ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. I`m Ali Velshi. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams begins right now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 1,090 of the Trump administration. Two hundred ninety-four days until our 2020 presidential election.
The President`s impeachment trial will likely start one week from today, Tuesday, the 21st. And again tonight we have something of a remarkable split screen. During this evening, during the run-up to the debate and indeed during the debate broadcast, the impeachment case has worsened for Donald Trump as we are starting to see the contents of the cell phone and files of one, Lev Parnas. And it is giving us a window into a rather astounding operation supervised by Rudy Giuliani in the name of the President and what, if true, appears to be the full-on surveillance of our own U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
The material, the notes, the text messages are stunning. So we will pursue both of these paths here tonight.
First, a check of the headlines out of tonight`s debate. Robert Costa is the National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post," host of "Washington Week" on PBS. Robert, what do you have?
ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: The big moment tonight, Brian, and you just referenced it, it was the disconnect between the House and what`s going on in the Democratic presidential race. Not a lot of discussion about this pending impeachment trial in the Senate and the reams of new evidence that`s emerging on Capitol Hill.
In terms of politics, the raw race right now is really between Senator Sanders, Senator Warren, just weeks before Iowa, battling not only over Medicare for all and their positions, but about that private meeting they had months ago. Senator Warren stood by her position tonight onstage under the bright lights.
WILLIAMS: Robert, what do you think went into the decision either by the journalists, the moderators, the network or even the campaign chiefs who, by the way, had time to brief their candidates before the telecast went on the air tonight, if nothing else, to use this as a reference point, maybe even a dodge to say this material is coming out this evening while we speak, and time is of the essence.
COSTA: Part of the reason, Brian, when you talk to Democratic campaign strategists is there is such a reluctance in the party to counter Speaker Pelosi`s positioning or her strategy in any way. She is not the President of the United States. She`s the Speaker of the House. But she is essentially the leader of the Democratic Party. While they`re all running for the nomination, they want to stay close to her, and they know she`s dealing with multiple issues at this time.
WILLIAMS: All right, Robert Costa, please don`t go anywhere. And before we bring in all of our guests and experts that we have assembled in the studio, let`s try to get a read on the tonnage of documents released by House Democrats tonight, all of it from Lev Parnas. For that we`re joined by our own Josh Lederman, National Political Reporter for NBC News.
Josh, you`re here by request of a lot of us, and it`s a tall order to ask you to rank this in the form of headlines as it has taken us all evening long, while watching the debate, to wade through what`s been released. But it is truly stunning material.
JOSH LEDERMAN, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Stunning, Brian. Just when we thought that all of the basic facts in the impeachment saga had come out, a bombshell night. New facts, new text messages, even a new character that we did not know about before in this story line. So I want to walk you through exactly what we`re learning from these text messages and documents that we`ve been going through over the last few hours.
The first is a brand-new letter that we did not know about before that Rudy Giuliani wrote to President Zelensky of Ukraine in which he identifies himself as private counsel to President Donald J. Trump, says he`s representing him as a private citizen, not as President of the United States. But in that same letter, he says he is has a specific request, and that`s that he wants to meet with Zelensky as well as with Victoria Toensing, this conservative lawyer that had been working with him on this effort.
Another new piece of information, handwritten notes from Lev Parnas, this indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, taken from the Ritz-Carlton on memo pad in the hotel there in Vienna, where they`re basically plotting out this campaign that they are going to carry out, and he actually writes "get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated."
Another major piece of new information here, Brian, is a new character by the name of Robert Hyde. He`s a Republican who`s actually running for congress at the moment in Connecticut, and has apparently been working with Lev Parnas, and there`s really some pretty alarming details in here about what appears to be a surveillance campaign on former Ambassador Yovanovitch, that he says to Lev Parnas he was carrying out while they were trying to get President Trump to fire Ambassador Yovanovitch.
And in this WhatsApp text messages that were handed over to Congress, he talks about Yovanovitch`s whereabouts as well as her electronic and phone communications, saying she talked to three people. Her phone is off. Her computer is off. In another text message, saying she`s next to the embassy.
I reached out tonight to Ambassador Yovanovitch`s legal team, heard back from her lawyer, Lawrence Robbins, who says "the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch`s movements for unknown purposes is disturbing. We trust that the appropriate authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened."
I reached out to the State Department to see if they will actually grant that investigation. So far no word from the State Department.
But we are hearing back tonight, late tonight, Brian, from Robert Hyde himself. He told me in a text message just a few minutes ago that he had written these texts to what he calls some buddies of his while they`d had a few drinks. He says the text messages were to, "a dweeb I met a few times." And he`s also lobbing some insults at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
WILLIAMS: So, Josh, about Mr. Hyde, because his name starting tonight and through tomorrow`s news cycle, for infinity, is going to become of some note. He is, I think, the titular owner of a landscaping business in Connecticut. He was last a thing when he tweeted something so gross about Kamala Harris when she got out of the race that it had to be taken down.
The Hartford Courant tonight reporting that he had to be escorted away from Mar-a-Lago by police, no charges, however, saying to police at the time he thought there was a hit out on him. It was -- it strained credibility that a landscape business owner from Connecticut running for Congress was somehow tied in and doing contractor work, if not tailing a U.S. ambassador. And you`re telling us that tonight he`s going with the story that this was perhaps alcohol-infused, that this was -- these notes about Yovanovitch and her whereabouts and her life were the stuff of fiction, that he made them up on the spot as part of a ruse?
