Rep. Slotkin faces rowdy town hall. TRANSCRIPT: 12/16/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: A.B. Stoddard, Paul Butler, Peter Bergen

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, a big week for impeachment begins and while it`s historic for the presidency, there`s a whole lot riding on this process including the targeted House Democrats who won in districts that Trump carried and who are deciding to vote yes knowing it could mean their jobs.  We`ll show you one such member of Congress and hear what happened when she announced her decision.

Plus, the top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer is out with a list of witnesses he wants to see at the Senate impeachment trial.  Late reaction from a big-name Republican.

And an insider look at the men with stars on their shoulders.  The men Donald Trump has called "my generals."  We look at a new book that chronicles their misgivings and the President`s blunders while celebrating their service as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on this Monday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 1,061 of this Trump administration.  And within these next 48 hours, President Trump will likely become only the third sitting President in U.S. history to be impeached.

The House Rules Committee meets tomorrow.  Then on Wednesday, the full House expected to vote on two articles of impeachment, abuse of power, obstruction of Congress.  Over this past weekend, the head Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the head Senate Republican, requesting that four witnesses be allowed to testify in a possible Senate trial.  They include White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

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SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER:  To engage a trial without the facts coming out is to engage in a cover-up.  To conduct a trial without the facts is saying we`re afraid.  We have something to hide.  To conduct a trial without relevant witnesses who haven`t been heard from to just rehash the evidence presented in the House just doesn`t make any sense.

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WILLIAMS:  Our cameras then caught up with Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah.  We asked him about Schumer`s written request.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you think Schumer`s letter was sent primarily to target moderate Republicans like yourself?

SEN. MITT ROMNEY, (R) UTAH:  You`d have to ask him that.  I don`t know.  You know, why he sent out his letters he did, but I would assume it was sent out in good faith and he`s looking at a process he hopes the Senate would carry out.  And I`ll give that to good consideration.

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WILLIAMS:  One senator who is not considering Schumer`s proposal is John Cornyn, Republican of Texas.

"Wall Street Journal" reports Cornyn said, live testimony could turn the trial into a three-ring circus, "Mo lawyer wants to put a witness on when they haven`t had a chance to question them under oath and can cross examine them if they deviate from that," said mr. Cornyn.  "Witnesses say the darnedest things."

Here`s what Mitch McConnell had to say about witnesses and the Clinton impeachment trial back in `98.

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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY MAJORITY LEADER:  Every other impeachment has had witnesses.  It`s not unusual to have witnesses in a trial.  And I think we`re handling this in exactly the appropriate way under the Constitution and it will end soon.

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WILLIAMS:  "Washington Post" reports on what`s being described as a private campaign among freshmen Democrats, private no longer, you`ll note, to draft independent member of Congress Justin Amash to serve as an impeachment manager in a Senate trial.  The Michigan congressman left the Republican Party earlier this year.  He is a vocal critic of President Trump.

"Post" reports Democrats believe Amash would reach conservative voters in a way that Democrats, themselves can`t.  He is among the founding members of the freedom caucus in the House.

We are also learning more tonight about where moderate Democrats stand on impeachment.  Freshman Michigan Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, forgive me, represents a district Trump won.  Today she said she will vote yes on impeachment at a town hall this morning.  She was met with cheers from some, not so much cheers from others as she tried to explain the underpinnings of her decision.  We`ll have more on her announcement a bit later on.

Several other first-term Democrats who flipped their districts a year ago came out in support of impeachment today.  They include Andy Kim of New Jersey, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania.

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REP.CHRISSY HOULAHAN, (D) PENNSYLVANIA:  And it got to the end of the line where there was no other choice other than to impeach this President on these two articles, particularly the evidence is overwhelming and it is my constitutional responsibility to make that difficult vote.

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WILLIAMS:  Then there is Democratic Congressman Jeff Van Drew of the southern tip of New Jersey.  Sources told NBC News over the weekend he is expected to leave his party and become a Republican.

Van Drew has been consistently opposed to impeaching this President.  NBC News reporting at least six of his staff members resigned in protest.  They, after all, wanted to go work for a Democrat and wanted to pursue Democratic causes while Van Drew is presumably looking to hang onto his seat in Congress.

