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Sec of State Pompeo was on Ukraine Call. TRANSCRIPT: 9/30/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Katie Benner, Clint Watts, Berit Berger, Rick Wilson, Doris KearnsGoodwin

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

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  The breaking news started late today and never really stopped.  Giuliani subpoenaed by Congress.

Then came "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that our Secretary of State was on the call when Donald Trump asked the President of Ukraine for a favor.

Then came the report from "The New York Times" that Trump pushed Australia`s leader for help in an effort to hit back after the Mueller investigation at Attorney General Bill Barr`s request.  Then "The Washington Post" adds, the attorney general has been traveling around the globe asking foreign intel officers to help his boss, Donald Trump.  All of it against the background of an active impeachment inquiry, all of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Monday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  And what a back to work Monday this has been.  It`s a lot.  The breaking news started late today and it really has not stopped as we bring to a close day 984 of the Trump administration.  And it turns out a phone call by the President had the power to do what the Russia investigation and the Mueller report failed to do.  That is to launch an official impeachment inquiry.  A phone call.

In the breaking news we are covering tonight, it has to do with that phone call between Donald Trump and the President of Ukraine.  When Trump pushed the Ukrainian President Zelensky to do him a favor and look into his likely Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Well, for starters "The Wall Street Journal" reports, and NBC News has since confirmed, that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on that call.  He was among the officials listening in on the call of July 25, something not previously reported.  "The Journal" writes the revelation, "ties the State Department more closely to the House impeachment inquiry."

Just last week Pompeo was evasive when he was asked what he knew about that conversation.


MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS REPORTER:  "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that President Trump pressed the President of Ukraine eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani to investigate Joe Biden`s son.  What do you know about those conversations?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE:  So you just gave me a report about a I.C. whistleblower, none of which I`ve seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you confident that none of your staff, that you or none of your staff did anything improper in this whole situation?

POMPEO:  To the best of my knowledge.  And from what I`ve seen so far each of the actions that were undertaken by State Department officials was entirely appropriate.


WILLIAMS:  Also today the President`s globe trotting personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, received a subpoena from the House Intelligence Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committee.  Giuliani has been at the center of efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden`s family and he`s mentioned in the whistleblower`s complaint multiple times.

Democrats are asking for Giuliani documents including text messages, phone records, other communications, and they want them by October 15th.  Tonight Giuliani tells NBC News he hasn`t decided whether he is going to comply.  And in fact just a short time ago Giuliani was asked if he would ever agree to testify before Congress.


RUDOLF GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S PERSONAL LAWYER:  I`m weighing the alternatives.  I kind of like go through it.  I`ll get all my evidence together.  I`ll get my charge -- I don`t know if they let me use videotapes and tape recordings that I have, if they let me get some of the evidence that I gathered.  I gathered all this evidence before the Mueller probe ended.  So it was clearly under my responsibility as the lawyer for the President of the United States.


WILLIAMS:  "The New York Times" reports that Trump pushed the Australian prime minister during another recent phone call to help his Attorney General bill Barr gather information on the origins of the Mueller investigation into him.  NBC News has also confirmed this story although a Justice Department official calls Trump`s request merely an ask.  "Times" reporter, Katie Benner, is among the authors of the story, she`ll join us in a moment.

She along with her colleague Mark Mazzetti writes, "The White House curbed access to a transcript of the call which the President made at Mr. Barr`s request to a small group of aides.  Trump was in effect asking the Australian government to investigate itself.  FBI counterintelligence investigators began examining any Trump ties to Russia`s 2016 election interference after Australian officials told the bureau that Russian intermediaries had made overtures to Trump advisers about releasing politically damaging information about Hillary Clinton."

Then tonight came this.  "The Washington Post" reporting that Attorney General Barr has been holding meetings overseas with foreign officials asking them to help in Trump`s effort to investigate the Russia investigation.

Big weekend for the President on Twitter, mostly airing his grievances about the Democrats` impeachment effort insisting, "I deserve to meet my accuser, the so-called whistleblower.  And I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for fraud and treason."

Then last night he pushed out a quote from a guest on Fox News, "If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office, which they will never be, it will cause a civil war like fracture in this nation from which our country will never heal."

This afternoon Trump continued to hammer the whistleblower and Chairman Schiff.


HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Mr. President, do you now know who the whistleblower is, sir?