LEDERMAN: Well, he`s not saying that he made them up necessarily. He`s just saying that these text messages had been sent after he had a few drinks. But I followed up with him to say, OK, but did you actually have a surveillance campaign on Ambassador Yovanovitch? He won`t answer that question.
But, look, this is a guy who has built sort of a name for himself as a bomb thrower in Republican political circles, ingratiated himself with the Trump orbit by making a lot of Republican donations, saying a lot of really controversial things, including that tweet that he had to delete about Kamala Harris. And from all indications, he`s not backing down from that bombast in his response to these latest text messages tonight, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Josh, thank you for delivering exactly what we needed you to deliver at the top of our broadcast tonight. We greatly appreciate it. We are aware that closing statements are wrapping up and that we will be welcoming more audience in after the debate.
But let`s talk about what we`ve got here in front of us with Claire McCaskill, former Democratic senator from the great state of Missouri, and Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post."
Senator, when we all sat down here tonight, you shared my surprise that none of this was raised by either side in the debate tonight. It appears we have a wheelbarrow of evidence that`s going to be driven from the House over to the Senate just in time for the start of the trial.
CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. This is pretty big stuff to be ignored on the debate stage. I was surprised that someone didn`t pivot and grasp the moment because when you`re president, that`s what you have to do. You live moment to moment, and you react moment to moment with what comes across the transom.
And so I think somebody missed an opportunity tonight to appear very presidential and speak to the gravity of this and frankly call on the Secretary of State tomorrow to announce an investigation as to the circumstances surrounding the ambassador`s removal from the Ukraine and whether or not there is any evidence that she ever did anything other than going after corruption. He`s got a morale problem there anyway.
You talk to experts like Andrea Mitchell about the state of the State Department right now, and it`s bleak. So, I don`t get this.
And let me just say this about Rudy Giuliani`s letter. When he says I`m representing the President in a personal capacity, this is very common, he says. No. No, it`s not. It`s not very common at all. He`s not representing him in a personal capacity. He`s doing political bagman stuff for him. He`s over there trying to influence the election of Donald Trump, which means he`s working on behalf of his campaign, which is illegal to start with, and it`s not common. So that letter is very damning in terms of Rudy Giuliani`s role as are the notes from -- and somebody needs to take Lev Parnas` deposition like tomorrow.
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Oh, yes.
WILLIAMS: Again, if you`re just joining us, this did not come up tonight, the story we have taken the time and effort to itemize at the top of our broadcast and will be talking about alongside whatever happens on that debate stage tonight did not get a raised on the debate stage tonight.
I am told these six Democrats have just finished what will be their last debate before the Iowa caucuses. The moderators are wrapping up. That is our cue to begin now our post-debate coverage.
Much of the attention tonight, of course, on Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders following news of a growing feud between the two progressive wing candidates. In a statement yesterday, you`ll recall Elizabeth Warren confirmed reports that Bernie Sanders indeed told her back in 2018 he didn`t think a woman could win the presidency. It is a charge Sanders has vehemently denied, and on cue tonight they were both asked about it onstage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORESPONDENT: Senator Warren confirmed in a statement that in 2018, you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?
SEN. BERNIE SANDER, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, as a matter of fact I didn`t say it. And I don`t want to waste a whole lot of time on this because this is what Donald Trump and maybe some of the media want. Anybody knows me, knows that it`s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman could not be President of the United States. Go to YouTube today. There is some video of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become president of the United States.
PHILLIP: You`re saying that you never told Senator Warren that a woman could not win the election?
SANDERS: That is correct.
PHILLIP: Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I disagreed. Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with bernie.
But, look, this question about whether or not a woman can be President has been raised, and it`s time for us to attack it head-on. And I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people`s winning record.
So, can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look at the men on this stage. Collectively they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they`ve been in are the women, Amy and me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: We were expecting the moment to happen. The moment went pretty much like that.
As we talk about our dueling stories here tonight, we`ve been joined by a full complement of extended family and friends to help us cover a big night in the Democratic Party. Joining Claire and Gene, with us here in New York, Alicia Menendez, MSNBC host and author of "The Likability Trap," David Plouffe, campaign manager for, one, Barack Obama in `08, a newly minted MSNBC political analyst, and you know him, Lawrence O`Donnell, host of "The Last Word," over at the big board, our National Political Correspondent Steve Kornacki, and in Washington, D.C., the aforementioned Robert Costa joined tonight by Jason Johnson, politics editor for The Root and a frequent guest of ours, and in the spin room in Des Moines, Iowa, Chris Matthews, the host of "Hardball". Good evening and welcome to all of you.
Eugene, I owe you the remainder of my question time since we started out here. I`m looking at the split screen debate answers realizing that what we`re talking about really is a split screen in a split screen. The Parnas news was feathering out while they`re having this discussion.
ROBINSON: It was. And clearly they were not as Claire mentioned, they were not ready to jump on it. And it actually would have helped -- it would have been clarifying and edifying if someone had tried to narrate this for us and tried to put this in the context that you just put it in because it is sort of all flying at us. That didn`t happen.
In fact, this was a pretty congenial debate, I thought, in many ways. I mean there weren`t a lot of fireworks really. There wasn`t a lot of friction. The Bernie/Elizabeth, you know, battle realm (ph) wasn`t really much lot of a spat even.
ROBINSON: And I guess the one thing that might have come out of this debate is, you know, I know the greatest hope of Tom Perez, the head of the Democratic Party is that, at the convention, at the balloon drop, whoever gets the nomination, you can get like all 25 of them who started the race out there joining hands in support of the eventual nominee.
