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Lawmakers remember Rep. Elijah Cummings. TRANSCRIPT: 10/24/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Katie Benner, Lanhee Chen, Amie Parnes

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  The Honorable Elijah Cummings gets tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian williams" starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC, HOST:  The breaking news we`re covering here tonight with "The New York Times" reporter who broke it.  While some had passed it off as a right-wing fantasy, Trump`s man, A.G. Bill Barr, has seen to it that the Justice Department`s investigation into the origins of the Trump Russia probe is now real enough to impanel a grand jury, issue subpoenas, file charges and make arrests.  And the timing remains interesting as the Democrats narrow in on potential impeachment charges now that they have a mountain of evidence.

And amid the fighting in Syria, the President tells the Kurds on their own after our pullout to go where the oil is because that, after all, will be protected by the U.S. military.

Plus, someone may need to explain to Trump what Pat Robertson just said about him.  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Thursday night.

Well, good evening, once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 1,008 of the Trump administration has brought us breaking news yet again tonight.  "The New York Times" reports that Justice Department has opened a criminal inquiry into its own Russia investigation.

Here`s how it works.  The "Times" reports it this way, "Justice Department officials have shifted an administrative review of the Russia investigation closely overseen by Attorney General William Barr to a criminal inquiry.  The move gives the prosecutor running it, John Durham, the power to subpoena for witness testimony and documents, to impanel a grand jury and to file criminal charges.  The opening of a criminal investigation is likely to raise alarms that Mr. Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies."

NBC News tonight has confirmed this "Times" report and tonight, James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, who oversaw the launch of this very Russia investigation, reacted to this news on CNN.


LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET. ), FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE:  Presumably, I guess I`m one of those under investigation.  I found the timing interesting given the increasing heat around the impeachment inquiry.


WILLIAMS:  As you remember, during the Russia investigation, the President and his allies made every effort to discredit it.  That goes on to this day.  There`s a similar effort now under way with the House Democrats` impeachment investigation.  Republicans in Congress have chosen not to focus on defending the President`s actions regarding Ukraine on that phone call.  Instead, they`re attacking the process of the inquiry.  The process they followed during the Benghazi hearings when Hillary Clinton was the takedown target.

Today, one of Trump`s fiercest allies, Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham, introduced a resolution co-sponsored by Mitch McConnell accusing the House Democrats, again, those in the other chamber, of conducting a secret and unfair inquiry meant to embarrass this President.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA JUDICIARY CMTE. CHAIRMAN:  They`ve created a process in the Intel Committee that`s behind closed doors, doesn`t provide access to the President`s accuser, shuts republicans out for all practical purposes, and is an unworthy substitute for the way you need to do it, is at its core un-American.


WILLIAMS:  Late today, one member of the House Intel Committee had this response.


REP. DENNY HECK, (D) WASHINGTON INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  My message to Senator Graham is you stay in your lane.  It seems as though, especially after the stunt yesterday of the storm-in of the SCIF and the egregious, the egregious violation of security protocol, that when the President says, jump, they ask, how high on way up?  That`s what they want to talk about, process.  None of them wants to answer the question, is it OK what he did?


WILLIAMS:  Forty-five Senate Republicans currently back Graham`s resolution.  He proposed it just one day after their counterparts in the House, as you heard mentioned there, brought the inquiry to a halt for five hours.  This was all of them coming down the stairwell.  They also objected to the private nature of the proceedings.

Again, it`s worth noting many of these very same House Republicans had no problem with closed-door interviews back during the Benghazi investigation.  In fact, let`s go back then.  Here is how former South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy defended private hearings.


FMR. REP. TREY GOWDY, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA. :  I can just tell you that of the 50-some-odd interviews we have done thus far, the vast majority of them have been private and you don`t see the bickering among the members of Congress and private interviews.  You don`t see any of that.

The private ones always produce better results.


WILLIAMS:  And this morning on the President`s favorite network, it fell to Fox News legal expert Andrew Napolitano to point out the Republicans really don`t have much of a case this time around.




NAPOLITANO:  And as frustrating as it maybe to have these hearings going on behind closed doors, the hearings over which Congressman Schiff is presiding, they are consistent with the rules. When were the rules written?  Last in January of 2015.  And who signed them?  John Boehner.  Who enacted them?  A Republican majority.

The rules say this level of inquiry, this initial level of inquiry, can be done in secret.


