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Trump dismisses reports TRANSCRIPT: 2/21/20, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Catherine Lucey, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Lily Adam, Karine Jean-Pierre, Joseph Bustos

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, the 2020 election and Russian interference. The Vermont senator says he received an intelligence briefing about Russian efforts to aid his campaign, how his stern reactions stands in contrast with the President.

Plus, the door is close in the Nevada caucuses in less than 16 hours. Introducing the first contest with a significant number of minority voters and raising the stakes for campaigns on the edge of running out of momentum and money.

And how Elizabeth Warren`s knockdown of Michael Bloomberg in Wednesday`s debate got the billionaire to bend as "The 11th Hour" gets under way on this Friday night.

Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Brian Williams. Day 1,128 of the Trump administration, and 256 days to go now until the 2020 presidential election.

On the eve of the Nevada caucuses, we have brand-new reporting from "The Washington Post" about Russia and the 2020 presidential campaign, "U.S. officials have told Senator Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest. President Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also been informed about the Russian assistance to the Vermont senator."

"The Post" adds "It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken."

Late this afternoon, Sanders weighed in on the reporting.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Putin is a thug. He is an autocrat. He maybe a friend of Donald Trump. He`s not a friend of mine.

Let me tell Mr. Putin, the American people, whether you`re Republicans, Democrats, Independents, are sick and tired of seeing Russia and other countries interfering in our elections. The intelligence community has been very clear about it.

Whether Trump recognizes it or not or acknowledges it or not, they did interfere in 2016. The intelligence community is telling us they are interfering in this campaign right now in 2020.

And hat I say to Mr. Putin, if elected president, trust me, you are not going to be interfering in American elections.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, when were you briefed on this?

SANDERS: Guessing about a month ago.

We were told that Russia, maybe other countries are going to get involved in this campaign.

And, look, here is the message to Russia. Stay out of American elections.

They tried to divide us up. That`s what they did in 2016. And that is the ugliest thing they`re doing is they are trying to cause chaos, they`re trying to cause hatred in America.


KORNACKI: And just last night "The New York Times" reported that U.S. intelligence officials had warned House lawmakers that Russia is meddling in the 2020 election to help get the President re-elected. Trump responded to that at a rally today in Las Vegas.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I see these phonies, the do- nothing Democrats. They said today that Putin wants to be sure that Trump gets elected. Here we go again. Here we go again.

I was told that was happening. I was told a week ago, they said, you know, they`re trying to start a rumor. It`s disinformation. That`s the only thing they`re good at. They`re not good at anything else. They get nothing done. Do-nothing Democrats -- that Putin wants to make sure I get elected. Listen to this.

So, doesn`t we want to see who the Democrat`s going to be? Wouldn`t you rather have, let`s say Bernie? Wouldn`t you rather have Bernie?


KORNACKI: And this morning Trump called "The Times" report, "Hoax number seven." Trump has spent the bulk of this week on the road out west. "The Washington Post" reports, "Over stops in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Nevada, Trump was buoyant almost to the point of giddiness bounding over to greet supporters as he deplaned Air Force One and chatting off the record with his traveling press corps, including Wednesday night when Trump, playing of eager host, led a klatch of reporters to his personal cabin aboard the Boeing 747 to watch the Democratic debate, which he had TiVo`d. Trump witnessed the Democrats attack one another for two hours on a stage here, basked in the cheer adulation of his cheering rally crowds and presented as a man increasingly confident about his reelection prospects."

Notably, Trump`s job approval now stands at 46 percent, this according to an average of polls by Real Clear Politics. At 46 percent is the highest that number has been since early February 2017. That was just a few weeks into the Trump presidency.

Meanwhile Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, who has been sparring all week with Trump, saw a drop in support among Democratic primary voters after Wednesday night`s debate. The Morning Consult poll conducted on Thursday found the share of voters who named Bloomberg as their first choice for the democratic nomination was down three points from before that debate.

And at that Wednesday debate, Elizabeth Warren pressed Bloomberg to release former employees from confidentially agreements that bar them from speaking publicly about sexual harassment or discrimination suits.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements so we can hear their side of the story?

