AG Barr TRANSCRIPT: 2/12/20, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Katie Benner, Paul Butler, Andrew Weissmann, John Farrell

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, Donald Trump and the power of his presidency, today, he thanked his attorney general for intervening to reduce the recommended federal prison sentence for Trump`s friend of 30 years, Roger Stone. It was enough to make four federal prosecutors walk away. And remember, it`s only been a week since the Senate voted not guilty.

Plus Bernie and Pete get to slug it out for the future direction of the Democrats, at least near term. The race only further confused when Klobuchar came up so big and Biden finished way out of the money, as South Carolina and Nevada now loom.

And the topic Bloomberg and Trump once agreed on, that Bloomberg would now very much like to put behind him. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on this Wednesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 1,119 of this Trump administration. That leaves 265 days to go until the 2020 presidential election. It has been exactly one week since the U.S. Senate voted not guilty. After warnings of a retribution campaign by the President, the President seems to be in the middle of a campaign of retribution.

It started with the removal of Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and Vindman`s twin brother and the ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland. Then when the feds at the Justice Department announced their intention to pursue a federal prison sentence of seven to nine years for Trump`s friend of 30 years Roger Stone, in keeping with federal sentencing guidelines, Trump put this out to his 72 million and change Twitter followers. "a horrible and very unfair situation and a miscarriage of justice."

The Justice Department then overruled the recommended sentence, which then led all four of the federal prosecutors on the case to withdraw themselves in protest. The President said with a straight face he didn`t get involved and then added this today for good measure, "Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not even have been brought. Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller scam was improperly brought and tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress."

A fact check here, there`s no evidence Bob Mueller lied to Congress, nor has anyone ever accused him of lying to Congress. Another fact, Roger Stone is a convicted felon, convicted at trial of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

This afternoon Trump had much more to say about his friend Roger Stone and denied that his actions could be considered political interference.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They treated Roger Stone very badly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you considering a pardon for --

TRUMP: I don`t want to say that yet.

I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this horrible thing. And I didn`t speak to them, by the way. Just so you understand.

Nine years in jail. It`s a disgrace. In the meantime, Comey walks around making book deals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you concerned about the four prosecutors?

TRUMP: I`m not concerned about anything. They ought to go back to school and learn because I`ll tell you with the way they treated people nobody should be treated like that.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, the Attorney General Barr has accepted an invitation from the House Judiciary Committee under Mr. Nadler to testify on March 31st, mark your calendars though in this news cycle, that`s the equivalent of a decade from now.

Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson who`s presiding over the case has also drawn Trump`s attention prompting him to ask "Is this the judge that put Paul Manafort in solitary confinement, something not even mobster Al Capone had to endure?" For the record, she did not. More on that later.

A new court filing today reveals Judge Jackson has denied Stone`s request for a new trial. She`s scheduled to sentence him a week from tomorrow, February 20.

And there is more to the controversy. Jessie Liu, the Justice Department official handling the Stone prosecution as well as other high-profile Mueller inquiry cases, has now apparently been knocked down as well. Today the White House confirmed it has withdrawn her nomination for an undersecretary post over at the Treasury Department. She`d been awaiting her Senate confirmation hearing but had already stepped down from her post, heading up the U.S. attorney`s office there in Washington. Outraged Democrats are now demanding the DOJ internal watchdog step in.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I am calling on the Office of Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, to conduct an immediate intensive investigation because this kind of political interference is exactly the abuse of power, the dictatorial interference that we all ought to resist on both sides of the aisle.


WILLIAMS: Some Republicans are expressing concern about Trump`s actions regarding Roger Stone yet are stopping short of doing anything else.


MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you think there`s any lessons he learned from being impeached?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: I don`t know which actions you`re referring to. I`ve made very clear that I don`t think anyone should be retaliated against. That has nothing to with the basis by which I voted to acquit the President.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI, (R) ALASKA: I don`t think that the President needed to jump into the middle of this in the first place. I think it`s just bad.


WILLIAMS: Just bad. Other Republicans were more careful to avoid any criticism of this president.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I got real concerns about overzealous prosecution, more than anything else.

I want Mr. Stone to be treated fairly.

SEN. JOHN KINNEDY, (R) LOUISIANA JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The President is entitled to his opinion, and there would have been nothing wrong with the President picking up the phone, as I understand it, and talking to justice.


