LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Elizabeth Drew, always a pleasure an honor to have you with us. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
DREW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Elizabeth Drew gets tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight a big development, we just don`t know yet what it means. The State Department`s own independent inspector general asks for an urgent meeting with congressional staff, the subject is Ukraine. It comes as our Secretary of State accuses Democrats in Congress of bullying his people in their search for the truth about Ukraine. This, as the President`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has himself lawyered up, while Trump is still pressing for the questioning of Democrat Adam Schiff.
And just tonight, Trump goes on a tear alleging he`s the victim of a coup attempt, telling his followers they`re coming for your guns, your religion, your military, and your rights. All of this as the THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Tuesday evening.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 985 of the Trump administration. And here is our President from just tonight. And we quote, "As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a coup, intended to take away the power of the people, their vote, their freedoms, their Second Amendment, religion, military, border wall, and their God-given rights as a citizen of the United States of America.
So, two quick notes here. First, it appears the Ukraine story has broken through and is causing some real early damage. The second note came tonight from the Associated Press following up on the President`s comments there by reminding its readers, "a coup is usually defined as a sudden, violent and illegal seizure of government power. The impeachment process is laid out in the U.S. constitution."
Be that as it may, and undeterred by definition, it is a theme our President invokes regularly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And this was an attempted coup.
An attempted coup or an attempt to takedown of the President of the United States.
Really it`s a coup.
This was a coup.
This was a coup.
This was an attempted coup.
They tried for a coup, didn`t work out so well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So tonight`s coup warning from the President immediately followed word of an important development that, again, we can`t get explained. And here it is, the internal inspector general at the State Department, and that is ideally a person who is walled off from politics, has requested what they call a, "urgent briefing tomorrow with congressional committee staff from both parties." And we know it relates to documents related to Ukraine.
This comes on the heels of our Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accusing Democrats in the House of attempting to, "intimidate, bully and treat improperly." Five current and former State Department officials scheduled to be deposed by key Democratic committee chairman leading the impeachment inquiry. Pompeo`s effort to stonewall may be collapsing. Former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, says he will testify in the House`s impeachment inquiry on Thursday, just two days from now. And former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine will also testify before House committees next week.
House Democrats also sent Pompeo something of a warning saying that he is now a fact witness in the wake of these reports that he was on that phone call, July 25th, with Trump and the President of Ukraine. They`re saying he`s conflicted because of that. Pompeo, who is traveling in Italy was asked about these reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, do you have any comment on reports you`re on the July 25th call with President Zelensky?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And that`s about the way that went.
Tomorrow House Speaker Pelosi will be joined by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff who, for now, has the lead in the impeachment investigation.
One of the central figures in the inquiry, Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has hired his own lawyer to represent him as he now faces a subpoena for documents. Jon Sale, former Watergate prosecutor, assistant U.S. attorney for Southern Florida is the man.
Here is Rudy from tonight`s appearance on Fox News just within the past hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDOLF GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S PERSONAL LAWYER: I had a couple of talks with civil rights lawyers and constitutional lawyer today. And here`s what they are recommending, that we should bring a lawsuit on behalf of the President and several people in the administration, maybe even myself as a lawyer against the members of Congress individually for violating constitutional rights, violating civil rights. They`re doing extraordinary things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And whatever that means, that means.
And here for our lead-off discussion on a Tuesday night, Carl Hulse, he`s Chief Washington Correspondent for "The New York Times," Annie Karni, White House Correspondent also with "The New York Times," also with us is Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at CIA and the Pentagon, notably former Chief Counsel to the House Intel Committee. Good evening and welcome to you all.
And Carl, I`d like to begin with you.
CARL HULSE, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Sure.
WILLIAMS: There`s a lot we don`t know tonight, beyond the headline that the State Department`s independent I.G. is going to come up there to the Hill. Notably wanting to meet with senior staff from these select committees of both parties, but no members that I saw mentioned. This could, by our reading, cut both ways, Carl. It could be someone saying slow way down, it`s going to take us a while to find everything you want, could be someone saying you won`t believe what we found. Carl, what`s your reporting, if any, on the content of this?