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, we`re trying to find out about a whistleblower. When you have a whistleblower that reports things that were incorrect.  The call was perfect.  When the whistleblower reported it, he made it sound terrible.

And then you had Adam Schiff who even worse made up my words, which I think is just a horrible -- I`ve never even seen a thing like that.  Adam Schiff, representative, congressman, made up what I said.


WILLIAMS:  That prompted this response from the whistleblower`s attorney and we quote, "The Intel Community whistleblower is entitled to anonymity.  Law and policy support this.  And the individual is not to be retaliated against.  Doing so is a violation of federal law."

We have a lot to get through and four of our very best returning veterans to help us do that, Philip Rucker Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post," the aforementioned Katie Benner, Justice Department Reporter for "The New York Times," Berit Berger a former Assistant U.S. with the both Eastern District of New York and for good measure the Southern District of New York, and Clint Watts former FBI agent, a distinguished fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the author of "Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News."  Good evening to you all.

Katie, I`d like to begin with you and your reporting.  What this linked the attorney general to?  I thought that there was a U.S. attorney from the State of Connecticut who had been appointed in effect the investigator of the investigators going back to the origins of the Mueller investigation.  How deep into this investigation is the attorney general himself?

KATIE BENNER, THE NEW YORK TIMES JUSTICE DEPT. REPORTER:  I think what we`ve seen with our reporting and that great "The Washington Post" report is that the attorney general is not only extremely interested in this review but he is essentially quarterbacking it.  You`re right, he did ask John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to oversee it but, truly, it is Bill Barr who is there every step of the way.

The Justice Department would argue that he needs to be in part because this review involves so many high level foreign officials.  And that it`s Bill Barr who would appropriately try to get their cooperation.  But also, I think, you could argue that he is truly interested in this.  You know, he said before Congress earlier this spring that he believes that spying did occur on the campaign.  He wants to know whether or not it was unlawful.  And he, himself, personally wants to get to the bottom of this.

WILLIAMS:  Phil Rucker let`s talk about our Secretary of State, Mr. Pompeo.


WILLIAMS:  And it probably bears repeating, this is not a fly by night individual.  Here is a guy who graduated number one in his class at West Point and went to Harvard Law School.  He knows from what is proper and he knows better in lack of a better phrase.  How damaging is this news he was on that call?

RUCKER:  Well, Brian, it`s a really surprising revelation today that he was on that call.  And I think it shows a few things.  And in terms of damaging, by the way, it`s very problematic for Secretary Pompeo, himself because he now becomes ensnared in this impeachment investigation.  But what it tells us about the administration is that what Trump was doing with Ukraine was supervised in a way by the secretary of state and that the secretary of state did not apparently register any alarm about it.  And in fact, was questioned as you showed in the opening of the show by reporters and did not seem to offer the full truth in his answers.  You might even say, he was covering something up in his answers.

And we`re learning more and more about the role of the State Department in this whole Ukraine episode because Rudy Giuliani is talking about how he has been coordinating some of his work with Ukraine, his conversations with Ukraine through the State Department, and it begs the question of whether the State Department, which is supposed to be conducting foreign policy on behalf of the nation is instead focused on the President`s sort of personal political interests in doing the President`s bidding when it comes to the investigation of Joe Biden that Trump has so wanted.

WILLIAMS:  Clint, this was another good day for journalism and for journalists.  When you read this portrait of our attorney general, talking with intel folks overseas about intel folks on the home team, that`s not a great look, is it?

CLINT WATTS. FMR. FBI SPECIAL AGENT:  If you want to be an isolated country with no allies and not see what`s coming, this is the way to handle your business.  How confusing would it be for any other country around the world right now to have an attorney general come to you when you`re normally dealing with the CIA or envoys or the DNI in terms of international intelligence, in terms of sharing information.  It has to be baffling to them.

And there is a complete erosion of trust whether it`s Australia we`ve talked about today, Ukraine, all of our five allies partners, Germany, the U.K., they all maybe helped or supplied information during the Mueller report and the Mueller investigation.  What is the purpose of this?

And what really is shocking is, the government seems to be run by basically three people, Pompeo, Barr, and Giuliani who I can`t figure out is even part of the government or not.

WILLIAMS:  Without portfolio.

