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Top Russia expert bracing rebuke. TRANSCRIPT: 11/21/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Kimberly Atkins, Philip Rucker, Eugene Robinson, Mike Murphy

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And when you look at what just happened in Kentucky and Virginia where we brought in voters, independents, moderate Republicans, that`s how you build that coalition. So you immediately make change with climate change, immigration reform, health care, and economic issues and get it done.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  We`re out of time.  That sits always there for you wherever you`re in town.

KLOBUCHAR:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Senator Amy Klobuchar, candidate for president of the United States.

KLOBUCHAR:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  She gets tonight`s last word.  That is "Tonight`s Last Word."  "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, Dr. Hill and the hand grenade, as today two public servants stone cold experts in their field speak truth to Congress at one point asking members of Congress to stop doing the work of the Russians.  They both paint a devastating picture of a coordinated scheme as they shatter conspiracy theories that have been spread by some of the members of the committee.

With the end of these public hearings, the White House is looking ahead in a way.  Today hosting some Republican senators to talk about what the trial of the President might look like in the Senate and how long it might last.

Plus, Vladimir Putin sounds satisfied that his talking points are working in our country.  All of it as "The 11th Hour" gets underway on a Thursday night.

Well, good evening once again from out NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 1,036 of the Trump administration.  This was the final scheduled day of public testimony in this impeachment inquiry.  Proceedings wrapped up this afternoon with Fiona Hill a former top official on the National Security Council and David Holmes, a political counselor at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine.

Dr. Hill is a British born American citizen and daughter of a coal miner.  She also happens to be brilliant, formidable, patriotic, fierce, and forthright.  She is the author among other things of a book on the "Psyche of Vladimir Putin."  A lifelong Russia expert and scholar and true to form, she quickly set the tone with a rebuke and a warning to members of the House Intelligence Committee.


FIONA HILL, TRUMP`S FORMER TOP RUSSIA ADVISER:  Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country.  And that perhaps, somehow for some reason, Ukraine did.  This is a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.

President Putin and the Russian security services operate like a super pac.  They deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research in false narratives. Right now, Russia security services under proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election.  We are running out of time to stop them.  And the cost of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods so clearly advance Russian interests.


WILLIAMS:  Extraordinary.  Today`s other witness, David Holmes explained how he and other American diplomats in Ukraine came to understand what was going on during the spring and summer of this year, specifically that Trump and especially his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani clearly wanted an investigation into the Bidens in return for a White House meeting and U.S. military aid to Ukraine.


DAVID HOLMES. COUNSELOR FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS, U.S. EMBASSY IN UKRAINE:  It became apparent that Mr. Giuliani was having a direct influence on the foreign policy agenda.  My clear impression was that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the President either as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Ukrainians who had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigation, or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.


WILLIAMS:  Giuliani was also mentioned as you might imagine in Dr. Hill`s testimony.  She explained how she told her then boss John Bolton about the damage Giuliani was doing to the administration policy and to the reputation of an ambassador to Ukraine who was soon thereafter a former ambassador.


HILL:  I had also already brought to Ambassador Bolton`s attention the attacks, the smear campaign against Ambassador Yovanovitch.  And Ambassador Bolton looked pained, basically indicated with body language that there was nothing much we could do about it.

And he then in the course of that discussion said that Rudy Giuliani was a hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up.  He was frequently on television making quite incendiary remarks about everyone involved in this.  And that he was clearly pushing forward issues and ideas that would, you know, probably come back to haunt us.  And in fact, I think that that`s where we are today.


WILLIAMS:  Dr. Hill added that while a president certainly has the right to dismiss an ambassador, she couldn`t understand why it was necessary to malign a career foreign service officer.  Dr. Hill went onto recount her run-ins over Ukraine policy with Gordon Sondland, the Ambassador to the E.U. and the Trump donor who was the President`s other point man in Ukraine.

Yesterday Sondland implicated the President and numerous other top administration officials including Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney in the scheme to leverage Ukraine.  And he testified there was, in fact, a quid pro quo.

Today Fiona Hill told the committee how John Bolton urged her to report her concerns to a White House attorney.