HULSE: Yes. I have been asking people about this. You`re right. We don`t know exactly what it is, but it does seem like there`s a little pushback from the bureaucracy a bit here. For -- on the first -- for the first you have some of the former administration officials agreeing to go up testify. Now that`s been a problem so far. The Trump administration`s been able to hold people back. They`re going to go voluntarily testify.
And the inspector general, everyone agrees this is an unusual request. And you know, that office is independent. So they seem to be rushing up there with something that they think Congress needs to know right away. You know, there is a recess going on.
And the other thing that the State Department that we have to think about, I know that you said the secretary talked about the Congress bullying and intimidating the officials over there, but some of those officials also feel like they`ve been bullied and intimidated by the Trump administration. And I think some of them want to talk. So, there`s a lot going on here, Brian. We don`t know quite what it is, but events are accelerating really rapidly in this impeachment fight.
WILLIAMS: And Jeremy Bash, about the people who want to talk, who wins in a battle between the Secretary of State and subpoenas from the Democrats?
JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I think what you have here are two career professionals, Ambassador Yovanovitch who was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and Ambassador Volker who was the special envoy to Ukraine and the former U.S. ambassador to NATO. And they in effect want to come forward now and explain, number one, that they did feel that in the case of Ambassador Yovanovitch said she was fired impart because she was doing her job. But secondly, with respect to Ambassador Volker, he has now laid out publicly by -- in some media reports his perspective here, which is that he knew nothing of the President`s effort to shake down President Zelensky for dirt on -- manufactured dirt on Joe Biden.
And he was trying to, in effect, make the White House offer a phone call and a meeting to President Zelensky without putting into these crazy conditions such as the quid pro quo that the President demanded. So, I think you`re going to hear a lot from Volker and from Yovanovitch tonight. And I think that`s not going to be a great day for the White House in this chapter that`s unfolding.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Annie, I think we can all agree our discourse dies a little bit every day and that every day we read something new that is scary, especially those of us who have a few years on us and tend to love our democracy. With that in mind, what happens in the West Wing when the President tosses out words like treason and coup?
ANNIE KARNI, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: When it happens on Twitter, nothing happens. And that`s been the case for a long time. Not even in the current administration which is perhaps the one with the least guard rails around them in the West Wing. But John Kelly, his former chief of staff said very clearly, I don`t read the tweets. That was his official position. So, nothing has happened when he does that, and especially not in the climate right now where they don`t know internally who is in charge, who is in what lane when it comes to an impeachment response, and what the response should even look like. So they`re really all over the place internally.
And what is the outcome of that is that President Trump is doing what he could be expected to do, which is defend himself, go out and be his own spokesman. He talks more when he feels like no one else is talking for him, and that`s what we`re seeing here.
WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, the protest phrase way, way back in Chicago was the whole world is watching. And that remains true. So when the world sees our attorney general on an overseas tour asking foreign governments what they know about U.S. Intel`s past efforts, what they see this interchange, what we`ve made public on Ukraine, Jeremy, what are they thinking?
BASH: Well, they think there`s been a huge break down in the model that the United States has stood for and that we try to advance all over the world. The model that we adhere to is a model of constitutional democracy. One where we don`t have one party prosecute the other or one president prosecute a former or political rival or try to use the apparatus of the state or the intelligence services or military aid to try to dig up dirt on a political rival and ensconce that person, the president in office.
So, I think countries look at us and say, what has happened to America? What is going on? Why has America sunk to these depths? And I think we`re going to have a lot of cleanup to do when this is all over impart by explaining to the world that, no, we haven`t changed, we still are America and we still adhere to certain critical values.
WILLIAMS: Carl, for people who are looking ahead, for members of the resistance who are looking ahead hopefully to perhaps something that gets through the House of Representatives and lands on the doorstep of Mitch McConnell, excuse me, you wrote in your book, "Confirmation Bias," all about what has become of the modern-day Supreme Court confirmation process.
We all remember Merrick Garland.
WILLIAMS: We all remember Mitch McConnell`s power over that nomination. Yet you`ve just recently written that impeachment if and when it arrives on McConnell`s doorstep in the well of the Senate, may not face that same future. How is that?