WATTS: Without portfolio.  So, it`s very confusing, I think, to anybody that`s ever interacted with the U.S. government before from overseas to understand who is in charge, who they`re supposed to listen to.  And remember on the ground, we have State Department folks, we have Department of Defense, we have the intel agencies, we`ve got defense and state contractors, development aid.  They are all in different reporting chains.  It seems as if no one really knows what the other part of this government is doing and why the attorney general isn`t back home enforcing the laws instead running around the world coordinating intelligence activities or investigating intelligence activities.

WILLIAMS:  Berit, why is it not witness intimidation to hear the President talking about the whistleblower and remind the folks watching tonight the protections whistleblowers have under the law.

BERIT BERGER, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY:  Yes. I mean I think it is actually witness intimidation.  I mean, that is the whole reason we have these type of whistleblower protections, because it takes a tremendous amount of courage to come forward to report some sort of misconduct or criminality, but it also takes a lot of faith.  It takes a lot of faith in the system that you will have laws that will protect you.  That you won`t be retaliated against.  That you won`t have the President of the United States actively trying to reveal who you are.

I mean, if you think about it, given sort of the vitriol that the President has expressed so publicly about what the whistleblower has done, if this person, if this person is outed by the administration, this person would certainly have a bounty on their heads.  So I think we can`t over state sort of the danger of the President making these statements, trying to out this person.

WILLIAMS:  Phil Rucker, the President seems preoccupied with the whistleblower and Chairman Schiff among other things.


WILLIAMS:  Is this again the absence of an over arching strategy?

RUCKER:  Well, the over arching strategy at the moment, Brian, is whatever President Trump is thinking in the given hour.  There does not seem to be a grand strategy either from a legal perspective or a public relations perspective to get him out of this hole and to protect the presidency.  And so what he is doing, and we saw this throughout the weekend, is he is lashing out.  He is trying to discredit the whistleblower.  He is trying to discredit Chairman Schiff.

It`s notable, by the way, that he is going after Schiff much more intensively than he is going after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who is the one, last Tuesday, who launched these impeachment proceedings.  There is a calculation in the White House that Schiff is a more vulnerable target.

But the other thing Trump is trying to do is project this narrative that he is somehow being unfairly persecuted, that he is the greatest victim in the history of victims.  No president has been treated this way throughout American history as he claims on Twitter.  And he feels this sense of self- pity that he is broadcasting to the world and that is significant and different.  We`ve not seen that before with other presidents who have been staring down impeachment.

WILLIAMS:  Katie Benner, can you remind our viewers of the kinds of professionals inside DOJ -- forgive me, I have this respiratory thing that half of New York seems to have.  Excuse me.  The kinds of professionals who reside inside DOJ, who would take a dim view of Rudy Giuliani`s travels as a defacto kind of hovering attorney general or the actual attorney general`s travels on behalf of his boss?

BENNER:  Sure.  Taking Giuliani first, I think that both professionals inside of the Justice Department and the State Department would take not only a dim view of what Rudy Giuliani has done but they would say that it actively hurts them and it makes it harder for them to do their jobs because they also have to interface with foreign leaders, foreign officials, and other law enforcement people.  And not knowing what Rudy Giuliani is saying makes it very difficult for them to have credibility and also they can get caught flat footed.

With regard to Barr, it is very interesting because the attorney general is trying very hard to make the case that everything he is doing is within the letter of the law and that he is doing it for a valid reason.  He wants to know if people acted unlawfully in 2016.  And while he makes that claim, it`s interesting I`m starting to hear more and more from career professionals inside the Justice Department that they don`t understand why so much time and energy is being devoted to a review for which we already have one other investigations looking at.  So we have an inspector general investigation that should be completed soon, we hope, that should give us insight into what happened in 2016 in a way, of course, have the Mueller report which was a very full account of what happened in 2016.  So I think people are, one, confused about the term review in general and, two, very surprised to see the attorney general taking such a firm interest and being so active in it.

WILLIAMS:  Clint Watts, you are a U.S. military academy graduate and a former fed and a patriot.  So when the President says what he said, casually invoking a civil war in the United States, how does that strike you?

WATTS:  I thought it was America first and it`s supposed to be about all Americans and it really seems to be only about certain Americans.  And it`s bizarre to me that the President, whose job is commander-in-chief and also the unifier in chief of the country, supposed to set out a vision for the country, help mobilize, and do the best for as many Americans as possible.  That is the inverse of what I was taught as leadership when I went to West Point, whether I was serving in the army, FBI, or other roles in government.

