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Impeachment likely to impact 2020 Election. TRANSCRIPT: 12/11/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Ashley Parker, Mieke Eoyang, Philip Rucker, Mike Murphy; EugeneRobinson

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST:  Tonight the Congress works night late as Democrats work through the wording of articles of impeachment.  Republicans are in the fight, but can`t stop it at this stage.  Tonight, we`ll get a live update from the Capitol on where this is all headed up next.

Plus, Lindsey Graham calls the Justice Department Inspector General before the Senate Judiciary Committee to talk about that litany of claims of bias against the President from inside the FBI.  Bias that the report did not find.

We`ll talk about the reports that Biden would run as a potential single term president.  And we`ll show you an example of bravery in the face of the President`s relentless attacks.  All of it as "The 11th Hour" gets underway on this Wednesday night.

And good evening once again from our NBC News Headquarters, here in New York.  Day 1,056 of the Trump administration.

Moments ago, the House Judiciary Committee adjourned after working late tonight, not quite the midnight oil, but close to four-hour session, that will now hold over and continue into the morning debating the wording of the articles of impeachment as Donald Trump becomes the first American President to face impeachment in his first term in office.

House Democrats laid out the articles over nine pages charging that Trump, "Abused the powers of the presidency, and interposed the powers of presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives," another of saying obstruction of Congress.

Tonight in a sharply partisan session, committee members challenged one another over the Democrats charges against the President and the assertions that our President has put our 2020 elections and our nation`s security at risk.


REP. JERRY NADLER, (D) NEW YORK JUDICIARY CMTE. CHAIRMAN:  If the President can first abuse his power and then stone wall all congressional request for information, Congress cannot fulfill its duty to act as a check and balance against the executive, and the President becomes a dictator.

REP. DOUG COLLINS, (R) GEORGIA JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  The big law they were hitting perpetuator not as one, the end justifies the means.  The lies that the sham impeachment`s is OK because of threat is so real and so urgent and so imminent.

REP. JIM JORDAN, (R) OHIO JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  It`s not just because they don`t like the President, they don`t like us.  They don`t like the 63 million people who voted for this President.  All of us in fly over country, all of us come in folk in Ohio, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Texas, they don`t like us.

REP. VAL DEMINGS, (D) FLORIDA JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  The framers were so concerned of our President abusing his power that they gave us the power of impeachment.  George Washington was particularly concerned about unprincipled men, finding their way into the White House.  Well, those times have found us.  And we only have one option, and that`s the whole this President accountable.


WILLIAMS:  The vote by the committee most likely party line, of course, expected tomorrow that would hand the matter on to the full House, that would make a Senate trial in January, almost certain.  One of the issues driving this committee vote before the weekend, by the way, a large congressional delegation headed to Europe on Thursday afternoon to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Bulge.

Tonight the POLITICO and "The Washington Post" reporting that House Democrats may see some defections on an impeachment vote.  There are already two that we know of.

And this is new, "The Washington Post" also reporting the White House`s Budget Office is now offering a new explanation for withholding that military aid to Ukraine.  Yes, the Budget`s Office, "asserts in a new legal memo that it withheld military aid to Ukraine as a temporary move to study whether the spending complied with U.S. policy and not as a political effort to black Congress`s spending decisions.  The office first began reassessing whether to release the aid on June 19, the day President Trump learned of the aid from an article in the Washington Examiner and questioned the wisdom of the spending."

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reporting that Republican senators are looking at a short impeachment trial, "Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, said a growing number of the Senate`s 53 GOP members want to simply let House Democrats make their case to impeach the President and then hear a rebuttal from Trump`s team before moving immediately to a vote on the articles of impeachment.

Tonight, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham echoed those same sediments.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA JUDICIARY CMTE. CHAIRMAN:  Everybody is dying to hear from Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and proved that there was corruption on their part.  And they get Schiff, the Shifty Schiff and all that good stuff.  I`m really worried about where this would take the country.

Here is what I think is best for the country that we listen to the House`s case, based on the evidence they use to impeach if they do, that we not build upon that record.  We let the President to give his side of the story if (ph) was not impeachable.  Then I think we should vote and end it.


WILLIAMS:  But, appearing on this network tonight, Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana had this warning for his Republican colleagues.


SEN. JON TESTER, (D) MONTANA:  And I think if folks want to turn this trial into a carnival, I think they will be hell to pay for that at the ballot box.  So I think people expect an honest and fair trial and deep politicized it as much as possible.  And I will tell you that it is very difficult after watching the House for a bit this evening.  But the bottom line is I think the American people expect their government to work.


