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Impeachment in perspective. TRANSCRIPT: 12/13/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Jonathan Lemire, Jeremy Peters, Barbara McQuade, Jon Meacham

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Thanks as always for watching the "Last Word," Lawrence will be back.  And don`t go anywhere because THE 11TH HOUR with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, the 45th President of the United States has been recommended for impeachment by the committee on the Judiciary to the full House of Representatives.  Its Chairman Jerry Nadler calls it a solemn and sad day.  To the Republicans on the committee, it was another day of political hand-to-hand combat in the name of their man.

Mitch McConnell among those pledging absolute loyalty and allegiance to the President, working in lock step with the White House all the while, the only problem is the new oath all senators must take to be fair and impartial jurors.

And the Supreme Court will now decide whether the President has to open his books and reveal financial secrets.  He`s tried hard to conceal in the thick of his re-election campaign.  Operating at their usual swift speed, we should have an answer by June.  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Friday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 1,058 of the Trump administration.  And if the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee had their way, what they voted on today would end the Trump administration.

After calling an audible on an overnight recess after 14 hours of often- repetitive and tiresome and purely partisan debate, during which not one vote was change, their chairman with great solemnity wrapped up the voting today in about 10 minutes.  They are sending two articles to the full House, abuse of power, obstruction of Congress.  The vote was the same as it always is, party line, 23 yes, 17 no.


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY):  Today is a solemn and sad day.  For the third time in a little over a century and a half the House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the President for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.  The house will act expeditiously.


WILLIAMS:  Speaking of that, here`s what`s ahead for the House.  Tuesday morning the Rules Committee meets to decide on the prospect for the impeachment vote.  Side note, the full House is also expected to vote that day on a spending bill to keep government open and avoid a shutdown.

On Wednesday the full House is expected to vote on impeachment.  Thursday, the House expected to vote on the remake of NAFTA.  Then they leave town.  They`ll be in recess until January 7th of 2020.

Tonight, we`re getting the first real look at how some Democrats will vote in the House, specifically those elected to congressional districts that last went for Trump. Max Rose of New York says he will support the measure along with Harley Rouda of California, Colin Allred of Texas says he will vote yes.  Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania says he`ll do the same.  So will Tom O`Halleran of Arizona and Democratic Congresswoman Elaine Luria of Virginia.

Over on the other side of the Capitol, the Senate is preparing to host a trial.  Majority Leader Mitch McConnell assured Fox News viewers last night he`s working hand and glove with the White House legal team.  Today he dismissed the idea that impeachment could have a negative impact on Trump`s effort to stay in office.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  It seems like it might not play much of a role in the President`s re-election campaign.


WILLIAMS:  NBC News has confirmed that White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, is expected to represent Trump during the Senate impeachment trial, although this doesn`t rule out the possibility of additional counsel.

This week, we`ve learned Trump`s allies in the Senate are aiming for a short trial, even as Trump is pushing for a robust defense.  He was asked about that earlier today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you prefer a short process in the Senate, or more extended process?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I could do -- I`ll do whatever I want.  Look, there is -- we did nothing wrong.  So I`ll do long or short.  I wouldn`t mind a long process because I`d like to see the whistleblower, who`s a fraud.  We`re dealing with a lot of corrupt people.  There was nothing done wrong.  To use the power of impeachment on this nonsense is an embarrassment to this country.


WILLIAMS:  The President`s T.V. lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is back in the news in addition to reportedly being under investigation by the feds for his work in Ukraine.  This morning, he was at the White House where we`ve confirmed he met with the President.  Giuliani is just back from that corruption investigation trip to Ukraine.  He had a documentary film crew with him on the trip.

Interestingly tonight "The New York Times" reports, "Last month Mr. Giuliani told an associate that Mr. Trump had approved of his participation in the documentary when he briefed the President about it during a meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington."

You may recall that last month Bill O`Reilly pressed Donald Trump on Rudy`s Ukraine mission.


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

TRUMP:  Well, you have to ask that to Rudy, but Rudy, I don`t even know.

O`REILLY:  So you didn`t direct him to go to Ukraine and do anything or put any heat on them?