I don`t understand why he attacks people of his own Executive Branch, someone needs to remind him that the FBI is part of his org, the CIA is part of his organization.  All of these outfits are part of his organization.  And the way to lead them is not by tearing them apart, by not going after FBI agents for doing their job or going after intel officials for doing their job.  But instead, give them a vision of what you want them to achieve and how you want to achieve it.  I`ve never heard that in the two and a half years that President Trump has been in charge to this of country.

WILLIAMS:  And finally to Berit Berger, do you think Rudy Giuliani is a walking gold mine of information?  Now tonight he is just fluttering out the notion that he may have recordings or video, cinematographer style, that we didn`t know about.  But, also, what is the consequence if he says no to cooperating?

BERGER:  Yes, I mean, you can see why Congress started with him.  He absolutely, as you said, he is this treasure trove of information and evidence.  I mean, every time he sort of pointed to his phone and was like, there`s so much evidence in my phone.  So many of the former prosecutors were like, so get the phones.


BERGER:  Subpoena the phone.  But to his comments about, you know, he`s weighing his options with respect to this, we keep saying this, but subpoenas aren`t voluntary.  These are compulsory.  And he may have some, you know, privilege issues that he wants to float around.  I don`t know how effective those are going to be.  I mean, you know, just having a lawyer involved in the conversation doesn`t necessarily make a communication privileged, right?  I mean, every conversation that you and I have had is not privileged because --

WILLIAMS:  Well, they have been watching the whole time.  Yes.

BERGER:  Right, exactly.  So it`s not confidential, it`s not seeking legal advice.  So I think there`s going to be a lot of questions raised about, you know, what was Giuliani`s role with respect to the President?  What type of legal advice was the President seeking?  What was the nature of their conversation?  If this is really the President, you know, directing Giuliani to take certain actions on his behalf, I`m not sure that is going to qualify as sort of typical legal advice that would potentially protect it from having to be disclosed to Congress.  So, I don`t know that he is going to have a successful defense against having to comply with the subpoena which does not mean he won`t try.

WILLIAMS:  As we said at the outset of tonight, it`s a lot.  We are much obliged to our front four for helping us get through it all.  Phil Rucker, Katie Benner, Berit Berger, and Clint Watts, our thanks.

Coming up, there`s been a big change.  Just in the past few days.  It has to do with public opinion on the topic of impeachment.

And later, the man who says he knew it was a bad idea before Trump even got on the phone with the Ukrainian President.  Oh, and by the way, he doesn`t work for our President anymore.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on this Monday night.


WILLIAMS:  This week House Democrats plan to get depositions from key State Department officials mentioned in that whistleblower complaint.  Wednesday they`ll hear from a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was ousted from her post.  Thursday the ex-special envoy Kurt Volker will be questioned.  Friday is the deadline for Pompeo to respond to a subpoena.  And it is also when the House Intel Committee will hear from Intel Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson about the handling of the whistleblower`s complaint.  As we said, it`s a lot.

The Senate is watching to see what happens.  No surprise.  Today Majority Leader McConnell was asked how he will respond if the House votes to impeach the President.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER:  If the House does go down that path, and we`ll follow the Senate rules.

I would have no choice but to take it up.


WILLIAMS:  Still with us, we`ve asked our print colleagues Philip Rucker and Katie Benner to hang around for one more round of questioning.

Phil, let`s talk about the Democrats in the House.  Every minute we`re --


WILLIAMS:  -- watching and listening to Schiff, we`re not watching or listening Nadler who happens to chair the Judiciary Committee.  Famously when that committee had their moment of moral high ground snubbed by the attorney general they answered with an empty chair for emphasis and a bucket of chicken, which kind of ruined the moment.  Do you think there is some strategy behind Pelosi`s assignment?

RUCKER:  There seems to be, Brian.  I mean, part of the reason for the assignment is that this issue of the Ukraine call and the whistleblower complaint seems to fall squarely in the lap of the House Intelligence Committee, so it is only natural therefore that Chairman Schiff would be taking the lead on this.  But I think Pelosi is also expressing real confidence in Chairman Schiff to be able to handle this delicately and as she put it expeditiously.

One of the things that`s been so breathtaking in the last week is the speed with which Democrats have gotten these proceedings off the ground and planned these events of the week that you just laid out.  I mean, this is moving very fast and I think it`s surprising some people who are watching because Congress, as you know, does not usually move this fast.