And when you listen to this debate among people who really seem to basically like each other, you thought, well, maybe that would actually happen. You got no better idea of who that nominee is going to be from this debate.
WILLIAMS: Excellent point. You should have a column.
ROBINSON: Yes. I think I just wrote one.
WILLIAMS: I think I saw you writing a column when you came to sit out here.
Hey, Chris Matthews, tell me the WiFi service didn`t give out across Des Moines tonight. Tell me you were contemporaneously aware of this breaking story. Anytime you`re voraciously consuming news on your phone during a live debate in a party involved in impeachment, that news not mentioned from either side in that debate might be a problem, correct?
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST, "HARDBALL": Are you talking about the new evidence that the President cabal with regard to Rudy Giuliani going around the United States government so that he could get dirt on Biden?
WILLIAMS: Well, if you want to put it that way, yes, I`m talking about that story.
MATTHEWS: Well, that story and of course we have more information now about what the Russians are up to in terms of Ukraine going after Burisma, so all this stuff is quaking at the same time.
And I don`t know how it worked its way into this debate very well, but I`ll tell you I thought -- I saw there was a very interesting political sort of epiphany there about Elizabeth Warren. Now, the people around her, at least four sources close to her -- we don`t know if she had anything to do with it. But when they raised the issue of gender, the gender card if you will, this last several and Bernie had to respond to it and denied and it, and then she, Senator Warren of course said she did in fact hear him say a woman couldn`t win. I think it helped very much her campaign.
I think bringing this out into the open, the issue whether a woman can be elected president is going to help her campaign. And whether she started it or not, she definitely brilliantly exploited it tonight. And then Bernie clenched. I thought it was very interesting. He did not want to fight it anymore, but she won. This is going to help.
And you`re going to see in the next couple of days that she`s going to perk up in her chances. She was three or four points behind Bernie. I think this is going to help her catch up a bit. So I think it is an interesting thing. I was talking about this with Jonathan Allen down here. He was working on a blog on this, one of our colleagues. And it`s a question of hanging a lantern on your prom (ph), the old Bobby Kennedy argument.
If you got a little weak, this little issue, bring it out in public, let people hear about it and you`re going to gain from it. It`s just a brilliant move. It`s like a question and making it into a positive. And I think she did on the gender issue tonight.
I think they`re going to be very careful, but I thought it helped that she come out and said that we`ve never lost an election, me or Klobuchar. I thought that was a powerful statement tonight. Then Bernie got hung up on the fact well, 30 years ago I beat a Republican. She said, I said in 30 years. And he got a little bit off on that, a little wrong footed.
So I think there`s a plus for Warren tonight, Senator Warren on the issue of gender, a win for her tonight.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Chris.
Alicia Menendez, your thoughts on any of what we`ve witnessed over the course of the past three hours.
ALICIA MENENDEZ, MSNBC HOST: Claire and I just exchanged a look because I think we`re having the same thought which is that it`s really complicated for women candidates, one, when they`re forced into the role of punditry and when they`re forced to talk about sexism in the context of their electability. I don`t know that it is a total winner for Elizabeth Warren. I think it`s why you saw her threading the needle. I think she wins much more points when she talks about universal child care. That, I think, is an issue that women are very much paying attention to and want to talk about. But I think it puts her in a tricky spot.
MCCASKILL: I agree. I think the assumption is that women hearing this, hearing her make that argument as forcefully as she did -- and it was a great way to make the argument -- does that make women want to vote for her? I think you`re right. I think the points that were scored tonight by Amy and Elizabeth had to do with child care and taking care of your parents, long-term care. That is a huge issue for women across this country.
Women are trying to figure out how to take care of their parents. And not just women, men too. But inevitably a lot of times it falls to the woman in the family to find the care, figure out how you`re going to pay for it. So I think those two issues probably did more to bring women to their cause than perhaps pointing out.
And, you know, listen, I think Elizabeth Warren is great, but she`s from Massachusetts. It`s a pretty blue place. You know, winning elections as a Democratic nominee in Massachusetts is frankly a little different than winning some of the elections that some of the other people on that race had run for.
ROBINSON: Did you think she was speaking specifically to women with that point about the 10 elections that the men lost, or was she speaking to men? I thought she was speaking to men in the sort of, you know, we keep score kind of --
MCCASKILL: Does that convince men to vote for women? That women are winning more elections? I don`t know.
MENENDEZ: I think she was trying to communicate with all of the voters who now have had to put on the hat of pundit as well because they are all asking themselves this question --
MCCASKILL: Who can win?
MENENDEZ: -- of who can win.
WILLIAMS: David Plouffe, am I wrong to indicate that a story alleging surveillance of a U.S. Foreign Service officer by U.S. agents and citizens attached to the President`s personal lawyer might have found its way into tonight`s debate?
DAVID PLOUFFE, FMR. OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I wouldn`t have had it on if I was prepping a candidate because they`re focused on Iowa, and pretty much everybody who`s going to caucus in Iowa thinks Donald Trump should have been impeached, is glad the House of Representatives did it. This adds to the sense that (INAUDIBLE) he`s going to be acquitted. They are spending every day talking to the people that are going to decide this election.
And so I think that`s why they didn`t bring this up. And I think at the end of the day at the debate tonight, I was surprised a little bit that it wasn`t more forceful because it was the last debate before the caucuses. I think the candidates are probably more afraid of turning people off than they are gaining support because it`s so fluid. Sixty percent of the people in Iowa have not decided who to vote for or open to change. So this is a jumble at the end here.
