening. If you could speak to him, that would be great.
There is a lot of talk about Biden`s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that. So whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great."
Note that there is no evidence that either Vice President Biden or his son Hunter were guilty of any wrongdoing in Ukraine.
We also learned tonight that the July call was not the first time the two men had spoken. "The New York Times" also reports this, "When Ukraine elected its new leader on April 21st, Mr. Trump seized on the moment as an opportunity to press his case. Within hours of Mr. Zelensky`s victory, Mr. Trump placed a congratulatory call as he was en route from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to Washington. He urged Mr. Zelensky to coordinate with Mr. Giuliani and referred to pursue investigations of corruption, according to people familiar with the call, the details of which have not been reported."
Late today Trump spoke out about the impeachment investigation, his phone call in July and efforts to make the whistleblower`s complaint public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I`ve spoken with leader Kevin McCarthy and the Republicans, many of them, and we were going to do this, anyway, but I`ve informed them, all of the House members, that I fully support transparency on the so-called whistleblower information. The witch hunt continues. But they`re getting hit hard on this witch hunt because when they look at the information, it`s a joke. Impeachment for that?
I think you should ask for the first conversation.
It was beautiful. It was just a perfect conversation. But I think you should do that. I think you should do. And I think you should ask for V.P. Pence`s conversation.
We take a look at that call, it was perfect. I didn`t do it. There was no quid pro quo.
Democrats say, listen, we can`t beat him at the election, so let`s impeach him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The complaint is now in the hands of Congress this afternoon at about the same time Trump was speaking. Members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees were able to view the document containing the allegations against Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA, INTELLIGENCE CMTE. CHAIRMAN: I found the allegations deeply disturbing. I also found them very credible. I can understand why the inspector general found them credible.
I think it a travesty that this complaint was withheld as long as it was because it was an urgent matter, it is an urgent matter.
SEN. BEN SASSE, (R) NEBRASKA: Democrats ought not to be using the word "impeach" before they had the whistleblower complaint, or read any of the transcript. Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons and say, there`s no there there, when there`s obviously lots that`s very troubling there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Tonight, 220 members of the House, that is a majority, support some type of action regarding impeachment. Last night at this time, that number was 188. On Monday it was 147.
As we mention at the top of the show, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire will appear before Congress tomorrow. He will testify at an open hearing on the whistleblower complaint at 9:00 a.m. that will be before the House Intelligence Committee. And then at 2:00 p.m., he and the Inspector General Michael Atkinson will go before Senate -- the Senate Intel Committee in a closed session.
Here to get us started on a Wednesday night, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize- winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post," from "The New York Times" Justice Department Reporter Katie Benner, White House Correspondent Michael Crowley who attended the Trump press conference today. Much to get to here. Thank you all for being with us.
Philip Rucker, let me start with you. We just got into, there, the numbers at how dramatically the situation on Capitol Hill has changed just this week in terms of an outright majority now saying they want some type of impeachment action. You have been tracking closely how this is being received inside the White House. I`m curious about the conversations you`re having there with folks around the President, and is there a sense on their part that impeachment is now something that is inevitable?
PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Steve, it`s increasingly looking inevitable, and that seems to be changing by the hour here in Washington. The public comments at the White House are that this could play to the President`s political advantage. But when you talk to the President`s advisers, current and former in a more private conversation, they`re much more candid and reveal that there is some concern here, there is anxiety here, there is a feeling that President Trump for months has been preparing for impeachment.
He`s almost in some ways been goading Nancy Pelosi to take this step. But now that he`s taken -- now that she rather has taken this step, this is a very uncomfortable and troubling reality for the President, and it`s something he`s going to have to be dealing with in the months ahead.
And you talk to people in the White House and there`s a fear that this is not a team ready for an impeachment showdown. They are understaffed, they have been habitually undisciplined from the very beginning of this presidency, and now they`re in a phase that really could bring peril to the President.
KORNACKI: Katie, let`s take a look at this memo, this memo that`s sort of a reconstructed conversation between Presidents Trump and Zelensky. And some of the questions it raises in particular, and we mentioned this in the intro there, the name of the Attorney General William Barr came up during this conversation. The President saying to Zelensky that he was going to have William Barr call him, get in touch with him. Talk about what it was the President seems to have wanted Barr to be doing here and what the Justice Department is saying tonight about that.