WILLIAMS:  We`re also tracking, let`s not forget, the situation in Syria, where there are continued reports tonight of fighting 24 hours after our President declared a permanent cease-fire.  The "Associated Press" reporting Turkish forces and their allies attacked Syrian government troops in the northeastern part of Syria Thursday, killing some of them.  They also clashed with Kurdish-led fighters.

A senior defense official in this country tells NBC News some U.S. troops may be sent to secure the Syrian oil facilities so they don`t fall into Isis control.  That would be a reversal of Trump`s decision to withdraw from the region.

Today the President offered this advice, and we quote, "Perhaps it is time for the Kurds to start heading to the oil region."  Let`s stop for just a moment to point out that would mean a pilgrimage of hundreds of miles from their homeland which is now being overrun following the U.S. retreat.

And Trump`s handling of Syria triggered a reach-back into history from a guy whose support he can usually count on.  Today Pat Robertson actually compared the current U.S. pullout from Syria to Neville Chamberlain`s appeasement of Adolf Hitler several decades ago.


PAT ROBERSON, TELEVANGELIST:  And one year from the time of Munich, Germany invaded Poland and World War II was under way.  The Kurds, we have abandoned them.  They`re being slaughtered by the Turks.  And we have given a major port to Syria.

And I promise you as I`m sitting here right now, Russia is going to come against us.  Turkey is going to come against us.  China is going to come against us.  North Korea is going to come against us.


WILLIAMS:  Eighty-nine-year-old Pat Robertson.  With that, let`s get to our leadoff discussion in just a moment.

First, we want to get the very latest on this from -- the breaking news story tonight from "The New York Times."  One of the reporters who first broke the story tonight, and a frequent guest of ours, Justice Department Reporter Katie Benner.

Katie, this investigating the investigators --


WILLIAMS:  -- has been called a shiny object.  It has been called a right- wing fantasy.  It could turn out to be both of those, but now it has the imprimatur of the Justice Department.  Is that only our mostly because this attorney general as a personal matter has this President`s back?

BENNER:  Well, we can say that we know that the Attorney General Bill Barr has said from almost the moment he was confirmed that he has long-harbored worries that the decision to investigate the Trump campaign in 2016 was in his words, unlawfully predicated and he wants to figure out whether or not that`s true.

Initially he had a U.S. attorney do what he called a review which meant all he could do was look at existing government documents and take voluntary testimony, but as we all know, U.S. Attorney`s Offices and U.S. attorneys are independent operators.  They can choose to open criminal investigations should they choose.

And it seems that John Durham, the U.S. attorney leading this review, decided that he found something that didn`t look good and it was enough for him to open a criminal investigation.

WILLIAMS:  How unusual is the level, the depth, of A.G. Barr`s involvement in this, and by doing so, can you remind our viewers the places we know of where Barr and these two men have flown domestically and around the world?

BENNER:  Sure.  So we know -- first of all, we should say that as a matter -- having the attorney general so closely watch and be a part of any review done by a U.S. Attorney`s Office and now a criminal matter is highly unusual, but Bill Barr has made no secret that he thinks this is an extremely important thing for the Justice Department to do.  And he does want to be a part of it.

He`s also made no secret that he has gone to Italy.  Will say that reporters have confirmed that he`s gone to Italy two times to get to the bottom of certain unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation conducted by the Justice Department in the wake of the election.  He has spoken with the Australian government official who came for the state visit this fall.  He has spoken to, you know, British officials, our allies in Britain about intelligence that was given to the CIA.  So he is extremely involved.

And then we, of course, know that they`ve also interviewed as part of this investigation more than two dozen FBI employees to ask them about, you know, whether or not this was a lawfully predicated decision to investigate the President`s campaign.

WILLIAMS:  Katie Benner is tonight the co-author of the story that is leading this news cycle.  Katie out front again on the "Times" website, thank you very much for making time for our broadcast again tonight.

And as we mentioned, our members of the leadoff discussion are here with us on a Thursday night.  They include here with us in New York, Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, Annie Karni, White House Correspondent also with "The New York Times," and Lanhee Chen, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution and former presidential campaign adviser to both Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney, a name you might hear later on.  To all of you, welcome to our discussion.

Frank, what do you make generally and now that Katie has filled in the specificity of investigating the investigators?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  Let me tell you why I think we`re about to witness what I call a fabricated spectacle, manufactured spectacle.  For an unpleasant time during my FBI career, I led internal investigations.  I was joined at the hip with the DOJ inspector general.  I reconstructed investigative results.  I know a little bit about how that works.

