Top four Dems in Dead-Heat in Iowa. TRANSCRIPT: 11/6/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Sam Stein, Josh Gerstein, Lanhee Chen

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  And they did everything they possibly could and it`s just one of those nights that that happens.

KLOBUCHAR:  I can`t help we`re in a middle of big buzzer (ph).

O`DONNELL:  That`s right.  Yes.  There we go.  Amy Klobuchar gets tonight`s LAST WORD.  Thank you very much for joining us, Senator.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight the new report that the President wants his attorney general to say he`s innocent as yet more damning testimony in the impeachment inquiry is made public.  In exactly one week the testimony will be televised.

Also, the biggest case out of the Mueller report, the criminal trial of Roger Stone begins.  Prosecutors promise at least one high-profile witness.

After last night`s GOP setbacks, attention turns to the suburbs as a former Trump insider eyes a run for his old Senate seat in the south.

And it could come down to a tight four-way contest for the Democrats in a state where voting starts to count 89 days from now.  THE 11TH HOUR on a Wednesday night begins now.

Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters in New York.  I`m Ali Velshi in for Brian Williams, who`s under the weather tonight.  He`s hoping to return to the line-up soon.

It is day 1,021 of the Trump administration.  The President is back on the campaign trail in Louisiana tonight.  One night after bruising election results for Republicans and hours after House Democrats announced the impeachment effort is about to go public.  Open hearings get under way exactly one week from today.

Tonight, in the state, he twice called Louisiana, Trump again lashed out at the Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Democrats are becomingly increasingly totalitarian, suppressing dissent, defaming the innocent, eliminating due process, staging show trials, and trying to overthrow American democracy to impose their socialist agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  All right, tonight "The Washington Post" is reporting that Trump wanted Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference declaring that he had broken no laws during his phone call with the President of Ukraine.  But Barr declined to do so.  "The Post" says "The request from Trump traveled from the President to other White House officials and eventually to the Justice Department.  The President has mentioned Barr`s declination to associates in recent weeks, saying he wished Barr would have held the news conference, Trump advisers say."  That request, "came sometime around September 25th, when the administration released a rough transcript of the President`s July phone call."

The paper says the Justice Department had tried to distance itself from the controversy surrounding Trump`s dealings with Ukraine.

Next week, lawmakers will begin televised hearings with questions for State Department official, George Kent, the current Acting Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, and the former American Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

Today, House Intelligence Committee Chair, Adam Schiff, said that questioning will go a long way toward building the case against the President.

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REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA, INTELLIGENCE CMTE. CHAIRMAN:  You will see throughout the course of the testimony, not only their testimony but many others, the most important facts are largely not contested.  We are getting an increasing appreciation for just what took place during the course of the last year and the degree to which the President enlisted whole departments of government in the illicit aim of trying to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political opponent as well as further conspiracy theory about the 2016 election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  Today we got something of a preview of what to expect from Bill Taylor`s public testimony with the release of his closed-door transcript from October 22nd.  The Vietnam War veteran and career diplomat who has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations told lawmakers that it was "my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the President of Ukraine committed to pursue the investigation."

That`s a reference to potential investigations into Joe Biden and his son Hunter as well as a conspiracy theory about alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

Taylor also testified that another witness, National Security Council official, Tim Morrison, had told him that Trump "did insist that President Zelensky go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016, and President Zelensky should want to do this himself."

Taylor said Ambassador to the European Union, this man, Gordon Sondland, also told him Trump was "Adamant about this."  Taylor added the Trump administration`s relations with Ukraine were "driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Rudy Giuliani."

Today House impeachment investigators heard new testimony from David Hale, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, the third most senior official at the State Department.  He`s also the first witness to comply with Congress this week.

Nine others refused to show up for their scheduled depositions.  Some in defiance of lawful subpoenas.  Former National Security Adviser John Bolton has been asked to testify tomorrow.  He is not expected to show up.

Meanwhile, the White House is ramping up its effort to respond to the impeachment effort.  Former Florida attorney general and long-time Trump supporter Pam Bondi and former Treasury spokesman Tony Sayegh have been hired to help with messaging.

And Trump`s personal lawyer is lawyering up.  Rudy Giuliani announced this afternoon that his new legal team is led by former federal prosecutor Robert Costello.  He made headlines earlier this year after reports that he attempted to dangle a pardon to the President`s former attorney, Michael Cohen.

Meantime, Republicans seem to be searching for the best line of attack to defend the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Republicans are really struggling to defend the President -- OK, great.

REP. MARK MEADOWS, (R) NORTH CAROLINA:  I`m not struggling on anything.

CALDWELL:  OK.  So, Congressman --

MEADOWS:  So, the Republicans are not struggling on anything.