WILLIAMS:  Here for our lead off discussion on a Wednesday night, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post," Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House reporter for "The Washington Post", and Mieke Eoyang, attorney and former staffer for both House Intel and ARM Services.  Good evening and welcome to all three of you.

Ashley, tonight Mark Meadows is urging Donald Trump to add Alan Dershowitz as a member of the White House legal team.  Question is, does this pre- assume of vacancy, a need or a deficiency on said, White House legal team?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, it assumes that the President is going to want, sort of as many people as possible, not just defending him but people like Alan Dershowitz who have done so publicly, who have done so in television, who have done so on Fox News and has made a forceful case, not just on the legal merits, but in the court of public opinion, which in some ways is where the President and his team believes this is being fought.  That`s where they thought the Mueller fight was being fought.  They were correct in that and they want someone who`s fiery and I think that`s why you`re hearing Mr. Dershowitz`s name floated right now.

WILLIAMS:  Mieke Eoyang, among the defenses mounted tonight that you heard from the Republicans, do you hear anything that is convertible to their argument that they`re going to have to post in the Senate?  And corollary anything if you assign yourself the floor manager for defending trump, how would you go?

MIEKE EOYANG, FMR. HOUSE INTELLEGENCE COMMITTEE STAFFER:  Well, we didn`t hear any substantive defenses of the President.  And what the Republicans were arguing this evening, what they were basically arguing was that the process has been unfair.

Now, the whole point of a fair process is to allow both sides to present their case, but we have not heard of substantive defense of what the President had done other than he did it, get over it.  So they really have very little that they can argue here.

I actually think that defending the President in this process is going to be a very difficult task.  And what it comes down to is just straight partisan loyalty for these Republican senators.

WILLIAMS:  Phil Rucker, there`s no gentle or dignified way to ask this, does the White House fell that they have Republicans in the Senate willing to be as nakedly aggressive and sometimes fact-neutral as some of the Republicans on the House have proven to be?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF:  The answer, Brian, it is a little bit complicated.  The vote in the Senate seems pretty much pre-ordain at this point.  It appears that all the Republican senators are likely to vote to acquit President Trump.  His removal from office does not appear to be in the all thing.  And the White House is very confident about that assessment.

But what you are hearing from President Trump is that he wants there to be a big trial, a big show of force in defending him.  He`s thinking much more about the public relations aspect of this, how it will frame the reelection campaign ahead through November.  And he wants to take advantage of the Senate trial on home turf, so to speak, because it`s controlled by Republicans to put up a show to drag Hunter Biden in as a witness, to drag Adam Schiff in as a witness, to have fiery defenses of the President`s conduct.

And what you are hearing from Senate leaders, as you`ve heard it there from Senator Graham.  Senator Thune, the number two Republican told our colleagues in "The Post" today that there`s much less of an appetite for that among the senators.  They want to get this vote taken care of quickly, turn the page and move on.  And so that`s where the tension relies -- or resides right now within the Republican coalition.

WILLIAMS:  Ashley Parker, you were in Hershey, P.A. last night, just as a television viewer there was anger in that arena at the Trump rally.  Talk about how and how often the President incorporated impeachment into his remarks.

PARKER:  Impeachment was the true line of his remarks last night.  You could sense that anger on television you said, and you can feel it there being there in the arena in Hershey Pennsylvania.  And the President would move on to sort of touting positive aspects of his presidency, of the economy, but he would always return to impeachment.

And you could just tell this was something, sort of the emotional dichotomy of the President on his issue as on display there.  Because it was something that infuriates him, it angers him, it`s something he can`t help but talk about.  He views this undermining the legitimacy of his presidency.  So, part of his impeachment ref (ph) is trying to undermine impeachment saying it`s impeachment light and they are trying to impeach him for doing nothing wrong.

But at the same time you also saw him trying to make it into a political issue, acknowledging that he believes the, "silver lining of impeachment" was it forced Democrats to strike a deal with him on the USMCA trade issue.  And saying to his voters, using that (INAUDIBLE) saying this is the Democrats trying to subvert your will, trying to undo 2016 and foil you again in 2020.  And so it is both, it`s a rallying cry and it`s something that is so deeply upsetting to him.  He can`t help but talk about it and emote.

WILLIAMS:  Mieke, if the White House has a change of heart and delivered to the Hill reams of paper tomorrow and said you`ve got us.  Here are all the documents we could find, this should respond to everything you subpoenaed.  Would they get out from under an obstruction of Congress article?  And are they willing to take that article as opposed to doing just that?

