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Jeff Sessions announces Senate run. TRANSCRIPT: 11/7/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Berit Berger

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  That is tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight, new revelations from the book from an anonymous warning of a cruel, dangerous President and a so-called steady state of administration staffers struggling to keep the wheels from falling off.  The White House calls it "a work of fiction."

Impeachment evidence against this President is piling up.  Today`s new testimony warns of Rudy`s campaign of lies in Ukraine.  Mike Bloomberg`s people say he`s hedging his bets, today`s surprise views threatens to shake up the Democratic race.  And the President calls him his biggest mistake.

Tonight, Jeff Sessions jumped back into politics.

THE 11TH HOUR on a very busy Thursday night begins now.

Good evening, once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  I`m Ali Velshi in for Brian Williams who is still a bit under the weather.  He`s hoping to be back soon.

It is day 1,022 of the Trump administration and we have major breaking news.  Our MSNBC colleague, Rachel Maddow and "The Washington Post" have obtained a prepublication look at the much anticipated book titled "A Warning by Anonymous."  The book is due out November 19th.  It`s written by, "A Senior Official in the Trump Administration."  The same unnamed author of that September 2018 "New York Times" opinion column titled "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration."

The experts offer one person`s view of what it`s like to be in the administration.  NBC News has not seen nor been able to confirm the contents of what`s being reported tonight.  The excerpts describe a cabal the authors refers to as a steady state within the administration, "President Trump should not be shocked that wary aids and Cabinet members saved his presidency.  My colleagues have done so many times. He should be worried. We should all be worried that these reasonable professionals are vanishing.  With every dismissal or departure of a level-headed senior leader, the risks to the country grow and the President is validated by a shrinking cadre of advisors who abet or encourage his bad behavior.  We are already seeing the consequences."

Another section of the book goes into detail about how the President must be briefed, "It took a lot of trial error for West Wing staff to realize there needed to be a change in the White House briefing process.  Until that happened, officials would walk out of briefings frustrated.  "He is the most distracted person I`ve ever met," one of the President`s security lieutenants confessed.  "He has no f-ing clue about what we`re talking about."

The anonymous author also wrote, "Why do people stay?"  A close friend asked me at the time.  "You should all quit.  He`s a mess."  "That`s why," I responded.  "Because he`s a mess."  It was true for a lot of us.  We thought we could keep it together."

"The Washington Post" Phil Rucker, who joins us in a moment has read a warning.  Tonight, he quotes the author as saying, "Senior Trump administration officials considered resigning on mass last year in a "midnight self-massacre" to sound a public alarm about President Trump`s conduct but rejected the idea because they believe it would further destabilize an already teetering government."

Another, "describes Trump careening from one self-inflected crisis to the next, "like a 12-year-old in an air traffic control tower pushing the buttons of government indiscriminately, indifferent to the planes skidding across the runway and the flights frantically diverting away from the airport."

The "Post" includes another quote about what it`s like inside the White House when the President tweets, "It`s like showing up at the nursing home at daybreak to find your elderly uncle running pantsless across the courtyard and cursing loudly about the cafeteria food, as worried attendants try to catch him."  "You`re stunned. Amused and embarrassed all at the same time.  Only your uncle probably wouldn`t do it every single day, his words aren`t broadcast to the public, and he doesn`t have to lead the U.S. government once he puts his pants on.`

Here for the lead off discussion on a Thursday night, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post," Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for the Associated Press and Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times" and co-author of the book "Impeachment in American History."  Welcome to all three of you.  Thank you for being here.

Phil, you have read this book.  What is it, other than a collection of anecdotes that describe what the author says people are experiencing in the White House.  What would viewers learn from it that we may not already know?

PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF:  Yes.  Well, Ali, it`s a pretty chilling portrait that the author paints of President Trump up close in office as corrupt, as inept.  The author says the President is a danger to the country that he was elected to lead and that`s an alarming statement coming from somebody who is described as a senior administration official.

We should point out that I don`t know the identity of this official.  The publisher and book author`s agents apparently have confirmed the identity but that is not public information.  But in totality, the book is a really damming indictment of this presidency and this President and describes the extend to which aides in the government especially in the national security and intelligence realms were working to try to thwart the President`s worst impulses to try to protect the country as they saw it from some of the President`s more dangerous ideas.

VELSHI:  You and Peter and Jill report on this every day.  Were there things in the book that surprised even you?

