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New revelations in impeachment investigation. TRANSCRIPT: 11/26/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Michael Schmidt, Kimberly Atkins, Clint Watts, Alexi McCammond

KATY TUR, MNBC HOST:  That will do it for us.  I`m Katy Tur.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, what did the President know and when as Trump rallies, "The New York Times" is reporting he knew about the whistleblower complaint when he finally released that military aid to Ukraine.  That would blow a hole in the Republicans` impeachment defense.

Plus, Trump claims he never directed Rudy Giuliani to work on Ukraine.  The problem with that is, he said so.  It`s right there in the summary of the perfect call.  The part where he tells the President of Ukraine, "I`ll have Mr. Giuliani give you a call."

And this guy, Jerry Nadler, and the committee he chairs, Judiciary, they`ll be next to step up eight days from now when the lights come up on stage two of the impeachment process.  All of it as "The 11th Hour" gets underway on this Tuesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 1,041 of this Trump administration.  And in the last few hours, Marine One touched down at Mar-a-Lago and a story landed from "The New York Times."

According to the newspaper President Trump has already been briefed on the whistleblower`s complaint when he released the congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine.  It`s under a triple byline that includes Michael Schmidt who`s standing by to join us in just a moment.  He and his colleague write, "Lawyers from the White House counsel`s office told Mr. Trump in late August about the whistleblower complaint, explaining that they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to Congress.  The revelation likely shed some light on Mr. Trump`s thinking at two critical points under scrutiny by impeachment investigators, his decision in early September to release $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine and his denial to a key ambassador around the same time that there was no quid pro quo with Kyiv."

Remember, Trump was so clear when talking with Gordon Sondland on that point.

Also tonight, Trump is talking about his personal lawyer and long-time friend Rudy Giuliani.  In an interview with Bill O`Reilly, the President distanced himself from Giuliani`s role in the Ukraine effort denying he sent him to look for dirt on the Bidens.


BILL O`REILLY, AMERICAN JOURNALIST:  What is Rudy Giuliani doing in Ukraine on your behalf?

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, you have to ask that to Rudy.  But Rudy, I don`t even know -- I know he was going to go to Ukraine, and I think he canceled the trip.  But, you know, Rudy has other clients other than me.  I`m one person that he --

O`REILLY:  So, you didn`t direct him to go there on your behalf?

TRUUM:  No.  But -- no, but you have to understand, Rudy is a great corruption fighter.  He felt personally insulted by what happened during my campaign because there were a lot of bad things happening.

O`REILLY:  Giuliani is your personal lawyer.  So you didn`t direct him --

TRUMP:  Yes.

O`REILLY:  -- to go to Ukraine to do anything or put heat on them?

TRUMP:  No, I didn`t direct him, but he is a warrior.  Rudy is a warrior.  Rudy went -- he possibly saw something.  I think he`s done work in Ukraine for years.


WILLIAMS: Here is the problem with that.  In the summary of that now infamous July 25 call with the new Ukrainian President Trump himself repeatedly brought up Giuliani saying, "Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man.  He was the mayor of New York City, and I would like him to call you.  Rudy very much knows what`s happening, and he is a very capable guy.  If you could speak to him, that would be great.  I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call."  That was part of the so-called perfect telephone call.

Just last week we heard Ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, the former Trump donor testify that Trump told him and other officials to talk to Rudy when it came to dealing with Ukraine.


GORDON SONDLAND, E.U. AMBASSADOR:  Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States.


WILLIAMS:  This evening the House Intelligence Committee released the closed door transcripts from two more impeachment witnesses, Philip Reeker, an assistant secretary of state who testified October 26, and Mark Sandy, an official at the White House office of Management and Budget who spoke to lawmakers on November 16.  Sandy told them two staffers left the OMB after expressing frustration over the hold placed on aid to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee has announced it will hold its first public hearing on December 4.  That`s a week from tomorrow, 10:00 a.m.  Chairman Jerry Nadler, Democrat of New York wrote the President to ask Trump if he or his counsel, "plan to attend the hearing or make a request to question the witness panel."  Nadler added Trump has until December 1 to notify the committee.

Tonight the President held what was billed as a homecoming rally in Sunrise, Florida, given that he now claims Florida as his permanent residence.  Spent a good part of the evening as you might imagine airing his grievances about the investigations during his presidency.


