IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

NBC announces next debate moderators. TRANSCRIPT: 10/23/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Melanie Zanona, Paul Butler, Donna Edwards, David Jolly, JoanneFreeman

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC, HOST:  Tonight, faced with a steady flow of testimony going against their man and what they fear is a slow march to articles of impeachment, Republicans on the Hill stage a flash mob occupation of what is supposed to be a secure room.  They`re protesting testimony being delivered in private even though Republican members are there for it every day.

Meanwhile, a report tonight does withering damage to a major argument for the Trump team.  "The New York Times" says Ukraine knew pretty early on that Trump wanted to block money from Congress in return to get them to agree to investigate the Bidens.

Plus, when the President calls his own Republican critics human scum, as he did today, is that a low point or is it just Wednesday?  There`s actually an expert on this.  We`ll talk to her as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on this Wednesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 1,007 was a day of staged drama mostly as an hour from now when we get to `08.  It will be one month since the impeachment inquiry formally started.

The parade of closed-door testimony of late has been damaging for this President.  Including yesterday`s gut punch from a 50-year public servant, a diplomat, a military veteran who talked about what he saw on the inside.

Two days ago Trump called on his fellow Republicans to get tougher and fight harder for him.  Well, today they took action.  Republican members who don`t sit on the committees questioning witnesses in the inquiry stormed in and then held a sit-in in the secure room known in the trade as a SCIF.  It`s an acronym.

In the basement of the Capitol where Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official in charge of Ukraine, was supposed to be today`s testifying witness.  Republicans held up the deposition for five hours.  They ordered pizza, among other things, to call attention to what they say is an unfair impeachment process without transparency.


REP. MATT GAETZ, (R) FLORIDA:  Behind those doors they intend to overturn the results of an American presidential election.  We want to know what`s going on.

REP. JIM JORDAN, (R) OHIO:  I think the American people, as I said before, they understand fairness and they instinctively know that what is happening here is not fair.

REP. ANDY BIGGS, (R) ARIZONA:  You should be outraged if you`re an American at what`s happening here.  You should be allowed to confront your accusers.

REP. LEE ZELDIN, (R) NEW YORK:  On the process and the substance this whole thing has been a joke.


WILLIAMS:  A number of the Republican House members who crashed the deposition broke additional rules by bringing their phones into the secure room.

One former House Intelligence Committee staffer, our guest last night, Mieke Eoyang, who once indeed staffed such a secure room, gave a master class on Twitter today about the dangers of their actions.  She writes in part, "Foreign adversaries are constantly trying to figure out what goes on inside those rooms to figure out what the U.S. knows about them, to out U.S. high-level sources in their governments, to know what the U.S. government knows and use it against us.  Bringing electronic devices into a SCIF, and this SCIF in particular, is very problematic, especially when done by members of Congress, because members of Congress and their electronic devices are high value targets for compromise by foreign intelligence services.

Their phones can be turned into listening devices without their knowledge."

This afternoon in Pittsburgh the President praised Republicans who defended him.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Several outstanding members of Congress, these are warriors.  These are people that fight with me all the time on the witch hunts.  I`ve had the Mueller witch hunt, the Russia witch hunt.

We`ve got to stick together.  We`ve got to stick together.


WILLIAMS:  Today`s witness, Laura Cooper, left that delayed deposition three hours after it finally got under way, five hours late.  Her testimony comes amid the fallout from yesterday.  What Ambassador Bill Taylor revealed in his opening statement to lawmakers, he directly tied Trump to the Ukraine pressure campaign and noted Rudy Giuliani`s role in state craft.  House Republicans have largely tried to dismiss Taylor`s recollections.


MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  The opening statement says very clearly, this is not --

REP. MO BROOKS, (R) ALABAMA:  The opening statement doesn`t make any difference.

RAJU:  Hold on.  Let me finish what I`m saying.  Let me finish my question.  He says very clearly --

BROOKS:  You should not be relying on it.

RAJU:  I`m asking you about the substance of what he said.  He said that --

BROOKS:  It doesn`t make any difference.  We don`t know whether he said is true or not because of the sham process that`s being used.


WILLIAMS:  However, the number two Republican in the Senate, John Thune of South Dakota, who is normally one half of the human backdrop behind any Mitch McConnell Senate appearance, had this response to a question about the impact of Taylor`s deposition.


SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R) SOUTH DAKOTA:  The picture coming out of it based on the reporting that we`ve seen is, yes, I would say is not a good one.


WILLIAMS:  Today new reporting also seemed to undermine Trump`s defense that even if he had tied the military aid to an investigation of the Bidens and the 2016 election it couldn`t be a quid pro quo because the Ukrainians weren`t aware of it.  This morning he wrote that no witness "has provided testimony that the Ukrainians were aware that military aid was being withheld."

Ah, but "The New York Times" reports that Ukraine knew of the aid freeze by early August and that they were advised to reach out to Mick Mulvaney, the acting white house chief of staff, to deal with it. The A.P. reports that Ukraine`s President was concerned about the request to investigate Joe Biden at least two months before the July phone call in question.

Amid all of this Trump today declared victory in northeastern Syria after Turkey announced that permanent ceasefire, perhaps hoping people wouldn`t notice the sickening video from the region today, to wit, these are the Russians moving into position, trucks and troops, picking out strongholds on the new land they just divvied up with the Turks.  What used to be the homeland of the Kurds right up until the U.S. gave it away by pulling out.

During an event in the White House diplomatic room Trump also announced that the United States will lift sanctions on Turkey, giving Erdogan yet another victory while taking credit for orchestrating the outcome.


TRUMP:  Let someone else fight over this long, blood-stained sand.  Countless lives are now being saved as a result of our negotiation with Turkey, an outcome reached without spilling one drop of American blood.  No injuries, nobody shot, nobody killed.

Today`s announcement validates our course of action with Turkey.  That only a couple of weeks ago was scorned.  And now people are saying, wow, what a great outcome, congratulations.


WILLIAMS:  Remember, please, the George Orwell`s novel "1984" opens with the clock striking 13.  Keep that in mind as you hear this.  Earlier on this network a decorated four-star U.S. army general and former ground division commander in the Gulf War said flatly, our country has never operated this way.


NICOLLE WALLACE, DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE, ANCHOR:  How does Donald Trump give that speech when 100 Isis fighters are now in locations unknown to the U.S. government?

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  There`s an Orwellian fantasy quality to what`s coming out of the White House.  Obviously, the Kurds are fleeing by the tens of thousands.  By the way, those Isis fighters, 10,000 of them, if Assad gets to them first he`s going to kill them.  If the Turkish army gets to them first, and the Kurds eventually will let them go, they`ll be freed to revive the Isis insurrection.

So, it`s hard to know what`s going on inside the U.S. government.  The security process is gone.  It`s broken.  This is Mr. Trump home alone, impulsively making decisions.


WILLIAMS:  Here for our lead-off discussion on a Wednesday night, Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter for the Associated Press.  Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist for "The Washington Post," and Melanie Zanona back with us, Congressional Reporter for POLITICO.  Welcome to you all.

Back to the broadcast, Eugene, I`d like to begin with you.  This effort to slow down the works, to toss a log in front of the wheels, can it work?  Will it work?

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST:  Well, to slow it down, it slowed it down by five hours today.  But ultimately can it work?  No.

If you`re in the minority in the House of Representatives, you have essentially zero power.  The Democrats under Speaker Nancy Pelosi have the power and the authority to run this process, to design the process and run it the way they want to run it.  They`re running it the way the Republicans did in the Benghazi investigation when a lot of the depositions or hearings they took were under -- were not open to the public.

And, you know, I did a quick count.  I`m not sure if this is the exact number.  But by my count there were up to three committees involved in taking that deposition there were like 37 Republicans on those committees or something like that.  Those 37 Republicans either were or could have been inside that room asking questions, confronting the accuser as they demand to do.  So this smacks of a certain sort of desperation and not knowing exactly what else to do.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Mel, you know some of these members.  When they`re not flash mobbing and perhaps if they are more moderate members, what are they saying in private?

MELANIE ZANONA, POLITOC CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER:  Privately, there is a lot of concern.  I can tell you, that Brian.  Yesterday was a really tough day for Republicans.  Remember the day started off with the President comparing impeachment to a lynching and a lot of Republicans were forced to defend the President.  But even some of his closest allies like Kevin McCarthy, the speaker -- the leader of the House, wasn`t going to defend him.  He rejected that.