RUCKER:  You know, the book -- other books about the Trump presidency have been reported sort of collections of anecdotes.  This book is more of an observation of a commentary on what it`s like inside the government.  The author actually writes at the beginning of the book that he or she watered down a lot of the scenes, sort of stripped details from these anecdotes in order to protect his or her identity.

So what you`re not going to find in the book is sort of a page turner of every day, what the President was saying.  But rather you`re going to just find alarming statements about the President`s conduct and his behavior and his character, his morality, his fitness for office, his mental acuity and on and on and on.

VELSHI:  Jill, I want to play for you various things that Donald Trump has said about this editorial and this author.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We have somebody in what I call the failing "New York Times" that`s talking about he`s part of the resistance within the Trump administration.

An anonymous editorial, can you believe it?  Anonymous.  Meaning, gutless, a gutless editorial.

An anonymous, really anonymous, gutless, coward, you just look.

But for the sake of our national security, "The New York Times" should publish his name at once.

We should find out who it is because why should we live with somebody in the White House who is really subversive in a sense.  I mean, if you look at it, it really is subversive.


VELSHI:  Jill, subversive for the sake of the national security, "The New York Times" should publish their name at once.  This by the way has remarkable parallels to the whistleblower story that we`re in right now.  But this seems to be an attack that the President is used to.  Is this view shared by others in the White House?

JILL COLVIN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Look, this originally the op-ed and the book, this individual clearly got under the President`s skin, you know, right after the publishing of that anonymous article.  There was, what I would arguably describe is probably the most intense hunt in the White House trying to figure out the identity of that person.  They were never able to figure that out.  From my understanding they don`t know at this point who that is.

But what that prevents the President from doing is using his usual playbook.  You know, just as you said, we`re seeing that play out with the whistleblower.  We saw that play out during the Mueller investigation.  What the President likes to do with this White House, likes to do is to be able to attack the messenger.  They love to be able to stick up dirt.  They to be able to suggest that the person, you know, is a Democrat, is against them as part of some deep state conspiracy.  And when they don`t know the name of that person, they`re not able to effectively do that kind of smear job that they are so used to doing.

VELSHI:  Peter, you`re not here representing "The New York Times" as arrangement with this person or the deal.  But the President attacks the very veracity of this, the integrity of the entire process, he calls it anonymous, gutless, coward.  There is a journalistic history to protecting the anonymity people for purposes that are said to serve the public interest.

PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, that`s exactly right.  And I would add as to your point and to Phil`s point, like Phil, I don`t know who this person is.  "The New York Times" editorial page does.  They`re the one who published his piece or her piece a year ago but the newsroom does not know or I don`t know, the White House team does not know, we`re separate in our organization.

But I think you`re right.  I mean, this -- the reasoning I think that the editorial page people gave was that like the times when we used anonymous sources to provide important information for our readers, they thought that this was an exception to the rule where we normally in fact do identify writers of op-ed pieces, the character and the nature of the things this writer was talking about was sufficient importance to alert the public.  Clearly, the publishers feel the same way.

Now it`s a bit of a stunt obviously having the name anonymous on the front is intended to get more attention, get us talking about it more, speculating more on who it is.  Maybe sell more books that way.

The author said apparently that the reason, though, is to in order to focus on Trump`s actions rather than on, you know, the author him or herself.  But there will no doubt be a game playing for the next two or three weeks while we try to figure what we can learn from this.  May be scrubbed enough, Phil knows better than I do, enough details that we can`t figure out.  But in 250 pages my guess is there`s just enough in there that people will start to narrow down the list and will play the guessing game of who it is.

VELSHI:  "The New York Times" has just published a response from the anonymous author about why the author has decided to remain anonymous and it reads as follows, "Removing my identity from the equation deprives him," meaning Trump, "of an opportunity to create a distraction," Anonymous writes, referring to Mr. Trump`s compulsion for attacking his critics.  "What will he do when there is no person to attack, only an idea?"

Jill, that`s a compelling case because as we`ve seen again with the whistleblower, it has gone well beyond the whistleblower`s allegations into things that have been proved and yet, the President stays on the whistleblower`s identity.  So Donald Trump does like to stick -- to associate people with his criticisms.

COLVIN:  Absolutely.  And look, you`ve seen over the course of the last couple of weeks, the President coming closer and closer to unmasking the identity of the whistleblower.  We saw the President`s own son tweeting an article that claimed to publish the identity of the whistleblower.  And you`ve seen when they don`t have that, you know, on conservative media all day today, they were going after the whistleblower`s lawyer digging up, you know, old tweets of his and using those to try to discredit that information.