TRUMP:  First it was the Russia hoax, total hoax.  It was a failed overthrow attempt, and the biggest fraud in the history of our country.  And then you look, the Mueller deal.  Do you remember that?  Mess.  They had nothing.

Two years, they spent $45 million, and the real cost is many times that number.  And now the same maniacs are pushing the deranged impeachment.  Think of this.  Impeachment.  Impeachment.  A witch hunt.


WILLIAMS:  That was tonight in Florida.  Here now for our lead-off discussion on a Tuesday evening, one of the three reporters on tonight`s breaking story from "The New York Times," the aforementioned Michael Schmidt, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington correspondent for the paper, Kimberly Atkins is back with us, Senior Washington Correspondent for WBUR Boston`s NPR News Station, and Jeremy Bash is back with us as well, former chief of staff for the CIA and the Pentagon, notably former chief counsel to the House Intel Committee.  Good evening and welcome to you all.

Mike, since you were quoted, I`d like to begin with you.  What does your reporting say about the impeachment process?  What might your reporting say about the motives of Donald Trump?

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, THE NEW YORK TIMES WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Well, what our reporting did is it provided a very key but sort of basic point about the entire saga, the simple fact of when the President knew about the whistleblower`s complaint to sort of help fill out the larger picture of the information the President had when he made one of these crucial decisions.  And the point that we had uncovered was important to us because we didn`t think that the folks on Capitol Hill that had been doing the impeachment proceedings had actually got into to that in the course of all their investigation. T hey spoke to all these witnesses.  They`ve only gotten so many documents.  The White House has blocked them from talking to those people closest to the President, the exact people who could answer the basic questions of what the President knew, when was he briefed, why did he decide to do the things that he did.

So, while on the face of it, not the biggest fact on the face of the earth, not the biggest thing, but something substantial that fills out the larger picture, that chips away to give us a better understanding of everything that he knew when he made these decisions that are now at the center of the impeachment investigation.

Hey, Kimberly, let`s talk about Will Hurd, the low-talking retiring Republican member of Congress from Texas who really became for a brief while there the favorite Republican of so many very hopeful Democrats.  He notably and publically said about a week ago that he hadn`t seen enough evidence or evidence yet of bribery or extortion.  Does reporting like this get a guy like Will Hurd, and that`s one Republican, closer?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, WBUR SR. NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  I think we`ll have to see.  I mean, one thing that we are seeing is public opinion seems to be growing stronger in support of this impeachment hearing, and that`s something that a lot of Republicans, not Congressman Hurd, because he is leaving, but a lot of Republicans should have in mind when they consider what rises to the level of bribery in their eyes.  The Democrats clearly have laid out a case that is only supported by this latest reporting by Michael and the other folks at the times that Donald Trump did this and ultimately gave this aid after he essentially got caught in the words of Congressman Schiff.  And it takes away a key defense of Republicans who say, look, there is no foul here.  He gave the aid. There was never any announcement of any investigation, nothing to see here.

We`re learning facts that really cast doubt on this defense.  So it`s becoming more difficult for Republicans.  But if they believe that they have the support of their constituents and the support of the President, so far that`s been enough for them to be solidly behind him.

WILLIAMS:  Jeremy Bash, in plain English with guys like Mike Schmidt out there, we`re learning new things every day and yet, the train is coming down the tracks.  To mix my metaphors, is the calendar is owned and run by the Democrats.  Is this going to be a problem?  Are you going to have various addenda coming late to the floor while this is being debated?

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF:  I think we may learn additional facts that strengthen the case.  But I do not think we`re going to learn new facts that weaken it.

I think if the President had any exculpatory evidence he would have put it forward.  He would have insisted that the information that he has be put out there.  But there is no substantive defense of the case.  I think in some respects it`s case closed.  The evidence is in.  The testimony has been received.  Yeah, we might hear from John Bolton down the road or some additional witness.  But for the most part, the factual predicate is there.  It`s now really a legal issue, a constitutional issue as to whether or not this body of facts constitutes bribery, treason or a high crime and misdemeanor.

WILLIAMS:  Mike, talk about the conflict in the White House counsel`s office that was going on during the time period of your reporting tonight.