KATIE BENNER, THE NEW YORK TIMES JUSTICE DEPT. REPORTER: Sure. It seems that the President, he says that he wants the Attorney General William Barr to investigate several things relating to Ukraine, including whether or not Ukraine had anything to do with the 2016 election. And he`s also very interested in having the Ukrainian government look into allegations that have not ever been proven about Hunter Biden, Joe Biden`s son.
Now, the Justice Department has been very adamant that Bill Barr has never spoken to the President about this. That he`s never spoken to Rudy Giuliani about this matter, that he`s not been in touch with the Ukrainian government with any sort of request to investigate any of the -- of the President`s political enemies.
The problem, though, is that it`s clear from what we`ve received from the White House that President Trump does not make a distinction between the Attorney General Bill Barr and what his duties are to the country and how he feels about Bill Barr, which is that Bill Barr is his ally and that Bill Barr is yet another one of his political fixers. This is going to increase scrutiny on the Justice Department, fairly or no. People are going to say, now, Bill Barr, you need to prove to us that you are not the man that President Trump has portrayed you to be in this conversation with the Ukrainian president.
KORNACKI: Michael Crowley, we just heard from Philip Rucker how all of this is affecting the mood inside the White House.
MICHAEL CROWLEY, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes
KORNACKI: There`s also the question of the President himself. You were at the press conference. We played a clip of it. I want to read this and make sure I`m getting the words right, but in your report watching the President today, you said you saw his mood go from feisty to self-pitying to deflated.
CROWLEY: Yes, that`s right. You know, there were moments this week at the United Nations where the President was remarkably low energy as he would say, particularly his grand address to all the foreign leaders yesterday morning where he seemed sort of half awake and incredibly bored. I think it was a sign that he was probably very distracted.
Definitely we saw some real anger today. He lashed out at the press. He lashed out at one reporter individually who asked him a question he didn`t like, you know, trying to insult him, a very good reporter.
And then a theme that I saw throughout the day, including at the press conference, was this self-pity repeatedly throughout the day. He`s saying, you`re not writing any stories about the hard work I`m doing, look at all the meetings I`m having. He came out of this press conference at the beginning and ticked off. I think it was 28 foreign leaders that he had met with, and said, but you`re not writing about any of that. You`re the fake news, you`re ignoring it.
And he even at one point referred to the fact that he had gotten up really early, working all day and staying up late working so hard for the country and he`s not getting any credit for it.
Now, this is a standard thing all presidents do when they`re getting bad press. They say, I`m doing the hard work for the American people. Bill Clinton famously stuck to that line during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But from this president actually, I don`t remember seeing a lot self-pity. Usually he`s angry and he`s lashing out. And this is sort of a rare case where I feel like he was feeling a little sorry for himself.
Here`s a big week, he`s back in New York City, his hometown. He was going to be strutting on the global stage with the United Nations and really just had a terrible, terrible week here and he`s clearly very upset about it.
KORNACKI: Yes, and Philip, it raises some interesting questions, too, when it comes to the President of how off guard potentially he was caught by this week`s developments. I say that because at this press conference today, Nancy Pelosi`s name came up. The President, he took some shots at Nancy Pelosi who is now advocating the impeachment inquiry. But also in the past he had suggest that he saw Pelosi as somebody who was holding back the tide in the House against impeachment. Was he genuinely surprised when she came out for that inquiry yesterday?
RUCKER: Yes. Steve, I think the President and his team were surprised by how quickly this has all developed. It`s only been about a week since the Ukraine conversation hit the headlines in the press, first in "The Post" and a number of other outlets as well, and this has built very quickly for scandals in the Trump era, and that has caught him off guard clearly. He did not anticipate he`d be spending the week at the United Nations dealing with the specter of impeachment.
But it`s also going to be moving quickly from here, because an important development today on Capitol Hill was that Speaker Pelosi and her Democratic lieutenants decided that they thought that the details from the call that were released in that rough partial transcript this morning were so incriminating and so damning about the President that they aim to narrow the focus of their impeachment proceeding around this issue of Ukraine, that that`s enough to get the President, enough to impeach him, and that they`re going to speed up the timeline.
