Impeachment probe TRANSCRIPT: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 12/6/2019

Guests: Susan Page, Melanie Zanona, Rick Wilson, Kate Bennett, Jill Wine-Banks

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST:  Thank you to both of you tonight.  Powerful words to end this show Zerlina Maxwell and Glenn Kirchner.  That is "Tonight`s Last Word."  "The 11th Hour with Brian Williams" begins now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC:  Tonight with realization more than setting in now that impeachment is coming, the White House takes another pass on getting into the game and launching a defense at least so far as the Speaker prepares her party for another historic week.

Plus, Democrats hold sore after a Democratic senator says he knows of a few Republicans willing to support impeachment.  At the same time some big name Republicans prepare to give the President the investigations he wants.

And about the Democrats, Biden rolls out a big endorsement then singles out a popular rookie in the party.  And what did Mike Bloomberg just say about Cory Booker exactly?  We have all of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Friday night.

Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 1,051 of this Trump administration.  And tonight, the Trump White House is taking a pass on taking part in at least the next portion, the next phase of the impeachment process.  As you may know on Monday, the House Judiciary Committee led by New York Democrat Jerry Nadler will hold a public hearing, this time on the evidence against President Trump.

At 5:00 p.m. Eastern time today, to the surprise of no one really, the White House signaled it will not be taking part in Monday`s session or any proceedings in the House.  In a letter the chairman of White House Counsel said, the inquiry is, "completely baseless and has violated basic principles of dues process and fundamental fairness."  Adding, "You should end this in query and not waste even more time with additional hearings."  The White House signaled it is gearing up for the longer fight ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY:  If they`re going to do this, if the Democrats want this fight, it`s something the President is willing to have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  So we have that.  "The New York Times" notes the decision to not take part in the House inquiry, "clears the way for House committees to debate and approve impeachment articles as soon as next week, allowing a vote by the full House by December 20th, the final legislative day of the year.  And it all but ensures that the President`s defense will not be heard before early January when the Senate is expected to begin a trial."

The President is counting on the Republican Senate to supply ammunition for a counter attack if, as expected, the House votes to impeach him.  But earlier today on this network one Democratic East Coast senator suggested there could be a few Republican defectors when it comes to supporting Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Have you spoken to a single Republican colleague in the Senate who`s even considering voting for impeachment?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT):  Yes.

GEIST:  You have?

MURPHY:  Yes.

GEIST:  Would you like to name them?  How many?

MURPHY:  It`s a small list on one hand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  On the other hand, Adam Schiff, the House Intel chairman is shepherding the actual investigation.  And he told "The New Yorker" Susan Glaser a Senate proceeding could be even more productive saying, "There may very well be a great body of evidence at the trial that`s not available to us today."  He did not elaborate.

Today we learned three Republican senators, there they are, are now starting their own inquiry into Ukraine just as the President wants.

Again, the conspiracy theory regarding Ukrainian involvement in our election is disinformation.  It was floated by the Russians and now of course some of our own politicians are repeating it.  The Russians were of course blamed for our election interference.  And the Russians, let`s not forget, are at war with Ukraine.

Rudy Giuliani was in Ukraine this week and said this about his latest efforts there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDOLF GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S PERSONAL LAWYER:  All I can tell you that I am doing today, all day and all night maybe, what I`ve been doing for a year and a half.  I am representing my client as the lawyer.  I am -- first I have to prove that he wasn`t involved in Russian collusion.  And I obtained all this information including the information on Joe Biden a year ago.  I am not involved in the 2020 election.  That`s Democratic garbage.  What I`m involved in is defending my client who`s innocent against false charges.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  So that`s the news from Rudy.  There are a couple of other events to keep an eye on next week.  Monday, Ukraine`s President Zelensky meets with Vladimir Putin in Paris.  That will be their first meeting, something to look forward to.

And "The Washington Post" reports, next week Putin`s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, will be in Washington for his first visit since that infamous Oval Office meeting with Trump in 2017.  It is unclear if Lavrov will have the pleasure of seeing the President this time.  He is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Also on Monday we`re expecting the Justice Department Inspector General`s report into the FBI Russia investigation and no one is more eager to see that document than the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I hope they now go and take a look at the oranges, the oranges of the investigation, the beginnings of that investigation.

They were spying in my campaign and went right up to the top and everybody knows it.  And now we`re going to find out.

