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Trump attacks against witnesses. TRANSCRIPT: 11/18/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Mieke Eoyang, Katie Benner, Rick Wilson, Clint Watts

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  If you`re not reading Elizabeth Drew about impeachment, you`re not understanding it as well as you can.  Elizabeth Drew gets tonight`s last word.  An honor to have you with us  you with us tonight, Liz.  Thank you very much for joining us.

DREW:  Thank you, Lawrence.

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

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight we`re now just hours away from the latest round of marathon impeachment hearings just as tonight new transcripts are out from closed door witness interviews.  More administration figures describing a kind of shadow foreign policy while the President labels them never Trumpers.

Tonight what`s on the line going into tomorrow and what to watch for and why Congress is looking back on the President`s written answers to Mueller knowing what they know now?

Also this evening, the President makes an unscheduled trip to the hospital on a Saturday raising a number of questions.  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Monday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News quarters here in New York.  Day 1,033 of the Trump administration as a new week is underway.  Another dangerous week for this presidency, courtesy of the House Democrats running the impeachment inquiry.  The next round of live televised hearings set to start just hours from now.  There are nine more witnesses scheduled to appear just this coming week.

Late tonight, two more witness transcripts were released, more on that in a moment.  Tomorrow the hearings resume with two officials who were listening in on the July 25 call with the new President of Ukraine, Pence adviser, Jennifer Williams and National Security staffer Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.

"Washington Post" reporting Vindman is expected to testify about his alarmed over Trump`s request to investigate his political opponents.  We get a preview of Williams` testimony over the weekend when a transcript of her November 7th deposition was released.  She told investigators she took notes of the call and that, "the mention of those specific investigations seemed unusual."  She also said Trump`s requests seemed to be about "his personal political agenda, as opposed to a broader foreign policy objective of the United States."

She then added "When I went back to check my notes I had written that President Trump has raised Burisma."  She had also told investigators she did not know why Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company that put Joe Biden`s son on the board was not in the call summary that we all got to see, the one released to the public.

Tomorrow afternoon we`ll see lawmakers question former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former Senior National Security Council official Tim Morrison.

"The New York Times" reporting tonight that Volker will tell lawmakers he was out of the loop in at key points in Trump`s effort to pressure Ukraine.  Peter Baker, among the authors of that piece, he`s standing by to join us in a moment.

Tim Morrison worked for former National Security Adviser John Bolton.  Over the weekend, his deposition was released.  He testified that Bolton had met privately with Trump in August to try to persuade the boss to release nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine and that "Ambassador Bolton simply said he wasn`t ready to do it."

Morrison also told investigators about Trump donor turned ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland`s involvement in the administrations effort to pressure Ukraine, "Ambassador Sondland believed and at least related to me that the President was giving him instruction."

Gordon Sondland is scheduled to testify Wednesday morning.  It`s likely to be an eventful day.  Remember, he has already amended his first closed door deposition revealing that he told a top Ukrainian official the country probably would have to give in to Trump`s demands and announce investigations into his political rivals, the Bidens, if they wanted to unlock the military aid.

"The Wall Street Journal" says it has seen e-mails Sondland sent to several White House officials keeping them in the loop, up-to-date on efforts to get Ukraine to launch those investigations in the weeks leading up to that now critical July 25 call.

The number two House Republican, one of Trump`s more vocal defenders, was asked over the weekend about what Sondland might say on Wednesday.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST:  Congressman Scalise, if Gordon Sondland who met with the President a half dozen times this summer testifies on Wednesday, yes, the President said to me we`re not releasing the aid until they announce they`re going to investigate the Bidens and Burisma, doesn`t that blow a hole in the President`s defense?

REP. STEVE SCALISE, (R-LA) HOUSE MINORITY WHIP:  Well, the President`s defense is that those things didn`t happen.

WALLACE:  Are you going to say that he`s wrong, that he`s lying?

SCALISE:  Look, I know you have been asking and other have asked hypothetical questions.  Let`s talk in reality.

WALLACE:  So are you willing to abide by whatever Gordon Sondland says what happened?

SCALISE:  Abide by Gordon Son -- I abide by what the President did and what President Zelensky actually receive.


WILLIAMS:  As we mentioned there are new transcripts tonight from two upcoming witnesses.  One is from Foreign Service officer David Holmes.  He`s the one who gave closed door testimony Friday.  He is to testify pubically this coming Thursday.  He is the person who said he overheard Sondland tell Trump over a cellphone call that Ukraine would move forward with the investigation that Trump had asked for in that July 25th call.