KORNACKI: Right, so this morning all that talk, obviously, was about the reconstructed conversation. Now, tonight the talk is increasingly about the members of Congress who have seen this whistleblower`s complaint. One of them Jackie Speier from California, Democrat from California, was on this network a few hours ago. Let`s listen to how she characterized what she saw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER, (D) CALIFORNIA INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I can describe that complaint as nothing short of explosive. It is so much more than the summary of the telephone call that has been presented by the White House as evidence, and I`m not even in a position to say that that was at all involved in the complaint until it is actually declassified. But I can tell you that I was stunned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Katie, not surprisingly, that kind of description, I think, would make anybody want to see what is in this report. What are the prospects of the public getting to look at what Representative Speier saw tonight?
BENNER: Absolutely. This is going to be a huge showdown between the Executive Branch and Congress. Congress is going to fight tooth and nail to make sure the American people can definitely see this whistleblower report.
And one of the things that we need to understand from the report from our reporting that we know is this goes beyond again what Representative Speier said about this just being a transcript of a phone call. The whistleblower not only makes allegations, there could be a campaign finance violation, that the President could be getting something of value that would help him in his campaign.
You know, there`s also indication -- we don`t know any of the specifics, but indication that people who are listening to the call knew that something had perhaps gone off the rails and wasn`t right because of the way they handled the call after the fact and the distribution of it was something -- was different about it that led this whistleblower to say, we should probably see what`s going on.
And then, you know, of course, finally there`s going to be this grilling tomorrow of, you know, the acting head of DNI, and that is going to be -- there is going to be tremendous amounts of pressure on him to reveal more details publicly about what the whistleblower was concerned about.
KORNACKI: Michael, the other prospect that`s raised here, some of the reporting about this whistleblower`s complaints suggests that there are witnesses --
KORNACKI: -- others who might be interviewed, might have been interviewed --
KORNACKI: -- already by the inspector general. Also just looking at what this has set off, the possibility that somebody else in another context might file a whistleblower complaint. Is that something that`s on the White House`s mind right now, the possibility that we will hear from more folks like this soon?
CROWLEY: Yes, where does this go next? Who is talking? Who else might be talking? It does, I think you make a good point, set a kind of example that, you know, you can file a complaint like this and people are going to pay attention. And you know, you have a lot of people who have recently left the administration. I mean, the National Security adviser was forced out recently and some of his aides, you know, is there any chance that they`re talking? They`re going to know a lot about this.
And John Bolton -- and I don`t know about this specifically, but John Bolton and Donald Trump had a bad ending, a bad breakup. They`re not on good terms. I would be nervous about that, some of the people around Bolton. There are a lot of ways this could go. So I think the White House right now probably doesn`t really know what they`re dealing with, which has got to be a scary feeling of vertigo for them.
KORNACKI: All right, Michael Crowley, Philip Rucker, Katie Benner, thank you for joining us, appreciate that.
And still ahead this hour, the questions Congress should be asking the acting DNI tomorrow morning. We`re going to get a viewer`s guide from a former Counter Intel chief.
And later, this is not only a debate about high crimes and misdemeanors. It is also about politics and what this could mean for the 2020 election. "The 11th hour," we are just getting started on a Wednesday night.
KORNACKI: The President pointed out today that the July -- the July call, excuse me, with the Ukrainian president was their second phone conversation. And as we reported earlier, "The New York Times" is out with new details about the first time the two leaders spoke. That was back on April 21st, "Four days after this first call, Mr. Trump said on Sean Hannity`s Fox News program that he would imagine that Attorney General William Barr would like to review information about Ukraine`s actions in the 2016 election. Here is part of that April 25th conversation on Fox.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I just spoke to the new president a little while ago, two days ago, and congratulated him on an incredible race, incredible run, a big surprise victory.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Mr. President, the Ukraine is offering this evidence to the United States, would you like the United States -- all those talk about collusion, they`re saying they colluded on behalf of Hillary Clinton`s campaign in 2016. Does America need to see that information, especially in light of all the attacks against you on collusion?
TRUMP: Well, I think we do, and frankly, we have a great new attorney general who has done an unbelievable job in a very short period of time, and he`s very smart and he`s very tough. And I would certainly defer to him, but I would imagine he would want to see this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: With me for more, Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, and Sam Stein, Politics Editor for "The Daily Beast."