And I think what`s going to be much more important is how these candidates close in the last week than their closing statements tonight. And I do think the senators are going to be Washington where impeachment, I think, will affect this potentially is we have three people who are not going to be in union halls and cafes in Iowa. They`re going to be in Washington.
And Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden in particular are going to be seeing thousands if not tens of thousands of people. You`re doing seven, eight events a day. So they will find ways to appear on this program and others to reach in Iowa, but that is a disservice.
So, I think that`s why it didn`t -- they`re spending every day with their finger on the pulse of what Iowa caucus attenders care about. And I think they care deeply about impeachment but I think for a lot of voters it`s baked into the cake already.
WILLIAMS: Lawrence O`Donnell, I hate when he`s reasonable.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Let`s just take him back to where you brought him. Let`s go backstage, you are the presidential campaign professional of this group. You`re there an hour before this debate. That`s when this news reaches everyone there.
You`re a staff member. You pick up all of this information. But you have a prepped candidate who`s been prepped on everything except this new information. You have a choice. You`re going to approach your candidate and flood that candidate with some very hot new information, or you`re going to let your candidate go on and do what your candidate planned to do.
Is what you`re saying is that`s the pressure of this decision? Do you try to force something new into this debate that no one planned for?
PLOUFFE: Right. So I think there`s the game plan they went in with, and they all had their strategy about how much to talk about impeachment or not and what to say about it. You`d want to brief the candidate. We have late breaking news, so they`re not caught unaware. But they all go in with a strategy, and what`s pretty clear is they`re all trying to be our nominee. And what happens in 20 days in Iowa will be crucially important, and they decided to not put impeachment front and forward.
So they`re the experts right in terms of what the caucus attenders, particularly those that are undecided are thinking. So do you want to brief them? But, yes, I mean, Senator McCaskill has actually debated and won a bunch of debates.
We forget these are human exercises.
PLOUFFE: So this is really hard. It`s hard enough to prepare under the ideal circumstances. But I think what`s clear is they just didn`t think there was much profit in leaning into impeachment very hard.
O`DONNELL: But it does seem like a possible Biden moment missed. If there was one candidate up there who might want to show, I`m going to protect U.S. ambassadors. I`ve been there. I have this experience. Because this is a story about possibly the life of an American ambassador being threatened by associates of the President of the United States, and one of those associates, Rudy Giuliani, in this news story that`s developed in the hour before the debate has put in writing to the President of Ukraine, I`m doing this with the President`s full knowledge and approval.
WILLIAMS: And let`s be clear --
O`DONNELL: And for one candidate to be able to stand up and say, I`m going to -- you know, that could never happen obviously, but we obviously have to protect the lives of ambassadors. It could have been a big moment.
WILLIAMS: I didn`t mean to interrupt, let`s be clear and not assign blame. This was also a production of two news organizations that supplied three moderators that made a conscious choice not to raise the topic during the course of this live broadcast.
O`DONNELL: Well, I, for one, don`t blame the moderators on that because it`s almost of questionable fairness whether you bring up something that`s just happened in the last 60 minutes or less. It was there for a candidate to grab. If a candidate was adequately briefed, if the candidate could manage it with everything else that candidate had to handle, it was there, and no one grabbed it.
WILLIAMS: But to Claire`s point, you`re not running for dog catcher or park superintendent. You`re running for president. You should know how to pivot and react to breaking news.
MCCASKILL: If you would have moderated that debate, would you have asked the question?
WILLIAMS: I would have insisted on it, but that`s me, and that doesn`t judge anybody else and what they did or did not do tonight.
MCCASKILL: No, I understand that, but I think it would be -- because this is what presidents do. They have to react on the dime. They have to, like, synthesize information quickly. To me it would have been, I think, a moment.
O`DONNELL: But, Brian, to be fair, your question would have included all the relevant information --
MCCASKILL: That`s true. Right.
O`DONNELL: In case they actually haven`t heard.
WILLIAMS: Yes. I would have figured out a way to sinapize it just tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
WILLIAMS: Chris Matthews, we`re preparing for the first of our candidates.
Steve Kornacki, do what you do better than anyone in this room. Zoom out. Give us the big picture tonight.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATL. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We are. You`re talking about it here. We are in the home stretch. Inside of three weeks until the Iowa caucuses. Let`s talk about what is at stake because there`s the possibility that this democratic race could be in for a big shake-up based on those results.
Let me tell you where things stand first of all. We have two polls out just in the last couple days from Iowa. And look at this, this one, "The Des Moines Register" poll here, four candidates within five points of the lead here, within five points of each other from Sanders at 20 to Biden at 15. Very fluid there.
The second poll out of Iowa, a somewhat similar result although in this one, the Manmouth poll, Biden actually edging into a six-point advantage and then other three bunched back there. But again, that speaks to the possibility here. We`ve seen this in Iowa races in the past, that there is late movement toward one candidate, toward two candidates, away from another. There is late movement that gives this race definition.
When I say this Democratic race could be in for a reshuffling and a reordering based on the Iowa results, this is what I mean. Any one of these four candidates could win Iowa.
Then what happens eight days later? We go to New Hampshire. Look at the situation in New Hampshire right now. It is just as fluid. Four candidates, the same four, within five points of each other. It raises the possibility. We have seen this before, of a candidate winning Iowa, perhaps a candidate winning Iowa by a better margin than expected going in, getting a ton of momentum, media coverage, everything that comes with that, rolling it into New Hampshire eight days later and suddenly being 2-0.
And candidates who can pull that off in the past -- there`s a question here of whether that will be the case again this year. But candidate who`s have managed to pull that feat off in the past, win Iowa and win New Hampshire so far in contested races, undefeated in going on and winning the Democratic nomination.