Meanwhile the House Judiciary Committee forwarded its full report on the impeachment of President Trump to the Rules Committee shortly after midnight this morning.  The committee`s 658-page document goes beyond the broad allegations outlined in the two articles of impeachment.  It explains, "President Trump`s abuse of power encompassed both the constitutional offense of bribery and multiple federal crimes.  He has betrayed the national interest, people of this nation and should not be permitted to be above the law.  It is therefore all the more vital that he be removed from office."

Yet, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee seems to have already made up his mind on impeachment.  Here is Lindsey Graham over the weekend.

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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA JUDICIARY CMTE. CHAIRMAN:  I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind.  I`m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You are, along with the rest of your Senate fellows, jurors.  Is it appropriate to be voicing your opinion even before this gets to the Senate as a trial?

GRAHAM:  Well, I must think so because I`m doing it.

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WILLIAMS:  As we reported here last week, senators must now take a specific and new oath before any formal trial starts for the President.  It reads in part, "I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help them god."

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was coordinating closely with the White House counsel on a possible Senate trial.

On Sunday Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was asked whether the comments from McConnell and Graham might be a violation of this new Senate oath.

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SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  I fully intend to follow by oath and, but the oath of a Senate juror, it has some similarities to a criminal trial, but it has some differences as well.  The framers understood that impeachment, particularly the impeachment of a president, is inherently a political exercise.  Senators are not required like jurors in a criminal trial to be sequestered not to talk to anyone, not to coordinate -- there`s no prohibition.

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WILLIAMS:  Here for our leadoff discussion on a Monday night, two Pulitzer Prize winners both from "The Washington Post," White House Bureau Chief Philip Rucker, White House Reporter Ashley Parker.  Here with us in our New York studios, A.B. Stoddard, columnist, associate editor at Real Clear Politics, also a contributor to The Bulwark.  Good evening and welcome to all of you.

Ashley, we`d like to look into the future.  The pace of things being incredibly quick these days.  Looking ahead, the President goes to Battle Creek, Michigan, Wednesday, for an event, a rally, the same day as the likely House vote to approve impeachment articles.  Do you care to make any predictions about that event?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, it`s always risky to make predictions, but I will say, I was talking to some White House aides today and they were happy to make predictions and say that it would be an energetic rally, to say the least.  We saw a bit of this the other week in Hershey, Pennsylvania, that happened in the midst of impeachment and the President was very fired up.  He riffed on it a lot.

And these are -- and, again, this was actually not planned, the rally was planned before we knew the exact day of the vote.  We knew a vote was coming.  So it`s not an exact response, but the President loves to do this on the days when there`s a bad news cycle for him.  There is nothing more that he likes than to get up in front of a huge crowd of adoring fans and sort of blow off that steam, release, you know, what has been frustrating him and I think we will hear him heavily weigh in on the day`s news.

WILLIAMS:  Phil Rucker, you got a Democratic congressman from South Jersey in the process of losing all his Democratic friends and there`s no guarantee he will be the Republican candidate for re-election from that seat.  It`s too early to say that.  Otherwise, is your read that the headline is the Democratic caucus under Pelosi, even those in dangerous purple seats, are going to stick with this?

PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF:  Yes, that`s exactly the headline tonight, Brian, with the exception of that New Jersey congressman.  A number of the other centrist Democrats who had been targeted, these folks have been under pressure campaigns in their districts from Republicans to try to get them to defect, facing pressure in their districts which Trump, by the way, had carried in 2016.  Most of these centrist Democrats today came out one by one on their own to support impeachment.  That is a huge gain for Pelosi and her leadership team.

It`s not as if the vote in the end has ever been in doubt, but it`s important to Pelosi and the Democrats to have as high a vote total as they possibly can.  And so lawmakers like Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin from Michigan, Spanberger from Virginia down in the Richmond suburbs, a member from Utah, a member from South Carolina, from New Jersey, these are centrist Democrats and they said that they were making this decision based on their conscience and because of their constitutional duties and weighing the evidence.

They are endangering their political futures, by the way, in doing so because these are districts that are so heavily weighted towards Trump.  When they are on the ballot in 2020, there may be revenge and they may not win re-election, but they`re voting nonetheless to impeach the President.

WILLIAMS:  A.B. Stoddard, what do you make of Graham, Cruz, McConnell, saying in effect, oath smooth (ph)?  And bring us back in your answer to your list of 12.  I`ve been fascinated with them.  Twelve names you feel deserve extra attention as we near a Senate trial in light of Mr. Romney`s comments or lack of comments today.

