LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS", starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, Donald Trump quite literally goes to town to upstage the Democrats and continues his streak of retribution against those who supported his impeachment.
Plus, Lindsey Graham says Rudy is funneling Ukrainian political dirt on Biden back home to the Justice Department while it may be in keeping with Rudy`s role as an unappointed civilian crime fighter, what`s the attorney general going to do about that?
Meanwhile, we`re just an hour away from knowing the first actual votes in the first in the nation primary, which could decide a number of political fortunes.
And is it possible someone not in New Hampshire is the big mover in this race as of now?
All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way to start a new week this Monday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 1,117 this was of the Trump administration, which leaves 267 days to go until our 2020 presidential election. And as we come on the air here on the east coast tonight, we are now one hour away from the first actual results from New Hampshire as they cast the first votes just after midnight.
Bernie Sanders of adjacent Vermont has been leading in most recent polls in New Hampshire. But after an apparently good showing in Iowa, Mayor Pete has been climbing. A new national poll from Quinnipiac out today gives Bernie the lead with 25% followed by Biden at 17%. Mike Bloomberg has jumped to 15%. More on that in just a bit. Elizabeth Warren, 14%. And you see the rest.
New Hampshire`s Secretary of State Bill Gardner is projecting tomorrow`s turnout will be the highest ever for a primary involving an incumbent in office. Quote, Gardner predicted roughly 292,000 ballots will be cast in the Democratic primary and 128,000 in the GOP race. In hopes of stealing some of the Democrats` thunder and free media time tonight, the President held a rally right there in Manchester, New Hampshire, where it turns out he had a whole lot to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: On Tuesday I delivered my address on the state of the union, and I had somebody behind me who was mumbling terribly, mumbling, mumbling.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): Lock her up, lock her up, lock her up.
TRUMP: It`s true. And in the Senate, other than Romney, we had --
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): Boo.
TRUMP: Remember President Obama, you can keep your plan, you can keep 28 times. You can keep your doctor. That didn`t turn out very good. We should impeach him for that. We should impeach President Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: As the President was trying to counter program, the White House released his new budget proposal. It`s a $4.8 trillion blueprint that would boost defense spending while cutting programs like the EPA, food stamps, Medicaid. Any federal budget, of course, must be approved by Congress, and some lawmakers have already labeled it DOA.
There are also several updates tonight related to the old original Robert Mueller/Russia investigation. Prosecutors are asking for a prison sentence of seven to nine years for roger Stone, Trump`s friend of over 40 years, following his conviction on witness tampering and obstruction charges. And a judge has indefinitely postponed former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn`s sentencing on a charge of lying to the FBI.
You may know Flynn pleaded guilty to the charge. That was over two years ago now. Now he`s trying to withdraw his guilty plea. We`re also learning more about Rudy`s efforts to dig up dirt on all things Biden-related in Ukraine. Over the weekend, Giuliani claimed he had a smoking gun on hunter Biden. Senator Lindsey Graham quickly followed that up on Sunday morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: So Rudy Giuliani last night said he`s got the goods on hunter Biden. I called the attorney general this morning and Richard Burr, the chairman of the Intel Committee, and they told me take very cautiously anything coming out of the Ukraine against anybody.
That if Rudy Giuliani has any information coming out of the Ukraine, he needs to turn it over to the Department of Justice because it could be Russian propaganda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Luckily for Rudy, earlier today the attorney general said the Justice Department had set up what he called an intake process to evaluate any information Rudy might provide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We can`t take anything we receive from the Ukraine at face value, and for that reason we had established an intake process in the field so that any information coming in about Ukraine could be carefully scrutinized by the department and its intelligence community partners so that we could assess its provenance and its credibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Remember what this also does is lightly back up the Russian talking point that Ukraine was meddling in our election. Democrats are demanding to know more on all of this. Jerry Nadler, chairman of House Judiciary, sent a letter to Barr today that reads in part, quote, given your creation of a new intake process for Mr. Giuliani, it`s all the more important that you provide a complete explanation for your decision to sidestep standard department practice.
Meanwhile, following the president`s acquittal in the Senate, the vote of not guilty, he is stepping up attacks on the senators who voted guilty. Here`s what he had to say to the governor of Utah about Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney during a White House event this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Gary? How`s Mitt Romney?