MICHAEL BLOOMBER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a very few nondisclosure agreements.

WARREN: How many is that?

BLOOMBERG: Let me finish.

WARREN: How many is that?

BLOOMBERG: None of them accuse me of doing anything other than -- maybe they didn`t like a joke I told. And let me just put -- and let me put -- there`s agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet and that`s up to them.


KORNACKI: Today, though, Bloomberg announced that three women who worked for his company would be released from those nondisclosure agreements if they so desire. Campaign Senior Adviser Tim O`Brien explained what pushed him to make such a major reversal.


TIM O`BRIEN, MICHAEL BLOOMBERG`S CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Of course Senator Warren flagging this played a role in the decision. We`re happy to try to resolve this by coming -- becoming much clearer with the NDAs that have been in question.


KORNACKI: Bernie Sanders is also speaking out about Bloomberg`s performance at that debate Wednesday, saying that Bloomberg will need to make changes if he hopes to take on Trump. Here`s what Sanders said in an interview with "60 minutes."


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Were you surprised by how unprepared he seemed for some very basic obvious questions at a debate in Nevada?

SANDERS: Yes, I won. I was. And, you know, and if that`s what happened in a Democratic debate, you know, I think it`s quite likely that Trump will chew him up and spit him out.


KORNACKI: Bloomberg is conceding that he didn`t do well at that debate and says that he is now focused on what happens next. He sat down with Reverend Al Sharpton for an exclusive interview that is set to air this weekend here on MSNBC.


AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: You tell me, what did you feel about your performance and what can we look forward to?

BLOOMBERG: Well, it wasn`t my best night, blame nobody but me. In the end I get advice from people, but it`s up to me to decide what to do.

What I found, they were yelling at each other and they weren`t focusing on Donald Trump, which is what we should be focusing on in the Democratic Party. And I didn`t have a chance to really say what I wanted to say. Have another debate coming up on Tuesday.


KORNACKI: And here for our lead-off discussion on a Friday night, Annie Karni, White House Reporter with "The New York Times"," Catherine Lucey White House Reporter with "The Wall Street Journal," and Beth Fouhy, NBC News Senior Politics Editor. Thanks to all of you for being with us.

Catherine, let me start with you and this news we have been talking about now for the past 24 hours or so about what the intelligence community has judged Russia to be up to when it comes to the presidential election. Donald Trump and his re-election prospects in 2020, we saw the President`s public reaction to this on full display. Is that in contrast in any way to what is being said and what is happening behind the scenes at the White House? Is there any greater level of concern there or is what you see in public is what you`re getting behind the scenes?

CATHERINE LUCEY, JOURNAL WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET": I think a lot of what we see with the President`s comments are usually what he say in private. Typically his remarks and his insights toned come out in public. That`s how he works.

And what he heard from him about -- in the last 24 hours about this, really isn`t keeping with what he`s been saying for a long time about Russian interference. I think the thing we know is that this is going to shadow the 2020 race in the same way that it did the 2016 race and much of his presidency.

And he`s been very consistent throughout questioning the intelligence conclusions about election interference, trying to cast blame. You see him trying to blame Democrats this week when of course we`re talking about, you know, intelligence briefings at an event that, you know, was a bipartisan meeting of Democrats and Republicans.

But you`re also seeing, I mean, in the context of this week which you were talking about, the President was out on his western tour. He`s feeling very empowered post his impeachment acquittal in the Senate. And I think you`re going to see the same kind of pushback and rhetoric from him as he moves forward. And he is increasingly confident about his re-election prospects.

KORNACKI: Annie, there`s the question when it comes to Russia and Trump and now tonight this reporting about Russia and Bernie Sanders and his campaign for the Democratic nomination. There`s this question of what does it mean when the Intelligence Committee is apparently judging Russia to be interfering? What form is that interference taking? Do you have a sense of the, at least the range of possibilities here? And if there is anything that`s in place or anything that`s being done outside of what the President is saying publicly here that might counter that in any way?

ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, we don`t know yet the full scope of what it means that they`re interfering, but we know in the past it mean online advertisements, boosting one candidate, or putting false information about another. One thing that I think was striking was Bernie Sanders` response was kind of what we expect politicians to respond when we hear that a foreign country is meddling in our elections. It was strong. It denounced the news. It stood in stark contrast to how the President reacted.

Behind the scenes what we`re seeing is the President is more concerned. He was more concerned that this briefing, a, happened without him being told ahead of time, and b, that political enemies at home like Representative Adam Schiff were given the briefing. Adam Schiff became a nemesis of his during the impeachment hearings. And he privately was concerned that they would weaponize this information against him. That was concerning him that a political enemy at home would have something on him more than a foreign power would be interfering in our elections.

Like Catherine said, that`s not out of line with how he`s dealt with this issue over three years. But the fact that we saw another candidate running for president react 180 degrees off of it only highlighted how unusual it is for the President to disregard the actual issue here and only see it in terms of what`s being done to hurt him.

KORNACKI: Beth, I`m curious what you make of that response we played there from Bernie Sanders. He did also suggest that the timing of this, the night before the Nevada caucuses, we`ll talk about Nevada later, that that might have had something to do with this in some way. Given how much attention, especially in Democratic circles there`s been to this issue of Russia for the last three, three and a half years, the context of Nevada, his response. What did you make of his response and how that might go over with the voters he`s trying to win over right now?

BETH FOUHY, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR: I mean, I think Annie is right. I mean, he reacted the way a top tier politician of United States would normally react to disavow anything Russia is trying to do, whether to help him or to somehow boost him in order to help Trump. He reacted the way one would expect. And it`s the President of the United States who is the one who continues to push away from all the evidence that Russia helped in 2016 is doing so again this time.

Your question though is how it`s going to affect tomorrow. It`s very interesting. Yes, the timing -- I mean, Bernie Sanders did sort of imply there was something a little bit fishy about this coming out today. I certainly notice it online with many other Bernie Sanders supporters being convinced that this was done in tandem with this very important contest in Nevada, that first diverse contest that we`re seeing in the first early states.

He is doing very well there. By some accounts favored to win there is somehow this notion that there some Russian assistance, perhaps Russia wanting Bernie Sanders to be President Trump`s opponent that might sort of help push him over the edge there and win in Nevada. Obviously that is not something that Bernie Sanders is going to want to consider as part of this.

But, you know, honestly we don`t really know what Russia is doing, as Annie said, we don`t know specifically what they`re trying to do or why they`re trying to help Bernie Sanders at this point. Is it because they see him as the strongest candidate or are they just sort of doing, like, garden variety meddling wherever they can to just to invoke this conflict?

KORNACKI: And Annie, in terms of the President and what we`ve seen from him this week, today in Nevada where the Democrats are obviously going to be center stage tomorrow, Catherine was getting to this, talking about his sort of semi confident mood out there on the campaign trail. Is that something you`re picking up from him and around the White House in the wake of impeachment and his acquittal? We mention the poll this week, the polling this week, I should say, that puts his approval rating at the highest point it`s been in his presidency. I say highest point, it`s still 46 percent. That`s still perilous territory for an incumbent, but it`s better than he`s been doing. Has there been a change in his mood that you detected?

KARNI: Yes, I think that he`s definitely happy to be investigation free, to have impeachment behind him. The polls are buoying him and the Democratic field is buoying him.

The person who`s been most in his head and on his mind is Mike Bloomberg. And I think that in addition to moving past impeachment, watching the poor performance that Mike Bloomberg delivered earlier this week boosted Trump`s confidence in who -- in what he`s likely to face in the general election.

So I think that the campaign feels very confident right now about their re- election chances. They`re looking at places to expand the map.

It will be hard for them because Trump still hasn`t shown an ability to really win over new voters. But looking at the field of who he`s going to match up against, they`re feeling like it`s -- they`re all weak candidates compared to Trump. So that -- so yes, he`s definitely upbeat compared to how he was during impeachment.