REP. JIM JORDAN, (R) OHIO:  I trust President Zelensky and President Trump and I trust the fact that the Ukrainians didn`t know that aid had been held and Ukrainians did nothing to get it release when it was released.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA:  What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward the Ukraine, it was incoherent.  It depends on you who talk to.

REP. TOM COLE, (R) OKLAHOMA:  If there was a quid pro quo it certainly wasn`t a very effective one.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, (R) LOUISIANA:  There are perfectly appropriate quid pro quos, and there are inappropriate quid pro quos.

GRAHAM:  They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo.

SEN. THOM TILLIS, (R) NORTH CAROLINA:  That doesn`t rise to the level that they`re trying to make it, an impeachable offense.

MEADOWS:  It`s actually getting easier to defend the President.

GRAHAM:  I`m not going to read these transcripts.  The whole process is a joke.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  Now while the Democrats and some former officials suggest it`s time that the message on this controversy goes beyond the phrase quid pro quo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. GERRY CONNOLY, (D) VIRGINIA:  We keep on using this euphemistic expression "quid pro quo."  The actual term for what occurred is extortion.  And extortion is a crime.  And the President extorted the President of Ukraine for political dirt on a prospective political opponent and dangled military aid and the promise of a presidential visit.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D) CALIFORNIA:  I think the allegation is extortion.  It`s pretty clear that all the arrows point in the direction that the President was leading the scheme and the facts speak for themselves.

WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  If you give me what I want, you`ll get the money.  That to me is just a classic case of a criminal act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  All right, here for our lead-off discussion on a Wednesday night, Shannon Pettypiece, a veteran journalist and senior White House reporter for NBC News Digital, Sam Stein, Politics Editor for the Daily Beast, and Mimi Rocah, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now a Distinguished Fellow in Criminal Justice at the Pace University School of Law.  Welcome to all three of you.  Thank you for helping us kick it off tonight.

Shannon, let me start with you.  Senator John Kennedy here, we heard him saying that there are appropriate types of quid pro quo and inappropriate types of quid pro quo.  It`s an interesting line of defense except that if we forget about whether you`re calling it quid pro quo or extortion or bribery or whatever it`s actually the thing in exchange that makes it inappropriate, not the idea that it happened.  It`s the fact that what Donald Trump wanted in exchange for this was support that would help his campaign, that would help his re-election.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC NEWS.COM SR. WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, and I think you showed an excellent montage that captures the difficulty that the President`s allies are having in finding a simple message that the public can understand that they can use to help get behind the President.  You mentioned also earlier the White House is trying to staff up as well to, again, get their message straight, get the story straight here.

And we are six weeks into this process, I believe.  The train has left the station.  The White House is now, just now adding staff. Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general and Tony Sayegh who was Steve Mnuchin`s chief spokesperson and sort of led the communication or helped lead at least the communication strategy on tax reform which the White House views as a success.  It`s probably going to be several weeks before both of them are there and up and running.

So, on the congressional side, the Republicans in the Senate are talking about trying to fill in that void, but again as you saw that message coming from Lindsey Graham, this idea that they are too confused, too incompetent to have pull off a quid pro quo.  That is probably not a line of defense that is going to be very effective going forward --

VELSHI:  It`s new, though.  Maybe --

PETTYPIECE:  So they`re still -- yes, they`re searching for this message.  And, you know, it`s been weeks now.

VELSHI:  Yes.

PETTYPIECE:  And this is probably going to be over with by the time they come up with one.

VELSHI:  So, Mimi, we`ve talked about the various lines of defense that have come up.  There is Trump -- Trump was fighting corruption.  There is the, he wanted Europe to put more money into it.  There`s the, yes, there was a quid pro quo but it`s not legal.  The Lindsey Graham defense, this is new and interesting.

The foreign policy of the Trump administration or Trump himself is too incoherent to have worked out a quid pro quo.  As a former prosecutor you don`t have to be coherent to have figured out the, I`ll give you this if you give me in exchange for that.

MIMI ROCAH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY:  Yes, I mean, I don`t know what Graham`s talking about because in fact that demand, that bribe, that extortionate demand was communicated to Ukraine, right?  We know Sondland said it to one of the President`s aides.  We know that Volker texted it.  He said, you know, if you tell Trump you`re going to -- in the phone call that you`re going to give him the deliverable, the investigation, then you`ll get the meeting.

I mean, the quid pro quo happened.  The bribe happened.

VELSHI:  Right.  The facts don`t even seem to be in dispute here.

ROCAH:  Exactly.

VELSHI:  The President himself --

ROCAH:  And that`s what Adam Schiff said, and he`s exactly right.  And that`s an important point because I think the Republicans, on the one hand, they don`t have a coherent message.  On the other hand, they`re trying to make it seem really confusing so people kind of like they did with the Mueller investigation --

VELSHI:  Yes, but this isn`t that confusing.