We`ve seen a Republican allies of the President go after all of these individuals who`ve been testifying behind closed doors even people who have served in Republican administrations going back decades, you know, highly respected generals, people who, you know, are really, according to a lot of folks, really beyond reproach.  But this is the tactic they found effective.

VELSHI:  Phil, in reading the book, did you get a sense that this was anonymous` way of getting this off their chest or delivering testimony?  Or is there something more purposeful in it?  Is there a call to action with respect to Americans and Donald Trump?

RUCKER:  Yes.  And Ali, there`s a call to action for the American people.  The author writes about the election coming up in 2020 and it`s very clear that this author does not believe Trump should be reelected to office and speaks about it that way.  There`s not necessarily a call to action for everyone serving in the government to suddenly resign or something of that nature.

There is a discussion in the book about alleging that there was consideration of the 25th Amendment, invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the President from office but it`s described in the book in very vague detail without the sort of support of evidence that we would look for as journalists.  And it`s been disputed, by the way, by the Vice President.  But rather, it`s the author I think describing what he or she has experienced and felt in this administration and the alarm that he or she felt from the President`s action, but also from this person`s colleagues, that the author writes several times that there are many people in the government at a senior level at the White House who share these concerns and these views about the President.

VELSHI:  Peter Baker, one of the things that the author points out is the degree to which over time since the beginning of this administration, the ranks of the steady state, people like the author have been thinned at the White House.  And that leads one to conclude that the author believes that the protective net around the President or the net that protects America from the President is diminished.

BAKER:  Well, I think that`s right, exactly.  The first generation of people, even the second generation of people who worked around this President are gone.  This has been the highest turnover of any administration in modern times.  And with each successive, you know, instillation of somebody in various Cabinet positions or White House positions, you`re finding a President looking for somebody to basically keep, you know, let him be Trump.  Let Trump be Trump.

He has no longer as much patience for aides telling him what to do and what not to do.  Telling him this is the way things should be done and shouldn`t be done.  Clearly that`s a frustration for anonymous, whoever he or she is.

But this raised a really interesting question.  The question is being debated within Washington and government circles is, at what point does a person who disagrees with a president so strenuously, who finds a president to be so radical and dangerous as this author does?  What point is it then incumbent on that person to leave the government and say so on the record with the name attached?  Is there -- is it fair to a president any president to have somebody inside who disagrees so much that they continued to do so in a quiet way?

You get a really interesting debate about this including from liberals and in people who don`t particularly like President Trump who goes on to say that this is not necessarily the best way to go about, you know, mounting a resistance.  You have the others who say, look, this is a patriot who believes in his or her country is doing the best here as she can to keep things together with a mercurial commander in chief.

So it`s a really interesting time and really interesting debate --


BAKER:  -- that this had provoked.

VELSHI:    Let`s continue it.  I`d ask you all, if you can, to stay with us.

Coming up, House Democrats are hoping investigation no-shows will help them build the impeachment case against President Trump as they release more damming testimony against him.

And later, Mike Bloomberg is said to be worried the Democrats won`t be able to defeat Donald Trump and that has him rethinking his own future.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Thursday night.


VELSHI:  Today, House Democrats ruled out yet another transcript from their secret close-door impeachment hearing.  They say it`s more evidence the President tried to get political dirt from a foreign leader by denying him desperately needed military aid.

Today`s explosive testimony is from the State Department official encharge of Ukraine, George Kent, who was questioned in private on October 15th.  Kent told lawmakers Trump wanted nothing less than, "President Zelensky to go to a microphone and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton.`

Kent explains, Clinton was shorthand for the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and the debunked theory Ukraine interfered in the election.

George Kent also testified about other unofficial channels for U.S., Ukraine policy.

Similar to what previous witnesses have described, Kent said he had "growing concerns that individuals were pushing communications with Ukrainians that had not been discussed and endorsed in the formal policy process."  He adds that "Giuliani had been carrying on a campaign for several months full of lies and incorrect information about Ambassador Yovanovitch."

Kent will join Ambassador Bill Taylor next Wednesday when the impeachment inquiry hearings go public.  Democratic Congressman Denny Heck, who is in the room for Kent`s closed door deposition says his House colleagues will have no difficulty making the case against Trump.