And by the end of the day we had really damning testimony from an ambassador saying there was evidence of a quid pro quo.  And so privately Republicans are really concerned about this.  But the one thing that they do agree on right now is that they think the impeachment process is unfair. That`s why you`ve seen it become such a rallying cry.

And it`s also no surprise that we saw this today after Trump just on Monday urged Republicans to fight for him.  This circus, I would say, today was for Trump.  He was watching.  He took notice.  He gave them a pat on the back for this.  They knew they were not going to get into that secure setting.

As Eugene mentioned and these Republicans are actually on the committees and have had access to the transcripts and depositions.  This was solely about changing the narrative, changing the conversation.  And it worked, at least for the first half of the day.

WILLIAMS:  I will say, Jonathan, one of the things they`re arguing the Democrats can`t answer with videotape.  These hearings are not televised.  I got not an inch of video to show folks to back up what Taylor said or how he said it.  I just have a piece of paper.

What the Republicans are falling apart on is that it`s in secret.  Their members come and go as members of these committees.  As Eugene pointed out, that was how Benghazi was carried out.  Is this just a battle for attention spans in the middle of what`s been a successful run of days for the Democrats?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  That`s exactly what it is.  Republicans here are making the argument this is a process to shrouded in secrecy, that the American public doesn`t have visibility on it.  And as you point out, that`s true.  There are no T.V. cameras in these hearings.  That`s a decision the Democrats have made.

But, you know, what we saw today was a stunt.  It was reminiscent, many people made the comparison, of the so-called Brooks Brothers riot in 2000 during the Florida recount that brought that to a halt.  It was similar stalling tactics here today.  This one only lasted five hours, less effective than the one that some would argue helped determine the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election.

But this is because they`re grasping at straws.  They`re trying to make a stand.  They`re trying to defend the President.  They know the President has been very frustrated according to our reporting the last couple of weeks.  He feels like the GOP has not done a good job of rallying around him.  He`s had few defenders on television and those that have gone on like Kevin McCarthy`s rather infamous "60 Minutes" interview of two weeks or so ago, they haven`t gone well.

And so I think he was heartened, the White House got a heads-up, that these Republican Congress members were going to go there today and do this.  And I think he likes to see his side fighting for him.  But that doesn`t change what happened yesterday.

I think we can`t say enough about how powerful Ambassador Taylor`s testimony was.  You know, we have not heard everything that was said in the question and answer session and certainly Republicans also had an opportunity to answer -- ask him questions.  But the written testimony, which has been released, not only very -- with detail and an extraordinary level of specificity because he kept notes this entire time, outlined this quid pro quo, outlined his conversations with the State Department, had shared his concerns with the parallel foreign policy being run by Rudy Giuliani.

But it also put a human face on this.  This isn`t just politics.  He detailed in a sort of gut-wrenching manner the Ukrainians whose lives are in jeopardy because the -- that nation wasn`t getting the military aid.  He described the bridge that he saw on the other side were the Russian-backed soldiers who were there posing a threat to the Ukrainians.  And I think that`s something people are wrestling with now on the Hill as well.  It`s not just politics.

WILLIAMS:  I don`t know much but he doesn`t look like a radical.

LEMIRE:  No.  And he`s also someone who was appointed to that position, asked to take that position by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is arguably the President`s most loyal Cabinet member.  This is not some deep -- despite what the President tried to tweet over the last 24 to 48 hours.  This is not some deep state liberal.  This is a career official whose worked for both Democrats and Republicans and was -- again, get offered this job by Pompeo.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Gene, let`s talk about momentum.  Our good friend Big Mo (ph), unrelated -- not related to our good friend Rosy Scenario.  Is it possible as long as I repeat my mandatory rejoinder that no one can screw this up like the Democrats, is it possible, that is, the Democrats with momentum in this right now?

ROBINSON:  Yes, surely the Democrats have momentum right now.  We`ve had, you know, revelation after revelation.  Of course the transcript of the transcript of the phone call that the White House released was sort of the beginning of the avalanche.

But ambassador Taylor`s testimony, as Jonathan said, was so powerful and so damning and so descriptive of just a plain garden variety quid pro quo, right?  I mean, it`s just totally laid out there clear for anybody to see.  That -- I really think the Republicans are just trying to do anything to sort of get in the way of the train, if only for a few hours, pending some sort of reasonable response they could get from the White House that they could then try to disseminate.  There`s no war room on this from the White House.  It`s the President`s Twitter account and that`s basically it.

