LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight the push to impeachment passes its first public hurdle, and the republicans don`t like it. The hearings are about to go public, and the President is trying to lock up his support even as more closed door testimony comes in.
As to just how big a moment this is, the one we`re currently living in, one of our experts tonight is prepared to say it`s the whole shooting match. This is now about the republic and the kind of country we want to have.
And previewing one of our guest predicts will be a November to remember. It`s possible the Democrats running may find it tough to get attention.
Also tonight, Trump has discreetly made an important decision about the future. All of it, as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Halloween night, 2019.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 1,015 of this Trump administration, and the President has entered what is likely the most treacherous phase of his time in office thus far. This morning down party lines, the House of Representatives took a major step in the effort toward the impeachment of Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA HOUSE SPEAKER: The question is on the adoption of the resolution. Those in favor, please say aye.
MULTIPLE SPEAKERS: Aye.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: With that and starting there, the House voted to formalize the impeachment inquiry allowing for public hearings, letting the President and his team to eventually mount a defense. The resolution passed 232 to 196. Republicans under pressure from Trump to shut down the inquiry unanimously opposed the measure. Democrats were joined by independent Justin Amash of Michigan.
But two Democrats, Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Collin Peterson of Minnesota, they broke ranks to go over and side with the Republicans because both are trying to stay in office in conservative congressional districts. During this morning`s floor debate, Speaker Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy tried to frame the vote in terms of its implications for the nation`s political future.
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PELOSI: what is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy. We all raised our hand to protect and support the constitution of the United States.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) CALIFORNIA MINORITY LEADER: Today is more than the fairness of an impeachment process. It is about the integrity of our electoral process. This impeachment is not only an attempt to undo the last election, it`s an attempt to influence the next one as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The President again invoked the witch hunt minutes after the vote, then attacked Democrats in a radio interview in the U.K., of all places, and with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage of all people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats are desperate. They`re desperate. They have nothing. They`re going to try and win the election this way because they can`t win it the fair way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Outside of the U.K., Trump is trying to tighten the political support around him. This afternoon, a group of nine Republican senators went to lunch at the White House. Congress also gathered more testimony today. A former top Russia expert on the National Security Council Tim Morrison, he testified today under subpoena. He is the second official to testify who was listening in on the July 25th phone call.
According to "The Washington Post," Morrison testified that, "The rough transcript accurately and completely reflects the substance of the call." NBC News reports Morrison told investigators that, "He thought there was nothing illegal about the call. Morrison also told investigators that a conversation he had several weeks later with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. and a Trump backer, gave him reason to believe that the release of aid to Ukraine might be conditioned on a public statement that it was reopening an investigation into the energy company Burisma. And he confirmed the substance of U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor`s testimony as accurate."
Last week you may recall, Taylor testified behind closed doors that Morrison had alerted him to an effort by the President to withhold security aid for Ukraine that had been approved by our Congress in exchange for those investigations.
All of it leading up to our kickoff discussion on a Thursday night. And for that we are joined by Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for "The New York Times" and co-author of the book "Impeachment: An American History," Annie Karni, White House reporter also with "The New York Times," and Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at the CIA and the Pentagon and notably former chief counsel over at the House Intel Committee.
Peter, I`d like to begin with you tonight. We just learned of an interview the President has given to two journalists with "The Washington Examiner." I`ll read you this. "This is over a phone call that is a good call, Trump sitting behind the Resolute Desk said, at some point, I`m going sit down, perhaps as a fireside chat on live television, and I will read the transcript of the call, because people have to hear it. When you read it, it`s a straight call."
Peter, a couple of notes here is. We haven`t seen or heard yet the transcript of the call. We have seen a summary of the call. So that much I suppose would be news. What do you make of this?
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think it actually, you know, goes to his theatrical entertainment style of the presidency, right? His idea is that he can put on a performance and therefore convince the public or at least a significant portion of the public they did nothing wrong. He has said from the beginning he thinks that the phone call was perfect, such as it was, that he didn`t, you know, do anything that improperly pressured a foreign country for his own political benefit.
