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Trump attacks California amid horrific fires. TRANSCRIPT: 11/4/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Michael Schmidt, Melanie Zanona, Nancy Cook, David Jolly, JonRalston, Joshua Jamerson

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, the impeachment investigation intensifies.  One of those two indicted Giuliani associates may be ready to cooperate.

And the Democrats just released transcripts of their own.  They tell a remarkable story of our Ambassador to Ukraine, realizing Rudy was conducting foreign policy, realizing she was being drummed out with no support from her boss, feeling threatened on the job and amazed to hear the President talking about her with a foreign leader on the phone.

Also tonight, the increasing evidence that the Ukraine corruption conspiracy theory dates back to Paul Manafort, who is now in prison.

And a big loss for Trump today as an important federal court weighs in on his taxes.  And tonight the experts weigh in on where they think this is headed as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Monday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 1,019 of the Trump administration.  And as the President takes his fight against impeachment, as he did tonight, to Lexington Kentucky, Democrats feel they are gaining and building their case against him.

Just tonight, Lev Parnas, one of those two Rudy Giuliani associates in the effort to have Ukraine help Trump investigate his rivals has agreed to give documents and testimony to Congress.  Parnas, who was picked up while apparently trying to flee the country, has already been indicted on campaign finance charges and refused to comply with investigators initially last month.

He and the other guy, Igor Fruman were also involved in the effort to oust one-time U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who Trump recalled back in May.  And that brings a big move from the House Democrats to the fore today.  This morning they went public with the impeachment inquiry, releasing the first transcripts from witnesses who behind closed doors gave depositions.

Remember, these are the depositions that were being taken in private, the same proceedings the Republicans wanted to disrupt a week ago, demanding transparency.  Well we got some of that transparency today.

Nearly 500 pages of it, testimony from the former ambassador, and a top aide to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Ambassador Michael McKinley.  They are now no longer secret.  House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff described the essence of what the witnesses has said.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA, INTELLIGENCE CMTE. CHAIRMAN:  The apparatus of the State Department itself was being used to seek political information for a political purpose by the President of the United States and others.


WILLIAMS:  It`s actually gripping reading as our former Ambassador Yovanovitch testified, she learned of plans to get rid of her from, "people in the Ukrainian government who said the former prosecutor general was in communication with Mayor Giuliani, and they had plans, and that they were going to do, you know, do things, including to me."  She added they "told me I was -- I really needed to watch my back."

She also testified that when she asked former Trump donor turned E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland for advice on how to handle the attacks against her from Giuliani and Trump allies, he "said, you know, you need to go big or go home.  You need to, you know, tweet out there that you support the President."

Yovanovitch says a Foreign Service official eventually called her at 1:00 in the morning to warn her, "there was a lot of concern for me, that I needed to be on the next plane home to Washington."  She said, "I don`t know, but this is about your security.  You need to come home immediately."

Late today, the President was asked what he knew about former Ambassador Yovanovitch.


KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS:  Was Marie Yovanovitch the target of a smear campaign by your allies?


WELKER:  She testified she was.

TRUMP:  But if you look at the transcripts, the President of Ukraine was not a fan of hers either.  I mean, he did not exactly say glowing things.  I`m sure she is a very fine woman.  I just don`t know much about her.


WILLIAMS:  Sorry for the multiple pronunciations yet on that July 25th phone call with Ukraine`s President.  Trump said about the ambassador, "The former ambassador from the United States, the woman was bad news."

Today four witnesses subpoenaed by House Democrats including John Eisenberg.  He is the lawyer to whom several White House officials reported their concerns about that Ukraine phone call, all skipped their closed door depositions, didn`t show up.

NBC News has learned that most of the witnesses scheduled to testify the rest of this week are not expected to appear either.  That includes Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, OMB Acting Director Russell Vought, and former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Over this past weekend, newly obtained documents from Special Counsel Mueller`s investigation revealed new details about the beginnings of this Ukraine controversy.

"New York Times" reporter Michael Schmidt, who is standing by to join us in just a moment writes, the documents show that one-time Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, "spread a conspiracy theory now at the center of the impeachment investigation that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee as early as five months before the 2016 election.

Meanwhile, there are other legal challenges before the Trump White House.  Today a federal appeals court ruled the President must turn over eight years of tax returns to the Manhattan District Attorney.