I think it`s possibly the biggest scandal in political history in this country.  Maybe beyond political.

Bigger than Watergate as far as I`m concern.

I am hearing the report is very powerful.

I hear there is a lot of devastating things in that report.

I think it`s going to be a very big thing.  And we`ll see what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  The White House got one new sign that the economy appears to be immune from the crisis swirling around it.  The United States added 266,000 jobs in the month of November.  The unemployment rate is at a 55 year low at 3.5 percent, the 21st consecutive month with a rate of 4 percent or lower.  Even so, the President`s approval rating in three big important states in the 2020 race is still under water and political types of paying a lot of attention to this.

Notably the latest morning consult poll has a 55percent disapproval for Trump in the states of Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan.  The warnings all around, it`s early yet.

Here for our lead-off discussion at the end of another long week on a Friday night, Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, Melanie Zanona, Congressional Reporter for POLITICO, and Annie Karni, White House Reporter with "The New York Times."  Great to have you all on board.

Susan, I`d like to begin with you, is the White House wrong to take a pass on this round of the process?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY":  Well, it is at oz (ph) with our previous president have behaved when they`re facing impeachment inquiry.  Both President Clinton and President Nixon had their lawyers participated in Judiciary Committee deliberations at that time.  So, it`s, you know, it`s -- of course President Trump has often taken his own path on almost everything.  It does leave Democrats a path, to talk without him countering, that the White House itself countering the narrative that they`re going to lay out for a while until the Senate trial in January.

On the other hand, the Republicans -- congressional Republicans have been so solidly behind the President so far, that they have carried this case.  So I guess we see it is different from how other presidents have behavior.  So that`s clear.

WILLIAMS:  Annie Karni, I know not everyone in Trump`s world is thoroughly psyched about Rudy`s travel plans this time of year.  Are they as psyched about the strategy, going forward, the plan of counter attack as we know it tonight?

ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  Well, they have - - they really want to get to the Senate trial because they think they have a much bigger chance of putting forth a counter proposal here.  We`ve seen these three, the GOP senators, already making the argument, trying reinvestigate Ukraine`s involvement in the 2016 election.  We see -- trying to call witnesses like Alexander Chalupa who -- a former DNC operator who was accused of meddling in the Ukrainian -- working with Ukrainians to meddle in the election.

Talking about -- calling people like the whistleblower and Adam Schiff, these are dramatic moments that are not necessarily going to happen but are trying to mount a counter offense.  And then they think that the Senate trial where they have backing from Senate Republican.  And they really know the outcome here that they`re not going to convict the President is a better playing field than in the House.  And that`s what we saw in Pat Cipollone`s, you know, letter today.  And that`s basically what we`ve seen since the beginning of this process weeks ago.

WILLIAMS:  Mel, let`s pick up right at that point.  As long as the phrase cooler heads in the Senate is not an oxymoron.  To Annie`s point, if cooler heads in the Senate prevails, then none of the witnesses on the witness from Pelosi to either of the two Bidens to shift is going to materialize at the trial, though it won`t be lacking for action.  Is everyone straight up and down just referring to the Senate trial as the President`s firewalls still?

MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITOCO":  That is the thinking of Capitol Hill right now.  But they`re going to be sorely disappointed if they are expecting the Senate GOP to follow the hardline tactics that we`ve seen in the house.  Number one, GOP leaders made crystal clear that they don`t want this to turn into a circus.  You have to keep in that Mitch McConnell is defending a tough match.  There are a number of vulnerable Republicans up for re-election.  And in their minds, they need to have a thoughtful and serious trial in order to be able to cast this historic vote on impeachment.  And the other thing to keep in mind is math, is a simple math problem.

Republicans can only lose three Republicans for any procedural maneuvers they want to do, any witnesses they want to haul in.  And already from the senators I was talking to this week, there were a number of them who are already pouring cold water on a lot of the ideas we`ve heard floated from the President himself.  So even though they are absolutely committed to defending him, it just probably not going to be in the style that Trump and his congressional house allies want to see.

WILLIAMS:  Susan Page, let`s talk about Nancy Pelosi.  In terms of Democratic House leadership, she is second only to Mr. Rayburn as they called him.  Of course, he was richly rewarded with an office building and then some.  It now can be told you are writing the book on Nancy Pelosi.  Share with our audience what the introduction to this chapter of her life might be.