SCHMIDT:  Well, the White House counsel`s office was trying to figure out whether the administration had to hand over the whistleblower`s complaint to Congress.  The whistleblower had come forward to the inspector general for the Intelligence Community, and the inspector general wanted to give that document to Congress, but the White House Counsel`s Office thought that there may be some executive privilege issues.  This is a highly unusual situation because you had some coming forward complaining about the President and the President has these powers or, you know, people think the President has this power to protect certain information from going out the door.  And they were asking and talking to the President about they were going to ask the Justice Department for an opinion on whether they had to do this.

Now the Justice Department ultimately came back and said that they did not have to hand this document over and it was only under pressure that this thing actually came out.  So, it`s unclear sort of how this actually fit into what the President was thinking because after he was briefed on it at the end of August, he may have thought certainly in early September that it may not come out, and it may not go to Congress.  And obviously it is on the 11th, September 11th that the aid is ultimately released and at that point Congress knows about the complaint and we learn about more detail about that shortly thereafter.

WILLIAMS:  Kimberly, let`s widen the picture out a little bit to present day.  Jeanine Pirro spotted at the Trump White House at least two days this week thus far.  Democratic pollster Mark Penn having visited the White House, further enduring him to his fellow Democrats, is this indicative of any change in staffing, change in the inner or outer circles?

ATKINS:  If that constitutes the war room for impeachment, I think that that`s still pretty problematic for this President and one reason why Republicans have been having such a difficult time trying to find a way to defend him in all of this.  It seems that the President just insists on being defiant.  But at the same time, he himself is weakening any defenses he may have legally in his comments about Rudy Giuliani that he didn`t tell him to go anywhere, that he was a fighter and a warrior.  Where there is no warrior privilege if Giuliani as expected is -- will assert any sort of attorney client or other privilege if the client who holds the privilege is saying, no, I didn`t have anything to do with it.  He was off being a warrior by himself.  It`s only going to cause him more problems, and, so it seems so far that there is not a clear strategy coming from Judge Pirro or anyone else.

WILLIAMS:  Warrior privilege that strikes me may live on past this conversation.  Counselor, thank you for that.

And Jeremy Bash, you and I have talked many times on this broadcast about the President interacting with pressuring, criticizing institutions.  FBI, intelligence branch, I have just written down a few, Federal Reserve, and as recently as this past weekend, the U.S. Navy.  Years from now, are these like the points on a star fish?  Do they grow back or will they need help?

BASH:  Well, there is intensifying outrage tonight inside the Department of Navy, inside the Department of Defense at the way the President has meddled in the peer review of the disciplinary matter involving that Navy SEAL who was acquitted at trial but whose co-SEALs, the members of his profession, wanted to determine whether or not he was entitled to wear that pin.

And I spoke to three former naval -- senior naval officers today, and they all said in the words of one this was gross, this was disgusting by the President.  Another said it`s like the President going in and saying, hey, that kid, he failed his buds class, the dive challenge and buds class, I`m going to give him a seal pin anyway because his dad is well connected or his defense lawyers reached out to me or they pressed some political button and I`m going to in and determine the professional standards for the SEAL commune.  It undermines the military, it really undermines the profession of arms.  And I think you`re going to hear a lot more about this, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  As we reminded as recently as last night`s broadcast, chain of command has existed for so long for a reason.  To Michael Schmidt, to Kimberly Atkins, to Jeremy Bash, our thanks for starting off our broadcast on this Tuesday night.

And coming up, as we continue, how much foreign business is Rudy Giuliani doing?  We added up the countries.  There are a lot of them.

And later minutes before they pressed publish, we get an exclusive first look here tonight at a new report on what Russia has to say about Donald Trump these days as "The 11th Hour" is just getting started on this Tuesday evening.  We can explain that photo.


WILLIAMS:  "The Washington Post" is reporting that while Rudy Giuliani was pursuing his Ukraine campaign, he stayed with a wealthy Venezuelan energy executive linked to an investigation into possible money laundering and bribery in the U.S.  A month later Giuliani met with DOJ officials on the Venezuelan executive`s behalf to argue his client should not face criminal charges.

According to reports from NBC News, ABC News and "The Post," Giuliani has either done consulting work, delivered speeches or represented foreign clients governments and at least 19 overseas countries.