GOV. GARY HERBERT, (R) UTAH: I haven`t talked with him.
TRUMP: You keep him. We don`t want him. Go ahead.
HERBERT: States are used to --
TRUMP: Doing a great job in Utah by the way. Go ahead, Gary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Trump is also attacking Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia. Over the weekend, he wrote this. They are really mad at Senator Joe Manchin in West Virginia. He couldn`t understand the transcripts.
Today in an interview with our own Hallie Jackson, the senator, a former division one football scholarship athlete, fired back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: The munchkin, I`m taller than him, I think. I`m a little bit bigger than he is, not heavier. He`s much heavier than me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Here for our leadoff discussion on a Monday night as we start a new week, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House bureau chief for "The Washington Post," co-author along with his "Post" colleague Carol Leonnig of "The New York Times" best-selling book "a Very Stable Genius."
With us from New Hampshire, Andrea Mitchell, our NBC News senior Washington correspondent, of course the host of "Andrea Mitchell Reports" here on this very network. And Jonathan Swan, national political reporter for Axios.
Thank you, gang, for showing up. We`re awfully glad to have you. Phil Rucker, having written about this President, his traits and behavior, has anything from the retribution up to and including his wording tonight at that rally in Manchester, has anything been out of character? Has it surprised you?
PHILIP RUCKER, WH BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Brian, President Trump has been entirely in character and in keeping with the patterns of the first three years of this presidency. He`s acting emboldened. He`s acting unshackled, and he`s speaking his mind. The rally tonight was remarkable. He not only had that comment about Pelosi that inspired chants from the crowd of "lock her up," is the kind of thing we`re used to hearing about Hillary Clinton, but he revived one of his favorite campaign trail tricks from 2016. He read the song "The Snake," which is a story that a lot of Americans find racist and outright inappropriate to be read by the president of the United States.
But he did so in New Hampshire, emboldened, trying to reach activists in that state who have hard feelings about immigration. And it was one of his rallies where he just let loose and let it rip. And if he had learned a lesson, as Senator Susan Collins suggested he might have from the impeachment vote, that has not been evident these last few days as he`s been firing off at his avowed enemies, perceived enemies, including Romney, including Manchin, but including so many others as well. And his staff are bracing for what may come next.
TRUMP: While "The Snake" takes us back to 2016. That old chestnut, we haven`t heard that one in quite a while. Andrea, there may very well be a dedicated trash can at DOJ for Nadler letters. It wouldn`t be right. It wouldn`t be proper, but it wouldn`t surprise anybody. Do you think there is an appetite to prolong this fight while most people who can fog up a mirror believe there is probably irregularity, if not straight-up illegality involved?
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: You know, it`s a real challenge, Brian, because I don`t think there`s an appetite to continue with this. Despite what apparently went on, despite the vindictiveness and all the rest. And now you`ve got Lindsey Graham weighing in and William Barr, a Justice Department that you cannot trust to be a Justice Department. And with this attorney general and the way he has pre-butted the Mueller report and shown every sign of being just an arm of the President`s political re-election campaign, it`s really hard to imagine that this thing will ever get looked into other than them looking into the allegations that are coming from Rudy Giuliani and obviously been influenced by Russian propaganda.
WILLIAMS: So, Jonathan Swan, are you going to tell me that we`re going to get into a pattern here with the Democrats off doing their Democrat thing, some of them eating their own young, others purity testing the field till perhaps, in the worst consequences, there`s no one left while the President does what he wishes, says what he wishes, especially when there`s a live rally audience there to hear it?
JONATHAN SWAN, REPORTER, AXIOS: I think you summarized the pattern pretty well there, Brian. One thing I`ll say on what we`re talking about with Rudy Giuliani, is this was always about politics. Of course it was always about politics when Joe Biden emerged as the likely Democratic front-runner, that`s when it really intensified. I think ironically, the reason I suspect this will actually taper off is because Joe Biden himself is falling in the polls, and I haven`t seen the president evince as much interest in recent days about investigating hunter Biden, which sort of reveals the provenance of all this from the get-go.
