LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thank you, Paul for joining us once again. Really appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the floodgates open a bit wider as a White House insider now plans to tell all she knows about the arms for dirt deal, including that phone call where the President asked for a favor.
Plus, another scene out of the movies. Two guys get arrested at the airport, try to skip the country on one-way tickets resulting in this mug shot. In real lives, they`re connected to Rudy Giuliani.
In the meantime, Trump goes after the whistleblower again. The Democrats have now subpoenaed a Cabinet member. And think of it, all of these stories have to do with one thing, Ukraine. The story that is now encircling the President as THE 11TH HOUR on a Thursday night gets under way.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 994 of the Trump administration, and just as the President was about to hold his first rally since this impeachment inquiry got under way, a flood of new headlines emerged. Tonight "The Washington Post" on the board, brand-new reporting on the Trump/Ukraine scandal. "The Post" says, "At least four national security officials were so alarmed by the Trump administration`s attempts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes that they raised concerns with a White House lawyer both before and immediately after President Trump`s July 25 call with that country`s president."
They go on, "The nature and timing of the previously undisclosed discussions indicate that officials were delivering warnings through official White House channels earlier than previously understood, including before the call that precipitated a whistleblower complaint and the impeachment inquiry of the President." That`s saying a lot.
"The Post" is also reporting tonight that Michael McKinley, career diplomat, senior adviser to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is out. He`s resigned, largely over Pompeo`s failure to support personnel ensnared in the Ukraine controversy.
And there`s more. NBC News reporting it this way tonight. Fiona Hill, who was until recently President Donald Trump`s top aide on Russia and Europe plans to tell Congress that Rudy Giuliani and E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland circumvented the National Security Council and the normal White House process to pursue a shadow policy on Ukraine. Fiona Hill is expected to testify before Congress on Monday. More on that in just a bit.
Earlier tonight, at his Minneapolis rally, Trump railed against the Ukraine controversy and blasted the Democrats` inquiry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So they`re pursuing the insane impeachment witch hunt. My phone call, as an example, with the President of Ukraine was perfect. Everybody that looked at it, and the only reason I released it was that the Democrats put out a phony narrative. And what do they want to do? Let`s impeach our President, right? I don`t think so.
These people are sick, I`m telling you. They`re sick.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Earlier today, out of nowhere came this story, resulting in this mug shot. In plain English here, prosecutors say they arrested two of Rudy`s guys at the airport in the process of skipping the country. The two were helping Giuliani dig up dirt in Ukraine on Joe and Hunter Biden. They were arrested at Dulles Airport outside D.C. last night.
Prosecutors at the Southern District of New York today indicted Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, charging them in a scheme to make illegal political donations to influence U.S. relations with Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: Parnas and Fruman were arrested around 6:00 p.m. last night at Dulles airport as they were about to board an international flight with one-way tickets.
We will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute those who engage in criminal conduct that draws into question the integrity of our political process. And I want to add that this investigation is continuing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: "Wall Street Journal" reports it this way. The two had lunch with Mr. Giuliani at the Trump International Hotel in Washington on Wednesday. Prosecutors say they allegedly made illegal contributions to a pro-Trump political action committee and stand accused of funneling illegal foreign donations from a Russian national to other political candidates. Trump was asked about the two men as he was leaving the White House for the twin cities.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, what conversations have you had with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman?
TRUMP: I don`t know those gentlemen. Now, it`s possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody.
I don`t know them. I don`t know about them. I don`t know what they do. But -- I don`t know. Maybe they were clients of Rudy. You`d have to ask Rudy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The indictment also lays out how Parnas and Fruman were involved in an effort to oust the now former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Prosecutors say her removal was done in part at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials. They wanted her out with the assistance of a U.S. congressman. NBC News has now confirmed it is former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas.
Tonight the A.P. reports Yovanovitch was removed after insisting that Rudy Giuliani`s request to Ukrainian officials for investigations go through official channels. We can only have one secretary of state at a time. She is scheduled to testify before lawmakers tomorrow. Still not clear whether she actually will.
House Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing ahead with their subpoenas. Today three committees asked Energy Secretary Rick Perry for a series of documents related to his knowledge about the Trump/Ukraine call. You`ll recall after the Ukraine story broke, Rick Perry has announced he will be leaving the Office of Secretary of Energy. This brings the number of subpoenas issued since Speaker Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry to nine, with more on the way.