ROCAH:  It is not confusing.  And the facts are established.  They can argue what they want from the facts.  Well, I mean, they seems to me there`s sort of going down the road of, well, Trump didn`t say quid pro quo,  these other people who, by the way, are Trump people, Trump appointees, Trump loyalists, you know, maybe -- they were -- they get this idea that they were supposed to make this demand of the Ukraine.  I know where they got the idea, from Rudy Giuliani --

VELSHI:  Right.

ROCAH:  -- who Trump told everyone to talk to.  So this idea that Trump knew nothing about this quid pro quo plus he said it in his phone call, I mean -- but they`re trying to make it seem confusing.  It`s not.  And Adam Schiff is exactly right to say the facts are largely uncontested here.

VELSHI:  Sam, we`ve got about 400 pages almost of testimony from --

SAM STEIN, THE DAILY BEAST POLITICS EDITOR:  Right.

VELSHI:  -- Bill Taylor today.  And one of the things he did make clear is what Mimi just said is that the messaging came from Rudy Giuliani.  He fully believed that Rudy Giuliani was acting on behalf of the President but Rudy Giuliani remains central to this operation.  How is that going to play out?  Because Rudy Giuliani`s got his own problems.

He`s got a -- he`s now hired a new lawyer.  He`s generally been pretty silent, although today he tweeted that "The investigation I conducted concerning 2016 Ukrainian collusion and corruption, was done solely as a defense attorney to defend my client against false charges, that kept changing as one after another were disproven."

Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump seem to be the two people we have to understand what they said to each other and how they did what they did.

STEIN:  Right.  And it`s sort of been a waiting game for many here in Washington, D.C. to see if Trump ends up throwing Rudy under the bus.  I mean, there is this small area of distance between Rudy and the President as you read through these transcripts in which the President continues to deflect to Rudy, continues to advise people coming to him to speak directly to Rudy as if to give him some sort of plausible deniability if and when this thing blew up and became public.

Now, will he use that plausible deniability and say, listen, I didn`t know what was going on, it was all Rudy.  If there was a nefarious quid pro quo, it`s his fault.  And if you have any, you know, frustration or want to take anything out on him politically do it but leave me out of this.  I`m curious if Trump ends up going that route.

And honestly I`m curious that he hasn`t done it so far already.  Maybe it`s because Rudy simply knows too much.  And Rudy himself has steadfastly insisted that he was operating at the behest of his client, the President of the United States, and did nothing wrong.  But of course, you know, as you`ve now documented in just this short time period, there are various levels of explanation are evolving constantly.  I mean, we forget but Mick Mulvaney literally got up in the White House briefing room and said that they did in fact have a quid pro quo policy in place and then had to of course walk it back a day later.

So, they`re -- obviously they`re hampered by the fact that they can`t sit on one line of defense.  But again, I am curious to see if Trump ever does turn around and say, you know what, I got to cut Rudy loose on this.

VELSHI:  So, to that point, Shannon, that they have trouble settling on a singular line of defense, who are these two people who the White House has brought in, Bondi and Sayegh?  What`s their relevance to this?

PETTYPIECE:  So, I mean, we`ll see what their roles actually end up shaking out to be.  But there`s the thinking that Pam Bondi, she is a prosecutor, she has a legal background.  Obviously she was attorney general.  She has a communications background.  And she`s pretty good at public speaking, going on television.

She could play the role of the sort of James Carville-like figure who could go out and be Trump`s attack dog and also help coordinate the message and have a bit of a broader legal understanding and a political understanding about how to frame this.  So, that`s one possible thinking about what her role could be there.

Tony Sayegh is someone who was with the Treasury Department.  He is very close to Steve Mnuchin.  He was sort of put on details of the White House during tax reform to help them coordinate their messaging there.  And within the White House tax reform and getting that passed, it`s seen as one of their big victories, one of the moments where they were all on message and they were able to herd Congress together for sort of one purpose.

He is very well liked by Jared and Ivanka, who push for his hiring.  So the potential could be for him to come in and coordinate the communication staff and the messaging across the Hill among T.V. surrogates, across different agencies who are coming on.  So, that`s one of the thinking there too.

But the White House still lacks someone big picture who reports directly to the President, who has the broad view across agencies because, of course, OMB is involved, the Energy Department is involved, who has relationships at a high level with members on the Hill, who can communicate with them.  They still lack essentially a quarterback to manage this.

And that`s why I think it sounds like we`re starting to hear people say the congressional senator -- the Senate Republicans are going to try and step in and fill that void on a communications front and sort of circle the wagons around the President because they don`t see this happening at the White House.  And even with these new hires coming on, that will probably take a few weeks for them to get in place and to actually start reorganizing things and putting together a message.

VELSHI:  But it will be interesting, Mimi, if Pam Bondi or Tony Sayegh start to be the face of this thing because Rudy Giuliani was for a long time and that`s been not the most successful strategy.