TRUMP:  No, I didn`t direct him, but he is a -- he`s a warrior.  Rudy is a warrior.  Rudy went, he possibly saw something.


WILLIAMS:  Tonight "The Wall Street Journal" has new reporting about Rudy`s mission to Ukraine, "When he returned to New York last Saturday, the President called him as his plane was still taxiing down the runway, Mr. Giuliani said.  "What did you get?  He said Mr. Trump asked.  "More than you can imagine," Rudy replied.  He is putting his findings into a 20-page report."

A lot to talk about for our lead-off discussion panel on a Friday night, Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter for the Associated Press, Annie Karni, White House Reporter with "The New York Times," and Jeremy Peters, Political Reporter also with "The New York Times."  Good evening and welcome.

And Jonathan Lemire, forgive the apparent cynicism, was this just another week for the White House or did this feel perhaps different?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS":  I think we need to keep this in perspective that this is different.  This President now becomes only the third ever to -- was poised to become only the third ever to be impeached.  And it`s one of those moments where we all believe we know the outcome.  But next week the House controlled by Democrats will impeach him.  We`ll move into early next year and the Republicans in the Senate will not move to remove him.

But that doesn`t change what matters here.  Now, the President in the Oval Office today, you know, angrily denounced what happened, saying that this an embarrassment for the country, suggesting that it was -- the nation -- the people around the nation was laughing at Washington for doing this.  Also tried to spin as a political win, echoing what his campaign staff, he`s senior campaign staff said yesterday in a briefing to reporters, that state of play of the 2020 race, saying that since this impeachment matter began, they`ve seen their fundraising numbers go up, they`ve seen their attendance at rallies go up, and in particular they`re pointing to polls.

They say the approval ratings have gone skywards since impeachment.  Now, that`s not necessarily true, although in most polls, his numbers have held steady.  But they`re saying according to their data that Independents, particularly those in those battleground states are very -- view this impeachment process very unfavorably.  And they think they may come over to their side come next year.  But -- that`s the political calculation.

What we`re seeing here is this is history.  And the President despite believing this is politically advantageous, he knows now this is the first line of his obituary.  This is now defining his impart defines his legacy.  He will be impeached.

WILLIAMS:  Annie Karni, we keep hearing from various folks that the President`s team feels good.  They feel that they came out ahead. all evidence on social media, the President`s feed, to the contrary.  What are you are hearing?

ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  They do.  They are projecting confidence.  But one thing they are projecting confidence about was that they would be able to push these moderate Democrats in the House to have a bipartisan impeachment, but a bipartisan impeachment against moving forward with it.  And we see these Democrats like Max Rose saying they`re going to vote for impeachment.  And I think that is a bit of a blow to the White House strategy.

I had -- it was noted to me that Max Rose attended Hanukkah party at the White House this week and that there`s been outreach to these people and an aggressive play in their districts to really put the pressure on them to vote "no" on impeachment.  So, I think this is a crack in the White House strategy that they`re not getting as many Democrats to flip.

I mean, I think this part of the confidence comes from what Jon was just saying, that we know how this story ends, which takes out some of the drama.  We know the Senate is not going to convict.  Mitch McConnell said there will be no daylight between the Republican Senate and the White House in terms of strategy here.

But, as you said, if it doesn`t take sources to always to know what the President is thinking in this White House.  He lets us know in tens or hundreds of tweets a day.

WILLIAMS:  Yes.  Perhaps during the course of this broadcast, in fact.  So Jeremy, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.  How many defections do you think we`re talking about in the House?  And go ahead and rampantly speculate about any cross-over in the U.S. Senate.

JEREMY PETERS, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  Yes, great.  Just our favorite game here as journalists, Brian.  Thank you very much.

WILLIAMS:  No problem.  Pleasure.

PETERS:  No, I mean, I think Nancy Pelosi has the votes, right?  She would not have gone forward with this unless she knew she had the votes.  That`s what people have been telling us behind the scenes all along.  I think once this shifts to the Senate, it becomes a much different story.

The United States Senate loves to hold itself up as the more serious institution in the Congress.  And they will conduct themselves that way.  They have told Trump as much.