WILLIAMS: As all of this was unfolding the President was asked in the Oval Office what the experience of his Senate trial and the charges he once faced had taught him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What lesson did you learn from impeachment?

TRUMP: That the Democrats are crooked. They`re vicious. That they shouldn`t have brought impeachment.


WILLIAMS: Here for our lead-off discussion on a Wednesday night, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Reporter for "The Washington Post," Katie Benner, Justice Department Reporter for "The New York Times," Paul Butler, a former federal corruption prosecutor at the Department of Justice, currently a professor at Georgetown Law.

Katie Benner, here is your headline this evening at "The New York Times," "After Stone case, prosecutors say they fear pressure from Trump." Katie, can you please sum up for us your reporting thus far on the concussion from this inside DOJ?

KATIE BENNER, THE NEW YORK TIMES JUSTICE DEPT. REPORTER: Sure. It feels like the Justice Department had a slight reprieve in the wake of the Mueller report, in the wake of the special counsel`s office, that they wouldn`t be attacked daily by the President. And now instead we have a situation where the president is co-opting the attorney general. He`s saying on twitter essentially that A.G. Barr has done his bidding.

So even if you believe that the Justice Department made this decision to change the sentence for Stone without the President`s interference, it is very difficult to believe it because of the way that Bill Barr is being treated by the President in public.

Also for people inside of the department, for prosecutors, they had avoided a lot of the politicization of the department. They weren`t arguing cases for the White House in court. They weren`t working in the Civil Rights Division. They were just bringing regular cases forward. And now there`s a fear that if they work on something that could catch the President`s eye that it will be a problem for them in the future.

And then lastly, there is a growing sense that maybe the attorney general, who many people in the department have long respected, might not have their backs. And we`re seeing this in two ways. After the President said this about Bob Mueller, said that he was guilty of a chargeable offense, nobody from the department came out to defend him against that claim or to push back on the president.

And then we`ve seen Jessie Liu, the former U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., essentially have another job taken away from her very mysteriously. We have reporting that when she was told her nomination be pulled she was unable to get a straight answer as to why. And there`s a sense, an unease that because she might not have acted in a way that Trump liked while she was the U.S. attorney in D.C. that this is a punishment.

WILLIAMS: Paul Butler, for simplicity, for us lay folks, let`s agree to the following terms. There is main justice in Washington, D.C. and there are U.S. attorneys all over the country. We talk about the Southern District of New York. It`s really the Justice Department`s Manhattan office. Let`s call those Justice Department field offices.

There`s also one in D.C. the U.S. attorney for the district of Columbia. But it nonetheless is a field office. There has always and often been tension between field offices and the home office, main justice. Had you ever imagined, however, anything like this, Paul?

PAUL BUTLER, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: This is unprecedented. It`s not unusual for there to be conflicts between U.S. attorney`s offices and main justice about important issues like how much time a defendant gets. But those are resolved behind closed doors.

Brian, it sounds corny, but when career prosecutors join the department it`s because they want to do justice without fear or favor. They don`t sign up to bring political prosecutions to help the President`s friends and to punish his enemies. And so when these four prosecutors resigned they sent a very loud message. They`re not allowed to hold press conferences or go on T.V. The clear message from their stepping down is that the Justice Department is on life support.

WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, you and I are both old enough to remember one week ago today, the not guilty vote. Think of it. We have seen two Vindmans and a Sondland go right away. And now this. And we`ve barely had a chance to reflect on the fact that the President was impeached.

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That`s exactly right, Brian. And I think it`s always worth pausing to remember that. The reporting is accurate. And you can see it in the President`s behavior. He feels vindicated. He`s told his associates that he is emboldened. He is unleashed. He is furious.

But he is also impeached and yes, he was acquitted and yes, very few Republicans were able -- willing or able to challenge him in any meaningful way including even calling for more witnesses. But to see the President behaving like this obscures the fact again that he became one of just three presidents in history to be impeached. And if you step back and you take the 30,000-foot view, his behavior doesn`t necessarily match the moment. You might expect him to be a bit more chastened but that`s just not the case with him.

WILLIAMS: Katie Benner, this might put you on some shaky ground, but give it a try. How has Bill Barr changed? He was at the dead center of the establishment Republican legal circles in Washington, D.C. I don`t think anyone would debate that. And here is the attorney general we have to consider today. I recently had someone who has known him for decades describe him as something akin to a nihilist, that they don`t recognize this Attorney General Barr.

