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Biden comes out in favor of impeachment. TRANSCRIPT: 10/9/9/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Melanie Zanona, Jack Jacobs, Tom Nichols, Donna Edwards; TimO`Brien

And you know, again, I think it`s a matter of having the magnifying glass now trained on these entities in a way that the Southern District either couldn`t or wouldn`t go to.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Mimi Rocah gets tonight`s LAST WORD.  Thanks for joining us Mimi, really appreciate it.  And that is tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, new subpoenas in the impeachment fight could land at any moment as the Democrats in the House say the constitution is on their side.

And about Trump`s decision that led to the Kurds being killed by the Turks at this very moment, the President points out the Kurds didn`t help us with the Normandy invasion.

Plus, Rex Tillerson`s revenge, a bombshell report claiming the ex-secretary of state stood in the way when Trump asked him to step in and help a guy who was a friend of Rudy`s.

And in an NBC News exclusive, Bernie Sanders walks back what he just said yesterday about a more relaxed campaign schedule which would be understandable after a heart attack.

And Joe Biden came out in favor of impeachment today.  We`ll discuss all of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Wednesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 993 of the Trump administration.  And the President is up against it, yet again, on two fronts tonight.  He`s fighting off the Democrats on impeachment, yes, while trying to justify his decision to give Turkey the green light to attack the Kurds, something happening as we speak.  More on that just ahead in this broadcast.

Today, the President offered his first public comments following up on that eight-page letter the White House counsel sent to Speaker Pelosi, saying there would be no cooperation with the inquiry.  The President hinted he could change his mind if the House votes on impeachment.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  the Republican Party has been treated extremely badly by the Democrats.  Very unfairly, because they have a tiny margin in the House.  They have eviscerated the rules.  They don`t give us any fair play.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If Pelosi holds a vote on the floor on impeachment and commits to the rules of previous impeachment proceedings, you`ll participate in that investigation?

TRUMP:  Yes, if the rules are fair.


WILLIAMS:  Trump also went on to predict his showdown with the Democrats would likely end up at the Supreme Court.  The problem for him is he`s up against this clause from the constitution, "The House of Representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment."  That`s what it says in Article I, Section II.  There are no other instructions about the House process including whether to launch an official inquiry with a full floor vote.

As Trump wages war with the House, there is more controversy tonight, Bloomberg reporting that during a 2017 meeting in the Oval Office Trump, "pressed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader," as one does, "who was a client of Rudy Giuliani.  Tillerson refused, arguing it would constitute interference in an ongoing investigation."  Excuse me.  He "repeated his objections to then-Chief of Staff John Kelly in a hallway conversation," I`ll get it, excuse me, continue to deal with this cable-based New York illness, "that the request would be illegal."

Tonight, Giuliani tells NBC News that he never spoke to Trump about his client.  He called this Bloomberg report, a hit job.  But this episode did remind us of something Tillerson said after he left the administration.


REX TILLERSON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATES:  When the President would say, we`ll here`s what I want to do and here is how I want to do it.  And I have to say to him, well, Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you can`t do it that way.  It violates the law.  It violates the treaty.


WILLIAMS:  So Mike Pence is now trying to navigate his way around the growing Ukraine scandal and impeachment investigation.  Today our NBC News colleague Vaughn Hillyard pressed the V.P. on what he knew about withholding aid to Ukraine.


VAUGHN HILLYARD, NBC NEWS REPORTER:  Were you ever aware, Mr. Vice President, of interest in the Bidens, interest in investigating the Bidens was at least in part of the reason for aid to Ukraine being held up?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never discussed the issue of the Bidens with President Zelensky.

HILLYARD:  But within the administration, were you ever aware of within the administration?

PENCE:  What I can tell you is that all of our discussions internally, I mean, the President, and our team, and our contacts in my office with Ukraine, were entirely focused on the broader issues of lack of European support and corruption.

HILLYARD:  But you were aware of the interest --


WILLIAMS:  And tonight, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is defending his boss` actions on that now famous call with the President of Ukraine.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE:  I was on the call.  I listened to it.  It was consistent with what President Trump has been trying to do to take corruption out.  I found that to be wholly appropriate to try to get another country to stop being corrupt.

JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS NEWSHOUR ANCHOR:  You know that there`s been no proof of any misdoing on the part of Vice President Biden.

POMPEO:  You all keep repeating that line as if you`re working for the DNC.