Our other guests are standing by, but first, we have been able to reach one of the two reporters behind this breaking story tonight from "The Washington Post." That`s Greg Jaffe. He`s been able to join us by telephone.
Greg, first of all, what we`re learning is a lot of people, more than we first knew, apparently raised alarms about what they saw happening, the effort to leverage Ukraine. Why this chapter? What about this forced some of them, career professional, to speak up?
GREG JAFFE, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER (via telephone): So, early on at least one individual became concerned about the Giuliani`s efforts in Ukraine about pushing out of the ambassador and in a meeting that Ambassador Sondland had at the White House. She -- or that person, then in turn, went to the -- went to Eisenberg, John Eisenberg, the National Security Council attorney to raise concerns about whether there was something illegal going on.
WILLIAMS: So this John Eisenberg is kind of the in-house lawyer at the NSC. He examined this. Apparently did not take action, and do we know why?
JAFFE: Well, he assured the person that he was going to elevate it, and what happened thereafter we don`t know.
WILLIAMS: And does any of this also bump up against the story we`ve been covering of the coming shrinkage in size of the National Security Council? Does that reduce the kind of professional ability and departments that will be at the President`s disposal, many of them career folks who keep the mechanism of national security going?
JAFFE: Yes. I mean, it`s certainly looking like there`s going to be a big cut to the National Security Council, something that had been talked about for a long time. I think it does reflect to a certain degree the White House`s paranoia the feeling like these people can`t be trusted. But, you`re right, that these are the folks who do make government run and make do our foreign policy run.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Greg, thank you very much for making yourself available to us by phone. Greg Jaffe of "The Washington Post."
Here for our lead-off discussion on a Thursday night, and it`s a lot, Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post," Moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS, Berit Berger, former Assistant U.S. Attorney with the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, and NBC News Correspondent Carol Lee. Good evening and welcome to you all.
And Carol, I need to start with you here, your reporting on Fiona Hill. Two things, what might she be able to speak to? And tell us a little bit about her and how she stood out among members of the Trump crowd.
CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Sure. Well, first, she was someone who is seen as a real Russia hawk. She is an expert on Russia, a long-time expert on Russia. She`s served in the Trump administration from the early days until over the summer right before -- right around the time that this Ukraine call happened. So she would have been privy to, Brian, basically everything that was happening in the lead-up to this call.
And so she is prepared to testify before congress, according to people we spoke to, that, you know, she saw -- witnessed Rudy Giuliani and Gordon Sondland basically do an end run around the process national -- the foreign policy process that`s traditionally done within the White House, specifically on Ukraine. And more importantly that they were doing that and had a direct line to the President. So they were cutting out people like Fiona Hill, like John Bolton, who is the national security adviser and essentially running a sort of shadow foreign policy operation that focused on Ukraine and also while dealing directly with the President and none of the people who typically would be involved in a process like that.
WILLIAMS: Carol, she is out of government service. Can her testimony be blocked? Can they still stop her?
LEE: Yes, it`s a great question. And it`s a sort of a little mirky. You know, we`ve all know the White House is blocking current officials from cooperating with Congress, but it gets a little trickier when it`s a former official. And so, you know, we don`t know exactly whether the White House is lly would be involved in a process like that.
carol, she is out of government service. Can her testimony be blocked? Can they still stop her?
yeah, it`s a great question. It`s sort of a little murky. You know, we`ve all known the White House is going to try to exert some sort of privilege. And if they do, if then -- if she is subpoenaed, how she would comply on them, and then it could wind up being litigated. But it`s a real key test for other former officials who Congress might want to talk to, specifically, former ambassador and National Security Adviser John Bolton and the people who were around him, because they would have seen a lot around this time.
And frankly, the way that they were ousted of the White House, none of them really have any reason to be sympathetic or hold back. And so we`ve talked to people who have said that there is some concern among people around the President about these former officials. And so what happens with Fiona Hill is really going to be a test case for how it might play out with others.
WILLIAMS: OK. Robert Costa, so much to discuss. We haven`t even gotten to the two guys at the airport with one-way tickets, but we will. First of all, Secretary Perry was regarded in the early days of the Trump administration up to present day as one of the quietly effective and loyal members of the Cabinet. What do we know about how longer he stays and how much jeopardy he may be in?
ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: What we know about Secretary Perry is that he had his own agenda on energy issues and was engaging with Ukraine and people related to the Ukraine -- related to Ukraine inside of the government. And he was asking the White House at different points to work with him on those issues. He sat with Vice President Pence in Warsaw in September as he met with President Zelensky. So he`s been involved.
And that`s the challenge when you talk to White House advisers tonight. They say Rudy Giuliani is out there on a limb with these associates doing his own investigation without any kind of approval from the government. That`s at least formal approval. Then you have Secretary Perry with his energy issues and his friends in the energy business. And they`re not really sure what`s going to happen next. And that`s why Congress is seeking those documents.
WILLIAMS: Again, absent an announcement by the Cabinet secretary, there were reports of his pending departure right around the time the Ukraine story broke.
Now Robert, it occurs to us that Robert Mueller didn`t have this luxury. The luxury of air support on a given charge where people from the inside came forward and said yes, I was there. It was awful. I`m willing to talk about it. Big picture, what do you think we`re watching unfold right now?
COSTA: It`s a totally different situation because you did have cooperation from many witnesses with Mr. Mueller. They sat there for hours. This is the President working with his personal attorney to conduct his own foreign policy initiatives outside of the chain of command. And it happened in July, June, the summer, going even back into the spring. And this is toward the end and then the conclusion of Mueller investigation.
When you talk to the President`s confidantes, they say he has been emboldened, more willing to test the limits of his power, perhaps even the limits of his constitutional power, working with -- on these issues of Ukraine and foreign policy and Joe Biden. And that has led him to this crisis moment in his presidency.
WILLIAMS: Now counselor, thank you for your patience. Two guys drive to Dulles, which should be punishment in itself. They go to Dulles, as people do with one-way tickets. Lev and Igor, as I call them with a tip of the hat to Mel Brooks. What is going on here? They`ve been arrested million bond?
BERIT BERGER, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: Yes. No, that`s just on their initial presentment. They`ll have to face a judge here in the Southern District of New York who may want to review those bail conditions and may have his or her own different accommodations for these defendants.
WILLIAMS: When we hear the U.S. attorney for your old shop, Southern District of New York say, this is an ongoing matter, what about that gets your attention? Why is that significant?
BERGER: Yes, I think that is the phrase that should cause anyone else who had any role in this scheme to lose a lot of sleep. What that means is while they`ve unsealed the first round of an indictment, that`s very rarely the last page of the book.
WILLIAMS: You don`t give away what you`ve got on everybody?
BERGER: Exactly. Most indictments, I would say, usually have some sort of a superseding indictment. Whether you`re adding additional offenses or adding an additional defendants, that happens because you continue to gather evidence. You continue to gather new witnesses, new documents to make your case strong stronger and potentially bigger. So while these four people that were charged in the indictment that was unsealed today, well these four are sort of the ones that we`re talking about now, it`s not necessarily the case that they are the only four that was involved in this scheme.
WILLIAMS: Can you at a basic level believe, and remember this -- everything we`ve talked about tonight is under this Ukraine umbrella. These guys, once we saw the mug shots today immediately compared to the plumber`s arrest after the Watergate break-in. People were calling them Rudy Giuliani`s bagmen. Can you believe that a case this close to the President has netted this arrest of these two guys?
BERGER: Yes, I mean, these are -- it`s really startling to see, you know, both the nature of these charges, the campaign finance violations. I mean, we have to remember campaign finance violations have been swirling around this administration, you know, for basically the entire time that Trump has been in office. And that was the subject of the Southern District`s first investigation, which Michael Cohen plead guilty to, which Donald Trump was an unindicted co-conspirator. So, this is -- the nature of these charges, while these ones specifically are new, this type of charge has been plaguing this administration really for years now.
WILLIAMS: And does the modern day Berit Berger in the Southern District along with the FBI, are there efforts now to get these guys to flip and tell what they know?
BERGER: I`m sure there will be efforts to do that. Any time you arrest somebody, the first thing the prosecutors want to do is see if there is potential for cooperation, especially to people like these defendants that could have sort of a treasure trove of information and evidence about powerful connected people. I can`t imagine that prosecutors wouldn`t try to see if they would be cooperating witnesses.
And you have to remember, in the Southern District of New York, like many other office, in order to be a cooperating witness, you don`t just have to tell about your involvement in the crime that was charged, you have to tell about your involvement in any criminal activity and any criminal activity you know about, even if you weren`t involved. So, given that those are sort of the stakes, they would potentially have to give up lot in order to cooperate.