Frank, let me start with you. So, what we just played was from back in April and you hear right there the President invoking the name of the Attorney General William Barr. And then as this reconstructed conversation came out this morning, you saw the name of William Barr being mentioned in there repeatedly as well. What do you make of the role that Barr has assumed in all of this?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Well, first, it`s a huge gap in our knowledge. We need to know exactly and hear precisely from the attorney general himself what, if any, instructions, guidance, requests, solicitations came from the White House to him to open a case on Biden or to pressure Ukraine to start looking at Biden? We need to understand that because that would be outside the realm of the attorney general`s duties.
We pay the attorney general`s salary. We pay that salary so that he can represent us and fight for justice, not that he can represent the personal interest President and fight for him. So, we need to hear from him. Likely he will need to be testifying as a witness in any impeachment proceedings. And I strongly believe at this point that he needs to recuse himself from any decision related to the DNI whistleblower case. It may be too late. We`ve heard that DOJ initially told the Acting DNI, you don`t need to send this complaint to Congress. If the A.G. weighed in on that, that`s a big mistake.
KORNACKI: Sam, in addition to the requests here for the investigation into the Bidens from the President, there is also this reference to 2016 to his suspicions --
SAM STEIN, THE DAILY BEAST POLITICS EDITOR: Right.
KORNACKI: -- I should say, about Ukraine there. Talk a little bit about how central Ukraine has become to the President`s thinking. And there is reporting out there that suggests Rudy Giuliani has a lot to do with this.
STEIN: Right. There`s a couple things going on here. One is, there is a suspicion inside the White House that officials in Ukraine were involved in an effort to essentially smear Paul Manafort during the 2016 election, and in itself help put Trump in this world of trouble that ultimately resulted in the special counsel probe. And so, inside Trump world, this is, you know, treated his gospel essentially.
And more or less they want to find out what happened there, and they want to do it as an effort to essentially prove that this entire episode, that the special counsel probe was, in fact, a witch hunt. And so it made the entire operation paranoid. They`re obsessed by it.
But it`s also fed a bunch of conservative journalism as well. A name that continuously pops up here in our reporting is John Solomon, a very well- known conservative, investigative reporter who wrote -- who has written recently for The Hill. So that`s one thing that`s going on here.
And then the second thing is, and this what we`re trying to figure out today because it was mentioned in this document that was -- this memorandum, is whether or not Donald Trump feels that the missing 30,000 or so e-mails on Hillary Clinton`s server are somehow in the -- in Ukraine, whether he can actually obtain them by going to officials in Ukraine and asking for their help in getting them. And I`m not totally sure if he has the proper understanding of what`s happening here, if he actually thinks they are literally there. But this seems to be animating these conversations with the Ukrainian president as well.
KORNACKI: Frank, we mentioned the Director of National Intelligence Joe Maguire will be testifying in front of Congress tomorrow. What questions do you think are most important for him to be asked?
FIGLIUZZI: Well, the questions write themselves. So, first, why did you choose to not comply with a clear mandate that you turn over this urgent and credible whistleblower complaint to Congress? Number two, who did you consult about that? Name names at the Department of Justice that you consulted with when they initially told you, you didn`t have to turn it over.
Do you have any evidence that the attorney general weighed in on this? Who at the White House spoke with you, if anyone? Do you have any evidence that President Trump himself was briefed and/or weighed in on this decision?
And then moving forward, what level of investigative effort did you take to look into this through the inspector general? Did you have discussions with the inspector general?
And then I want to know even more, are you aware of any further intelligence information that tends to corroborate this allegation? What else is out there throughout the Intelligence Community? Did you do a thorough enough job to truly investigate this allegation?
KORNACKI: Sam, just a question about this reconstructed conversation transcript that came out today. It sounds like -- it certainly seems it`s intensified calls from Democrats to move towards impeachment. There are some Republicans who are sticking by the President on this saying there is nothing to this. There are plenty, though, you`re hearing from who are expressing some measure of concern over this.
When you look at that reaction, it does raise the question of why the White House did this. Was this an instance of their hand being forced by these sudden calls for impeachment?