And I know you have a decision to make.  You can administratively compel employees to talk to you or you can decide to go the criminal route.  When you administratively compel them, they must talk to you or face possible termination.  You can draw an adverse inference from their failure to talk to you.  You tend to get cooperation under those circumstances.  And you tend to get to the bottom of what you`re getting at.

When you decide to go criminal, guess what happens to those career employees.  They lawyer up.  You start Mirandizing FBI agents and CIA analysts, they get lawyers.  And so the -- this is going to have two counter effects, on the one hand, it`s going to cause people to lawyer up and they`re not going to cooperate.

On the other hand, you`re going to see the White House and DOJ and certain media outlets come out and say, look at this. FBI agents and CIA employees are refusing to cooperate.  They must be criminals.  That`s the spectacle that`s being manufactured here.

Annie Karni, is this the counternarrative strategy to impeachment?  Is this the rapid response to Ambassador Taylor`s testimony?

ANNIE KARNI, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, it certainly looks like that.  The timing wise, this comes, the news of this breaks a few days after, by far, the most damning witness that`s testified yet in Congress, Bill Taylor, who kind of outlined exactly the -- that there was a quid pro quo between giving aid to the Ukrainians and getting political dirt in return.  And then this comes out.

So, yes, it does -- it does look like this is a calculated counternarrative to help the President when there is not a lot to do in terms of the substance of what is coming out in this.  And these witnesses are telling, there`s not a lot to counter in terms of the substance of the story in Ukraine.

WILLIAMS:  Lanhee Chen, we have you on tonight knowing you are a veteran of Republican politics and so I ask you, how can the Republicans argue with a straight face that this is a secret proceeding, that it`s a kangaroo court, when fully a third of the Republicans in Congress qualify by dent of their committee assignments to the committees who have been in on these closed- door depositions?

LANHEE CHEN, FMR. POLICY DIRECTOR ROMNEY-RYAN CAMPAIGN:  Well, look, Brian, the hypocrisy that we see here is not new in politics, unfortunately.  I, you know, wish that there was another argument for it but there really isn`t.

Look, the process argument for Republicans now really comes down to how much longer they can sort of sustain this given that public hearings are going to begin.  The reporting out there is that we`re going to see public hearings on impeachment in mid-November.  I do think there is a prudential argument.

There is a reason why Democrats might want to open some of this up because it creates more of a nonpartisan feel to all of it.  It inoculates them a little bit against the argument that it`s a partisan witch hunt, as the President has said.  So I think there might be reasons why Democrats want to consider that side of the argument.

That having been said, look, hypocrisy abounds depending on whether it works for one party or not.  And I think we`re seeing that very visually in the argumentation around the process surrounding the impeachment hearings now.

WILLIAMS:  Frank Figliuzzi, let`s talk about a great Washington acronym, the SCIF.  It`s a fancy word for a secure room that is meant to deter those trying to listen in on our electronics.

When those Republicans came down that circular stairway yesterday, they did so, they kind of flash mobbed the secure room where these hearings have been going on, these depositions.  Most of them brought their devices.  Some of them used their devices to send out text or tweets.  Some of them audio.

Explain to the folks at home why that behavior might get you bumped down a rank in you`re a member of the military and you forget and walk in there with your phone?

FIGLIUZZI:  You know, this isn`t just about not following rules, Brian.  I`ve heard members who sat in that day say, oh, well, nothing was going on that was classified in that room, it`s fine.

Here`s why it`s not fine.  If you`re a member of Congress, you`re a target of foreign intelligence services.  And it`s particularly true you`re vulnerable if you`ve traveled abroad and brought your devices with you.  In fact, we tell -- when I was in the bureau, we would brief staffers and members -- that you should just assume that your devices are compromised and, in fact, may even have been turned into live microphones.  So that when they marched into that room, what I first noticed was that they have devices.  They`re taking videos and recording.  They literally could have been bringing a live microphone answering to a foreign intelligence service into the SCIF, the secure compartmented information facility, where our nation`s classified business is discussed.

WILLIAMS:  You`re stopped at the door of the White House situation room and there is an oak paneled lead-lined box where you have no choice but to surrender your device for a good reason.

FIGLIUZZI:  Right.  So, the second question I asked, after I asked why in God`s name are they bringing devices into the SCIF, how in God`s name were they allowed to do it?  And so we asked the question, were the capitol police told to permit this to happen?

Did Chairman Schiff or others say, look, we got horrible optics that are about to occur here, we can`t bar them entry, we`re going to let this happen?  I don`t know, but I know as a counterintelligence professional, we had a breach and they seemed to not to care.