REP. DENNY HECK, (D) WASHINGTON:  We have all these other bits of evidence.  In fact, there`s a mountain of evidence.  As a matter of fact, there is more evidence to suggest that the President did the deed.  That he did seek to coerce Ukraine into a politically motivated prosecution, threaten to withhold vital military assistance to a strategic partner and ally of us.  Then there is evidence to support the idea that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning.


VELSHI:  While George Kent`s testimony points to Trump wanting to hear certain things from Ukraine, "The New York Times" reports Ukraine`s President Zelensky was prepared to deliver a message about investigations in an interview with CNN.  Unwilling to lose the military aid he badly needed, Zelensky reportedly had decided to bow to Trump`s demands but was spared when the funds, the $391 million in congressionally approved aid were mysteriously released.

Today, an aid to Vice President Mike Pence was the latest witness to give closed-door testimony under subpoena.  Jennifer Williams, a special advisor to the Vice President for Europe and Russia was on that July 25th phone call.  She`s the first person from Pence`s staff to give testimony in the impeachment tomorrow -- the impeachment inquiry.

Tomorrow, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is scheduled to provide a deposition.  Late this evening, we learned that the House Intelligence Committee has issued a subpoena for Mulvaney.

Intel Chair Adam Chief Adam Schiff tells NBC News he`s not ruling out calling additional witnesses for depositions even after they begin open hearings neck week.  Schiff has also told House Republicans they must present their list of witnesses for those open hearings by Saturday at 11:15 a.m.

Back with us, Phillip Rucker, Jill Colvin and Peter Baker.

Phil, let me start with you.  There is reporting your news paper tonight that the House Republicans plan to shield Donald Trump from impeachment in the inquiry is to focus on three people.  The U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, Donald Trump`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and possibly White House -- Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.  And the idea seems to be to suggest that any or all of these three could have been freelancing.  Could have been acting on their own?

RUCKER:  Yes.  That`s right.  It`s a good story by my colleagues in the "Post" about this emerging strategy among the President`s fiercest defenders in the House Republican conference.  And they`re looking at those three fake players who figure very prominently so far in the testimony that`s been gathered in this impeachment inquiry to basically try to distance the President from some of the worst allegations, from the quid pro quo, by speculating about whether Sondland or Mulvaney or Rudy Giuliani were freelancing and acting upon what they assumes to be the President`s motivations and interests but without direct orders and directives from the President.

Mark Meadows, the Republican congressman from North Carolina, close confident of Presidents Trump spoke to my colleagues about this and basically said, you know, the whole point here is to try to separate the President from the allegations.

VELSHI:  And Jill, that would be an interesting strategy if the President himself hadn`t come out to the cameras at the White House a few times and released a memo of the transcript of the phone call and done all these things that indicated that he did actually suggest that he wanted particular things that would be a political gain to him from the Ukrainian President?

COLVIN:  Yes, exactly.  I was standing on the South Lawn where the President came out there and he said, look, hey, China, we`d also be interested in you helping maybe investigate the Bidens, too.  That would be useful to us.  The President here has asserted himself and asserted himself day after day.

Look, I think, the end of the day this is an impeachment inquiry into the President`s conduct that he is going to constantly make himself part of the middle of this.

And I think that there is a narrative.  As we`ve seen these transcripts come out over the last couple days, we`re really starting to develop this clearer picture, you know, different witnesses may have different recollections of particular phone calls, they may have interpreted these sets of facts a little bit differently.  You know, considering different motives that different people had.  But nonetheless, we`re having this really clear picture start to be built.  And though, you know, number of folks clearly had concerns about Rudy Giuliani working outside the usual State Department channels, it seems clear from everything that we`ve heard, at least, so far that he was doing that based on conversations that he had with the President and things that the President wanted done.

VELSHI:  And he has tweeted that as recently as yesterday.

Peter, the Democrats` strategy rests on televised public hearings based on information that they have gotten from these depositions.  And Democrat after Democrat has come on our air and said the American people will see that and they will make their decision.  It will be incontrovertible evidence.  What`s the White House`s strategy to fight that in particular?

BAKER:  Well, the White House is focussing on the base.  What`s it`s focussing on is Republicans.  We`re not trying to convince Democrats or even Independents quite honestly that they didn`t do anything wrong.  They`re trying to keep Republicans with them.  As long as they can keep the Republicans with them, it guarantees any vote in the House to impeach will be a party line vote.

As long as it`s a party line vote, even though he wouldn`t be impeach, it would go to the Senate and a party line vote there would ensure that he has acquitted and charges are dismissed.  So in effect, what they`re trying to do is make it as partisan as possible because that`s the best defense he has against any kind of, you know, prison break among Republicans when the Senate suddenly decide that this is something more serious than they have indicated publicly so far.