Let`s just listen to a little of what Rudy Giuliani has said on this particular issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDOLF GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S PERSONAL LAWYER:  Why am I doing it, Laura?  Can`t you figure it out?  I`m his defense lawyer.

I was seeking in the best tradition of being a lawyer, a defense lawyer, to vindicate my client.

It`s in the best interests of my client to unravel the corruption in the Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  Evaluate that, please, Mimi.

ROCAH:  So, you know, Giuliani is trying to defend himself and his actions by saying I was doing this in the interests of my client, I`m just acting as any good defense lawyer would.  And the problem for him and for Trump is that first of all he has admitted numerous times on T.V. and on Twitter tonight that he was acting -- this entire policy was in the interests of Donald Trump, not the United States of America.  That is --

VELSHI:  Right.  He keeps saying my client, Donald Trump.

ROCAH:  Yes.  And, you know, that is -- and it rings true because nothing they were doing with respect to Ukraine was in the interests of protecting Ukraine, and therefore, you know, our ally, protecting them.

VELSHI:  Yes.  If you recall for a hot second he said he was doing this for the State Department and that suddenly went away.

ROCAH:  Exactly.  So, you know, and that -- so it feeds right into this idea that you are -- of what Trump is -- what`s at the heart of the impeachment, that Trump is -- should be impeached because they`re using this power of the presidency to do something for his personal benefit, here in the campaign.  Or even if just because he wants to prove that crazy, you know, Ukraine conspiracy theory, right, because he`s obsessed with it, he being Giuliani and Trump.  But the reason it`s not going to work, I think, even if Trump does, and he may try to throw Giuliani under the bus, is a couple of things.

First of all, the phone call, right?  We have the phone call where Trump is using the same -- he`s echoing the same words that we know Giuliani is saying about, you know, getting the investigation and looking into the Bidens.  And he didn`t say anything about corruption.  So --

VELSHI:  That`s a key point.

ROCAH:  Yes.

VELSHI:  And no point in that conversation according to the transcript, or the memo of it released by the White House, is the term corruption used nor in the full term (ph).

ROCAH:  Exactly.  And also, this is a big point too.  I mean, first of all, right, we forget that Trump stood on the front lawn and said you know, Ukraine and China and everybody should do this.  But also, Rudy Giuliani could not freeze the aid.  Only the White House --

VELSHI:  Right.

ROCAH:  -- well, not only the White House, but the White House did it.  Trump did it.  And that`s an important point.  And so I do think that he may try to, you know, put this all on rogue Rudy Giuliani.  But I think --

VELSHI:  Right.

ROCAH:  -- the Democrats should keep coming back --

VELSHI:  Three hundred ninety-one million dollars, Rudy Giuliani could not control that.

ROCAH:  Exactly.

VELSHI:  Sam Stein, the first full day of public testimony will happen on November the 13th, a week from today.  The President has announced that Turkish President Erdogan will visit the United States and the White House on that day.  What do you make of that?

STEIN:  Well, it could be coincidental.  But at the same time we know that Trump loves counterprogramming.  I mean, you led off the show with the news that he wanted Bill Barr, his attorney general, to do a press conference to exonerate him essentially, say you`ve done nothing wrong.

If you go back to the origins of the Russia probe, it was, you know, a push to get then Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make some public declaration along the same lines.  And Trump operates through this prism in which -- well, the only things that matter are T.V. moments.

And so, that`s why these public testimonies are so important.  They will, for the first time obviously, bring into people`s homes witnesses who were there who could testify to what was happening and who were privy to what was a back channel policy led by Rudy Giuliani to upend Ukraine policy.  Now, I am curious how Trump reacts to that, whether it`s having Erdogan in, whether it`s holding rallies, whether it`s doing his own press conferences to counterprogram.

We know that he looks at things and wonders how can I win new cycles?  And the fact that this is going into the public hearing part of the impeachment hearing suggests that Trump is going to have to sort of reconfigure his own strategy going forward.

VELSHI:  Thank you to the three of you for joining me tonight, Shannon Pettypiece, Sam Stein, and Mimi Rocah.

Coming up, the President and some of his allies step up efforts to out the whistleblower who sparked the Ukraine investigation.

And later, what both parties say they`ve learned from last night`s big Democratic wins in Kentucky and Virginia.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Wednesday night.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  The whistleblower before they knew I was going to release he came out with a whistleblower.  You know, like he`s some wonderful person.

Take a look at the whistleblower.  But the whistleblower came out with this horrible statement about this call.  So I really had no choice.  I said immediately, talk about transparency, I said release it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  The President and his allies are ramping up attacks on the whistleblower.  Earlier today Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out a link to a report that names someone they purport to be the whistleblower.

We should note, NBC News is not naming the whistleblower until the whistleblower goes public due to safety concerns.