WILLIAMS:  Annie Karni, as a veteran of the HRC campaign trail, you remember this moment, an unguarded moment by Mr. McCarthy of California, number two in the House.  We`ll air it and then talk about it on the other side.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) CALIFORNIA:  Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?  But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee.  What are her numbers today?  Her numbers are dropping.


WILLIAMS:  Annie, anybody talking about irony these days?

KARNI:  You know, it`s funny, this clip, I remember distinctly being at a dinner with some Clinton donors that I was reporting on and I`m giving a toast to Kevin McCarthy after this clip.  I think this is what killed his chances at being the speaker.

Yes, I mean, there`s so many comparisons to do of, like, they said this during Benghazi, and now they`re saying this.  It gets old.  You can play the clips of Lindsey Graham speaking at the Clinton impeachment and now saying the exact opposite thing.

But I also think that`s sort of what politicians do.  That doesn`t really knock my socks off.  Mostly I`m surprised at how much Republicans are steering clear of any substantive defense of the President on the facts of this -- of the impeachment probe and how all they`re left with is a process argument and the limits of a process argument as we`ve talked about here that there are going to be open hearings next month and that it`s worrisome for Trump and I`ve heard from Trump allies and from White House officials that it`s worrisome that the Republican support is softer than they would have hoped at this stage.

WILLIAMS:  Lanhee Chen, let`s talk about your old boss.  In this frame, Mr. Romney goes to Washington.  He has the chance here to play an unusual and, perhaps, historic role in that Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate.  He is one of the most bulletproof elected senators of the 100 currently serving.  What is your former boss capable of?

CHEN:  Well, I`ll say a few things.  I mean, first of all, he perfectly understands the role that he has to play as a member of the Senate, as a member of the jury, if you will, that will decide conviction or not conviction for the President, presuming that the House votes to impeach the President, which I think everyone presumes they will.  So he`s fully aware of the magnitude of that role, and I think he`s sincere when he says he`s looking at the evidence.

The evidence is clearly mounting.  The testimony is clearly mounting.  But he`s going to do his best, as he`s always done, in public life to be judicious in how he approaches this process.  So I wouldn`t expect him to come out and say, look, I`ve arrived at the conclusions before the trial`s happened, but rest assured, he`s reviewing all the information and he`s doing his job.  He was doing the job that he was elected and sent by the voters of Utah to do.

WILLIAMS:  With appreciation for their passion and candor, Frank Figliuzzi, Annie Karni, Lanhee Chen, thank you all for starting us off tonight.

And coming up, more on justice turning the review of the Russia investigation into a criminal justice inquiry.

Plus, the President`s lawyer is back to looking for a lawyer, himself, reportedly.

Later, the polls are moving for the Democrats as this next debate is looming as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on a Thursday night, and we take you to a break by way of this.  The late Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, a lion of the House, today became the first African-American elected official ever to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol where he was remembered today in the old chamber where Abraham Lincoln once served.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It`s never good when there`s so much bad news CNN has to switch to a smaller font to fit it all.  And it`s definitely about to get worse for Trump because of these two shreks.


WILLIAMS:  The two shreks are otherwise known as close associates of Rudy Giuliani, both of them Ukrainian born.  They`re charged with making illegal campaign contributions to influence the U.S. election and are said to have been helping Giuliani track down dirt on Democrats in Ukraine.

"The New York Times" reports the Southern District of New York, where we remind you Rudy was once the U.S. attorney, is actively investigating his dealings in Ukraine.

Two former federal prosecutors and friends of this broadcast, Joyce Vance, Barbara McQuade, write today, "Based on facts already in the public record, we believe that Rudolph Giuliani could be indicted now for conspiracy to interfere with the fair administration of elections, conspiracy to commit bribery, and contempt of Congress."

Rudy has said he`s not aware of any investigation, though we note he`s been notably absent from Fox News primetime lineup.

Here with us tonight, another former fed, Mimi Rocah, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.  What are the chances?  Now a Distinguished Fellow in Criminal Justice at the Pace University School of Law.

Counselor, do you think Rudolph Giuliani recognizes the legal jeopardy he faces right now?

MIMI ROCAH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY:  I do, and the reason I think he recognizes it is because he`s apparently been declining to go on T.V. and give interviews.  And when I saw that, I thought Giuliani actually knows that there`s real trouble, because for him to be silent, I mean, from -- we talked for two years about, you know, Giuliani can`t stay off of television and doing interviews and admitting things left and right.  So he`s finally quiet which tells me that he knows he`s in some hot water here.