WILLIAMS: Jonathan, I heard you come out with a mathematical calculation earlier tonight about Mr. Bloomberg`s level of spending. Please share that dollar figure with our audience and just talk about the Bloomberg dynamic, the guy who`s not in New Hampshire getting so much of the talk and moving the numbers remotely.
SWAN: Well, I don`t want to do it (INAUDIBLE), because it might have changed by 50 million since the last time I checked, but it`s up in excess of 350 at the moment.
Look, I traveled with Mike Bloomberg last week. He`s building -- I mean, look, he`s building a shadow political party. He said this infrastructure is going to exist regardless of whether he gets the nomination. Count me skeptical if Bernie ends up winning. But the scale, it`s hard to actually fathom. It`s 2,000 staff. They`re likely to have more than 2,000 staff by the time the primaries are over. They`re going to have about 800 paid full- time and part-time staff in California alone.
You can`t walk -- when you`re with him, you can`t walk without tripping over a paid staff. I mean it is just staggering. And they`re, of course, blitzing every state. The way they see it is because he`s not competing in the first four states, he`s got this whole month to effectively carpet bomb the rest of the country with advertising and with paid staff. And we`re actually starting to see it pick up in the national polling.
WILLIAMS: And, Jonathan, I think you used a figure late 2019 spending rate, $38 a second?
SWAN: Something like that.
WILLIAMS: That it`s just the mathematics --
SWAN: It`s staggering. Yes.
WILLIAMS: The mathematics are unbelievable. Phil Rucker, let`s take a broad turn and talk about what consumed White House correspondents` lives this weekend and so much of the internet and cell phones. A still photo of the President of the United States which he chose to comment on and which put you guys in the strange position of calling the White House press office, asking for comment on the color and contrast of the president`s face.
RUCKER: Yes, Brian. I personally was not one of the reporters calling the White House press office about this, but I`m certainly familiar with this photo and this meme. It really took off on social media because of the orange coloring of the president`s face, and he of course claims that it`s Photoshopped, but it does seem to suggest that he has an affinity for a tan, which we`ve known for some time. It`s a bit of a mystery how that tan gets on his face, but it has been one of the mysteries, the enduring mysteries of the Trump era.
WILLIAMS: And Andrea Mitchell, we have to talk about what is for the center, many members of the center of the Democratic Party, a very tough plot line. Before we do --
WILLIAMS: -- I`m going to play this clip, which rocketed around the world at about the start of the Academy Awards from a Biden event in New Hampshire yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you explain the performance in Iowa and why should the voters believe that you can win the national election?
JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s a good question. Number one, I was a Democratic caucus. You ever been to a caucus? No, you haven`t. You`re a lying dog-faced pony soldier.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: OK, Andrea. For starters, if your household, like mine, did not grow up with lying dog-faced pony soldier as a common put-down, it turns out it was in a John Wayne movie in the early 1950s.
WILLIAMS: Turns out the VP uses this a lot as a kind of affectionate little rejoinder. There is, Andrea, a tough plot line revolving around the Biden campaign right now, at this moment, going into tomorrow night in New Hampshire.
MITCHELL: Indeed there is. Pretty much a free fall in at least a number of polls. And the Quinnipiac poll had Bernie Sanders in the national poll up on top for the first time. Also a precipitous drop in his African-American support, going from 49% to 27% in this new poll, in this national poll. And Mike Bloomberg`s ads having such an effect, he jumped up to 15% in this national poll with 22% of the black support. That was astounding.
And so a lot of the concern among Biden people and among those watching what`s going on here, first of all, Klobuchar did at least in some of the tracking polls get a bump up after a strong debate performance Friday night. And things were shifting pretty dramatically. Elizabeth Warren down in the polls. She from neighboring Massachusetts, of course. Bernie Sanders seems locked into first place, but Buttigieg doing well. Klobuchar peaking at least in one or two polls. And Biden really down.
And how he goes on, money has been a problem. The donors are concerned. Just tonight there was a pretty dramatic moment according to the pool report. I was not there. I was covering something else, but at the last Biden rally here in New Hampshire, a protester, a heckler kept closing in on Biden, harking back to one of the old accusations against him, and Dr. Jill Biden body-blocked him, the heckler, according to the pool report. And, you know, kept him away from Joe Biden until the staff could surround him.