WILLIAMS: Robert Costa, the last word. The President was in a safe space tonight, the big arena in the twin cities. He relitigated soup to nut, his Electoral College victory down to the vote. He name-checked almost a dozen on-air personnel at Fox News. Do you get the sense that they know the maw they are looking out over?
COSTA: When you watch the President tonight in Minnesota, you see the raw populism and defiance that is confronting House Democrats as they pursue this impeachment process. This is a President digging in for political war. And all the guardrails that were there may be at some level in `17, in `18, they are gone according to my reporting, and he is ready with Rudy Giuliani still at his side to fight them inch by inch between now and November 2020.
WILLIAMS: Our thanks to our big three, Robert Costa, Berit Berger, Carol Lee, greatly enjoyed having you on. Thank you.
And coming up, as the allegations against this President add up, so does the pressure on members of Congress. Next few days could be critical for some of them.
And later, James Carville will tell us about the decision he`s come around to on the wisdom of impeaching the President. You`ll want to hear it. We`ll talk to him live. THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on a busy Thursday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN SHIMKUS, (R) ILLINOIS: I`m heartbroken. In fact I called my chief of staff and said, "pull my name off the I support Donald Trump list." I mean, this is just -- we have just stabbed our allies in the back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: To our viewers, we have asked Robert Costa and Carol Lee to stick around for our conversation just for a few more minutes. That voice you just heard is the kind of transactional courage that retiring from the House gives Republicans. This is Congressman Shimkus from Illinois. He is leaving the House, and he has decided to turn away from Trump over this Syria matter.
Robert costa, the question for you, we had this very discussion here last night. You can stonewall, and that`s an effective way of stopping the clock, but while the clock is stopped, these impeachment numbers, the public opinion polls are rather markedly on the move, and now Syria has thrown such a wrench into these Republicans who were already on the fence about supporting this President.
COSTA: Brian, my colleague Phil Rucker and I on today`s front page of "The Washington Post" go inside this dynamic in the Republican Party. Pay close attention not just to the lockstep Republican answers on impeachment, but to how they`re handling questions about foreign policy.
The outrage in many GOP ranks about the President`s decision to remove U.S. troops from Northern Syria reveals a republican party that`s pretty fluid at this juncture. They`re with the President. They want his political capital in many of their races in 2020, but they`re willing to speak out against him on policy, but still against him in some measure. And that`s revealing, because the Republican Party right now behind the scenes is nervous. They`re like Congressman Shimkus and the retiring Republicans like Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and other suburban Republicans. They are the ones the White House is paying attention to.
WILLIAMS: Carol Lee, what I wanted to ask you about is our former ambassador to Ukraine. She is scheduled to testify tomorrow. Our newsroom consensus, which may or may not be worth a hell of a lot was that we`ll never see her at this rate. Do you have any reporting on that?
LEE: Yes. No, I think we just don`t know, as you saw with the last time a member of the administration was supposed to testify. They didn`t pull it back until the last minute. And so, you know, the -- we don`t know, at least I don`t know, and certainly there`s people on the Hill who don`t know.
And based on what happened this last time where the Gordon Sondland, the E.U. ambassador was here, he flew here, he was ready to testify and they pulled the plug at, you know, just hours before. You know, it`s anyone`s guess whether or not this will go through. But I think that this is obviously a White House that wants to dig in and fight as much as they can. I think there are some people around the President who really feel some regret about putting out that transcript of that call. To them that was -- and they don`t want to, "make that mistake again" as somebody put to it me this week.
And by that they mean, you know, putting somebody out there to testify who could say something that would wind up being more harmful than actually just blocking them from doing that and taking on this whole obstruction mantle.
WILLIAMS: And -- Yes, Bob?
COSTA: This is not just Congress getting poked in the eye by the administration. This is an administration that is wondering can they just bypass Congress entirely. The constitution says Congress has the right to oversee and have oversight on the executive. And Pat Cipollone`s letter earlier this week essentially says whether it`s this official or any other official, the White House can deny everything. And they`re going to see what Speaker Pelosi decides to do and see how far is she willing to go to get these documents and these witnesses.
WILLIAMS: Exactly why we wanted an extra moment with you both. Robert Costa, Carol Lee, thanks for working late tonight, gang. Appreciate it very much.