BENNER: Well, I think there is a debate about whether or not Bill Barr has fundamentally changed or whether or not the world that he knew as attorney general under the Bush administration has changed so much around him. He`s not able to keep up.

I don`t know that I`m going to say that I`ll weigh in. I will just say that in our story we note that when he was working on an Oral History of the department and interviewed for it in early 2000s, he talked about the independence that the Justice Department traditionally had from the White House. He said that under Bush, it was almost maybe too independent, people were too deferential to the Justice Department. But what he doesn`t say is that he thinks that that is wrong. And now we`re in a position today where we`re seeing that completely obliterated.

So you do have to wonder how he`s going to ultimately respond, especially as Ashley notes, the President feels vindicated and he feels empowered to use the justice department as a cudgel.

And so if he`s pushing the Justice Department in the future to bring cases where no case exists, that is going to be a huge, huge challenge for the attorney general.

WILLIAMS: Artfully done as always.

Hey, Paul, let`s pick up on your last point in your last answer. Our friend and colleague Nicolle Wallace always says pay attention to the 911 calls coming from inside the house. You mentioned these four federal prosecutors are not people who can just call around to reporters or lord knows call a press conference. But there seems to be shouting going on from inside the institution A and B. Do you want to hazard to guess as to recourse, what good people who are bothered by this can do about it?

BUTLER: You know, there are some remedies. So the inspector general of the Department of Justice can launch an investigation. Congress can also subpoena Barr and others and find out what their real deal is. Of course, the last time that Congress subpoenaed the attorney general he didn`t bother to show up and was held in contempt of court.

So the concern here is that, it`s easy to have outrage fatigue. It`s only been a week and every day there`s something new. It`s clearly pay-back time for Trump. But Brian, this is how the rule of law is eroded. This is how democracy dies.

WILLIAMS: On those words, Ashley Parker, I want to play for you a collection of some of the times and some of the ways the President has been seen in the view of the left, in the view of the establishment, working the refs, and it`s been odd for those of us to get used to the wording coming from our President but arguing in some cases against the home team. We`ll discuss on the other side.


TRUMP: I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys. Frankly, a real disgrace.

How about with Manafort? They raid his home at like five in the morning, I think on a weekend and his wife is in bed and they go in with guns?


TRUMP: This isn`t Al Capone.

I think it`s very tough what they did to Roger Stone compared to what they do to other people on their side. He got hit very hard, as did General Flynn and as did a lot of other people.


WILLIAMS: He does enjoy Al Capone references. Ashley, are there any traditionalists left on the inside and absent that can everyone left on the inside fairly be called an enabler?

PARKER: Well, first I just want to address, you said the President often will go against the home team. I think the issue is he has a different view of who the home team is. His team -- home team, is people who are loyal to him, people who are fixers for him, people who serve his needs and his whims. So that explains why you often see him going against his own intelligence community, his own Justice Department.

As for people on the inside, it`s been striking to me. Early on in the administration, we would have had days not quite like this but like this, quite similar. And you would talk to people in the White House. And privately, they would say, you know, gosh, this is really a disaster or I don`t understand why he did this. We`re going to have to scramble to clean it up.

But in calling around today to ask about this purge, while White House officials don`t necessarily call it that even privately, there`s not a sense of catastrophe inside. It`s a pretty almost gleeful in some cases sense that this is the President`s right. He`s doing what he wants to do. He is emboldened and unleashed and they are happy to support him in this effort.

WILLIAMS: Could not have asked for three better guests to start off our discussion tonight. To Ashley Parker, to Katie Benner, to Paul Butler, our thanks for coming on and helping us out.

Coming up for us here tonight, we`ll talk to the former lead prosecutor on the Mueller team about Bill Barr`s latest move and why more and more he appears to be the President`s personal attorney general.

And later, the Democratic front-runner sure is making moderates in the party nervous. Oh, there`s a whole lot of political news to talk about tonight. We`re just getting started on this Wednesday evening with Abe Lincoln in the background.


WILLAMS: Attorney General Barr named former federal prosecutor Timothy Shea as the interim U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. two weeks ago. "The New York Times" described Shea as, "A long-time trusted adviser to Mr. Barr and former senior counselor to him."

Shea now gets to oversee the largest U.S. Attorney`s office in the country. Again, while technically a field office of DOJ it happens to have jurisdiction over Washington, D.C. And as a former DOJ spokesman, Matt Miller, pointed out for us today, that office happens to be handling several cases of keen interest to this president.