WILLIAMS:  So there was that.  Trump is also getting new legal help fighting the impeachment inquiry from former South Carolina Republican Congressman, Trey Gowdy, he of Benghazi fame.  In fact Trump has appeared to be critical of Gowdy on Twitter in the past.  He shared this message back in 2015 that said "Gowdy failed miserably on Benghazi.  And let Hillary get away with murder."  So there is that.

Then there is the crisis now underway on the Middle East, Turkey today wasted no time launching a ground and air assault in Northern Syria against the same Syrian Kurdish fighters who have been working side by side with U.S. forces in America`s fight against Isis.  Trump gave the Turks the green light they wanted by pulling back U.S. forces following his weekend phone call with Erdogan.  Today`s military action has several Republicans directly criticizing Trump.  And you don`t see that often.

Republican from Wyoming, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, put out a statement that read, in part, "President Trump`s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Northern Syria is having sickening and predictable consequences.  This action imperils American security and that of our allies.  Congress must and will act to limit the catastrophic impact of this decision."

We know, however this happens during a congressional recess.  Trump today was asked about the military incursion and the potential consequences.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you concerned that Erdogan will try to wipe out the Kurds?

TRUMP:  I will wipe out his economy if that happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Kurds helped the U.S. defeat Isis, and by allowing this offensive, is it going to be more difficult in future times of need to develop alliances?

TRUMP:  No, it won`t be.  It won`t be at all.  Alliances are very easy.

But you know, our alliances have taken advantage of us.

The Kurds are fighting for their land, just so you understand.  They`re fighting for their land.  And as somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn`t help us in the Second World War.  They didn`t help us with Normandy, as an example.  They mention names of different battles.  They were there.  But they`re there to help us with their land.  And that`s a different thing.


WILLIAMS:  He, indeed, just said that.  And here for our lead-off discussion on a Wednesday night, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Reporter for "The Washington Post," Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter for the Associated Press and Melanie Zanona is back with us, Congressional Reporter, I`ll get it right for POLITICO.  Good evening and welcome to you all.

Ashley, I wanted to begin by showing you and our audience what our friends over at "The New York Times" have come up for the A1 headline morning edition.  It is simple, it`s direct and it gets your attention, "Turkey attacks U.S. ally in Syria."  As we soak that in for a second, do you know who would give this President a talking point that the Kurds weren`t side by side with us on Omaha Beach?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, I believe he read it in a column, as he said.  But, no, no one is happy that he delivered that today.  Just like no one is happy, even members of his own party, that he gave Turkey the green light to do what they`re doing.

And I think it is worth noting and repeating again, just how striking and frankly rare it is to see Republicans publicly break with this President on anything.  And on this issue, which is an issue of life and death of national security.  And of course, you`re hearing Republicans worry about what it means for the U.S. with other allies.  That was the question that reporter posed.

But it is such a big issue that even some of the President`s most stalwart allies on the Hill, Leader McConnell, Senator Lindsey Graham are publicly rebuking him.  And it`s worth noting that it`s coming at a time when he needs all the support in Congress he can get.  It`s not that I think or the President thinks that congressional Republicans will vote to impeach him because they don`t like his foreign policy, but if there was ever a moment where he needs sort of a last line of defense, it`s right now and what you`re seeing are cracks in that, and in a very public fashion.

WILLIAMS:  Jonathan, on the impeachment defense front, stonewalling works.  If it didn`t, we would call it marshmallowing or something.  But it works up.  It stops the clock in that matter up against a determined enemy.  The problem is the poll numbers, for a White House interested in their domestic politics, the poll numbers are marching the other way while the clock stops.

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  First of all, the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Kurds weren`t with us there either.

WILLIAMS:  Unbelievable.

LEMIRE:  That comment as Ashley pointed out has raised a lot of eyebrows in the White House.  I`m not quite sure where it came from.  But in terms of impeachment, there`s a few things in play here.  Yes, what the White House is after spending a two plus weeks sort of scrambling for a response, they were caught off guard by the speed of this impeachment inquiry and seem sort off kilter other than the President`s rage on twitter, that they decided to come up with this letter to sort of announce their declare of war on the impeachment inquiry and indeed with stonewall.  Sort of reviving the playbook they used in the past.  The second half of the Mueller investigation and certainly every probe that the congressional Democrats have tried to launch as they took control of the House earlier this year.