And at that point, they then went to an off the record stop at Billy`s Sports Bar and Grill, and the reporters went up to Dr. Biden, Jill Biden, and said, how did you move so quickly to get in and protect your husband? And she, you know, drank some beer, and she said, I`m a Philly girl.
MITHCELL: So Dr. Jill Biden is on the mark. Joe Biden not so much in this campaign. And this has not been -- if you set your whole mark your electability and you lose Iowa and you could come in fourth or fifth in New Hampshire, what happens when you go on to Nevada? You`re seeing a result already with the African-American support that he was counting on as his firewall in South Carolina. And Mike Bloomberg eating into that.
WILLIAMS: First of all, it takes a Philly girl to know one, Andrea Mitchell. Secondly --
MITCHELL: You got that.
WILLIAMS: -- our thanks to Philip Rucker, to Andrea Mitchell, Philly girl and Jonathan Swan. Thank you, the three of you for starting off yet another week.
Coming up for us, an important question. Which Democrat is the choice of the Trump campaign to win New Hampshire? The Trump campaign. And later, we`ll go live to a small New Hampshire town closer to Montreal than it is New York. We will see in action why they take their first in the nation status so seriously as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this snowy Monday night in the reaches of New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We hear that there could be -- because you have crossovers in primaries, don`t you? So I hear a lot of Republicans tomorrow will vote for the weakest candidate possible of the Democrats. Does that make sense? You people wouldn`t do that.
My only problem is I`m trying to figure out who is their weakest candidate. I think they`re all weak.
But if you want to vote for a weak candidate tomorrow, go ahead. Pick one. Pick the weakest one you think. I don`t know who it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: In a story on the Trump campaign`s re-election strategy, "The New York Times" reports, quote, interviews with more than a dozen Republican strategists, lawmakers, and state chairs reveal a consensus that Senator Bernie Sanders would be the easiest Democrat for them to beat because they believe his avowed socialism would help them reclaim suburbanites and better frame the election as a choice.
The new national poll out from Quinnipiac shows Michael Bloomberg defeating Trump by nine points, 51%-42%. It`s the highest margin. Sanders defeats Trump by the second highest, 5-43 and so on.
Joining us tonight is our friend Jason Johnson, he`s a campaign veteran, he`s a politics editor at "The Root". He`s a professor at Morgan State University. He`s a lot of things but for the next five minutes, he`s going to take our questions.
Jason, do you have any reason to disagree with the setup? Who do you think the candidate is the Trump team would like to run against?
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: I think the Trump team is going to play whatever chaos game they can to try and stick their thumb on the scale of the Democratic campaign. Look, Brian, the poll you just presented presents the truth, right? Any of the top four or five Democratic candidates can probably beat Donald Trump in a general election, so I don`t think they think it`s going to be any easier against Bernie Sanders or Mike Bloomberg or Joe Biden. I think Mayor Pete could probably eat -- beat fairly easily.
Any of these candidates could actually beat him if the Democratic Party rally as round them.
WILLIAMS: Perhaps more fascinating, the same poll numbers on African- American voters. Here it is --
WILLIAMS: -- and the hard truth for Joe Biden. He has fallen 22 points. Look at the minus number on the far right category is as important as the above water right next to it. So Biden is down 22 since January 28th. Look at Mike Bloomberg, up 15 in this category, this subsection of the American electorate, this vital subsection of the Democratic Party electorate.
WILLIAMS: Jason, for viewers who haven`t heard your theory tinged with your reporting, firsthand reporting on Bloomberg, let us hear it.
JOHNSON: So there`s a couple things here, Brian. This is a horrible indictment of the Democratic field. It really, really is. For Mike Bloomberg, with his terrible history on race -- there`s a new viral video popping out from a speech that he gave at the Aspen Institute where he`s talking about stop and frisk and I send a bunch of cops into minority neighborhoods because they commit the most crime. The fact that African- Americans, half of them literally have left Joe Biden and begun to support Mike Bloomberg is indicative of the fact that none of the rest of Democrats have convinced them that they can beat Trump.
And African-American voters are primarily focused with getting Donald Trump out of office, and they will make a deal with the devil if they have to if that`s what it requires to get Trump removed. And I think that Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and mayor Pete have to reckon with the fact that they have not sold black people on their ability to do the most important thing, which is beating Donald Trump.