MATTHEW MILLER, FMR. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CHIEF SPOKESMAN: It`s not just the Stone case, there`s also the Mike Flynn case where that office recently changed its recommendation from jail time to saying that probation would be appropriate. They`re handling a leak investigation to Jim Comey that appears to be based on a very thin predicate. They`re handling the Andy McCabe case where it appears that they had gone to the grand jury and the grand jury declined to indict.

On every other case you would see, the Department then decline to move forward and clear Andy McCabe. They haven`t done that. They`re handling the case of Erik Prince, who has been referred by the Intelligence Committee for lying to Congress. Erik Prince is a close ally of the President.


WILLIAMS: Back with us tonight, we`re happy to be able to talk to Andrew Weissmann, former lead prosecutor during the Russia investigation working under Special Counsel Mueller. He is these days a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the NYU School of Law here in New York.

And counselor, first of, you worked for the Mueller effort, the Stone effort was a subset of that. Let me start by asking you what can`t you talk about because of your previous work?

ANDREW WEISSMANN, FORMER PROSECUTOR TO SPECIAL COUNSEL MUELLER: So I can talk about what`s happened in the last few weeks, which is I think of interest to everyone. I cannot talk about what happened during the Special Counsel`s office on the Stone case or any other case that we were handling.

WILLIAMS: Let`s start there. The departure of these four, their withdrawal from the case, how does it hit you? What does that mean inside DOJ?

WEISSMANN: So I think it`s the four people, I think I would add to that the replacement of Jessie Liu as well.

WILLIAMS: OK. I want to get into that.

WEISSMANN: That`s -- that you mentioned that and that is also extremely rare. So just to take that first, there is nothing wrong with the President replacing a U.S. attorney.

WILLIAMS: In fact, it`s their right.

WEISSMANN: Absolutely. The issue is how it`s done and why it`s done. So with Jessie Liu, she was nominated to a position in the Treasury Department and then unceremoniously with no notice was told, thank you so much for your service, here`s a desk at DOJ, I`m replacing you with a flunky for the Department of Justice who works for the Attorney General. That does not happen. No one I know has ever heard that as ever having that happen. So, but that`s not illegal.

The question that I would have is why? Why would you just unceremoniously do that? And then you look at what`s happened. So you have the Flynn case, where you have the Department, it`s exactly the same thing that happens in Stone case, which is reversing its position. They first file a position and then 10 days later they say, oh, no, we didn`t mean it, it`s going to be lower, which is itself very unusual.

And then the same sort of thing happens in this case where you have the Department filing presumably with a lot of notice and oversight, a submission that actually does what I think the public would want. The submission followed the facts and the law. And then one day later you say, no, no, no, we didn`t mean it. And it just so happens that the people you`re dealing with are part of the Trump administration. And you have the Department saying, no, no, no, these needs to be lower sentences. So it raises so many red flags about the rule of law.

WILLIAMS: There is I know a different philosophy. Rather than resigning, people of integrity are more valuable staying on the inside. But we can`t speak for the working conditions and the mental health of other people.

WEISSMANN: So my heart goes out to the people of the Department of Justice. There are so many career people. I was worked in the Department for 21 years. It is heartbreaking to people in the Department of Justice and in the government generally to see what`s going on. You saw some of this just in the impeachment hearing with people in the State Department talking about what they were seeing and you`re seeing it now in the Department of Justice.

I think there`s no way to criticize people who decide, you know, it is better for me to be here because if everybody left who was -- who thought they were going to be apolitical and do the right thing, the Department would be devoid of those people. I mean, you really don`t want that in terms of what`s in the public interest.

I think it took an incredible amount of gumption and grit and backbone for the four prosecutors, you know, admittedly, I know three of them very well and they`re incredible people, and I think they didn`t ask to be put in this position. And the facts and circumstances found them, and I think they rose to the occasion.

WILLIAMS: We always try to point out, all of them could make a fortune in private practice. They made a positive choice to work for the federal government.

And just as a term of art, help me out, the President keeps talking about solitary confinement, comparing it to Al Capone. I was led to believe that in cases like Manafort, your counsel can request a segregated confinement, protective custody to keep you away from the other population. Are they synonymous?