We also learned today that writer E. Jean Carroll is suing Donald Trump for defamation over his denial of her allegation of sexual assault.

And tomorrow jury selection starts in the federal criminal trial of former Trump adviser and long-time friend Roger Stone.  He is accused of trying to obstruct a congressional inquiry and intimidating a witness over his role as the link between the Trump 2016 campaign effort and the organization WikiLeaks.  Stone is facing as much as 20 years in federal prison.

But this item from the President`s rally in Kentucky tonight caught our eye.  It was impossible to miss the t-shirt saying "read the transcript," except that we can`t.  As the President knows, it was never released, just this summary.  What we know is not the exact wording that the President used when speaking on the telephone with the President of the Ukraine.

Well, joining us for our lead-off discussion on a Monday night, Michael Schmidt, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Correspondent for "The New York Times," Nancy Cook, White House Reporter for POLITICO, Melanie Zanona, Congressional Reporter for POLITOCO, and Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence.

And Frank, given the news of the day, I would like to begin with you.  Can you remind the folks watching tonight why was it the President of the United States was apparently hell-bent on removing a career diplomat from this ambassador post?  Why was it that her boss, the Secretary of State didn`t run interference for her?  And why is it that the President as recently as today is quoting a foreign government in Ukraine as not having preferred this ambassador?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  Well, you`ve asked the key questions that every American should be asking.  And the answers are unfolding as we hear reports of the depositions and the deposition transcripts are released publicly.  What we`re seeing behind all of this reasoning is that she wasn`t on the Trump team.

And by that I mean to use the Italian Mafia phrase, La Cosa Nostra, "this thing of ours."  She wasn`t part of this thing of ours in Trump`s mind.  She was trying to represent the interests straight up of the United States government and trying to advocate on behalf of Ukraine.  That wasn`t working for Trump.  People told him she needs to go.  He bought off on that.  It`s all about the self-interest over the national interest.

WILLIAMS:  Michael Schmidt, remind us when she first was seen as an obstacle to the Trump camp, and also remind us how little sense it made from the get-go that Ukraine was meddling in our 2016 election.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, THE NEW YORK TIMES WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Well, if you follow the story of what`s unfolded with Ukraine, basically from the spring until now, Rudy Giuliani really got the President`s ear around the end of the Mueller investigation.  And he was trying to help the President prove that he had done nothing wrong and that it was his enemies that were actually the problem.  And in the process of that Giuliani convinced the President that this ambassador had to be removed.

Now the question is what was truly motivating Giuliani to do that?  Did he really believe that the ambassador was corrupt and was really holding up, you know, issues in Ukraine, and that that really needed to be fixed, or was there other reasons for doing that?  Was Giuliani doing it on behalf of Ukrainian businessmen?  What was it that pushed him to so aggressively, as one witness described it poison the President`s brain about Ukraine?

And that is the focus of this investigation in part that`s going on in the Southern District of New York, to try and understand why that ambassador was removed.  If you remember, that was mentioned in the indictment of the two associates of Giuliani just several weeks ago, and it`s something that they are trying to understand.  This is an action that the President ended up taking that doesn`t really have a real answer to it.

WILLIAMS:  Melanie, starting tomorrow, what are the Democrats up to and what`s the roll-out strategy on this case?

MELANIE ZANONA, POLITOC CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER:  Well, they have been releasing this transcripts bit by bit instead of an entire batch.  The one advantage of that for Democrats is that they can keep their momentum going, especially as they really hit a wall in their quest for more impeachment evidence.  As you mentioned earlier, a bunch of the witnesses stopped showing up today.  We`re not expecting any more witnesses to show up in the coming days.

So I do suspect that every day we`ll probably see a few more transcripts.  Tomorrow there are two big one, Kurt Volker as well as Gordon Sondland, two of these U.S. diplomats who were involved in this pressure campaign.  But beyond that, Democrats are going to have to start figuring out who do they want to bring in to testify.  Who do they think can make the best case to the American public that the President deserves to be impeached?

And perhaps with Marie Yovanovitch`s testimony today, she did come off as sympathetic witness.  She talked about her security being at risk and that the President was, you know, was going after her and she`s concerned about that.  So perhaps she could be someone they bring in but they just haven`t made those decisions yet.