HULSE: Right. So I do have a story coming probably online today and in tomorrow`s paper saying basically the rules of the Senate require the Republicans to do something. It`s very specific. They`re going to have to take this up. Mitch McConnell has said this week, we need to take this up. But he also said, but how much time we spend on it is another matter.
And as I did a lot of reporting on this over the past few days, I think the Republican strategy that`s unfolding here is that they would get the articles of impeachment from the House and start a proceeding but try and probably move pretty quickly to dismiss it. So there ultimately would be a vote, but probably not the kind of extended trial that we saw for President Clinton.
I think that the Democrats are going to say, that`s not enough, we want a fair trial, we want to really examine this. So there`s going to be a fight over that. It`s -- but he`s not going to be able to what I call turning Merrick Garland into a verb, Merrick Garland the impeachment articles.
WILLIAMS: Annie Karni, you already invoked the term guard rails. And this is from your colleagues ahead of a forthcoming book about this President and the border. They write, "Privately, the President had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. Later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That`s not allowed either, they told him."
Annie, it`s a serious topic but already social media is having a good old time wondering who from the White House called on a price check for snakes and alligators. But that aside, this goes to guard rails. Are guard rails still in place in that West Wing?
KARNI: It does go to guardrails and the outcome of this story by my colleagues, Michael Shear and Julie Davis, is that what resulted from this chaotic period where Trump wanted to shut down the entire border was that Stephen Miller saw a huge opportunity to overhaul all of the people who didn`t agree with him at DHS, at the Department of Homeland and Security, including Kirstjen Nielsen, including people under her and replace them with loyalist who saw more eye to eye with him. So -- and who didn`t stand in the President`s way.
There is a few anecdotes in the story about how Kirstjen Nielsen would tell him, sir, that`s just not possible. And he said, I want to build the whole wall in concrete, for instance. And he simply just doesn`t like being more and more as he becomes settled and confidence in the role in the Oval Office, he doesn`t seem to like being surrounded by people who tell him no. And we saw John Bolton leave. We see this across different issues.
John Bolton left. He was someone who pushed back strongly on North Korea and other areas. And we see Pompeo who mostly agrees with the President, goes along to get along, succeeding in that -- this White House. We see that pattern playing out across the divisions more and more. So, yes, I think the moral of this story by Julie and Mike is, that the guardrails were taken down. Not that the alligators didn`t happen. They also didn`t happen, but that`s not the bigger-picture takeaway here.
WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, here`s a first. I`m going to present you with a quote just tonight from Sean Hannity. And he said this, "The Mueller report was a dud, his testimony was an embarrassment."
Let`s, for the sake of conversation say that he`s right. Let`s say that everything that has happened heretofore has fallen short of what the opposition has hoped for. Do you think when we look back at this period in the rear view mirror, Jeremy, it`s going to have been a phone call that however much the President describes as perfect is the kind of thing we can all understand. We`ve seen it now in print that it was a phone call that started this latest round of unraveling.
BASH: I think that`s right, Brian. Not only is it understandable, but if you think about the conduct is much more concerning than whatever conduct applied to the 2016 election. First of all, Donald Trump is now president. At that time obviously he was a candidate. He`s now president. So in soliciting a foreign leader for interference in the United States election, he`s using the office of the presidency. He`s using the full force and weight of the United States of America to obtain that illicit outcome. That`s significantly different than 2016.
And also in 2016 you could argue, oh, his son who doesn`t know much or it was a bunch of campaign aides who don`t know much. In this case it is the President himself and there`s no way around it. It`s his own conduct at the end of the day that`s going to be subject of scrutiny on Capitol Hill.
WILLIAMS: Carl, you know your way around the Hill. Let me give you three names, Portman, Blunt, Collins, when do you think -- will it be in our lifetime any one of those three Republican senators says something negative in the context of this Ukraine story about the President?
HULSE: Well, I think Susan Collins has -- will be interesting to watch if it gets to a vote. I mean, it would be in her nature to vote to have a full proceeding. The Republicans just have not wanted to take on the President. I know -- I think people overestimate a little bit how much that they don`t like the President. You hear all this talk behind closed doors, they revile (ph) him. I`m not sure that that`s as strong as it is. And they really think the Democrats are overreaching here.