HILL:  Specifically instruction was that I had to go to the lawyers, to John Eisenberg, our senior counsel for the National Security Council to basically say, you tell Eisenberg, Ambassador Bolton told me, that I am not part of the -- this -- whatever drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, MAJORITY COUNSEL:  What did you understand him to mean the by the drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland were cooking up?

HILL:  I took it to mean investigations for a meeting.

GOLDMAN:  Did you go speak to the lawyers?

HILL:  I certainly did.


WILLIAMS:  Hill added she and her team felt Sondland was keeping them out of the loop.  And she said she now realizes he was working under a somewhat different mandate, and then she ever so gently painted this millionaire ambassador who did Trumps bidding as a guy running an errand for the boss.


HILL:  I was upset with him that he wasn`t fully telling us about all the meetings that he was having.  And he said to me, but I`m briefing the President, I`m briefing Chief of Staff Mulvaney, I`m briefing Secretary Pompeo, and I`ve talk to Ambassador Bolton.  Who else do I have to deal with?

He was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national foreign security policy.  And those two things have just diverged.  I did say to him, Ambassador Sondland, Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up, and here we are.


WILLIAMS:  And here we are.  We also heard David Holmes describe that now famous phone call over a cell phone on July 26th.  The call Ambassador Sondland had with President Trump there in an outdoor restaurant in Ukraine, mind you, one day after the now equally famous phone call between Trump and the new President of Ukraine.


HOLMES:  Well, Ambassador Sondland`s phone was not on speakerphone, I could hear the President`s voice through the ear piece of the phone.  The President`s voice was loud and recognizable.  And Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time presumably because of the loud volume.

I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine.  Ambassador Sondland replied yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelensky, "loves your ass."  I then heard President Trump ask, so he`s going to do the investigation?  Ambassador Sondland replied that he`s going to do it.  Adding that President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to do.

I asked the Ambassador if it was true that the President did not give a expletive about Ukraine.  Ambassador Sondland agreed that the President did not give an expletive about Ukraine.

GOLDMAN:  What did he say that he does care about?

HOLMES:  He said he cares about big stuff.

GOLDMAN:  Did he explain what he meant by big stuff?

HOLMES:  Well, I asked him.  Well, what kind of big stuff?  We have big stuff going on here like or/with Russia.  And he said no, big stuff like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani is pushing.

I`ve never seen anything like this in my Foreign Service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cell phone to the President of the United States.


WILLIAMS:  Holmes also said the administration continued to add conditions for Ukraine to get what it wanted from the Trump White House.  Something he said he learned from the current top diplomat in Ukraine.


HOLMES:  On September 8th, Ambassador Taylor told me, "now they`re insisting Zelensky commit to the investigation in an interview with CNN."  I was shocked the requirement was so specific and concrete.


WILLIAMS:  The next day, September 9th, three House committees opened their investigations.  Just yesterday Sondland testified that on that very same day Trump told him with regard to Ukraine, I want nothing.  It`s the argument the President wrote in sharpie yesterday on a pad that we all got to see and that a White House spokesman was echoing this evening on Fox News.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, what do you say to those who say that that was right after the House opened their investigation and the President had just become aware that there was a whistleblower about this phone call?

GIDLEY:  That`s not true.


WILLIAMS:  Despite the denial, those are the facts.  And this is important.  The facts in this story are not in dispute.  Not among honest people.

The President`s allies meanwhile remain obsessed with another investigation.  Senator Lindsey Graham has now sent a letter to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting documents related to former Vice President Joe Biden and his communications with Ukrainian officials.  Graham, you may recall, was one of the floor managers of the Clinton impeachment effort, and would be one of the jurors, of course, if Trump is impeached and tried in the U.S. Senate.

This White House, looking forward, always forward, today a group of Republican senators were invited to lunch with the President to talk about the eventuality of a trial in the Senate.  As he left, Mitt Romney of Utah was asked about what was talked about.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT):  He had made some initial comments that related to the impeachment process, but it`s nothing that I haven`t heard on T.V. from him.  So there was no, you know, inside story or some argument that he was providing for us.


WILLIAMS:  Here with our leadoff discussion on this busy Thursday night, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post," Kimberly Atkins, Senior Washington Correspondent for WBUR, Boston`s NPR News Station, and Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence.