KORNACKI: And Beth, staying on the topic of Michael Bloomberg here. This news today his campaign now saying -- Bloomberg himself now saying that three women who had signed nondisclosure agreements would, if they wanted, be release from them, free to tell their stories publicly. That is a departure obviously from what he said in that debate. Is that a concession on his campaign`s part that he didn`t handle that well in the debate?

FOUHY: Yes, sure, it looks like. And I mean they`re trying to do a course correction. It`s interesting that they`ve named sort of three -- apparently these three specific women that, of course, prompted Elizabeth Warren and others to say why not release everyone? We don`t know how many women are bound by non-disclosure agreements but it obviously gave Elizabeth Warren another -- it`s a little bit fodder to try to push the mayor a little bit further and to keep a spotlight on this issue.

That clip you played from the Reverend Al interview where Mayor Bloomberg said I need to do better in the next debate, that`s only a few days away, as you know, Steve. It`s on Tuesday night, not even a week after our debate in Las Vegas. So these candidates are barreling forward. If they`re going to do a course correction, it has to come fast. It`s coming up in just a few days. And certainly Mayor Bloomberg is going to be the one most under the spotlight to see if he can do a little bit better.

KORNACKI: Right. No, this time in two weeks most of the votes really will have been cast in primaries.

FOUHY: That`s right. In Tuesday.

KORNACKI: It`s happening very quickly, absolutely.

Catherine, quickly, the issue here, we talk about the reports from the -- coming out of the intelligence community about Russian interference. It was the director of National Intelligence himself, Joseph Maguire, the former director of National Intelligence now who earned Trump`s ire. What do we know about the search for a full-time replacement there?

LUCEY: Well, the President was tweeting about this today. He says he has four possibilities they`re looking at. They have not said exactly when, he says in a few weeks he`ll have an announcement.

We know obviously that he likes to draw these things out. So we`ll see how he does that.

But, yes, this comes at a moment where there`s a lot of questions about the future of that job. How the President is going to view that in the future. And, you know, given the way he has treated and thought about the intelligence community so far, I think.

KORNACKI: All right, Catherine Lucey, Annie Karni, Beth Fouhy, thanks to all of you.

And coming up, Pelosi`s two-word strategy for trying to keep the House.

And later, his campaign calls it Biden country but with his lead in South Carolina shrinking, will that be the case eight days from now? "The 11th Hour" just getting started on a Friday night.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): For him, therefore, to oust a director of National Intelligence and put somebody in with absolutely no credentials whatsoever for the job for something that is very much a part of our national security, this is dangerous. This is dangerous to our country. It would be like sending me in for brain surgery, to do brain surgery on somebody. What?


KORNACKI: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reacting to go President Trump`s selection of a new interim director of National Intelligence, Richard Grenell. "The New York Times" reports that Pelosi with an eye on protecting her party`s House majority is pushing Democrats to highlight health care and jobs over investigating Trump, "Health care, health care, health care, the speaker said describing the party`s message during a recent closed-door meeting according to a person in the room."

For more tonight, we welcome to the broadcast "New York Times" Congressional Correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist in a familiar biline from the paper`s political coverage.

Sheryl, Thank you so much for joining us. It`s interesting and I`m curious how Pelosi navigates this. If the strategy is health care, health care, health care, as she says, we just played in the introduction there what it seems keeps happening. The President says or does something, it commands all sorts of attention, it commands a response or it demands a response, I should say, from the House speaker, from every Democrat in the House. You saw that on this question of Grenell and the DNI.

You saw that for that matter from the way Democrats have talked about it with impeachment. They said they were forced. They were compelled by Trump`s actions to impeach him, to go through that process. Realistically, can they focus like she wants on health care in the era of Trump?

SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, she`s going to try, but that is her big challenge. You know, every time they try to change the subject and Democrats try to focus on things like health care or infrastructure or jobs or the economy or trade, President Trump has this way of pulling them back, of doing something that is so outrageous that once again they are on the topic of Trump and his behavior instead of their own agenda, which they know is what is going to help them keep the House. It`s what did it for them in 2018, and it`s what they want to do again in 2020 if only Trump will let them.