Here to talk about all of it, Mimi Rocah, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now a distinguished fellow in Criminal Justice at the Pace University School of Law.

In most law firms, they`re called rainmakers.  And people from Mueller, to Mondale, to Bob Dole, it`s not uncommon to have a prominent big name on the letterhead as no one needs to remind you.  What happens when rainmakers make their rain overseas and in some cases it splashes back against the whole team?

MIMI ROCAH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  Well, look, I mean Giuliani is in this very precarious position for a lot of reasons.  And what we`re talking about here is this blurring of lines between being a lawyer, being a consultant and supposedly being the personal lawyer for the President, so he`s trying to purportedly, you know, represent the President in criminal matters.

Though, I still really question that whole premise that that`s what he`s doing.  He`s more like a spokesman fixer for the President.  And he`s purportedly representing people in criminal cases like before the Department of Justice.  And he`s out trying to gin up business for possibly some business endeavor he`s doing with Mr. Parnas and Fruman who are recently indicted.

I think Fiona Hill actually even made a connection in her testimony about the possibility of Parnas and Fruman having some involvement in Venezuela and that there was some connection there.  So, you know, is it just a coincidence that Giuliani was meeting with people with respect to Venezuela and with respect to Ukraine in the same place or was that something more nefarious, more connected?  We don`t know right now.  But that`s one of the things obviously the Southern District would be looking into.  And when you see a subpoena with eight different crimes listed on it, you know, that`s very telling.

WILLIAMS:  Hearing the President say to Bill O`Reilly to the effect of you`ll have to ask Rudy sent a lot of people back to the President in the doorway on Air Force One, you`ll have to ask Michael Cohen.  What is the peril for Rudy when the President says something like that?

ROCAH:  Look, Rudy Giuliani, as far as I can tell, is up to his eyeballs in crime.  I mean, there is -- you know, again, we don`t like to try and make predictions, but I would be surprised at this point if Rudy Giuliani didn`t get indicted.  Like I said, that subpoena with, you know, eight crimes on it seems very specific, very far along to me and just the reporting that we`re hearing, you know, there is a lot of smoke there.

If Trump is going to try to now put this whole Ukraine matter on him, Giuliani seems to be going along with that so far.  Oh yes, the President is right.  I didn`t physically go to Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.  That was given to me by the oligarchs.  He can go along with that for a while.  But at some point that means that Giuliani is essentially being implicated in a bribery conspiracy by the President of the United States because if he wasn`t acting on behalf of Trump and Trump is saying, oh, no, if he went there to get dirt on the Bidens --

WILLIAMS:  Because he hates corruption.

ROCAH:  -- and told them they can`t have their aid, that was all him, then he has just implicated Giuliani in that among everything else and Giuliani may be implicated in.  And so, this is, you know, he really should start paying attention and speak up now and not wait to be indicted.

WILLIAMS:  This is why we invited you on tonight.  Will you and your family please have a Happy Thanksgiving.

ROCAH:  Thank you.  You too.

WILLIAMS:  Mimi Rocah, our thanks as always.

Coming up, exclusive analysis of how the media arm of the Russian government is attempting actively right now to shape our politics and our debate going into 2020.  And why are United States senators and television hosts, Republicans who know better advancing talking points translated from the original Russian, when we come back?


WILLIAMS:  Brand new research from our next guest reveals the President is getting a lot of attention on Russian states sponsored news outlets.  Legit seeming Russian state news media is one weapon they have, one weapon they use.  Another is Americans themselves, U.S. senators, members of Congress, TV hosts using the Russian talking points out loud in public.  These are people who, in other words, know better, embracing Russian propaganda.

While he has tried to clean it up since without much success, here now is Louisiana Republican Senator John, no relation, Kennedy, this past Sunday morning, followed by Tucker Carlson from just last night.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST:  Senator Kennedy, who do you believe was responsible for hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign computers, their e- mails?  Was it Russia or Ukraine?

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, (R) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  I don`t know.  Nor do you.  Nor do any of us.

WALLACE:  The entire intelligence community says it was Russia.

KENNEDY:  Right.  But it could also be Ukraine.  I`m not saying that I know one way or the other.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST:  Why do I care what`s going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?  And I`m serious, like I don`t care.


CARLSON:  And why shouldn`t I root for Russia?  Which I am.