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOC. EDITOR AND COLUMNIST:  Right.  I think that we`re not looking at a lot of votes to convict.  I think that in the process, if they should take votes on possible witnesses, McConnell`s going to run into some problems.  I don`t know if he`s going to just vote to dismiss this outright.  I don`t know if he`s going to have -- end up having a trial without witnesses.  But he`s putting those senators up for re-election in a tough spot, institutionalists who are retiring like Senators Enzi, Roberts and Alexander.  Mitt Romney surely is an independent thinker, has his separate views.  Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

I think there are a bunch of people who want to show the voters for different reasons, whether they`re up for re-election or they came to the institution when you always, always, adhered to process and you always protected the institution, that they want to show the public that they -- this is a legitimate process and a credible process.  And the idea of people going on Sunday shows and saying, ha, ha, process is for fools, this is the era of Donald Trump and we do things the way we want to, sure, we`re going to take an oath.

But remember, it`s not court of law.  Which is true, it`s not.  And so it`s political process and we`re going to have a political circus if we feel like it or we just shut it down if we feel like because it`s-- we have majority control.

So, therein lies the tension is how much of an opportunity he creates for dissent.  The President will tolerate none, Brian.  He wants vindication.  He doesn`t want people to say this is really skirting the edge, but I`m going to say it`s not impeachable.  He wants everyone to say that everything was perfect.

So, while I don`t think we`re facing conviction votes in significant numbers, maybe one or two, maybe none.  I think there is a long road between now and this clean sort of perfect acquittal that Trump is hoping for and McConnell`s hoping for and not a messy process.  I think that there`s a lot out there.

I wrote today about the Giuliani investigation.  I think there`s a lot more that could drop, that could make this extremely messy.

WILLIAMS:  Brings us to Joe Biden at a fund-raiser in New York tonight, Ashley Parker.  The pool reporter requotes this, "No psychiatrist or anyone in the association can talk about the fact that this President has a serious problem.  Narcissism is a mental deficiency.  And it means you cannot tolerate any criticism at all."

Ashley, a, is the ANA going to have to bless this presidential campaign?  B, is this a kind of preview looked at one way of a potential conversation during the general election?

PARKER:  Well, if Vice President Biden has his way, it sure is.  And it`s worth noting this has been Vice President Biden`s strategy from the beginning is to go at Trump one-on-one to try to elevate him out of a -- him being Joe Biden out of a crowded Democratic primary field and make himself seem as if he`s the presumptive nominee on the Democratic side.

And it`s interesting because in some ways Joe Biden really can get under President Trump`s skin.  Saying something like that is something that the President is going to take notice of and be frustrated by.  And the President is, I`ve been told by people close to him, even though he`s maybe less worried about Biden than he was before, he`s paying attention to every gaffe, every slip up of Joe Biden`s and he`s talking about it privately and he`s talking about it publicly.

The downside for Joe Biden is by sort of getting into a head-to-head with Donald Trump, it some ways has backfired.  It did elevate him but it also placed a lot of early attention on him and his son, Hunter, and that`s something the President has been going after and that is a weak spot for Joe Biden.  Something he doesn`t relish relitigating in public and something that is now in many ways at the center of the impeachment inquiry.  So, yes, it`s a general election conversation potentially and it`s one that has downsides and possible upsides for both men involved.

WILLIAMS:  Phil Rucker, how does Speaker Pelosi feel about the idea of Justin Amash walking around the well of the Senate as one of the House impeachment managers?

RUCKER:  Yes, it`s a great question, Brian.  On the one hand, having Congressman Amash, an Independent, I guess, now, but, you know, obviously was has been elected as a Republican for many years as an impeachment manager would be a high-profile sort of PR move by Pelosi to show that there`s bipartisan support for impeachment.  On the other hand, he is a complete loose cannon.  He has no loyalty to Speaker Pelosi.  He`s not a Democrat.  And he cannot be counted on to necessarily toe the Pelosi line when he`s over on the Senate during the trial as an impeachment manager.