And coming up, as Democrats navigate the issue of impeachment, we talk to a man who knows a thing or two because he`s seen a thing or two, and that would include impeachment, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
WILLIAMS: New numbers tonight showing public opinion of the impeachment of this President is still, as we said, on the move. It`s a new NPR poll showing 52 percent approve of Democrats opening an impeachment inquiry, 49 percent support impeaching of the President.
Same poll shows voters split on removal of the President, 48-48. But even that is something. Nancy Cook of POLITICO reports today the White House is treating impeachment as a political argument. "Trump allies are the first to admit it`s not a strategy born out of any major legal thinking. Instead, it`s a bet Trump can prevail through his own aggressive public messaging campaign and the help of the Republican-controlled Senate, which ultimately would have to vote on the President`s fate following an impeachment trial."
Of course Syria has thrown a wrench in that. We want to show you the visual tonight. The front page of tomorrow`s New York daily news as we talk to the pride of Louisiana, James Carville, a Veteran Democratic Strategist who rose to national fame with the Clinton presidential campaign. James, you saw it there. A takeoff on the three stooges. I know -- I want to talk to you about impeachment. I know your thoughts have migrated on impeachment. Where are you now tonight?
JAMES CARVILLE, VETERAN DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I was so against impeachment about a month or so ago I was invited to go to Oxford in England to debate someone on impeachment. And they asked me what side would you like to take? And I said I take the neg (ph) because I was against it because I thought the moral imperative was to beat Donald Trump and that would not advance that imperative.
As soon as I read the story, as soon as it broke, I just knew inside the whole thing had changed. And shortly after that, I got a text from the New York Times reporter, and the quote I gave is let the Senate stew. And I`ve been wrong about a lot of things in my life. I think I was dead-on on that one. I think the Senate is stewing right now. I think the politics are really in favor of the Democrats. I`d much rather been a House Democrat than a Senate Republican.
I`ve got give Speaker Pelosi real credit here. Her leadership has been cautious and masterful. And when it was time to come in, she gave the green light. And I think she has handled the politics on this very, very well. I think Democrats have very, very favorable political terrain right now. And the Republicans are in the words of Joe Lewis, they can run, but they can`t hide.
WILLIAMS: We are fortunate to have a lot of viewers in Colorado, generally in the Denver area. So for them, they`ve already heard what I`m going to play. For the rest of the folks in the audience, this is the sound of a vulnerable Republican rocky mountain Senator in the days of Donald Trump being asked today if he thought the Ukraine leveraging, the Ukraine phone call was wrong. Here is Corey Gardner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe it`s appropriate for the President of the United States to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival? Yes or no?
SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: Look, this is what we`re going get into. The Senate Intelligence Committee is having an investigation, a bipartisan investigation. Unfortunately, though, what we`ve seen is a very political process take over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But is it --
GARDNER: I`ve answered your question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you didn`t. Is it --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it a yes or no?
GARDNER: Well, here`s what we see in the House of Representatives. You see a very partisan process taking place. Why is it that when you all do stories or we see reports in the news, it`s about four states, Colorado, Arizona, Maine, and North Carolina. It seems to be about politics and elections other than the serious process that it is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the question is, is it appropriate for a President to --
GARDNER: We are going to have an investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- to ask a foreign government to investigate?
GARDNER: It`s a nonpartisan investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: James, that is torture to watch unless you really enjoyed that answer or you`re teaching a class in obfuscation.
CARVILLE: I`d like to see that adds up with Johnny Archer`s answer in that town hall in Iowa. Susan Collins, you can`t find her. God knows where Martha McSally is right now. And of course there are vulnerable senators, and of course it`s a -- because it`s political calculation here. Who would deny that there was not?
And when the President enlists a foreign power to dig up dirt on his opponent and has two clowns gallivanting around the Ukraine arrested at Dulles airport, taking over U.S. foreign policy at the expense of a highly trained, highly competent ambassador, yes, there is some politics involved in this. And you`re doggone right.
That poor guy, I don`t think he is vulnerable. I think he is done. He ought to just drop out of the race. I doesn`t stand much of a chance in Colorado, to be honest with you.
WILLIAMS: James, let`s talk about some others. How about Portman, Ohio, how about Blunt, Missouri? These guys have been largely silent.
CARVILLE: Well, they`re not up.
WILLIAMS: That`s right.