WEISSMANN: So, everything about that story with the President saying he was in solitary is false. And this is something that both the judge Ellis in Virginia and Judge Jackson in D.C. have dealt with. Just to be clear what the facts are, one, judges do not place people in solitary or not. Where people get placed and how they`re housed is done by the warden of the prison.

Mr. Manafort was housed in a so-called Michael Vick suite. He did not wear prison clothes. He was caught on tape saying, I`m being treated like a VIP. He had internet access. He had a private room, private library with a laptop and a huge extension cord so he could bring it anywhere he wanted. So that`s his solitary. So this is a really made-up story.

WILLIAMS: Not exactly John McCain`s accommodations for six years in North Vietnam.


WILLIAMS: Thank you very much for joining us and clearing up some of this with a view from the inside. Andrew Weissmann, our guest tonight.

Coming up, to presidential politics we turn. And now for the Democrats it sure gets interesting.


WILLIAMS: The first two presidential contests are behind us, Lord knows. And the Democrats are chugging ahead without, shall we say, a clear decisive front-runner. Bernie Sanders narrowly beat Pete Buttigieg in New Hampshire. Iowa was, let`s call it a split decision and do the party a favor. Sanders is already on media tonight saying he won the popular vote in both places. Yet Mayor Pete has won more delegates. Two candidates representing two very different wings of the Democratic Party. And if anything, Klobuchar`s strong showing last night and Biden`s fall way out of the money have further confused this race heading specifically into these next two states.

"The New York Times" is reporting tonight, "Within the Democratic establishment, the results have deepened a mood of anxiety and frustration".

Back with us tonight, two exhausted journalists. John Heilemann, National Affairs Analyst, Co-Host of "The Circus" on Showtime, Editor-in-Chief of The Recount, and Mara Gay, a former New York City Bureau Chief at "The Wall Street Journal," these days a member of "The New York Times" Editorial Board. Mara, to you first. Bernie, Pete, Klobuchar, what just happened?

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: You know, I think that much like "The New York Times" Editorial Board, voters are split on who they should choose.

WILLIAMS: Artfully done.

GAY: No, I think it`s true. Listen, there`s so much anxiety among Democrats right now because they just don`t know who the right person is to go up against Donald Trump and they are desperate to beat Donald Trump. And there`s a lot of gamemanship being played. Will people vote for a woman? Will people vote for a socialist? Nobody really knows the answer.

I do think that it`s notable that if you were to add up the votes for, say, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, you know, the moderates actually are looking quite strong in that sense, but their votes are divided. And then you have kind of the Sanders train that is just barreling full speed ahead. And then you have other folks looking at that who are looking at Michael Bloomberg as kind of a third way.

And so, the one thing I would say is that it really is early and I would just say let`s wait until Nevada, until South Carolina, until these larger states to get a sense for what the Democratic voters actually want. It is still extremely early. These states are not -- they`re not representative of the party at large. So I don`t think it`s time to panic yet if you`re a Democrat.

WILLIAMS: I would only urge people to go to the web and read about the process in Nevada for their caucus. Good luck with that. That`s going to be fun.

John, I`m going to play for you James Carville, who is having a moment for sure, self-described old warrior at age 75. This is James Carville on Monday, and then we have a counter to this.


JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC PARTY STRATEGIST: They`re looking for somebody that can come in and not just excite them but talk about things that really matter to them in everyday life. They`re not interested in socialism and a revolution and all that foolishness you hear. There`s a certain part of the Democratic Party that wants us to be a cult. I`m not interested in being in a cult.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, James, in all due respect, is a political hack who said very terrible things when he was working for Clinton against Barack Obama. I think he said some of the same things. Look, we are taking on the establishment. This is no secret to anybody.


WILLIAMS: This segment brought to you by Meow Mix. What`s going on here? Is it symptomatic?

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Brian, will all due respect, you`re a dog-faced pony soldier.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

HEILEMANN: You`re welcome. What`s going on with those two? I mean, look, there`s a -- Mara just pointed out that the moderate center left part of the party is larger than the progressive part of the party. It`s manifestly true. Senator Sanders is in some sense afraid to it. He`s obviously in some worlds, he`s maybe the front-runner. I think they`re co-front-runners. I continue to understand the way that you get nominated in the Democratic Party is to accumulate delegates and ultimately the person who gets to 1991 is the nominee. So --

WILLIAMS: We`ve awarded 1.6 percent thus far.