VELSHI:  Peter, thank you, Peter Baker from "The New York Times," Phil Rucker from "The Washington Post," and Jill Colvin from the Associated Press, thank you to all three of you for helping us kick off our very busy Thursday night.

Coming up, the Acting White House Chief of Staff, this man, Mick Mulvaney now faces a subpoena to answer questions from House impeachment investigators when THE 11TH HOUR continues.


VELSHI:  The Acting White House Chief of Staff has now been subpoenaed to testify before Congress just hours from now.  Democrats conducting the impeachment inquiry want to ask Mick Mulvaney about Trump`s pressure campaign against Ukraine in an effort to smear political rival Joe Biden.  You might remember, Mulvaney admitted to it all on live TV last month.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- to with hold funding to Ukraine.

MULVANEY:  The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation.  And that is absolutely appropriate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Involving the funding?



VELSHI:  The White House says Mulvaney won`t cooperate.  If he doesn`t, he won`t be alone.  Former National Security Adviser John Bolton was supposed to be deposed today but didn`t show up.  Now that doesn`t mean he`s refusing out right.  The Washington Post reporting tonight, "Bolton does not want to compile with the Democratic inquiry without a court ruling on the on going constitutional dispute between the Trump administration and Congress".

Here to talk about it, Berit Berger, Veteran Federal Prosecutor, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney with both the Eastern District of New York and the Southern District of New York.  Berit, good to see you again.


VELSHI:  In and amongst to all of the people who are invited or subpoenaed who come or don`t come, the John Bolton thing seems to be in a category on to itself.  What is the argument that Bolton and his lawyers are either trying to make or waiting for from the courts?

BERGER:  So it seems that they`ve set up this sort of strange condition, right?  They`ve said, no, we`re willing to come in if you give us the subpoena but we want to let it play out in the courts first.  We want to see what the courts have to say about this constitutional immunity issue that the White House has been pushing.  So it`s a defense that we heard from Cooperman a couple weeks ago.  Same idea that we want to play this out in the courts first, almost get the blessing of the judiciary before we come in to testify.

Now for Bolton, I think it`s troubling, number one, because he`s not a current employee of the administration.  He doesn`t work in the government anymore.  So there`s nothing really that the White House could actually do to stop him from coming in to testify if in fact he really wanted to.  So, it seems that he`s trying in someways to cover his bases and ultimately, this may just be a delay tactic.

VELSHI:  The White House -- I`m sorry, the House Intelligence Committee has told, I think, The Washington Post, "We regret Mr. Bolton`s decision not to appear voluntarily but we have no interest in allowing the administration to play rope-a-dope with us in the courts for months.  Rather, the White House instruction that he not appear will add to the evidence of the President`s obstruction of Congress".

So this is something that the Intel Chair Adam Schiff has said several times and Democrats have said whatever you don`t do, whatever you don`t say will add to the evidence of obstruction.  I don`t know how that works in a court of law.  This is a little bit different.  How do you evaluate that statement?

BERGER:  Yes.  I mean, I think on one hand, this is a strategic approach for the House, right?  They have limited resources.  How are they going to use their time?  What they don`t want is to be chasing down 15 different court battles with all, you know, the attending deadlines that may suck their time and their resources here.

They do have a court case pending right now against Don McGahn, a suit on these very same issues.  So part of the strategy may be let`s see what the court does with respect to the suit from McGahn and the same reasoning may then apply to some of these other witnesses.  Now, as far as the -- can we use this evidence against him?  I mean, there are some parallels to what you would use in a criminal court.  They`re called adverse instructions.

So, for example, if a witness has done something to, you know, make evidence unavailable or make another witness unavailable, you could instruct the jury that they could assume almost the worst-case scenario, right, that any evidence that would have been produced would have been harmful to the person who made it unavailable.  So, it`s a kin to that, sort of this adverse instruction.

VELSHI:  Let`s talk about Giuliani for a second, because that`s the other unusual circumstance.  Rudy Giuliani, I think last night tweeted out that everything he did, he did in the interest of his client.  This is complicated because Rudy Giuliani initially said that he was there in Ukraine at the behest of the State Department and doing work.  He`s never been an employee of the State Department, he`s not a federal government official.