KORNACKI: One of the factors is well in whether Democrats will retain the House or Republicans will win it back. The identity potentially of the Democratic nominee, one of those Democrats you mentioned here, the Democrats winning the house in 2018, one of the freshman Democrats from that class, Joe Cunningham from South Carolina, he won a Republican seat in that 2018 wave. He said the "South Carolinians don`t want socialism," talking about a Bernie Sanders nomination. "Bernie`s proposals to raise taxes on almost everyone is not something the low country wants and not something I`d ever support. Bernie Sanders will not be the nominee."

That`s one of those class of 18 Democrats speaking out there. I`m curious, what is the mood among that strain of Democrat, the Democrat elected from a Republican seat in 2018. Is what Cunningham is saying near the consensus? Are they nervous about Sanders?

STOLBERG: Yes the mood is nervous. And Cunningham is not the only one. A number of centrist House Democrats shared with me both on and off the record that they are very worried about a Sanders candidacy. One of them, Dean Phillips of Minnesota told me that his district went Democratic for the first time since 1958 when he was elected. So, you know, more than 60 years.

And a lot of those who voted for Dean Phillips were independents and maybe even some who had voted Republican in the past, and they are just not going to go for a socialist candidate.

And if you look at President Trump`s rhetoric, he`s going to label any Democrat a socialist. He will call Mike Bloomberg a socialist. So, can you imagine what it would be like if Sanders, an actual Democratic socialist is at the top of the ticket? That is a very challenging situation for these centrists. And it is the centrists who are essential to keeping the Democrats` hold on the House.

KORNACKI: It`s funny. I do wonder sometimes with these discussions if there is a cautionary element of this too for all of us talking about it, you know, myself very much included. When you think back to 2016, I remember when the "Access Hollywood" tape out a couple weeks before the election and Paul Ryan, then the House speaker, the Republican House speaker had this emergency conference call with all his Republican members running for re- election and basically the message was cut him off, cut Trump off. He`s going to take you down. Don`t let him take you down with you.

And of course a couple weeks later Trump won and basically all of them won too. It does raise the question of how much any of us know anymore about what actually works at the top of the ticket and what doesn`t.

STOLBERG: Yes. I think that`s actually a fair point. And I`m remembering my own reporting in 2016 when a lot of voters told me I like Trump and I like Bernie. And you would think, how could that be because their philosophies are really so opposite one another.

But I think both of them appeal to that kind of populist outsider ethos that, you know, voters are looking for. And we really don`t know what`s going to happen. And, of course, Senator Sanders argues that he would bring in a whole new segment of the electorate people who hadn`t voted before. But the Democrats, the centrists still aren`t nervous about him.

KORNACKI: All right, Sheryl Stolberg, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

And coming up, what you absolutely must know about the Nevada caucuses, we are hours away. We`re going to have tons of coverage tomorrow. We`re going to give you an essential viewer`s guide when "The 11th Hour" continues.



SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t quite have the name identification, as you know, of some of the people in the race. I certainly don`t have the bank account of some of the people in the race. But what`s happened to us is one by one through speeches and these public events and the debates, regular people have just started helping me in a big, big way. And we raised $12 million since the New Hampshire debate in that first week just online.


KORNACKI: Amy Klobuchar making her final pitch in Nevada. Guess what, about 15 1/2 hours from now they`re going to close the doors at the caucus sites all across the silver state and they`re going to begin. Those caucuses are going to begin and if, you know, I have to say if, because we remember what happened in Iowa. But if everything goes according to plan in Nevada, we will very quickly start getting results, know within a few hours who has won the Nevada caucuses, the third contest up.

Of course I say folks will be going to these caucus sites tomorrow. About - - a lot of people have already gone to the caucus sites. Let`s look to the question of turnout potential turnout here. In 2016 it was 84,000. In 2008, the first time they ever did this, Obama/Clinton that year high (INAUDIBLE) raise, it was 117,000. Well guess what, 75,000 or so people have already participated in these Nevada caucuses because for the first time ever they have allowed early voting. Folks have over the past week or two gone out, filled out preference cards, first choice, second choice, third choice, whatever. And 75,000 people have done that.