And Pelosi, you know, while strategic and savvy is also quite cautious.  She is not known to be a risk taker.  And so while, you know, a number of these freshmen Democrats, as our colleague reported over the weekend are encouraging Pelosi to appoint Amash that might be a surprising thing to see in the end because knowing Pelosi over these years she would probably be much more comfortable with one of her own loyal Democratic lieutenants.

WILLIAMS:  And A.B., I want to return right quick to your most latest piece that you mentioned.  Among the reasons Republicans want this to happen quickly, a reason you reveal has a lot to do with Rudy Giuliani.

STODDARD:  Because we learned last night, I mean, sorry, last week, that Lev Parnas, the Ukrainian born indicted crony businessman of partner of Rudy`s has a Russian funding stream and it is why now prosecutors have asking to have his bail revoked.  So he paid Rudy who`s doing the free Ukrainian election meddling work of President Trump.

WILLIAMS:  As one does.

STODDARD:  As one does.  And so this is under investigation by the SDNY and the FBI.  It involves Congressman Nunes, it involves Giuliani, it involves a whole host of people close to the Trump world, donors, funders.  It`s really could be problematic if this bleeds into more revelations in the New Year and the trial hasn`t happened.

WILLIAMS:  Maybe not a great look while you`re trying to litigate impeachment on the Senate floor.

Our thanks to our big three tonight on a Monday, Phil Rucker, Ashley Parker, A.B. Stoddard, thank you.  We`re in your debt for coming by.

And coming up for us, Rudy, the President`s T.V. lawyer, saying more controversial things out loud.  We can hear them.  Confirming one intriguing part of the Ukraine story, in fact.

And later the commander in chief and his unorthodox take on U.S. military leaders and the missions they`re on.  We`ll talk to the author of "Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos." as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting under way to start a new week.

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DANIEL GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL:  -- at your deposition, you said Deputy Secretary of State told you that you had done nothing wrong but that there was a concerted campaign against you.  What did he mean by that?

MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FMR. UKRAINE AMBASSADOR:  I`m not exactly sure, but I took it to mean that the allegations that Mayor Giuliani and others were putting out there.

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WILLIAMS:  Former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was suddenly recalled from her post earlier this year after decades of government service including many years in dangerous places.  The decision to pull her out of there has become a big part of Trump`s impeachment.

In a new interview with the "New Yorker" Trump`s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, confirmed that he was actively working as a private citizen to get rid of Yovanovitch, "Giuliani saw Yovanovitch as an obstacle hindering his attempt to dig up dirt against his clients rival in advance of the 2020 election."  That rival being Joe Biden.  "I believed I needed Yovanovitch out of the way," he said.  "She was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody."

Here`s what Giuliani had to say it just tonight on Fox News.

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LAUR INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST:  This hit piece, and it`s a hit piece.

RUDOLF GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S PERSONAL LAWYER:  Of course.

INGRAHAM:  Also has you on the record admitting that you forced out Marie Yovanovitch.

GIULIANI:  Of course I did.

INGRAHAM:  You said you needed her out of the way.  But you`re a personal attorney for the President.  So why do you need her out of the way?

GIULIANI:  I didn`t need her out of the way.  I forced her out because she`s corrupt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Back with us again tonight, Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor who worked in the area of corruption for many years.  He is these days a professor at Georgetown Law School.

Professor, I don`t know where to begin.  Did he -- is there anything actionable about what he just said?

PAUL BUTLER, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  I needed Marie Yovanovitch out of the way, in the prosecution business, we call that a confession.  So he wanted her to stop working on the real corruption which was her area of expertise.  And he wanted -- he was concerned that she wouldn`t go along with what Trump wanted, was this announcement of a fake investigation that would be in Trump`s political interests.

The reason why this is so galling is first of all, we know that Parnas and Fruman, Giuliani associates, were indicted for basically the same course of conduct, trying to get rid of Ambassador Yovanovitch.  And we know this is particularly troublesome for her because she was told by the State Department that she had not done anything wrong.  And, again, if the Trump administration was really interested in rooting out corruption in Ukraine, they would have given her a raise, not try to fire her because that`s her area of expertise.

WILLIAMS:  However galling, does it violate anything to hear this guy, a former mayor of New York, saying out loud on the record, it`s like a scene from "The Irishman," yes, she had to go.  It is what it is.  Does that violate anything?