Trump, somebody who really didn`t even understand the fundamentals of how the first branch of government works like the filibuster before he became president has been told, look, just cool it.  Trust us.  We will make this work for you, but you need to give us some breathing room.  Do not tempt fate.  Do not lash out at your fellow Republican colleagues.  And Trump has not for the most part.

I think what you`ve seen here, which is noteworthy is that the President has been on his best behavior when it comes to attacking or not attacking his Republican colleagues.  And he can`t do that if he needs them on his side during this trial.

Now, Trump would prefer a rather Judge Judy-type show or Judge Jeanine-type show in the United States Senate.  That`s not what Mitch McConnell is going to give him.

So, how he comes to terms with that, how he accepts that.  If he accepts, that I think is a big question mark hanging over this.  But ultimately, I think the number of Republicans that you will see defecting voting against Trump, they`ll be minimal.  There may be some surprises in there.  I think people are looking at a lot of the people who are up in 2020 for re- election.

I`ve been told by Republican sources that we ought to be looking farther out than that.  We should be looking at people who are not up for re- election, people who are free to vote however they want because they`re not facing voters, people like Rob Portman, Lisa Murkowski, not that I think they`re going to vote against the President, but something to keep in mind.

WILLIAMS:  Anybody from Utah?

PETERS:  Yes.  Notice, I didn`t mention him.


PETERS:  Big wild card.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, all right.  Hey, Jonathan Lemire, remain seated as I read you another portion of "The Wall Street Journal" reporting on Rudy today, specifically how much he misses his wing man.  "In pressing ahead on Ukraine, Mr. Giuliani has replaced the translation skills of Messrs. Parnas and Fruman with an app he downloaded that allows him to read Russian documents as one does by holding his phone over them.  But on his recent trip, he said, despite whatever else you can say, I missed them."

Jonathan, your thoughts on Lev and Igor and what they mean to Rudy.

LEMIRE:  I can`t wait to watch this documentary.  I think it`s --

WILLIAMS:  It`s going to be something.

LEMIRE:  -- going to be pretty spectacular.  Yes, these are his wing men, and they are currently in some trouble with the law.  And there, of course have been rampant speculation that Giuliani himself may also soon be.  And I think that it was not worthy today, the timing of his visit to the White House.

The House Judiciary Committee, it was -- at the same moments they were voting to move the articles of impeachment until the full House for the vote next week, which we anticipate will lead to Donald Trump being the third president impeached.  And while that was happening, a figure at the center of this entire impeachment, the storm was there strolling into the White House, standing under an umbrella, Rudy Giuliani.

I heard from him today, a text, he did meet with the President briefly.  He didn`t want to get into the conversation, but we know from earlier this week and previous conversations with him and people in the White House that the -- that Giuliani is preparing a lengthy report in terms of what he found in his recent visit to Ukraine.  A visit, mind you, that many in the White House could not believe he was taking because it would just of course focus more attention on this story and it seemed to, you know, doesn`t seem to do the President any good.

But the President himself was for it.  He encouraged Giuliani to go.  He`s asked for a readout.  He is told Rudy to brief the Department of Justice and Senate Republicans, although both of those venues have suggested they`re not necessarily willing to hear from him.

But it just goes to show that his presence today goes to show that even with the President facing impeachment, he`s not shying away from these conspiracy theories and unfounded charges connected to Ukraine that got him in this mess to begin with.

WILLIAMS:  Annie Karni, you wrote that the President may not debate come general election season because of the problems he has.  This is your shared byline with Maggie.  The problem he has with the Commission on Debates.  What`s his problem with the Commission on Debates?

KARNI:  He thinks it`s biased.  He simply thinks that -- he doesn`t trust who they choose as the moderator.  He had troubles with the Debate Commission in 2016.  He blamed -- he didn`t like their -- he thought that he had a -- if you remember, he had a default -- defective mi.  He blamed them, one of his bad performances.

But also it`s a bit of a -- he, I think, knows, if we look back, the debates are not his strongest stage.  It`s Hillary Clinton who got a big bump after each of the three general election debates in 2016.  It doesn`t necessarily help the President to be in a one-on-one match up on that stage with the Democratic nominee.  And this is a fight that he can just take himself out of the mix.   So this is what he`s considering and his advisers are talking about it.