WILLIAMS:  Nancy Cook, I mentioned the t-shirts in the Kentucky, "read the transcript."  We can`t.  We would love to, and that much we know is fact.  If the White House can`t argue on the facts, what`s going to be their pushback strategy, again, starting tomorrow?

NANCY COOK, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, I think what they`ve done all along is tried to -- well, they`ve tried to do a few things.  But one thing that they tried to do is boil this down to political slogans that they think are catchy, like read the transcript, or no quid pro quo.  And that`s something that, you know, that President Trump has been trying to do his whole presidency when during the Mueller investigation he would say things like no obstruction, no collusion.

And so he tries to boil it down to catchphrases even if they don`t fit with the pattern of facts that Democrats on the Hill are unveiling.  I think the argument that I`m going to be watching that is a bit more nuanced is how Republicans on Capitol Hill justify this.  We`ve seen senators who are going to be the next people who have to consider whether or not the President should be impeach after the House change their argument a little bit in the past week.  So that now they`re saying, oh, I don`t want to talk about it.  You know, I`m going to be a juror in a Senate trial.

But really, it`s a topic that Republicans in the Senate want to avoid.  And what I`ll be watching is how they message this and how they don`t necessarily focus on the substance of the allegations and whether or not the President tried to collude with the foreign government or tried to get a foreign government to interfere in our election.  But more how they justify it either on process claims or questions of trying to make it just a partisan exercise.

WILLIAMS:  And Nancy, on that last point, the less charitable way to put it is they know better.  And because they know better, this is going to get tougher sledding for them.

COOK:  Absolutely.  And I think that it already has gotten tough sledding for them.  We`ve seen a bunch of them, you know, come out and sort of hide from my colleagues in the Senate, hide from my colleagues who cover the Hill sort of saying, oh, they haven`t read the transcript, or, you know, they`re not familiar with the documents, when in fact they`ve been splashed all over the news when it`s come about.

And it`s interesting because I do think that President Trump originally took the stance of thinking he was going to bully senators or bully Republicans into supporting him.  But both White House aides as well as Senate Majority Mitch McConnell have told him that that`s really not the way to go.  What you need to be doing is wooing Republicans.  And so what I think we`ll see this week is more Republicans going to the White House for lunches and meetings, which is what the White House has been doing to try to keep the party unified.

WILLIAMS:  And Melanie, you just used the expression hitting a wall.  So many things are going on with the Democrats right now.  They are indeed, if people are willing to say, we`re just not going to show, then they`re not going to show.  So they`re hitting a wall in that respect.  They`ve got to decide if a big fish like Bolton is worth the wait, because at the other end, they have the clock and the calendar and they`re unforgiving.

ZANONA:  Yes, that`s exactly right.  That`s the dilemma right now for Democrats is, do they sit around and wait for these legal battles to play out, or do they move forward and just add this to an article of obstruction of Congress.

And based on what Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said today, it sounds like they`re not willing to wait around.  They feel like they have enough evidence, because up until today, they`ve had witness after witness line up and spill their secrets and divide the White House noncooperation strategy.

So Democrats feel like they have enough here. They want to move forward.  They do not want this stretching into 2020.  The timeline has slipped a little bit.  We used to think it was going to happen by Thanksgiving.  Now it`s looking more like Christmas.  But when you start looking at the calendar you think you can get through the next couple of months pretty quickly here for Democrats.

WILLIAMS:  Michael Schmidt, I`m trying to prevent asking you to make a judgment, but I`ll put hit the way.  Folks over the weekend heard or read something perhaps about Mueller investigation documents now coming public.  In your view, has anything come public that would cause Democrats to say, where was this?  Why didn`t you use this effectively?  Or a third category, can this now be turned around and used for the compilation of an appointment case by the Democrats.

SCHMIDT:  I don`t believe these documents change the information.  I think we often forget there is a 400 page report that lays out contacts between the campaign in Russia and all sorts of incidents that could be -- it construed as obstruction.  So, I`m not sure what Democrats would need that they do not have in that report.  It`s incredibly detailed.

These are some new details.  They provide some new insights, but they don`t move the ball.  And certainly not as much as the Mueller report did.  But, if you go back in time a little bit to the spring when it came out, the Democrats really struggled to get folks to catch on to the notion of impeachment around the report.