But I think if some new material comes out, if some more damaging information comes out, you would see some people breaking. But we are nowhere close to that right now.
WILLIAMS: Annie Karni, give me 30 seconds of brilliance. What is the proof in your beat that this story has perhaps broken through?
KARNI: The impeachment story is that, well, that -- first of all, there`s different versions of what there is to do here. We see Pompeo`s trying to stonewall Congress, which is a continuation of the strategy the White House has had since the Mueller investigation not to give up witnesses, not to give up any papers. On the other hand from the White House we see them going to great lengths to put out the transcript -- or the partial transcript of the call between Zelensky and Trump immediately saying that this would exonerate him. I guess they thought that it would be perceived as more detrimental to them if they looked like they were stonewalling but if they weren`t.
So the question is, going forward, what are they going to see as more damaging to them, trying to look transparent or stonewalling? Which one do they think is more damaging to them? It`s two options that are both from a position of being defensive. So let`s see.
WILLIAMS: Part of the world we live on this night in 2019.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Carl Hulse, Annie Karni, Jeremy Bash --
HULSE: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: -- thank you, all three of you for coming on and helping us out tonight.
Coming up for us, yet another poll shows American opinion is on the move and quickly on one of the most consequential issues of our time, whether or not this President should be tried for high crimes. Two top notch political reporters will be with us to break down the numbers.
And later, as the President talks coups and civil war, we`ll talk to the man who wrote the book on how to safeguard our democracy as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this Tuesday night.
WILLIAMS: New polling released today shows growing support for impeaching the President. Monmouth University poll shows 44 percent now think Trump should be impeached and removed from office compared to 35 percent just last month. And remember, last night`s CNN poll showed the number shifted 10 points in just days.
And yet "Washington Post" reports the White House has not set up a war room of any kind to coordinate its response to the impeachment inquiry. "Post" reports some Republicans have, "pushed the White House to offer more guidance to its defenders by standing up a centralized, organized response effort."
Back with us tonight, Sam Stein, Politics Editor for the Daily Beast and Tarini Parti, National Political Reporter for "The Wall Street Journal." Good evening, gang, and welcome to you both.
And Sam, we`ll start with you.
SAM STEIN, THE DAILY BEAST POLITICS EDITOR: Sure.
WILLIAMS: I want to ask you the same thing I asked Jeremy Bash. Is it going to turn out, do you think, the Mueller report lands with a whimper and not a bang, ditto his testimony, is it going to turn out that an understandable phone call and a much easier to tell story is going to make the difference?
STEIN: Well, it`s certainly more digestible politically for our Democrats that I talked to. The idea of a President exerting influence on a foreign leader to investigate a domestic political rival is something that people can easily comprehend and understand it to be wrong as opposed to 10 difficult to explain acts of potential obstruction and vague Russian Twitter handles messing with our election. So yes, I think, you know, in the end this might be politically more potent than the Mueller report was.
That being said, I can`t -- I don`t think you can take these things individually. You know, the Mueller report did lay the foundation for a lot of the momentum behind impeachment that built over the summer. And that if it weren`t for that, you know, we might not be in a place where a majority of the House Democrats -- or sorry, the House itself is saying they favor an inquiry. I think this is built up on each other.
WILLIAMS: Sam, a lot of people, though, would argue that that momentum was lost --
WILLIAMS: -- on the Democrats who came back and kind of came up with this theory that they had to tell the story all over again?
STEIN: And there`s been some consternation internally within House Democratic leadership and among members about how the party handled the Mueller report episode. I mean, remember, I think back about it, just getting him to testify was tricky, getting the underlying evidence has proven tricky, they still have not gotten it. And in the House Judiciary Committee, some of the hearings were either nonexistent and/or when they got people in there became theater essentially, and absurd theater at that.
And so the consternation, the frustration that House leadership had was very apparent. And I think there is a bit of relief now that it`s moved over to the Intelligence Community -- sorry, the Intelligent Committee and Chairman Adam Schiff which -- who has run a tighter ship in some regards and, for or better or worse, has been able to get documents that had been proven elusive to Jerry Nadler.