I think obviously a lot of people have read that transcript, the rough transcript or incomplete transcript or however we want to frame it and come to a different conclusion. Now, if he did that on a television thing, obviously, it`s a way of daring the other side and see what`s wrong with this and trying to explain it to the public, a public that may or may not be paying much attention, that may or may not, you know, get into the nuances of the phone call or the nuances of the testimony that surrounds the call.
It`s not just the call. It`s the context in which the call took place, which is to say while Rudy Giuliani is putting pressure on the Ukrainians, while, you know, the Ukraine has been told they get no meeting with the White House unless they produce the statements that the President wants about investigation of Democrats, while security aid has been temporarily suspended at the very same time the President makes the call.
So all these things add up. It`s not just the call. But it would be a showman`s way of approaching it and it would be a daring way of challenging Democrats to make their case.
WILLIAMS: Peter, because you`ve been doing this for a while and because you and I covered the Clinton era, widen out here. How consequential a day was this in our modern history?
BAKER: Well, it`s a big day. Any time the House of Representatives votes to launch an impeachment inquiry or set the frame, a debate for impeachment inquiry, that`s a big thing. We`ve only seen it a handful of times in the country. Now we`ve seen it three times in the last 40 years with Nixon and Clinton.
I think it was in some ways a bad day for the President in the sense that if he hoped to divide the Democrats into scaring some of those Democrats who were from swing districts where Trump won in 2016 and voting against it didn`t work, for the most part the Democrats stuck together. It was pretty unified caucus. I think a good day for the President in the sense that the Republicans also stuck by him. In fact, not a single Republican went along with this idea of an inquiry.
And it`s a lot easier to vote for an inquiry if you`re a Republican than to vote for an actual impeachment article if that`s what it comes to in several weeks` time. So I think then affect -- he set the standard for which it`s going to be harder for Republicans to switch sides. So that`s a good thing for him if he stays partisan because it means he will, you know, have a better chance of winning acquittal in the Senate. It does though suggest that there`s likely to be a party line vote in the House in the near future.
WILLIAMS: So Annie Karni, help us turn the corner. Does anything at the White House change by dint of what we witnessed today? Is this a pivot point? Are there more people being added or we`re going to see a new response?
ANNIE KARNI, THE NEW YORK TIMES, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: They`ve been talking about adding a few new communications aids now for a little while. So we may still see that.
The one thing I heard today from Republicans lawmakers who have been speaking to the President over the last two weeks is that his tone and mood on this sort of changed once he realized that no Republicans in the House were going to break with him on this vote. They said behind closed doors he has been consistently bringing up the subject that why aren`t you guys defending me on substance? Why is it only on process? I want a defense for me that`s also based on the substance of my interactions on this call and with the Ukrainians. There was nothing wrong with that ever. And expressing frustration.
I talked to someone who spoke with him yesterday who said that he was mostly talking about baseball and seemed relieved now that he knew that all the Republicans were going to be on his side in this. So his mood seems to be better than it has been now that he sees that it`s really breaking completely along party lines. But a big question for them will be now that this impeachment probe is entering a new phase, a public phase, what will be their argument if they can`t knock the process that it`s going on behind closed doors? It`s not going to be behind closed doors anymore. What`s the argument of why this process is flawed? That`s a question they`re going have to answer.
WILLIAMS: OK, Jeremy Bash, however this might be a buzz kill for the President, let`s both listen to Adam Schiff tonight. We`ll talk about it on the other side.
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REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA, CHAIRMAN INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: One of the aspects of the resolution that we passed today authorizes me to begin releasing transcripts, and I would expect that process will begin as early as next week. You will see extensive periods of questioning by the staff counsel, both majority and minority. That`s the practice we`ve used in the depositions. It`s been very effective to bring out the facts. It`s very conducive I think to telling the narrative of what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So, Jeremy Bash, this is going to hurt the process argument. The Republicans today who said this was soviet style, this investigation thus far, because it`s all going to come out. There are a number of Republicans who want to say to this President don`t argue this as a fireside chat because the facts aren`t good for you either.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, I think when these transcripts are released it`s going to be a worst picture for the President. All of the witnesses who have come forward have essentially corroborated the same story, that there was an effort by the President to ask the Ukrainians to interfere in the 2020 election, that he withheld American military aid and a White House visit until that happened and that the White House staff, including lawyers of the White House staff sought to cover that up.