Chairman Jerry Nadler of the Judiciary Committee sought to bring witnesses to testify about and he couldn`t get witnesses to come up.  He ended up having some television legal minds to speak.  That was the best that he could do.

And now the difference with Ukraine is the fact that they have had so many witnesses.  They`ve been able to build that momentum and really make an argument to the American people that what they are going through is worth it.

WILLIAMS:  Frank Figliuzzi, as much as it defies reason, why would a guy like Manafort have been spreading around a theory of election interference on the part of Ukraine six months before our election, certainly months before our presidential election.  What do you think that was about?

FIGLIUZZI:  Yes, this is a bit of a head-scratcher, but it confirms for me the concept the Russians phrase, polezny idiot, useful idiot, that they viewed, the Russians viewed Manafort as a useful idiot to spread their gospel.  And that that gospel was hey, don`t look at the Russians.  Look over here at the Ukrainians, because there is reporting that Konstantin Kilimnik may have planted that seed.

And Manafort said that, hey, it`s not the Russians that did the hacking and all of that.  It`s the Ukrainians.  Well, of course, Konstantin Kilimnik is -- has been labeled by the FBI as a potential associate or linked to Russian intelligence.  And we know that the U.S. government has indicted 25 Russians for social media propaganda and the hacking.  So there is no question -- there should be no question in anybody`s mind as to who did this.  And so the only reason why Manafort would spread this disinformation is because someone planted it in his head, and he followed along.

WILLIAMS:  Unlikely that Mr. Manafort is watching any of this coverage tonight, as we fail to remind people often enough, the President`s former campaign chairman is tonight in federal prison.

With that, our thanks to our initial conversation group for tonight, to Michael Schmidt, to Nancy Cook, to Melanie Zanona, to Frank Figliuzzi, greatly appreciate it.  Thank you gang.

And coming up for us, more on the President`s efforts to disclose the identities of his most potentially damaging critics.

And later, the numbers move again in the running order of the 2020 Democrats.  We`ll have it all as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting under way on a Monday night for a new week.



TRUMP:  The whistleblower should be revealed because the whistleblower gave false stories.

I think that the whistle-blower gave a lot of false information.  And you have to see who the whistleblower is.

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY:  I say tonight to the media, do your job and print his name.


WILLIAMS:  So we have a President there and a United States senator.  The President added this earlier today.  And we quote, "The whistleblower gave false information and dealt with corrupt politician Schiff.  He must be brought forward to testify.  Written answers not acceptable."

This is, of course, the argument being advanced by Congressman Jim Jordan of the Trump camp among others.  Even though, of course, we quickly add the President`s only responses to the Mueller investigation were written answers through his lawyers.

With us to join the conversation tonight, Maya Wiley, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, these days with the New School -- you know, I got screwed up there.  Sorry about that.  And David Jolly, a former Republican member of Congress from the great state of Florida who has since left Congress and the Republican Party, come to think of it.

Maya Wiley, I want to talk to you about whistleblowers in general, but I have one more thing to show you.  This is former Attorney General Whitaker on Fox News.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do we break something if we let politics interfere with outing a whistleblower?

MATT WHITAKER, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Well, a whistleblower is never guaranteed anonymity and that`s, you know, all they`re guaranteed is that they won`t be retaliated against from a workplace in a job standpoint.  So, you know, for me I think this whistleblower does need to publicly testify and be subject to cross-examination, which is consistent with the American legal traditions that we all believe make this a great country.


WILLIAMS:  So Maya Wiley, is the former chief law enforcement officer of the United States telling the truth there?  Is there a confidentiality understanding with whistleblowers?

MAYA WILEY, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY:  So there`s a yes and a no.  So I want to be very straight up with the public on this.  The yes part of, of course there is an assumption on the part of a whistleblower that`s built into what was a Trump -- I mean an Obama-era policy directive that not only that that as long as you`re going through the process that we have laid out if you`re an intelligence whistleblower.  Because, remember, we are talking about intelligence whistleblowers a little bit different because they`re supposed to keep state secrets.

But what happened is we laid out a process by which people could come forward and say there`s been a law violation or an abuse or gross fraud where we have a national intelligence issue.  And they said as long as you do it through the proper channels you`ll be protected if the inspector general says it`s credible and does not release your name.  In other words, it`s pretty much the -- up to the inspector general for the National Intelligence Community to decide that.