PAGE:  Well, this is I think the chapter that all the precinct chapters were preparations for.  You know, she said this very long career.  She not necessarily planned to still be in office at this point as things turned out.  She is not only in power but in power.  She has control of this Democratic caucus.  The complaints and the gripes that you heard during the last campaign, the promises of some Democratic-- new Democratic members of Congress that they would not vote for that, you don`t hear that anymore.  She has the trust of this caucus and control of this caucus.  She is calling the shots.  The broad shots when it comes to how the Democrats will proceed on impeachment.

And she has made it pretty clear that she wants a narrow process that gets done by the end of this year.  That it gets send into the Senate to do whatever it is they`re going to do with it.  And that by doing that, she -- in her view, the House will have done its duty in saying that the pressure on Ukraine to investigate the President`s political rivals was improper and deserving of impeachment regardless of whether the Senate goes along with a conviction that would remove him from office.

WILLIAMS:  And Melanie, let`s pick up right there.  Are the Democrats worried about defections in the House, in their own ranks?  I think, I can think of at least one or two at this early day.

ZANONA:  Well, House Democratic leaders have said, we`re not going to whip this.  We`re not going to try to force members into impeachment.  We want this to be a vote of conscious.  But at the same time, they are very cognizant of the fact that they can`t afford to lose many defections.  And they also don`t want Republicans to be able to seize on that and say, look how many Democrats aren`t even voting for impeachment.  This is a bipartisan vote against impeachment.

So, it`s going to be a challenge for Pelosi and her leadership team.  They need to be able to craft these articles of impeachment in a way that can attract the most number of Democrats.  We still don`t know if they`re going to include the Mueller findings and the Mueller report in their articles, if they`re going to keep it narrow and tightly-focused on Ukraine.  Those are going to be the debates and questions that they needed to decide going forward.

WILLIAMS:  Annie Karni, it`s time we talk about Rudy.  Jeremy Bash earlier this week agreed that Rudy`s travels are redefining chutzpah.  We can all agree to that.  But what about things like surveillance, the area of the world where he`s been working and digging and talking this week, his communications back to the United States with the guy he calls his client who also happens to be the President of the United States?

KARNI:  Well, one thing that Rudy said in the clip you just played is that he`s always had one clear role, which is defending his client.  And one thing that Rudy has not had throughout this process, throughout this chapter in his life is one clear role.  I mean the White House has never viewed him really as Trump`s lawyer.  They viewed him as a freelancing spokesperson and long-time friend.  They have long wanted him out of Trump`s circle but Trump has kept him in.

And then he has his own business interests that he`s pursuing in various parts of the world.  And it`s never been clear what had he`s wearing.  So, this insistence that he`s always been acting on behalf of this one client is simply not accurate.  And it`s certainly to see Rudy flying to the -- to Ukraine at this stage of the story when he is central to it, is -- I mean Jeremy put it great.  I mean only Rudy could have this chutzpah to go there and continue on as if he`s not at the center of this maelstrom himself.

We`ll see when Trump really pulls the court on him completely or if Rudy is simply at this point too close and he`s been too close for too long for him to do that.  That`s thing.

WILLIAMS:  And Melanie, what`s the backup plan of this I.G. report fizzles when matched against the hopes and dreams of the GOP ignore it and move on?

ZANONA:  It sounds like it will fizzle.  But, you know, Republicans are -- I think there`ll be something for everyone in this report.  Republicans will cease and point to what they want to point to.  They`re really baking on this as being a sort of counter programing to everything that`s going on Monday, but all eyes are going to be on William Barr after this to see what he does and whether he`s going to be willing to accept the findings of that report.

WILLIAMS:  Much oblige to our big three on the Friday night, Susan Page, Melanie Zanona and Annie Karni, we greatly appreciate you coming on and helping us out.

And coming up for us, our next guest goes there.  He says any of his fellow Republicans who are willing to protect the President by embracing conspiracy theories is guilty of treason.

And later, it is a new unauthorized biography of a formidable and enigmatic immigrant who just happens to be our nation`s first lady.  The author is here with us tonight to talk about Melania Trump as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this Friday evening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST:  I`d live the ugly politics of the Republican Party.  I regret some of those campaigns I was a part of.  But I don`t understand why Republicans who know better.  Republicans with security clearances who know how brutal Putin is, who know the murder dissidence and poisons former-- poisoned her.  I don`t know why Richard Burr and Rob Portman and people with brains and knowledge go a long with it.  I get the Republican base.  I don`t get why Republicans who know better go a long with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILIAMS:  Nicolle Wallace in this very studio this afternoon.  The state of the Republicans Party under Donald Trump also comes in for a brutal analysis.