GOODSTEIN:  Because you`re on the front lines stopping Russia against --

CARLSON:  Who cares?

GOODSTEIN:  Well, OK.  I think the people who went to Europe.  NATO cares.  You may not.

CARLSON:  Yes, I don`t live in Western Europe.  I live in D.C., and I don`t care.

GOODSTEIN:  Yes, yes.

CARLSON:  Before we go, earlier in the show I noted I was rooting for Russia in the contest between Russia and the Ukraine, of course I`m joking.  I`m only rooting for America.  Mocking the obsession with Russia that so many on the left have.


WILLIAMS:  With us for more on all of it tonight, Clint Watts, former FBI special agent, author of "Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News," and a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute through which he is about to release his latest study of Russian sponsored news media.

We also welcomed to the broadcast the Veteran Journalist John Harwood, Editor-at-Large for CNBC who covers Washington for a living.  Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

Clint, I`ll start with you as you have been kind enough to share this before it gets released.  What does round two show especially about news coverage about our President?

CLINT WATTS, DISTINGUISHED FELLOW, FOREIGN POLICY RESEARCH INSTITUTE:  It wouldn`t be what a lot of people particular on the political left I think which is that, yes, Russia wanted Donald Trump to win going into 2016.  Vladimir Putin will even say that on stage nowadays, but they don`t necessarily treat him that great in terms of their state media.  And they really have to separate him as two different distinct individuals.

One, the candidate Donald Trump that`s going to actually run in 2020 versus the head of state and which you find pretty consistently is brakes in two different lanes.  If he`s the candidate, they`re far more positive toward him.  They see him as a candidate who`s done great things for the country of the United States.  It is interesting that Russia wants to give their opinion about what our President has done for our country.

But on the negative side is when President Trump drifts into foreign policy that doesn`t match with what Russia wants, you start to see the negative mentions (ph), the negative story headlines pick up.  And hat will oftentimes be tied in with some sort of negative gaffes or things that the President might have done that speak to his character or mistakes that he made, which is also very common of Biden.  We talked about him last week.  They would go after him for his age, for making mistakes, for the gaffes.  They do that very similarly with the President in terms of their media coverage.

WILLIAMS:  John, I want to share with our viewers the reason I invited you on the broadcast.  It was because of a tweet you put out after we heard that kind of jaw dropper from Senator John, no relation, Kennedy.  You wrote, "Here`s a Republican senator disseminating Russian intelligence propaganda fabricated to harm the United States.  He`s doing it because it helps him politically".

And I had this thought.  You and I are approximately the same age.  We came up under the same training and sets of rules.  Yet these times clearly require playing by a different set of rules.  You would never have used that language 10 years ago.  I know you too well.  I see totally why you`ve used that language this past weekend.

JOHN HARWOOD, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNBC:  Brian, it is shocking the point that we have reached in this debate.  The Republican Party for a number of years has moved further and further away from reason and rationality, as they`ve lost what they once thought was a national majority in the country.  And rather than adapt -- broaden the base of the party, reach out to new voters, they have tried to maximize the use of sort of blunt force politics.  We`ve seen this in voter suppression, we`ve seen this in wild arguments against President Obama, in bogus arguments for some of the Presidents tax cut and other programs.

But now we`ve gotten to a point where it is so clear a President elected with help from Russians who welcome that help as Robert Mueller told us who then tried to obstruct an investigation into it continued that attempt to use foreign help in an election with Ukraine.  He`s been caught clearly doing it.  It is unambiguous.  We know what happened.  It`s been shown what happened.

And now to try to justify it because there is no factual defense of what the President has done, they are leaning on what Fiona Hill clearly identified as Russian propaganda in the hearings last week.  Fiona Hill is not a Democrat.  She`s not a liberal.  She`s one of the foremost experts on Russia in the government.  The President`s own Homeland Security adviser told him that this was bogus, it was propaganda.

And yet, what we`ve seen is Republican elected officials, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who himself has been implicated in this are parroting this propaganda as a way of defending the President.  We can presume that those people, Pompeo, Kennedy and others actually know better.  Not entirely clear that President Trump does.  You know, President Trump event has a certain detachment for reality.  It`s possible that he`s been somehow persuaded and his paranoia has made him think that this is what`s happening.  But anyone with open eyes, clear eyes, can see that that`s not what happened.