In his closed door deposition, Holmes told lawmakers he clearly recalls the conversation because it was, "an extremely distinctive experience in my foreign service career.  I`ve never seen anything like this, someone calling the President from a mobile phone at a restaurant, and then having a conversation of this level of candor, colorful language.  There is just so much about the call that was so remarkable that I remember it vividly."  He went on to say it was assumed that American electronic communications were being monitored in Ukraine.

All of that brings us to our lead-off discussion on a Monday night, the aforementioned Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times," co-author, notably, of the new book "Impeachment, An American History," Mieke Eoyang, attorney and foreign staffer for both the House Intel and Armed Services Committees, and Katie Benner, Justice Department Reporter for "The New York Times."  Good evening and welcome to you all.

Counselor, I`d like to begin with you here in New York.  What is this week likely to yield?  How further down the road on the story are we likely to be sitting here Friday night?

MIEKE EOYANG, FMR. HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE STAFFER:  So what we saw last week was the action happening in Ukraine.  What our officials in Ukraine understood were the President`s instructions and why it was so important that they`re investigating corruption.

This week the action moves to Washington inside the White House.  And we are going to hear from people who are hearing directly from the President what he wanted in terms of this exchange with Ukrainians, foreign investigation, exchange of White House visit, foreign investigation of his rival.  And the Republicans are going to have a very hard time arguing that these are people who are not in direct communication with the President.

WILLIAMS:  So their fall backs are falling away with each increasing witness?

EOYANG:  That`s true.  Every time they have come forward with a defense of the President, what they have found is that defense is later undercut by the facts, that the President didn`t say this directly, that the President didn`t know.  Every time we get a subsequent witness that said actually I heard the President say this.  I heard the President say that on a call to Gordon Sondland.  I heard other officials tell me that this is exactly what the President told them to do.

WILLIAMS:  Peter, considering Volker was special envoy to Ukraine, if he indeed tries to argue he was out of the loop, a phrase we all first learned in the lexicon from the era of Bush 41, how is that likely to go over?

PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, he`s got some explaining to do in his testimony because he was the first one called in for closed door deposition.  And some of the things he said in that deposition were later in conflict with testimony given by some of the other witnesses.  For instance, he gives a blander description of the July 10th meeting at the White House that we`ve later learned included John Bolton abruptly ending it and Fiona Hill confronting Gordon Sondland.  And later Bolton saying, you know, I`m not going to be part of any drug deal.  He has to explain that -- why he didn`t know that Gordon Sondland had told the Ukrainians that in fact the security aid release was tied to whether they did announce investigations or not.

Now, what he`s going to say in his testimony, we`re told, is that he hadn`t been told about Gordon Sondland`s conversation with the Ukrainians and he hadn`t been told that President Zelensky of Ukraine was being pressured to go on CNN to make a statement.  And that July 10th meeting, he simply didn`t hear the things that other people have reported.  He`s not challenging their accounts but says it is possible he was talking with somebody else at the time and didn`t happen to hear the particular words that were exchanged.

So that`s going to be interesting because he`s one of the witnesses the Republicans wanted to call because he thought that he offered them some testimony that was useful to them.  He said in his first go-around in a closed-door deposition that he didn`t know of any quid pro quo attached to the security aid.  Now, of course, we have testimony of the contrary from other witnesses.

WILLIAMS:  Katie Benner, the President has no shortage of loyal Cabinet officers.  The guy you covered, the attorney general, among the most loyal to this President.  Talk to us about the case Attorney General Barr made this weekend about the President`s conduct.

KATIE BENNER, THE NEW YORK TIMES JUSTICE DEPT. REPORTER:  Sure.  So without ever saying the word impeachment, Attorney General Barr basically said that the President has extraordinary power.  So much power it can`t be limited, it can`t really hemmed in by Congress.

He sees the impeachment procedure as an attempt to undo a duly elected President.  And he sees what he sees the resistance, and what he calls the resistance, and of course what Democrats are going to claim it`s also a resistance.  He sees that as a way of undermining democracy, going against the Constitution and basically trying to say that elections don`t have consequences.

Now, what is interesting about this is it almost lays out a road map for the argument that the Senate may very well make.  So, should the President be impeached?  Should this go to trial in the Senate?  As Mieke has mentioned, a lot of the arguments that have made by Republicans so far have been batted down as witness after witness comes forward.  So they may very well echo this argument, which is the President had the power to do this and, thus, it was not wrong.

WILLIAMS:  And of course that butts up against the classic argument that the President or any one of us is above the laws of this land.