WILLIAMS: You have said -- and at the risk of paraphrasing you, it doesn`t mean this voting bloc is as nakedly transactional as it may appear to people.
WILLIAMS: It doesn`t mean they are at all superficial regarding candidate selection far from it. It just means that African-American voters, as a subset, feel the existential threat perhaps more than other subsections of the Democratic Party, correct?
JOHNSON: Brian, this is a life and death election for black voters. I cannot impress upon people enough from Texas to Arizona to Memphis, Tennessee, to Atlanta, Georgia, to Charlotte, the number one thing that when you talk to black voters, is can we get Trump out of office. This is not because we don`t think he`s a nice guy. This is because he has encouraged white nationalists. This is because he has had white nationalists in his administration. This is because he`s made it clear he will try to block any and other brown people from coming into this country.
And so to the degree you`ve got Democratic candidates who want to argue back and forth about these high-level grad school philosophical ideas, they`re talking over the heads of black voters who are primarily concerned about who can get rid of this guy, and that`s the main issue.
And here`s the thing. Again, Mike Bloomberg`s got the money. Mike Bloomberg has the ability to push his message one way or another. Black voters will hold their nose and vote for him if they think he can win, which means anybody else could potentially step into this situation. But let`s not be naive. This isn`t about love. This is about necessity.
WILLIAMS: And can you tell me how a Democratic party where Bernie leads tonight, right now, is ever going to drive that car and get all the way around to the other side of town and support a Mike Bloomberg, professional billionaire?
JOHNSON: I think they can get around to the other side of the town once we start getting to the side of town where other people live. Look, we`re dealing with the first two states that have 96% and 98% white voters. It doesn`t count. It`s like anybody who got into the baseball hall of fame before Jackie Robinson came in. You can`t consider either of these two firm primaries or caucuses to be valid. Once we get to Nevada where you have a Latino population, 6%, Asian-Americans are going to be caucusing, 13% African-American. Then you get to South Carolina. That is the real test as to where these Democratic candidates are.
Any of these things that are happening beforehand are just window dressing and that is why it`s really key. Brian, when you pointed out in the poll, it`s not just that Bloomberg has jumped to 22%. It`s that black voters basically leap frogged Bernie Sanders. Black voters said we would rather vote for the king of stop and frisk and gentrification than for Bernie`s socialist revolution. That says something about what his message does and does not do for the most important constituency for the Democratic Party.
WILLIAMS: This is exactly why we asked you to come on the broadcast tonight, Jason. Thank you. I`ll be talking to you tomorrow evening, something tells me. Thank you very much for joining us from Manchester, New Hampshire, tonight. Our friend Jason Johnson.
Coming up, a live report from a tiny town with a big history in the New Hampshire primary. And an unusual name, when we come back.
WILLIAMS: We will have live the first results from New Hampshire just after midnight Eastern Time tonight. An old New Hampshire state law allows towns with populations of fewer than 100 people to vote at midnight as Election Day begins. Northern New Hampshire, as you may know, is stunningly beautiful. It is a place of raw nature, the White Mountain range is up there, trees, lakes, hamlets, tiny towns, and that`s the way they like it in New Hampshire.
You`ve perhaps heard of Dixville Notch. They vote at midnight. So does a town called Hart`s Location, no relation to Hart`s Mountain, and that is where we find our own Cal Perry. Hey, Cal, good evening. I`m guessing they just love the media attention up there.
CAL PERRY, GLOBAL NEWS EDITOR, MSNBC: Yes, they do. And there`s quite a few of us in what is the smallest room in the smallest town in New Hampshire. As you said, voting will begin at 12:01. It started in 1948 as a way to help railroad workers who were coming off shift, get their votes in before going on another long shift. So we`ve got some of the results here.
And then in the room behind me is where the voting will actually take place. This is my invisible barrier here. There will be 45 people in this town who are registered to vote. Eighteen of them will vote here tonight. A number of people have already voted for absentee ballots. Worth mentioning that it takes 100 percent voter turnout to do this in this small town.
Polls will open at 12:01. Folks will line up right behind where our cameraman is. They will vote in alphabetical order. We should have results right around 12:15. Those will be the uncertified results. We got swing around. I`ll show you the chaos in the room.