CARVILLE: And that makes all the difference in the world. And I think Gardner instinctively understood that when he said really, it`s about Colorado and Maine and Arizona and North Carolina. Yes, man, it is. Because these people up in 2020, and you have to make a hard choice. You have all this testimony that the President was trying to dig up dirt on his opponent and had suffered through U.S. foreign policy and gave it to Rudy Giuliani and Igor and Lev, or whatever these clowns` names are.
And you`re going to have to defend that, and he can`t. And he is nervous. And he`s -- I don`t blame him. He`s got fear on his face. He is scared. They`re all afraid.
And, you know, just as Robert Costa who knows -- he is a great guy, came to my class at Tulane. He knows the internal works of the Republican Party as well as any party. He said, before he left, they`re all scared to death and they`re all nervous, and it`s just going to get worse and worse.
WILLIAMS: James Carville has agreed to stay with us over this break. We`ll do that.
When we come back, Trump steps up his attack on Joe Biden tonight. We`ll show you this from the rally. We`ll talk about it right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was only a good Vice President because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama`s ass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So that lit them up. The President received about 30-plus seconds sustained applause in the twin cities following those remarks about former Vice President Joe Biden. That`s kind of the way it was.
James Carville remains with us. James, the Biden campaign is coming off a rough go. They chose a weird week to go into power save mode. He had himself defined on Ukraine by Donald Trump for over five business days. Now just emerging from that. What do you make of the President`s line of attack?
CARVILLE: Let me start with what he said. I`m 75 week after next. I grew up in South Louisiana. My former (ph) years in the middle late `50s and early `60s. I know what means. It means the same thing when you start about the Central Park Five and went into birtherism and now this. I mean, this is no hidden trick here. This is exactly what you think it is.
In terms of Vice President Biden, I thought Trump threw him a life line. I mean, he was attacking him and he just come up and say he spends 20 times more attacking me than anybody else because he knows I`ll beat him, and he knows I`m competent. He knows how to do things and he knows how to appoint an attorney general, all the laws that occurred within the statute of limitations are enforced in this country. He is scared to death of me.
And if they would have just stayed and drilled down on that message, the Democrats would have rallied around him. Trump has a 100 percent very negative view among Democrats. And you don`t answer and, you know, say he is attacking my family or anything. You ask the question why is he attacking because he knows that I`ll beat him. And I thought that they missed an opportunity there to not really drill down on that argument.
But what Trump is doing now is, you know, in Minnesota, he is going back to his old playbook. And it`s the same playbook I`ve been seeing since I have a political memory.
WILLIAMS: I`ve got something else to show you. Here is Sanjay Gupta at home with Bernie Sanders tonight on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: An echocardiogram tells the function of the heart, how well the heart is beating. And can also give some indication of how severe the heart attack was.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, VERMONT: Right.
GUPTA: What did they tell you?
SANDERS: Well, what they told me is that we`re on the road to a full recovery. There was some damage, but what happens is as -- within the next month, we`ll see what happens. But so far so very good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Sanjay Gupta, who happens to be a brain surgeon.
WILLIAMS: He knows from heart attacks. And you heard Bernie there, jams, say confirm there was damage to the heart. That`s what happens in a myocardial infarction. Sum this up. How do you look at Bernie Sanders these days?
CARVILLE: My daddy died of a myocardial infarction.
WILLIAMS: My dad had one at age 50.
CARVILLE: Yes. I`m 75. Since Sanders is I think it`s like three years old than me. I am happy that he is on the road to recovery.
WILLIAMS: I am too.
CARVILLE: I really am. If Sanders was 35 and in perfect health, I wouldn`t be for him, for president. But I`m glad to see that, you know, many people sustain these kinds of events and go on and live many more years and live a very fruitful life. I hope that`s the case with him. I`ve never been for him for president. No, I never would be for him for president, but I wish him a long, happy, fruitful life.
WILLIAMS: What do you do, though, about the support he has? It`s kind of --
WILLIAMS: -- it`s hung up right now.
CARVILLE: It is.
WILLIAMS: And he just killed it in the last quarter fundraising.
CARVILLE: He is. And I think Democrats are just going to have to take a relook at the field and see where this is going. We`re getting I think something like four months away from voting. This is a very serious election. I think Democrats have to make a very serious choice. And there is one, but one moral imperative here, and that is beating Donald Trump in 2020.