But by doing so with the stonewalling, two things, as you point there`s been a study rise in polling, Americans supporting certainly the impeachment inquiry and others going further to say impeachment maybe even removal (ph).  Those numbers are tracking upward.

WILLIAMS:  Fox News poll now over the top.

LEMIRE:  That`s exactly right.  The White House is keenly aware of those.  I suspect we`ll get the presidential tweet any moment about how unfair that Fox News poll is.

And by doing so, stonewalling, this way, they`ve all but handed the Democrats another reason to carryout impeachment.  This will be one of the articles now, this idea of obstructing the probe, of the obstruction of justice.  And so, this may back fire legally because very few experts believe there`s any real legal weight to this letter.  In fact, it cited cable news appearances as much as does case law.  But it also might backfire in the court of public opinion.  And I don`t know that -- we will see in the days ahead if it slows down the rise in those, the polling with those who want to see the President impeached.

WILLIAMS:  And yet, Melanie, yore reporting shows there are Republicans who still believe in total war?  Because as they see it, it has worked for them in the past.

MELANIE ZANONA, POLITICO CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER:  That`s exactly right.  I mean, some of these members have had years of practice defending the President against the Mueller report as we were talking about.  And that strategy really worked for them.  They were eager to race that out on to the battlefield, protect the President at all costs.

But what we`re seeing differently here is they are far more reluctant to defend the President on substance.  What you`re not hearing right now is the GOP talking about his communications with foreign leaders.  They are much more eager to focus on these sort of process concerns, they`re talking about holding a vote on a formal inquiry, they`re trying to slow down the process as much as possible.  They`re trying to mud the waters, whether it`s talking about the Biden family or it`s going after this whistle- blower.  But hey feel like they are on much shakier ground because a lot of these Republicans still do not feel comfortable with the fact that the President was asking foreign governments to dig up dirt on a political opponent.

And even someone like Jim Jordan, one of his staunchest allies on Capitol Hill could not answer the question, whether he felt like it was appropriate for him to do that.

WILLIAMS:  Ashley, did anyone in the White House think the attempted leveraging of Ukraine in the Biden matter politically had upside to it for Donald Trump, other than the fact that what no one could anticipate was Biden didn`t come forward to tell his own story.  He allowed it, instead, to be told by Trump for the better part of a week?

PARKER:  So there was initially, especially before the President released the transcript of his own call and that became deeply problematic for him.  There was initially a sense in the White House and among the President`s allies that this was a good story for the President to tell because it did allow him in sort of that classic Trump jujitsu where he is willing to shamelessly accuse others what he is often guilty of or being accused of doing, it did allow him to inject this narrative of Joe Biden and his son corruption with Ukraine into the ether and get people talking about it.

It`s worth noting, as we note in all our stories, there`s no evidence so far of any wrongdoing on the part of the Bidens, but it is swampy, to say the least, what the President is putting out there.  And there was a sense, again, initially that there was an upside that it got people talking about what Trump use as a potential problem for potential 2020 rival of his.

WILLIAMS:  Melanie, maybe unanswerable questions.  What`s the chance we do get an early vote on impeachment in the House and what`s the chance anyone with an R after their name crosses over?

ZANONA:  OK.  Well, first question, Democrats are trying to wrap this up by Thanksgiving.  The question right now is will they hold this impeachment inquiry vote to sort of formally open the process?  There is a small number of Democrats who are starting to call for that.  But as of right now there are no signs that Pelosi is willing to do that.  The constitution does not require that.  In fact, there`s a federal hearing just the other day where a judge said, we give a lot of deference to the House in deciding its own rules.  So I don`t think we`ll see a formal vote on the inquiry.

To your second question, I think that`s a much tougher question to answer, whether Republican also cross lines.  I think what you will hear is more and more Republicans, especially as they return back from this recess and they`ve been home with their constituents say, we feel like this was inappropriate, but not impeachable.  I think that`s the line you will hear.  At the end of the day, even though the polling is trending in that direction, that Fox News poll you mention is notable, Trump is still very popular with Republicans.


ZANONA:  He`s widely popular with the base.  And until that changes I do not think you`ll see Republicans crossing lines here.

WILLIAMS:  Jonathan, finally, a little bit of foreboding in Minnesota for tomorrow night.  President goes there to have a rally in a state he lost, in a congressional district, represented by Ilhan Omar in Congress.