Here we had both the national intelligence inspector general as well as the director of, I think director of national intelligence protecting the whistleblower`s name, saying the whistleblower -- the allegations were credible.  And also saying essentially by not giving up the name we think this is the category that it stays confidential.

What`s more complicated is, it is the inspector general who basically protects the name.  There`s nothing that really guides us on whether a President of the United States who has the ability to make --

WILLIAMS:  Can criminalize and out a whistleblower?

WILEY:  Can criminalize and out a whistleblower because no one really anticipated a situation where a sitting president would literally try to bring the power of his office down on a public servant who other public servants said credible, followed procedure, did the right thing, we should protect.  We never anticipated that.  We didn`t craft around it.

So the one thing that Matthew Whitaker is right about is, there`s nothing explicitly that says that Donald Trump can`t demand it.  But that`s very different from the policy that surrounds this.


WILEY:  The public policy is very clear.  We want to protect people who come forward to blow a whistle on something that we would otherwise not know was happening that was wrong, and when you go through the process, when you follow the law, when you go through your chain of command and when your chain of command says you did the right thing, you did it for the right reasons, you were credible, how do we put this person in that position?

WILLIAMS:  David Jolly, talk about the long-term consequences of what we`re seeing right now involving the President.  Also talk about your former party.


WILLIAMS:  Was today a day of reckoning?  Will tomorrow be?  Will we ever know one when we see one?

JOLLY:  I don`t think we`ll ever see self-reckoning.  Because let`s reset the narrative here from the garbage that we heard from Rand Paul.  The whistleblower is a patriot, plane plain and simple.  And should be defended by the President and both United States senators for following the law and putting the interests of national security ahead of any politics that Donald Trump or Rand Paul want to play in this moment.

It also is setting up a false argument that you`re going to hear from Republicans and Democrats are not falling for it and neither should the American people.  The status of the whistleblower is inconsequential at this point.  Everything he initially presented or she initially presented has been corroborated, has been admitted to by the President, has been corroborated by Mick Mulvaney, confirmed --

WILLIAMS:  Story has moves path (ph).

JOLLY:  -- confirmed by Bill Taylor, contextualized by Lieutenant Colonel Vindman as a matter of national security.

Gary Kasparov, the grand master of chess and the Russian political activist said, the point of this information is not just to get people to accept the lie.  It`s to annihilate truth and to exhaust people`s defense of the truth.  That`s what Donald Trump has done with today`s Republican Party.

And I shared with your colleague Nicolle Wallace earlier today what -- what Republicans` final argument will require is convincing the American people that only Donald Trump tells the truth.  That Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is not telling the truth.  That Ambassador McKinley, the dean of the Foreign Service core that we heard from is not telling the truth.  Ambassador Yovanovitch is not telling the truth.

At the end of the day, this is the Republican Party saying Donald Trump is the only person who speaks the truth in American politics.  And we know from his history, his history is replete with lies and deception on the American people and he is actually fulfilling the warning that Gary Kasparov has left with us.

WILLIAMS:  Both of our guests have agreed to stay with us over the break.

And coming up, more peril for this President today about a part of his life that he has tried desperately to keep private, more on that after this.


WILLIAMS:  Today, a federal appeals court ruled President Trump`s accounting firm must turn over eight years of tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors.  Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. had subpoenaed the documents as part of an investigation into payoffs to two women who alleged affairs with Trump before the election. The three-judge federal panel wrote in their decision, "any presidential immunity from state criminal process does not extend to investigative steps like the grand jury subpoena at issue here".

In a statement today, Trump`s Attorney Jay Sekulow, said he would appeal the case writing, "The decision of the second circuit will be taken to the Supreme Court.  The issue raised in this case goes to the heart of our Republic.  The constitutional issues are significant".

Still with us tonight, Maya Wiley and David Jolly.  Maya, I heard two of your fellow former feds, not easy to say, but two voices I respect along with yours, speculate today the court won`t take this, that there won`t be four votes to take it.  If not, why not?

MAYA WILEY, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY., SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  So I would make the same guess.  And the reason is because the law is pretty clear and it would be a pretty extreme position to -- and it`s easier to not take the case than to actually address the question, but it would be a pretty extreme position to even take up the question that there can`t be any investigation, even to preserve evidence of a crime against a sitting president.  That would be extreme and there`s lots of case law that supports both the district court and the appellate court in this case.