And as for Tucker Carlson and Fox News, they get paid money to appeal to that audience and parrot that kind of stuff.  Tucker Carlson is kind of a troll, as he said.  He was joking, but that`s -- I think, his motivation is a little more transparent.

WILLIAMS:  Clint, let`s talk about Senator Kennedy.  He likes to screw homespun, Vanderbilt, UVA law --

WATTS:  Right.

WILLIAMS:  -- Oxford educated Senator Kennedy.  He made his first comments on Fox News with Chris Wallace, attempted the clean-up last night on CNN with Chris Cuomo, a clean-up which still left the strong whiff of it was probably Ukraine.  Is there anything to be gleamed from his choice of those two networks?

WATTS:  I find it interesting how he is playing this which is trying to open up the aperture (ph), right?  This is a very Russian approach, by the way, which is if there is truth drown it out with falsehoods, which means it could be any number of possible scenarios.  It could be any human on the planet that also tries to influence the election.  You can do this in an infinite way and to become the most possible to defend.

You could go to the senator and say, what would you like us to do?  What would you want us to investigate?  Where is the thread?  And it would be pretty open, I would imagine.  And so when you get to the end of this, it just leaves you wondering, as RT (ph) would say, question more.  That is literally the headline of their news site every single day.

And that method just leaves you open to the sort of doubt.  And that is the entire goal of it.  But when you hear from an elected official like this senator who knows better, when you see him on multiple outlets giving slightly parsed or different answers, which is what we`ve heard of the Mueller investigation impeachment, you name any sort of topic in the Trump era, it becomes impossible for Americans to know what to believe and they actually tune out.  It creates apathy amongst the public in terms of policy debate.  You can`t have policy debate.  You can`t move forward as a country if you can`t decide on what happened or not.

WILLIAMS:  We`ll have you both back.  Our thanks to both of these gentlemen.  Clint Watts, John Harwood, greatly appreciate it.

Coming up for us, how effective have Democrats been in making this case for impeachment thus far.  New polling numbers are on the move.  That may offer some clues to us.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They are pushing that impeachment witch hunt, and a lot of bad things are happening to them, because you see what`s happening at the polls?  Everybody said that`s really bullshit.


WILLIAMS:  So that happens now at just about every Trump rally.  The point he was making actually not what the latest impeachment polling is showing us.  According to a new CNN survey, half of all Americans support not only impeachment but also his removal from office.  This number has steadily increased from March when it was 36 percent to May when it slid up to 41.  Support then reached its current level right with the start of the hearings that were live televised.

Back with us tonight, the Alexi McCammond, Politics Reporter for Axios, and Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, former Lieutenant Governor of the great state of Maryland, host of the appropriately titled, if you ask us, "Michael Steele Podcast".  Good evening and welcome to you both.  Michael, on the general drum beat of impeachment, how it`s approaching this President, would you rather these days have a D or an R after your name?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN:  That`s a good question, Brian.  Oh, man, probably I`d like to have a J and B for --

WILLIAMS:  Good, that`s --

STEELE:  -- old Jim Beam, baby, at this point.  You know, probably I think the Dems have done a very effective job of sort of setting out the case, the narrative.  And what has been interesting is more people paid attention to it than I think Republicans and certainly the President thought would pay attention and probably even Democrats, to be honest about it.  Because you just didn`t know how this was going to get absorbed by the American people.  And I think that`s reflected in the CNN poll that a lot more people paid attention to it and, you know, maybe it was started with Yovanovitch and sort of captured the imagination and they carried through and culminated with Dr. Fiona Hill.  So I think that narrative really worked to the advantage of the Democrats to set up the next stage of this.

WILLIAMS:  Alexi, two points that you already know.  Number one, none of the polling matters if all of this ends without consequence.  Number two, even some Democrats are saying, let`s settle this with an election in 2020.  So that having been said, how is this going to play itself in to a presidential election campaign, do you think?

ALEXI MCCAMMOND, POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS:  Well, I think it`s too early to know exactly how voters when they are going to the polling stations in November 2020 will think about impeachment and use that to inform their vote.  I mean, especially if this gets to a Senate trial and the Senate decides to acquit him, which we are assuming that would be the case.  That will make his supporters, I would imagine, even more emboldened.