EOYANG:  I think that they would rather take the article than actually produce the documents, it is not just the documents, because there are also 10 witnesses who have refuse to appear in defiance of subpoena which no other president has done before.  We all remember in the Clinton administration, even the president`s assistant Betty Currie came to testify.  I mean, the people really close with intimate knowledge of the president in past impeachments have come to testify about what is been happening there.  Trump hasn`t allowed any of that.

And I think he`s concerned about the story that they would tell.  Otherwise, this whole argument the Republicans are making about how Democrats should sue to enforce subpoenas, they never once ask the President just let them come forward and talk.  It`s very simple to solve.  And they`re unwilling to do it.  They`d rather to have the article of obstruction.

WILLIAMS: Phil, you and your colleagues Dan Balz at "The Post" did a kind of canvassing of elected officials, talking about the kind of era of disinformation we find ourselves in. what were your findings?

RUCKER:  Yes, Brian, a couple of things.  The last couple of days and especially earlier this week in a single day, it really spotlighted the extent to which disinformation and distrust is to defining our political system really and halting the leverage of government here.  We saw that with the way the President and his allies have responded to the inspector general`s report out of the Justice Department.  And among those allies, by the way, is the Attorney General himself, Bill Barr, using that report spreading some false information and attacking the FBI.

But we saw more broadly that this impeachment proceeding has served to even further divide and in flame the tensions in the country.  There`s a lot of concern among the former governors from both parties that we spoke to who are in there outpost, their states all across the country, that this is a real inflection point in our countries history, that we`re not going to find any resolution until November of 2020 in the election when the voters have a say and that the divide could continue will beyond that depending on the outcome and depending, first and foremost, on how President Trump handles it.

WILLIAMS:  Ashley, you get the last word, I need you to talk about the story you covered and wrote about tonight.  The executive order from the President that defines Jewishness as an ethnic group not only a religion, it was instantly controversial, why is that?

PARKER:  Well, it`s complicated because the President and his allies say and Jared Kushner has not bit about this, that it is basically making it easier to prevent anti-Semitic behavior.  Because there are protections given to a nationality that religious groups don`t get.  But it is just simply problematic to classify Jews that way for starters.

And then there was also some controversy over that it was squashing free speech and that this will be used to limit free speech on college campuses which is where a lot of this activism is taken place.

WILLIAMS:  Never an easy or uncomplicated story at the White House.  Thank you very much to all three of you.  To Phil Rucker, to Ashley Parker, to Mieke Eoyang, we greatly appreciate it.

And coming for us tonight as we keep an eye on the House, we`ll take a closer look at how the inspector general`s testimony today squared with what the attorney general just said yesterday.

And later Bloomberg puts his money where his mouth is.  How he plans to spend millions on elections he`s not directly involved in.  As "the 11th hour" just getting started beneath the Capitol dome on this Wednesday night.



SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS JUDICIARY CMTE.:  I can tell you when I was at DOJ, if someone says let`s tap Hillary Clinton or let`s tap Bill Clinton or John Kerry, the people there would have said what in the hell are you talking about?  What was going on here?  This wasn`t Jason Bourne.  This was "Beavis and Butt-Head."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Senator Klobuchar.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D) MINNESOTA JUDICIARY CMTE.:  All right.  I want to tone things down a little bit here.  Did your report uncover systematic political bias at the FBI?

MICHAEL HOROWITZ, INSPECTOR GENERAL DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE:  As to what we look at in the openings, we did not find documentary testimonial evidence to support the finding of bias.

(END VIDEO CLIP)       WILLIAM:  Questions of bias.  Allegations of campaign spying were a big part of today`s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with the DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  During your investigation, Attorney General Barr started his belief that "spying on the Trump campaign did occur."  And as you said, your investigation found no evidence that the FBI placed any confidential source within the Trump campaign or task any confidential source to report on the Trump campaign, that`s correct, right?

HOROWITZ:  That`s correct.

FEINSTEIN:  And further, no evidence that political bias or improper motivations influence the decision to use confidential sources as part of the investigation.

HOROWITZ:  That`s correct.

FEINSTEIN:  Did your office ask Attorney General Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham to share whatever evidence they had that might be relevant to your investigation?

HOROWITZ:  We asked Mr. Durham to do that.

FEINSTEIN:  And what about Attorney General Barr?

HOROWITZ:  And Attorney General Barr.