WILLIAMS: So, Tarini, the question to you goes back to the poll numbers that I started this segment with. You don`t often see 10 points in a week. That`s real movement. We don`t know where the floor or ceiling is here. But when you`re looking to attribute it to something, is it as good a theory as any that the Ukraine story, a phone call is an easier story to tell and digest?
TARINI PARTI, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL POLITICS REPORTER: I think there is some truth to that. And there is clear momentum, but if you look deeper in those poll numbers, you`re seeing that the majority of the shift is coming from an increase in support among Democrats and to a certain extent among Independents. But if you`re looking at Republican poll numbers, the Republican Party is still pretty much standing by President Trump and we`re not really seeing much movement there. The President`s approval numbers as well are pretty much the same and have not seen as much movement, so I think moving forward as this investigation continues, the thing to watch will be any sort of movement among those Republican voters and, of course, also the President`s approval rating.
WILLIAMS: Tarini, I also wanted to play this for you. This is a Democratic member, freshman member of the House on foreign affairs. He said this on this network tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI, (D) NEW JERSEY FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: I sense fear more than bluster. Look, this is the rare congressional investigation in which we already know most of the facts before we even begin. We`re filling in a few details about maybe the circumstances under which the aid was cut off to threaten the Ukrainians presumably to cough up this dirt, but they`ve admitted to the central fact that the President tried to extort election help from a foreign leader. We know this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So that is New Jersey Democratic Congressman Tom Malinowski. Tarini, is his seeming confidence that they are starting to tell this story not in the letter "a" but closer to the letter l, m, n, o, p, is that confidence founded, do you think?
PARTI: I think what Democrats have to be careful of here is to make sure they`re not sounding too confident and too political. I think we`re hearing that from some of the more moderate Democrats in those swing states really being careful in how they approach this.
The way they`re talking about it is that this is an inquiry, this is an investigation, we`re going to see, you know, where the facts lead us, we`re kind of seeing similar language here from Speaker Pelosi and the people leading the Democratic congressional committee, the Democratic senatorial campaign committee. You know, people on those fronts are being a little bit more cautious in how they are approaching this.
WILLIAMS: Both of our guests have agreed to stay with us over the break.
And coming up, with everything else going on, a public attempt to keep an important discussion going at the same time because it affects every American family. We`ll talk about it coming back.
WILLIAMS: Today marks two years since the mass shooting at that music festival if in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead. It left hundreds more wounded. And let`s be more specific. It was a full-on massacre, a disturbed gunman with an arsenal firing from a high-rise hotel in the dark. The victims didn`t have a chance. Tomorrow this network will moderate and live stream a gun safety forum in Las Vegas with the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.
Latest polling out of Nevada shows Joe Biden tied with Bernie Sanders at 22 percent, followed by Elizabeth Warren at 18 percent, and so on. New poll out of South Carolina showing Biden leading big at 37 percent followed by Warren at 17, Sanders at 8 percent and it kind of drops off a cliff after that. Most important number in that poll just might be 52, the percentage of voters who say they are open to changing their mind.
Still with us, Sam Stein and Tarini Parti. And Sam --
SAM STEIN, POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes.
WILLIAMS: -- it`s on us if we ever left the topic of gun violence fade into the background. One of the few, sadly, anticipatable things I can say to you is we are days away from the next act of mass gun violence in this country. It`s just become that, sadly, predictable. The candidates are banging around on the road trying to break out of the numbers they`re in. Do the Democrats see a way forward on this issue that advances the debate, gets us closer perhaps to legislation, and helps win know down the field of Democrats?
STEIN: The short answer is no. Legislatively everyone is just sort of waiting and waiting to see what President Trump will support. If you remember it was a couple weeks ago that he gave an indication to three more -- to three most critical senators that an endorsement of some sort of magnitude was coming in 24 to 48 hours, obviously never came, and we`re left to sort of pick up parcels about what`s happening, including random conversations he`s having with officials at the NRA.