It`s not just the residents of the town. There are quite a few citizen journalists taking pictures of us as we take pictures of them as we cramp in here. Hard not to be romantic about voting I guess on a night like this, Brian. We will have some results at 12:15. And then we will be kicked out and they will certify the results. So hang with us, and we`ll have the first votes of 2020.
WILLIAMS: Fantastic. Cal Perry in Hart`s Location, New Hampshire. We`ll be back to you before long.
I am joined now by our own Shannon Pettypiece, Senior White House Reporter for NBC News Digital, and A.B. Stoddard, Associate Editor and Columnist for RealClearPolitics. Thank you both for coming on. Good evening to you both.
Shannon, I`m tempted to begin where we last left off. What does the White House make of the top one and two finishers as soon as we figure out finishing order in Iowa? What do they have to say just this week of the Bloomberg --
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Yes.
WILLIAMS: -- looming presence and discover card with no balance on it?
PETTYPIECE: So here`s the main takeaway I`ve been getting from all the campaign advisers and strategists and White House officials I`ve talked to about this. And I ask them, what do you think of Bernie and Pete, you know, and Bloomberg waiting in the wings? For them, they see a pretty good scenario shaping up. In Sanders, they think that his policies are too far to the left for sort of this mainstream, moderate, suburban voter that they -- that is going to feel like they determined the election in their view. And Buttigieg, they think they will be able to highlight his inexperience, his lack of big ideas, and that, you know, President Trump could prevail over him.
However, on the Bloomberg front, he`s still a little bit of an unknown. There`s not a lot of head to head polling out there right now. But they see him as something that could shake up the nomination process and drag this out into the convention, which would really be their ideal scenario is that the Democrats go all the way to the convention, potentially have a brokered convention, and whoever emerges is so beat up and blood bloodied and broke that the President just has an enormous advantage over him.
They`ve been actively trying to push Sanders as we`ve seen coming out of Iowa, you know, pointing out, oh, it was robbed from him, it was stolen from him. But I really get the sense that that`s more of an attempt to sort of sow discontent within the Democratic Party, again, to prolong the nomination process and get it all the way to the convention.
WILLIAMS: A.B., a potentially painful question to you. Your reaction to the President`s post-not guilty vote behavior.
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, Brian, this comes as no surprise. I think the President has been quite blunt about how vengeful he would feel and behave and his conduct since the acquittal vote last week. You know, he had this really disciplined State of the Union. In so many ways, it was a reality show, but it was good theater. And then the day after following the final tallies, he just has been really beyond belief, doing what we knew he would do, but in ways and in words that really are going to make it very uncomfortable for those Senate Republicans who thought that they could move on and are urging him privately to do so.
Attacking Mitt Romney`s oath to God before the National Prayer Breakfast when the man was choking back his tears on the Senate floor, talking about how serious it was to him. This is -- From the 63 minutes in the White House, in the East Room and the firings of the Vindman twins and of course Ambassador Sondland, there will be more. We can expect that. And just like a trial without witnesses, I think he`s going to make running for re- election as a Republican Senator and defending those who are very difficult.
WILLIAMS: A.B. Stoddard, just to let our viewers know, that gentleman on the left is in the other town of note this time of year, and this time of the political cycle, Dixville Notch in northern New Hampshire. They, for years, advertise themselves as the first votes cast of the first in the nation primary.
And, Shannon, let`s talk about two of the women in the race, Klobuchar and Warren. A more specific view of both of them. Does Klobuchar really have running room coming out of New Hampshire? And on the downside, if Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts can`t win in New Hampshire, where can she win?
PETTYPIECE: We`ll obviously see tomorrow how things shake out. There appears to be a battle going on right now for the establishment wing of the party that voters are now trying Amy Klobuchar on for size to see how that works. They tried Biden on, they tried Buttigieg on and then you can see that real shift in poll numbers after that debate. It seems like they`re, you know, taking a look at Amy Klobuchar as the last real moderate remaining in this race.
So if, you know, she has some enduring -- if voters take a real hard look at her, if she can sort of withstand the sort of scrutiny at the top of the pack, then, yes, she potentially does have some running room here. But you still have the Bernie Sanders wing, which has shown incredible resilience. They appear to be moving off to the Elizabeth Warren camp. They`re coming back. They`re does not seem to be a sign that -- I mean Bernie`s numbers really look very solid.