FEINSTEIN:  Thank you.  So nothing they could provide altered your office`s conclusion that the FBI did not play spies in the Trump`s campaign.

HOROWITZ:  None of the discussions changed our findings here.


WILLIAMS:  So, again, there it is.  No spying.  Yet again, here is the Attorney General from just yesterday asserting a different truth.


PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT:  Do you still stand by your statement that the campaign was spied upon?

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Oh, it`s clearly spied upon.  I mean, that`s what electronic surveillance is.  I think wiring people up to go in and talk to people and make recordings of their conversations is spying.  I think going through people`s e-mails which they did as a result of the FISA warrant.  They went through everything.


WILLIAMS:  With us tonight to help sort this out, Chuck Rosenberg, Former U.S. Attorney, Former Senior FBI, also happens to be the host of our own podcast called for good reason, "The Oath."

Chuck, please help us.  That`s the Attorney General of the United States, the senior most law enforcement executive we have, what is going on here?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FMR. SENIOR FBI OFFICIAL:  He has to understand that the word "spy", that notion of spying is a pejorative, it`s alluded word.  What the FBI did was lawful, it was pursuant to lawful court orders in their own policies and procedures.  I am absolutely mystified why he would describe it as spying.  It`s not that.

WILLIAMS:  How is it that in 2019, and again he seems so troubled and laboring under this.  We have an alternative version of the truth coming from, of all people, our Attorney General?

ROSENBERG:  Right.  He must have a political agenda.  I, among others, I`m deeply disappointed in him.  I believed that he was a principled institutionalist.  I said that and welcomed him to our Department of Justice when he was named to that post, I was dead wrong.

WILLIAMS:  Comey wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post pointing out, pleaing that he had been vindicated, the Inspector General was asked about this at the hearing today.  We`ll play that exchange and talk about it.


GRAHAM:  Former FBI Director James Comey said this week that your report vindicates him, is that a fair assessment of your report.

HOROWITZ:  You know, I think the activities we found here don`t vindicate anybody who touched this.


WILLIAMS:  So, you heard the man`s answer, do you view it as a vindication of Comey?

ROSENBERG:  In a top line sense, absolutely.  What the President has been complaining about for the last two plus years, three years, is that political bias and political motive influenced the work of the FBI.  The Inspector General said definitively that that did not happen.

Now, Inspector General also made a very important finding that there were numerous procedural flaws of the FBI in terms of applying for and obtaining electronic surveillance warrants, that has to be fixed.  That`s a big deal.  But I think Comey can claim vindication and properly so, because what he has been saying all along and the Inspector General agreed is that political bias and political motive never infected their work.

WILLIAMS:  How do you think it`s going over inside DOJ, inside the FBI to see adults who know better?  A U.S. attorney in the middle of an active investigation passing judgment on it, an Attorney General interpreting an I.G. report differently from what we can read on the paper.  How is this going over on the inside?

ROSENBERG:  Not well.  I saw a lot of friends and various positions around the Department of Justice and the FBI, and they don`t get it.  You know, I have heard attorneys general differ with the findings of inspectors general.  They disagree, they don`t like it, they don`t really want to implement all the recommendations.  I`ve never seen an attorney general differ with an inspector generals finding that praise the FBI, a good finding that there was no political bias, there is no political infection, and that`s what he`s disagreeing with.  That`s astonishing to me.

It doesn`t go over well because the men and women of the FBI and the Department of Justice more broadly don`t behave politically.  They have political views, they vote, they`re entitled to do that.  But when they come to work, they leave it at the doorstep.  And so the notion that their work was infected is just so anathema to what they are.

WILLIAMS:  I thought of you last night because I heard the President at the rally referred to some of the people at the FBI as scum.  Last night as part of their coverage of a tragedy we had here in the New York area, our New York television station WNBC, chronicle, the loss of life, six people killed in a mass shooting incident including two of the shooters, three innocent by standers, a jersey city police detectives, 39 years old, married, father of five.  And look at this photo.  I think most people when they think of the FBI think of G-Men, middle age guys in suits riding around in a Crown Victoria may be serving a warrant.

Here`s as guy without a Kevlar helmet wearing the most minimal body armor with a long gun in urban streets where there was a gun battle going on.  This too, Chuck, is the FBI.

ROSENBERG:  You bet it is.  It`s the FBI, it`s law enforcement at the state local and federal throughout the country.  The gentleman in that picture moving towards danger, that`s what they do.  The notion that the President would call them scum is offensive, deeply so and indefensible.