And so they`re kind of flying blind.  They`re looking for something they can do to slow this down.  But the reality of the power dynamics in the House of Representatives is that they can`t slow it down, that there will be this closed-door depositions, at some point there will be public testimony, and there will be a vote.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Melanie, by our account, 45 Republicans on the combined committees in question have the right and ability to go into that room to these closed-door hearings, depositions.  We will eventually see the scrubbed transcripts of these.  So just as a viewer`s guide, which is a big part of our job around here, how can the Republicans, Benghazi included, argue that this has been a secret kangaroo court?

ZANONA:  Yes, it`s a difficult argument to make.  That`s over a quarter of the GOP conference, let`s put that in a little context, that are on these committees that have had full access to the transcripts, that are sitting in on these closed-door depositions.  But what I will tell you is Republicans say they want a formal inquiry vote.  That`s something that did happen in both the Clinton and the Nixon impeachments.

They say they want these to be out in a public sphere, they want people to be able to see what`s going on behind closed doors.  And they want to hear these witnesses out in the public.  They don`t want Democrats to be able to cherry-pick information and only release bits and pieces that they want the public to hear.

But, all that being said, Democrats are going to be releasing the transcripts.  Democrats are going to be having public hearings very soon.  So Republicans aren`t going to be able to hide behind this argument much longer.  At some point they are going to have to respond to these allegations against the President, which they`ve really struggled to do thus far.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Gene, I`ve got something for you to listen to.  This is the President talking about his favorite topic, building walls.  Announced one in an unusual location surrounded only by Americans.  We`ll talk about it on the other side.


TRUMP:  You know why we`re going to win New Mexico, because they want safety on their border.  And they didn`t have it.  And we`re building a wall on the border of New Mexico.

And we`re building a wall in Colorado.  We`re building a beautiful wall.  A big one that really works, that you can`t get over, you can`t get under.


WILLIAMS:  Gene, who`s going to tell him?

ROBINSON:  Somebody really better tell him.  He shouldn`t go around saying that he`s going to build a wall in Colorado, unless he is.  I mean, unless he, you know, he thinks the neighboring states pose some threat to Colorado.  Or Colorado poses some threat to the nation.  So maybe he`s going to build a big rectangular wall around Colorado.

WILLIAMS:  By the way, kudos to Pat Leahy and a sharpie or a very sharp- eyed staff member for this.  He just crossed out New Mexico and showed us how conceivably this could be a foreign border up there in Colorado.

ROBINSON:  Well, I guess it could be.  And if you missed the new in New Mexico and who knows, if the President actually thinks that`s part of Mexico.  Maybe we`ll get something more on this from the Twitter feed tomorrow.

WILLIAMS:  We got to have our --

ROBINSON:  By tomorrow we`ll be fake news that he ever said it.  And the White House press office.  I just can`t wait to hear their explanation of what he meant.

WILLIAMS:  Jonathan Lemire, Eugene Robinson, Melanie Zanona, thank you all so much for taking our questions on another consequential Wednesday night.

Coming up for us, Trump once joked that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose votes.  Today his attorneys argued that very same point with a straight face in front of a federal judge.

And later, as chaotic as things may seem, the occasional expert is willing to argue oh, it`s been worse.  One of those experts is here with us tonight as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started.



TRUMP:  My people are so smart.  And you know what else they say about my people?  The polls.  They say I have the most loyal people.  Did you ever see that?

Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn`t lose any voters, OK?  It`s like incredible.


WILLIAMS:  OK. It was a bold statement for a candidate to make in `16.  And today the President`s attorneys are taking that whole concept right there to another level entirely.  They`re trying to fight a subpoena for the President`s financial records here in New York by the Manhattan D.A.

Here`s what they argued in a Federal Appeals Court just today.


JUDGE DENNY CHIN, U.S. CIRCUIT JUDGE:  What`s your view on the Fifth Avenue example?  Local authorities couldn`t investigate?  They couldn`t do anything about it?

WILLIAM CONSOVOY, TRUMP LAWYER:  I think once a president is removed from office, any local authority, this is not a permanent immunity.

CHIN:  Well, I`m talking about while in office --


CHIN:  -- that`s the hypo.  Nothing could be done?  That`s your position?