BUTLER:  Yes, it violates federal criminal law which is why Giuliani is being investigated by the Southern District of New York, the same federal prosecution office that he used to run.  So they`re probably looking at campaign finance violations, failure to register as a lobbyist.  And, again, this really weird connection between Parnas and Fruman and Giuliani.

One big question is, where does the money come from for his exploits in Ukraine?  And you heard in the previous segment, we know that Parnas has this weird consulting business.  It doesn`t seem to have any customers, but it gave Giuliani $500,000.

Parnas is not a rich guy.  We learned in his prosecution that he got a million dollars from a mysterious Russian account.  So one question for prosecutors will be, are the Russians indirectly funding Giuliani`s exploits, his possible criminal exploits, in Ukraine?

WILLIAMS:  No joy in saying this, but in a society where no one reads 600- page reports when they come out from Congress, and people have just the next 45 seconds, what do you see as the headlines?

BUTLER:  That the President is a present danger to national security.  So, yes, there`s abuse of office.  The way he bullied Ukraine to try to shake down the President for help with his own personal political.  He sold out the United States.  He, again, he`s obstructed Congress.

But here`s the thing, Brian, it`s ongoing.  It`s not just 2012, his openness to help from the Russians with the 2012 election.  It`s not just, again, bullying the Ukraine.  It`s two weeks ago when his fixer, Rudy Giuliani, is in Ukraine on the same exploits, the same trying to get help for Trump for the campaign.  And so Trump has not learned from impeachment.  He has not learned from the Russian investigation.  He is a clear and present danger to national security and to free and fair elections.

WILLIAMS:  Counselor, thank you very much.

BUTLER:  Always a pleasure, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Great to see you here in New York.  Paul Butler, our guest.

Coming up, the mixed reaction at this Michigan town hall earlier today after a vulnerable House member announced her decision on impeachment.  Two reporters on the ground following all of the congressional movement on impeachment will join us to talk about it when we come back.

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REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D), MICHIGAN:  I made this decision out of principle and out of a duty to protect and defend the constitution.  I feel that in my bones, and I will stick to that regardless of what it does to me politically because this is bigger than politics.

The president of the United States came out, and his lawyer came out and said very specifically that they had reached out to a foreign power and asked him for information on a political rival.

Guys, let`s -- let`s try to have a civil conversation.  OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILILAMS:  Michigan Democrat Elissa Slotkin`s decision to vote for impeachment, as you heard, drew mixed reaction at the town hall in her home state.  15 Democrats from Trump-friendly districts have now committed to vote in favor of articles of impeachment.  Two of them just tonight.  So far, there are two defectors.

Meanwhile, two new polls show Americans remain split on impeachment.  According to a Fox News poll, 50 percent now say Trump should be impeached and removed.  A new CNN poll puts the number at 45 percent.

With us to talk about all of it and by way of welcoming her to our broadcast, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Capitol Hill correspondent for NBC News.  And our returning veteran, Robert Costa, national political reporter for the "Washington Post" and moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS.

Leigh Ann, first of all, we`re happy to have you on.  Secondly, she is such an interesting member of Congress.  She was raised largely on a farm in Michigan, goes and gets two Ivy League degrees.  Goes overseas to serve her country, Pentagon, CIA, including Iraq where she meets a 30-year military veteran, her future husband.

So we`ve established she doesn`t scare easily, and I heard her in an interview today say she`s about service, not necessarily re-election.  So let`s start by having you describe the atmosphere in that room beyond what we can hear.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Brian, it was interesting you talking about her whole profile there because it all culminated this weekend when she went back to her farm to go pour over all of the documents, taking into consideration her national security background and to make -- and a student of history to make these decisions on what she was going to do.

But in the room today, it was -- it was intense.  It was rowdy.  There were some moments that I didn`t know fights were going to break out.  It was just an example of how the civil discourse is kind of disintegrated in this country.  There were Trump supporters and Slotkin supporters telling each other to shut up.  There was a group of pro-Trump protesters in the back of the room who were telling Slotkin supporters that they were wastes of breath.

And so it was really an amazing moment that was really symbolic of the times we live in.  I know that Elissa Slotkin has had some really difficult town halls in the past, but this one I`m told was by far her biggest and so that`s why it seemed so rowdy and also because of the crucial moment.  She was having a town hall on the eve of this impeachment vote which also shows a lot of courage on her behalf because she wanted to explain to her voters what she was doing and why.