And I`ll tell you this, you mentioned the detective that was killed the other day, Joseph Seals.  Two of his colleagues were wounded.  I looked up the number just out of curiosity.  Yesterday, 118 men and women in law enforcement have been killed this year, state local and federal in the line of duty.  These are folks who move to the sound of danger often without all the protection that you would expect that they would have, that they would need because that`s what they do.

Pictures worth a thousand words, famous adage.  People should look at that picture and pause for a moment and think about what the President said, it was disgusting.

WILLIAMS:  Chuck Rosenberg, thank you as always for stopping by our broadcast.

Coming up for us, the prospect of impeaching the 45th President of the United States.  It had several Democrats under political pressure.  We`ll talk about that when we come back.



REP. KEN BUCK (R), COLORADO:  Well, I`ll tell my colleagues, go ahead, vote to impeach President Trump tomorrow.  But when you walk out of this hearing room, call your freshman colleagues and tell them they`re not coming back, and you hope they had their fun.

Say goodbye to your majority status, and please join us in January of 2021 when President Trump is inaugurated again.

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D), LOUISIANA:  Some people in this room aren`t willing to lose an election to save our democracy.  The truth is, staring us in our face.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Thirty-one Democrats are up for reelection in congressional districts President Trump won in 2016.  And it remains to be seen how many will ultimately risk a yes vote on impeachment.

According to new reporting from Politico, Democratic leaders are privately expecting no more than a half dozen defections on next week`s vote.  Party official say there is zero concern of being short on votes with nowhere near 18 Democrats expected to buck their party on the House floor.

Those vulnerable Dems can count on support from a Democratic presidential candidate, The Washington Post reporting today.  Billionaire Mike Bloomberg will donate $10 million to House Democrats targeted by the GOP.

Here, to talk about it with us tonight, Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Price Winning Columnist for The Washington Post and Mike Murphy, Republican Strategist, Co-Director of the Center for Political Future at the University of Southern California, and importantly, the co-host of the podcast Hacks on Tap with David Axelrod.  Gentlemen, welcome to you both.  Are you -- Is there is any real risk to the Democratic Party by doing this.  How many defections do you expect?

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  No.  I think they have thus and there`s a good kind of media number.  I mean you`ve got -- oh close to 20 of them that are in districts that President Trump carried.  So they got a reason to be worried.

The guy in Minnesota who voted against is interesting.  He actually represents the 30-point Trump district.   But he`s the farmer`s friend and he`s unbeatable.  We, Republicans, have been going after him forever.

Peterson, the guy in South Jersey, that`s a swing district, Obamacare.


MURPHY:  He could pay a price for going against the impeachment because he`s activist in a tough race are going to hold it against him.  So -- But there are a couple who are in those districts and they`re going to bend the local politics maybe pay a price with their base.

WILLIAMS:  Eugene, the topic came up earlier today of the courage required of moderate Democrats to take this vote.  Our friend Steve Schmidt took an alternate view.  We`ll play that and talk about on the other side.


STEVE SCHMIDT, FMR. AMERICAN STRATEGIST:  No one is suggesting, I think that they charged Omaha Beach, right?  They took an oath.  They ran for public office.  They are stewards for a period of time of the American experiment which began in 1787.

The oath they take is to defend the Constitution of the United States.  To assert the Article 1 responsibilities, keeping a check on the Article 2 branches of government.  That`s what this is about.  It`s about the conduct.


SCHMIDT:  It`s about the actions and they are duty bounds to do their jobs.


WILLIAMS:  Let me state the obvious, would that Members of Congress were as thoughtful as our friend Steve?

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Exactly.  A lot of Members of Congress also want to be reelected.


ROBINSON:  So -- I mean, they just do.  As this -- And thankfully, I`d say obvious in what you`ve heard from Republican side during the entire impeachment debate including from Republicans who privately will share a lot of the sentiment that you hear from Democrats.  However, I agree with Mike that -- I don`t think there`s any sort of grave risk to any substantial number of Democrats in this vote.  I really don`t.

And on top of that, I think the one thing I know about Nancy Pelosi is she`s very, very good at counting votes.  She always counts votes even if she says she`s not waiting the vote.  She`ll know what it is.  And I think she`s quite confident.

WILLIAMS:  So Mike, by midsummer next year, are we just going to look back and say, yes, that was January.  We`ve got news breaking out all over the place.

MURPHY:  I think there`ll be a lot of that.  I think it will be an issue, and I think (INAUDIBLE) won`t hurt the President.  But I don`t think it`ll be the fulcrum in October and November in the next presidential race.