This could also be one person I talked to, a Democrat said, this is classic Trump, probably working the refs making us think he won`t do any, and then he`ll end up doing one and then we`ll think, oh, he actually is debating not doing three.  But it`s just something to remember that this general election is not necessarily going to unfold by the rules we`re used to.

WILLIAMS:  Jeremy, let`s talk about the Time magazine Person of the Year, the youngest in their history.  She happens to be 16, and the president trolled young Greta on social media.  Something she has since accommodated into her social media.

So after mocking her, the White House put out a statement attempting to reconcile it, it`s tough to reconcile it against "Be Best" with their condemnation of Baron`s name being invoked in impeachment, "Their son is not an activist who travels the globe giving speeches.  He is a 13-year-old who wants and deserves privacy."

How do they reconcile all of these you think at the end of the day, "Be Best" can be a tough banner to work under?

PETERS:  Right.  This is what sadly politics have seen become in 2019, is children are fair game not only are they fair game, they`re sport in a lot of cases.  Look at how conservatives attacked some of the Parkland School children who were out there fighting for gun control after they watched their classmates massacred.

You know, I think ultimately here, what you have with this Greta and how Trump attacked her is a bigger issue facing modern conservatism.  And it`s dividing a lot of people within the movement, a lot of people within the Republican Party and that is a question about whether or not they are more than just anti-progressive.  Whether or not they are just being too mean, they are letting Trump dictate the tone that they take against their opponents.  And they`re really letting that define them, the hostility define them instead of their ideas defining them.

WILLIAMS:  Our great thanks to our three guests at the end of a long week, Jonathan Lemire, Annie Karni, Jeremy Peters, always a pleasure.  Thank you very much for coming on.

And coming up us on a Friday night, he is one of the characters at the center of the impeachment case against the President but he`s not talking.  What an interesting time it must be to be President of Ukraine and to know the truth.  We`ll talk about it with a former U. S. Ambassador.

And later, did you know senators have to take a new and separate oath to be fair jurors during an upcoming impeachment trial?  Where does that leave Mitch McConnell?  Hasn`t he already decided the guy is innocent?

Lots to talk about as we will.  As THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this Friday night in view of the national Christmas tree.


WILLIAMS:  This past Tuesday, the President welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the Oval Office again as one does.  The day before, Ukraine`s President Zelensky was meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris to talk about the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine.

As "The Washington Post" illustrated today, since April of this year, President Trump found time to meet with over a dozen foreign leaders not named Zelensky.  The "Times" says the Ukrainian President is eager to repair his nation`s relationship with Washington, reporting, "Mr. Zelensky, still deeply dependent on American assistance, has been signaling, in hardly subtle fashion, that he and his officials will not assist in the impeachment process, keeping quiet in particular about the fact that his government knew weeks earlier than it has publicly acknowledged that Mr. Trump had frozen nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine."

Here with us for more, Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia.  His book is called, "From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin`s Russia."

Ambassador, I often call on you to normal-up our thinking.  In normal times, how would we treat Ukraine?  How would we regard Ukraine, again, in normal times for those just tuning in?

MICHEAL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA:  Well, remember, everyone, Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.  They annexed part of the country.  They have been fueling a war in Eastern Ukraine and we, the west, the United States and our allies came to the assistance of the Ukrainians.  And to his credit, President Trump or at least the Trump administration, to be more precise, provided lethal assistance to the Ukrainians when -- in fighting that war.

But since President Zelensky has been elected, he`s been treated like some kind of pariah.  He`s been treated like he`s -- he needs to do all these changes allegedly to fight corruption before he can have a close relationship with the President.

And most disturbingly to me, Brian, is the Oval Office visit that you just said, Lavrov has been there twice now.  That`s unprecedented.  I can`t think of another time that the Foreign Minister of Russia has been in the Oval Office twice in the first term of an administration.  President Zelensky has yet to get his Oval Office visit.  That`s a horrible symbolic signal that we`re sending to President Zelensky.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, that`s -- I was going to ask you about the Lavrov visit.  In what world would that normally be possible?  In what world would we give him a platform at the State Department to stand at a lectern and a microphone across from our Secretary of State spouting his propaganda?  This is, after all, the guy who broke into our House getting invited inside the House, correct?