CONSOVOY:  That is correct.  That is correct.


WILLIAMS:  Donald Trump used to have a carry permit in New York, it is alleged.  So just saying, if you see him on Fifth Avenue.

Back with us again tonight, Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor, Justice Department veteran, these days a Georgetown Law School Professor.

Paul, does that argument make any sense?

PAUL BUTLER, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  It doesn`t.  The argument is extraordinarily broad.  Trump`s lawyers are saying not only that he couldn`t be incarcerated or prosecuted while president, he couldn`t even be investigated.

And that`s inconsistent with the precedent, U.S. versus Nixon, the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision required President Nixon to cooperate with a grand jury investigation.  It`s also downright un-American and inconsistent with constitutional values about accountability and about equal justice under the law.  And that`s why both the trial judge and the appellate judge that heard the case today expressed incredulity that the President is essentially saying that he is above the law.  That`s not how we do things in the United States of America.

WILLIAMS:  I want to play for you a guy that had you still been at the Justice Department would have been your boss.  He was in fact chief law enforcement officer for our country briefly.  This is former Acting Attorney General Whitaker on what is a crime.


MATT WHITAKER, FMR. ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I`m a former prosecutor.  And what I know is this is a perfect time for a preliminary hearing where you would say, show us your evidence.  What evidence of a crime do you have?

I mean, the constitution, you know -- sort of abuse of power is not a crime.


WILLIAMS:  OK, counselor.  Question number two.  Abuse of power is not a crime constitutionally, true or false?

BUTLER:  Well, it`s not a crime in the sense that you can go to the United States criminal code and find that listed.  But ask President Andrew Johnson.  Ask President Richard Nixon.  Abuse of power was included in both of their drafted articles of impeachment. The standard, Brian, is high crimes and misdemeanors.

And the Famers understood that to mean not a specific statutory crime but abuse of power.  So George Mason, one of the Framers, said he thought of it as anti-administratability, that is, some kind of abuse.  Alexander Hamilton also said impeachment is triggered by abuse of the public trust.

And so, if we think about what the impeachment inquiry is about, the allegation is that the President of the United States shut down the Ukraine.  He understood that U.S. taxpayer dollars was maintaining the security of Ukraine as a nation-state and he said, I`m not going to give you those U.S. taxpayer dollars unless you help me win my campaign.  That wouldn`t be a close case for the Framers.  That would be an easy case for impeachment.  And Brian, I suggest it should also be an easy case for the House and Senate.

WILLIAMS:  Counselor, we thank you as always.  Around here it`s a matter of knowing who to pose the questions to, and you`re the guy tonight.  We appreciate it.  Paul Butler with us from our Washington studios tonight.

Coming up, just one month into the impeachment inquiry and we`ll look at the impact of Trump`s language and rhetoric on American politics, American culture, and life when we come back.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES:  That crazy Nancy.  She is crazy.

We got an insurance policy, Lisa.  We`ll get that son of a bitch out.

He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama`s ass.

An unconstitutional bull (INAUDIBLE) impeachment.


WILLIAMS:  Frequent guests of this broadcast Ashley Parker and Phil Rucker of the "Washington Post" point out that this President has ramped up the language over the last several weeks.  They write this, Trump, who long ago busted traditional standards for civil discourse and presidential behavior, has taken his harsh rhetoric and divisive tactics to a new level since impeachment proceedings began a month ago, and he appears to be pulling a significant part of the country along with him.

It`s also a polite way of saying he`s found a way to pop off a good swear word at several recent rallies including the night they honored the new little league champions on stage.

Here with us again tonight, two of our returning favorites, Donna Edwards, former Democratic member of Congress from the great state of Maryland who`s now a columnist with the "Washington Post."  David Jolly, a former Republican member of Congress from the great state of Florida who has since left the Republican Party.

Thank you and welcome to both of you.  Thank you for coming on.

Donna, I`d like to begin with you.  I`m tempted to ask if the Speaker in all your time around her spoke this way even during closed-door caucus meetings.  I`m tempted to bring up Beto O`Rourke, who is now dropping F bombs in public discourse, however coarsening and cheapening that move is.  But I`m also tempted to add any other questions about it are kind of what aboutism because we only have one president.