And so really the defenders of the President only have three places to go without these process arguments available to them. Number one is I guess perhaps they could say, well, the facts weren`t as described. He never said these things, and, you know, it`s a misinterpretation of the people who heard that. I don`t think that`s going to fly. They could argue the law. They could say, look, the President did do these things, but it`s not unlawful, not impeachable. In other words, it`s awful but not unlawful.
And I guess the third approach, and we begin to see hints of this is that they could go on the attack against decorated combat veterans like Ambassador Bill Taylor who is in the 101st Airborne in Vietnam and who has served a 25-year public service career culminating this role as ambassador to Ukraine or Colonel Vindman who is an active duty army officer who has served for 20 years in the military, who was wounded in combat in Iraq and who`s going to tell the story that he heard the phone call personally, and he thought it was inappropriate and illegal.
WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, one of your colleagues who knows a thing or two because he has seen a thing or two is Carl Hulse and he writes today. "When the Republican-led House voted in 1998 to begin an impeachment inquiry into President Bill Clinton, 31 Democrats sided with Republicans and the White House breathed a sigh of relief that the number was not significantly larger. In today`s hyper-polarized Washington, defections of that magnitude on the question of impeachment would be considered a tsunami."
And, Peter, just confirming you see no reason to think that we`re going to see any kind of massive or even minimal switchover?
BAKER: Well, look, anything can happen, obviously. And because it has been behind closed doors for now, we haven`t seen the drama that a public hearing might entail. We haven`t seen the kind of questioning and the kind of, you know, explanation of what the stakes are here that we might eventually see in the next few weeks. But having said that, absent, you know, explosive evidence that we haven`t seen already, it`s hard to see what changes the mind of Republicans who say I don`t think this is worth even investigating, switching them over to the point where they say, not only is it not worth investigating, I think it`s worth removing the President from office, right?
There`s 31 Democrats who voted in 1998 to authorize the impeachment inquiry against President Clinton. We`re making the case to the public, we have to at least look at it and then we`ll decide. It shrank to a number of five by the time the actual impeachment vote happed in December of 1998, right? So 26 Democrats said, yes, let`s look at it and said we don`t think it`s enough. It`s hard to see how you switch 26 or 30 or whatever number of Republicans the other direction.
And as long as it comes out of the House on a party line vote, it`s a bad thing for the President again to be impeached. No president wants to be impeached, but it sort of sets the tone for a Senate trial that if it stays on party lines means he is guaranteed of some sort of an acquittal or dismissal or something like that. And then he takes the case to the voters. And that`s something we haven`t seen before, right? With Clinton and Nixon, they were second term presidents. They didn`t go back to the voters after it was over. If Donald Trump survives this impeachment process, he goes to the polls. And it`s up to the American public to make a decision.
WILLIAMS: Yes, the timing is interesting. Hey, Annie, I think we`ve got a Mississippi rally tomorrow night and then two more rallies next week for the President. Is this just in keeping with the need for an intravenous of the base?
KARNI: I mean this is -- he`s been running for reelection since the day after his inauguration. We`ve seen an uptick in campaign rallies recently. But the impeachment inquiry for the kinds of people who show up at the rallies, which is the hard-core base, this only gets them revved up, giving more money, giving more support to the campaign.
But again, the people who show up at the rallies are a subset of Republican voters overall. They are the hard-core supporters. But again, we`ll see, you know, if this goes through the way many Democrats also think where he`ll be acquitted in the Senate. That`s going to be a big part of his argument to voters going through all of next year saying they tried to get me, and he`ll boil it down to something like no collusion, no obstruction, no quid pro quo. It will get boiled down and that will be the message he takes to voters.
WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, to the point you just made about especially the Republicans engaging in character assassination, the people who know better, isn`t this going to come down to what Republicans in the House and Senate consider, OK, consider straight-up proper for this day and age in terms of a President`s behavior?
BASH: Yes. And, Brian, I`ll just share that I heard from one retired army officer tonight who texted me, "There`s nothing that the military current and former are more upset by than by having someone who never served question the patriotism of a combat veteran." And I think if the Republicans are going to go on the attack against people like Colonel Vindman, against people like Ambassador Bill Taylor, who served in combat, against career public officials who have done their dead level best to protect American interests all over the world, I think it`s not going to be a great day for the defense of the President.
WILLIAMS: With that, our thanks tonight to Peter Baker, to Annie Karni, to Jeremy Bash for joining us here on the broadcast. Greatly appreciate it.
And coming up, as Democrats move toward impeachment, one Republican strategist says Trump allies must decide if their oath of office indeed means anything and what kind of country we all want to be. Steve Schmidt will be here with us next.
And later, impeachment hearings coming at a crucial time in the presidential campaigns, let`s not forget. It could be especially tricky for those with senator in their title. There are six of them. THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this Thursday night.
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REP. DOUG COLLINS, (R) GEORGIA: This is a travesty. No one should vote for this. This is a sad day. The curtain is coming down on this House because the majority has no idea about process and procedure.
REP. JIM JORDAN, (R) OHIO: Trying to put a ribbon on a sham process doesn`t make it any less of a sham.
REP. STEVE SCALISE, (R) LOUISIANA: When you look through this resolution and you see how one-sided, how Soviet-style this is running, this is the United States of America. Don`t run a sham process, a tainted process like this resolution ensures.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That`s about how that went today. A former Republican congressman, Justin Amash of Michigan voted with the Democrats on today`s resolution. Before today`s vote, the now independent posted, "This President will be in power for only a short time, but excusing his misbehavior will forever tarnish your name. To my Republican colleagues, step outside your media and a social bubble. History will not look kindly on disingenuous, frivolous and false defenses of this man."
Tonight, we welcome back to our broadcast, Steve Schmidt, former Republican strategist who`s worked for among others Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, John McCain. He has since left the Republican Party and is now back with us from having consulted for now the former independent political campaign of Howard Schultz.
My friend, I want to start you off with how consequential you think today was, and then talk about these times we`re living in right now. What does this mean?
STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What we see right now, what we know happened is in my eyes a profound abuse of power by the president of the United States. Who called a foreign head of state, withheld U.S. military aid, asked for the foreign head of state to launch an investigation into a U.S. citizen to aid his campaign for 2020, that citizen happening to be the son of a political opponent.
If you can do that to the former vice president of the United States, it means you can do that to anybody. And if that`s OK to ask a foreign head of state to investigate an American citizen, that means it`s OK for the president of the United States to see someone say on television who doesn`t like the criticism of him and order the IRS, let`s say, to investigate them, or to target that individual with the Department of Justice.
In a constitutional republic where the rule of law is supreme, that is simply unacceptable. The president is a president, not an emperor. So what we saw today is deeply discouraging, because what it indicates is that the constitution, which is the document that all of these members have sworn an oath to preserve, protect, to uphold, to defend against all enemy, foreign and domestic, that that oath is subordinate to their loyalty to man, to a person, to a party, and those should be subordinate to their constitutional obligations.
And you look at the Capitol dome, and you think about what an honor it is to be sent to Washington by the people of the 50 states to serve the national interest, to be a steward for a brief time of the constitutional republic that was birthed in 1787. And that republic has often been referred to as the American experiment because no republic has endured.
And so here we stand at an hour where there is a question on the table, and the question is, is the President above the law? Is there any behavior that would be viewed as intolerable by this Republican minority in the House of Representatives? And if the answer to that is no, then what that means is the checks and balances of our system created by the geniuses in Philadelphia has been obliterated in the year 2019. So this is a profoundly important moment.