MCFAUL:  Correct.  And, you know, I believe in engagement and diplomacy, even with the Russians, even with Foreign Minister Lavrov, who I know well.  But the timing was horrible.  There`s no reason to give him that platform like you just said, and there`s absolutely no reason to give him a second invitation to the Oval Office.  That is the most precious piece of property.  That is the most precious meeting that the United States of America has to offer, and especially at this moment in our history, right?

Mr. Zelensky is playing -- President Zelensky could have flown from Paris as well to give President Trump the readout of his meeting with Putin.  Why did they give it to Lavrov?  I just think symbolically.  I hope it was a mistake and nobody really thought about it.  I fear that they were sending a message and it`s not a good message if you`re the President of Ukraine.

WILLIAMS:  Tell me how Vladimir Putin likely views the prospect there`s a chance that Donald Trump emerges from impeachment stronger politically.  How does Vladimir Putin additionally view Boris Johnson`s resounding election in the U.K.?

MCFAUL:  Well, he -- of course, he enjoys that.  He supported that.  He said that publicly with respect to President Trump.  You know, they were disappointed that the President didn`t deliver on a lot of things that they expected after election night here in the United States.

They didn`t lift sanctions, they didn`t recognize Crimea as part of Russia, and you`ve seen that -- palpable disappointment.  But they`re still holding out for the President.  They think there`s been this deep state around him and the generals around him that, you know, the good czar has been trying to do the right thing and the boyars have been doing the wrong things, right?  That`s an old way that they used to talk about it even before the Soviet Union.

And they still hope that if he`s re-elected, he`ll finally be able to do the right thing.  And the right thing in their view is, of course, things that are in Russia`s national interest and in my view, not in America`s national interest.

WILLIAMS:  You`re always giving us things to think about, if not a Russian language lesson along the way.  Former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul, thank you, as always, for coming on our broadcast.

MCFAUL:  Sure.

WILLIAMS:  Tonight, coming up, this should clear everything up.  The Supreme Court has decided to rule on who gets to see the President`s finances.  We`ll talk about the news from the court tonight when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  The Supreme Court has agreed to hear three cases that have to do with the President`s finances.  Remembering they don`t like to rush if they hear these cases in March as expected, they should rule by June, which in political terms might as well be decades from now.  June would also mean, of course, the middle of a presidential campaign.

"New York Times" was a bit loftier than I just was in their treatment of this story.  "The court is now poised to produce a once in a generation statement on presidential accountability.  The case will test the independence of the court which is dominated by Republican appointees, including two named by Mr. Trump."  Well, they went there.

And here with us for more, Barbara McQuade, Veteran Federal Prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.  So Barb, take on all of these.  How strong or weak is the President`s case?  And what could we learn about the jurisprudence of the Republican-appointed chief justice and the two Trump appointees now on this court?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  You know, Brian, I thought I detected just a hint of sarcasm when you talked about the swift pace of the Supreme Court, perhaps giving us a response by June.  I think that we`ve seen already six different courts already reject President Trump`s argument.  The district court level and the appellate court levels in these three cases have all rejected this theory that the President is immune from investigation and that his records cannot be obtained either by committees in Congress or by the prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office.

I think his argument is a loser and I think it`s going to be really interesting to see what the Supreme Court does with this.  I think it`s actually an opportunity for the Supreme Court to send an important message about its independence by ruling against President Trump as the law really strongly suggests that it should.  I think it can send a strong message that will help with the court`s legitimacy in this country.

WILLIAMS:  And correct me if I`m wrong.  None of these cases speak to his presidency, they do speak to his finances, his private life, and his pre- presidential years, correct?

MCQUADE:  That`s true.  It doesn`t have anything to do with his presidency, although it does a little bit in that one of the committees is looking to see his finances to determine whether it needs to change some of the financial disclosure requirements that all presidents have to comply with and all executive branch officials.  So in that way, it does impact on this.  But this is his earnings going back 10 years.

And I think one of the things that has the public at least may so curious is President Trump has worked so hard to hide these things after promising during the election that he would disclose his financial records.  The fact that he continues to fight so hard, you know, usually these matters are worked out through what`s known as the negotiation and accommodation process where some compromise is struck so that we don`t have to go to the courts to resolve these issues because the stakes are high.  But President Trump has dug in and he is fighting this all the way.  We will get a decision one way or the other, and we will have precedent going forward about whether presidents may resist these kinds of request in the future.