WILLIAMS:  Katie, we`re not used to our attorney general doing that much overseas travel.  It`s generally considered a domestic job.  This A.G. is back from the U.K. and Italy, no comment on the travels.  And I guess my question is because of your reporting and what else is out there, are we going to now view all of his actions, travels, and movements through this prism of how much of it is devoted to this investigation?

BENNER:  Yes.  I think even if we weren`t aware of his overseas travels because he is taking such a hand in this investigation, because he has already said that he believes that spying was conducted against the Trump campaign and he has questions about whether or not it was done incorrectly, I think it would be impossible to not view the attorney general through the lens of this investigation or this, sorry, as they would put it review into why the Intelligence Community chose to look into the Trump campaign.

One of the issues for the Justice Department and for Bill Barr is that these two things, this review that John Durham is doing, and the work that Rudy Giuliani has been doing especially his attempts to get dirt on, dirt as he would put it on Joe Biden`s son, Hunter Biden, these things have become conflated in the President`s mind which is what we see in the Ukraine phone call.  And so for the Justice Department they are going to have to distance themselves from that in order to continue to say that what they are doing is legitimate.

Of course for the Democrats, who Phil says, you know, very correctly, are moving extremely fast.  They are going to grab at anything that they can use to ask more questions and gather more information.  It`s inevitable that they start to look at the attorney general.

WILLIAMS:  As I said, it was another proud day for journalism and journalists, two of the best hanging out with us tonight.  Katie Benner, Phil Rucker, thank you so much for taking our questions.

And coming up, all the President`s men, a deeper look at who was reportedly listening to the call with the Ukrainian President and who wasn`t when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  Let`s talk about that man.  NBC News is reporting John Bolton, the former National Security Adviser now out of a job, that John Bolton, knew it was a bad idea even before Trump called the new President of Ukraine.  Our own Carol Lee shares a byline on this report that reads in part, "Three officials said Bolton argued against Trump calling Ukrainian President Zelensky on July 25 because he was concerned the President wasn`t coordinating with advisers on what to say and might air personal grievances".

Now there is growing and understandable fear that Bolton and his allies who are out there in the world talking might inflict damage on this President after they`ve exited.  "They know where a lot of the bodies are buried, one person close to the White House said."  Officials also said Bolton was among senior officials including Mike Pence who did not listen in on the call.

For more, I am joined by the aforementioned Carol Lee, an NBC News Correspondent.  Hey, Carol, why did Bolton know so well to oppose the call and what we`re seeing here kind of that conditional courage where former Trump people speak out a little bit about the Trump administration in the rear view mirror?

CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, what we know about what was happening at that time, which Ambassador Bolton would have been aware of, keenly aware of was that there was this effort by the President to hold up the military aid for Ukraine and there was concern among people in the White House and elsewhere that that was somehow -- that the President was tying that to what he wanted the Ukrainian government to do in terms of investigating the former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.  So Bolton would have been aware of that obviously.  And so, you know, you can`t separate that from the fact that he was concerned about the President making this call.

And so now, you know, we`ve seen -- today, we`ve learned things -- we`ve learned something new about each of these individuals whether it`s John Bolton or Rudy Giuliani or Bill Barr or Mike Pompeo.  And when you look at the four of them, the only one of them is no longer in the government.  And that has a lot of people worried around the President because John Bolton was someone who left on very contentious terms and he is well known in Washington as somebody who likes a good fight and doesn`t really back down and he`s already shown that he`s willing to speak out and confront and disagree with the President and be a little more combative than other top national security officials who`ve left the White House.

But, you know, in terms of whether this is because he`s gone a little bit of that for sure but also he was already talking, you know, out of -- disagreeing with President Trump while he was in office.  Sometimes publicly.  And that`s part of the reason why their relationship deteriorated so much.

WILLIAMS:  Any names come to mind who else might have cause tonight to be nervous about being sucked into this whole larger case?

LEE:  Well, I think there are a number of officials who -- there are two different strands of people being nervous.  There are people who are nervous about being sucked into this and having to lawyer up and face potential subpoenas certainly in the State Department and elsewhere and then there is people who -- you know, there`s obviously White House officials who told the whistleblower about certain sequences of events.  So there`s people who are worried because the President is out there, you know, tarnishing the reputation and putting potentially the whistleblower in danger and so there`s a real concern, there`s a real search for who is talking, what are they saying, and that has a lot of people very nervous and just making it somewhat difficult to try to get people to talk to.