WILLIAMS: So we`re about to find out if Kevin McCarthy, if Mitch McConnell believe in everything you just laid out?
SCHMIDT: I think we will. I think it`s very important that the President`s most vocal critics be the most vociferous voices for demanding that this be done properly and that the president be accorded the appropriate levels of due process, that he be treated fairly, right? That is essential to this. But if this is to be on a partisan basis, what that means is that the impeachment, which is constitutionally mandated, and Alexander Hamilton writes about it in the federalist papers in `65 and `66, what it means is the impeachment would be viewed as illegitimate by half the country, and that`s a disaster for this country.
We are one people, and we`re all in it together, but what this will do in the end on a party line vote is just exacerbate the divisions and increase the hostility between what has become two warring tribes in Washington, D.C., but nowhere in this does there seem to be any deference to the national interests and to the oath.
And interestingly, the people that are coming forward and testifying at great risk and are talking with alarm about what they saw, those are the people who have sacrificed the most. Those are the people who have taken the oath to the constitution and have been wounded in combat, for example, that have served on the front lines in harm`s way. And they`re standing up for the American republic and what they view as a grave abuse of power by this President.
WILLIAMS: Steve has agreed to stay with us just over this break. And when we come back, the President`s trouble doesn`t begin and end with impeachment.
A reminder, there is also North Korea, Syria, ISIS, to name a few. More on that when we come back.
WILLIAMS: As the President ramps up his attacks on impeachment. He still faces a number of significant issues abroad. Today, North Korea test fired two short range missiles off their own east coast. Washington Post reports the 12th test since May came days after the North said it was losing patience with the US over stalled denuclearization talks.
Also today, there is this. ISIS confirmed the death of Baghdadi and named its new leader, virtually unknown to the outside world. But in an audio message, the group warned the United States not to celebrate Baghdadi`s death and urged its fighters to seek revenge.
The New York Times reports that waves of US troops are leaving Northeast Syria every day under the President`s orders, while at the same time a separate wave of troops is headed into the country from the opposite direction. Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper write this, "Once the comings and goings are done, the total number of United States forces in Syria is expected to about 900, close to the 1,000 troops on the ground when Mr. Trump ordered the withdrawal of American forces from the country.
Still with us Steve Schmidt. Steve Schmidt, the President has told the base we`re going to get out of these forever wars. He has told the base it`s time to bring our men and women home.
I want to show you something else that was designed for the base. This is Congressman Louie Gohmert from Texas on the floor of the House.
We don`t have Congressman Louie Gohmert from Texas on the floor of the House. Wait until you see him, however. Talk about the disconnect though, however, between a base that won`t hear that there is stasis among our troop levels in the Middle East.
STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: We`ve had three years of constant lying and gaslighting of the American people, really going back to the first moment of the administration when Sean Spicer comes out, and tells the American people it was the biggest crowd size ever, despite the picture showing that the Obama crowd was twice the size.
And so, one of Trump`s accomplishments, and it is an accomplishment is in the area of physics. He has ruptured the space-time continuum, and he has created an alternate reality.
SCHMIDT: We now live in two dimension. There`s reality and then there is the alternate reality that half of the country believes approximately. And nobody should underestimate this president`s ability to create a weight of message that is equal in aggregate to all of the news media that`s trying to report the truth about what`s happening.
So he can say up is down and down is up, and right is left and the sunrises in the west and sets in the east. And what`s always been scary about the lying is that, these aren`t lies of ambition or convenience the politician tells. His lying is lies of authority, because his lies require the obedience of his supporters who know at some level that none of it is true.
And so it`s deeply disturbing. Democracies rely on truth, and no healthy democracy has anything like what we see here where the leader is constantly lying to the people, because democracies can`t function without truth because truth is essential to accountability.
WILLIAMS: I can read you what Louie Gohmert said. I can`t do it quite like him. This is Louie Gohmert on the civil war today. "They want it to be a one-sided non-due process sham court, and it`s all about to push the country into a civil war if they were to get their wishes. And if there is one thing I don`t want to see in my lifetime, I don`t ever want to have participation in, it`s a civil war. Some historian, I don`t remember who said guns are only involved in the last phase of a civil war." What`s the consequence talking like that?