WILLIAMS: This is why we don`t allow Steve Kornacki to leave the building this time of year. Steve Kornacki, don`t leave this studio, please.
Chris Matthews with Tom Steyer tonight in Des Moines.
MATTHEWS: Brian, thank you. Tom, let`s talk about what you were listening to and nobody else in the world was listening to. As the debate ended, we noticed that you were like leaning into the conversation between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. What were those two chatting about?
TOM STEYER, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I don`t know what they were saying. All I was trying to say was to both Senator Warren and Senator Sanders was, it`s great to see you. Thank you for participating in this. And whatever they were going on between each other, I was trying to get out of the way as fast as possible.
MATTHEWS: OK. That makes sense.
Let`s talk about something, you`ve been identified with now for a couple of years, impeachment. And it just keeps growing like fingernails, you know, on a cadaver. It just keeps growing. We`re getting new information tonight about -- they`re going after -- the Russians are going after Burisma. They`re still trying to knock off what was the summer`s front-runner, Joe Biden.
He may not be. He may still be the front-runner in some of these areas, certainly nationwide. They`re still playing the Trump campaign.
STEYER: Look, what we`ve seen from the first day of the Trump administration is corruption. You know, they`re going -- this impeachment process is focusing just on this Ukraine situation.
STEYER: But I started the need to impeach movement, and 8.5 million Americans signed on because this President was corrupt on day one. He started obstructing justice almost from his first day in office.
STEYER: And Ukraine is just an example of what we`ve seen. Every rock you turn over with Mr. Trump, there`s going to be a slug underneath. There`s something wrong.
MATTHEWS: Speaking of slugs, what do you make of the latest evidence that Rudy Giuliani was put on a mission by this President to work around the U.S. government to get Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, to do his bidding and dig up the dirt? More information on that in these new documents, these new e-mails.
STEYER: Chris, everything that we`re going to learn about this President and the people who are taking his direct orders is that they don`t obey the law. They put themselves above the American people. They don`t care one bit about their oath to the constitution.
Look, the reason that I`ve been fighting on this, the reason that the American people have dragged Washington to see this is we`re a country of laws. We`re supposed to stand up internally and around the world for freedom, justice, equality. That`s America. If we give up on that, we give up on the idea of America.
MATTHEWS: How will you feel the day the President stands before the U.S. Congress, maybe as soon as the State of the Union, February 4th, and says, I`ve been acquitted?
STEYER: This is what I`ll think --
MATTHEWS: Will you continue to fight for impeachment in some other --
STEYER: No. No, what I`ll be doing, I`m running for president, Chris.
STEYER: He is going to -- If he isn`t thrown out of office, he will be -- he will lose his re-election because he`s incompetent. He, not only has been breaking the law from day one, he is the most incompetent president I can imagine. Watch his behavior. He`s terrible for the American people. We can do so much better in every dimension.
MATTHEWS: How can you account in history for the fact that you were the John Brown of this thing, that you started this thing two years, three years ago? What did you see in Trump that was so corrupt that it requires your entire purpose to get rid of this guy?
STEYER: Everybody knew he was corrupt. The difference was this, Chris. You know this. My dad was a naval officer in World War II, and he became the assistant to the chief prosecutor of the Nazi war criminal criminals at the Nuremberg Trials. And he told us if you see something evil at the heart of America, you fight it early. You don`t let it establish itself and spread.
And that`s why 8.5 million Americans called their Congress people, e-mailed their Congress people and said, let`s step up for what`s right here in America. That`s what we`re about as a people.
MATTHEWS: Brian, Tom Steyer a man very much on the stage tonight. Many people think he was equal to all the others even though he made it at the last minute. Brian?
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Not even the wealthiest billionaire in the race for the Democratic Party. Who would have thought it? Gentlemen, thank you both very much.
Anyone considering turning in for the night, we`ve given you -- so far we`re a half hour into this, John Brown, slug, and cadaver references. You got to stay with us at this point. Robert Costa is. He remains standing by for us in Washington.
Robert, I have a dual question for you. Number one, how does this work? Let`s take tonight`s mountain of new evidence being released by the House Democrats? I described it as a wheelbarrow. How and when does that get wheeled over to the Senate side in the hands of the House managers to be announced tomorrow morning and introduced into that trial?
Second question, what`s the real chance an impeachment trial is going to have to go into recess so that we may move to the House chamber and welcome the President of the United States down the center aisle to deliver the state of the union?
ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: To your second question, it`s very likely based on my reporting tonight that this Senate trial could extend into February, into the State of the Union Address right after the Iowa caucuses. What you`re looking at now in terms of the evidence coming into the House`s hands and to the hands of every American who is reading tonight about Lev Parnas is you have a lot of pressure on these managers who will be appointed tomorrow morning to make the case.
And here`s my new reporting tonight from Capitol Hill. Senate Republicans such as Senator Ted Cruz are putting new pressure on McConnell, the Majority Leader, to not call witnesses or if he`s going to call witnesses like John Bolton, the former National Security Adviser, he must then, in exchange, also demand that Hunter Biden or even Joe Biden testify on Capitol Hill, a position that of course enrages and irritates Democrats. They do not want to come up to any witness agreement on those grounds.
So if you`re now a manager and you have this new information, when you make the case before any kind of witnesses comes forward, because they may not come forward if there`s no agreement, you now have to make a compelling case on the Senate floor that may include new information that you can reference.
WILLIAMS: That is why we always invite Robert Costa to be a part of our coverage. Bob, thank you very much.