WILLIAMS:  And one more time, is there a built-in assumption in any of this that if the court ruling comes in June, these must go forward, that ergo this will become public, any of it?

MCQUADE:  Actually I think the assumption is that they will not be public.  The committees are permitted to look at them in their capacity for law- making.  Cyrus Vance requested it in the context of a grand jury subpoena.  So these documents will not be public at least at this stage.  Now, if something should come of these initial inquiries, it is possible that those could be disclosed down the road, but at least the requests that are being sought would not be for public consumption.

WILLIAMS:  Have you seen anything in the House proceedings that gives you a good idea as to what the defense strategy will be in the U.S. Senate for this President?

MCQUADE:  Well, we`ve heard many things that President Trump has done nothing wrong, he continues to persist in that that there`s no harm because the aid didn`t go through, that this was merely an attempt that doesn`t count.  But it seems to me that the most effective strategy might be the one that Mick Mulvaney had used, which was, yes, this happened, we agree with the facts.

Instead of wasting credibility quibbling with what the facts are, I think instead they`d be on stronger ground by saying we agree with the facts, we just don`t believe they are sufficient to remove the President.  We`ll see if that`s the way it shakes out because this President has demonstrated a strategy throughout his life of never giving an inch.  So it will be interesting to see which strategy he utilizes in the Senate.

WILLIAMS:  Barbara McQuade, thank you as always for coming on the broadcast and explaining all these stuff to us.  We appreciate it.

MCQUADE:  Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up for us tonight, on the eve of something historic, we ask a great historian just where this moment ranks.



MCCONNELL:  Everything I do during this, I`m coordinating with White House Counsel.  There will be no difference between the President`s position and our position as to how to handle this.  There`s no chance the President`s going to be removed from office.  My hope is that there won`t be a single Republican who votes for either of these articles of impeachment.


WILLIAMS:  Those words are important right there because of the reminder we received today about the Senate`s role in impeachment and what it should be.  As explained by The Bulwark, "To raise the Senate up to the demands of high politics, the framers decided that the Senate would need to recompose itself into a new institution, an impeachment court.  This transformation was serious enough that senators would have to take a new oath of office.  But the oath taken in an impeachment trial is different.  It`s a juror`s oath and a judge`s oath, not a legislator`s oath.  For the duration of the trial, the Senate is a literally new institution with new rules, new norms, and new responsibilities".

That oath, by the way, means they must swear to, quote, do impartial justice according to the constitution and laws, so help them God.  Makes you wonder about what McConnell just said there about there being no chance of a conviction of this President.

We are joined tonight by the Pulitzer Prize winning historian and author Jon Meacham, most currently the author of "Impeachment: An American History" along with his many other titles.  He`s also written an introduction for the House Intelligence Committee`s report on its investigation into Donald Trump and Ukraine that will be available on Tuesday.

Jon, thank you for common ground.  The majority leader really likes to shock and appall.  He does it with such frequency that its impact is not negated, but reduced.  Also the tail end of that is it`s also normalized.  Might he have a problem where this oath is concerned having just predicted the result in advance?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Well, it`s not what the framers or his Senate predecessors wanted to happen.  As you say, there`s an entire reconstitution of the Senate.  The Senate was supposed to do two things among others.  One was Washington said it was like the saucer in which you put your coffee cup.  That`s what cooled the body politic and made things a little more manageable.

The other was Aaron Burr who said that if a demagogue was ever to finally be stopped, he would be stopped on the floor of the United States Senate because it was in fact the last line of defense.  And I think what Senator McConnell has done, characteristically, he`s arguably going to be one of the two or three most important Senate leaders in American history, most influential.  No other senator that I can think of actually stopped a president from having a Supreme Court appointment, thereby shifting American jurisprudence for arguably 40 years or so going forward.  And what he`s done, again, is sort of put his caucus and the Republican base on notice that, in fact, the Trump agenda will continue no matter what the facts are.