Of course anything can happen. We`ve been completely surprised coming out of New Hampshire before. But it does look like the left has solidified behind Bernie, but the establishment is still trying to figure out who their candidate is going to be, and that could very well be Amy Klobuchar at this point. We`re going to have to see.
WILLIAMS: Both of our guests have agreed to stay with us just over this commercial break. Our live coverage of northern New Hampshire and our live conversation about the state of our politics will continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about Buttigieg? You saw the Biden attack over the weekend.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, they should go have a pushup contest somewhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Back with us, Shannon Pettypiece and A.B. Stoddard. That was genuinely funny. Hey, A.B., I want to show what started James Carville`s ubiquitous media weekend that we have just witnessed. It happened on live television. Your friend Nicolle Wallace and I were on television. We had James come on. We asked him about the current state post-Iowa of the Democratic Party. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that this is not going particularly well so far. And why is Tom Perez still the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee? I have no idea.
This party needs to wake up. There`s only one moral imperative in this country right now, and that is to beat Donald Trump. That`s the only moral imperative. It`s the only thing I want hear. And until we understand that - - look, we win every argument, Brian. We win the argument on anything. We don`t win elections because we talk about stuff that is not relevant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: A.B., knowing you a little bit, I think the era of Trump has made you even more clear-eyed about the Democratic Party. What do you make of what Carville has said there and in subsequent interviews, is he right?
STODDARD: Amen. I watched it several times, and it really is -- it`s a sign of widespread frustration that people are bottling up, and he just has the nerve to say it. Shannon was describing how Bernie Sanders, who the Republicans would really love to run against as, you know, everyone has been saying all night because it really looks like a choice instead of a referendum on Trump, has the left energy. And then, you know, there`s a much bigger vote for the moderate wing of the party, but it`s split, and it allows him to win.
They haven`t decided whether they want Biden or Bloomberg or Buttigieg or Klobuchar. And this really could be fatal to the party. He`s also right, Carville is, about the DNC. Jonathan Swan described Michael Bloomberg has a party unto himself. He is literally a human Super PAC saving the Democratic Party from itself.
The DNC is broke. It`s anemic. It`s dysfunctional, and it`s carrying debt. Without Michael Bloomberg, they do not have a chance. And I think Carville and other voices in the establishment have all these fears, but he`s the only one that`s actually going out and talking about them.
WILLIAMS: Shannon Pettypiece, first reaction, wow. Second, give us the 45- second viewer`s guide to not only South Carolina but Nevada.
PETTYPIECE: Well, I mean I think it was Jason who was just saying Nevada is actually the real test demographically where you get a population that is more representative of the Democratic Party and more representative of, you know, the country as a whole given the diversity. But it`s also going to be the big test before going into Super Tuesday, and I think that`s really where, you know, Iowa, interesting, New Hampshire results, interesting. South Carolina and Nevada is kind of when you get into the real meat. But we`re going to go into a Super Tuesday contest where it looks like this could be anybody`s game.
I mean, maybe Bernie will stay at the top of his wing. Maybe we see Klobuchar come in second or third and hang in there near the top. But it`s going to be anybody`s game going into Super Tuesday regardless of what happens in South Carolina and Nevada. And potentially that`s when we see this field really start to solidify and a solid, two-person, three-person race begin.
WILLIAMS: A.B., do you have a prediction about tomorrow in New Hampshire?
STODDARD: I do think it`s just more fluid than people understand. I think Amy Klobuchar could have a surprise. I think if Bernie Sanders has a muddled first-place win, he shares it with Buttigieg, that`s actually going to be bad for Bernie Sanders because he`s promised us he`s going to make a new electorate. He didn`t in Iowa. If he doesn`t in New Hampshire with a six-point polling average on the RealClearPolitics findings, I think he`s really going to have a difficult narrative ahead.
But I do think that, you know, what is going to happen to Warren -- I do think that, you know, because the bulk of the voters in New Hampshire are undeclared and they can vote in either primary, it`s just much more wild than people understand Iowa to be. It just -- It`s going to be a different result.