SCHMIDT: Well, it`s reckless. I mean, Louie Gohmert is a wacko bird. And if the wacko birds had military rank, he`d be an eight star general. You know, he is somebody, you know, who says a lot of crazy things, but the intimations towards violence, the talk of civil war, are all over right wing media with regard to this impeachment.
And everybody should understand the gravity of this moment in time, that the country is deeply divided. The president has incited those divisions. We have seen the specter and the menace of violence at these Trump rallies. It`s an alarming time, and nobody should underestimate the possibility of there being political violence in this country associated with it.
I think that what was clear all along as you`ve watched this unfold is that, we would eventually reach the consequences stages of the Trump presidency. And, for example, we see it in Syria. Now ISIS has a new leader and hopefully we`ll get him soon too, but there is a lot more ISIS fighters loose because they all escaped from jail when we precipitously withdrew from our positions, betrayed and abandoned our Kurdish allies, and handed a geopolitical victory to the Russians, the Syrians and the Turks in that region.
So there is suffering, and there is death in that part of the world caused by Donald Trump`s incompetence and the rashness of his actions. That`s far away still. But the idea that we`re immunized from it here and that it can`t draw closer. We live on top of a powder keg to some degree in the politics in this country, and it`s going to get worse before it gets better.
WILLIAMS: Steve Schmidt, good to see you. Thank you for coming in.
SCHMIDT: Good to see you.
WILLIAMS: Appreciate it. Coming up, new concerns that Donald Trump may be using contributions to buy loyalty among vulnerable Republican members of the Senate, we`ll bring you that when we come back.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: What a phony deal it is, what a phony investigation it is, and the Republicans have to get tougher and fight. We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight because the Democrats trying to hurt the Republican Party for the election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: To that point, it would appear President Trump is using money to instill loyalty among vulnerable Republican senators, the story tonight being reported by Politico.
Trump is tapping his vast fundraising network for a handful of loyal senators facing tough reelection bids in 2020. Each of them has signed on to a Republican-backed resolution condemning the inquiry as unprecedented and undemocratic.
The senators here include Tillis of North Carolina, Gardner of Colorado, Ernst of Iowa, three states where Trump is presently under water in the polling.
With us tonight to talk about it, Zerlina Maxwell, former Adviser to Hillary Clinton`s campaign, these days, the Director of Progressive Programming at SiriusXM. And back with us again, AB Stoddard, Columnist and Associate Editor at RealClearPolitics. Welcome to you both. And special welcome to you, Zerlina.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, DIRECTOR, PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING/SIRIUSXM: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: I want to start off by getting your reaction to what Susan Glasser has put out tonight. "So fascinating that of all these dozens of Republican House members, none of them, not one, makes the calculation that history will judge them harshly for picking Donald Trump. It`s a bet on America`s future that suggests Trumpism outlives Trump."
Do you think that will survive? Do you think with all of the media and all of the Democrats reminding these Republicans this is a vote for your grandchildren, do you think that will survive?
MAXWELL: Well, time will tell, because each day that goes by, there are more damaging facts that are coming out that are new facts, more witnesses that are coming out to corroborate the bad information that we`ve already learned about the President. So this is a very fluid situation still.
But today is such an important moment in history for three reasons, really. Nancy Pelosi talked about, you know, standing up and protecting the constitution, right? You`re talking about the founding of our country and ensuring that our process is fair and that people are held accountable when they violate the rule of law.
So that`s why we`re doing this today, and that`s a marker that we should put down and say this is the significant moment in history for that reason, the second and third reasons why today are so important, because we`re talking about a future election. So Republicans can`t sit back and say we don`t have any, you know, we don`t have to take a stand or take this seriously because the American people are going to understand that if the election that is coming about a year from now is not fair, that this is not fundamentally a democracy.