Today Senator Rand Paul Blocked a Senate resolution backing protection for whistleblowers.  This follows his recent calls for the whistleblower`s name to be made public.

With us to talk about this is Michael McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia whose book is titled "From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin`s Russia."

Ambassador, good to see you again.

AMB. MICHAEL MCFAUL, MSNBC INTL. AFFAIRS ANALYST:  Sure.

VELSHI:  Talk to me about -- there seems to be a fundamental departure from the norms that both Republicans and Democrats have previously observed on Capitol Hill about the importance placed on the confidentiality and protection of whistleblowers.

MCFAUL:  It does seem that way.  I think it`s very disappointing.  I think it will make it more difficult for future whistleblowers to come forth and to use the legal rights that they have.

And you just mentioned my book.  It reminds me that when I was the U.S. ambassador a guy by the name of Edward Snowden showed up in Moscow and one of his complaints was that he didn`t think he could use the processes accorded to him in the whistleblower rules and regulations.  And I was out publicly pretty often, every day, saying no, he should have used those opportunities for him.  This undermines that.  This makes it a lot more dangerous, a lot more difficult for future people to use that process.

VELSHI:  What is the danger?  Is it about future people using that prospect?  Is it to put a chill on anyone else who may come forward here to say we`ll come after you?

MCFAUL:  I think all of the above.  It makes it more difficult.  People worry about retribution.  And most importantly in this highly polarized public time that we`re in, where there`s just extreme polarization, I fear for this person`s safety.

I experienced a lot of threats and nasty things just because of things I say to you sometimes.  That`s the moment we live in.  Imagine what it will be like if this person is named and publicly outed.

VELSHI:  Let`s play that out because it seems to be getting to that.  We`ve got Rand Paul calling for it.  We`ve got Donald Trump Jr. doing what he`s doing.  The danger now in this polarized environment in which we live, and I think your point is well taken.  I often think about this when you and I talk or when I see you on T.V., do you put yourself in peril for the things that you say?

There is real danger to somebody who goes forward and says that he has seen or she has seen something dangerous or something possibly corrupt if you have a nation or half a nation that might be coming after you.

MCFAUL:  Correct.  And if you have a President, as you may recall, who`s called him an enemy.  He`s called him -- he doesn`t call him a whistleblower.  They consider him a traitor.  And that I think is extremely dangerous.

The other part of it of course is that it`s intimidation of a possible witness.  If you`re saying these things about them, that also makes it more difficult for them to testify honestly and come out, if indeed that is the case.

And third, just always remember, because you were talking about it earlier, the facts are as clear as day.  We don`t need the whistleblower.  We don`t need -- you know, it`s you shoot the messenger when you don`t like the message.  And that`s what`s going on with the whistleblower.  That`s going on again with Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.  And that means that they don`t have facts that they can argue with, so instead they talk about the character of these people and, you know, allegedly their politicization.

VELSHI:  So this is interesting because in the beginning the argument by the President was that this is secondhand information, it`s not something the whistleblower knew, the President wanted to hear from people who had talked to the whistleblower.  Since then, that`s all fallen to the side because we`ve had, as you said, Vindman, Yovanovitch, Taylor, even Sondland who`s come around to it a couple different ways --

MCFAUL:  Yes.

VELSHI:  -- basically testifying or giving depositions to the facts that the whistleblower is talking about.  So, one doesn`t even need the whistleblower at this point.

MCFAUL:  Not in my opinion.  I mean, I think the facts are overwhelming.  One can disagree about whether people think those facts are impeachable offenses or not.  But it is overwhelming.  And by the way, the transcript that he keeps saying, read the transcript, I`ve read the transcript many, many times.  It`s very damning for the President.

And then you couple it with all the text messages that came out.  That was the second piece of this.

And then third all the testimony -- the facts are clear as day.  There`s really no disputing of the facts.  And therefore, you know, why the whistleblower even needs to testify is not really clear to me.

VELSHI:  Ambassador Michael McFaul, always a pleasure to see you.  Thank you for joining me.

Coming up, the Mueller report comes to life in a D.C. courtroom as jurors hear the case against one of the President`s most eccentric allies.  One of the reporters following it all joins us next with the cliff notes version of what we missed, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.

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ROGER STONE, TRUMP`S LONGTIME ASSOCIATE:  No, I have not spoken to Mr. Assange.  I have not met with Mr. Assange and I never said I had.  I said we communicated through an intermediary, somebody who is a mutual friend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  Roger Stone`s trial for allegedly lying to Congress got under way in a Washington, D.C. courtroom today.  Federal prosecutors argued that Stone lied to Congress about his efforts to connect with WikiLeaks in 2016 because the truth looked bad for Donald Trump.  And Josh Gerstein of POLITICO reports prosecutors argued President Trump played a role in Stone`s efforts to prod WikiLeaks to release damaging e-mails on Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Joining me tonight, Josh Gerstein, Senior Legal Affairs Contributor for POLITICO.  He was in the courtroom for today`s proceedings.  Josh, a few things happened today, one is which Donald Trump`s name came up several times.