And his client, if he is doing these things, if he`s instructing the Ukrainians to do certain things at the behest of his client, that sort of fits into the Democrat`s allegation that there was an abuse of power because what is Rudy Giuliani doing in place of what State Department officials and ambassadors should be doing at the behest of Donald Trump but not the U.S. government.

BERGER:  That`s exactly right.  That is exactly the point of all of this.  There was two channels in all of this foreign policy.  The legitimate channel that includes people that actually work for the State Department that have expertise in issues relating to the Ukraine and then this one that was operating for the President`s personal interest if you believe Rudy Giuliani himself.

I mean, it is not the case that somebody`s personal attorney conducts business on behalf of the country.  I mean, for him to have been Donald Trump`s personal attorney, that would mean that his whole motive, everything that he was doing was on behalf of his client, which was not the United States --

VELSHI:  Right.

BERGER:  -- it was one person.

VELSHI:  But this is not in dispute because Giuliani keeps saying it himself.

BERGER:  Exactly.  I mean, he in someways is the Democrats` best evidence simply by these tweets and these statements that he`s making quite voluntarily.

VELSHI:  Berit, good to see you.  Thank you for joining us.

BERGER:  Good to see you.

VELSHI:  Berit Berger.

All right, coming up, a billionaire businessman reconsiders a run for the White House saying the current Democratic field may not have what it takes to defeat the incumbent, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), FMR. NYC MAYOR:  I love what I`m doing.  I devoted my life to philanthropy and to try to change the world to make it a better place.  And I can do more maybe outside of the two years it would take campaigning and I can get a lot of stuff done.  I will say that all of the -- out of all the 20 candidates, I think everyone would be a better president than Donald Trump.


VELSHI:  Pay attention to the last line from billionaire Michael Bloomberg from back in August in an interview with my colleague Stephanie Ruhle.  The former New York City Mayor plans to file for the Alabama presidential primary as a Democrat.  It appears to be keeping his options open given the state has a Friday filing deadline.  It`s not about Alabama, it`s about the deadline.

A Bloomberg advisor tells MSNBC News, "We need to finish the job and ensure that Trump is defeated, but Mike is in increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that.  If Mike runs, he would offer a new choice to Democrats built on a unique record running America`s biggest city".  Now that if there is notable.  Bloomberg hasn`t officially declared his candidacy.

Joining us now, my partner in crime during the 1:00 p.m. hour on MSNBC, Stephanie Ruhle.  Steph?



RUHLE:  If he were to run, he could run a different campaign than we`ve ever seen.  Day one, he could start running a national campaign.  Or every candidate we`ve ever seen it`s -- well, we got to make it happen in Iowa, if we make it happen in Iowa, we`ll get enough money to make it to the next state.  Mike`s worth $50 billion whether you love him or you hate him.

From day one, he can focus on a place like Alabama which actually has twice as many delegates as New Hampshire.  Early voting in California is actually before the Iowa caucuses.

VELSHI:  Right.

RUHLE:  So Mike actually has a different vantage point from anything we`ve seen.  It`s a play that no one has run before.  I`m not saying it would work but he has this other lane.

VELSHI:  So let`s talk about Mike Bloomberg`s ability to get under people`s skin.  He gets under Trump`s skin.  In fact, let just play something that he said at the 2016 convention about Donald Trump.


BLOOMBERG:  We must unite around the candidate who can defeat a dangerous demagogue.  I built a business and I didn`t start it with a million dollar check from my father.  Trump says he wants to run the nation like he`s running his business?  God help us.

I`m a New Yorker and I know a con when I see one.

Trump is a risky, reckless and radical choice and we can afford to make that choice.


VELSHI:  And that`s just a small sampling of the stuff that he says about Donald Trump and Donald Trump hates it.

RUHLE:  Hates it.  So think about this.  Right now everyone is saying how does Elizabeth Warren feel and Cory Booker feel?  The bigger question is how does Donald Trump feel?  Because day in and day out, we hear from more and more, even never Trumpers who say if my option is Elizabeth Warren, then I may go Donald Trump.

Mike Bloomberg is saying it could be me.  Donald Trump today was fined by a New York judge $2 million for the misuse of funds in his own charity.  That happened today.  And on that same day, a man who has a family foundation worth $7 billion got one step closer to running for President.  So for everyone says there are no pro-business candidates running against Donald Trump, Mike Bloomberg is here to say, it`s me.

VELSHI:  So, we see the push back that Tom Steyer gets for being a rich guy who got into the race, was able to advertise a lot and actually gets his poll numbers higher than a whole lot of other candidates who are running.  That`s going to hit Mike Bloomberg, too.  We`ve already seen reaction from Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar tonight.