STEIN: Well, our White House team has gotten two distinct reads on this. The first is -- and this came yesterday -- was a fairly logical calculation and maybe even a strategically wise one that eventually this was going to come out. That there was essentially no way to hold it back. You could have dragged it on, but, you know, that would have put a cloud of suspicion over the administration, too. So, get it out, rip the band-aid off and move on.
But there were also people inside the President`s team who felt like it wasn`t that bad, that what they saw there did not contain a explicit quid pro quo, that press reports had said eight instances of the President Trump pressuring the Ukraine President on Biden. In fact, there were not eight. And that people would basically move on from this because they would determine it was the equivalent of a political nothing burger. And that is proving to be a sort of ridiculous calculation.
Yes, in the conservative media echo chamber, there is this line that there is nothing there there, but no one outside of that seems to regard it as anything short of a complete bombshell. And if they thought that this wasn`t going to hurt the President, it seems pretty clear as of now that this was a grievous miscalculation.
KORNACKI: All right. Sam Stein, and Frank Figliuzzi, thanks to both of you.
STEIN: Sure, Steve.
KORNACKI: And coming up, how tomorrow`s testimony could be a game changer on Capitol Hill. Two reporters covering Congress read the tea leaves for us when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
KORNACKI: And we have some breaking news just coming in. Representative Chris Stewart, he is a Republican from Utah. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He has just revealed on Twitter that the whistleblower`s complaint that some members of Congress have been reviewing throughout the day today.
It has now been declassified, he says. And he adds in his tweet, "I encourage you all to read it." It has not yet been made available to the general public, but obviously its declassification is a major step in that direction. Again, that news coming in from a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Chris Stewart, Republican from Utah.
With us tonight, Andrew Desiderio, Congressional Reporter for POLITICO, and Jackie Alemany, Political Reporter for the Washington Post and Author of the papers morning newsletter "Power Up". Thanks to of both for being with us. Andrew, let me just start with you. These news we are just getting about the whistleblower`s report, we have been hearing Members of Congress today say some very suggestive things about its content. It now would seem to be a matter of time before all of us get to see it. Is that correct?
ANDREW DESIDERIO, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: That`s right. There`s no timetable yet for the release of this document or these documents, rather, it`s probably a very long whistleblower complaint based on what I heard from lawmakers today. But the declassification process has essentially been completed. That`s what Congressman Stewart was announcing.
Something important to remember here was that lawmakers on the Intelligence Committee only got to review the contents of the complaint today, they did not get to review the full Inspector General`s report which they expect to be delivered to Capitol Hill sometime tomorrow or on Friday. That report will show corroborating documents, interviews with other people who might have knowledge of the allegations that the whistleblower has leveled against either the President or other individuals in the White House. So that is going to be another really important piece of information for lawmakers to view here in the coming days.
KORNACKI: Jackie, I`m wondering what you are hearing about the potential impact of this whistleblower`s complaint. You have some Republicans even. I saw Ben Sasse from Nebraska. I think we put his quote up earlier, not saying nothing to see here.
JACKIE ALEMANY, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. Well I think it`s pretty notable that since, you know, post 4:00 p.m. today when the whistleblower`s complaint was finally made available to Members of Congress that there hasn`t been a Republican who has come out with as force, you know, forceful of a defense as we`ve seen of President Trump earlier in the day. But I think this just increases the amount of pressure that the Acting Director of the DNI Joseph Maguire is going to be under tomorrow when he has to publicly testify in front of the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors and in front of closed doors, you know. He`s in a pretty precarious situation.
As my colleagues reported today, you know, he threatened to resign if he was not able to be forthcoming with the information that he is aware of with regards to the whistleblower`s complaints. You know, he`s already come under scrutiny and severe criticism for the way he`s handled the complaint up until now, and I think tomorrow was going to be a real test with the Intelligence Community watching to see how he handles it and whether or not he is truthful with the way that he, you know, I think calls out the White House for some of the falsehoods that they`ve been putting forth.
You know, as Andrew knows as well, you know, the White House pushed out all of their talking points today to House Democrats who then quickly leaked it to reporters. So we know exactly what the White House is saying about this episode and the President`s conversation with the Ukrainian President. And it`s not based in reality. And so, you know, I think it will be up to Maguire to call out, you know, what he is telling lawmakers behind closed doors in these skiffs about the reality of the whistleblower`s complaint and what the narrative that the White House is trying to push forward themselves.