Nevada is state where early voting is popular, so we expect 75,000 will be the majority, maybe the overwhelming majority of all votes that end up being cast in these caucuses. We don`t know what the final turnout will be. We expect it to pass 84. Let`s see it can rival the 2008 number or if will come in short of that. So that`s one thing we`re looking at. Of course there`s also the lay of the land. You saw Amy Klobuchar making that closing case. Klobuchar here in the average of the polls we`ve seen in Nevada, she is bringing up the rear here, 11 percent, tied with Tom Steyer. It is Bernie Sanders. It is Bernie Sanders if you look at the polls that are out there who goes into this thing tomorrow as the favorite.

Now there`s a lot of uncertainty. It`s a caucus state, there hasn`t been a ton of polling. The polling isn`t always the most reliable in Nevada so we will see. But certainly just based on the polling that`s out there, based on the fact that he just came off that win in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders goes into this the favorite. One of the reasons Sanders goes into -- this as the favorite by the way, is Nevada`s diverse electoral. You see here more than a quarter of is Hispanic or other, that`s largely Hispanic in this group. Also some Asian. This is a large Hispanic population. This is the first state with a large Hispanic population. And we`ve seen polling that shows Bernie Sanders running in the lead with Hispanic voters. His campaign thinks that`s one of their strengths that hasn`t got a lot of attention. If that is real, if that`s a real thing, we will know tomorrow about Bernie Sanders.

In terms of what to expect tomorrow, let me show you the empty leader board right now. This thing will hopefully start filling up about 16 or so hours from now. But one thing to keep in mind, you`re going to be seeing this map all day tomorrow, all afternoon. You`ll see all these counties they are filling in. This is a big state geographically. There are a lot -- is a lot of spaces here. 70 percent of the vote is going to come out of this one county, this is Clark County, this is Las Vegas, this is Henderson, 70 percent and 20 percent is going to come out of this county Washoe County, that`s where Reno is, that`s where Sparks is, 90 percent is going to come out of two counties. All of the space here, not a lot of people live there, only 10 percent.

So one thing to keep in mind it`s a big state, but there`s really just two population centers here. So keep that in mind tomorrow. We have a lot more to do with this tomorrow. Hopefully.

Coming up, there are more than just delegation riding on tomorrow`s results. A look at the candidates at risk of looking too broke to make in the Super Tuesday when "The 11th Hour" continues.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The corporate elite is getting nervous. Donald Trump is getting nervous. The Republican establishment is getting nervous. The Democratic establishment is getting nervous. And they`re going a little bit nuts. How can we stop Bernie?


KORNACKI: With just hours to go now until the Nevada caucuses, the contenders out there are spending their time campaigning across the state. All, that is, except for Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders spent most of the day in California, that is where the most delegates are up for grabs Super Tuesday on March 3rd.

Here to talk about all of it, we welcome to the broadcast tonight Lily Adams, she is the former communications director for Kamala Harris` presidential campaign, former spokesperson for Hillary Clinton, now a fellow at Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy. And back with us again, Karine Jean-Pierre, chief public affairs officer for MoveOn and an alum of both the Obama campaign and Obama White House.

Both of you, thank you for joining us and welcome. Let me start with you, Lily. And I want to put a graphic up on the screen here. This is financial picture of these campaigns on the eve of the Nevada caucuses, and just a week or so ahead of Super Tuesday. You see there Bloomberg, $55 million on hand, although really he has limitless money on hand. He can spend whatever he wants. So that I would just go to an eternity there.


KORNACKI: Yes, Bloomberg. But you see the rest there`s Steyer, Sanders, and then after Sanders everybody else under $10 million, there Klobuchar, Warren both 2, 3 million. I was looking at some of the ad spending in those Super Tuesday states this week. I looked at Virginia and saw $4 million worth of ads from Bloomberg on the air and zero from all of the other Democratic candidates. I wonder, is there a story with major implications for Super Tuesday that`s being undercovered here?