Our first break has arrived. As you can tell, no shortage of things to discuss when we come right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes. How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could become president of the United States?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Good question posed by the Independent Senator from Vermont. We are back with our live coverage. We are waiting for the next candidate to get wired up and get ready to talk to Chris Matthews.
In the last few minutes, we have noticed a moment that was hidden from us because our coverage had started of the post-debate human interaction or, in this case, lack of it between two of the U.S. senators who`ve spent days in the news. Claire McCaskill having served with both. Let`s play the moment onstage where we kind of expected to see a handshake on the left- hand side there between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie, who was stowing his papers, stowing his papers, and not going to happen. What do you think just went on there, Senator?
CLAIRE MCCASKILL, POLITICAL ANALYST, MSNBC: Well, I`m Just guessing that Elizabeth is upset that Bernie Sanders is not owning -- I don`t think Bernie ever said, I don`t want a woman to be elected president or I don`t believe that women shouldn`t be president. I think they were probably talking Turkey about electability, and he was making the case that he was electable, and she was making the case that she was electable. And in the context of that conversation, I believe her that he probably made some reference to the difficulty which, by the way, exhibit a, we`ve never elected a woman president, that women have had difficulty in this country achieving the highest office. But I think she`s probably irritated.
And here`s the thing. I mean, is -- and David can speak to this. Iowa is to American politics mano a mano. It is not TV ads. It is a huge army of volunteers.
If you go to Iowa and campaign for a presidential candidate, which I have a number of times, you are given a clipboard and you are out knocking on doors. And I don`t care who you are. You are knocking on doors. You are making phone calls.
So the vast majority of communication that will go on in Iowa for the last three weeks will be through people who are taking clues from their candidates. And the clues tonight is that Bernie and Elizabeth are unhappy with each other, and I think that will spill out. The question is will it work to either Pete or Biden`s advantage? I don`t know.
WILLIAMS: We have all met Iowans and New Hampshirites who have met all the candidates they want to meet in that year`s race and will do the same thing in four years.
DAVID PLOUFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. So I think the other reason, you know, we`re 20 days away from dreams being dashed. This is getting super intense.
PLOUFFE: Well, that`s the truth, right?
WILLIAMS: Kill that joy.
MCCASKILL: And the work that`s gone in.
PLOUFFE: But I will say this as someone who would like to see Donald Trump defeated. I want this race to get tougher.
WILLIAMS: How so?
PLOUFFE: Because this race has been gentle. And whoever comes out the other side is running against Donald Trump, OK, who is one of the toughest political pugilists we`ve ever seen, OK? And so I have no problem -- it would be nice if they could shake hands. I understand why Senator Warren was upset, but like I want to see them being tested and pushed and how they deal under pressure.
So for Democrats who are concerned about this, I think we`ll unite. We always have. The Obama/Clinton race in `08 was much nastier than this and we benefited from that. So I`m not worried about that but I think that, you know, this is going to get more intense every day and particularly for those senators back in Washington. They`re going to be really unhappy about being stuck in the capital. They`re exercising (ph) their constitutional duty, when Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden are talking to thousands of Iowans who are deciding.
MCCASKILL: And McConnell is saying they`re even going to work on Saturdays.
PLOUFFE: Right. So --
MCCASKILL: McConnell may give those three candidates a grand total of three or four days after this weekend back in Iowa, and that is really a disadvantage in terms of the landscape in caucus state.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, that`s going to make a difference. I would really agree with what you said, David, about how nice the campaign has been. It really has. And even given -- so we saw the body language between Warren and Sanders at the end. But during the debate when it came up, I mean she gave him a pass really. I mean she said, look, I`m not here to, you know, to argue with Bernie. I`m here to talk about -- you know, and then she went on. So it`s -- you know, maybe it won`t get nastier, I don`t know.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST, "THE LAST WORD": I do think if the senators are in effect trapped in the impeachment trial, the scoring for the Iowa caucus will change. This will be -- there will be a huge asterisk on it, and it will say these three, they couldn`t be there. It will be not quite as strong as it was in 1992 when the Iowa Senator, Tom Harkin was running and no one went out there.
People didn`t even campaign out there. They just said forget it, and Iowa was ignored because of that imbalance. We may have to strongly devalue the result if senators are kept out of campaigning.
WILLIAMS: You`re talking McGwire and Sosa for baseball fans who may be (INAUDIBLE). Jason John -- sorry, I know. I watched that season, I was into. Jason Johnson, as the nation so often does, the nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Just what are we watching transpire here?
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR, MSNBC: Well, first I have to say we`re watching this fight that everybody wants to happen that`s not going to happen, right? Bernie Sanders, as grumpy as he may seem to be, and Elizabeth Warren as excited as she may seem to be, they`re not going to have the knock-down, drag-out fight that I think a lot of people want to see. And I think people actually should see because these people are serious about winning, they should want to be really competitive.
Here`s the only thing that really struck me about the entire exchange. Someone`s lying. Someone is lying, and that is the point that I think is sort of being missed here. Elizabeth Warren remembers this man saying to her less than two years ago, I woman can`t win. Bernie Sanders basically called her a liar. I think that`s the most relevant issue here, not when are we getting to the technicalities of electability or anything like that.
And so, they`re not going to have the fight that people want to see and both of them are going to probably be trapped in Washington, D.C. This debate really broke down to whether or not anybody could really sort of gain ground on Joe Biden, if anyone could make the last remaining people who don`t know how they`re going to caucus change their mind. I don`t think the needle changed very much. I don`t think Joe Biden did anything fantastic. He spoke reasonably well about foreign policy. Elizabeth Warren explained herself as usual. Bernie Sanders is Bernie Sanders.