KORNACKI: We should note, too, that Joseph Maguire, the DNI did deny threatening to resign today as reports certainly are out there. Obviously this is a name that`s new to a lot of people in the last couple of days. The director of national intelligence, new to the job as well. The Wall Street Journal is reporting in terms of Joseph Maguire`s background, "Maguire was viewed as a steady hand by Democrats and Republicans alike when he was named by Mr. Trump. The political wins in Washington and the glare of congressional hearings are a long way from Mr. Maguire`s roots which lie in the secretive work of special operations unit that conduct dangerous missions to battle terrorists and retrieve hostages. He spent 36 years as a Navy SEAL, eventually commanding the Naval Special Warfare Command".
Andrew, Jackie was getting into this but in terms of the very peculiar situation that Maguire finds himself in here, you`ve got this whistleblower`s complaint, it reached the Inspector General, it said this needs to go to Congress. Then you had Maguire saying, no. What can you expect from him tomorrow?
DESIDERIO: Well I think the question that Democrats in particular want to see answered is the extent to which he was in communication with the Justice Department ahead of the potential release of this whistleblower complaint to Congress, which, as you know, is required by law. The questions could be anything from, you know, did the Justice Department reach out to you first? Did you seek guidance from the Justice Department? Of course, the law states that the DNI should act independently from the Justice Department when it comes to these matters. That will be a top question for Democrats to ask and to try to get answers on.
If they don`t get answers from the Acting DNI tomorrow, we`ve reported yesterday that a couple of Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, which by the way is a much smaller committee compared to other panels on Capitol Hill, a bunch of Democrats really do want to see Chairman Schiff get more aggressive and more aggressively confront these witnesses at these hearings, which as we`ve seen in the past, for instance, last week with Corey Lewandowski where they`re not answering questions and they`re relying on these privileged claims from the White House. So a lot of Democrats are going to want to see more aggressive confrontation in that respect.
I asked Chairman Schiff about this last night, and he wouldn`t commit to any punitive measures ahead of time, but this is just a reflection of sort of a seismic shift we have seen over the last few days among the House Democratic Caucus. They have really unified behind this Ukraine scandal in terms of their outrage. We saw the number, of course, of lawmakers supporting an impeachment inquiry jump to -- I believe it`s around 219 right now, which is a majority of the House. You only need 218 votes to impeach a president on the floor. So it really is reaching a really serious situation here, and Speaker Pelosi obviously jump-started that with her pronouncement yesterday.
KORNACKI: We mentioned a minute ago that Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that the whistleblower`s complaint had been declassified. NBC News has now confirmed that. NBC News has confirmed the whistleblower`s complaint has been declassified, also with minimal redactions. That`s what NBC News is now reporting and that it is expected to be made available to the public tomorrow morning. So that`s the latest we know about that.
Jackie, the name Corey Lewandowski just came up there as Andrew was discussing this testimony tomorrow. Obviously, Corey Lewandowski extremely combative, uncooperative with that committee when he recently appeared. But, again, the background of Maguire suggests this might be a different -- he might handle this differently tomorrow.
ALEMANY: That`s exactly right. And I spent the day reaching out to Maguire`s former peers and coworkers and friends and they said to anticipate exact opposite of what we saw last week with Corey Lewandowski`s hearing which was really directed to the audience of one to pleasing the President and getting that endorsement for his Senate run. As we saw Lewandowski tweet out actually a length to a potential website teasing his run.
Maguire is the antithesis of that. He is a political, you know, a career intelligence official, served in the Navy for 26 years, and, you know, as his friends say, they don`t expect him to be auditioning for the President despite his acting director title and expect him to be straightforward and apolitical with the facts despite the criticism that he has received for the way he`s handled this whistleblower`s complaint. As one source who formerly worked with Maguire said to me, at this point, you know, the way that the whistleblower`s complaint came to light, the way it surfaced is actually the side show, and at the end of the day, this really is about the President, impeachment and the constitution. But again, the Intelligence Community will be watching Maguire closely and to the way he handles and defends the Intelligence Community as the President has increasingly politicized the situation.
KORNACKI: All right. Jacqueline Alemany, Andrew Desiderio, thank you both for being with us.