WILLIAMS:  Robert Costa, I guess the best possible spin on Leigh Ann`s version of the atmosphere in that room is democracy at work.  This combined with the polling, how much confidence are you hearing?  Are you hearing any erosion of confidence from Republicans in your work?

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  That democracy in action will continue.  Republicans remain based on my reporting tonight in the Capitol in lockstep in the House with President Trump.

And you see President Trump with his travel schedule going to Michigan on Wednesday, the day of the vote, to have a rally, to go to these key states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, repeatedly ahead of 2020, to pressure freshman House members like Congresswoman Slotkin, to try to pressure them on the impeachment issue.  Even if she votes for impeachment, she`ll be hearing about that vote for months to come.

But when you talk to Republicans in the Senate, for now, the economy`s pretty solid.  They see a USMCA trade deal they don`t like too much.  They see a spending deal they don`t like to much.  But there`s no real cracks based on my conversations with senators tonight because they see those voters, those likely and described in the back of the room, those Trump voters are still with President Trump and they don`t want to break with those voters.

WILLIAMS:  And, Leigh Ann, what announcement, what answer could possibly satisfy all these town halls that are taking place across the country?  Especially where you have a Democratic member of Congress in a district that Donald Trump carried.

CALDWELL:  There really isn`t one.  You can`t satisfy everyone and anything that Elissa Slotkin today said didn`t -- didn`t satisfy, it didn`t even quiet the Trump protesters or the pro-Trump protesters in the back of the room.  She was asked the question posed to her was why are you trying to undo the 2016 election?  And they wouldn`t even let her answer that and she stopped for a moment and said, look, this is a question that you guys might want to hear the answer to because this is what you are saying.  So why don`t you hear me out?  But it didn`t really stop there.

And so Elissa Slotkin and so many of these moderate Democrats, they have a choice and they had a choice to on what they`re going to do, and from sources that I`ve been talking to in the Democratic party over the past week or so, they really thought that all these Democrats were really going to come out in support of their principle, put principle over politics because they know that there is no good option for them.  And it seems like that`s what they`re doing with all of these Democrats coming out in support of impeach inspect the last 48 hours.

WILLIAMS:  And, Robert, you listened to A.B. Stoddard talking about how much potential trouble there is out there for Lev, for Rudy, for even Nunes and when you listen to her, you wonder if impeachment can hold the way it is currently formulated until the date we believe it will get under way, January 6th.

ACOSTA:  Impeachment may hold for President Trump in the sense that he could get acquitted by Senate Republicans in the coming weeks, but because of the ongoing federal investigation of Rudy Giuliani`s closest associates over the past year, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, these issues raised by the impeachment inquiry in the House will not go away, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Chairman Schiff on Intelligence have said they`ll continue to pursue these issues even if President Trump is impeached and acquitted because there will be more to investigate.

What Speaker Pelosi has tried to do is give people like Congresswoman Slotkin a narrow impeachment process based on President Trump`s conduct on Ukraine but still saying to the Democratic base voter, we`re not just simply going to walk away from probes in the coming months.

WILLIAMS:  Well, let`s do this again.  After a long day of reporting, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Robert Costa, our thanks to both of you for coming on and helping us out with your reporting tonight.

Coming up for us, three men with 11 stars between them.  McMaster, Mattis, Kelly.  We`ll talk to the author of a new book on the relationship between Trump and the generals who once advised him.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President, are you concerned about North Korea at all right now, the developments?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We`re watching it.  We`ll see.  I`d be disappointed if something would be in the works, and if it is, we`ll take care of it, but we`ll see.  We`re watching it very closely.

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WILLIAMS:  The North Koreans say they`ve conducted two more tests in recent days aimed at countering any nuclear threat from the U.S.  Today in Seoul, the top U.S. envoy on North Korea warned that if the North conducts a major weapons test in the coming days, it would be, "Most unhelpful in the effort to resume peace talks."

The North has said the U.S. has until the end of the year to make concessions in these nuclear negotiations.  And minds you, this is all happening just as we are hearing a devastating story about President Trump`s unique perspective, shall we call it, on North Korea.