DONNA EDWARDS, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST:  Well, that`s true.  I mean, there really is no comparison either in history or today in politics for anyone who uses the language or abuses the language in the way that the President of the United States does.  And let me just say really clearly, no way in the world the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi uses that kind of language either in private or in public and certainly not to demean the holder of the office of the President or the presidency.

WILLIAMS:  David Jolly, the right, the Christian right, more like the cricket right on this subject.  They don`t seem to have a broad public problem with the President broadening his language publicly.  Does that give him in effect a permission slip?

DAVID JOLLY, FMR REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN:  Sure.  And Brian, I`ll never understand it.  I mean an evangelical community that puts their souls in the hands of God have trusted their souls to the hands of Donald Trump.  And it`s one of the great curiosities of this modern era.  Look, the reason presidents, if you put a historical lens on this, can unify the country in critical moments, Reagan after the space shuttle challenger, Bush after 9/11, Obama after Sandy Hook and Mother Emmanuel A.M.E., is because of the narrative they try to set for the country from the very beginning.

Reagan morning in America.  Bush 41, thousand points of light.  Clinton felt your pain. Bush was the compassionate conservative.  Obama was hope and change.  Donald Trump was American carnage.  He told us we were a terrible nation, we were divided, that we had no future.  And so that is the tone he has set from the very beginning.  And the one silver lining to all of this that I believe is true, is every single one of these Democratic candidates, whoever the nominee is, they will no longer give permission to this rhetoric from national leaders or from the constituency.  They will put an end to this.  If you are somebody concerned about the tone and rhetoric, your mission tonight is to beat Donald Trump.

WILLIAMS:  Donna Edwards, going back I believe to your time in the House, didn`t Republicans make a big rule change regarding Benghazi that they`re now living with the consequences of today?

EDWARDS:  Well, they did.  I mean, they changed the rule that basically says that you really should have the agreement of Republicans and Democrats to issue a subpoena.  And the reason is because a subpoena is so coercive.  It is sort of one of the last tools when all else fails to get cooperation of the executive branch in terms of producing documents or witnesses.

And now they have to live with the consequences of that rule change because Democrats are employing the rule that Republicans are now complaining about that they put in place.  And I think that you can see that as a way of actually creating division as well because when the House -- when the Republicans and Democrats in the House have to agree on something as coercive as a subpoena it has a way of unifying the work of the committee of one accord.  And of course now you have that division.  But look, this is the bed that Republicans made and now they`ve got to lay in it.

WILLIAMS:  On that note our guests have agreed to stay with us over the break.

And coming up, one former cabinet official offers an explanation for why she could no longer work in the Trump administration.  We`ll have that when we come back.



SEN. PAT LEAHY, (D) VERMONT:  Norway is a predominantly white country, isn`t it?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, SECRETARY, HOMELAND SECURITY:  I -- I actually do not know that, sir.  But I imagine that is the case.

That the specific intent was to help President Trump win, I`m not aware of that.

We do not have any intention right now to shoot at people.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, (D) MISSISSIPPI:  Are we still putting children in cages?

NIELSEN:  To my knowledge CBP never purposely put a child in a cage --

THOMPSON:  I`ve seen the cages.  I just want you to admit that the cages exist.

NIELSEN:  Sir, they`re not cages.


WILLIAMS:  That woman is back in the news this week.  Our former Homeland Security secretary.  During an event in Washington on Tuesday, Secretary Nielsen said she didn`t regret enforcing the Trump administration`s child separation policy.  She also explained why she decided to leave her job.


NIELSEN:  What led me to resign is there were a lot of things that -- there were those in the administration he thought we should do.  And just as I spoke truth to power from the very beginning, it became clear that saying no and refusing to do it myself was not going to be enough.  So it was time for me to offer my resignation.  That`s what I did.


WILLIAMS:  Still here with us in our conversation, Donna Edwards and David Jolly.

I just thought that would be an important thing to show our audience.  No one of course was forced to work for this guy.  Some people have emerged with their reputations intact.  Some have not.

David Jolly, a question you do not know is coming but I am thoroughly confident you can handle on the fly.  Let`s say I`m the speaker of the House.  Let`s say you`re the special master counsel in charge of impeachment for the Democrats.  I come to you tonight and say we`re stopping the clock at midnight.  Make your case.  What`s your case for impeachment right then and there?