The third point, I`ll make is that, in this moment, Trump is undermining our national security. So I think that`s why you`ve seen in the last five weeks this moved so quickly, because that is an existential threat to the country you. Have you Rudy Giuliani and all his cronies doing side hustle foreign policy and undermining really what all of the elected officials had been sworn to protect, which is upholding the constitution and protecting our national security.
So I think that Republicans are going to have to go to sleep every single night thinking about those three points because those are three things the American people understand.
WILLIAMS: And, AB, on that exact front, you spoke earlier today with great emotion about the fact that especially Republicans and especially Republican senators are going to get the chance here to decide what`s OK. Who do we want to be going forward? What are we going to allow our President to do?
AB STODDARD, COLUMNIST & ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: They know that they took an oath to the constitution and not the man, an oath to our system. They know so deeply that if this is not an abuse of power, there are not much -- that can be define as an abuse of power. And I do think that they know the founders were very concerned about foreign influence as well. And that folds into, you know, what is a great threat when you abuse the vast and awesome powers you have as president.
I do think that there are several men who are retiring who will have to look at the pages of history, and they`re leaving anyway. It`s not about reelection. And then you look at some senators who are right now maybe enjoying some campaign donations from President Trump.
But if it comes to the point, Brian, where they`re going to lose any way, all three of those people are underwater in their states. And they`re polling and they`re having trouble fundraising.
If it gets to the point in February where they`re not going to win anyway, is the last vote they want to take to prop up President Trump and to normalize what he has done on the call with President Zelensky and possibly with other leaders of foreign nations.
So they have a long time. If this was taking place tomorrow and they could say, well, it`s really hard to do this on one phone call, impeach a president. But this, as Zerlina points out, is going the grind on as the Southern District of New York continues to probe Rudy Giuliani and other things, ugly facts continue to pop up.
So I think it`s going to be very painful for people who are not named Mitt Romney, who are either in cycle or retiring in the Senate.
WILLIAMS: I would add three more names to that hopper, Alexander, Blunt, Portman, really interesting. I think all three have grandchildren. I`m not sure there.
STODDARD: There are a lot of people in the Senate who have grandchildren, retiring or not. So yes, they`re going to have to take the long view.
WILLIAMS: Both of our guests have agreed to stay with us over the break. Coming up, we talk the 2020 race. Remember that one?
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JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`ve been through in the Senate two impeachments. They`re not pleasant. They`re not pleasant. And it`s hard for a nation to be examining itself and its president in front of the whole world. It`s a difficult thing. And it`s not a happy thing, and so I don`t take any joy in it.
KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It will affect the campaign if that happens, because obviously I`m going have a responsibility to be in the Senate, which means I would not be in the state of Iowa. So we`ll see.
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WILLIAMS: You heard that point right there. The 2020 candidates are going to have to figure out how to navigate this in an election year. It`s really an unprecedented set of circumstances. Let`s not forget ultimately the US Senate would act as the jury during impeachment, and there are six US senators in the race.
Politico adds this detail. Aside from being away from the campaign trail during the trial, the senators would face an additional potential burden. They wouldn`t be allowed to speak publicly on the matter in chambers because during the weeks` long trial because they are supposed to sit as silent jurors. I`ll get it.
Still with us here, Zerlina Maxwell, AB Stoddard.
Zerlina, I guess, there`s no rulebook for this. And I guess, they go along and get along. The bigger question is, has Joe Biden yet been able to convert into electability, I`m the guy that Ukraine is about?
MAXWELL: No, I don`t think so. I mean, I don`t think he missed the original opportunity. When the story first broke, there was a moment, right, when he could come out and go on offense. He chose not to do that. And because of that I think that`s a missed opportunity that he can`t get back.
MAXWELL: So now we`re in a moment where he`s actually late coming to the impeachment train, right? You had Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro and others come out immediately upon reading the Mueller report and say, this is obstruction, we need to impeach this president.
So in some ways, they are out front on this and he`s playing catch-up. I think in this moment, this is actually good for him, though. This means that he`s not going to be under the same media scrutiny on a daily basis, which is good because then he won`t have, you know, the Uncle Joe moments and some gaffes, potentially.