ADAMS: Well I think absolutely. I mean people say that we`re going to get to a national primary on Super Tuesday but nearly every single state has some form of early voting except for Virginia. And so nearly 40 percent to 50 percent of the ballots for Super Tuesday are going to be in for Super Tuesday. So not being on the air in these states and ceding the air waves to Mayor Bloomberg and to Senator Sanders, who have, you know, substantial war chest obviously, one is self-made, obviously on money.

But it`s a huge disadvantage for campaigns like Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Buttigieg and Vice President Biden to be completely absent.

KORNACKI: Karine, we were trying to play a little bit of expectation setting there in that last segment at the board for Nevada tomorrow.


KORNACKI: I think it`s safe to say the expectation, the favorite going into this would be Bernie San -- hey, Nevada is the legalized gambling capital of the world. We can say the morning line favorite in Nevada is probably going to be Bernie Sanders. I wonder, though, is there a difference for him when you start talking about trying to get this party to unite behind him, is there a difference, sort of a significant difference between winning this thing big tomorrow in Nevada, double digits, 15 points, something like that, versus another one of those New Hampshire-like victories where it`s, you know, two, three points, he`s under 30, that talk of the ceiling is still there?

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. So it`s really interesting because right Nevada is the first state that is diverse. We had the first two states that Iowa being 90 percent white, New Hampshire being 93 percent white, here we have a totally different kind of electorate for Democrats. And a lot of young Latino voters are excited about Bernie Sanders, which is incredibly important for him in the turnout for Nevada.

Look and we`ve had as you laid out, we`ve had a high turnout in early voting, 75,000 people have voted already. And caucus state actually worked really well for Bernie. We saw that in 2016 because he has these really loyal, extremely loyal base, and they come out with these caucus -- kind (ph) type of caucus contests. So I think one of the reasons he`s not in the Nevada right now is because they probably feel very confident with the early voting, with the numbers that we have been seeing where he`s at double digits in that state going into tomorrow. And because it`s a more diverse contest, I think he can do much better than he has in the last two contests.

KORNACKI: Lily, you heard that clip there coming into this segment, Bernie Sanders telling that crowd today that the Democratic establishment is scared of him and scared of his success. Is that true? And if it is, is the Democratic establishment in position to keep him from getting this nomination?

ADAMS: Well look, I don`t think there is some of sort secret Democratic establishment meetings going on in some back room somewhere where we decide as a Democratic establishment whether we are afraid or not afraid of Bernie Sanders. I think if he -- you know, what he wants to do right now is go from being the front-runner to being the prohibitive front-runner for the Democratic nomination and that starts in Nevada. And I think I agree that if he posts a big win there, that will have huge implications for the rest of the cycle.

And I think it will put him in a really good position to close the gap in South Carolina and then going into Super Tuesday. And I think if those things happen, and this is using a lot of ifs, then I do think Democrats will rally around him if he is going to be the prohibitive, you know, front-runner for the nomination. Because the most important thing to Democrats, more important than any candidate that they love, more important than any candidate they don`t really like is beating Donald Trump in November. And I do think Democrats will rally around that.

KORNACKI: Karine, this suggestion has been talked about quite a bit this week that there`s sort of a pileup behind Sanders in this race and you`ve got Bloomberg, but then you`ve got Biden and they`re kind of chasing the same voters. And oh by the way, so is Buttigieg and so is Klobuchar. And there`s a lot of overlap there, and there`s not a clear path at this moment. For any one of them to get a clear and direct shot at Bernie Sanders and that because of that, Sanders might be able to skate by at 30 percent, 35 percent in a bunch different primaries and build a insurmountable delegate lead.

Do you think that`s a realistic prospect that it could go that way, and do you see a way tomorrow for one of these candidates to get that clear shot at him?