WILLIAMS:  Let`s back up because I don`t think I`ve ever heard you nor have I asked you to speak of him in historic terms.  So you agree that this guy we`re watching is not just a figure of our times, but he may be ranked up there with Senate leaders of all time?

MEACHAM:  Yes.  And whether you think that`s a good thing or a bad thing depends on which side of the aisle you`re standing on, but let`s just think about it in terms of raw power.  This is a man, Senator McConnell, I think he was out talking about the book he wrote.  You know, as a kid he had polio and was basically told he`d never walk again and forced himself forward.  And he continues to do that in this steely way.

If you are a Republican who approves of the McConnell agenda, that`s a great thing.  If you`re a Democrat or an Independent who thinks that he`s too inflexible and has changed Senate norms to suit a partisan agenda, then that`s terrible.  But I don`t think you can -- will be able to talk about the history of the Senate without talking about McConnell.  Remember how shocked we were, I guess it was in `08, `09, when -- I think I`m right about this, check me on it -- McConnell said we`re going to do everything we can to make sure Obama`s presidency fails.


MEACHAM:  I think I`m right about that.  And that was, in a way, one of the harbingers of where we are now.  It was a continuation, an extenuation of what had been the Gingrich model.  Senator McConnell in a way is a durable and much more effective Newt Gingrich when you think about what Gingrich brought to the House in 1994, `95, which was the sense of absolute opposition no matter what.  And it started in `93, really, with the health care, the Clinton health care.  The Republican strategy was we don`t -- we`re not going to listen.  We`re simply going to stop it.

When you pull back the historic string on this, the beginnings of the Republican part of this partisan era really do go back to that point.  What they would tell you if they were here and talking about it was that it was Senator Kennedy`s speech on Judge Bork the day the Bork nomination was announced.  And he said Robert Bork`s America is an America of segregated lunch counters, et cetera.  And so there`s this period really, late Reagan through Clinton and the Gingrich takeover in 1994 where a lot of the immediate precedent for the world we live in rests.

WILLIAMS:  This is why we needed to have you on tonight to ask you these questions.  Jon Meacham, thank you for the answers and thank you, as always, for coming on to help explain to all of us.

Coming up, Trump called this historic even a harbinger of what`s to come in 2020.  That is exactly what some Democrats are afraid of.  We`ll talk about that when we come back.



TRUMP:  I want to congratulate Boris Johnson on a terrific victory.  I think that might be a harbinger of what`s to come in our country.  It was last month.


WILLIAMS:  Boris Johnson`s win in the U.K. is prompting some warnings from Democrats here in the U.S.  NBC News put it this way today.  "Democratic hopeful Joe Biden seemed to try and draw lessons from the left-wing Labour Party`s loss for his upcoming party primary."  "You`re also going to see people saying, my God, Boris Johnson, who is kind of a physical and emotional clone of the President, is able to win, Biden said."

And as Axios put it today, "Johnson`s win is a reminder that mainstream voters hesitate to embrace radical change and voters who are uneasy about an incumbent won`t necessarily choose the opposition party if they don`t like its leaders.

Here to talk about it, Karine Jean-Pierre, Chief Public Affairs Officer for Move On and alum of both the Obama campaign and White House.  Also happens to be the author of the new book, "Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, And the Promise of America."  It`s a story that happens to belong to her and we are happy to welcome her back on the broadcast.

Karine, other than the fact that Jeremy Corbyn may have been the worst candidate in any country in 100 years time, what do you view as the lessons of BoJo`s election to Democrats in this country, if anyone, at all?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, POLITICAL ANALYST, NBC NEWS:  Look, I think that we should be mindful of what we saw happen last night in the U.K. especially unprecedented times and I think that`s the biggest thing.  We have been living in this kind of whirlwind of not knowing exactly how things are going to turn out.  But like you said, I think Corbyn was so unpopular.  He had these bigoted views, anti-Semitism.  He was very, very disliked as you just laid out.  So it`s hard to make that direct connection.

Remember, Brexit was on the ballot.  That was one of the things that voters voted on.  And so that is a unique scenario, unique situation that you see in that election.  And the thing about it, Brian, I think about -- if you think about the Ukraine call, you think about clearly what Donald Trump is being impeached for, Americans said that -- so many percent of Americans basically said that they thought that call was wrong, what he did was wrong.  That is a massive number in such a politically divided country that we`re in.