WILLIAMS:  Let`s talk about Mr. Bloomberg.  First, to you Mike, is he buying goodwill along the way?

MURPHY:  No.  It`s crafty of him because he needs to start the general election.  You know, he`s got issues about the love and affection in the Democratic primary.  We`ll see as he makes his escapes.  But this is a way to start the general now.  I`m going to fund protecting our guys.  I`m going to go after Republicans just like I did in 2016, just like I did on guns (ph) where my checkbook led the way.

So he`s playing to strike.  The money becomes the Democratic weapon to win.  It`s the best move he can make with the money.

WILLIAMS:  Eugene, I do notes that he`s been moving up --

ROBINSON:  He has been --


ROBINSON:  He has moved up.  It`s funny what --

MURPHY:  Funny how money --

ROBINSON:  -- funny what $34 million rift (ph) in television advertisements.

MURPHY:  As they say upstairs, it pays to advertise.

ROBINSON:  Yes, right.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, that`s good.

ROBINSON:  Right, right, right.  And he is paying to advertise him and he`s giving back (ph).  Now, you know, the -- how can that money alone take you and we`ll find out especially if we get a mix results in the first primary, if the (INAUDIBLE) it might be.  And then we`re talking about Super Tuesday, big, gigantic, populous, delegate field, media market states like California and Texas up on Super Tuesday where that sort of money might make a big difference.

WILLIAMS:  I got a question for a newspaper guy like you.  That paper version of The Washington Post website that they called The Washington Post newspaper.


WILLIAMS:  A lot of editorial boards across the country have been calling for the impeachment of this President.  As nicely as I can ask, what is that matter and how is that calculated into the Democratic decision?  We`re all of a certain age generally here.

ROBINSON:  Yes.  We`re all of a certain age and we`re old enough to remember that when newspaper endorsements and positions --

WILLIAMS:  I was nice to them.

ROBINSON:  -- did mean something, did move the needle.  I mean, it`s, you know, no attack on my colleagues or any other newspaper people, just say they don`t right now.  I mean, they just don`t.  They don`t move the needle like they used to even in local races.

And it`s interesting even if you account for some circulation or whatever.  We have more readers than ever before.  Yes, it doesn`t move the needle like you used to.

MURPHY:  I think part of the problem is the weapon that used to hold precedence to account of shame, LBJ loses the primary under performs, he drops out.  He doesn`t have the faith of the party Nixon, it doesn`t work for Trump.  There`s no shame factor.


MURPHY:  So weapon is like that editorial boards or things like that used, and no effect on him.

WILLIAMS:  And our friend Eugene is too modest to admit this.  He is the third Pulitzer Prize recipient we have had just in this hour, just from the Washington Post.  So when Gene says that more customers are out there and more people are reading, this is a banner time for the business of journalism I`m very writing.

MURPHY:  And there`s a value to find the truth if people decide to find the truth.  But we`re so tribal now that in the digital world, you can go find the truth you think is true.

WILLIAMS:  The truth that already agrees with you when you wake up in the morning.

OK.  A quick time out, we`re going to sneak in a break.  These gentlemen aren`t going anywhere.

Coming up, push back from the Biden camp about their report that`s out there that he`ll only run for a single term.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You ever talk to any aides about a one-term pledge?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  No. I never have.  I don`t have any plans on one term.


BIDEN:  I`m not even there yet.


WILLIAMS:  So you see right there Joe Biden pushing back against fresh rumors that he`ll only serve a single four-year term if he wins.  Politico reporting at this way today, according to four people, interesting, see that the symmetry there are four people for you, who regularly talked to Biden, all of whom asked for anonymity, as one does, to discuss internal campaign matters, it is virtually inconceivable that he will run for reelection in 2024.  "If Biden is elected," a prominent adviser to the campaign said, "he`s going to be 82 years old in four years and he won`t be running for reelection."

Still with us, Eugene Robinson and Mike Murphy.

ROBINSON:  So these sources were people who work for the Biden campaign?


WILLIAMS:  Is that a little disconnect?

ROBINSON:  Or somebody else`s campaign.  I mean --

WILLIAMS:  Is that not correct?

ROBINSON:  It`s -- that`s stupefying.  That`s a bunch of, you know, Milwaukee, Folderol.  Something (ph).  It`s crazy.

WILLIAMS:  Mike --

ROBINSON:  How better to draw attention to the fact that he is the -- of age.

WILLIAMS:  The one you`re saying is often a last refuge.