DESIDERIO: Thank you.
ALEMANY: Thanks, Steve.
KORNACKI: And coming up, the case Democrats are building against the President may soon become too much for some Republican lawmakers to nor (ph) it could. We will find out if it will. THE 11TH HOUR back after this.
KORNACKI: While a growing number of Democrats are publicly supporting the impeachment inquiry, most Republicans are standing by the President. Their tweets of support didn`t go unnoticed by Trump who was quick to share their messages this morning. But as The Washington Post Aaron Blake note of the whistleblower complaint, "Senator Mitt Romney says it`s troubling in the extreme. Senator Pat Toomey says, it`s inappropriate. And Senator Ben Sasse who has now reviewed the complaint says it`s, quote, really troubling. Getting tougher for GOP to argue there is no there, there".
Joining us now Tim O`Brien, Executive Editor of Bloomberg Opinion and Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize Winning Columnist for The Washington Post. Eugene, yes, the conventional wisdom all along has been, if the Democrats were ever to get the votes to impeach Trump in the House, surely it would just result in an acquittal in the Senate on a party line vote. There`s not going to be any kind of Republican exodus from the Trump camp. Some of those comments tonight, specially I note Sasse who reviewed the whistleblower complaint, and who recently received Trump`s endorsement for his reelection campaign, seem to have been cultivating Trump in recent months, certainly raised some eyebrows in terms of unusual things to hear Republicans saying about the President.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Those are unusual word from Republicans. I don`t know why they should be. I don`t know how anybody could look at what we`ve saw this morning. That memo, partial transcript, whatever you call it and not say it`s inappropriate or troubling. Those are very mild words. Yet they are, you know, practically little bombshells coming from these Republican senators, because generally speaking, there has been total lock step support of President Trump from the Republican Senate and Republicans in the House.
So it does get your attention even to hear people like Romney and Sasse who are kind of -- would be the usual suspects but even to hear them say a discouraging word about the President is quite something.
KORNACKI: There is this new tonight as well from "The New Yorker". Susan Glasser in "The New Yorker," she believes impeachment now close to inevitable (ph). She writes this, "The most interesting moments in Washington are when the conventional wisdom is shifting and not everyone knows it yet, or when an old certainty has been shredded and nothing has emerged to replace it. As of Monday morning, the political world was pretty sure that Donald Trump would not be impeached by the Democratic House of Representatives and that he would enter the 2020 campaign and race to win reelection before the economy betrayed him with a recession that forecasters increasingly see as inevitable.
Instead, over a remarkable day and a half, a new reality emerged. Donald Trump appears to have got himself impeached. Trump now seems all but certain not only to face an impeachment investigation but an actual impeachment vote in the House. And, whenever it happens, and whatever the specifics of the indictment turn out to be, the impeachment vote will have been triggered by a new scandal very much of his own making that."
That last part there, very much of his own making, Tim O`Brien, whatever -- anybody thinks right now the prospects this ultimately does lead to an impeachment vote. You had two and a half years of this President with the shadow of Russia, of Mueller, of that probe over his head. And it appeared that when that report was issued and Mueller testified that it was not going to result in sufficient momentum for impeachment.
TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION: Right.
KORNACKI: Then he picks up the phone and makes this call.
O`BRIEN: The very next day. I mean, I think the timing of this is extraordinary. He essentially going to get out of jail free card. A lot of obstacles have been knocked down. The Mueller testimony is clearly seemed like the end of a moment. And the very next day, he not only sets the problems in motion again, he sets the very same problems in motion again. Robert Mueller at the core of that investigation, it was spur by an inquiry into whether or not Trump and his team had colluded with Russians to tip the 2016 election. The next day he solicits a favor from a head of a foreign government in the Ukraine to help United States, help Trump overcome a political opponent in the 2020 election.
This isn`t new behavior for Trump. He did this throughout his business career. He has never learned from his mistakes and he`s been insulated often from the consequences of his own mistakes first by wealth, then by celebrity, and now by the powers of the presidency. And it`s given him, in addition to his own, I think, his own psychology. He feels infallible, he doesn`t really regret any mistakes and he plows ahead. He`s also wildly misinformed. And all of these things coalesce I think into a perfect storm around this call. And like Yosemite Sam, he`s now reaping the consequences of that.