JOLLY:  The first article for impeachment has already been written, and the first line is "whereas the President of the United States admitted through the summary of the phone call that he publicly released that he put pressure on a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent."  The second one is "whereas the U.S. ambassador to the EU has corroborated that information through detailed notes that in fact foreign aid was tied to the Ukraine`s investigation of his political -- his ask for investigation of political opponent, therefore the President is found to have abused his office."

Not only does that pass the House, maybe with a few Republican votes, I think tonight you could get five, six, maybe eight Republicans in the Senate to vote to convict the President.

WILLIAMS:  That`s saying a lot.  Donna Edwards, I did not want to let this occasion pass without noting a former member of your Maryland delegation, Congressman Cummings, will be remembered at services on Friday.  We learned tonight Barack Obama will be among the eulogist.  I -- and I have not talked to you since his passing.  And I know the two of you served obviously in the House.  What was lost when the state of Maryland lost the chairman?

EDWARDS:  Well, I mean the state of Maryland lost a chairman.  The city of Baltimore lost a congressman who never lost touch with his district.  And the nation lost and the congress of the United States lost a really powerful voice for truth and for justice and for just doing the right thing in the right kind of way.  And I think tomorrow in the House he will lie in state and members of Congress and former members will have an opportunity, and the public, to salute him and to salute his service.

And I don`t know that we`re going to see another one like Elijah Cummings, who both held true to his district and to the needs of his district, but also really was a great public servant of this nation.

WILLIAMS:  David Jolly, let`s be honest about two things.  The President trolled him.  He trolled his congressional district, the entire city of Baltimore.  Just today he called never Trumper Republicans human scum.  I suppose, and I mean no disrespect, that might include you.

JOLLY:  Brian, I guess i would answer that by saying the sweetest revenge is a life well lived.  And I`m going home to a beautiful baby girl, a wonderful wife, waking up tomorrow with a wonderful career, wonderful friends.  I don`t worry about the words of a weak man.  Donald Trump can go pound sand.

WILLIAMS:  They don`t teach you much in cable except know an ending note when you hear one.  With that our thanks to Donna Edwards and David Jolly.  Appreciate you both coming on, as always.

JOLLY:  Thank you, Brian.

EDWARDS:  Thank you.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up for us, just when we think politics can`t get any more chaotic, we`re hoping it`ll help when we tell you about a time when it was worse.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We`re going to go and see if we can get inside.  Let`s see if we can get in. we`re going in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Congressman, please (INAUDIBLE) questions.

REP. ALEX MOONEY, (R) MARYLAND:  This is Congressman Alex Mooney.  I`m calling you live from the SCIF.  It is precisely 1:22 p.m.


WILLIAMS:  The sergeant-at-arms was forced to make a rare appearance in that secure room, the House committee room known as a SCIF, after that display by House Republicans today.  As reported by Politico, "it was tense, said Congressman Tim Burchett, a Republican from Tennessee who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee."  Another person in the room said Republican Congressman Bradley Byrne of Alabama was getting in the faces of and shouting at Democrats.  Oh and for good measure it bears repeating the President called critics in his own party human scum today.

Here with us to talk about all of it tonight we welcome to the broadcast Joanne Freeman, history professor at Yale University in New Haven. co-host of "Backstory," the podcast on American History.  She`s also the author of "The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to the Civil War," which we now note is out in paperback with bloody illustrations.

Professor, thank you for coming in.  I have a very basic question to start with.  Tell us, when has it been worse than this?


WILLIAMS:  OK.  And what happened then?

FREEMAN:  Well, I think probably most people watching know that the end result of that was the Civil War.  So definitely that`s worst.  But the 1850s represents a time when the question of slavery was really -- had been building up for decades.  And part of what was going on in Congress is that southern slave holders were protecting that institution by threatening and intimidating and occasionally really being physically violent towards anyone who opposed them.

WILLIAMS:  The title, "There Will Be Blood Come to Mind" when was there blood?

FREEMAN:  Well, in one case, one congressman actually killed another congressman in a duel in 1838.  But for the most part, what you see a lot in Congress I mean, in a sense, it`s not unlike some of what we`re seeing today.  The point of it wasn`t necessarily to shed blood.  It was to score points.  It was to make a point.  It was to silence people through intimidation.  So it wasn`t necessarily about bloodshed.  It was about bullying more than anything else.

WILLIAMS:  Talk about how firearms were viewed, were carried.  Were they on a per capita pro-rated basis more pervasive and likely to be used today?