In a new piece in "Rolling Stone," written by Rick Wilson, it`s titled "The Traitors Among Us," the author who joins us in just a moment writes this, "America is in the midst of a treason boom right now, and more than few people in Trump`s immediate orbit, and Trump himself, richly and actually deserve the title of traitor.  As the impeachment hearings have worn on and as evidence of the complete moral collapse of the Republican Party has become more and more evident, it has become quite obvious there really are traitors among us."

For his part of course, here are a few examples of what the President considers treason.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  This was a fake witch hunt and it should never be allowed to happen to another president again.  This was treason.  This was high crimes.

The conversation was perfect unless you heard the Adam Schiff`s version where he made up my conversation.  He actually made it up.  It should be criminal.  It should be treasonous.

The whistleblower is a disgraced to our country.  He should be sued and maybe for treason, maybe for treason.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Back with us, the aforementioned, Rick Wilson, Republican Strategist and author who assumed following up on his first book "Everything Trump Touches Dies" with his new work, "Running Against the Devil" which is due out just next month.

Rick, traitor and treason are tough words as you well know make your case.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  They are.  Brian, the President started by devaluing these words, applying to folks who`d serve our military, served our country, served our intelligence community for months and months before this.  And I kept wondering to myself, where is the line that he`ll not cross when it comes to accusing other people of treason.

And then I look at what`s happening around him or the people who enabled him, the people who are supporting him in the face of what is very obviously an ongoing intelligent warfare effort by Vladimir Putin that they have now embraced and that they are -- all their running interference for Donald Trump is now part and parcel of that.

They`re using the talking points to come right out of Vladimir Putin`s propaganda shops.  And so I think the word treason when it applies you got to call it.  And I think a lot of these people are betraying their country.  They`re betraying the oath they swore when they entered office.   And they are betraying the values that made this country what it actually is.

And part of that was recognizing when enemies are trying to interfere with our elections and in our democracy.  And I`ve called it.  This article said a terrible reaction with the magus.  They are really, really unhappy with it.  So I think I struck a pretty solid nerve.

WILLIAMS:  Given your personal history with the party and given all the thought time that goes in to all the writing you do, give us the answer of how the GOP got here.  They went from law and order, classically Russia hating Russia --

WILSON:  Right.

WILLIAMS:  -- despising party to this kind of collection of public supplicants, how did this happen?

WILSON:  They have abandoned -- as I described with the article, the complete moral collapse the Republican Party has come because of and at the coincident to and caused by Donald Trump.  And Trump`s love of Russia, his love of Putin, his love of authoritarian strong men is part of what they`ve done to adopt the Donald Trump as the god king of their party.

They look at him as something beyond anything we could have imagined.  They love him more than Lincoln.  They love him more than Reagan.  They love him more than any other Republican or any other president ever.

And that cult-like devotion to Trump leaves the elected members of the party to engage in behavior that shows that either their commitment to their principles was always a lie or that they have-- or the set incentives they believe are going to affect their political fortunes going forward are Fox News, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin with a helping hand.

WILLIAMS:  Rick, what does recovery for the party looked like?

WILSON:  Death and then the paddles have to go on.  And maybe you don`t end up with the Republican Party as it is right now.

I think right now, you`ve got it`s so deeply infected with this-- with the Trump disease.  That it will always be like political herpes.  It`s always going to come back and pop up again unless you reboot and look at something without outside of the traditional Republican brand.

I think there is a market in this country for a party of individual liberty and constitutional fealty and free market economics.  But I don`t think it`s the Republican Party of Donald Trump which is now basically constituted itself as a personality cult.

WILLIAMS:  Rick Wilson is staying with us.  And after this break, we`re going to expand our conversation by one, by welcoming a Democratic strategist to talk about 2020 including a less than smooth outing, let`s call it, by the newest candidate in the race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You all thought that what happened was the party moved extremely to the left after Hilary.  AOC was a new party.  She`s a bright, wonderful person.  But where is the party?  Come on man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  More on that in a bit.  Joe Biden picked up the endorsement of John Kerry this week in Iowa.  At an appearance together today, Kerry made a funny, he said that the only team that has worked more closely than Biden and Kerry is Trump and Putin.