In Peter Bergen`s new book, "Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos," he writes that back in April of `17, "Trump was regularly briefed that North Korea possessed vast numbers of artillery batteries that could potentially kill millions in Seoul in the event of a war.  Referring to the inhabitants of Seoul, Trump said, they have to move.  The officials in the Oval Office weren`t sure if Trump was joking.  Trump repeated, they have to move.  No one knew what to say."

The book goes on to point out that Seoul is one of the largest cities in the world with a population of roughly 25 million, give or take, more than the population of Australia.  The author is here with us tonight. Peter Bergen has half a dozen books to his name.  He`s a professor, a veteran global security expert, and to our great everlasting daily frustration, he is also an on-air analyst at CNN.

Peter, it`s great to have you.  Longtime fan.  First-time caller.  I`m holding your book aloft for all of our viewers.  Repeat the -- tell your version of the story in the eyes of those who were in the room, for starters.

BRIAN BERGEN, AUTHOR "TRUMP AND HIS GENERALS":  Brian, thanks for having me on the show.  You know, this was, I guess, you know, to Trump`s supporters, this is kind of an example of out-of-the-box thinking.  I mean, you now, he was -- he seemed to be pretty serious in the Oval Office instructing his team that the inhabitants of Seoul had to move.  You know, the city of Seoul is 10 million people.  There are 25 million people in the entire metropolitan region around Seoul.

And, you know, the officials didn`t really know what to say.  I mean, he also at one point, you know, just to extend it, another scene in the book, he -- he heard Jack Keen on Fox, who`s a Fox News analyst, retired four- star general, say that the way to really get the North Koreans` attention would be to basically make any military family that was in South Korea to basically to leave.

And Trump, you know, sort of said we should get these guys to leave and basically this whole thing was slow rolled and the national security advisers around Trump sort of said, look, you`re going to crash the South Korean market.  You will definitely signal the North Korean would be serious about having a war.  And in the end, it didn`t happen.

Unlike a lot of these ideas that Trump has had, you know, the more extreme or sort of outlandish ones, you know, his advisers just kind of roll past it and kind of ignore it.

WILLIAMS:  No one needs to tell you that the national security establishment, emphasis on establishment, has its own brand of white-collar cattiness because their standards are so high and long-lasting.  So I imagine a story like this gets into the bloodstream and spreads quickly and so how much -- how widespread was the concern about the boss after incidents like this?

BERGEN:  Well, certainly Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, I quote him directly in the book.  He said, you know, we have to make sure that reason Trump`s impulse.  I think he would say that fairly often.

And as a result of which, when the White House asks for military options on Iran, he simply didn`t provide them.  When the White House wanted a war game at Camp David in the fall of 2017 to look at the options on North Korea, Mattis simply didn`t send any war planners and you can`t have a war game without war planners, so it didn`t happen.

So certainly Jim Mattis was very concerned about this, but in President Trump`s defense, I think Trump has proven less impulsive then certainly his rhetoric would allow us to believe.  I mean, he`s actually proven to be somewhat reluctant to use American military power, pulling down in Afghanistan as we speak, you know, going back and forth about having troops in Syria, calling back the military operation against Iran, and dialing back the rhetoric on North Korea.

Now, the one thing that he`s also been kind of lucky, unlike every president since FDR, he hasn`t had a major foreign policy crisis on his watch to react to.  And so, the interesting question, Brian, is how would he react in a major foreign policy crisis.

We haven`t had one.  He hasn`t had a 9/11 or a global financial crisis, or a Saddam invading Kuwait, or the kinds of crises other modern presidents have had.  And he`s either got another year left on the clock or potentially another five years.  And by the law of averages, crisis do happen.

WILLIAMS:  Let`s had a God forbid here, for good measure.  We`re going to talk about Mattis and the generals after the break.  Peter has agreed to stay with us, more on the long-term impact of this particular commander-in- chief when we continue our discussion.

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TRUMP:  I see my generals are going to keep us so safe.  They`re going to have a lot of problems on the other side.  They`re going to look at a couple of them.  These are central casting.  If I`m doing a movie, I would pick you, general, General Mattis.

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WILLIAMS:  The president had more to say about his now former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis during an interview with the New York Times earlier this year when he complained, "I didn`t like the job he was doing.  I wasn`t happy with it.  I wasn`t happy with that I got him more money than the military has ever seen before.  And I wasn`t happy with the job that he was doing at all.  And I said it`s time."

Still with us journalist, author and analyst Peter Bergen.