RUHLE:  Without a doubt, you`re going to see it across the nation.  People were going to say the problem is income inequality.  The problem is the richest of the rich and Mike Bloomberg without a doubt demonstrates what the richest of the rich do.  He will argue he does a whole lot more than that.  He might even argue and you saw it in that interview from August, his number one goal isn`t to be president of the United States.  He feels like his number one goal is to ensure that Donald Trump gets defeated.

You can see Mike end up being in the short term a foil to Elizabeth Warren because other Democratic centrist candidates haven`t done a particularly strong job pushing back against how she`s going to pay for Medicare for All about her wealth tax.  Mike Bloomberg might end up doing some of Joe Biden`s dirty work for that Biden hasn`t done because the progressive wing of the party has been loud and strong.  Mike might actually help them because we don`t know how far he`ll take it.

VELSHI:  Does that help Mike Bloomberg?  Does that help Joe Biden? 

RUHLE:  We`ll soon find out.

VELSHI:  All right, Steph, good to see you and I will see you tomorrow, maybe.

RUHLE:  Actually, you`re not.

VELSHI:  I think I may not going to see you tomorrow.  Well --

RUHLE:  School tour.

VELSHI:  -- you can generally speaking, watch us every day at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

RUHLE:  If you`d like to come on a school tour with my son and I tomorrow, everybody can join.

VELSHI:  That`s how you`ll see Stephanie.

RUHLE:  Everyone can join.

VELSHI:  Yes.  Have a good one, Steph thank you.

All right, coming up, Donald Trump`s ex-Attorney General wants to win back his old seat, but first, he may need to win back the support of his old boss.  More on that when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST:  Are you running for Senate?


CARLSON:  You are running for the seat that you held.  You were, I think, after you coached the Alabama football team the most popular person of the state when you left.  Do you regret you left in the first place?

SESSIONS:  Well, I`d a great tenure at the Department of Justice in so many different ways.  And I don`t ever worry about regretting things like that.  We were able to serve, be able to push the Trump agenda in an honorable way and it was actually a great experience.


VELSHI:  Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is officially running for his old Senate seat in Alabama.  Sessions was of course, the first senator to endorse Donald Trump for President in 2016.  Trump appointed him as his first Attorney General but after Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, their relationship quickly went south and since then, the President hasn`t been shy about attacking Sessions.  Here`s a quick recap of the Trump-Sessions relationship over the years.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We need to make America great again.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  Welcome to the White House.

SESSIONS:  I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign.

TRUMP:  I am disappointed in the Attorney General.  He should not have recused himself and I would have quite simply picked somebody else.

SESSIONS:  Well, it`s kind of hurtful.

TRUMP:  He took the job and then he said I`m going to recuse myself.  I said what kind of a man is this?

To immediately have recused himself is a disgrace.

I`m going to recuse myself.

Jeff Sessions didn`t have a clue.  I would say if I had one do-over, it would be I would not have appointed Jeff Sessions to be attorney general.


VELSHI:  We could be hearing a lot more from the President about Sessions in the near future.  The New York Times reports, "Over the last week, Mr. Trump sent word to Mr. Sessions through allies that he would publicly attack him if he ran."  And The Washington Post reports, "Trump looms larger over the contest than any other Republican.  He has even joked to senators and White House aides that he would move to Alabama and compete against Sessions himself in the primary".

All right.  With us tonight, Michael Steele, Former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, the host of the appropriately named Michael Steele podcast and my friend.  Sir, there is one man who`s having a good night tonight and it`s the Democratic Senator from Alabama Doug Jones because he is thinking that there might be a Jeff Sessions-Roy Moore primary to be the Republican senatorial candidate in Alabama.

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN:  Yes.  And one that the President will likely inject himself into in such a way that it will create what is already a modeled mess and even bigger mess.  And the interesting thing about this, though, that there is a dynamic to watch here, Ali, and that is exactly how and to what extent the President goes after Jeff Sessions.

Now, keep in mind, their relationship is bad, but Jeff Sessions` relationship with South Carolina is damn good.  And so there is as risk for the President that he goes after Sessions in such a way that it harms his own relationship with the voters of South Carolina --

VELSHI:  Alabama, you mean.

STEELE:  -- excuse me, Alabama -- voters that he will need going into next year.  Yes, it`s not going to be a problem winning Alabama for the President, but at the end of the day you just don`t want to create that unnecessary tension where they rebuke you in such a way that you give the man a job in the first place.