LEMIRE:  Yes, I expect tomorrow night around this time we`re going to be talking about what the President says on stage in Minneapolis for a few reasons.  First of all, it`s his first rally since the impeachment inquiry launched, since his presidency has been endangered by the phone call to Ukraine and the House Democrats action.  I suspect he`ll want to weigh in on that.  He may also try to defend his decision with Syria and Turkey from the rally stage.

But more over, it is now been three months or so since the rally in North Carolina with the "send her back" chants were heard, when he invoke Representative Omar from stage following up on a series of tweets he made about these Democratic congresswomen of color and said they should go back where they came from, even though, of course, all four are U.S. citizens.  Of course Omar was born in Somalia but was been here since she was a child.  He has stayed away from that since.  In the rallies that have followed he is at least on stage, even though he still tweets about them occasionally, stayed away from that rhetoric, which really rattled Republicans, who did not want to see repeated the image of 10,000 mostly white Trump supporters chanting "send her back," an undeniably racist chant.

Tomorrow night he will be in her district in Minneapolis.  And remains to be seen whether or not he invokes her by name and what sort of response he may get from the crowd.  And Minnesota, I will say, is one of the very few states that the Trump campaign thinks they have a chance of flipping from 2016.  A state he lost narrowly only by a point or so even though he only went there ones.  They feel like it represents demographically.

It`s similar to some of the other rust belt in west states that he did capture last time.  They think he can play there, much more so than he has a shot in places like Virginia or New Mexico.  The campaign pays lip service to those.  There`s not much of a chance.

You`re going to see him tomorrow night be in minnesota.  He`s likely to go back again in the months ahead.  But I think it`s more -- it`s more than that.  It`s how he invokes Omar and what kind of response he gets.  A little dictate tonight.

WILLIAMS:  Big thanks to our big three starting us off tonight.  To Ashley parker, to Jonathan Lemire, to Melanie Zanona, thank you all very much.

And coming up, one of our next guests says whatever happens now in Syria, Russia wins.  A closer look at just what`s at stake in this Turkish military offensive being unleashed right now.

And later, the phrase constitutional crisis is getting tossed around quite a bit these days.  It turns out there`s good reason for that.  THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this Wednesday night.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What if some of these Isis fighters escape and pose a threat elsewhere?

TRUMP:  Well, they`re going to be escaping to Europe, that`s where they want to go.


WILLIAMS:  It didn`t take long for Turkey to begin an air and ground assault on U.S.-backed Kurds in northern Syria.  After all, Trump gave Erdogan a green light over the phone and agreed to get U.S. forces out of there to clear the way.

These Turkish -- these Kurdish forces fought alongside the U.S. to defeat Isis in the region because we asked them to and they suffered grievous casualties in the fight.  But today as offensive is raising grieve concerns, current and former intelligence officials telling NBC News a sustained Kurdish -- Turkish military operation, forgive me, would vastly increase the threat to Americans from Isis.

Our own Ken Dilanian reports, "The immediate concern, officials say, is what will happen with the 12,000 Isis fighters currently being guarded by the American-backed Kurds.  The Isis prisoners are the world`s largest concentration of terrorists.  If those fighters are set free, officials fear a replay of what happened in Iraq between 2010 and 2013, when the core group who founded Isis were released or escaped from detention after U.S. forces left the country."  Think about that for a moment.

Here with us to talk about it all, Retired U.S. Army Colonel Jack Jacobs, heavily decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War, who was one of only 70 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, and Tom Nichols, professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, an expert in this area, the author over half a dozen books if I count them correctly.  Gentlemen, good evening to you both.

Colonel, I`d like to begin with you.  What has Donald Trump just done here?

COL. JACK JACOBS, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  Made it easy for the Kurds to be eliminated completely.  Made it easy for these 12 to 15,000 Isis captives to be released and wreak havoc all over the region and elsewhere.  And make it easy for the Russians to consolidate their gains in Syria, which is what they really want to do in the first place.

It is -- there is -- you know the old joke that says there`s good news and bad news?  The bad news is there is no good news.  It`s all bad.

WILLIAMS:  Tom, I`m going to put up the front page of tomorrow`s "New York Times" one more time for emphasis so we can see the very simple wording they chose, "Turkey attacks U.S. ally in Syria."  And, Tom, as we point out, as we always do when you`re good enough to come on, the opinions you express are yours and not those of the War College.  With that in mind, what does this say about the decision-making process in this administration?