MURPHY:  No, it`s always the last desperate idea.

ROBINSON:  Yes, and --

MURPHY:  And --

ROBINSON:  -- when it`s already too late.

MURPHY:  It`s been other -- and since this where Biden`s staff is late, you know, he`s an idiot.  He won`t listen, let`s say, they got a bad culture to that where it`s just too bad.  It doesn`t serve him at all.  But you never say, hey he`s so old.  He promises that he`ll surrender early if you elect him.  He can hang on for three years.  It just hangs on lantern on all his weaknesses.  It`s crazy.

WILLIAMS:  And others can --

MURPHY:  And they are knocking it down.

WILLIAMS:  Others contend the original scene of the Biden campaign thus far is they have given up the ownership of the Hunter Biden story.


WILLIAMS:  To President of the United States.

MURPHY:  Yes.  You know, Biden has had a couple of moments, as his campaign had kind of started to stall out from early front runner where the Hunter Biden thing gives him an opportunity to pivot and going office.  All right, Trump, let`s do it.  Talk your two knuckle heads, too.


MURPHY:  The general election has started.  Democratic Party found the end of the fight.  This is it.  We got to (INAUDIBLE).  But he has a block about Hunter Biden.  He just doesn`t handle it well.  We saw the thing with the farmer which I kind of like because I like fighting Joe at least it was on offense.  But he -- there`s no finesse.  He has a bad --

WILLIAMS:  He needs an answer.

MURPHY:  Yes.  He has -- and this (INAUDIBLE), he believes in and so when he says that people will believe him, he doesn`t have one.  There`s a problem.

ROBINSON:  I just want to make my regular disclaimer but, however, he`s still leading the field.

WILLIAMS:  Oh, I have numbers --

ROBINSON:  He`s still leading the field.

MURPHY:  I would say --

WILLIAMS:  Put up the Texas numbers if we have them, the polling out of Texas.  This is an argument that Biden can make to the party.  Now it`s tight, but we`re also talking, Eugene 38 electoral votes.  I don`t know much but that seems like a lot of them.


WILLIAMS:  And Biden, it seems to me at top of this stack can continue to make the, I`m the best hope argument.

ROBINSON:  Well, and he`s going to make that argument.  I mean, (INAUDIBLE) continue to share (ph) even the polls that show all the leading Democrats potentially beating President Trump.  There`s always a biggest gap with Biden.


MURPHY:  But the problem is, Biden is doing very well.  In fact, you see (INAUDIBLE) campaign is propelled by national polls where there`s not as much competition.  You go to the markets where there`s a lot of stuff on the super market, Iowa and New Hampshire, where other people are really competing, he`s in the hunt but he`s not dominating at all and he`s declining from where he started.

WILLIAMS:  And the three of us have all interviewed voter in Iowa and New Hampshire who have met multiple candidates.


WILLIAMS:  One individual life, they can talk about candidates over the past decades.

ROBINSON:  True.  Yes, exactly.

MURPHY:  It`s true.  The old joke, the Iowa caucus voters, what are you thinking?  Well, about Henderson, I`ve only met him three times.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, exactly.

MURPHY:  Undecided.

ROBINSON:  And they are offended if they don`t get the (INAUDIBLE).

WILLIAMS:  Gentlemen, I can`t thank you enough.  It was a great conversation about politics.  Masters Robinson and Murphy, our thanks.

Coming up for us, a late live update from Capitol Hill where, a, Garrett Haake is still up and awake and taking nourishment and, b, he`s going to tell us where all this might be headed as soon as tomorrow.



REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA, JUDICIARY CMTE:  This is nothing more than the sloppy stray (ph) to DVD Ukrainian sequel to the failed Russia hawks.  It seems like you`ve seen this movie before it`s because you have.

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D), FLORIDA, JUDICIARY CMTE.:  Our President put his personal interests above the interest of the nation corrupting and cheating our democracy.  And he shall be held accountable.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS, JUDICIARY CMTE.:  Let me just say this -- I came in here, I did not want to get emotional.  But -- and I`ve sat through trials that were hard to sit through but nothing like sitting this week and this committee hearing.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK, JUDICIARY CMTE,:  We have a constitutional responsibility to serve as a check and balance on an out of control executive branch.  That is not the Democratic Party playbook.  That is the playbook in a Democratic Republic.


WILLIAMS:  The House Judiciary Committee, as we mentioned, just finished what was for them a late night of formal debate on the articles of impeachment against President Trump.  The committee is expected to vote on those two articles sometime tomorrow, thoroughly expected to be up or down party line.