BENNER:  Right.  And so what Barr was saying is that, you know, as President and while President, he has executive power.  That executive power is to make decisions in his lane.  His lane just happens to be extremely broad.  It covers the Defense Deparment.  It covers the Justice Department.  It covers the State Department.  And if this is what he wants to do, then this is OK.

WILLIAMS:  Oh, boy.  Mieke, it`s hard to know where to go from here.  Jennifer Williams writes the word Burisma down in her contemporaneous notes of listening to the President of the United States on the phone.  Burisma, the word, the proper noun, the proper noun, yes, that`s right, appears nowhere in the summary we all receive, which the President erroneously keeps calling the transcript, read the transcript.  We would love to read a transcript of the call.  What does that omission tell you?  Or is it insignificant?

EOYANG:  It`s actually very significant.  And one of the reasons it is significant is because as Volker Burisma and Biden were linked inextricably in the mind of the President`s attorney, Rudy Giuliani.  That he saw those things as a way -- Burisma as a way of investigating the Bidens, in a way that would politically benefit the President.

Now, there`s some question about whether or not the President links those two things because Burisma itself was a company that had some questions about its own corruption, but it doesn`t occur in the context of that.  It occurs in the context of Biden.

And so, if Burisma is coming, if that`s conveyed to Zelensky as this is the investigation that you need to start, it is very clear that the President is trying to get Zelensky to basically engage in like the planting of evidence against a rival of his.  Now, one of the challenges on that is there are limits on the President`s behavior in the Constitution.  It`s not unfettered power as Barr is asserting in his defense of the President.  The Constitution says the President can be removed for treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors.

And what you see here in this -- the President saying to Zelensky, I`ll give you the aid if you start this investigation is that President trying to bribe Zelensky into a corrupt act.  The investigation into his rival, by giving him something that is an official act from Trump, that Trump is trying to then withhold.

WILLIAMS:  And, indeed, when the speaker came out and used the b word, bribery, that`s the point they`re trying to hammer at.

EOYANG:  That`s exactly right.  And part of the reason they`re focussed on this question is it`s an explicit thing that the framers included in the Constitution to say the President can`t engage in bribery, which they understood as using the powers of the office for your own personal benefit.

WILLIAMS:  And Katie Benner, is there any peril to the President continuing to take shots at witnesses in real-time, which he did during the Mueller investigation, let`s not forget.

BENNER:  Absolutely.  And every time he does that he puts himself in more peril.

So for example, we saw with the witness, former ambassador to Ukraine, he tweeted about her and he said things that she felt were threatening and immediately Adam Schiff said, you know what, we take witness intimidation very seriously.  Almost as if the President was writing yet another, you know impeachment clause for him -- writing another article of impeachment from self right then and there, witness tampering.  Almost can`t help himself.  So as the heat is turned up as the witnesses come up this week, it will be interesting to see whether or not he continues to overstep his boundaries in a way that the House could use against him.

WILLIAMS:  Peter Baker, we have to talk about the President`s health because it`s an issue, because he did something over the weekend highly unusual.  We`ve all become accustomed of learning, you know, today as the President`s annual physical at Walter Reed.  Well, Saturday, without any prior notice, a motorcade was assembled and the President was hustled out to Walter Reed.  It led to all kinds of reporting.

The President had to deny it was anything untoward.  Said it was routine.  Indeed tonight, Dr. Sean Conley, who is a commander in the U.S. Navy, the President`s physician, has tried to settle the matter.  They have put out this memo he wrote to the press secretary for public distribution saying it was a planned interim check-up, part of primary preventative care, "the President has not had any chest pain, nor was he evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues.  Specifically, he did not undergo any specialized cardiac or neurologic evaluations."

That wording is important.  Those denials there are denials of the rumors that we chased down and reported on and kept hearing all day long.  So what are we to take of this at the end of the day?

BAKER:  Yes, it`s very interesting.  You don`t see a statement like this at 10:00 at night from the White House because you don`t see a trip to the hospital like we saw on Saturday very often to be honest with you.  He did just go through a regular annual physical just in February.  It`s only nine months later.  You don`t normally do this without announcing it in advance, as he had in the past.

Now, they said, look, this is just an opportunity to get in some partial tests, in other words, partial toward this annual physical.  They will continue it after the New Year, the doctor said.  But it raises suspicions.