The interesting thing for 2020 of course is all of the senators who are running for president who would be plucked from the campaign trail as they`re running for president to instead participate in the Senate trial in the impeachment inquiry for President Trump.  So that could shake things up in terms of the dynamic of the primary field shaking up, but I don`t know that it will necessarily sort of inform people`s votes when they are voting in November 2020.

WILLIAMS:  OK, both of our guests have agreed to stay with us.  Let`s fit in a break now.

And coming up, Pete Buttigieg dealing with some new controversy about some old comments.  It is part of one big challenge he has with a critically important group of Democratic voters.



PETE BUTTIGIEG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The kids need to see evidence that education is going to work for them.  There are a lot of kids, especially in the lower income minority neighborhoods who literally just haven`t seen it work.  There isn`t somebody they know personally --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And I think that`s what it mean --

BUTTIGIEG -- who testifies to the value of education.


WILLIAMS:  Pete Buttigieg made those comments and further comments on the topic when he was running to be mayor of South Bend in 2011.  They prompted a harsh rebuke from Michael Harriot who writes for "The Root".  In his essay, he wrote, in part, "Mayor Pete`s bullsh-ery is not just wrong, it is proof.  It proves men like him are more willing to perpetuate the fantastic narrative of negro neighborhoods needing more role models and briefcase- carriers than make the people in power stare into the sun and see the blinding light of racism.  Get along moderates would rather make stuff up out of whole cloth than wade into the waters of reality.  Pete Buttigieg doesn`t want to change anything.  He just wants to be something".

So this sit back comes as Buttigieg struggles to gain traction with Black voters specially he later called Harriot to talk about the piece and offered this explanation at an event today.


BUTTIGIEG:  What I said in that comment before I became mayor does not reflect the totality of my understanding then and certainly now about the obstacles that students of color face in our system today.


WILLIAMS:  Harriot has subsequently written about his phone call with the candidate.  "For 18 minutes and 45 seconds, we talked about educational inequality, poverty and institutional racism in America and how to fix it.

Back for round two, Alexi McCammond and Michael Steele.  Alexi and Michael, this conversation on the merits could take us several more hour long broadcasts.  So let`s reduce it to initially here the Kornacki estimate.  And here is what I mean, Alexi.  Steve Kornacki estimates one in four Democratic voters in the primaries African American.  Does this mayor have any hope of winning folks over to his side?

MCCAMMOND:  Steve Kornacki also points out in that piece that you just read from that, no, since 1992, no Democratic candidate for president has become the nominee for president without winning a majority of the Black vote.  Mayor Pete in polling has shown up at 0 percent.  The most he`s reached is 4 percent support from Black voters.  There`s obviously a lot of room for him to grow.

This conversation that he had at a table full of white men, by the way, in 2011, which is like also very problematic to be talking about minority and low income students at a table full of white men no matter what year it is is obviously coming back to haunt him in a way that, you know, voters, reporters are like want to know where he stands on these issues now, especially as you mentioned earlier in this segment, as he`s struggling to really gain traction with Black voters.  It`s interesting when you compare someone like Pete Buttigieg to Senator Elizabeth Warren who had steadily increased her support from less than 0.5 percent support among Black voters in March of this year to now 20 percent among Black voters.

And you have to ask yourself why that`s happening.  I think it`s because she walks into these settings with Black voters where she sort of connects her own genuine experience to the experience that they`re going through and she`s really thought through the issues that Black women in particular face in their daily lives, whether that`s health care or economically or otherwise.  And I think that for a lot of folks, Pete Buttigieg just comes in and sort of seems like he doesn`t really know what the actual experience is like and instead he points to his Douglas plan or his plan to end systemic racism.

WILLIAMS:  And Alexi, just to complicate things, enter Mike Bloomberg who, before he announced, apologized at a speech in a church in New York for the NYPD policy, so-called, of stop and frisk.

MCCAMMOND:  Yes.  I mean, situations like that I`m not a political consultant and I`m not running for president.  I`m a reporter.  But what is fascinating to me and the question that I would love to ask Michael Bloomberg is why are you apologizing for it now?  Is it because you just now suddenly realized that that was wrong and the long-standing implications of something like stop and frisk and the implications they have on the black and brown community?  Is that something you`re just realizing now because you`re deciding to run for president?  Or is that something you realized, you know, in however many years since that happened?