Frank, given your resume, particularly, I`d like to begin with you.  What lesson have we learned this week about public servants?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  We learned that public servants career dedicated professionals have devoted their lives to representing the people of America and the Constitution.  And when they see something that counters that oath that they took, they act on it.  And Dr. Fiona Hill is probably one of the most amazing examples that I`ve seen certainly in these hearings.  But they`ve come one after another, and it`s a stark contrast, Brian, between those professionals and the partisanship that we`ve seen and the GOP members who simply are throwing out deflection, disinformation, and distraction because they simply don`t have the facts that those professionals have on their side.

WILLIAMS:  Kim Atkins is a journalist by trade and a lawyer in her spare time.  So Kim, I note this, 35 hours of testimony, 12 witnesses.  As I said a minute ago, it`s OK for us to say now the facts, the central facts of this story are not in dispute.  But what has happened?  How has this been advanced during the course of these hearings in the House, do you think?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, WBUR SENIOR NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, so far the Democrats are sticking to the fact that all of these witnesses this week more or less have testified to the same thing.  That there was this separate track of diplomacy that was being conducted by the likes of Rudy Giuliani and Sondland and Mulvaney and others that was separate from what these folks that we heard from were doing.  They were practicing diplomacy in the normal realm, and that the separate track diverged from that and was focused on getting this political prize in the form of an announcement of an investigation into Trump`s rival.  And that the prize, in exchange, would have been either military aid and/or the promise of a meeting in the White House.  And they`re saying that that is an abuse of the President`s power.  And they are trying to stay lock step strongly behind that message.

Some Democrats have expressed some concerns to me saying that they wonder if that message is really landing with the American people.  They`re hoping that over the next week as folks are talking to each other over their turkey dinners that they do talk about this.  That more support grows, that we`ve been seeing in the polls recently for the polls, and that a majority of Americans get behind the impeachment, get behind a vote that would lead to articles of impeachment.  But as you said, Republicans have remained really strong and solid behind the President.  So, we`ll have to see how those messages are landing on the ears of the American people.

WILLIAMS:  Phil, you and I have talked many times on this forecast about the President`s love for the kind of dated and quaint phrase, central casting from old Hollywood.  With that in mind, what do you think the White House truly makes of some of the testimony this week and the people giving it?

PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, "WASHINGTON POST":  Well, the White House should be very concerned about the testimony that came out this week, and most especially Fiona Hill who provided a fit in quota to historic and extraordinary weeks of testimony.  Her biography which you got into a little bit at the top of the show at 11:00 is compelling and important.  You know, this is a woman who grew up in hard scrapple (ph) England, the daughter of a coal miner.

There`s an anecdote and a profile about her written in "The New York Times" the other day that at age 12 she was in school trying to take a test and a boy lit her ponytail on fire, and she put her hand up, put out the fire, and kept taking her test.  That`s an example of her strength and fortitude which America got to see in that hearing today.

And so for witnesses like her, for Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, for some of the other public servants who`ve came forward and testify to what they saw and heard and witness in their jobs as it related to the foreign policy going on with Ukraine, for them to do so with the kind of credibility they carry, and the careers that they have in their backgrounds is very troubling for the President because they`re not easily tarred.  We`ve seen a scatter shot strategy on the part of the Republicans on that committee to try to discredit some of those who`ve been testifying to try to seize vulnerabilities and poke holes but it has been rather inconsistent, and has not, as you pointed out, done anything to change the reality that the facts are in alignment here.

WILLIAMS:  Frank, Fiona Hill, who richly deserves, it has been awarded front page status tomorrow morning on the front page of "The New York Times," and I imagine newspapers and websites across this country.  It was extraordinary today when she, in effect, begged, asked, certainly members of the committee to stop supplying Russian talking points, to stop advancing Russian propaganda in the Congress of the United States.  What do you think our adversaries make of all this?

FIGLIUZZI:  Well, we saw a true Russian professional today, an expert on Russia calling out a series of lies that keep getting put out by GOP members and the President himself.  Remember, we have a President who said, with regard to DNC hacking, it might be Russia.  It might be other countries.  It could be a 400-pound guy sitting in his bed.  And GOP members have just promulgated that, and it`s a Putin Russian intelligence narrative.