And remember, with the long history of lots of White Houses and lots of presidents not telling us the full truth about health conditions of their presidents, and this is not exactly a White House known for its forthcoming nature to begin with.  So there`s obviously a lot of suspicion.  They`re trying to douse that suspicion with a statement by the doctor, not just statement by Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, but by a Navy commander who you presume is more, you know, committed to making sure that his reports are accurate, precise and honest.

And they`re hoping, I think, to kind of put an end to the speculation.  But it does still leave a lot of questions.  Why did they do it on Saturday?  Why didn`t they tell us in advance?  What else is going on here?

One good thing for the President, according to the exam results the doctor released was his cholesterol is down.  He`s been taking medication for that.  He`s back in healthier range.  That`s a good thing, obviously, for his health.

But they didn`t release any other exam results.  They didn`t release the weight.  They didn`t release any other lists of exams.  He might or might not have taken any future exams they plan to give him.

WILLIAMS:  With -- we`re much obliged to our big three tonight.  Never can tell which topics are going to come up at this hour.  To Peter Baker, to Mieke Eoyang, to Katie Benner our thanks for helping us out.

And coming on tonight, coming up, the new congressional investigation goes back in time to what the President told Mueller in his written answers and whether or not he was being truthful.  We`ll ask a former U.S. attorney about that.

And later, we have an exclusive on some new data showing the ways that Russia is already honing its message and picking favorites in the 2020 election as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started kicking off this new week.


WILLIAMS:  We are reduced to saying things like make of this what you will, but today the President said he would strongly consider testifying in the impeachment inquiry.  This comes as Charlie Savage of "The New York Times" reports about the last time Trump submitted written answers at least to an investigation against him, "House Democrats are exploring whether President Trump lied in his written answers to Robert Mueller`s investigation, a lawyer for the House told federal appeals court on Monday, raising the prospect of an additional basis for an article of impeachment.  The acknowledgment refocussed attention on a quiet debate among Democrats about whether any impeachment of Mr. Trump should go beyond the Ukraine affair and accuse him of obstructing the Russia investigation."

Back with us tonight is Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney, former senior official at the FBI.  Also happens to host our popular podcast called, for good reason, "The Oath."

All right, Chuck, what specific portion of the written testimony already submitted is raising flags now after the fact?  Subset question: is this a makable case?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY:  Yes.  So, the portion we should focus on is President Trump`s denials that he knew about the connections with WikiLeaks, that he was soliciting information about it.  Really that he had any knowledge that WikiLeaks had played a role in, you know, sort of exposing stolen e-mails to the public.

And what should we, you know, and is it a makable case?  Gosh, Brian, that`s a much more difficult question.  Perjury is a hard charge to bring.  And normally what you need to make a successful perjury case is a rather precise question and a rather emphatic answer.  And I`ve watched a lot of congressional hearings, but I haven`t seen a lot of precise questions.

And, so, is it makable?  Yes.  Is it easy?  No.  And also the President couched so many of his answers in the following way, to the best of my recollection or I don`t really recall but.  And when you have those types of answers, it becomes even more difficult to make a perjury case.

WILLIAMS:  Let`s take the President and his word.  He says he`s strongly considering testifying.  Isn`t -- if he insists on written answers again, why isn`t that a waste of everyone`s time all over again?

ROSENBERG:  It`s a waste of everyone`s time all over again.  As a prosecutor, I never took written answers.  I would never want a written answer.  They are virtually useless.  Sometimes you will see this in civil litigation, but not in criminal.

Now, I know an impeachment inquiry isn`t quite a criminal case, but it`s an analog to one.  And here is the problem with it, Brian.  Those questions, despite what Mr. Trump said were not prepared by him.  They were prepared by his lawyers and carefully so.  And, so, so many, again, so many of the questions were, you know, rather precise from the Mueller team.  Some of the answers were incredibly vague.

If I were Adam Schiff, if I were the Democrats, I don`t want that.  It`s a waste of my time.  It doesn`t get me anywhere and it doesn`t permit me as an investigator to gauge someone`s tone or demeanor or to follow up with more pointed questions if I don`t think they`re telling me the truth.  I think it is a waste of time.

WILLIAMS:  Chuck, late last week we saw a rare bit of emotion from you on the subject of our Secretary of State.  I surmised on the air Friday night that it was exactly because you had taken an oath more than once to serve your country.  And here is a guy, our Secretary of State, famously graduated number one in his West Point class, 1986, and has been in his career an army officer.  Why -- the question is, why hasn`t he been supporting, offering air cover for his people, his employees, among them veteran Foreign Service officers?