I think Mayor Pete got the one sort of softball question about why he has difficulty with black voters. I thought his answer was terrible, basically saying the people of -- the black people south then like me. It`s sort of like me saying I`m the favorite Jason of my parents. I mean, so what. Of course, I am. They only have one, right?
But it doesn`t necessarily mean that you`re going to do a good job as a nominee. So I don`t think the needle changed very much and those two candidates to the degree that Bernie and Elizabeth Warren think that they have a slice of progressive policy people that they can fight over, I don`t think they`re giving people the fight that they need to really distinguish themselves.
WILLIAMS: And Jason, I`m duty bound to add, by the way, this was the evening during this debate when we learned that the head of a landscaping company from Connecticut was apparently texting about the body movements of our U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
JOHNSON: Yes. Yes, yes. And that`s the thing. We don`t really recognize how dangerous this situation in Ukraine is. And, again, I think a lot of people missed their opportunity to talk about it. It`s not just Yovanovitch. And this goes back to what we saw in the impeachment hearings. It`s not just Yovanovitch was being observed but remember she got word from our own intelligence agencies, you need to break camp. You need to leave Ukraine now. You could be in danger.
The idea that somebody who is serving on behalf of the American people to represent us abroad had to flee their government assignment because they may have been pursued and under danger from the actual President of the United States is something that everybody should have been speaking about. But instead of focusing on that particular issue, we had a rehash of the policy differences that everybody who is concerned about could check out on their websites. And that`s what I think is somewhat disappointing.
And I`ll also say this, Brian, because I`ve seen this happened in Detroit, this happened in Ohio. I am so tired of watching these debates that are in these critical states where the candidates seldom focus on the issues in those states. Outside of Texas where Beto really talked about gun violence and issues like that, no one really talked about unique issues to Detroit during that debate. No one really talked about unique issues to Iowan when they`re in Iowa. If you`re 20 days away, I would expect people to be talking about street signs and broken lights in Des Moines rather than talking about these general issues because your focus should be on the men and women who are in that room now who are going to be caucusing for you in 20 days.
WILLIAMS: The favorite Jason of mine and his own parents. Jason Johnson, don`t go anywhere. We`re going to take a break in our coverage.
When we come back, Chris Matthews continues his live interviews with tonight`s candidates in Des Moines, Iowa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Is it possible that black voters have gotten to know you and have simply decided to choose another candidate?
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The black voters who know me best are supporting me. The biggest mistake we could make is to take black votes for granted, and I never will. The reason I have the support I do is not because any voter thinks that I`m perfect. It`s because of the work that we have done facing some of the toughest issues that communities can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That was Pete Buttigieg, and let`s go to Steve Kornacki. Steve, that`s exactly the point my favorite Jason, Jason Johnson, was making before the break. You have numbers that can help us get at this topic.
STEVE KORNACKI, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Yes. Pete Buttigieg and the black vote. I was talking a few minutes ago about the potential for Iowa, for New Hampshire, for somebody to sort of change the race by winning there. Certainly that`s what Buttigieg hopes.
But let`s say he wins Iowa. Let`s say he wins New Hampshire. What happens when the race goes down to South Carolina, the state with a large black population, the earliest state with a large black population, to go more than 60 percent of the Democratic electorate there will be black.
This is the most recent polling out of South Carolina. We see Buttigieg in contention in Iowa and New Hampshire. He`s at 4 percent in South Carolina. He`s losing to Biden 9-1, and this gets to that challenge Buttigieg has faced the entire campaign. And so far there is zero evidence that he has been able to address this.
Take a look here, a recent poll. This is a national poll of black Democratic voters, came out just a couple days ago. Biden nearly 50 percent of the black vote. Sanders the only other candidate in double digits at 20 percent. Then Warren, Bloomberg, Booker, Yang. Booker now out of the race. Buttigieg at 2 percent nationally with African-American voters.
Again, this has been an issue his campaign has been aware of for six months. He continues to be far behind in South Carolina. Continues to be nearly at zero nationally.
And then there`s this, same poll. Black voters, favorable or unfavorable view of the candidates, and I think this is noteworthy as well. Look, among Buttigieg, only about half have an opinion of him, only about half of black voters have an opinion But his negative score is 17. Among the half that have an opinion.
Now take a look at Biden. Take a look at Sanders. Much more universally known among black voters. Their negatives are lower. Far more black voters know who Biden and Sanders are than know who Buttigieg is. But Buttigieg`s negative score is higher than theirs.
WILLIAMS: Wow. All right. Steve Kornacki, thanks.
Jason Johnson who`s still with us. You and I had this conversation 24 hours ago exactly. The question as to how it is this Democratic Party in what`s now 2020 ended up with an all-white, six-way stage tonight with not even their leading billionaire on the stage. The backup billionaire made the card tonight.
JOHNSON: You know, look, I wouldn`t mind being a backup billionaire.
WILLIAMS: Yes, I mean --
JOHNSON: I`ll be a surrogate billionaire. You know, it is a problem for the Democratic Party, but I also -- I want to add something to what Steve just mentioned. Look, we can`t just focus on black voters who are in South Carolina. About 13 percent of the caucus population in the Nevada caucuses is African-American as well.