But also the second tier candidates, they`re always going s to be fighting for that national attention and it`s been sucked out by the top three.
So Biden, he mostly stays kind of hidden. He does smaller events and that`s fine. He`ll continue to do that. Bernie is going to continue to raise a lot of money. Elizabeth Warren is going to continue releasing plans and surely talking about them.
But I think it`s that second tier that I`m going to be paying close attention to, how do they take advantage of this particular moment? Are they trying to make local news? Are they trying to make headlines in Iowa? Or are they trying to focus on volunteer recruitment, which then means you can raise more money, you can knock on their doors, you can recruit more volunteers that way, it`s a cycle, right?
And in that way, I think you can build that infrastructure that you`re going to need. We think of DNC (ph), you know, the ground game as just that last few weeks before the election.
The ground game is right now. You need to build the infrastructure to get those people to the polls come caucus day or come primary day in New Hampshire. And so the work begins now, and maybe with the lack of media spotlight from the national media because we`re all going to bee talking about the testimony and the hearings, they`ll have that opportunity behind the scenes, and then they`ll focus on the local media.
WILLIAMS: AB, as you, so often, your role, tell the good folks watching tonight about the fortune the Republicans have raised?
STODDARD: Oh yes, the numbers that the RNC, they triple the DNC in July, they quadrupled the DNC in JULY. The DNC is broke, their carrying debt. The RNC is not. The DNC has not been on message attacking Trump throughout the Hunter Biden thing, which they did not have to mention Hunter Biden in. They could have been running ads against the Trump family`s conflicts around the world.
They`re not running a ground game yet in primary states, where they`re going to need to -- they are going to want to win Iowa next year and New Hampshire, two battlegrounds. The RNC is everywhere. They started years ago and they`re raising money like a house on fire, 313,000 new small donors in the third quarter. They have a very, very unpopular, the most unpopular incumbent in modern times to re-elect. But they have the operation to do it. And the DNC is in real trouble.
WILLIAMS: Remember, the unofficial Democratic Party slogan, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Zerlina Maxwell and AB Stoddard, thank you, friends, for coming by. Appreciate it.
Coming up, it was buried in a tax filing, but it represents a big life change for that man, Donald J. Trump of Queens, New York.
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TRUMP: You know, in Florida they love me. I love Florida. I`m there a lot. It`s a great place, beautiful sunshine.
My second home, Florida. I love my second home. I love Florida.
I love Florida, and I have a great relationship with the people in Florida, also. I should be retiring with you. I should be in this audience clapping.
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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, that was Donald Trump. That last bit there at the villages in Florida, just four weeks ago, turns out he wasn`t kidding.
The man from Queens, New York, the guy who slapped his name on a Fifth Avenue high rise and then lied about how many stories it had, that man Donald J. Trump of New York is changing his official residency to Florida.
Earlier tonight, Maggie Haberman of the New York Times had the clean kill. And we quote, "In late September, Mr. Trump changed his primary residence from Manhattan to Palm Beach, Florida. Melania Trump, the first lady, also changed her residence to Palm Beach. Each of the Trumps filed a declaration of domicile saying that the Mar-a-Lago Club, Mr. Trump`s resort in Palm Beach, will be their permanent residence.
This means that in no particular order Florida will now be home to hurricanes, manatees, Joe`s Stone Crab, the Everglades, Rick Wilson, anything in Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center, Jeb Bush, the Daytona 500, and Donald Trump. It`s a lot.
The move may have been motivated by some sort of nexus of his deep unpopularity in his home state of New York. Governor tonight wished him good riddance, and more likely the tax savings. The top rate in New York State is 9 percent, New York City, 4 percent, and New York City has Bill de Blasio, so three more reasons why the Trumps may see Florida as a win-win.
And starting tonight Floridians have time to adjust to the thought. Richard Nixon certainly loved it down there, and Harry Truman before him, but this time might just be different.
That is our broadcast for a Thursday evening. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night from our NBC headquarters here in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END