Last night, we showed you Biden angrily getting into with an Iowa voter who repeated a false story about Hunter Biden.  As POLITICO puts it, Joe Biden has two methods of responding to questions about his son`s controversial business dealings in Ukraine.  Denial and anger.  But so far, Biden doesn`t have a clear and cogent message and Iowa voters are starting to take notice.

We`re happy to have, joining our conversation, Karine Jean-Pierre, Chief Public Affairs Officer for MoveOn.  Also an alum of both the Obama Campaign and the Obama White House.  She is also the author of a new book that tells a story she knows quite well.  It`s her own.  It is called "Moving Forward."  A story of hope, hard work and the promise of America.  Her fellow author, Rick Wilson remains with us.

Karine, could you make the argument that Biden`s problem along these lines is he hasn`t settled on the story, the response, the story to tell.  For now his story is owned by the other side.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, FORMER CAMPAIGN OFFICIAL FOR BARACK OBAMA:  Yes, that is the problem that Biden has which is, what is your narrative?  Can you control your story?  Right.  That`s kind of politics 101.  Control the narrative before the other side does.

  And he tends to not do that.  And but I do have to say though, say his response yesterday was a good one.  The one where the older gentleman came to him and said "Hey, you know, I don`t think you are too old or talked to him about the Hunter situation with Ukraine."  And I thought Biden answered that pretty well.  He probably in this message, once again needed to be a little more clear but he showed some fire in his belly.  And I think we need to see more of that but with a clearer message.

And I have to say as well, Brian, with the Kerry endorsement and I think this plays into the narrative that Biden is trying to do it, is that, look, endorsements doesn`t really move voters much.  They don`t have much stuck, not much stuck in endorsements.

  But what the Kerry endorsement does it plays into the narrative of that Biden faith, that Biden is going to take you back to normalcy.  The Kerry connects you to the Clinton and Obama.  And it`s a different narrative than what you hear from Warren and Sanders and Buttigieg who were saying we need new leadership, a new direction while Biden is trying to say I`m going to take you back to a place that`s normal.

WILLIAMS:  Rick Wilson, that sounds perfectly reasonable to me.  Do concur on the Kerry Biden endorsement?  And what did you think of his kind of nice lofty and high-minded swing at AOC?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Look, I think that Joe Biden has one great advantage in this race and that is -- you know who Joe Biden is as a voter.  The brand of Joe Biden is very established.  You understand who is.  You get where he`s coming from.  You see the lineage of his political history.

The downside of that is Joe Biden has been around a long, long, long time.  And I think that he is a conversational style that`s great in a small room and does not always translate as well on camera.

Look, I think that Democrats who really want one thing out of their nominee.  And that is somebody who carry out the referendum against Donald Trump in 2020.  They want somebody who will take the fight to Donald Trump, not by carrying a 600-page policy book into the room, but by carrying a baseball bat to take out the guy`s kneecaps.

And I think Biden actually probably did himself some good by showing he`s not going to take a lot you know what when it comes to people going after his kid.  And he`s not going to take a lot of Malarkey, if you will, from people who are going to go out and try to confront in these things.

And look, the Trump people are going to troll him on Hunter Biden to the last dog dies.  But if I were Joe Biden, I would say, let`s talk about Jared, let`s talk about Ivanka.  Let`s talk about your boys.  Your large adult sons.  You know, this is a guy who knows how to fight.  I think that`s -- who is benefited in this current window.

WILLIAMS:  OK, Karine, let`s talk about --

JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes.

WILLIAMS:  -- the last guy who got in the race by the name of Mike Bloomberg.  My friend Gayle King sat down with him of his first formal seated interview since joining the race.  Gayle being one of the best interviewers in our industry, got results.  I am going to play for you those results on "stop and frisk" and about Cory Booker.  We`ll talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GAYLE KING, CBS THIS MORNING CO-HOST:  Stop and frisk, you recently apologized for that.  Some people are suspicious of the timing of your apology.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  One of the mark of a intelligent confident person is when they make a mistake, they have the guts to go up and say I made a mistake, I`m sorry.

KING:  We don`t question your belief that you made a mistake.  I think the question is the timing that you realize you made the mistake.

BLOOMBERG:  Well, nobody asked me about it until I started running for president, come on.