HEILEMANN: It`s small, but at this moment today, Pete Buttigieg has more delegates than Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders has won more votes. So let`s call them co-front-runners. But it`s true the moderate wing is bigger, numerically bigger.

James is the voice of that wing of the party at this moment. It`s funny to think of that because of course there was a time when we thought of James as being a liberal populist. Now he is the one who`s looking at a lot of the field, the chaos in the field, as we said to you back right after the caucuses --


HEILEMANN: -- that the combination of what it looked like in Iowa and the kind of calamity of that plus this -- the things of socialism and what he thinks of as purity tests, there`s a lot of people in the Democratic Party that are nervous right now about the whole state of things, about the fact the party might be able to blow a winnable election with existential kind of consequences and stakes. And then there`s a lot of them who look -- just look at Bernie Sanders and say the way we`re going to blow this is by running -- by nominating a socialist.

I take no sides in this battle. But that`s what James -- the visceral thing James is touching on, is that panic, that in the moderate part of the party and certainly in the establishment and elite part of the party what they are seeing when they think if this moderate wing continues to split its votes going forward, who does that favor? Well it favors Bernie Sanders. It did last night in New Hampshire. Had the moderates coalesced around Klobuchar or Buttigieg, Bernie would have lost that race. That pattern could continue deep into the winter and the spring, and that would be problematic from the point of view of those who think that socialism is a death knell for the party.

WILLIAMS: We`ve asked both our guests to stay with us and they will. We are confident over this break.

And coming up, the candidate for president who hasn`t been seen on the trail that much. We sure have heard from him a lot though lately.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Mayor, why did you say what you said in that 2015 speech?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t think those words reflect what -- how I led the most diverse city in the nation. And I apologized for the practice and the pain that it caused.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But why did you say it?

BLOOMBERG: It was five years ago. And, you know, it`s just not the way that I think and it`s does not the way -- it doesn`t reflect what I do every day.


WILLIAMS: Michael Bloomberg has picked up three new endorsements from members of the Congressional Black Caucus. That`s despite that recording that we`ve been talking about from 2015 that`s getting a lot of attention these days where Bloomberg promotes the stop-and-frisk policy.


BLOOMBERG: Ninety-five percent of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description, xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities, 16 to 25.


WILLIAMS: And along with that, there is this quick reminder of what our current President said about stop-and-frisk back in 2016.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to. We did it in New York. It worked incredibly well. And you have to be proactive. And, you know, you really help people sort of change their mind automatically.


WILLIAMS: Back with us, still with us, John Heilemann, Mara Gay. Mara Gay, on top of this, there is new scrutiny on predatory lending where Bloomberg is concerned. Because you have spoken at this desk with such awareness and passion about Mike Bloomberg, who he is, his past, what his future may be. When you throw all of this in the hopper, what do you get as of right now tonight?

GAY: I think that Michael Bloomberg has an opportunity to go beyond apologizing and show that he understands the deep pain and trauma that this practice caused his city and the deep concern that many not just black Americans but other Americans of goodwill understandably have about his role in this policy. I mean, let`s be clear, from 2002 until 2013 when he left office, a dozen years, more than 5 million New Yorkers were stopped and what we call tossed on the street. People going to school, going to work, young almost exclusively -- I should say over 80 percent men of color --

WILLIAMS: I was going to say most of them didn`t look like me.

GAY: And most of them -- yes, black and Hispanic teenagers. There are only 8.5 million people in New York City. So there were people being stopped again and again. Almost 90 percent of those stopped were completely innocent, there were never any charges filed.

So, this caused great trauma. There were children who grew up being essentially tossed as we called it, thrown up against the wall by police officers on their way to school and their daily lives. So I think the Mayor has apologized. There has to be room in America and in American politics for people to change their minds, for people to evolve, for people to show that they can turn around and do the right thing.

But the Mayor needs to take this moment to truly humble himself. He apologized once. But he needs to show that he really understands the trauma this caused and what that means about the role of institutional racism in the United States and his role in it. And he has an opportunity to really turn that around here.

I think that black voters, if you look at the polls, are willing to give him that opportunity. It`s not enough to just say, sorry, let`s move on. He should confront it directly and every chance he gets, he should explain why he is somebody who understands what he did and who can really make this right.

WILLIAMS: Take 60 seconds, John, same question.