WILLIAMS: Two of our terrific journalism professionals, our thanks. And there, boy, you can just see the stress on their faces up there in Dixville Notch tonight as we approach midnight Eastern Time. Shannon Pettypiece, A.B. Stoddard, our thanks as always to both of you.
Coming up, what a retired four-star general has to say about the President firing a combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient who spoke out against him when we come back.
WILLIAMS: The day After Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House, the President decided to attack him as, quote, very insubordinate. An attorney for Vindman called the president`s attack false and added, "While the most powerful man in the world continues his campaign of intimidation, while too many entrusted with political office continue to remain silent, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman continues his service to our country as a decorated, active duty member of our military."
Let`s talk about it with our special guest tonight, retired four-star U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey, a decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, former battlefield commander in the Persian Gulf War, also happens to be a military analyst of ours around here.
General, I have yet to talk to you since this all went down. You read of Vindman`s treatment at the hands of his commander in chief?
BARRY MCCAFFREY, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it`s a one-off situation. I`ve never seen anything like it where you have a lieutenant colonel essentially turning in the president of the United States for what was clearly, in my judgment, an illegal act, using political extortion on a foreign country engaged in combat with the Russians.
Unbelievable. He`s an honorable guy. He has integrity. He`s a wounded combat veteran. He`s a very bright officer. I tell people the only thing you need to know about him is he`s endorsed by General Joe Dunford, a marine four-star.
And by the way, every soldier from the privates to the generals can talk to Congress with a complaint, can talk to the inspector general, can go over the heads of their commander and present a complaint as long as it`s truthful. So the retaliation against this terrific young officer is unprecedented.
WILLIAMS: Vindman, who by all evidence is all about duty, honor, country --
WILLIAMS: -- and thanks his lucky stars every day that he`s able to live in this country and serve our armed forces, gets transferred over to the Pentagon, and I guess an uncertain future. If soldier Vindman came to General McCaffrey, how would you advise him on the path forward?
MCCAFFREY: Well, look, I`d just congratulate him. I think, first of all, the day he got escorted off the White House grounds was a happy day for him, and it was a proud day because it underscores his commitment to a position of integrity. That took enormous courage to go over there and testify to Congress.
He`s part of the elite foreign area officer program. We spend five years on these kids to immerse them in a part of the world and become an expert on it. A lot of them are intelligence officers. So Vindman understands in a very concrete way how to deal with and understand the Russians and Eastern Europe.
So I think he`ll have tremendous utility going forward in the army, if he chooses to stay. You know, this could be a turning point in his personal life, but I think he ought to feel pretty happy about what he`s done with his duty performance.
WILLIAMS: I know you can`t speak for the military, but I`m curious if you have a focus group in your life that measures military support for this President, in light of the war crime debacle, in light of Vindman, and in light of now learning we have 109 TBIs, brain injuries, after that Iranian missile attack on the base we were occupying in Iraq. The President has diminished the severity of what you have appropriately called the signature injury of these two wars we`re still fighting.
MCCAFFREY: Yes, that was another just astonishing statement. Look, you know, in World War II, all the casualties are caused by enemy artillery and mortar fire and land mines. In the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, there were several thousand IED explosions a month. This is a common kind of injury.
And by the way, in some cases, severity, it`s unrecoverable.
MCCAFFREY: So we`ve learned to have a set of military medical protocols to deal with this. They get evacuated. Many of them, by the way, recover within a year or so if you don`t repeatedly expose them to the same kind of blast.
But, look, the President of the United States is something we don`t understand how to deal with. I don`t speak for the generals. I do believe this about Vindman himself. If a two-star general had retaliated against a lieutenant colonel in his division for going to the I.G. and explaining he thought wrongdoing what`s going on, we would can him on the spot. It would be considered a violation of the uniform code of military justice.
WILLIAMS: Wow. And who do we see about this?
MCCAFFREY: I don`t know. The voters.
WILLIAMS: General, what a pleasure to have you.
MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you.
WILLIAMS: General Barry McCaffrey, our special guest tonight. And though this is where we would normally wish you our good night, instead we`re asking you to just stick around for a few more minutes with us for the top of the next hour, where we will bring you the first actual results, actual votes from the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire. This is not a drill. This is definitely not Iowa. Our live coverage continues when we come back at the top of the hour.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END