JOSH GERSTEIN, SR. LEGAL AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR, POLITICO:  Yes, it did, Ali.  And this was so different than say last year for the Manafort trial where you had Mueller prosecutors there looking to convict the former campaign chairman.  There the T word, Trump, was basically put off limits.  I think it was maybe uttered in the courtroom on two or three occasions in the course of several weeks of trial.

Today in the course of about 45 minutes to an hour, the opening statement from the prosecutor here Aaron Zelinsky, it must have been said two dozen times.  Trump`s name was uttered within the first two minutes of that opening statement.  And as you mentioned at the top here, Ali, specifically the accusation was that Roger Stone was seeking these Hillary Clinton e- mails from WikiLeaks sort of at the urging of the Trump campaign and that his lies, alleged lies to the House Intelligence Committee, were to benefit the Trump campaign and specifically to benefit Donald Trump.

And there was even more, Ali, which was once they started to get into the evidence, some of the very first things jurors were shown was, well, here`s Roger Stone in direct communication with then-candidate Donald Trump on what appears to be three different occasions in the summer of 2016 right when Stone was making these efforts to try to either get these e-mails from WikiLeaks or get WikiLeaks to release these e-mails publicly.

VELSHI:  The prosecution seems to know that these phone calls took place but didn`t seem to know the content of the phone call.

GERSTEIN:  That`s right.  These were just sort of call records.  Most of them were from Roger Stone`s cell phone showing calls to cell phones associated with either then-candidate Trump or Rick Gates, who was the Deputy Campaign Manager at that time.  One of the calls was a little mysterious because it seemed to have come from basically a blank number.  Then prosecutors put up another document which showed at that particular moment they had records that appeared to be from Donald Trump`s home phone number and at that particular moment that was shown in the other records as blank, there was a call coming from Donald Trump`s home to Roger Stone.  So, they were not bashful at all about tying the President directly to what Roger Stone was up to, and I thought that was pretty remarkable because remember, these prosecutors effectively work right now for the President of the United States.

VELSHI:  This has been eventful in the last couple of days.  A potential juror got sick.  Roger Stone himself had food poisoning or something like that.  It was never going to be uneventful.  But what are we likely to expect in the coming days?

GERSTEIN:  Well, I mean, one of the big things that we`re looking for is we are expecting witnesses to come in.  Some of them are not household names.  People like Jerome Corsi, a conservative author.  Randy Credico is kind of a colorful figure, liberal talk show host that Stone is accused of threatening and also threatening to kill Credico`s dog, which is a sort of bizarre alleged episode.

But perhaps the biggest name that we`re expecting on the witness stand is Steve Bannon, the former White House Adviser who was involved with the White House -- with the website, I should say, Breitbart.  There is some bad blood between Stone and him at this point, Stone and Bannon.  But in the summer of 2016 they seemed to be getting along and they exchanged a bunch of e-mails and Bannon was keeping tabs on what Stone was doing both in terms of gathering intelligence about WikiLeaks and perhaps trying to prod WikiLeaks to release information damaging to Hillary Clinton.  So, the showdown between those two men sitting in the same courtroom face to face could be a pretty dramatic one.

VELSHI:  Josh, good to see you as always.  Thank you for joining us, Josh Gerstein.

GERSTEIN:  Sure, Ali.

VELSHI:  Coming up, what last night tells us about the next year, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I just helped a lot, picked up 19 to 20 points -- a gentleman from Kentucky.  The problem is he was, you know, not a popular guy, but he was a great governor.  He did a good job but he wasn`t a popular.  And I actually picked him up by 19 or 20 points, but now I guess it`s in dispute, the final race.  It`s very interesting.  It was sort of a long shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  The gentleman from Kentucky is Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin.  He made no secret that he was hanging his re-election hopes on the popularity of the President.  Bevin trails Democrat Andy Beshear by more than 5,000 votes but he refuses to concede.  Instead he`s challenging the outcome and asked for a recanvass.  That`s not a recount.  It`s sort of a recount of the tallies.

The A.P. report tonight, "Trump faces potential trouble in areas that have generally sided with Republicans for decades.  Coming amid an intensifying impeachment inquiry, they raise questions about Trump`s ability to help other Republicans across the finish line".

Here with us to talk about it all, Jason Johnson, Politics Editor at The Root, and Lanhee Chen, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution and former Presidential Campaign Adviser to both Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney.  Gentlemen, thank you both for being here.  Lanhee, you take issue with the sentiment expressed in that A.P. report.  You think that things in particular in Virginia were heading in a direction where GOP was at a disadvantage.