TOM NICHOLS, U.S. NAVAL WAR COLLEGE NATL. SECURITY AFFAIRS PROFESSOR:  It says there is no decision-making process.  It says that if you`re a foreign leader and you want something, you get the President on the phone and make sure that nobody else is in the room, or on the phone are able to stop him.  It means that there`s no advice, there`s no interagency process.  Cabinet secretaries don`t matter.  Advisers don`t matter.  The intelligence community doesn`t matter.

If you get -- if the President gets loose with the phone and somebody overseas gets to him, they can get what they want.  And that`s what happened here.

WILLIAMS:  Jack Jacobs, these have been U.S. allies.  They have gone into the fight and suffered, as we said, just grievous casualties.  What does this say about what we always proudly regard as the strength of that American handshake, that American commitment around the world at a time when there are so many forces trying to tear down the cross-atlantic alliance?

JACOBS:  Well, the first thing is that the reason that Isis was on the run was because of the Kurds and our support of the Kurds and their support of our objectives in the region.


JACOBS:  What this does is completely changed the equation about how people think about our commitments.  Not just in the region but elsewhere.  So, now the commitment that we make, whatever it happens to be, will be taken with a grain of salt by allies, by friends and by enemies, too.  Whatever we say we`re going to do, everybody will be convinced that we are not going to do.  And, as a matter of fact, it becomes really important when you consider that what we want to accomplish there is in our national interest.  So the perception around the world, not just in the Middle East, is now that the United States is not even willing to pursue its own objectives anywhere.

WILLIAMS:  As someone who fought and damn near died for his country, when you hear the President say they weren`t with us on Omaha Beach, you and I were joking about it in my office earlier tonight.  How does that really strike you?

JACOBS:  Well, two things.  The first is it results in the kind of decision making that we see that`s inimical t our own interest.  But it also demonstrates an almost painful ignorance of how things actually worked and how things have worked.  And I think that`s going to contribute in a major way to the kind of understanding I just talked about.  Nobody is going to be -- anywhere is going to be convinced that we have any idea what we`re doing and that`s very, very dangerous.

WILLIAMS:  Tom, a two-part question for you and you will get the last word.  How can this ever be set right?  Is it reparable?  And is there any winner in this situation at all?

NICHOLS:  I don`t -- not for the Kurds who are going to fight and die now, it can`t be set right.  And one of the things that concerns me, I think Colonel Jacobs is absolutely right that people overseas are now going to doubt our word because they`re not going to make a distinction between Donald Trump and the Americans.  As far as people overseas are concerned, this is the United States.  The President is the personification of the United States and this is something that we have done as a country.

As for who is a winner, there`s only -- I mean, the Turks got what they wanted.  Erdogan, I shouldn`t even say the Turks, Erdogan got what he wanted.  And the Russians are a winner no matter how these plays out.  The Russians can sit back really and just let the damage unroll while the Americans are shown to be inconstant ally and friend and if we do try to oppose the Turks on this.

Now we have a problem inside of NATO, which of course was Putin`s fondest wish is to see NATO fall apart.  And he doesn`t really have to lift a finger to make it fall apart.  The President is doing the work for him.

WILLIAMS:  Two guys you want to take with you into a fight have been our guest tonight, Colonel Jack Jacobs and Tom Nichols, gentlemen, thank you both very much.

And coming up for us, the President says he`s not cooperating with Congress, period, because Democrats are not being fair.  What that might mean for this ongoing and burgeoning impeachment inquiry when we come back.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Have you decided just finally that there will be cooperation with the House impeachment?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE:  I made clear, I think the White House has made very clear, we will ensure that we do everything we`re required to do by the law and the constitution, every time.


WILLIAMS:  Those comments came a day after the White House appeared to declare a war on the House impeachment inquiry, the Trump administration is refusing to comply with subpoenas, period.  And eight-page letter sent to Speaker Pelosi reads in part, quote, President Trump and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances".  Lawyers for the Democrats immediately labeled the letter devoid of any sound legal reasoning.  One said it cites more, MSNBC guest appearances than actual legal underpinnings in the course of eight pages.

Meanwhile, Trump heads into the impeachment inquiry, now having created a rift in his own party.  As we discussed here tonight, over Syria.  Washington Post sums up the President`s plight this way.  "Instead of enjoying uncontested GOP support as he plunges into a constitutional showdown with House Democrats, prepares for a bruising reelection campaign, Trump is now fighting on two fronts within his party."