Cory Booker endorsed me a number of times and I endorsed Cory Booker a number of times.  He`s very well spoken.  He`s got some good ideas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Karine Jean-Pierre, help us out here.

JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes.

WILLIAMS:  Cory Booker called a trope said he was taken aback but Bloomberg apologized and it was accepted.

JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, here`s a thing with Bloomberg, everything that I just heard you`re right, Gayle King certainly brought the receipt.  She got the results there in that interview.

The problem is Bloomberg comes off out of step.  He comes off misguided.  When you think of stop and frisk just earlier this year, he double downed, he triple downed.  He was very proud of that stop and frisk policy which was seen as a civil rights violation by many experts in New York City and incredibly problematic.  So, he comes off in-authentic when says oh, nobody has asked about it, when he`s very proud of that policy.

But there`s the thing, Brian, Bloomberg`s theory of the case is essentially this, he believes two things, Biden needs to collapse and when he does, his voters will come running in his open arms and or a broken convention.  The problem is there is no data that shows that`s going to happen.  Both are pretty farfetched.

And to think a billionaire from New York is what the Democratic basis needs, it`s kind of out of step there as well.  There`s no -- there`s nothing that said, Democrats want a New York billionaire.  We already saw that.  We already have one in the White House.

And so -- and the other part of the two is, we don`t just need a candidate in 2020.  We need someone who`s going to make -- have a movement, who`s going to bring everybody together.  Latino voters, black voters, young voters, people who don`t come out and vote.  And he just - is not showing that that`s what he can do.  He can inspire people and get folks out.

WILLIAMS:  And Rick Wilson, this is quoting you from Twitter today and this stops me in my tracks.  A little quick back-of-the-envelope math, indicates that at his current spending rate, Michael Bloomberg will spend roughly $200 million by the Iowa Caucus.

WILSON:  Yes.

WILLIAM:  Or you could have had the Senate, Rick.

WILSON:  I call this the bonfire of the billionaire vanities.  These guys, Tom Steyer, Mike Bloomberg are in this race and, you know, if they want to get rid of Trump, if they want to really do something effective with all that money burning a hole in their pocket, they would be out spending $200 million to registered voters.  They would be out spending $200 million in the swing states in Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Arizona, Wisconsin hammering Donald Trump to a bloody, flat greasy pulp on the highway with ads.

  But, you know, you`ve got Mike Bloomberg spending money in Los Angeles, and New York City and Miami on television ads right now.  And the bird (ph) rate is spectacular.  And I don`t think it is going to move to much farther than they are right now.  I mean, Tom Steyer has been spending money like a madman fro seven or eight months now and he`s still at 3 percent.

So there is - as Karine says, you know, the Democratic party not seen to be crying out for right now is the billionaire savior in -- on the elected side.  But they could use those resources very effectively to bring pressure on the senate, to bring pressure on Donald Trump, to bring pressure and even on some of the house members.

So it`s a choice and they`ve made it for their own ego I think more than they have for political effectiveness more broadly.

WILLIAMS:  Two of our returning veterans who always make our conversation better and make us think, Karine Jean-Pierre, Rick Wilson.  Thank you both for coming on, on a Friday night at the end of the week.

Coming up, she is perhaps the most inscrutable first lady of the modern era and a new book just out attempts to decipher Melania Trump.  We`ll talk to the author in our studio in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  That was a rough day in the life of our first lady.  Melania Trump rarely makes public appearances, even less frequently addresses the public and that appearance in Baltimore marked the first time she got booed during a solo event.

The first lady largely remains an enigma to the people of this country.  A revealing new biography out this week offers some fresh insight and we quote, "She can and does lead by her intuition and not by a preconceived or publicly held notion of what a first lady should be.  The secret of Melania Trump`s confidence or to her survival as first lady?  She does not care what anybody thinks about her.  As goes Trump and his rule-breaking presidency, so goes Melania and her rule-breaking first lady-ship"

Here with us tonight Kate Bennett, veteran journalist, author of this new book "Free, Melania: The Unauthorized Biography."  Also happens to cover the first lady full-time for our friends over at CNN.  I was joking.  She`s only here to steal our corporate secrets tonight.

The first thing that strikes you upon seeing your book is the comma, Free, comma, Melania.  I know you get asked of wherever you go, explain the comma.