WILLIAMS:  And sometimes they`re like the rest of us and they don`t want this and they weren`t hear them.

WILEY:  They don`t want to hear it.  Yes.

WILLIAMS:  Congressman, what`s the danger of this case to the overall narrative you were just laying out?

DAVID JOLLY, FMR. REPUBLUCAN CONGRESSMAN:  Well, this will provide additional momentum, if you will, for Democrats should the tax information be released because it will not be helpful to the President of the United States.  I do think we will -- this will test the independence of today`s Supreme Court, the Trump court, if you will.  And I`m hopeful as you all discuss that they actually don`t pick it up and the circuit court decision stands or the appeals court decision stands.

What we are seeing, though, Brian, in real time, this is a perfect example of the criticism that people have said Trump is trying to position himself above the law.  Within the same week they are making cases that they are constitutionally immune to any investigation by the Congress and therefore they`re not cooperating, we`re not seeing witnesses go to the Hill.  They`re making a constitutional immunity argument that there is no oversight of the Congress that can reach them.

While at the same time, Sekulow`s arguing the courts can`t reach the President either, cannot command the President to release his tax documents.  That is the definition of somebody trying to place themselves above the law.  It is contradictory to our very constitution.  The crown that we broke from this says, no, our chief executive in the United States will be held accountable by the other two branches.  Donald Trump is saying, no, I won`t.  This is a dangerous moment happening in real time.

WILLIAMS:  And Maya Wiley, this is why the integrity of the court is so critical.  That before we`re at the end of whatever this is going to be, the court may get a slice of this, the court may get a cut at this baseball and they`ve got to proceed with their integrity intact.

WILEY:  They`ve got to proceed with their integrity intact.  And I would go one step further than David`s comments.  This is Donald Trump saying he`s above the constitution.

WILLIAMS:  That`s right.

WILEY:  Which is the law of the land, but that`s what`s so dangerous here is, who can say they`re above the constitution?  Especially the most powerful person in our government.  And I do think what`s interesting if we go back to Ms. Carroll, the one thing that case law is clear about including Supreme Court case law is, you bring that defamation case, the President has no argument because the Supreme Court has decided she can depose you.

WILLIAMS:  Wow.  All right.  On that note, our thanks to Maya Wiley, to David Jolly.  Appreciate seeing you both.  Thank you for coming in.

Coming up, the numbers on the move again in the Democratic 2020 race.  Two veteran political reporters following it all.  They will join us when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  Sorry for this reminder, but almost exactly one year to go now before the 2020 election.  Two new national polls are painting a pretty clear picture of the Democratic Party`s top tier.  New York Times, Sienna College and Fox News polls both have Joe Biden back in the lead followed by Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg.  These national poll numbers are echoed in a rare Nevada caucus poll released just today.

Joe Biden leads in that state with 29 percent.  Sanders and Warren are tied at second each 10 points back with 19.  Buttigieg follows with 7 percent.  And some bad news there for Kamala Harris who has fallen behind billionaire Tom Steyer in the list of the top six.

Here with us tonight, Jon Ralston, Veteran Journalist and Editor at The Nevada Independent and Joshua Jamerson, National Political Reporter for The Wall Street Journal.  Gentlemen, welcome to you both.  Mr. Ralston, to you out west first.  Remind our viewers, please, the demographic differences in the great state of Nevada that we don`t see in, say, Iowa or New Hampshire and how that can affect certainly these early polls.

JON RALSTON, EDITOR, THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT:  What could you be referring to, Brian?  Iowa and New Hampshire are 90 percent or so white.  Nevada is the most diverse state to vote in the primary process.  You know we have a burgeoning Hispanic population.  It`s been a factor in the presidential race the last three cycles.  Significant African-American and Asian populations.  It`s a completely different campaign here for a variety of different reasons.