With us tonight, Donna Edwards, former Democratic Member of Congress from the great state of Maryland, who these days as a Washington Post Columnist and Tim O`Brien, Executive Editor of Bloomberg Opinion and the Author of "Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald."  Welcome to you both.  Congresswoman, I`d like to begin with you.  This was, it strikes me, another day in a series of days, wide ranging comments from the President.  Make of them what you may.  But a whole bunch of them that we have, by wrote (ph), repeated on this broadcast tonight.  No response.  No response machine on the part of the Democrats.

The uncomfortable question I have for you is, we see impeachment rises in the polls.  Is it rising because of or in spite of your political party?

DONNA EDWARDS (D), FMR. U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN, MARYLAND:  Well, I actually think that when Nancy Pelosi announced the beginning of the impeachment inquiry and put some focus on this question of this Ukraine scandal and the President strong arming the President of Ukraine, that that actually drew the public`s attention to the President`s bad behavior, his unlawful behavior.  And I think that you can see from that time forward that support in the general public is beginning to increase for impeachment.  And I think this is the danger zone for the President because the more that he stonewalls, the more he continues to look as though he`s hiding something, then I think that he really digs himself into a hole.

And this notion that somehow the Congress, the House is operating outside of the constitution is really just hogwash, to kind of monkey up the proceedings.  And I don`t think Democrats should be distracted by that.  They should move forward.  And if Republicans, if the President decides that he doesn`t want to cooperate in this investigation, then he will just layer on the charges that will be made against him in any articles of impeachment.

WILLIAMS:  So Tim O`Brien, I`m assuming you didn`t believe the President`s feint today that if the Democrats are willing to be fair, he`ll go along?

TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION:  Yes.  I don`t think the President he`ll going to go along regardless of what the Democrats do.  I think that was written in the stars a long time ago.  And I think, you know, we`re in the midst a constitutional crisis.  The constitutional crisis exists if the constitution is not specific about certain actions the Congress should take.  And if you have players who are in the midst of this, we`re going to see things through to the end regardless of what the constitution says.  And you`ve got a President who`s willing to step into that vacuum and is back by a party that`s willing I think to take him down that road with them.

And I think Trump`s not only unlawful, he`s lawless in the sense that he doesn`t really care about boundaries.  And he doesn`t really care about rules.  That was true in his business life.  It`s been true during his presidency.  And he now occupies an office that protects him from some of the guidelines put in place to reign in unlawful behavior.

I don`t think there`s any doubt that the House is going to impeach him.  I think there`s probably -- I have no doubt also that the Senate is going to let it go.  And I think it`s ironic and sad and tragic comic that you`ve got the Senate up in arms over what`s happened in northern Syria, which they should be.


O`BRIEN:  But that this is the event that`s gotten them outraged of --

WILLIAMS:  Everything in the --

O`BRIEN:  -- of everything else.

WILLIAMS:  -- kaleidoscope.  Yes.

O`BRIEN:  Of everything else.  And I think the thing that incented Lindsey Grahams as one of the players in this, wasn`t necessarily the President being out of bound, is the President didn`t consult him.  The President didn`t bring him into the process.  The President didn`t honor Lindsey Graham in this moment in the way that Lindsey Graham felt he should, rather than Lindsey Graham I think leaning back on good, conservative principles about how the President should observe the rule of law and being outraged going back months, way before now.

WILLIAMS:  Congresswoman, we watched Lewandowski all but dance on the witness table without fear and without consequence in front of the House Judiciary Committee.  Democrats are going to turn around now and start enforcing stuff and start saying no, no, no?  Under the constitution, we are to be the prevailing power here.

EDWARDS:  Well I do think that Democrats have some control over this process.  And, you know, I`ve been very critical of the way that some of these hearings have been conducted.  I think if there are going to be public hearings, then, you know, Democrats need to really focus on having a single, you know, skilled litigator asking questions of the witness.  So that Lewandowski would not be able to get away with the things that he did when you have this, you know, partisan back and forth going on in the committee.  So Democrats have control of the process.