KATE BENNETT, AUTHOR, "FREE, MELANIA":  Oh, you know, remember the meme, the #FreeMelania when she first came on the scene, like she was tapping me on the window --

WILLIAMS:  Link if you need help.

BENNETT:  Right.  And looked very miserable and so it sort of grew from that.  My title is I happen to think she`s probably the most free first lady in terms of what`s expected of her in modern history and also -- maybe the most free person in the Trump orbit.  She can do or say or act or not act or do or say as much as she wants or as little as she wants without fear of repercussion.  And she`s certainly not miserable inside the White House.

WILLIAMS:  I have a cluster of question that I`ll speak to, how in on it is she?  Does she get the irony of Be Best?  Does she understand that birtherism was the original sin?  And what`s the political effect of her husband?

BENNETT:  Her political effect on her husband is quite strong indeed.  And she aligns with him in most ways politically.  I think people would be surprised to hear it because she doesn`t really talk about her political, you know, theories that much.  She`s a very strong influence in his life.  She`s not address the birtherism issues and she`s talked about it on the view those years ago.  I have tried to get answers that has not been forthcoming.

You know, she is certainly someone not to be underestimated.  And I think she prefers it that way.  I don`t know if she doesn`t understand the irony of Be Best.  She certainly takes it very seriously.

But what she does do is sort of I think use her silence, use that most people think that she`s a trophy wife or an accessory to the President to her advantage.  And she sort of in some way is the secret weapon of eyes and ears for her husband.

WILLIAMS:  Your book is a reminder of so much.  I forgot that the two of them met at the Kit-Kat Klub in New York City just like John and Abigail Adams did.  I`m kidding.

And the jacket episode you write about with rich detail.  As someone who has covered a lot of campaign trips and political trips and gone from motorcade, darting up the air stairs into the plane, you admit that you missed the jacket, the feature of the jacket we`re looking at.  By the way, it wasn`t entirely clear at first blush.  But you also admitted grew up and blew up into a huge story while you were in the air on that trip.  Remind us where the trip was and also let the viewers in on the person you think the message was for.

BENNETT:  Right.  So the trip was down to Texas, to the border, in the thick of the first picture that we were seeing of family separation.  And she told the President, I`m going whether you want me to or not to bring more publicity, whatever it might be.  I`m going to go down there and see it myself.  The sort of well intention meaning of that was of course completely negated by the fact that she wore this jacket.  We didn`t see it, we were under the wing and now she got in the front, we got on the back with the press.

WILLIAMS:  Totally understand how that happened.

BENNETT:  We saw some writing, but didn`t quite understand until we were downloading the pictures, the photographers on the way home and then realized, oh my goodness.  Because on the ground in Texas, she didn`t wear the jacket, she changed clothes.

You know, I`m probably the only reporter who actually loss sleep over what`s that jacket mean.  I have a theory that it was directed towards Ivanka Trump, it`s based on book reporting and operated in the Trump`s orbit for so long.  And perhaps was saying I worked on this.  I worked behind the scene to get him to sign the executive orders stopping zero tolerance.  This one was me.  Ivanka Trump sometimes has a tendency or her people do to say I work on this or, you know, behind the scene she tried to get this done.

She`s very savvy with the media that way.  And I think this was Melania`s moment.  I think to say I did this, I really, I think there was little translation on this, there.  But she was -- the message was directed not to the media but I think at Ivanka Trump.

WILLIAMS:  The message I got after this book is serially under estimated first lady and you tell hey really, really interesting story.

Kate Bennett --

BENNETT:  Thank you so much.

WILLIAMS:  -- has been our guest tonight.  The book is "Free, Melania."  It is on sale now.

Coming up for us, House Democrats are working through the weekend to draft articles of impeachment.  Like that`s normal?  We asked a formal Watergate lawyer, what we can expect, next when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (D-TX):  All I got to say is if you love America, mamas don`t let your babies grow up to go to Harvard or Stanford law schools.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Law professors from around the country today offered up something of a rebuttal to Louie Gohmert`s comment after a Wednesday`s impeachment hearing.  They publish an open letter endorsed by more than 500 legal scholars that argues President Trump has committed impeachable conduct, they write, "Put simply, if a President cheats in his effort at reelection trusting the democratic process to serve as a check through that election is no remedy at all.  That is what impeachment is for.