WILLIAMS:  Last night we saw him come up for air briefly on Twitter and I`ll show you what he wrote.  We`ll put it on the screen and I wanted to ask you if this is a valid defense.  "With all the fake news, let me make it clear that everything I did was to discover evidence to defend my client against false charges.  Dems would be horrified by the attacks on me if my client was a terrorist, but they don`t believe Donald Trump has rights.  Justice will prevail."

The portion we`ve highlighted there, what`s the significance?

ROCAH:  Well, so, yes.  So he knows he`s in some legal trouble, but I think he can`t quite figure out, you know, what to defend against.  And so there, he`s trying, once again, as he`s done many times before to hide behind the shield of attorney/client privilege, of being the lawyer.  I`m just, you know, a lawyer defending my client.  And, therefore, anything I do is OK.  Well, that`s obviously not true.

The attorney/client privilege, the role of an attorney, is something very important and something that should be respected.  He`s abusing it. And, in fact, what he really did there is he really put a dent in what Trump and others have been saying, which is, oh, everything we were doing with Ukraine, we were just doing to look out for, you know, dig up public -- I`m sorry, corruption in Ukraine.


ROCAH:  And we were looking out for the best interests of the United States.  No, Giuliani just got on Twitter and said, no, no, this was for the personal benefit of Donald Trump, which we all know from the facts and circumstances and now Giuliani has admitted it.

WILLIAMS:  One of the so-called two shreks is claiming executive privilege.  Can a Ukrainian claim executive privilege between him and our President?

ROCAH:  It`s a ludicrous claim.  And it sounds like the prosecutor in court was, you know, I think said this is the first time we`re hearing of that.

Now, again, attorney/client privilege, yes, you would have to be careful of that.  Not a total shield.  They have to -- sounds like they already have in place some kind of, you know, filter team to go through and make sure they don`t pierce that privilege.  If it`s there in a valid way, but executive privilege, so the President`s personal lawyer`s criminal conspirators have executive privilege?  I mean, it`s preposterous, but what it does, again, is it does draw a line between these two guys and the President.

I mean, they`re making some connection there.  There must have been some kind of interaction, whether it, you know, it was direct or indirect through Giuliani.  So even though it`s a ludicrous claim of executive privilege, I think it`s very interesting factually when we see what is the line that they are -- able to make that connection.

WILLIAMS:  I`m glad you`re going to be along as this story rolls along to explain the rest of it to us.  Mimi Rocah, always a pleasure.  Thanks for joining us tonight.

ROCAH:  Thank you.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up, while Trump does get a lot of attention, there`s new polling on the Democrats that deserves your attention tonight.  And so guess what we have, Steve Kornacki at the big board with all the numbers when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  As we said, the Republicans have gotten a lot of attention this past week and over the past few days.  We`ve also received mixed polling results on exactly who was leading in the Democratic presidential race.

Here to sort it all out as only he can do, Steve Kornacki, our national political correspondent.  Hey, Steve.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Hey, Brian.  Yes, well we are now in what I think you`d call the pick your polls season of the Democratic primary.  What I mean by that is if you are a supporter of, let`s say, Elizabeth Warren, then this is the poll you would pick.  It`s the brand-new one out today.  Quinnipiac National Poll.  And look at this, holy cow, Elizabeth Warren not just ahead but ahead by seven points.  The largest lead she`s enjoyed in this poll all year.  Seven-point lead for Warren over Joe Biden.  Bernie Sanders back in third place.  Buttigieg, a very distant fourth place.

So if you`re a Warren supporter, you`re saying, wow, there was that debate a couple weeks back.  And now look, here`s Elizabeth Warren.  She`s been climbing all year.  And she`s pulling away now.  That`s the narrative.  The Warren campaign would like you to take out of this poll.  But then guess what, 24 hours before this poll, there was this.  A different poll.  And if you`re a Biden supporter, this is the poll you want to talk about because this is the best Joe Biden has done in months in a poll, a 15-point advantage for Joe Biden.  Warren a very distant second place, so distant she`s almost being doubled up by Biden in this poll.  And by the way, Bernie Sanders only a few points behind.  So what the heck is going on here?  Two polls with very different results.

When that happens the thing to do is look at the totality of it.  So here`s another way to look at this.  We`re going to show you every poll that has come out since the last Democratic debate in the middle of the month.  And here`s what you see.  There is that poll today with Warren leading by seven points.  There is that poll yesterday with Biden up 15.  But otherwise, Biden, Biden, Biden, Biden, Biden, Biden.  Seven of the eight polls since the debate, Biden has led in.