And I`ve said before that I think that Speaker Pelosi needs to own this process because it will define them.  And I think that she has been.  And now the question is, how do you get from here to there in short order but very efficiently and doing the work to ensure that there are articles of impeachment?  And, frankly, it doesn`t matter to me if the Senate chooses not to remove this lawless President.  The act of impeaching the President is important enough to say, you know what?  The President may not follow boundaries, but the American people have boundaries.

WILLIAMS:  Both of our guests have kindly agreed to stay with us over break.  And when we come back, two candidates struggling with two big obstacles in their campaigns.  We heard from them both today.  We`ll have that when we come back.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, VERMONT:  I misspoke the other day.  I said a word I should not have said and, you know, make people, make media drives me a little bit nuts to make a big deal about it.  What I do -- The word was I was going to slow down.  And surprise, surprise.  But we`re going to tomorrow, start doing four events a day.  But we`re going to get back into the groove of a vigorous, very vigorous campaign.


WILLIAMS:  Senator Bernie Sanders recovering from a full-on heart attack at the age of 78 and now regretting his words of just yesterday when he said this about his campaign.


SANDERS:  I certainly intend to be actively campaigning.  I think we`re going to change the nature of the campaign a bit, make sure that I have the strength to do what I have to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you mean by change the nature?

SANDERS:  Well, probably not doing four rallies a day.  I`m not quite sure that -- I could be wrong in this, but I don`t know that there`s anybody who did more rallies than we have done all over the state.  So we`re going to, you know, probably not do three or four rallies a day to -- or to other events as well.

JANE O`MEARA SANDERS, BERNIE SANDERS` WIFE:  Well, it`s also something that the entire campaign and especially me have been saying for months, not for his health but for the ability to keep up that kind of a pace for everybody else, too.


WILLIAMS:  Still with us are former Congresswoman Donna Edwards and Tim O`Brien.  And Congresswoman, uncomfortable question number two for you, do either of the Bernie or Biden campaigns exude a winning vibe right now?

EDWARDS:  Well, that`s really hard for me to answer.  But what I will say is I think that there are going to be legitimate questions and people will be looking for signals in the upcoming debates about, you know, who has the ability to take on these campaigns.  You know, listening to Joe Biden today, frankly in Rochester, New Hampshire, he sounded like somebody who was down for the fight.  And I think Bernie Sanders has to, you know, obviously, you know, recover from this major event for him but come back with a pace that let his supporters and voters know that he`s ready to take on the task of not just campaigning, but being President of the United States.

WILLIAMS:  Before we go to Tim, let`s run a little bit of Joe Biden on the trail today.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  In full view of the world and the American people, Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts.  To preserve our constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, he should be impeached.


WILLIAMS:  So, Tim, timely or two weeks late?

O`BRIEN:  Two weeks late.  I think Elizabeth Warren, the night this stuff broke or the day after this stuff broke called it for what it was, when the Trump`s call to Ukraine.  She said it was an impeachable offense and he should be impeached.  She was direct and clear about it.  And I`m not carrying Elizabeth Warren`s water, I`m looking at this from a standpoint of what`s the Democrats need to do to present a slate or candidates who can take on Donald Trump.

And it`s not just on the impeachment issues, I think it took Joe Biden far too long to respond to Trump`s attacks on his son and his integrity.  He sort of let this sit out there for far too long.  Trump ended up controlling the narrative.  Biden looked indecisive, he looked unsure of himself.  I don`t think that has anything to do with his age.  But it is complicated by the fact that he doesn`t speak in a linear fashion enough.  He can devolve into word salad and we`re still in the early stages of this game.

And I think the reason that Elizabeth Warren has surged in the polls, regardless of what people think about her policies or her ideology, is that she has done her homework.  She`s worked hard and she speaks in a very clear, energized fashion about what she believes in.  And that`s been lacking with Biden.

WILLIAMS:  Donna, I`m told, the Trump -- I`m sorry -- Biden campaign has sent a letter to New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet excoriating the newspaper.  Biden campaign says the New York Times had an outsized hand in the spread of the baseless conspiracy theory, that Biden abused his office for his son.  This just went up on Twitter.

And Congresswoman, this is fascinating.  Because last week was a weird time for the Biden campaign to go into power save mode.  Tim correctly points out, Donald Trump owned the Biden narrative on Ukraine as a result of what we witness and did not hear from Biden, who did not step forward to tell his own story, millions of Americans now are walking around and would say to a pollster, yes, it sounds like something hinky happened over in Ukraine with those Bidens.