The subject came up at the State Department today.  We`ll show you Pompeo and talk about it on the other side.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE:  I always defend State Department employees.  It`s the greatest diplomatic corps in the history of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You talk about Ukraine policy so I`m curious if you Ambassador Taylor has been an effective envoy of that policy, and if he`s going to remain in his job or if the President has lost confidence in him?

POMPEO:  Yes.  State Department is doing a fantastic job.  I think we have delivered in a way that the Obama administration has not delivered in Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still have confidence in Ambassador Taylor?

POMPEO:  Thanks, everybody.  Have a fantastic day.


WILLIAMS:  So, counselor, you heard him there.  He was given a direct chance to offer support, a direct chance to talk about his employees by name.

ROSENBERG:  He`s an accomplished man, Brian, and he`s an intelligent man, but he`s a coward.  I said that last week and I derived absolutely no pleasure from saying it, but I standby it, every word that I uttered.

Look, leadership means taking care of your people.  And when they`re being attacked by the President of the United States, that imperative does not change.  He has failed his people.  He has failed as a leader.  And it`s deeply disappointing.

And, so, he had a chance, just now you showed it on camera, to emphatically state that he stood by Ambassador Taylor and Ambassador Yovanovitch and the men and women of the State Department.  And he gave us nothing but platitudes when asked a specific question he walked away.  There is his answer, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  I know you well enough to know there is no joy in your answer.  Chuck Rosenberg, thank you as always for coming on the broadcast here with us tonight.

ROSENBERG:  Yes, sir.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up for us, Donald Trump was their candidate of choice in 2016.  Putin said so publically.  But which candidates are Russian state media rooting for, rooting against this time around?  This could be telling.  We have new and exclusive analysis of this very question right when we come back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you want President Trump to win the election?  And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator):  Yes, I did.  Yes, I did, because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.


WILLIAMS:  So we know who Russia favored in 2016 and now a new analysis of Russian-backed news coverage is shedding light on which candidates the Kremlin may be focused on heading into 2020.  You may come across their stories when changing the channel or surfing the internet.  But it`s important to remember when you see those RT or Sputnik News logos, you are getting information from Russian state-sponsored news outlets.

The Foreign Policy Research Institute has analyzed over 1,700 news articles this year from RT and Sputnik News.  It found the following, Joe Biden was mentioned more than 300 times and led the way in terms of negative coverage with a 53 percent rating.  On the flip side, the analysis found that Hawaii Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard was the overwhelming favorite with 61 mentions and 46 percent favorable coverage.

Our next guest, Clint Watts, worked on the analysis, and he writes this, "For Russia thus far, Biden is to 2020 what Hillary Clinton was to 2016."  Here for his exclusive report the aforementioned Clint Watts, former FBI special agent, a distinguished research fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, author of "Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians and Fake News".

Clint, thank you for rolling this out here tonight.  Thanks for coming on.  Why focus on these news outlets and not the traditional Twitter addresses, the bots and the trolls that drove so much of it in 2016?

CLINT WATTS, DISTINGUISHED FELLOW, FOREIGNN POLICY RESEARCH INSTITUTE:  If you look back four years ago compared to now, Russia led the way in disinformation and use of social media.  We know a lot about this from the Mueller report.  Fast forward to now.  There is so much disinformation out on social media platforms.  It`s very difficult to parse out what would be Russia, Iran or China, two other countries will look at in this project or any domestic influence activity.

And so what`s remarkable, when you look at this going back to the last election and as you put very appropriately in the opening here, Vladimir Putin doesn`t hide who they like or who they don`t like.  If you read what the Russian news outlets are putting out, what their take is on the different candidates, they`ll actually signal.  They`ll point such that you can then go look in social media and you can try and find where that inauthentic activity is, where those bots might be pushing, where are that fake or manipulated news might be leading someone in a direction that isn`t quite the truth.

WILLIAMS:  Because we`re all news consumers, I always ask you when you come on for a consumer guide, what is this messaging look like?  What do these stories look like?  What`s the tone?  What do they say about Biden that`s so good -- so bad and Gabbard that`s so good, for example?

WATTS:  Well, there`s two kinds of one bias you can eject.  It doesn`t matter what kind of news outlet.  One, you can just overtly state bias inside the articles, right?  You can take a very positive slant or a negative slant.  Or it`s selection bias, which is you just select stories and now I can select stories which then leads to a framing of the candidate as being positive or negative.