What does that mean?  If you average every poll together, this is probably the fairest snapshot of where the Democratic race stands nationally.  Biden is still in first, Warren a little more than five points behind Sanders.  Remember, all those predictions that Sanders was going to fade out bought of his health scare, he`s still sitting there at 17%.  That`s probably the fairest readout nationally on what this debate -- what the shakeout of the debate is.  Individual polls can take you in wildly different directions.  Trust the averages when that happens.

WILLIAMS:  OK, Steve, at the risk of mucking up your beautiful presentation, tell me the poll I saw today that has Biden in Iowa in fourth place because all roads lead through there, but this may explain why the Biden campaign has been saying Iowa shmiowa (ph), wait until you see us in South Carolina.

KORNACKI:  Yes.  And that`s -- so take this -- take at look here, this is an Iowa State poll that came out today.  Warren in first in Iowa, Buttigieg in second in Iowa.  Sanders third.  They have Biden in fourth.  Now, again, individual numbers can be all over the place, but this does lead to an important point.  The picture that`s been emerging in Iowa lately has looked different than the picture nationally.  Biden even in polls where he`s led in Iowa has been right around 20%.

If you look at the polling average in Iowa right now, we showed you nationally Biden`s in the high 20s.  His average number in Iowa is 18 right now.  So in the average of polls, Biden not been as strong here.  Iowa very different with Buttigieg much stronger.  And, yes, if you lose Iowa, if you come in fourth early, that`s big trouble for any campaign.

WILLIAMS:  Steve Kornacki at the big board.  It is always a pleasure having you on the broadcast.  Thanks very much.

KORNACKI:  Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  coming up, a big reversal for Joe Biden.  What it may say about something Steve just showed us.  The state of his campaign right now when we come back



REP. MARK MEADOWS, (R) NORTH CAROLINA:  Perhaps, this place and this country would be better served with a few more unexpected friendships.


WILLIAMS:  Republican Congressman Mark Meadows today.  Tomorrow a funeral service in Baltimore for Congressman Elijah Cummings will bring even more people together.  The speakers, the eulogists, will include President Obama, President Clinton, Hillary Clinton, with Joe Biden also in attendance meaning Obama and Biden will be seen together for the first time publicly since Biden launched his campaign which has, as we`ve been talking about, struggled of late.

"New York Times" reports the campaign effectively dropped its opposition to receiving assistance from Super PACs.  Shane Goldmacher reports, "The move represents a stark reversal and implicit acknowledgment of his weakened position in the contest.  He entered October with only $9 million in the bank.  A fraction of his leading rivals."

We are so happy to have back with us again tonight Jonathan Allen, NBC News national political reporter and Amie Parnes, senior correspondent for "The Hill."  Together, these two veteran journalists wrote the "New York Times" bestseller "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton`s Doomed Campaign."  It is the benchmark reporting on that campaign.  It is out in shatterproof paperback, I note, and I also note they are working on another book for 2020.  These are hardy souls.  Welcome to you both.

Amie, does the Biden campaign and these days touch and feel and impressions are worth something.  Does it feel like a winning effort?

AMIE PARNES, SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE HILL:  You know, when you look at the effort, you look at Elizabeth Warren and you compare him to what`s happening with Warren, she has momentum, she has the crowds.  She has fund-raising going in her favor.  All of those things are sort of what Democrats wanted all along.  She`s that candidate.  She is sort of like the Barack Obama, the Bill Clinton, the one who`s aspirational, inspirational.

And so I think that that is sort of giving them worry right now and some pause in the campaign.  And that`s sort of why you`re seeing them kind of - - they don`t want to be in this position where they`re playing defense and that`s all they`ve been playing right now.

WILLIAMS:  Jon, the -- we talked about this dynamic.  Biden kind of went away and went silent during the biggest fuselage from Trump about Ukraine, which however false spreads this notion that something hinkie was going on with the Bidens and Ukraine.  So that, in part, led to this.  I`m going to quote from our friend Mike Allen over at Axios.  "Biden hits Trump for mixing family and government business but Hunter Biden`s past work has made the former V.P. a target for Trump.  Biden can weigh in on Syria, but he has to reckon with the fact that he was there when President Obama drew and ignored that red line.  Biden gets tangled up in the race debate because of his own record opposing some busing and comments about working with white segregationists."

So, Jon, back to the question, is he the best messenger for his party in 2020 of all years?

JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  I mean, Democrats are whistling past the graveyard, Brian, if they think that Donald Trump`s not going to be able to attack Joe Biden, if he`s not going to be able to muddy the waters on a variety of issues that Joe Biden would like to draw contrasts on.  So the challenge for Biden is to be able to draw a line and say, what I did, what`s going on in my backyard, is fundamentally different than what`s going on with President Trump.  And I think he`s tried to do that.  And I think in some cases he`s been more successful than in others.  But that is a fundamental fight that he`s got to have and it`s one that he`s got to have aggressively if he`s going to convince Democratic voters that in the general election, this is not something that`s going to come back and haunt him.

WILLIAMS:  Amie, on the other hand, he could try to prove his argument that he is so electable, he has the President of the United States, it is alleged, approaching foreign leaders, can you help a brother out to defeat my leading rival for the presidency back home?

PARNES:  Right.  And that`s exactly what the campaign is doing right now.  That is their talk bing point if there ever was one.  Look at what President Trump is doing.  He is doing all of this.  He is risking impeachment for -- because he is so scared to take us on.  And that is why I think you see them sort of talking about how he`s fighting an election, a general election battle, but he`s also fighting a primary battle.  And that`s why they need this super PAC money.  That`s sort of their justification for why they need it because they`re fighting these two battles at one time.

But I think that they are -- they need to sort of do a better job explaining why them, why now, why is he the best candidate right now?  What makes him more electable than someone like Elizabeth Warren?  And they haven`t really done that yet, and that is why Democratic donors, Democratic strategists, everyone is kind of in this freak-out moment right now, like, can this be -- is this whole Ukraine situation the equivalent of Hillary Clinton`s e-mails?  Will this be our undoing?  And I think that is so problematic for them right now.

WILLIAMS:  Don`t forget swift voting, another great favorite from years past.  hey, Jonathan, no one can hear -- this is just us now.  I`ve pulled the cable out of the wall that feeds the rest of the country, so it`s just you, me and Amie.  When reporters sit around talking, who does have a chance, and how much stock do you put in these continued articles that wherever two or more Democratic donors are gathering for, perhaps, a beverage in New York or Washington, they`re talking about who else might be out there.

ALLEN:  I put a lot of stock in the articles because I think those conversations are going on.  I hear those conversations.  Sources are constantly talking about how they feel like the -- like the field isn`t exactly what they`d like.  They love a candidate with the electricity of Elizabeth Warren with a profile politically a little bit more like Joe Biden`s or perhaps somebody with Joe Biden`s moderate temper -- moderate -- moderate policy stances who`s able to juice the crowds like Elizabeth Warren.

The problem for them is that those are the conversations happening in Washington and New York.  Those are not necessarily the conversations happening around the country.  And the other problem for them is there`s no silver bullet candidate.  I think a lot of this is generated by people who would like to get in themselves but haven`t thrown their hats in the ring.

WILLIAMS:  All right.  Both guests who happen to be co-authors have agreed to stay with us over this break.

And coming up, another Democrat is out of this race.  Yet another has qualified for the next debate.  That story after this.


WILLIAMS:  Tim Ryan of Ohio is out of the race.  He tried but failed to ignite a movement of mostly working people.  Classic Democrats.  Some now former Democrats including those in his home state of Ohio.  As he used to say, people who take a shower after work and not before.  With any thinning of the herd, the next candidates move up and sure enough Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has become the ninth candidate to qualify for upcoming -- our upcoming MSNBC debate on November 20.

And last night during an interview on Fox News, a long-time Hillary Clinton advisor confirmed something that D.C. Democrats have been whispering about.  He said Hillary Clinton hasn`t ruled out getting in for 2020.


PHILIPPE REINES, FMR CLINTON ADVISER:  She ran for president because she thought she would be the best president.


REINES:  If she still thought that now, if she thought she had the best odds of beating Donald Trump --


REINES:  -- I think she would think about it long and hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She`s not -- she hasn`t foreclosed the possibility.

REINES:  No, she has not.


WILLIAMS:  Still with us, the co-authors Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes.  Amie, as I hold your book aloft, the chronicle campaign, in light of a veteran Washington based Democrat I was with today, straight face said, it`s possible, it`s possible.  And further, this person said she could beat him.  Do you believe any of it?

PARNES:  I have -- I don`t really because if I`m being honest --

WILLIAMS:  Thank you for your honesty.

PARNES:  I just think that, you know, it`s late in the game.  She had her moment twice.  A lot of people feel like there`s no place for her in the party.  She`s still beloved by a lot of people and a lot of people kind of want her voice and want her in the mix.  But I think a lot of people also feel like we`re in this situation because she, you know, because of her e- mails, because of all the controversy that always looms around the Clinton and Clinton, Inc., and all of that.