Rudy Giuliani still trying to prove that it was Ukraine that did all that, not Russia, and that`s exactly what Putin wants put out.  So today, he took a hit.  Putin took a hit today.

But let me tell you something.  We`re in for a withering assault because of the success of these hearings, because of the powerful impact of Dr. Fiona Hill, you`re going to see the GOP and the White House and the attorney general, and the Senate led by Lindsey Graham put up an all-out assault on anyone that`s trying to get to the truth, and they will be aided and abetted by the Russian intelligence service who will step up the game on social media with bots and trolls and posts that continue the Russian narrative.  We need to hunker down, because it`s coming and it`s coming in a big way in the next few weeks.

WILLIAMS:  That`s chilling.  Kim, I wanted to show you this.  Today`s witnesses certainly hung out to dry.  The notion that some previous witnesses had advanced that they didn`t realize Burisma equals the Bidens.  We`ll look at it and talk about it on the other side.


KURT VOLKER, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY TO UKRAINE:  I now understand that other saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving Ukraine and company Burisma as equivalent to investigating former Vice President Biden.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  Are you saying that for months and months notwithstanding, everything Rudy Giuliani was saying on T.V. and all the discussion to Rudy Giuliani that you never put Burisma together with the Bidens?

GORDON SONDLAND, E.U. AMBASSADOR:  I didn`t, and I wasn`t paying attention to what Rudy Giuliani was saying on T.V.

HILL:  It was apparent to me that that was what Rudy Giuliani intended, yes, intended to convey that Burisma was linked to the Bidens.  And he said this publicly, repeatedly.

GOLDMAN:  And Mr. Holmes, you also understood that Burisma was code for Bidens?



WILLIAMS:  Kim, what do you think we`re being led to believe there?

ATKINS:  I think it`s just another peeling away of a layer that some of these witnesses thought they could surround themselves in to have some plausible deniability.  I mean, remember that Gordon Sondland had to amend his testimony, and then once he appeared publicly, he changed more things.  He amended it again with the more testimony that was being given by other people.  This seems like just yet another inconsistency that the folks around him, the folks who worked with him know what was being said behind the scenes.  And what was wanted by this administration.

So I think, again, overall when you look at all of it, even Gordon Sondland who had to come to admit a quid pro quo when he officially denied it, it came together in the end as a pretty cohesive picture, a pretty cohesive story about what happened here.  The question next is whether the American people and certainly whether members of the Senate think that rises to an impeachable and removable offense.

WILLIAMS:  And Phil Rucker, back to your beat.  Interesting statement out of the White House tonight reads in part, "Democrats should stop the ill legitimate sham hearings immediately.  If they don`t, President Trump wants to have a trial in the Senate because it`s clearly the only chamber where he can expect fairness and receive due process under the Constitution."

Phil, I guess we take that as a faceted (ph) mission that this is happening.

RUCKER:  Well, it certainly seems to be an admission that the President is almost certainly to be impeached by the Democrat controlled House.  That has been a clear likelihood as the weeks have progressed here.  But the White House seems to be getting a little bit of ahead of things because that vote has obviously not taken place.  We don`t even know yet what the articles of impeachment are going to be.  But the next step will be that trial in the Senate.  And you know, that`s where the White House is going to really be focused in trying to defend the President and using the majority that Republicans hold in that chamber as well as the requirement that two-thirds of the senators vote in order to convict him.  Use that to his political advantage to try to create a trial.

It may be a short period of time, as short as two weeks according to some other reporting this week.  But to use that to try to protect this presidency and protect him from being removed from office even as he`s being impeached by the House.

WILLIAMS:  What a day.  What a time to be alive.  Phil Rucker, Kimberly Atkins, Frank Figliuzzi, our thanks for helping us through the top of our broadcast on this busy night.

Coming up for us, the impeachment trial in McConnell`s U.S. Senate could be here before we know it.  As we`ve heard, what kind of evidence yet to emerge that may come out?  We`ll talk to our legal expert.

And later, the thing the Fiona Hill has in common with some of the other major witnesses we`ve heard from over this week.  We`ll play the video for you as "The 11th Hour" is just getting started on this Thursday night.