What Russia does that`s quite fascinating is they are much like any U.S. news outlet that`s out there, but they`re very good at pushing the corners.  When you look at those charts, I always look at about 70 percent of mentions will be neutral and that would be consistent with any U.S. news outlet that you might see.  But where I always look are the fringes.  When you go towards the negative or towards the positive, you see that middle number of neutral move in one direction or another, that`s where that very slight push left or right, positive or negative is going for those candidates.

And so with Biden it`s fascinating.  Not only does he show up the most overwhelming compared to the rest of the field, probably a lot more percentage-wise than you`d see in the United States, it focuses generally on a couple of issues.  One his age and his health, very similar to what we saw with Hillary Clinton back four years ago.  And the other part is Ukraine, Hunter Biden, that sort of conspiracy is already there and it echoes a lot of what the President is talking about in the United States.

This time around, they don`t really -- Russia doesn`t need to make fake news or manipulate troops.  America is doing plenty of that for them.  And you see them mostly recycling, repurposing specific narratives, in this case, out of the President and then pushing it against Biden himself.

WILLIAMS:  How do they talk up Tulsi Gabbard?

WATTS:  They just speak to what her issues are.  But what they`re doing is they`re actually pushing her and pushing her content, talking about her more than you would see typically in the U.S. audience base.  For Russia, they -- what she says is perfect for what they want Americans to hear.  She is pushing against the established Democratic Party.

She`s a army officer with combat record.  She`s been over to Iraq.  She is saying that the U.S. should withdraw from foreign battlefields.  I think she alluded last debate that President Trump was backing al-Qaeda in Syria, which is pretty crazy statement to make.  So all of these things, her position on Syria, visiting Assad, these are things Russia wants and supports.  So it`s natural for them to amplify her positions.

WILLIAMS:  We are not done.  In fact, we are just starting this conversation with you because we`ve got a long year ahead.  Please promise to come back and continue talking to us.

WATTS:  I will.  And Ron is up next.  We`ll do a very similar analysis and we`ll also talk about President Trump and the Republican candidates using the same exact metrics as well.

WILLIAMS:  Fantastic.  Not fantastic, but, you know what I mean.

WATTS:  Yes.

WILLIAMS:  Clint Watts, thank you so much --

WATTS:  Thank you.

WILLIAMS:  -- for coming on.

Coming up for us, ahead of this week`s public hearings, a smear campaign continues, aimed directly at those witnesses seated at the table.  More on that when we come back.



KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS:  Was Marie Yovanovitch the target of a smear campaign by your allies?  She`s testified she was.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I really don`t know her.  But if you look at the transcripts, the president of Ukraine was not a fan of hers either.  I mean, he did not exactly say glowing things.

He`s a never Trumper.  His lawyer is the head of the never Trumper.  They`re a dying breed, but they`re still there.

Nobody had -- with all of those people, very few people that I know came forward, and they only came forward when you asked.  And some of them are never Trumpers.

KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS:  What evidence do you have that Colonel Vindman is a never Trumper?

TRUMP:  We`ll be showing that to you real soon.


WILLIAMS:  Not clear what the President was referring to there but he continues to respond to this growing evidence against him with a tax on the impeachment inquiry witnesses that include an aid to his own Vice President, let`s not forget.  He called Jennifer Williams a never Trumper and suggested she read the summaries he released of two calls with the president of Ukraine.  That was his advice to her.

Williams, who works in the White House, was actually on the July call, so she can do one better.  She`s one of nine witnesses scheduled for this week`s public hearings.

With us tonight to talk about all of it, Karine Jean-Pierre, chief public affairs officer from MoveOn and an alum of the Obama campaign and the Obama White House, also happens to be the author of the new book "Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work and the Promise of America".  And Rick Wilson, Republican strategist who`s soon to be following up on his first work, "Everything Trump Touches Dies" with his new work "Running Against the Devil" do out in early 2020.

Good evening and welcome to you both.  So, Rick Wilson, given that lead-in, I`m reminded that Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, called Vindman a bureaucrat trying to sabotage the President.  Are the Republicans positions changing on the fly?  If you`re a vulnerable Republican senator and one of your colleagues is talking that way, it can`t be good for you.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  No.  You`ve got to be -- you got to wonder about how far they can push this fairly bogus argument that Vindman and everybody else are members of this secret never Trump cabal.  This is a guy who has -- had honorable and courageous service in the military.  He is a serious person.  And it reflects terribly on guys like Ron Johnson and the enabler caucus of Donald Trump to try to attack their integrity and attack their history and to try to ascribe for them.