KORNACKI: All right. Our guests are going to stay with us.
Coming up, there is major movement in the presidential race. You may have missed it with all the other news today. We`ll tell you about it right after this.
KORNACKI: President Trump has appeared fixated on Joe Biden, but Senator Elizabeth Warren is now threatening Biden`s front-runner status in the Democratic presidential race. A new national poll from Quinnipiac now puts Warren ahead with 27 percent, Biden is 25. There`s also state polls that show Biden trailing notably in California. It has the most delegates of any state. Warren is ahead there now in a new poll with 29 percent. That`s an 11-point jump for her sense June.
Tim O`Brien and Eugene Robinson are still with us. Gene, in California we have the national poll also recent polls have Warren first in Iowa and New Hampshire.
KORNACKI: Do we have a new front-runner?
ROBINSON: I wouldn`t say yet we have a new front-runner. Let`s wait for a few more polls. Let`s wait until we get some averages that show her as a front-runner. But it looks now more like a two-person race than it looked before. And clearly Warren has been on the way up. However, there`s now a new factor.
As of this week, we now know that this campaign is going to take place, you know, amid an impeachment inquiry and perhaps actual impeachment. And a central theme of this inquiry in this impeachment will be the President`s attempt to get dirt on Joe Biden. What`s going to be the political impact of that? Will that potentially help Biden? I don`t see it hurting him among Democrats. And maybe it won`t have an impact on the dynamics of the race. But I kind of think maybe it might.
KORNACKI: It`s interesting too. We`re talking, Tim, about the possibility that Elizabeth Warren could be at least equaling Biden as a co-front runner right now, maybe a lack of a better term right there. But the entire conversation tonight before this about this phone call was rooted in part at least in the President`s belief that Joe Biden was his biggest threat.
O`BRIEN: Well, and I think, you know, every time you saw Joe Biden, he saw that sort of blue wall of the upper Midwest that was key to him beating Hillary Clinton. And I think he felt very vulnerable in states like Michigan and Wisconsin to Biden. And I think that they`ve identified him very early on as the person that was the greatest threat to them. I think in the end Donald Trump is the greatest threat to himself.
But what they`ve discovered now is that, you know, Elizabeth Warren did her homework. She comes to the campaign with a lot of energy, a sense of purpose that I think Biden has been lacking for quite a while. Biden`s message is essentially has been, I can beat Trump. Voters appeared to be making a different calculation. And I think Trump is now going to have to come out with a new battle line in all of this.
So I don`t think they know yet how to take on Elizabeth Warren. I think they had an idea, you know, sleepy Joe, he`s a holdover, et cetera, et cetera. The best he`s been able to do so to fight with Elizabeth Warren is to slur her as Pocahontas. And I don`t think that`s going to get him any traction with voters.
KORNACKI: Yes. And Gene, just very quickly. Biden has been running on this idea of electability that concerns you here from some Democrats, are - - is Elizabeth Warren electable, because her politics are a bit more to the left perhaps than Joe Biden`s. What is your sense? Is that electability calculation changing it all as Warren`s numbers have moved up among Democrats?
ROBINSON: Well, yes, these numbers move up, she seems to look more electable. So it`s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy I think. If she wins a couple of primaries, she`ll look more electable than to some people than perhaps she did before. But does the impeachment dynamic sort of confirm Biden`s electability because he`s one Trump most afraid of so maybe is the one we are to go with. And so I think, you know, those forces are going to be sort of at odds with one another.
But you got to give Warren credit for just sort of plugging ahead and steadily moving up. And you give her credit for that.
KORNACKI: And, of course, if this impeachment push by Democrats does intensify, there`s the prospect here of impeachment and that drama taking some attention away from the presidential race potentially for the next few months. That`s another variable here too potentially. Eugene Robinson, Tim O`Brien, thank you for joining us.
And coming up, a big day on Capitol Hill. It`s going to start really in just a few minutes. More on what to know tomorrow, that`s next.
KORNACKI: The last thing before we go tonight, a quick programming note. Tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern join Nicole Wallace for coverage of the Acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee. That is 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
That`s our broadcast for tonight. Thank you for being with us and good night from NBC News headquarters in New York.
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