And Brian, you`re absolutely right. This is an epidemic that`s not going away. It is on us as reporters to make sure that people understand that it`s not forgotten. And all I can say is that, you know, there`s this horrible, horrifying routine that happens in newsrooms across the country where we just wait for the next instance to happen. And then we go about what has become a hardened editorial routine of covering mass shootings. And this is just the world in which we live in here in America, and there`s no indication whatsoever that it`s going to change until we get an indication about what President Trump would be comfortable doing politically.
WILLIAMS: Tarini, let me turn the corner with you into pure politics and specifically let`s talk about the Biden campaign. How do you think they`re viewing their place in the polls these days? And can everyone agree that because they`re in the news every day in an ancillary way because of Ukraine, are they guilty of not appropriately telling their part in the Ukraine story in a simple, digestible form?
TARINI PARTI, POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think as far as poll numbers are concerned, Joe Biden has still been able to maintain somewhat of a lead and front-runner status, although we`re seeing Senator Elizabeth Warren really creep up in some of those polls now starting to overtake Biden. And I think it will be interesting to see as this Ukraine story unfolds, as we see House Democrats continue to investigate this, plus President Trump now advertising his campaign, putting money behind this effort to show that -- or try to show that Vice President Biden did something, you know, may have done something wrong, although, you know, we have no evidence of that. As this keeps going on into this national conversation, does that change his numbers at all?
You know, at this point we`re not seeing any evidence of that, just Senator Warren rising in the polls. But it will be interesting to see if those ads really make any difference in those numbers.
WILLIAMS: Sam, Bernie had a good quarter in terms of fundraising dollars - -
WILLIAMS: -- so for his part, did Mayor Pete to what end?
STEIN: Well, it depends. For Bernie, the numbers were great. It shows that he has sustainability regardless of where he is at the polls. He will have a fountain of cash coming in in small increments that will allow him to campaign pretty much as long as he wants to. Obviously that becomes a little bit more complicated if he doesn`t do well in Iowa and New Hampshire, but the financial support is there.
For Mayor Pete, it`s a great number two, but it`s a drop off from the last quarter. And, you know, he has been a bit stagnant in the polls, but his ability to get fundraising, to bring in money, does allow him to, you know, stay in the race, run ads and see if he can jump up those numbers, boost those numbers a little bit. Neither of these candidates have had a particularly impressive quarter when it comes to their electoral positioning, but the money is still there and that means they`re still in the game.
WILLIAMS: A lot out there to cover. Thank you both for helping us cover it. Sam Stein, Tarini Parti, we appreciate you both being with us tonight.
WILLIAMS: With loose talking of hunting down whistleblowers, treason, civil war thrown in for good measure, our next guest wrote a book full of handy warning signs of approaching tyranny. So we`ll ask him what it is we are witnessing.
WILLIAMS: The President tonight took to social media to call the impeachment inquiry a coup. He told his followers they`re coming after your guns, your religion, your military, your rights as a citizen. This morning he demanded to interview and learn everything about the so-called whistleblower. Just for clarity sake here, whistleblowers by definition are to be protected.
Over the weekend there was this gem. "If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office, which they will never be, it will cause a Civil War like fracture." Then there was this last week captured on camera at the United Nations obtained by Bloomberg News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to know who`s the person that gave the whistleblower -- who`s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that`s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart, right? With spies and treason. We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: With us tonight to talk about it, Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University. Professor Snyder was a Marshall Scholar educated in Ivy League and in Oxford, specializing in Europe and the Holocaust. He happens to be the author of two books of note in this area, "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century," and "The Road to Unfreedom, Russia, Europe, America". Professor, welcome back to the broadcast. Thank you for coming in.
I want to read you some of the work tonight of our friends, Robert Costa and Philip Rucker over at The Washington Post. "As the impeachment drama has unfolded over the past week, a series of disclosures has illuminated President Trump`s command over key federal agencies, revealing how he has compelled them to pursue his personal and political goals, investigate his enemies, and lend legitimacy to his theories about the 2016 election. Trump`s moves underscore his transformation as president. He arrived in Washington a neophyte uncertain about how to operate the machinery of government. But now, in his third year in office, Trump has grown confident about exercising power, disposing of aides who acted as guardrails and elevating those who prove their loyalty by following his orders."
Professor, what in there speaks to your thesis?