With more on what to watch for as this process moves forward, we`re happy to welcome back Jill Wine-Banks, attorney, former assistant and Watergate special council, she has also, we`re happy to point out just written her own story.  It is called "The Watergate Girl: My Fight for Truth and Justice Against a Criminal President."  Due out in February.

Jill, it`s great to see you again, judging this against Nixon and Clinton, is the combativeness the same or the levels of vitriol in the air the same now as they were then?  Were they higher then perhaps?

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR:  I think they are incredibly higher now.  We`re living in such a different media environment.  But there were claims of hoax and witch-hunt during the Watergate case, so it`s not all that different.  I think that the underlying crime here is much worse than the underlying crime in Watergate, the threat to democracy, the threat to national security is much worse now and must be taken very seriously.

WILLIAMS:  Do you understand, do you endorse the White House strategy of sitting out this round where a defense is concerned?

WINE-BANKS:  Well, I think that they lose a lot of credibility when they keep complaining about things that keep getting changed to what they want, and then they lower the bar and say, well, we`re not going to participate; they complained they weren`t participating now they are invited to and they won`t.

And I think that all Americans can draw as they would in their ordinary everyday lives a reasonable conclusion which is that if they had something to defend, if they had some good evidence, something that would exculpate the President, they would be participating.  And we all make judgments in our everyday lives based on circumstantial evidence and draw conclusions such as this one.  If he is not coming forward, it`s because he has something to hide.

WILLIAMS:  Jill, if you knew the Democrats that mattered to this process we`re watching tonight from staff to council, to members themselves, what would your advice be for what they should be watching for, what they should be mindful of entering next week and for that matter the rest of calendar 2019?

WINE-BANKS:  I think I would go back to how well handled -- Peter Rodino handled things during Watergate, in bringing in bipartisan support and bringing in - remember there were three articles of impeachment that passed each by different votes in terms of how many Republicans supported them.  And people can understand a clearly set out narrative of facts.  And I think here the same things that apply during the Watergate could apply.

I hesitate to offer any advice because I think Adam Schiff and Gerry Nadler, and Nancy Pelosi are doing just fine without any advice from me.  But I think that they can and that American people will act as jurors and will be able to understand not just what happened in Ukraine, not just the extortion by the President, although that`s traumatic and clearly proved by his own words as set forth in the memorandum of the phone conversation.

But I think that they can also understand the Mueller obstruction and the danger to democracy when the third -- the three branches of government aren`t allowed to act as they were intended with checks and balances.  And when you say I will not cooperate with Congress, not only in the investigation of the Ukraine matter but in terms of immigration and everything else.  I will not allow there to be any cooperation.  I won`t allow my staff to testify.  I won`t allow there to be checks and balances.  That throws off our whole democratic framework.

WILLIAMS:  Jill Wine-Banks of Chicago who we note has the good sense to be in Palm Springs, California tonight, we wish we were there with you.  Jill, thank you very much as always for coming on our broadcast tonight.

And coming for up for us, some deep thoughts from a president on a huge part of everyday life even if we couldn`t exactly follow it sometimes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight.  For that matter, the last thing this week is some comments by the President today.  Here`s all you need to know before we dive in.

The White House today hosted a group of small business owners.  And as it usually does, the subject of rolling back regulations came up.  Then he started talking about water, water flow, water pressure, EPA regulations on water fixtures, designed to save water because 40 of our 50 states expect shortages in the next decade after all.  Anyway, it was clear today the President has some strong feelings about water.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  We have a situation where we`re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucet on and areas where there`s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it.  And you don`t get any water.  You turn on the faucet.  You don`t get any water.

They take a shower and water comes dripping out.  It`s dripping out very quietly dripping out.  People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times as opposed to once.  They end up using more water.  So, EPA is look at that very strongly at my suggestion.

You go into a new building or a new house or a new home and they have standards where you don`t get water.  You can`t wash your hands practically.  There`s so little water that comes out of the faucet.  And the end result is you leave the faucet on and it takes much longer to wash your hands.  You end up using the same amount of water.

So, we`re looking at very seriously at opening up the standard and there may be some areas where we`ll go the other route, desert areas, but for the most part you have many states where they have so much water that it comes down.  It`s called rain that they don`t know what to do with it.  So, we`re going to be opening up that, I believe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Ten to 15 times, the thought process of our president to take us off the air on this Friday night.

We thank you for being here with us.  Have a good weekend.  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