And so, I think that scares a lot of people.  And yet you hear these rumblings.  I did a story this week on this, about how people want her in the race, because they think that it`s the ultimate rematch.  She can get in there and do it.  There is still that longing for her with a lot of folks.  And so there is that rumbling.  And it was started by Republicans, but Democrats are kind of interested in little ways, a little intrigue.  But I do believe that she has talked to people about it.  Someone told me a long-time confidant of hers, that she is -- of course, she`s thought about it.  Of course, she`s interested in jumping in.  But the question is there a place for her.  And that is unclear right now.

WILLIAMS:  Jon Allen, you`re escaping this.  Same question.

ALLEN:  I`m tempted Brian to give you the -- forbade same answer that my co-author did.

WILLIAMS:  Oh very good, she did that very well.

ALLEN:  I can`t improve on it.  I would just say, look, Philippe is very close to Secretary Clinton.  The truth is she`s always wanted to be president and, you know, of course, he wouldn`t foreclose possibilities for her on live television.  But the set of scenarios that would have to play out for her to become the Democratic nominee and to become president of the United States would make a bookie`s head spin.  The likelihood is that she`s not running for president.  The likelihood is she will not be the next president.  And, you know, she didn`t choose to run this time.

WILLIAMS:  All right.  I`ve got one for you, Jon.  Here`s Tulsi Gabbard on Fox News tonight.  We`ll discuss after we watch.


REP. TULSI GABBARD, (D) HAWAII:  I want to send a message straight to your viewers here today.  Join me, support me, help me, vote for me, contribute to my campaign to finally bring about an end to Hillary Clinton`s war mongering foreign policy and the influence that she`s had for so long over the Democratic Party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I`ve got to run.


WILLIAMS:  So, headline here, Hillary apparently won in 2016.  Jonathan, what`s going on here?

ALLEN:  I mean, there may be some subtle things going on behind the scenes.  There`s obviously a battle between Hillary Clinton, who thinks that Tulsi Gabbard is a witting or unwitting asset of Vladimir Putin and Tulsi Gabbard who thinks Hillary Clinton is giving her a great opportunity to have a foil that helps her raise money and get some attention.  I think that`s what`s going on from the Gabbard side right now.  I think she`s trying to raise some money, trying to raise her profile.  Hope there are some Democrats out there who dislike Hillary Clinton enough to get behind her campaign.  But the truth is Gabbard is struggling desperately and is in need of any lift she can possibly get.

WILLIAMS:  Amie, does that mean so much for stronger together?

PARNES:  No -- you know, and this -- the Democratic Party right now is still a splintered party, and this is just evidence of that.  There is still this Bernie/Clinton hatred.  And I think the big saving grace for Democrats is that there is so much loathing and hatred for Donald Trump that they will vote for their left shoe over him.  And so maybe it all comes together in the end.

WILLIAMS:  That is a book jacket quote right there ladies and gentleman but these two co-authors, Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes.  Our thanks, great to have you both on here tonight.

Coming up, why we may be getting close to putting out a call for Hugh Grant?


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, because what happens across the Atlantic matters to us and involves us, and because as history looks back at it Brexit may have been the first Russian election tinkering experiment before they took on our own, there`s been a development. as they say, Boris Johnson, a.k.a. BoJo the prime minister, famously said getting the U.K. out of the E.U. by next week was do or die.  Looks like he will do neither, but he`s chosen a third option.  He wants a general election.

To get that in the U.K., you need a two-thirds vote of the House.  And just like getting two-thirds of our own House to agree on anything, that`s going to be tough.  And short of an overwhelming victory, it`s not clear what an election will get Johnson or Britain.  The E.U. remains in that uncomfortable role of a significant other who`s been told that a break-up is coming.  It`s been threatened several times, but each deadline has passed.  And while they are still officially in a relationship with the U.K., they have been asked if they can`t just extend the deadline for their own break-up.

We just can`t help but think Great Britain would benefit from a rousing speech by the prime minister reminding them who they are.  Not this prime minister, but former Prime Minister Hugh Grant.


HUGH GRANT, ACTOR:  We may be a small country, but we`re a great one, too.  A country of Shakespeare, Churchhill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter.  David Beckham`s right foot.  David Beckham`s left foot, come to that.


WILLIAMS:  It`s just a thought.  Aaron Sorkin did the same thing for our former President Martin Sheen, and it worked out for him.  We`ll keep you updated on the U.K., but here in the U.S. tonight, that`s our broadcast on a Thursday night.

Thank you for being here with us.  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