WILLIAMS:  Or as they call it in Washington, D.C., Monday.  Carol Lee, thank you so much for coming on tonight.

LEE:  Sure thing.  Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  And thank you for talking about your story.  We will continue to look for your byline as we always do.

Coming up, our next guest says Donald Trump can`t win re-election but the Democrats sure can lose it.


WILLIAMS:  So over the weekend, some of the President`s Republican allies in Congress, there are many, wasted no time defending him as pressure builds now over this impeachment inquiry.


REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  I think this whole thing is a sham.  I can`t believe we`re talking about impeaching the President based on an accusation based on hearsay.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), RANKING MEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE:  Look, if Democrats want to impeach because Rudy Giuliani talked with a couple Ukrainians, good luck with that.

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS ANCHOR:  What do you make of this exchange?  President Zelensky says we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes and President Trump replies, I would like you to do us a favor, though.

KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER:  You just added another word.

PELLEY:  No.  It`s in the transcript.

MCCARTHY:  He said -- I`d like you to do a favor though?

PELLEY:  Yes, it`s in the White House transcript.


WILLIAMS:  So that`s kind of how that went.

And with us for more tonight is Rick Wilson, long-time Florida man, long- time Republican Strategist who is soon following up on his first book, "Everything Trump Touches Dies" with a new work, "Running Against The Devil" which is due out in early 2020.  It is a thrill to have you as always.


WILLIAMS:  So tonight, I am reminded, Sean Spicer danced to "Saturday Night Fever" on "Dancing with the Stars" and Sebastian Gorka is on board, a U.S. government plane with our Secretary of State going to Europe.  We saw that selection of Trump allies.  There`s a whole population of people in Washington who think this might be ball game here.

WILSON:  There are a lot of very nervous folks right now.  And they`re thinking -- you know, they`ve tried to hide in the tall grass for a long time.  They play the MOGA game when they have to and they quietly whisper to reporters, I am really concerned.  My brow is furrowed.  I`m deeply troubled.

And they understand that there`s a point where you can`t just keep pretending.  And we`re rapidly reaching the point where you can`t just keep pretending.  And, you know, what was Bill Barr doing in Italy?  Why are they making these phone calls to Australia?  We want more of the details about Ukraine.

You know, I know Seb Gorka is probably in Europe pitching fish oil tablets or whatever he does for a living now, but these guys are all of a piece, they are -- this Flotsam around Trump.  So many of them are involved in this and I hope they`re all tonight pondering second mortgages so they can lawyer up.

WILLIAMS:  Can you imagine what it feels like for the Aussies?  As a lover and appreciator of history --


WILLIAMS:  -- there we were side by side on the beaches of Normandy.

WILSON:  Right.

WILLIAMS:  What do we want from them now?  A little information.

WILSON:  So, yes.  Help us blackmail a competitor in a political election in the U.S.  In trying to extort foreign powers by using the awesome majesty of the President`s office and the powers of the United States government, trying to extort -- it`s the lowest level thug behavior.

WILLIAMS:  I have a dramatic reading from the Twitter account of Jonathan Martin with the New York Times.  It`s about politics and your political party, the squeeze is on Republicans left in high income, congressional districts and states.  Here is college plus whites.  I just love how demographers instantly reduce entire groups of Americans.  46 percent already for impeach and remove.  52 percent for the inquiry.  57 percent believe Trump thinks he is above the law.  Just 1 percent fewer believe he abuses the power of his office.  51 percent believe he`s committed crimes as President.

So you start thinking while the Republicans should be very nervous.  Then I look at Rick Wilson.  "Donald Trump can`t win re-election.  But the Democrats can certainly lose it.  It`s an old problem."  Explain.

WILSON:  The Democrats have a great gift for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, unless they have generational candidates who are -- who have phenomenal skills.  They had two in our lifetime.  They had Barack Obama and they had Bill Clinton, naturally gifted political figures.  They understand how to connect with people.  They have charisma for days.  None of the current field reaches that level of performance.

And I think the danger that I`ve seen coming at the Democratic Party for a long time now is a lot of them still believe that this is going to be a referendum about policy.  This election is a referendum as all presidential re-elections are about Trump.  They are all referendum -- All the referendum thought in this election is going to be Trump or not Trump.  X future or Y future.