TIMOTHY SNYDER, YALE UNIVERSITY HISTORY PROFESSOR: Well, there are two fundamental issues here. The first is the President of the United States is supposed to execute the laws. It`s his job not to put himself above the law. It`s his job to know what the law is and execute it. That`s fundamental. The second great danger here has to do with the facts and the truth.
What we were seeing is someone who began his career as President of the United States by saying lots of things that were untrue. Now we`ve moved into a new phase where he`s operationalizing his untruths. He`s making other people repeat them. He send the Attorney General and others around the world to spread a fictional version of what happened in 2016.
This is frightening because it`s so familiar. This is what authoritarian rulers do. This is what a cult of personality means. It`s what you think and feel. It`s not the truth that matters. And this is where a democracy starts to tilt into something else, which is rather scary.
WILLIAMS: The book "1984" after all starts with the clock striking 13. How many times a day do you as a consumer of news and information see something, hear something that fits neatly into one of your 20 points in your book, "On Tyranny."
SNYDER: Well, you`re describing my entire experience of life, Brian. That`s what life is like for me. I mean, I`m a historian of the 1920s, `30s, and `40s when everything went wrong. And if you`re a historian of democracy, you know that democracy usually fails and you`re aware that people are vulnerable. You know how important institutions are. And that`s why this week is such an important week because this week is about the clash between institutions and personality, between law and someone who regards himself as above the law.
WILLIAMS: Is it recoverable? That`s what most people want to know, patriotic, normal, everyday American citizens who don`t feel like they chose a side in this. Is it recoverable, as I asked somebody sitting where you are this week, is it like the hacked off arm of a star fish, will it regenerate?
SNYDER: Not on its own. Not on its own. It`s a mistake to amount that everything was good in 2016. It wasn`t. If it were, we wouldn`t be where we are today. It`s a mistake to imagine the institutions will just bounce back. They`re only going to bounce back if we force them to bounce back. And it`s going to require more good work.
There are hopeful signs though. I mean, everything we`re talking about we know because of the good work of journalists. If we`re going to come back, it`s because we know more rather than less about Mr. Trump, it`s because we have more rather than fewer investigations, it`s because we returned to a place where we`re not just repeating over and over again what the President says and contesting it, but know more about the world around us. So journalism is a place to recover.
WILLIAMS: In China 70th anniversary of communist rule today, but we also saw in Hong Kong pitched battles between the protesters and police, including video that`s been making the rounds of a point-blank shooting of a protester by a police officer.
Mitch McConnell on social media took what used to be the traditional American position talking about human rights. I want to show you what our President said on Twitter today about the Chinese 70th anniversary of the beginning of communist rule. If we have that. There we go. "Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th anniversary of the People`s Republic of China." Is that ignorance or by design?
SNYDER: One of the hidden tragedies of the current scandal is the loss of America`s super power status. When we become a country where no one knows what it is that we think, where we`re operating on the basis of fictions and where we praise dictators basically every day of the week, we lose the basis upon which our power used to rest. That`s how I understand this particular signal. If America is going to return to go back to your last question, it has to return on the basis of some kind of principle, not praising which ever dictator the President happens to like more on a given day of the week.
Part of this saddens about Ukraine as well is that Ukraine like Hong Kong is at the front line of whether there will be human rights and democracy in the world. It`s a weak country that needs our help. It`s not a country we should be corrupting. It`s a country we should be trying to help.
WILLIAMS: Yes. It`s become somewhat lost in the story. T he military aid that was hung up was to protect them against the Russians.
A quick break here in our coverage. Our guest has agreed to stay with us. And coming up, more on how to defend our nation from coups, corruption, civil war when we come back.
WILLIAMS: We are back, happy and fortunate that Yale University Professor and Author Timothy Snyder has agreed to stick with us. Professor, what do we have in common with the Brits? That is to say, what does the America post-2016 election and Brexit have in common?
SNYDER: Well, at least two things come to mind. The first is surprising. It`s the English language. English used to be a source of strength. But in the age of the internet, English can be a source of weakness. It used to mean that having English meant you could project out on the world. But now if all you know is English, it means that everybody else can get to you. How? That`s the second part of the answer.