So we have to recognize that you have not just one but two states coming up where having the ability to speak to Latino voters, to Asian-American voters, which is the fastest growing population in this country, and African-American voters is key. And none of these candidates onstage, only Joe Biden, and he was very successful, only Joe Biden can get up there and say, look, black voters know me, they have seen my policies and they continue to support me. Bernie Sanders can`t make that argument. Mayor Pete can`t make that argument. Elizabeth Warren can`t make that argument.
And I say this because Bernie Sanders is fond and his supporters are fond of mentioning, well Bernie does well with young black voters. Yes, 18 to 35-year old African-Americans support Bernie by about 8 percent more than they support Joe Biden. In every other category from 35-year-olds up to 70- year-olds, Joe Biden is lapping the field with everybody.
WILLIAMS: Jason Johnson, it is always a pleasure. Congratulate your parents for their taste. Thank you very much for being with us tonight.
Amy Klobuchar is with Chris Matthews in Des Moines. Chris?
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Brian. Senator, you know, I`ve been following Democratic politics for an awful long time, and I think you may be the first Democrat I`ve ever heard go up on a stage and argue the case for fiscal responsibility. You talked about deficits, the national debt and we`ve got to be reasonable and try to bring those numbers down. Where is the votes in that, in the Democratic caucuses?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I`m someone that tells the truth. And one of the problems with my friends` proposals, Senator Warren and Senator Sanders, is that they really are not going to be able to pay for it.
KLOBUCHAR: And I think we`ve got to make that case. In addition to that, you`ve had a President that has run up the debt after Bill Clinton brought it down, after -- or at least brought the deficit down, and Barack Obama, despite inheriting a recession, saw it go down during his time -- the deficit. But what does this President do? He just makes things worse.
So I think in a general election, it`s going to be the case. A difference between a plan and a pipe dream is with a plan, you can show how you`re going to pay for it and you can actually get it done. And that was the other point I was making today is that I don`t think -- I know they don`t have the votes even among Democrats in the Senate. So I really wanted to move on and have a discussion about things like long-term care and addiction and mental health and what we should do about pharmaceuticals, and we did have that discussion.
MATTHEWS: Can you get voters in a caucus in February to think about the sort of long-term fiscal consequences because two of your opponents, Senator Sanders and Senator Warren, have offered up a plethora of benefits, of college, prescription drugs, general health care, so many things paid for, child care, all paid for, out of, in the case of Warren, these very rich people. They`re all going to pay -- the rich are going to pay for everything. Do you think the voters by that?
KLOBUCHAR: I think the richer should pay more.
MATTHEWS: But do you think they`re going to pay for all these programs?
KLOBUCHAR: I think some have pay-fors, especially the one when it comes to health care, where she thinks where she`s going to get -- and I`ve always believed in quality indexes. I put that in the Affordable Care Act --
KLOBUCHAR: -- and making it easier to have people get better health care for less money. But the way she has done this for delivery system reform, it is so much money it would cut right into our rural hospitals. I wasn`t able to make that case today with all the people on the stage, but there`s some serious problems with how she`s paying for things and the repercussions that it will have.
My plans are much more straightforward, pay-fors that I think we can get done, repealing parts of that Republican tax bill where they brought the corp. rate down to 21 percent. Doing something about the hedge fund loophole. No one likes that. You name it. Taking the capital gains rate, we`ve been talking about this for a long time, bringing it closer to the personal rate.
MATTHEWS: I`m trying to put two ideas together in these debates. One is this question raised by some people around Elizabeth Warren. We don`t know who they are. Four sources said that Bernie said that a woman can`t win. And I also put into my head the idea I have never heard anybody say that we`re going to have a Democratic ticket this year of two men.
MATTHEWS: There`s an assumption that there needs to be gender recognition. There has some -- you know what I`m talking about? And these are two different ideas that haven`t really coalesced.
KLOBUCHAR: Exactly. And I was not in that room with those two. But I`ve been the one making the case on the debate stage since the beginning that a woman can win. Nancy Pelosi basically beats Donald Trump every single day, and there`s no reason to think a woman can`t win.
MATTHEWS: Can you imagine -- my other point. Do you think it`s possible the Democrats would run an all-male ticket?
MATTHEWS: See, that`s my question to you. So you`re answering it wonderfully put, no.
KLOBUCHAR: I just don`t think so. I think that the women of this country would say, that`s it. We know Hillary Clinton got more votes than Donald Trump. We know that there have been women winning in tough districts all over the country. And the case I wasn`t able to make on the debate stage as much as I would have liked is that I`m the one that has the receipts. I`m the one that has won in those red districts where Donald Trump won.
There are 31 counties in this state where we`re standing right now that Barack Obama won that then went to Donald Trump. I can win those counties.
MATTHEWS: And your state was very much on the edge. He won your state, Minnesota, by about a point and a half.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes. And then I came roaring back, and all the latest polls show, at least in the state where they know me best, I win and beat him by 17 points with men, with women.
MATTHEWS: You`re undefeated.
MATTHEWS: You`re like LSU.
KLOBUCHAR: But the point is that it is -- yes, we want a woman. It would be great to have a woman president, but that`s not why I`m asking people to vote for me. I`m asking people to vote for me because, one, I can win and, two, I can actually get things done. I passed over 100 bills and you can see all the information at amyklobuchar.com and join our effort.
MATTHEWS: And I`ve seen you with crowds and you`re great.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you --
MATTHEWS: Especially 200 people. I love it.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Senator.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you for coming on. Back to you, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Chris Matthews and the Democrat from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, the only one of the candidates onstage tonight who represents a state with its own iron range. Great thing about the state of Minnesota in addition to all their lakes.
We are rapidly approaching the start of a new hour of our coverage.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END