If the future you want is Trump`s kicking you in the face to all eternity, well then re-elect Donald Trump.  If you want to argue about policy, you`re re-electing Donald Trump.  You`ve got -- I mean -- And Trump hands them right now the opportunity to go after him as a man who is corrupt, who is ineffective, and who has led this country into a place where the reputation of our President is as an extortionist and mercenary.

WILLIAMS:  When our President tosses out a reference to a civil war?

WILSON:  Right.  I think that is, again, this is a way to make a referendum on this man.  What kind of president in this country, you know, other than the -- unless he`s got Jefferson Davis fantasies, wants to go out and have the reputation be, you know, retweeting and praising somebody who is threatening a civil war.  If he doesn`t get to operate above the law, if he doesn`t get to be unaccountable in every way, and this is the kind of thing that Trumpism has normalized in our country and it`s a great danger, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Jeff Flake, consensus, hall of fame, furrowed brow hall of fame member, concerned face hall of fame member, says to his fellow Republicans, you know, there`s still time to save your souls.  Others remember Flake as the guy who saved Kavanaugh right before skipping town.  Not the best guy to make that argument?

WILSON:  Look, I would prefer and there will be a tremendous first mover advantage for some seated member of the U.S. Senate right now, to make that point and to recognize that Donald Trump will drag every single one of them under and they will all drown and die politically if they don`t start breaking away.  This is the problem that 1973 and `74 taught us.  In 1973 the Republicans were lock step on Nixon.  If you go back it was all -- it`s a media conspiracy against the President.  It`s liberal leaks against the President.

Well, in 1974, the voters of the United States decided that 50 -- or 49 Republicans needed to go home, forever.  And that eight members of the Republican Senate needed to go home forever.  This is a political consequence of a corrupt president who abuses power.

Right now Donald Trump -- and the thing about Nixon, Nixon was not about money.  Nixon was not about personal gain.  Nixon was in the game because that was his character.  Trump is venal.  Trump wants political power so he can continue to enrich himself and his family.  And this as category above even Richard Nixon and that takes a lot of doing.

WILLIAMS:  Rick Wilson, thank you so much.

WILSON:  Yes, sir.  Pleasure, thank you.

WILLIAMS:  It`s always a pleasure to have you on our broadcast.

And coming up, our next guest literally wrote the book on leadership in turbulent times.  Pulitzer Prize winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin is here and with us next, when we continue.


WILLIAMS:  To review, Nancy Pelosi said no to impeachment for months.  The Mueller report wasn`t enough to move the needle, but now the comparatively simple story of what our President said over the phone to a foreign leader has suddenly changed everything.  Pelosi and the House moving forward on this idea, and the needle is moving on American opinion.  The new Quinnipiac poll shows the country is now evenly split on this issue, but look at how much this has moved since September 25th.  The gap has closed on whether Trump should be impeached and removed from office.

With us tonight is Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian and author.  She has written best sellers about both Roosevelts, the Kennedys, LBJ, Lincoln, to name a few.  Her latest work is "Leadership in Turbulent Times", would you believe it.  A New York Times best seller which conveniently comes out tomorrow in paperback removing any excuse not to own it and read it.  Welcome back.  It`s great to have you.


WILLIAMS:  When in your memory was the last President who called for the arrest and questioning toward a charge of treason of a sitting Member of Congress, more than that a committee chair?

GOODWIN:  Thankfully I cannot remember when the last time was.  I mean, the words that are thrown around, I mean, this is really important right now as we go through this impeachment process.  We have to define what treason is.  We have to define what the rule of law is.  What is abuse of power.  What is violating the office.

You can`t just throw words -- either side can`t throw words around without explaining it.  That`s what the country needs so that public sentiment can coalesce, if they think that impeachment is necessary to create a consensus.  That`s what has to be done, so the country will not have a civil war fracture like the President predicted.

WILLIAMS:  Well that`s what I was going to ask about next.  You wrote with such beauty and clarity about the civil war.  Can you believe that our President has casually mentioned that among other topics over the weekend?

GOODWIN:  I mean, when you think about what that civil war meant to this country, splitting apart, literally, more than 600,000 soldiers dying, because the north and the south could not deal with slavery in the same way.  And that somebody might predict that if we go ahead with the impeachment, there might be a civil war fracture in the country.  I mean, it`s the last thing you want from a president who is hopefully going to be the president of all the people, to be able to heal the country.