VELSHI:  If you`re Mitch McConnell and The New York Times reporting tonight Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader has been less than thrilled with the idea of a Sessions` candidacy according to two people familiar with his thinking.  He views it, as you said, as a distraction that could end poorly for Republicans especially if a crowded Republican primary ends with Mr. Moore as the nominee again.  That`s the problem, right?

If popular Jeff Sessions runs in Alabama, but the President who`s also popular in Alabama decides to pull out all the stops to fight Jeff Sessions, Roy Moore could become the Republican candidate for Senate.

STEELE:  Yes.  I think that that`s the story line.  I just don`t see that happening.  You know, I think that Sessions` relationship with the people of Alabama goes back a lot farther than anything Trump can do.  Yes, there could be damage and there`ll be people around the edges who will fall away.  But in that primary, I do not see if Sessions runs the campaign that he has run in the past with the people of that state and continue to build on that relationship, I don`t see him losing that primary, and I see that setting up a very interesting and somewhat dynamic campaign in the fall where Democrats will actually wind up being in a more interesting position in terms of Doug Jones`s ability to keep that seat.

So, there are some dynamics here to watch for sure.  How the President goes after Sessions, how hard he goes after Sessions.  But more importantly, what is the response of the voters to that.  I think the voters are going to side a little bit more with Sessions than they will with Trump on this regard.

VELSHI:  So Jeff Sessions already has an ad for his senatorial run.  Let`s listen to part of it together.


SESSIONS:  When I left President Trump`s cabinet, did I write a tell-all book?  No.  Did I go on CNN and attack the President?  Nope.  Have I said a crossword about our President?  Not one time.  And I`ll tell you why.

First that would be dishonorable.  I was there to serve his agenda, not mine.  Second, the President`s doing a great job for America and Alabama.  And he has my strong support.


VELSHI:  So, Michael, you know a lot about politics.  You`ve run for office yourself.  When I first read that on paper, I thought that`s a kind of ludicrous ad.  You know, when you put that foxy music into it, it actually works better.  But that`s just weird.  That`s kind of a Stockholm Syndrome reversal thing?

STEELE:  No, that`s a damn good ad.  That`s a great ad for Sessions to come out of the gates with.  Look at what he does here.  He basically is saying to those Alabama voters, remember me?  I`m the same guy, the southern gentleman that you knew.  I went to Washington to serve your President, the guy you really liked.

So he`s setting up an inoculation of himself for when Trump comes in there, people goes, how can you dug (ph) this guy?  I mean, he supported you, he supported your agenda, you got rid of him.  And the recusal is not something that people hold against Jeff Sessions.  In fact, a lot of folks particularly in his home state think he did the right and honorable thing.  So, again, it goes back to my first point, this inoculates and preserves that relationship between Sessions and the people of Alabama and puts the President a little a bit on the defensive.

VELSHI:  I got a minute left.  I want to ask you your thoughts on this discussion that I just had Stephanie Ruhle about the fact that Michael Bloomberg might be getting ready to run for President himself.

STEELE:  Yes.  You know -- yeah, just what the Democrats need, another billionaire in the race, you know?  What are they going to do with that?  I don`t know.  I mean, I think Stephanie made the right point, he does have a pathway that he can carve for himself.  But whether or not he`s able to do what Tom Steyer has done and that is generate the kind of time and space with voters in a very short period of time through the spending of dollars and ads remains to be seen.

He`s got to make the full commitment into the race.  He`s been at this doorstep before, he`s not done it, he`s walked away from it, he hasn`t rung the doorbell.  Let`s see if he does that.  Alabama is going to be that first big test for him apparently when he`s going to file some papers and we`ll see where it goes from there.

VELSHI:  Michael, my friend, it is always a pleasure to talk to you.  Thank you for being with us.

STEELE:  Same here, Ali.

VELSHI:  Michael Steele.  Coming up more "11th Hour" after a quick break.


VELSHI:  Before we go tonight, we have some reminders for you.  You can watch us any time you please by downloading the MSNBC app on your phone.  If you`re on the move, you can listen live each night on SiriusXM satellite radio Channel 118.  We`re also available as a podcast.  So there`s really no good reason why`d you ever have to miss a single podcast of THE 11TH HOUR.

And of course you can catch me back here again tomorrow at 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., and 10:00 p.m. Eastern on the last word.

That is our broadcast for tonight.  Thank you for being with us.  And good night from our 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