WILLIAMS:  With the first round of impeachment hearings now behind us, the House appears closer to moving from inquiry to the actual impeachment article stage.  Sources are telling NBC News that no more depositions or testimony are expected at this point.  It appears unlikely we will hear from these three, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney before a House vote.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  The Congress has the right to subpoena and inquiry and they should be coming before us.  They keep taking it to court, and no, we`re not going to wait till the courts to decide.  We can`t wait for that because again, it`s a technique.  It`s obstruction of justice, obstruction of Congress.  So we cannot let their further obstruction of Congress be an impediment to honoring our oath of the office.


WILLIAMS:  As we said over in the Senate, a group of Republicans met with White House officials today to talk trial strategy.  Senior White House official confirms a Senate impeachment trial could be limited to just two weeks rather than the six to eight weeks floated out by McConnell earlier.  Here to break it all down, Maya Wiley, a veteran of the southern district of New York, now with the New School here in New York.

Maya, do the Democrats, we know they have an easier story to understand, do they have the evidence they need in your legal view to impeach?



WILEY:  They have witness after witness after witness.  There is simply not one witness who has testified in Congress over the past four days of impeachment hearings who has said the President had a legitimate corruption issue, in fact, have said the opposite which is the President did not have a corruption issue because the Ukrainians had met their benchmarks to receive their congressionally bipartisan congressionally approved military aid.  And then we had this amazing set of witnesses who established that people reporting and speaking directly to Donald Trump including today Fiona Hill saying John Bolton told the Ukrainians that you want the money, you`ll get the meeting, but you`re not getting the aid yet until investigations, and that`s just one example.  That goes directly to what was Trump`s state of mind as we have heard it from people who had reason to know because they report and speak directly to the President.  That is explosive.  They were bomb shells, and they were credible, because every single one of them reported to Presidents across party were extremely credible about being nonpartisan which is a big concern when you`re talking about impeachment.


WILEY:  We never want a sitting President impeached, because there`s a policy disagreement with Congress.  But every single one of them said I have reported to -- and particularly Fiona Hill and Marie Yovanovitch, which from my standpoint, were the star witnesses of this entire process, both of them were like, I have reported to presidents of both parties.  I have carried out policy positions I didn`t agree with.  Never contacted a government lawyer to say I was concerned and it was inappropriate.  Those are the kinds of facts that tell you there`s enough.

WILLIAMS:  Ton of people in social media today couldn`t help but in just to express the fantasy view, imagine a world where Fiona Hill is secretary of state.  I do want to run this clip for you because it`s a subject you know something about.  She talked about powerful women in important jobs in the workplace.  We`ll talk about it on the other side.


HILL:  I had a bit of a blowup with Ambassador Sondland.  And I had a couple of testy encounters with him.

I was actually, to be honest, angry with him.  And, yes, you know, I hate to say it, but often when women show anger, it`s not fully appreciated.  It`s often, you know, pushed onto emotional issues, perhaps, or deflected onto other people.


WILLIAMS:  Refreshing to hear that from an author, Ph.D., and lifelong expert among other topics today.

WILEY:  Author, Ph.D., and powerful, confident person --


WILEY:  -- who says, right, this is what professional women in the workplace experience.


WILEY:  Know a little bit of something about this, but part of what was so powerful about that moment on the substance in addition to speaking to this issue of how women who are very substantive, very competent, extremely powerful and strong, she`s had life threats against her.  And yet, she appeared in Congress on subpoena to -- and worked extremely hard to thread the needle of what was in the best interests of the country without being more than a fact witness.  That`s humility in addition to power.

But what was so powerful about that moment was what she was saying was I was angry at Gordon Sondland, the direct report to the President, because the U.S. National Security interests and U.S. National Security policy that both parties had agreed to were being undermined.


WILEY:  But what she said was that Sondland`s -- not his fault, because he was responding to the President`s demands.

WILLIAMS:  Works for the boss.

WILEY:  Works for the boss.

WILLIAMS:  Counselor, you`re on air day is now over.  Thank you so much after a long day --

WILEY:  Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  -- lending your expertise to us.  Maya Wiley, our thanks as always.

Coming up, we`ve heard from several voices during these live hearings this week.  It turns out when you look at it, several of them have one really important thing in common.



REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA):  The Democrats faked outrage that President Trump used his own channel to communicate with Ukraine.  I`ll remind my friends on the other side of the aisle that our first President, George Washington, directed his own diplomatic channels to secure a treaty with Great Britain.


WILLIAMS:  The Washington Post was quick to fact check the House Intel Committee`s Ranking Republican Member writing, "No, Devin Nunes, Trump in 2019 is not like Washington in 2791794".  They go on to point out that out first President sought, "A deal on behalf of U.S. interest -- the interest being not getting into war".  While the current inquiry is, "Looking into whether Trump was trying to negotiate a deal not for U.S. interest but for his own political gain".

As Democrats have tried to build their case, it has occurred to a whole bunch of people who have watched this week`s hearings that some of the most emotional testimony, some of the most eloquent and patriotic testimony has come from immigrants to this country who have sacrificed for our country and consider it an honor to serve our country.


MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE:  My service is an expression of gratitude.


HILL:  I take great pride.

YOVANOVITCH:  For all that this country has given to me and to my family.

VINDMAN:  I decided I wanted to spend my life serving this nation that gave my family refuge from authoritarian oppression.

HILL:  I`m an American by choice, having become a citizen in 2002.  I was born in northeast of England in the same region that George Washington`s ancestors came from.  Both my region and my family have deep ties to the United States.

YOVANOVITCH:  My father fled the soviets before ultimately finding refuge in the United States.  My mother`s family escaped the USSR after the Bolshevik Revolution.  And she grew up stateless in Nazi Germany before also eventually making her way to the United States.

VINDMAN:  When my father was 47 years old, he left behind his entire life and the only home he had ever known to start over in the United States so his three sons could have a better and safer lives.

HILL:  Years later, I can say with confidence that this country has offered me opportunities I never would have had in England.

YOVANOVITCH:  My personal history gave me both deep gratitude toward the United States and great empathy for others like the Ukrainian people who want to be free.

HILL:  Everyone immigrated to the United States at some point in their family history.  And this is what, for me, really does make America great.


WILLIAMS:  Three immigrants, three patriots that we saw on display these past few days.

Coming up for us, it is a Russian myth getting passed along by Americans and every time they do that, this guy wins.


WILLIAMS:  As we speak over the past two minutes, the headline on Fox News is Ukrainian connection question mark.  Some of the President`s allies in Congress and the media have been pushing a debunked conspiracy theory that says Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election intending to hurt Donald Trump.  This was a story make no mistake, made up by the Russians every time it gets repeated here, it means they win a round.  And Dr. Fiona Hill made that very clear today when speaking to some of the Republicans who have been aggressively spreading it.


HILL:  I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that that Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary and the Ukraine, not Russia, attacked us in 2016.  These fictions are harmful even if they`re deployed for purely domestic political purposes.


WILLIAMS:  Just yesterday during an economic forum in Moscow, Vladimir Putin was sounding quite pleased that his narrative has taken root here in our country.  He said, "Thank God no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore.  Now they`re accusing Ukraine".  See how that comes full circle?

Back with us tonight, Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize Winning Columnist for The Washington Post and an MSNBC Political Analyst.  And Mike Murphy is with us, Republican Strategist, Co-director for the Center of Political Future at the University of Southern California.  Promises to tell us if he finds a political future out there, and the Co-host of the entertaining podcast, "Hacks on Tap" with one David Axelrod.  Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

Mike, since you`ve traveled the longest distance electrically to be here, I`ll start with you.  If I sounded angry, it`s because it is really hard to see and hear Russian talking points getting tossed around in our midst, and changing our country over time.  Critique, if you would, the behavior of members of your own party in that committee room the past two weeks.

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Oh, it`s horrible.  It`s breaking my heart.  You know, it`s funny.  I started out at Georgetown in Russian area studies.  I remember being yelled at in Russian every morning by a language instructor who was a Russian defector who`d flown his mig (ph) over from East Germany, thrown the keys and got a job at Georgetown teaching us all Russian.

I`m a cold war guy and that`s why I joined the Republican Party.  And to see the kind of people, I spent 30 years out in the field helping to elect, frankly, act like a bunch of truth bending idiots is absolutely heart breaking.  This is what`s happened to the Republican Party under Donald Trump.  We`ve thrown our honor away.