And I think that Joe Biden`s strength here that you showed in that poll that we released today is going to surprise some people who thought that, as you mentioned, that Senator Harris might be doing better here, that Castro would be doing better here, too.  They have both made many visits here.  They`re barely registering in the polls.  Tom Steyer instead is ahead of all of them.  He`s spent a fortune here on mail and TV.  But Joe Biden, who everybody keeps describing as the shakiest front-runner in the history of politics, is not so shaky here with significant leads over both Warren and Sanders, who by any measure are more organized on the ground among these demographic groups that I talked about, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  And Josh, about the Castro campaign, just in the last few minutes I`ve become aware of this POLITICO headline.  Castro to lay off New Hampshire, South Carolina teams.  Josh, this is the mean season.  This -- We have a boat load of Democrats in this race, but this is when it starts to get cruel and money tightens up and the only thing that buys jet fuel for the campaign plane is money, as far as I`m aware.

JOSHUA JAMERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:  Yes, that`s exactly right.  And, you know, just to add on to what we were saying earlier about Nevada, I think what`s also interesting about that poll for the Biden campaign is that they were facing down a few polls in Iowa, which he said earlier is a more -- less diverse state.  The electorate is whiter.  You can see that Joe Biden was either trailing Elizabeth Warren or tied with her there so that poll came in in the nick of time for Mr. Biden.

WILLIAMS:  And Josh, generally, do you expect based on the beat you cover movement in slots in and out of, say, the top four in the next few weeks on the calendar?

JAMERSON:  I think it would be unwise to venture a guess at that --

WILLIAMS:  Dang, I tried.

JAMERSON:  -- but I think what`s clear -- I think what`s clear, you know, I was in Iowa most of the political press score (ph), I left D.C. and went to Iowa over the weekend for the liberty and justice celebration where there were 13 Democratic candidates.  And I think one of the main story lines out of that venue where you had more than 10,000 Democratic activists and supporters was that Mayor Pete Buttigieg was getting a second look in that state.

Again, I think the demographics in that state are favorable to him.  He still has struggles nationally as well as in more diverse states, especially in South Carolina where African-Americans make up a large chunk of the electorate.  And, you know, there`s an argument to be said that African-Americans are the base of the Democratic Party and if you can`t win with those voters, then, you know, a poll in Iowa where the electorate is much more white and not as representative of the Democratic Party doesn`t say so much.  So I think that it`s, you know, Pete Buttigieg is going to have a good week and I think the national polls reflect that as well.

WILLIAMS:  All right.  Gentlemen, stay with us.  I`m going to fit in a break.

When we come back, a reminder that voters are going to the polls tomorrow.  Hours from now, in fact.  Some of the races to watch from both of our journalists when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  Election Day 2019 has a weird ring to it, but it`s going to be tomorrow.  Democrats are looking for wins in the heart of Trump country in races the President`s got a stake in.  Trump, as we mentioned, in Kentucky tonight rallying for Republican Governor Matt Bevin.  He faces a tough re- election against Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear.

Trump has also tied himself to the Mississippi governor`s race.  He was there just on Friday on behalf of the Republican Tate Reeves who faces another Democratic A.G. Jim Hood.  Few weeks back, you`ll recall, Trump traveled Louisiana to campaign for that Republican candidate for governor, and over the weekend he urged voters again to get out early and vote for Eddie Rispone in his race against sitting Governor John Bel Edwards.

Also in play, and this is important, the Virginia legislature.  Democrats are hoping to take back control before new redistricting maps are drawn up.

Still with us, Jon Ralston, Josh Jamerson.  Jon, out to you again, what races when all is said and done and we`re here talking to Steve Kornacki tomorrow night, what`s going to matter to you?

RALSTON:  Well, I guess it`s how the old saying goes, Brian, the only extrapolation that matters is the one that`s a year before Election Day.  I mean, I just -- I think Steve will say what any smart analyst would say.  Listen, if Republicans get hurt in the deep south in these races, that may be a canary in a coal mine, but if they go to the Republicans, I don`t think it`s going to matter that much.

These off-year elections are always, I think, over analyzed and look -- people look for harbingers (ph) for the even numbered years.  There were rumblings at the end of 2017 in the governor`s races that indicated maybe the Democrats were going to do well.  But, Brian, you remember what happened in 2016, it has nothing to do with the states that you`re going to be talking about tomorrow night.  It`s those states that the Democrats usually win in the Midwest that they lost.