Both Brexit and the election of Mr. Trump were things that Moscow very much wanted and used its internet resources in order to get across. And of course, there`s the fundamental thing they have in common, which is that both Mr. Trump and Brexit tend to weaken the overarching Atlantic alliance, which everyone used to take for granted.
WILLIAMS: So in your book, again, the 20 tenants to look for, someone trying to enact tyranny would need accessories. They would need accomplices. So what then would those who are supporters of Donald Trump in the House and Senate, what would their beef be with the post-World War II Atlantic alliance?
SNYDER: I`m a little puzzled by that one as well. And I think you`re right that a lot of Republicans in the House and Senate have a certain amount of difficulty squaring Mr. Trump`s open admiration of Mr. Putin, who of course wants to destroy NATO and the European Union, with their support for Mr. Trump. I think that`s a very tricky one.
I guess one thing that has become less clear in the U.S. in the last few years, and I think that`s the result of both the Obama and the Trump administrations, is just how fragile this order is. We`ve become much more self-centered and we tend to think that the world`s just going to go on the way that it was shaped. That`s clearly not true. The order that we helped to make is breaking all around us during the Trump presidency.
WILLIAMS: What are the pitfalls? This is a blatantly political question. What are the pitfalls for Democrats as they pursue impeachment do you think in this current environment?
SNYDER: I think the argument for impeachment has to also be an argument for a better America. The Republicans speak about the deep state. The deep state in this country is called the constitution. The argument for impeachment has to not be negative. It has to be positive.
We are the ones who are following the procedures of the constitution. We are the ones who are supporting the rule of law. And I think in a larger scale, the pitfall for the Democrats is to avoid thinking of impeachment as the only thing. Mr. Trump is a problem but he`s also a symptom of deeper problems in the United States.
In 2020, the Democrats are not going to be able to go back to 2016. There`s nothing to be nostalgic about for 2016. What they have to be able to do is present a future, a future which is superior to what we have now, superior to 2016. The Democrats have to be able to say not just we`re going to solve the problem of this individual. They have to be able to say we`re going to solve the problems of the country. We have an idea of how this country could be much, much better than it is now.
WILLIAMS: Final question. Do you think the carpet bombing of facts and the releasing into the atmosphere of the notion of fake news combined along with admittedly a dense document to diminish the impact of the Mueller report?
SNYDER: I think the Mueller report is a document of historic importance because it puts beyond any shadow of a doubt based upon accessible sources that there was a Russian influence campaign, that the Trump people knew about it and supported it at the time, and that later Mr. Trump tried to obstruct investigations about it. I agree, however, that it could have been released in a way that would have made it more accessible and easier to digest. Nevertheless, as a historian, I have to say it changes the historical record forever that that`s out there and no amount of running around the world by Attorney General Barr is going to produce something which will counter the weight of that report.
WILLIAMS: I`ve said this before on this program. We first saw you and learned of your book on Bill Maher, and we are very fortunate to have done that and very fortunate to have you on regular occasions. Thank you very much, Professor, for joining us.
SNYDER: The pleasure is mine. Thank you very much.
WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, the ordinary Americans who got together and then put together an extraordinary farewell. We`ll tell you this story when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, we want to show you the overwhelming response to the passing of an army veteran who died with no known survivors. It`s a story we get tonight from NBC News Correspondent Kevin Tibbles.
KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A military funeral today for an old soldier, but not a forgotten one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No comrade should ever be left behind.
TIBBLES (voice-over): When 80-year-old Edward Pearson passed in Naples, Florida, no family could be found. His obituary was brief. "This veteran has no immediate family. All are welcome to attend." In the 1960s, Pearson was an army private first class. He lived alone in a hurricane- battered home.
News of the solitary funeral quickly spread. His military family mobilized.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All veterans should be honored every day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you will be remembered for now and ever more.
TIBBLES (voice-over): Some 1,500 gathered, veterans and citizens from near and far.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a tribute. As it should be.
TIBBLES (voice-over): As Taps played, PFC Edward Pearson moved on with respect and dignity. Kevin Tibbles, NBC News.
WILLIAMS: You see why we thought that might be a good note to end on this evening. And so that is our broadcast for tonight. Thank you 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