FREEMAN:  Well, for sure there was a lot of firearms in this period around.  But if we`re talking specifically about Congress, there were a good number of congressmen who were armed.  Southerners were more likely to be armed for a time than northerners, sometimes with pistols, sometimes with bowie knives.  But part of what happens in the 1850s, as things really begin to heat up with the slavery controversy is that now some northerners begin to arm as well because they don`t trust the institution of Congress itself to protect them.

WILLIAMS:  A lot of the folks watching tonight and every night are deeply worried about the falling away of the norms of American life.  How many American generations in your view have had reason to fear for the future of the republic?

FREEMAN:  Well, we`ve had a number of -- and this is not going to surprise anybody -- a number of extreme polarized moments, the 1850s is one.  The 1960s is another one.  We`re in another one now.  I would even say the late 1790s are another one where people actually talked about civil war, right, and anarchy.  So there have been a number of moments where politics has been hyper polarized, and I think those are moments when naturally norms begin to be shattered.  Things begin to be disruptive in some way.

In the 1960s, you had TV sort of spreading that around in a different way.  Now you have social media.  In the 1850s, telegraph making things more intense, because all of these new forms of technology meant whatever was going on, all the upset and ferment was spreading faster than ever before.

So there have been other moments when people have had fears, but the important thing to say as a historian is that history doesn`t repeat.

So on the other hand, you can say that there are patterns.  On the other hand, some of what we`re going through now is distinctive to now.

WILLIAMS:  What we`re talking about tonight chiefly is a kind of day of a kind of staged drama, as we said at the top of the broadcast.  This term we`re using to describe what happened today is stunt.  I don`t think any jury would convict us for misuse of that term.  To invoke another title, a tipping point, is there a tipping point when stunts add up and collapse under their own weight to the momentum of the forces of change?

FREEMAN:  Right.  And I hesitated with the word stunt today.  I kind of struggled with that, because in a way, that suggests not to take this seriously, right?  It`s a stunt, and it was done for display.  Perhaps it was done to impress the President.

WILLIAMS:  It was done to call the proceedings secret, proceedings that 45 Republicans have daily access to.

FREEMAN:  Precisely.  Precisely.  So it was -- it was to make a point that is not a very forthright point.  So on the one hand you can say OK, it was a stunt.   On the other hand, it was people within the institution of Congress disrupting the congressional process, right, disrupting a bipartisan committee meeting and taking testimony.

So to me, you know, can I say that there is a tipping point?  No.  But what I can say is that I would hesitate before dismissing it as a mere stunt, because I think physically having a group of people physically disrupt things in that way who are part of the body itself, that`s -- I mean, concerning, I guess is the word that I would use.  I wouldn`t quite yet say alarming, but certainly concerning.

WILLIAMS:  A select few students at small school up in New Haven, Connecticut get to learn history from this author, this professor, Joanne Freeman.  Thank you very much for stopping by and sharing some of it.

FREEMAN:  Thanks for having me.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up, the starting front four have been announced.  This has absolutely nothing to do with sports.  Everything to do, however, with our endless, already under way 2020 campaign.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go here tonight is as they say a point of personal privilege.  You know how happy you are when a friend gets a new job?  Well, imagine it happening to four of your friends on the same day.

In this case, I am speaking of course about Parker, Welker, Maddow, and Mitchell.  It`s not a law firm.  Rather, as our subtle music cue may indicate, they will be the moderators of the next Democratic debate November 20 in Georgia.  They would be Ashley Parker of "The Washington Post," and one of our contributors who was just here on the broadcast last night.  So we claim her as one of our own team.  Rachel Maddow of "Rachel Maddow Show." Andrea Mitchell of "Andrea Mitchell Reports" also, our NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent.  And our own white House correspondent Kristen Welker.

Fun fact, these four could also host "It`s Academic."  These four could also host "it`s academic" as they say in English.  Parker And Mitchell, University Of Pennsylvania.  Welker, Harvard.  Maddow, Stanford, Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.  I hope no one was hoping for simple questions.  And by the way, we`re also soliciting questions on the web.

Congratulations to the starting front four.  All of us around here are proud to know you.  And what we don`t say often enough is we`re proud to work with you, as we will be on that night.  That is our broadcast for this Wednesday night.

Thank you so much 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