And you saw that New York Times poll today with Sienna that indicated that maybe Trump is still doing pretty well in those states.  That`s where next year is going to be decided barring the unforeseen and of course saying barring the unforeseen in these times is probably a good thing to say, right, Brian?  But the point is, is that it`s not going to be about Alabama or Kentucky or Louisiana.  It`s going to be about Michigan and Pennsylvania and of course need I not tell you, Brian, Nevada.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, I know.  And while I have you, give me 45 more seconds of brilliance.  Is the food and beverage workers union out there completely undiminished in its political power, and do they have any comparison in modern day America in their political power?

RALSTON:  You`re talking about the culinary union which represents about 50,000, 60,000 workers.  They are the 800-pound gorilla.  I know it`s a cliche but here the cliche fits of Nevada politics.  The question is, will they be on the sidelines as they have been before?

They were on the sidelines in 2016 until a guy named Harry Reid called them up and said you`ve got to save Hillary Clinton from Bernie Sanders.  They get involved, they make a difference.  And I think they are one of the biggest forces in Democratic political history, not just in Nevada but in the country.

WILLIAMS:  Well done.  Josh, you get the last word.  What races are you curious about tomorrow night as a journalist?

JAMERSON:  I`ll give you two themes.  One, in the governor`s race as you mentioned in Kentucky, in Mississippi, it will be interesting recurring theme of the Trump presidency where they`re states in GOP territory that shouldn`t be up for grabs but are too close for comfort for Republicans.  And the President does this thing where he at the last minute it seems try to latch himself to these local and state races through something whether it`s the Kavanaugh hearings or whether at some self either imposed or described immigration crisis at the border.  In this time, it will be impeachment.  And whether he can go down there and try to rally his base that wasn`t enthused a couple of months ago and try to get them to the polls.

And then the second theme, at the risk of overanalyzing like he was just mentioning in Virginia, I think it will be curious to see what can happen there with those House races.  There are four state Houses that will have elections tomorrow and Virginia is the only one that has an opportunity to flip.  And that`s why you see people like Vice President Biden and current Vice President Pence going down there to try to rally their perspective sides.  So, I`ll be looking at that state too.

WILLIAMS:  Great stuff tonight, gentleman.  Two terrific political writers and reporters, Jon Ralston, Joshua Jamerson.  We`ll do it again.  Thank you both.

And after a break, coming up for us, still getting used to our President, shall we say, in a non-traditional role.  We`ll explain.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, it wasn`t all that long ago for any of us who were raised in this country and came up under presidents of both parties who spoke of one nation.  They were stewards and boosters and protectors of everyone in all 50 states.  It was neither strange nor exceptional.  It was expected.  It was normal.

And so, it`s still shocking when our President attacks a state at any time and for anything.  Say nothing of a state that is home to 40 million of our fellow citizens.  You see, California is still recovering from a hellscape of a fire event.  Crews are at work tonight on 10 separate fires.  Right now the worst of which over the past 11 days ate up 80,000 plus acres, destroyed the homes of 174 California families.

More than that, the power company out there has preemptively cut the power to hundreds of thousands of Californians prior to any big wind event this season.  It`s a terrible hardship randomly impacting everybody involved, families and their kids, the sick and infirm, schools and businesses and traffic lights and the food in everybody`s freezer.  Noting that hardship would be one nice thing.  Marshalling our people to work on a fix is apparently way too much to ask.

Our President from just yesterday, and we quote, "The Governor of California Gavin Newsom has done a terrible job of forest management.  I told him from the first day we met that he must clean his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, demand of him.  Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers.

Every year as the fire`s rage and California burns, it is the same thing and then he comes to the federal government for financial help.  No more.  Get your act together, Governor.  You don`t see close to the level of burn in other states.  But our teams are working well together and putting these massive and many fires out.  Great firefighters.

Also open up the ridiculously closed water lanes coming down from the North.  Don`t pour it out into the Pacific Ocean.  Should be done immediately.  California desperately needs water and you can have it now."

Couple of notes here, the President is convinced that forest floors need cleaning and are especially dirty in California.  Elsewhere there, he appears to be referencing an effort by farmers to rout river water into irrigation but no one quite knows for sure.  Yesterday, he went on to compare the Governor of California to a child, another way of calling it just a Sunday in our presidency, part of what we`ve become used to in 2019.

That is for us our Monday night broadcast as we start a new week.  Thank you all for being here with us.  Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.                                                                                                     END