This is not about Democrats feeling good about themselves. This is not about Democrats falling in love. This is about Democrats making an ultimate pragmatic decision to take out the greatest threat that the United States has had in the presidency since the beginning of this country. And I really, really believe that.
This is a time for Democrats to be very serious and say not only who can win the presidency, we keep the House, we have to pick up any number of Senate seats, depending on how my friend Doug Jones does in Alabama before, assuming we win the presidency. We need to have a majoritarian election here and we have to be dead serious about how we do this. I mean, any of these candidates can be fine. They just have to have a message and have political skill to bring not only victory to us in the White House and the House, but we have got to get the city back. Because if you`re looking at a Democratic president and a Democratic speaker and Mitch McConnell, I can tell you what`s going to get done, nothing.
At least you`ll have competent, honest people running the United States government, but it`s not going change much. So we got to be very careful. We`ve got to go into this with eyes wide open. We got to think -- we got use our heads in this and not our hearts, because the country is depending on a Democratic Party right now like no other time in history.
WILLIAMS: We know when to step off the stage. By way of wishing you good luck against Florida this weekend, James Carville.
CARVILLE: Go Tigers. Gators are good, but I think we`re going get them.
WILLIAMS: James Carville, LSU forever. Thank you very much for being with us from Los Angeles tonight.
CARVILLE: Thank you, Brian, I always love being on a show.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, James.
CARVILLE: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Coming up, a closer look at the so-called deep state the Trump presidency and the FBI with a journalist who just wrote the book on it when we come back.
WILLIAMS: More details tonight on those national security officials who first voiced concern over Trump`s dealings with Ukraine. Washington Post quotes a former senior official as saying, "Those involved in sounding alarms were not a swamp, not a deep state. Rather, they were White House officials who got concerned about this because this is not the way they want to see the government run."
Tonight, we welcome an author who has gone and called his latest book, "Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the Rule of Law." James B. Stewart is a Pulitzer Prize winner, author of, "Den of Thieves," among his other books. He also happens to be a Harvard educated lawyer, columnist for the New York Times, staff writer at The New Yorker and in his spare time a professor of business journalism at Columbia University. He`s with us from Capitol Hill. Jim, thank you very much for coming on the air tonight. Let`s go --
JAMES STEWART, "DEEP STATE", AUTHOR: Well, thank you.
WILLIAMS: -- to the title of your book first. It`s become a staple go-to phrase every hour by the hour in prime time over on Fox News. Where did it come from? And what`s its non-pejorative meaning and usage?
STEWART: Well, Trump has weaponized the idea of the deep state. It originated in countries like Egypt, Turkey where entrenched corporate military industrial complexes, bureaucracies would occasionally overthrow either elected or dictatorial government. It leaped over the ocean to the United States. It was really very similar to the military industrial complex. It was thought of as wall street, of the lobbyists, of the big corporations, of big technology, Silicon Valley.
And by the way, Trump`s cabinet was filled with people like this. He has turned it against the law enforcement agencies of the Justice Department, the Intelligence Community, essentially anyone who brings facts to light that put him in an unflattering light, he brands not just as this sinister deep state, but as traitors. He has even implicitly suggested these people deserve the death penalty.
The truth is, as James Comey told me in my book, the deep state is protecting us from the excesses of this administration. We are a nation of checks and balances. A major check are the law enforcement agencies that traditionally independent law enforcement agencies whose employees take an oath to defend the constitution, who work for the people of the United States and do not work for the President of United States. When they blow the whistle, when they bring to light what has been going on, they are doing their constitutional duty.
WILLIAMS: It`s the chapters to me in the middle of the book, it`s raining in Bedminster, New Jersey. The President is coming up with the underpinnings for firing Comey. I know how the story is going to end. It`s as if I`ve already read to the end of the chapter but you`re right there with it contemporaneously in the scene. Looking back at all the details we cover specially on this hour, five nights a week, just that day in the administration is the Comey firing the one thing you would pick out in the rearview mirror as saying most consequential so far?
STEWART: Absolutely. It is really the lynch pin of this story and why Trump is where he is today facing impeachment. I mean, Steve Bannon, you can -- you know, like his policies or not. He did call it the worst political decision in modern political history and he told Trump not to do it. Trump doesn`t listen to his advisors, he gets rid of people that disagree with him, he now has people surrounding that don`t let him do whatever he wants and has got him into big trouble.