Our own Correspondent Garrett Haake has been working late tonight and joins us from the Capitol.  So Garrett, sum up just what it was we witnessed tonight.  Were these set speeches?  Did they react to each other at all?

GARRETT HAAKE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Only barely, Brian.  You called it formal debate.  I think that`s actually a pretty good word for it.  You had Democrats trying to elevate the conversation here a little bit, make this about the constitution, a historical moment, something that they didn`t want to do but felt they had to.  There are a lot of biographical speeches from some of these members trying to describe how they got to this point where they`re ready to impeach a sitting President.

And the Republican strategy was interesting too, aside from a couple of members, which you heard by and large was not a debate about the specific facts of the Ukraine case, but rather them trying to make a case that this was inevitable the minute the Democrats regained control of the House after the 2018 midterms.  That Democrats, they said, were trying to keep a promise to their base that they made starting back in, you know, late 2016, that they would impeach this President.  But this was not a lot of the procedural high jinks, this was not as nasty as what we will probably see tomorrow when they resume the markup and get into this process of exchanging amendments on a set of documents that, let`s be clear, will not be amended.

They will come out of this committee the same way they went in, but we`re going to see a lot of I think much more bitter fighting about their wording of these documents, Republican efforts to change them before the die is cast and the votes are taken tomorrow afternoon sometime.

WILLIAMS:  That`s one point I wanted to make for any of the kids majoring in government who might be watching tonight.  I`m not proud of the fact that I have been to markups before and I remember them as marking up a document, submitting wording, having it accepted or rejected.  Tonight was kind of preambles.  So you`re saying tomorrow we actual actually get down to wording and maybe amending the nine pages that we`ve seen so far?

HAAKE:  Yes, that`s the idea.  Because this is such a momentous resolution, really only about nine pages, but so important, they stretched this process out over two days.  They just did member opening statements tonight.  The real work happens tomorrow with the markup.

But again, this is not, you know, a spending bill or an authorization bill that you`ll have tons of small amendments that might get accepted or changed or a language tweaked.  This is something that was painstakingly put together by committee chair people and by the Democratic leadership, by the speaker and sort of locked in before it ever made its way back to the Judiciary Committee.  The amendments that will be offered will be coming from Republicans.  Some of them might be germane to impeachment, some of them might not have anything to do with impeachment and might purely be designed to slow down the process tomorrow.

Democrats want their document to get through, they`ve got the votes.  It will.  But this is one last opportunity for Republicans to gum up the works here as little bit.  And when you`re in the minority in the House, that`s really all you can do is slow something like this down.

WILLIAMS:  And Garrett, as we mentioned, tomorrow night, a lot of them are heading out to Andrews to get on government planes to fly to Europe to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, for any of our viewers wondering why the calendar has been compressed into a Thursday markup session.

Garrett Haake, get some rest.  Thanks very much for hanging out with us so late at night after the long day you`ve had.  Garrett Haake covering Capitol Hill for us.

Another break for us.  When we come back, we`ll take you to where the fun begins in a little over two hours.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, the voting begins in the United Kingdom in two hours.  On the right, BoJo, Boris Johnson, the voluble, often fatuous prime minister.  On the left, his challenger, Jeremy Corbyn, who the New Yorker called almost uniquely unimaginable as prime minister.  About them, a British economist said on CNBC today that it`s a, quote, terrible choice between two dreadful, inadequate, dissembling, incompetent politicians and one of them is definitely going to be prime minister.

The political parties in Britain pick the candidates, not the people, but it`s now the people who have got to decide this one.  And by doing so, they will likely decide nothing less than the future of the U.K.  Johnson, who never turns down a cartoonish visual, outdid himself this week with a Brexit actually video, complete with boom box and cue cards.  And a pro- Brexit front end loader that broke through a wall of Styrofoam grid lock.  Actual grid lock is harder.  Johnson is promising to break the U.K. out of the European Union, you see.

Corbyn is normally no more animated than this, right here.  He`s a taciturn, introverted socialist, promising a load of domestic spending while letting the people decide about Brexit, which could still prove disastrous in the short and long run.

Like in the U.S., the hidden hand of Russia is also at work.  Their role in our elections is still something new to all of us, as the people in both countries can only hope their leaders are looking out for them and not on the opposing team.  We`ll all be watching the returns.

For now, for us, that`s our broadcast on a Wednesday night.  Thank you so very much for being here with us.  Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.

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