HEILEMANN: I think that everything Mara said makes -- is right. And I think it`s also not just the right thing for him to do but it`s a political necessity. There`s a -- you know, there`s -- among African-American voters in this country, there is no more pragmatic and more hardheaded clear-eyed and sophisticated voting constituency in addition to being the most important to winning the Democratic nomination.

They are focused in a laser-like way on beating Donald Trump, who they regard as an existential threat to their way of life. They`re willing to forgive a lot of sins if they think that you are the person who can beat Donald Trump, including stop-and-frisk, including these tapes. If they think you`re the person who can beat Donald Trump and if you can meet the bar that Mara just set out which is to say really address it.

What you saw there though with Mike Bloomberg is the thing that all of us, looking at these polls, looking at the money, looking at the potential that he could be the one who everyone looks up and says just on those bases alone I want the guy who can spend double the amount that Donald Trump spends, that`s the guy who might be able to beat him. That performance right there was not the performance of a top-level presidential candidate. And that is what is the other scenario, the scenario that after all these ads and all that money he`s going to be the wizard of oz, the guy who stands up and everybody`s going to say that`s the guy? And that`s the down side surprise scenario from Bloomberg where people look at him on the debate stage next week and say, really?

GAY: He has to learn a new trick, which is humility.

WILLIAMS: Really interesting answers from our two friends. Our thanks to John Heilemann and Mara Gay.

Coming up, our next guest says the guide to understanding the import of this week right now might be what happened in the autumn of `73.



JOHN CHANCELLOR, FMR. `NIGHTLY NEWS` ANCHOR, NBC NEWS: That`s a stunning development and nothing even remotely like it has happened in all of our history. All of this adds up to a totally unprecedented situation, a grave and profound crisis in which the President has set himself against his own attorney general and the Department of Justice. Nothing like this has ever happened before. And what it means is that the worst dreams of everyone who is worried about the President`s secret tapes have now become true, become reality.


WILLIAMS: John Chancellor came up with the original wording of "nothing like this has ever happened before." We`re still on his coattails using that same worked just about every night. There are echoes of that dramatic event in political history known as the "Saturday Night Massacre" in what`s going on right now.

October `73, Nixon ordered the firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. That led to the resignations of A.G. Elliott Richardson and Deputy A.G. Bill Ruckelshaus, both of whom refused to carry out the order. NBC News Correspondent Doug Kiker was there when Richardson explained his decision.


DOUGLAS KIKER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: When Richardson walked out to meet the press at the Justice Department`s great hall, he received an emotional prolonged ovation from hundreds of department employees who attended in a display of personal loyalty to him.

ELLIOT RICHARDSON, FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL, PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: At stake in the final analysis is the very integrity of the governmental processes. I came to the Department of Justice to help restore. My own single most important commitment to this objective was my commitment to the independence of the special prosecutor. I could not be faithful to this commitment and also acquiesce in the curtailment of his authority.


WILLIAMS: Of course they`re all gone now but their stories thankfully live on.

And with us tonight is Mr. John A. Farrell. He is a veteran journalist, author, contributor these days to POLITICO magazine, happens to be the biographer of Clarence Darrow and Tip O`Neill. But most importantly right now is his book "Richard Nixon: A Life", which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

And full disclosure, we`ve known each other for about 25 years.


WILLIAMS: Twenty five years.

FARRELL: Don`t go there.

WILLIAMS: I counted it up. It`s just about 25 years. It`s great to see you. Thank for coming.

FARRELL: Thank you for having me on.

WILLIAMS: Was it as dangerous in real time for Republicans to stand up for Dick Nixon as it is proving for people to stand up to this guy?

FARRELL: The huge difference then was that Republican senators had cojones. There is a memo that floating around from right after the "Saturday Night Massacre" written by John Tower, the head of the Republican Policy Committee.

WILLIAMS: From Texas.

FARRELL: It`s a series of bullets going to the White House saying the President has to make full disclosure. He has to hand over everything that`s not national security regarding Watergate to the Watergate committee. We`re coming up there and we`re going to explain the facts of life to him that he -- unless he does this, he`s going to be impeached. So at that time you had a vastly, vastly different Senate with office holders that prized the job. They had -- they saw honor in it. And the current crop in the Senate is much more partisan and polarized, party-oriented.

WILLIAMS: Let`s talk about the echoes from `73 which you either have to be our age to know about or really well read. Enemies list --

FARRELL: You must have been a toddler.

WILLIAMS: -- retribution -- yes, I listened a lot. Enemies list and retribution. How much of it is a direct echo, do you think?