But this is an astonishing sequence of events. He decides he wants to get rid of Comey because of Russia. He drags Rod Rosenstein and then he makes him drafts a memo about Hillary Clinton. He blames -- He wants Rosenstein to give press conference saying that it was his idea to fire Comey and it was because of Clinton, all false. So first of all, Trump fires the person who is investigating him. That`s bad enough then he lies about it and tries to cover up the reasons.
It nearly prompted a constitutional crisis when Rosenstein was calling for wearing a wire to record the President and invoking the 25th Amendment. It is really a highly dramatic, very illustrative example of how this President operates. He`s impulsive. He doesn`t listen to advice. He lies about what he did. He acts like someone who is guilty of the underlying offense and now he`s done it all again with the Ukraine.
WILLIAMS: Meantime, as we speak, FBI agents are in Detroit, Chicago, New York, they`re knocking on a door, they`re enforcing a warrant, they`re preparing for court tomorrow morning. Is it too early yet to sum up the net effect of this bad, bad time for them?
STEWART: Well, it`s been a terrible period for the FBI and I`ve talked to many of them. I was there giving a talk to the FBI the week Comey was fired. They were totally demoralized. People do not go to work for the FBI or the Justice Department to make a lot of money. They do it to serve their country. They do it because they`re patriots. They do it because they believe in the rule of law. And they have been admired for that.
They are now under attack. They are being branded as traitors. Many of them, Comey, McCabe, Strzok, all of them, who I think Trump didn`t like. Even Mueller now, they are under criminal investigation themselves. We have never seen anything like this in American history.
For the Republican Party, the leader of the Republican Party have turned against the law enforcement agencies where law and order was a pillar of Republican doctrine, from my entire lifetime, is an extraordinary turn of events and this has been very demoralizing. I will say I`m heartened today that the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York over saw an investigation that has arrested two aids to Giuliani. There are independent prosecutors still there who have the courage to pursue the rule of law wherever it takes them. I think that is a very encouraging sign.
WILLIAMS: Jim stick with me just as I fit in a break. And to our audience, when we come back, the President`s man is out there putting out fires around the globe and inside at least one television network it looks like, oh, he`s also our attorney general. We`ll talk about that when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We now have a great attorney general.
One of the most respected people in this country.
A fair guy. A great gentleman.
Highly respected man. Very highly principled man.
And you know what? I am so proud of our attorney general.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: President Trump has strong feelings about his A.G. and he should. Bill Barr took one for the team by defining what the Mueller report said days before we could actually get our hands on the Mueller report decide for ourselves. Where the problem has been for the President, just of late has been with Fox News. Leaving aside their prime time host just today with Fox`s own polling showing a majority favoring impeachment and removal, Trump said this, "Whoever their pollster is, they suck". And that`s what made this headline from The New York Times so interesting. Trump lashes out at Fox News poll as Attorney General Barr meets with Murdoch.
Jim Stewart has kindly agreed to stick around with us. Jim, it is not a good look for the U.S. A.G. to be gathering evidence against the home team overseas, not a good look for him to huddling with the founder of Fox News during this time. I guess where did the pliant side of this man of the law come from? How did it emerge?
STEWART: Well, you see his evolution in my story deep state and this is now what seems to be the natural culmination of it. He was once a highly respected Attorney General for Bush. He writes this, you know, incredibly craven memo, virtually auditioning to replace Sessions once word as Sessions going to be fired.
He wants the Attorney General job back. He then gets in there. He mischaracterizes the Mueller report. He rushes to judgment saying there is no underlying crime therefore you cannot have an obstruction of justice charge. That is 180 degrees opposite of what the Mueller report says. Mueller had to come forward and write his own letter saying that it was a mischaracterization.
And now astonishingly, the whistleblower comes forward. He should have handed that over to the FBI and said investigate and we`ll make a decision based on the facts. But before he even knew the facts, he said there is no evidence of a crime, so there`s nothing for us to investigate. That`s why we have to have an impeachment proceeding because no one else is going to inform the American public of what really happen. You have seen here what has happen to so many people who come into the Trump orbit. They want his favor, they want to keep their jobs, they get sucked into that moral vacuum and this is the result.
WILLIAMS: Jim Stewart is one of the great and most thorough non-fiction author last couple of decades. Here is the book in my hand. It`s called "Deep State". Jim, thank you very much for coming on the broadcast.
And that is our effort for tonight. Thank you for being here with us and 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