You know, I`ve missed Colonel Vindman at the never Trump meetings, sorry.  Sorry to disappoint the Donald on that one.  But this is a guy who has seen something and has have many, many other witnesses now.  And it requires the structure that says every single one of these people is a liar and only Donald Trump tells the truth.  That`s the structure that it puts them at risk politically down the line.

WILLIAMS:  Karine, a lot of Democrats, a lot of folks remember what happened during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.  We remember, almost burned into your mind the concerned faces of the Flakes of the world, of the Collins of the world.  We know how they all voted in the end.  What are the chances that this could end in a similar way?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, FORMER CAMPAIGN OFFICIAL FOR BARACK OBAMA:  So I think the difference here, Brian, is that the longer that you see -- the public sees Donald Trump`s criminality out in the public kind of up in the public as a top story, the worse it actually is for Republicans and the better it is for Democrats.  There were stories upon stories about how impeachment would hurt Democrats.  But under Nancy Pelosi`s leadership, she has kept to the message, made it about the facts, not made it about politics even though impeachment is a political act.  But you don`t even see that.

The case that Democrats have is so strong.  And what are Republicans are saying, their message is, OK, yes, he did it, but it is not impeachable.  But you don`t see that in the polling.  You know, the polling is moving more and more, the public opinion, towards Democrats.  The impeachment supporting the impeachment inquiry even to a point where they support impeachment and a removal.  And so this is where we are.

And let`s not forget about Kentucky and Louisiana.  That has changed this whole game as well.  Donald Trump put impeachment on the platform in Kentucky, in Louisiana.  Kentucky, they had ads, the governor there, Republican governor, had ads on impeachment.  So the politics on this is changing very, very quickly.

WILLIAMS:  Karine, you are so right to bring that up, the re-election of John Bel Edwards just this weekend.  Rick, is Bolton testimony a potential game changer to you if we see him raise his right hand.

WILSON:  I think it`s important for two big reasons.  The first is John Bolton has a particular space in the conservative firmament.  He is a guy who spans all the way back to the Regan era, frankly even before as a national security Republican.  He has never been venal.  He`s never been a guy trying to monetize anything.  He`s never had an agenda except for his belief in scurry.  You can disagree with it or not, but that`s what John Bolton is.

The second thing that`s highly relevant is he is the national security adviser to the president of the United States, who is going to have direct first person knowledge of the conversation.  He is out there saying this is a drug deal.  He`s going to the counsel trying to short-circuit this crazy Giuliani scheme that Trump and some that are running.  He`s doing all these things that are now part of the legal record.  And if he testifies about them, it puts the President very much directly in the center.  We have motive.  We have action.  We have Donald Trump as the impetus for this program.  And I think it raises the stakes significantly for the President.

WILLIAMS:  Both of our guests have agreed to stay with us over the break.  When we come back, the Senate majority leader predicting the impeachment debate will now stretch into the new year, 2020.  More on a likely collision of priorities in Congress.  Let`s not forget the campaign trail when we come back.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MAJORITY LEADER:  Well, all I can tell you at this particular point is it looks to me like the House is going to be on this until Christmas.  Then it comes over to the Senate.  It displaces all other business.  The chief justice of the United States is in the chair.  Senators are not allowed to speak.  They have to sit there and listen.  And I`m not sure how long it will go on.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER:  I don`t know how much longer.  I guess it depends on how many more witnesses they have.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You expect that to be wrapped up before the end of the year?

PELOSI:  I have no idea.  Again, I don`t have any --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No timetable for that?



WILLIAMS:  Well, anyone notice if it displaces all other Senate business, we hasten to ask.  House and Senate leadership there seem to agree on one thing.  It is unlikely the impeachment inquiry will be over by the end of this year.  Could still be well underway deep into the 2020 primary season.

Here`s how the calendar is shaping up, by the way.  There are 43 days until the end of 2019.  Three days until government funding runs out.  That`s expected to get an extension.  See kicking the can down the road.  And the Thanksgiving recess starts three days after that.  It`s 27 days until the end of year recess when the House and Senate go home until after the new year.  And 77 days from now, the Iowa caucuses.

Back with us, Karine Jean-Pierre and Rick Wilson.

Karine, what should we make what should we make of this?  And this is where I ask you if Democrats can walk and chew gum.  There are a number of Democrats in this race with seats in one of these Houses.

JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes.  I think Democrats can walk and chew gum.  I think that`s why public opinion is moving towards the Democrats` argument because they`re putting together a strong case as I stated before.  It`s funny to hear Mitch McConnell talking about the Senate business when he calls, you know, his Senate the graveyard.  Democrats have passed more than 300 pieces of legislation and a lot of it, all of it really is sitting on the desk of Mitch McConnell.  So, Mitch McConnell is playing with a weak hand, and his hand only gets weaker, Brian.