That`s what`s confusing to me.  And I think to a lot of voters who will recognize that that is simply pandering.  You`re only apologizing I think a lot of voters will think because he`s running for president and that is problematic.

WILLIAMS:  Michael Steele, at venues like the debates in Atlanta but more broadly across this race, does anything make you cheer?  Does anything make you cringe when you see Democrats speaking to, dealing with, trying to interact with African Americans and the African American voting bloc that they are not naturally a part of themselves?

STEELE:  Well, it goes back for me, you know, this has been a narrative for a long, long time in my political career.  I`ve always argued the idea that, you know, Republicans don`t give a damn and Democrats pretend they do.  And that`s kind of been the juxtaposition of the black political narrative relative to both parties.  What I love so much about Michael Harriot`s piece was that he kept it real and he was very straight up and very honest about it.  And it pushed Pete to have to respond to him directly because Mr. Harriot is exactly on point with respect to Democrats and quite frankly the country.

Is that a lot of the thought around the Black community is a stereotypical thought.  You know, I grew up in, you know, a lower middle-class neighborhood.  My daddy was a truck driver.  My mama was a laundress.  I had perfect role models beyond them in the community both in school and outside of school.  So this idea that a young negro child would not have such role models is just preposterous.  I mean, you know, you sort of take the two or three kids that you see and you project it to almost every kid in the neighborhood.  No wonder it`s been so hard to deal with a lot of the systemic issues that afflict the community.

So this idea that Democrats, you know, will come to the table and show up in a Black church two weeks out from an election or presume the Black vote is a given, that day is over.  And I think that has been profoundly made clear by black women, who`ve said enough.  And so I think this dynamic is going to be very interesting for Democrats over the next few months.

Black folks aren`t going to tee off of Iowa as the party has in the past.  They`re going to make a subjective -- their own independent analysis of these candidates which they`re starting to do and have been doing and come probably to a very different conclusion.

WILLIAMS:  Two friends of this broadcast, Alexi McCammond and Michael Steele.  Alexi, I can tell you`re bursting to continue this conversation.  We`re just going to invite you back.  And we`ll do it the next time.

MCCAMMOND:  Thank you.

WILLIAMS:  Thank you both.  Friends, we really appreciate you coming on.

Coming up for us tonight, the President tonight in Florida vowing to defend us against something with no chance of happening.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go here.  It was during that Trump rally in Florida tonight when he said something out of nowhere.  Not unusual.  Things got really out of nowhere later in the rally when Trump told the crowd he has a gorgeous chest and then he told the crowd the governor of Florida looks great without a shirt on but I digress.  This was the first out of nowhere moment about the holiday we`re about to celebrate on Thursday.


TRUMP:  As we gather together for Thanksgiving -- you know, some people want to change the name Thanksgiving.  They don`t want to use the term Thanksgiving.  And that was true also with Christmas.  But now everybody`s using Christmas again.  Remember I said that?

But now we`re going to have to do a little work on Thanksgiving.  People have different ideas why it shouldn`t be called Thanksgiving.  But everybody in this room I know loves the name Thanksgiving and we`re not changing it.


WILLIAMS:  As the historian Ted Widmer wrote just days ago, Thanksgiving is just Thanksgiving.  It`s intended to bring us all together, all groups and subgroups, all to give thanks, and it works.  Starting with the name, calling it the day we give thanks gets wordy and clunky.  So Thanksgiving is really kind of perfect when so much of our world is not.

Politics has now seeped into the football we watch, the food we eat, and God forbid the drinking straws some of us might use while at the table.  So when we heard the President tonight, we wondered who is trying to rename Thanksgiving and why?  Short answer, no one.  You can almost guess the rest here.

While the President may have seen this graphic on his favorite morning show, the story he`s referring to most likely a trope from the Obama era.  The two-term Democratic President who Trump tonight called Barack Hussein Obama, as one does.  The story, which was false from the get-go, alleged that Obama was planning an executive order renaming Thanksgiving celebrate immigrants day.  Never happened.  Never was going to happen.  But it made for a nice story tonight in Florida, where it certainly revved up the crowd.

And that is our broadcast on this Tuesday evening.  Thank you so much for being here with us.  Good night from 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