LANHEE CHEN, FMR. POLICY DIRECTOR, ROMNEY-RYAN CAMPAIGN:  Yes.  Well particularly I think Virginia -- we can separate Virginia from Kentucky and Mississippi.  Virginia was a state that Donald Trump lost by five points, Mitt Romney lost in 2012.  It`s a state that`s been trending toward the Democrats.  I think the challenge in Virginia is though the same challenge Republicans face elsewhere, which is that in the suburbs, particularly those northern Virginia suburbs around Washington, D.C.

And now increasingly even the areas along the coast there, areas that previously were very much Republican, those areas are moving away from the Republicans.  And that is a generalizable trend.  But Virginia specifically, yes, that`s been moving away from Republicans for a while.

VELSHI:  Jason, what do you make of the successes in Kentucky and Virginia?  The President making the excuse that in Kentucky, Matt Bevin was unpopular.  It`s a fact.  Matt Bevin was a remarkably unpopular governor.  But should Democrats be able to take some joy in what happened last night?

JASON JOHNSON, THE ROOT, POLITICS EDITOR:  I mean, Ali, anytime you get a victory, you should take joy from it.  So I think the Democrats have reason to be happy.  I think they have reason to be happy about the turnout in Virginia, the turnout they saw in Kentucky.

But I want people to really understand what`s happening in Virginia.  This is not just about convenient demographics in northern Virginia where I`m sort of sitting right now, in the D.C. suburbs.  We`re talking about the Richmond suburbs.  We`re talk about the Hampton roads area.  I mean, the Republicans have been getting wiped out throughout the state of Virginia for a while.  It`s because they haven`t been able to prove that they can effectively legislate for the changes that are coming throughout the state.

There has not been a Republican elected statewide Virginia outside of one governor in almost 10 years.  So they are in trouble there.  And they need to rebuild that party.

Now, what you saw happening in Kentucky, you`ve got to be fair, while Beshear did win as Governor of Kentucky as a Democrat, the Attorney General ended up being a Republican.  And so Republicans are not in as bad a shape in Kentucky as they are in Virginia but there are still lessons to be learned for the Democrats, which is you can`t take anybody for granted.  You have to go out and campaign everywhere, and that`s the only way you can be effective in states where many times voter suppression and early voting are limited.

VELSHI:  Lanhee, is there any lesson for Republicans that Donald Trump can`t pull everybody over the finish line?

CHEN:  Well, you know, here`s the problem.  Donald Trump certainly activates a lot of the Republican base.  He gets people out to vote.  The problem is he also countermobilizes, right?  He brings out a lot of people who don`t have a high opinion of him and who frankly are probably there to vote against him.  So I think the lesson learned is yes, you know, you can certainly hug Donald Trump in a state like Mississippi.

But if you go elsewhere to a state, let`s say like Colorado, where there`ll be a very, very close Senate election next year, it`s a different dynamic.  You cannot hug him without also bringing out a lot of people who will vote against him and vote against Republicans.

VELSHI:  Jason, in terms of what Democrats can learn from this, you said they`ve got to get out there, they`ve got to talk to as many people as possible.  We are coming up against an issue with respect to Democrats having to confront what kind of Democrats they`re going to be.  This has broken out into the open this week with Biden in that post in medium saying that -- implying that Elizabeth Warren and liberal Democrats are elitist when it comes to listening to views that are not their own.  Is this a problem that`s going to hit Democrats in 2020?

JOHNSON:  No, not really.  Because you`ve got plenty of people out there who hate Donald Trump.  And, look, you could run a cheese sandwich in a bag, right?  And that will probably get 48 percent of the vote against Donald Trump.  He`s excruciatingly unpopular.  And for all predictions, we will probably be in a slowed-down economy by the spring, which will hurt him as well.

And I think, look, if Democrats are smart, yes, it`s a big tent party.  So you`ve got liberal Democrats who ran here, moderate Democrats who ran there.  And this idea that the only way that you can win a presidential election is by running some sort of magical moderate person who`s a combination of Mayor Pete`s age and, you know, Ayanna Pressley`s sort of looks and all the other sorts of things.  You`re not going to come up with this perfect person, right?  You need to come up with a dynamic candidate.  There is no magical centrist.

And so, I think Democrats need to rally around whoever they want to rally around.  Whether that ends up being Joe Biden, whether that ends up being Elizabeth Warren, whether that ends up being, you know, Kamala Harris, whoever they want to rally around, make that person win.  Whoever is electable is who people rally around, not who hit some sort of magical demographic.

VELSHI:  Jason, Lanhee, stay with us.  After the break, I`m going to get these two gentlemen`s take on the new tightening poll numbers in the critical state of Iowa, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.