One of the things that Republicans and Trump want Mitch McConnell to do is they want him to do one of these show trials for two days and be done with it.  But he can`t do that because he knows that he`s not going to get the vote, and he has those vulnerable senators that know that the charges that are being accused or, you know, being accused of Donald Trump are serious and a show trial would hurt them.  So I think Democrats actually have the strong hand on this.  And it`s interesting just to see how weak for the first time you see McConnell is in this space.

WILLIAMS:  Rick Wilson, make the case I know you can make about McConnell and those vulnerable Republican senators.

WILSON:  Sure.  Brian, I think what`s the number one factor of whether Donald Trump lives or dies politically speaking is Mitch McConnell waking up one morning and looking at the polling in Maine and Colorado and Arizona and other places and saying we`re going to lose the majority.  And if he thinks he`s going to lose the majority, this will flip over in a hot minute.  The only thing Mitch McConnell cares about is preserving his majority in the Senate.  He does -- Donald Trump could be set on fire and Mitch McConnell would stand there and go, oh, keeping my majority, good, good deal.

WILLIAMS:  What would flipping over look like?  Would he give a signal that a vote to remove is OK?

WILSON:  He would allow some of these people that he`s kept in check and they`re in that category of Republicans you would think would be right on this issue because they are people who have some integrity who he has kept them very strongly in line saying our base will destroy us if we don`t do this, if we don`t defend him at every turn.  These are guys -- and I don`t want to even name them in part because, you know, we can name Mitt Romney obviously.


WILSON:  But there are guys that you would look at ordinarily and say these are people with integrity.  You look at say a Rob Portman, for example.  You`ve got folks like that who ordinarily would be people that would reject this kind of criminal behavior outright and call him out on it are not going to be in a position if Mitch McConnell, you know, lets the brakes off where they feel as restrained as they do.  If it looks like it`s going to - - if the public numbers have moved where the Republicans are going to lose the majority, game`s over.

WILLIAMS:  Karine, you have me thinking about your mention of both Kentucky and Louisiana.


WILLIAMS:  Of course you`re in the turn out business really --


WILLIAMS:  -- and do you think this will empower Democrats?  You heard a lot of self-criticism after the last election that their ground game was weak, that they weren`t going state and local.  They were looking at races, feeling intimidated, and not -- deciding not to play.  Do you think this will build upon itself?

JEAN-PIERRE:  Absolutely.  If you look at the political results, electoral results in 2017 and 2018 and now 2019, there is a turning point here.  You have the suburban areas.  You have turnout.  It was a coalition if you think about it, the suburban and black voters in Kentucky and Louisiana coming out.  And if I`m the Republicans, I`m very worried about losing in these two very deep, deep red states.  And I think that there is a reason for Democrats to be encouraged.  I think you have voters out there, voters who voted for Trump in 2016 now turning around in off-year elections saying enough is enough.  We are done here.  And now 2020 is right around the corner.

WILLIAMS:  Rick Wilson, in the 30 seconds we have left, explain to people that being a Louisiana Democrat would get you membership in the Republican Party in most other states.

WILSON:  Pretty much.  Louisiana was a red state, trending more red particularly after Katrina in this large (INAUDIBLE) African-American voters.  This was a place where we`re flying in to do the rally on paper should have been a great idea.  President Marco Rubio or President Ted Cruz, probably it would have worked.  But right now it`s Donald Trump who has a negative activation potential with everybody he sees.

And look, if I were the Democrats, I`d pay the gas bill to Air Force One and say go do rallies and target the seats because it is not working out like they think it does.

WILLIAMS:  Our thanks to two of our friends, Rick Wilson and Karine Jean- Pierre.  Thank you so much for coming on tonight.

JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  THE 11TH HOUR continues right after this.


WILLIAMS:  Before we go tonight, some reminders for you.  Our special coverage of Tuesday`s impeachment hearings begins just about exactly nine hours from now, 9:00 a.m. sharp tomorrow morning Eastern Time.  Wednesday, a more consequential day than normal, starts with Sondland testimony in the morning.  And then that evening, we turn to the law firm of Mitchell, Maddow, Welker, and Parker, the four moderators for the Democratic debate 9:00 Eastern Time out of Atlanta.  And then coverage post-debate right here, we`ll be here with you for the entire day.

For now, that is our broadcast for this Monday night as we start off a new week.  Thank you for being here with us.  Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.


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