EDWARDS:  Well, I do think that people get confused, because once you hear something over and over again, even if it is --

WILLIAMS:  There you go.

EDWARDS:  -- the negative enforcement really has a huge impact.  And I think Tim is right that, you know, where Elizabeth Warren differs is that she`s very clear and concrete about where she is on a variety of issues and especially on this question of impeachment.  And I think Joe Biden has got -- I mean, you could see some of it today, you know, really tightening up that message and willing to defend himself because, you know, I mean, they say with any candidate if you`re not willing to defend yourself, why should your supporters defend you?

WILLIAMS:  I`m the first one to blame the media.  In fact, I`m going to do it in this next segment.  But on this one, I think there`s probably plenty of blame to go around.  Donna Edwards, Tim O`Brien, our thanks as always for coming on and taking our questions.

Coming up, 2 million people in the most populous state in our union are having their power shut off because winds are picking up.  If you`re wondering how that can happen in 2019, we will try to supply some answers after this.


WILLIAMS:  For starters, we spotted this last night on Twitter.  It was written by Laura Nelson of the L.A. Times, and she says, "I try really hard not to say stuff like this, but if 800,000 people lost power in New York, we`d be seeing blaring headlines on every cable channel".  Laura Nelson of the L.A. Times, you are 100 percent right.

New York-based network news operations have always struggled with New York centrism.  No one at any of the networks can deny it with a straight face while telling the truth.  There have been instances where if it`s raining in New York, weather becomes the lead story for the entire national audience.  Having gotten all of that out, here is what Laura was writing about.

In California tonight, they are being reminded of another truth that`s always kind of lurking out there in our country.  Sometimes the difference between the so-called first world and the third world can be precipitated by the flip of a switch.  Upwards of 800,000 power customers of Pacific Gas and Electric are getting their power cutoff, just cutoff because of the approaching Santa Ana winds.  This is all happening because power lines have been blamed for sparking the fire that was named the campfire in California last year.  It killed 86 people, destroyed 18,000 structures.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy after that, and now to avoid lawsuits and payouts as the winds crank up, they`re just shutting off the power.  That means stores, homes, seniors, folks on respirators, traffic signals, you name it.  Two million people, give or take, plunged into darkness, quality of life reduced, forced to throw out food, just like that.  You would have forgiven for wondering why in 2019 we turn the power off to 2 million people because the wind is blowing.

And of course the answer comes back to the I word, something we once led the world in, spending and investing in our infrastructure.  Maybe Silicone Valley can figure it out.  Maybe they can figure out a way to pay for it.  After all, we did notice San Jose is among the cities facing a possible mandatory power outage if the winds pick up.

Coming up here tonight, the President talks about an unpleasant part of his job.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go here tonight, it`s been said many times this President experiences events only through the lens of the reaction that people have to him.  Today, the President chose to talk about what happens when our fallen service members come home.  The solemn ceremony at Dover Air Base in Delaware called the dignified transfer of remains.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I go to Dover when I can, but it`s so devastating for the parents that, you know, it`s so devastating.  When they bring that boy or young woman out of the back of those big, powerful planes in a coffin and the parents are there, you know, we have people that do that.  That`s what they do.  They work that.  They accommodate everybody.  That`s what they do.  They do an incredible job.  And they said -- I said, the parents seem to be OK.

I`ll get there early.  The parents seem to be OK.  Well, actually, sir, they aren`t.  No, no, the way they`re talking, they`re really OK, aren`t they?  Sir, you never know until the back of that massive cargo plane opens up and they walk down holding a coffin with four or five great soldiers on each side of it representing our various forces.  That you never know.  And then I see it.  And I see people smiling, oh, Mr. President, thank you for being here, thank you for being here and I think they`re doing great.

And then 20 minutes later we`ll be outside when that big plane pulls up, and that door comes down and they are walking the coffin with their boy inside this coffin with an American flag over the top and they`re walking that coffin down this ramp, and I have seen people that I thought were really incredible the way they were -- I didn`t even understood how they could take it so well, scream like I have never seen anything before.  Sometimes they will run to the coffin.  They`ll breakthrough military barriers.  They`ll run to the coffin and jump on top of the coffin crying, mothers and wives, crying desperately.


WILLIAMS:  The President today on the dignified transfer of remains at Dover.  That will bring our Wednesday night broadcast to a close.  Thank you for being here with us and good night from 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