Ronald Reagan would -- is spinning in his grave looking at this kind of stuff.  And it`s also a debacle because they don`t have an argument.  You know, when you don`t have the facts and you don`t have the law, you just make noise.  I thought Jim Jordan would start going with sock puppets.  He had nothing left.  And I think the Democrats earned with the truth and these foreign policy professionals who must be going crazy working for Trump, you know, they earn success this week.  They made the case and they proved it.  Trump is guilty.

WILLIAMS:  Eugene, I just looked at Twitter.  And David Frum tweeted a single sentence, I`m sad about Will Hurd.  I`ll play 16 seconds of Will Hurd, but this, Gene, is what David Frum and others are sad about.


REP. WILL HURD (R-TX):  An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear, and unambiguous, and it`s not something to be rushed or taken lightly.  I`ve not heard evidence proving the President committed bribery or extortion.


WILLIAMS:  As you know, he was the great Republican hope of Democrats.


WILLIAMS:  On his way, getting out of dodge.

ROBINSON:  And this is a very intelligent measured reasonable guy.

WILLIAMS:  And if you can`t Will Hurd over at your side --

ROBINSON:  You`re not getting anybody.  He at least seems to have tried or wanted to -- seemed to be wrestling with the evidence.  The rest of -- the Republican side of this hearing sounds like the North Korean parliament, really.  And dear leader, just by definition cannot have been guilty of anything.

Therefore, it was the Ukrainians.  Therefore, they`re making it all up.  Therefore, crowd strike and fusion GPS and Steele Dossier and aliens, I don`t know, UFOs, whatever.  But it is almost like a dear leader situation.  It`s like a cult of personality the way Donald Trump has made the Republican Party into the Trumpist party.

WILLIAMS:  So Mike, back to you.  A dual question.  What happens in 2020 when people go to vote and what happens before that in the U.S. Senate if this is a trial that is laid at their doorstep?  Do you buy the theory that John Bolton could be the Frank Pentangeli, the game changer when he walks in the door and if he testifies as a witness?

MURPHY:  Well, I don`t think this is over yet.  The normal rules of politics are, and we`re seeing it right now, the tribal loyalty Trumps anything else.  You know, it`s not like we`re asking these guys the land on Anzio Beach but apparent surviving a Republican primaries all accounts.  But the pressure is going to go up.  The polling is going to get worse and that`s going to drive a lot of this as some of the senators who are in tough races, that universe is expanding under Trump, and they`re looking at, you know, what just happened in two more governorships.

You know, I don`t rule out that there would be some defections in the name of survival.  I think what`s more likely is they will try some fig leaf movement in the Senate to vote censure (ph) or something to use as a protective shield, but Trump being Trump he`s go crazy over that.  He will not give them any cover.  So you could see some Republican on Trump violence by a few senators who want to survive 2020 where this is becoming an anchor around their neck.

WILLIAMS:  Our guests have agreed to sticking around for one more segment.  And when we come back, about last night, 10 Democrats on one stage.  Seven more who didn`t qualify for that stage, but they`re out there, and sooner or later these guys have got to pick one.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, I`m part of that Obama coalition.  I come out of the black community in terms of my support.  If you notice I have more people supporting me in the black communities that have announced for me because they know me, they know who I am.  Three former chairs of the black caucus, the only African American woman who had ever been elected to the United States Senate, the whole range of people.  My point is --

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  No, that`s not true.  That`s not true.


BIDEN:  I said the first, I said the first African American.  First African-American.  So my point is --


WILLIAMS:  So as we say about last night, Eugene and Mike are back with us.  As we also say on occasion that happened.  And Mike, I want to go to you.  I know that among the two of you gentlemen, you thought that was a bigger deal moment than Eugene did, and we`re going to get to you Gene and why.  But I want to hear you out.  Obviously, Carol Moseley Braun is the Senator`s name that he was lacking and trying to correct it in real time and saying no, the first instead.  What do you think?