Peter, I can understand why his generals have in some cases interrupted their retirement, but have generally dropped everything, duty, honor, country, chain of command, commander-in-chief, to go work for him.  Is that all, that list of attributes also why they have been less than fully candid since leaving his employ to talk about Donald Trump?

BERGEN:  Well, you know, Secretary Mattis obviously released a book, and, you know, lots of interviews tried to get him to talk about Trump.  In his view was, I`m not going to talk about a sitting president.

In his book, he was pretty critical of President Obama and Joe Biden, so perhaps when Trump is out of office, he`s possible -- he will be critical of President Trump.  H.R. McMaster said nothing that I`m aware of about his time about, you know, criticizing Trump.

And I think if they`re serving, if you`re a retired senior military officer, I think there is a kind of code of honor that they want to follow that is not to be critical of the president.  That, you know, so I don`t anticipate either Mattis or McMaster getting out there and criticizing the President.

Obviously, we have had Bill McRaven and also Stan McChrystal, two of the leading military officers of their generation, both publicly taking stands against Trump.  But neither of them served Trump.  And if like one of the stories I have in the book is, General McCrystal was offered the job of Secretary of Defense, on November 16th, 2016, he basically turned that down because he didn`t think that Trump was either honest or would make a good commander-in-chief.  And that, of course, has remained his view.

WILLIAMS:  You start with a quote from "Dr. Strangelove," those are the first words in the book.  And the last chapter deals with a glittering Washington Book Party.  Which do you think best describes where we are as a country right now?

BERGEN:  Well, you know, I mean, I start with a scene in the war room of the pentagon where there is a great debate between Steve Bannon on one side, and Jim Mattis and Rex Tillerson on the other.  And really, they`re laying out to President Trump how the United States is operating in the world.

And the intent on the Bannon side is to show wherever extended.  And the intent on the Mattis side and the Tillerson side is to say, look, you know, this is how the world works and this is work in our favor since World War II.

At the end of that meeting, Trump blows up and basically says, you know, our allies are ripping us off.  China is trade deficit matter.  We`re not winning any wars.  And basically makes it clear in front of his entire war cabinet six months into his presidency that review, is thank you going to follow the America first nationalist kind of approach that he campaigned on.  And that he was going to govern on that.  And I think this meeting really was kind of one of the key meetings of his presidency.

WILLIAMS:  Peter Bergen is the author, the book is "Trump and his Generals:  The Cost of Chaos."  Great pleasure having you on Peter, thank you very much.

BERGEN:  Thank you very much sir.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up for us, why a prominent Republican senator seems unimpressed and unmoved by the impeachment oath he may be about to take.

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WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, if indeed impeachment goes to a Senate trial, it will be the first in a generation.  And many aspects of it will be brand new to television viewers.

Starting with the image of the Chief Justice presiding over the Senate, William Rehnquist presided during Clinton impeachment, proudly wearing his judicial robes with gold striped sleeves.  A look seldom seen outside of a delta pilot`s lounged.  He later explained he got the idea from a costume in a Gilbert and Sullivan Production.

Importantly, senators take a separate oath as we`ve said, to stand as jurors in the trial of the president.  They swear to do impartial justice according to the constitution and laws, just as young Lindsey Graham implored senators to do when it was Clinton they were impeaching.

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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  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 case`s end.  And this bothers me greatly.

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WILLIAMS:  Days later, he went on to say this.

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GRAHAM:  And somebody mentioned if a Republican president would have done this, let me just say this.  It would be a good test for us if a Republican president had done these things, whether Republican delegation going to tell and get out of that, I hope so.  I would like to think that we would have done it.  Only time will tell what happens here.

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WILLIAMS:  But this weekend, at an appearance in the Middle East, perhaps days away from serving as one of 100 Senate jurors presiding over a trial, Graham put to rest the idea that he would be impartial.

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GRAHAM:  I am trying to give a pretty clear signal.  I`ve made up my mind.  I am not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST:  You are, along with the rest of our Senate fellows, jurors, is it appropriate to be voicing your opinion even before this gets to the Senate as a trial?

GRAHAM:  Well, I must think so, because I`m doing it.

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WILLIAMS:  And that is how we start a new week, by ending our Monday night broadcast.  Thank you so very much for being with us.  Goodnight 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