FARRELL: Well, one of the more interesting things is that two of Donald Trump`s advisers over the years, Roger Stone and Roy Cohn, were also close intimates of Richard Nixon. And if you go back in time and you trace the politics of division and the politics of resentment, you find it coming in the years right after World War II.

And Nixon was the John the Baptist. He was the voice in the wilderness who said this is the way for Republicans to break up the new deal coalition and claim power. And he was very skillful at it. And he decided that there were votes to be got by turning Americans against Americans. It`s a really awful thing if you examine it with a little bit of distance from what we`ve sort of -- the excuses we made for our politics.

But basically, these politics of division and resentment is based on polarization, is based on making me your enemy. And it wasn`t until Nixon resigned that he finally had this Saul on the road to Damascus moment. And he made that wonderful speech as he left the White House saying that others may hate you but they only win if you hate them and then you destroy yourself. Those are the words from Richard Nixon we should be remembering now.

WILLIAMS: I was just saying having read all your books, your book on Tip O`Neill is here in my office in New York. What are Tip`s lessons that he could give to either Pelosi or Trump?

FARRELL: I think she pretty much followed the Democrats` game plan. If you remember last -- this time last year, she was the one saying, no, we`re not going to do impeachment. And she had to be -- she made the impression that she was being dragged, kicking and screaming --

WILLIAMS: By her caucus.

FARRELL: -- into the whole thing by her caucus and then it wasn`t until the famous phone call came out that she finally like threw up her hands and said, OK, now we have to do this. And that was basically Tip O`Neill`s strategy and philosophy. It`s not written in the constitution that it has to be bipartisan but the reality of the numbers in the Senate are such that any successful impeachment has to have a bipartisan component.

In this case, the Democrats -- and you have to admire them, they -- I think they saw it much more as a matter of conscience because there wasn`t a clear win in it for them. It was the roll of the dice. They knew that we`re going to lose in the Senate all along.

We, in the media probably hyped their chances on getting a couple of votes in the Senate all along just to make it more interesting for our viewers and the readers. But, you know, with the exception of Mitt Romney there wasn`t anybody like Ruckelshaus or Richardson.

WILLIAMS: Well, let it be said, a quarter century ago, we traveled by plane and motorcade and bused many miles together. It is great to see you.

FARRELL: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Thank you very much. John A. Farrell, our special guest to round things off tonight.

Coming up, among the departures from the Democratic race last night, one of them left a very unique mark on this race.



ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don`t you, forget about me. Don`t, don`t, don`t, don`t, don`t you.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight. Honest answer, how many of us would have the guts to get up there and do that as he did sober? For that matter, how many of us would have the guts to run for president, sober or not?

Andrew Yang went on to sing "When Doves Cry" at that fund-raising event with a backup ban of all autistic musicians, The Dream Achievers. Yang and his wife, Evelyn, are parents of an autistic son of their own.

Evelyn Yang left her own mark on the campaign with the admirers she won on the trail and with her brave and personal story about sexual assault at the hands of her own doctor. And despite the intensely loyal Yang-gang, the numbers weren`t there for the math and suit enthusiast for the first two states.

And so last night, Yang got out of the race. He`s not the only candidate to have left the race in the last 24 hours or for that matter in the last four months. Last night, New Hampshire also killed off the campaigns of Michael Bennet, Deval Patrick. Now they join, are you ready, Booker, Bullock, Castro, de Blasio, Delaney, Gillibrand, Harris, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Moulton, O`Rourke, Ryan, Swalwell and Williamson. But as the Bloomberg campaign of all places took time to note today, Yang left behind more than his share of memorable moments.


YANG: Now, my first move was not to run for president of the United States, because I am not insane.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): Andrew Yang! Andrew Yang!

YANG: Chant my name! Chant my name!

This will be very fun.


YANG: This is going to be so mind-bending.

It`s both an honor and disappointment to be a lone candidate of color on the stage tonight. I miss Kamala. I miss Cory. Though I think Cory will be back.

I`m so excited. I want to give every American $1,000 a month.

While we did not win this election, we are just getting started.


WILLIAMS: So Yang is out of this race. But last night said he`d run again, instantly fueling speculation that that run would be for mayor of the city of New York.

On that note, that is our broadcast for this post-New Hampshire Wednesday night. Abraham Lincoln`s 211th birthday. Thank you for being here with us. Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.

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