MURPHY:  Right.  Well I think it was less a question of the words and more of the picture.  On old pro-tip when you look at debate performances is to watch big moments with no audio, just to read the visual side.  And you saw Joe Biden looking out of it and the other two with genuine laughter looking vigorous and young and basically looking at grandpa like, can we trust him with the car keys anymore?  That gets right at the idea that Biden doesn`t have a fast ball and he can`t beat Trump.  So I thought and kind of a subtext level, it was one of the worst gaffes Biden had just the way it played.

WILLIAMS:  Eugene?

ROBINSON:  I see Mike`s point and worth note (ph) Mike is a great observer of politics.  I didn`t think it was that big a deal for Biden.  I don`t think it`ll move his numbers.  I think people know that about Biden, they know that he`s older.

WILLIAMS:  Baked in the cake.

ROBINSON:  And so the people who are really worried about that are already worried about that, and there may be a little more worried about that than before.  But, you know, he`s still leading.  He is still the front-runner and his numbers have been getting a bit better in recent weeks and Warren`s have stalled and maybe Buttigieg is coming up a bit but he has no African American support, I mean, almost none --


ROBINSON:  -- at this point.  Without which you`re not going to win a Democratic primary.  So -- And the rest of the debate performance I thought was Biden`s best of the season.  I thought he -- when he talked about foreign policy in particular, I thought he sounded presidential.  He sounded experienced, he sounded statesman like in a way that the others on the stage did not to my ears.

WILLIAMS:  And less than 24 hours later, the voice of Fiona Hill on our televisions and I realized as she spoke she`s from the great Geordie land up in the northeast in the U.K., the creator of the coal industry --

ROBINSON:  I know.

WILLIAMS:  -- where they hated Maggie Thatcher --


WILLIAMS:  -- and where they don`t produce down the middle people.  They produce tough people from there.

ROBINSON:  Yes, these are --

WILLIAMS:  And in that case she`s a tough person.

ROBINSON:  She is a tough person.  I imagine if you worked for her and you did something wrong and you really got her ticked off at you, you would have a bad day.  I thought she was -- I think she`s a magnificent writer, first of all.  Her opening statement was just a model of economy, the amount of information she gave us in just a few pages and the way she spoke.  She was so simple yet eloquent, elegant in her language, pointed, direct, a formidable person.  It would be an interesting world to have Fiona Hill as secretary of state someday.

WILLIAMS:  Mike, how do you go up against a witness like that if you`re a Republican in the House?

MURPHY:  No, no, it was like a Jackie Chan movie.  You know, she was ready for them.  But I think she was the tip of the spear on another big subtext to these hearings that I think will hurt the President`s re-election regardless of all the charges around the Ukraine, which is we really saw a show of competent professionals versus an amateur president.  The idea of the White House in disarray where you`ve got an eight plus staff like that being bossed around by cronies and sycophants, not in the natural interest is strong narrative.  Because, those, I would trade 500 Donald Trumps for one Fiona Hill in government service.  And same for Vindman and the rest of them and I think that message really came through.

WILLIAMS:  Mike Murphy, Eugene Robinson, two of our friends, thank you gentlemen for hanging out with us and talking about all the issues of the day at least the past 24 hours.

Coming up for us, this may test the theory that Donald Trump, he is dedicated to rooting out corruption wherever it occurs.  That`s because a big friend of his is in trouble overseas.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, Benjamin Netanyahu is in trouble, and he`s calling it a witch hunt and an attempted coup.  And there`s just a chance he picked up that particular bit of language from his friend Donald in the states.  He was indicted today for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.  The investigation has been going on for months.  It was run by a former close advisor of his.  This may force a new election in a month.

He`s accused for handing out favors for positive new coverage and accepting lavish gifts.  He has positively wrapped himself in Donald Trump who has been in his partner in changing 40 years of U.S. policy.  Bibi Netanyahu was born in Tel Aviv in 1949 only a year after Israel (ph) was born.  He group up part of the time here.  He went to high school in Cheltenham, PA, outside Philly, went to MIT and Boston.

He`s been Prime Minister longer than anyone in Israel`s young history.  He is a KG politician and survivor.  Indeed, when he looked like he was done in by the last election the opposition has failed to form their part of a coalition government.  But this time Bibi`s time may be running out.  The veteran diplomat Martin Indyk said today, "It is conceivable that Bibi will be the next prime minister".

That is our broadcast for this Thursday night.  Thank you so very much for being here with us and 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