You know, at least during the Nixon impeachment, by the end of it, when Gerald Ford stood up and he said, our long national nightmare is over, we are a government of laws, not a government of men, there was a healing process, because the way it was dealt with.  And then we`ve got to hope somehow by the end of this, that there`s a consensus, if the impeachment goes through, that it was the right thing to do.

WILLIAMS:  Well following that very crisis, your fellow author, Carl Bernstein, has always said Republicans were the heroes of Watergate.  Do you see it possible that the same dynamic could emerge in our time?

GOODWIN:  I think the question right now, when you think about the Nixon impeachment, was that at the beginning, only 19 percent thought he should be impeached and then gradually that number increased as events overshadowed what was happening.  At first, Nixon was saying, I had nothing to do with it, I don`t know the plumbers, but then you finally have the event.  You have the John Dean testimony, you have the people inside the administration being sent, as we know, with Haldeman and Ehrlichman and Mitchell into indictments and then you have, of course, the tapes.  I mean, the tapes were the smoking gun.  And by that time, Republicans had to respond to events.

So, the question will be, how will these hearings educate the country?  How will they make the country understand if this person is above the law, what that means?

WILLIAMS:  Doris Kearns Goodwin has agreed to stay with us over this break.  A big question for her on the other side of this break, when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  The historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has been kind enough to hang around, and I lied, I have at least two more questions for you.  The qualities in this book, which I sincerely hope everyone reads, of presidential leadership, what`s your answer, when you`re asked about Trump`s brand of presidential leadership?

GOODWIN:  Well, just look at the qualities that my four guys that I studied Lincoln, the two Roosevelts and LBJ on Civil Rights they shared.  Humility, empathy, resilience, the ability to create a team around them that could question their assumptions and argue with them, the sense of ambition for self being less than eventually the ambition for the world.  I mean, those qualities are what we need in times of crisis.  I`m always optimistic about America getting through in the sense that we`ve been through worse times before and somehow the citizens became active and we had the right leader in the right place at the right time.

We had FDR, we had Teddy Roosevelt, we have Abraham Lincoln, we had LBJ in Civil Rights.  The worrisome thing right now is what you and I were just talking about which is, we also had, in those other times, not in the civil war time, which we had a partisan press, where you could have different facts and completely different discussions.  We have now that kind of a partisan press, where people are watching one cable network or another, facts are not in agreement and does that mean that there will be two different scenarios coming out of this impeachment hearing so that there`s one set of facts and another and people don`t agree in the end.  That`s why we need the kind of leadership that can somehow pull us together.

WILLIAMS:  Well that`s a subset of my next and final question for you.  Can that be put back, is that like cutting off the arm of a star fish?  Does that regrow?  And more widely, what do you say when people ask, are we going to be OK?

GOODWIN:  I say yes.  I mean, I say that we -- as I say that we`ve come through before, but it`s going to require the kind of leader who emerges now that can somehow understand that the country has to pull together and have some consensus about the rule of law.  I mean, that is the central thing right now.  Lincoln worried so much during his young youth, his young youth, if that makes sense, right?

WILLIAMS:  Is there any other guy?

GOODWIN:  That if the rule of law was violated, that the answer to it was that you had to remind people of what the framers had fought for.  People were forgetting the revolution because it`s gone (ph).  So he said, every night, mothers should be reading to their kids about the revolution, about the ideals.  They should be in the spelling books.  They should be in the primers.

We have to remember the ideals for the country and what it stood for.  And if we can get back to that, and we can have leaders who can get us back to that, somehow we`ll get through this social media is a problem, the divided media is a problem.  There`s lots of problems.  We went through a depression, we went through World War II, we went through the civil war.  If we got through those, as long as the citizens are active, as long as they take part in this, they educate themselves and the leadership educates them, we`ll be OK.  History shows it.

WILLIAMS:  Are we ranking social media, giving its importance as a multiplier of our troubles the way you think it will be ranked by historians 100 years in the future?

GOODWIN:  To be sure, it is now.  The question is whether or not social media can also manage technologically to bring people together and to bring them to a common cause.  We`re not done with social media yet.  We have to be able to figure out how to shape it.  Right now, it`s shaping us.

WILLIAMS:  Imagine if Lincoln had been looking down at his device instead of paying attention.

Our thanks to our friend Doris Kearns Goodwin.  The book is, "Leadership in Turbulent Times".  And, yes, these are.

And that is our broadcast for this Monday evening, as we start off a new week around here.  Thank you so much for being here with us.  Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.

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