Americans are tired.  They`re sick and tired of what is happening with this President, the lies, the tweets.  Just last week he was on the world stage being laughed at.  He has a robust economy.  He can`t crack 43 percent.  I mean, there`s so much there that we have to consider.  But, to your point, the glass is half full.  That is presenting to you a glass half full.

WILLIAMS:  Well, let me present to you the words of our mutual friend Nicole Wallace about the hearings we`ve just witnessed.  "The GOP performance yesterday should put to rest any doubts among Democrats that Joe Biden is a lethal threat to Trump`s re-election prospects.  Here` why.  Conspiracy theories are the GOP version of bringing out the China for special guests.  We don`t do it for just anyone."  So is that perversely good news do you think for Biden?

JEAN-PIERRE:  It is, that`s good news for Biden.  I mean, it`s clear this whole reason that we`re in this impeachment inquiry is because Donald Trump called the Ukraine President Zelensky and asked him to basically interfere in our elections, our free and fair elections, the cornerstone of our democracy and then bribed him and then tried to cover it up and then tried to, you know, not answer to Congress.  I mean, this is all part of his worry about his political rival which is the one -- the number one person that he believes that is going to hurt him is Joe Biden.

So, yes, that has -- that does help Joe Biden.  And if you see his numbers, Biden`s numbers, it has -- the Ukraine thing hasn`t hurt him.  It`s actually emboldened his numbers.  It strengthened his numbers.  So that is certainly a true thing.  I totally agree with our friend, Nicole Wallace.

WILLIAMS:  Karine, in 30 seconds or less, the Democrats have announced four new debates for 2020 lest we should go a week without a Democratic debate.  But they have not announced the threshold.  Is it possible they`re going to find a way to get Bloomberg on that stage?

JEAN-PIERRE:  That`s a tough one because Bloomberg is not participating in any of the early states.


JEAN-PIERRE:  I think they`re probably going to still have some sort of threshold.  He doesn`t seem like that is something that is of concern for him to be on that debate stage.  I mean, they are flooding, they are flooding their air waves.  Every day you see a Bloomberg ad.


JEAN-PIERRE:  I`ve not seen anyone else`s at least living here in this bubble.  But I can imagine, so I think the most important thing that Democrats need to do is make sure it`s a diverse stage.

WILLIAMS:  Karine Jean-Pierre, thank you as always.

JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  It`s a pleasure.  And you become the last voice we hear in this momentous week in Washington and beyond.  Always a pleasure.

Coming up for us, we will hear Lindsey Graham`s strong warning to his fellow lawmakers to keep an open mind until they have heard the evidence.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, we heard Mitch McConnell earlier say it for himself, he`s working in lock step with this White House and he expects every Republican to vote to clear the President in the Senate.  Now, presumably that would include Senator Lindsey Graham because when it comes to loyalty to this President, no one out feels his filthy to Donald Trump.

But here`s the difference, we know for a fact that Lindsey Graham wants everyone to keep an open mind when they consider impeachment.  He doesn`t want anyone pre-judging guilt or innocence.  We know this because he said it on TV.  And we`re prepared to show it to you here tonight with just this passing caveat.  Even though he is talking about a different President here, let`s assume he still believes in his own strong convictions.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  Some people have said I won`t vote for impeachment.  Some House members have said I will not vote for an impeachment.  Let me tell you.  Please don`t say that until you understand what you`re voting on.  Members of the Senate have said I understand everything there is about this case and I won`t vote to impeach the President.  Please allow the facts to do the talking.

Nobody knows whether the President -- what the articles of impeachment are.  People have made up their mind in a political fashion that will hurt this country long term.  If you don`t -- if you can`t vote for impeachment, give us the due justice to the case.  Don`t decide the case before the cases end.  And this bothers me greatly.


WILLIAMS:  You heard the man, Lindsey Graham, who is there visibly bothered, I think we can all agree, by just the idea that senators may decide guilt or innocence before considering all the facts.

And with that comes the end to our broadcast on a Friday night and for this week for that matter.  Thank you for being here with us.  Have a good weekend and good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.


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