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VELSHI:  The Iowa caucuses are less than three months away and right now it looks like they are anyone`s to lose.  A new Quinnipiac poll out today has the top four candidates separated by just 5 percentage points, essentially within the margin of error.  Warren leads with 20 percent.  Pete Buttigieg close at her heels at 19.  Bernie Sanders in third place at 17 percent.  Joe Biden rounds up the top tier with 15 percent.  No other candidates crack double digits.  Notably, more than half of those surveyed say they could still change their minds before February the 3rd.

Still with us, Jason Johnson and Lanhee Chen.  Lanhee, looking at those numbers, we basically have four candidates at the top, something unusual would have to happen for somebody else to get into that top tier, what do you make of it?

CHEN:  Well, two things, Ali.  One is I think traditionally Iowa is tough to poll.  So you`re going to see a lot of variance here over the next couple of weeks and numbers are going to bounce around.  What I would say is it`s going to be interesting.  I think Sanders and Warren are going to be in one lane, and in the other you`re going to have Buttigieg and Biden.  And I think there`s one survivor from each of those lanes.

And as we observe what happens in Iowa, we`re going to be looking at relative rankings.  So it`s not necessarily so important to win in Iowa but it will be important to outdo your opponent in that lane in Iowa.  So we`ll have to see if Warren can hold on and if Buttigieg can hold on against Biden.  I think Buttigieg and Warren, if, indeed, those two do hold on, are going to be the two tickets out of Iowa.

VELSHI:  Jason, when you look at those top four and you look at everybody else who`s still in the race, do you think there are any breakout possibilities?

JOHNSON:  Well, the breakout possibility right now appears to be Mayor Pete.  But I`ve got to be honest with you, you know, these are very, very disappointing numbers if you`re Bernie Sanders, or if you`re Joe Biden.  Bernie Sanders is already known there, he is known as being a fantastic caucus organizer.  So for him to have dropped as far as he`s dropped and be beaten at least in right now`s polls by Mayor Pete, who basically just showed up about six months ago in this campaign, or Elizabeth Warren, is got to be very disappointing.

But ultimately, it`s November, and I can`t take too much -- I can`t draw too much from any polls that are happening in November.  We`re still two months away.  There are still other events that can happen, there are still other debates that can occur.  But I think what`s most likely to happen right now is we`re not going to get anything conclusively out of Iowa.  It may be so close that everybody has to a match scramble for New Hampshire or Nevada or for South Carolina, because there won`t be any real separation out of the first contest.

VELSHI:  And Lanhee, as a Republican, what scares you the most in that polling?

CHEN:  Well, look, I think the fact that you`ve got someone like Pete Buttigieg in the mix, I think he`s a unique talent.  And I think in a lot of ways, were I, sort of, thinking about this from the Trump campaign perspective, of those different candidates, I still think Buttigieg is the one that`s the biggest wild card, and therefore would be the scariest in terms of not being able to predict how it goes.  I think, look, if Elizabeth Warren comes out of Iowa, I have to disagree with Jason in the sense that I think if Elizabeth Warren ends up winning that nomination, it`s a gift to Donald Trump.  I just don`t see how someone who`s taken the position she`s taken ends up beating Trump, even given all of Trump`s negatives at this point in the campaign.

VELSHI:  All right, we`ll leave it there.  We`ll continue this discussion because we will have lots of reason to.  Jason Johnson and Lanhee Chen, thank you both for being with us tonight.

Coming up, the President complains he doesn`t get any respect in his hometown.  So why then is he returning to New York next week?  When THE 11TH HOUR continues.

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VELSHI:  Last thing before we go tonight, the President may be permanently relocating from his Fifth Avenue penthouse but he`ll be back in his hometown in just a few days.  Trump will attend the 100th annual Veterans Day parade here in New York City on Monday.  He`ll be the first President to do so.  Word of Trump`s visit comes just days after we learned that he changed his address to Florida, offering these parting words to the city where he grew up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  They haven`t treated me properly.  I paid millions of taxes, millions and millions of dollars in New York, and they`ve never treated me, you know -- since I became President, they just haven`t treated I think the office with the kind of respect.  And I don`t mind paying the taxes.   New York is a very expensive place to live.  But many bad things are happening in New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  New York`s Mayor suggested maybe the President could leave politics out of this trip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY:  It should not be politicized.  It should not be turned into a spectacle.  If he`s coming here to truly honor veterans, God bless him.  But I`d really like to see something a little different than what we`ve seen in some of his other appearances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  Now Trump isn`t exactly popular in the big apple.  This was his reception at Madison Square Garden last weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison):  Lock him up, lock him up, lock him up, lock him up, lock him up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  New Yorkers may not get the chance on Monday, by the way.  Organizers say Trump won`t be marching, opting to deliver remarks at the opening ceremony.

And that is our broadcast for tonight.  Thank you for being with us and good night from NBC News headquarters in New York.

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