JEAN-PIERRE: I think it`s going to be very difficult. Look, there is a battle for that moderate lane, and there are many moderates battling for that lane. And with the, you know, with the weakness of Biden unfortunately for his campaign, that it hasn`t helped, which is why Bloomberg is in the race. Look, Sanders has been able to consolidate that progressive lane. We will see how Warren`s fiery performance the other night in a debate which debates have mattered as we saw in New Hampshire with Klobuchar. She got a rise and she was able to move up and did really well and raised money off her debate performance.

We will see what happens with Warren tomorrow. Does that help her? Does that help her in South Carolina? I`ve been talking to folks on the ground where there`s a buzz about her because of her performance in the debate recently and clearly in Nevada. And so now people are watching. They`re watching OK, where are they going to place? Where`s Biden going to place? Where`s Warren going to place? And that`s going to really play into South Carolina and moving forward into the Super Tuesday states.

KORNACKI: Yes, I think Elizabeth Warren might be wishing that debate had been held before the early voting, here it began. We`ll see if that ends up --

JEAN-PIERRE: That`s so true.

KORNACKI: All those cast ballots end up or maybe there`s enough still out there for her to get a late move. We will see. Karine Jean-Pierre, and Lily Adams. Thank both for joining us.

And coming up --

JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks Steve.

KORNACKI: -- well those Nevada ballots we`re talking about, many have been cast. They haven`t been counted yet and a lot of the focus though is we were just talking about this South Carolina, the state that comes after Nevada. One of the state`s top political reporters on what`s at stake there when "The 11th Hour" continues.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, just all I know is I`m meeting everybody, combined with black voters.

Name me anybody who has remotely close to the support I have in the African-American community nationally.


KORNACKI: Joe Biden support among black voters is slipping, though, ahead of the South Carolina primary. A year ago the former vice president led Bernie Sanders by as many as 30 percentage points. Now, though, they appear to be running close to even nationally among black voters.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll puts Biden ahead by two points among black voters nationally. We should note there is a large margin of error with this poll, 8.3 percent, so it`s hard to tell exactly where things stand there.

With us more, we welcome to the broadcast Joseph Bustos, State Government and Politics Reporter for The State, that`s Columbia, South Carolina`s daily newspaper. Joe, thank you for joining us.

We`ve talked about Nevada, 15 hours or so from now the doors are going to close there. Hopefully we`re going to get a result out of Nevada tomorrow. There`s a possibility here Joe Biden does very well in Nevada tomorrow, maybe a strong second. Maybe he actually wins the thing, and there`s a chance that he does another New Hampshire, another Iowa. He`s a distant also run. How much will his finish in Nevada tomorrow affect his standing in what he is basically setup a must-win state in South Carolina?

JOSEPH BUSTOS, STATE GOVERNMENT & POLITICS REPORTER, THE STATE: Well, I think South Carolina is Joe Biden`s firewall. Also one thing to keep in mind about Nevada and South Carolina, two very different states, Nevada has more unions than South Carolina. It`s also heavier African-American electorate in South Carolina. So I think those are two differences that you got to keep in mind between the two states.

KORNACKI: He has talked about Joe Biden has in South Carolina saying he is confident that Jim Clyburn, a veteran congressman, one of the most influential black leaders in the state is going to be out there supporting him. Is that going to happen?

BUSTOS: We don`t know yet. Representative Clyburn has said, he knows who he`s going to vote for, but he hasn`t made that public yet. We`re still waiting for when he`ll make that announcement. And we`re hoping or wondering if it`s going to be soon because who Jim Clyburn votes for is seen as a very important endorsement and one that carries a lot of weight in the state.

KORNACKI: I was looking. We put that poll up there of black voters nationally. I`ve also seen some of the numbers from South Carolina among African-American voters. And we should say it`s about 60 percent of the Democratic electorate there in South Carolina in this primary will be black. The polling I`ve seen in South Carolina has suggested Biden`s doing well with black voters, Bernie Sanders and Tom Steyer.

Tom Steyer, I`ve seen 15 percent, 20 percent, something like that among black voters in South Carolina. What is he doing to cultivate that support?

BUSTOS: He`s spending a lot of money in the state. He has put a lot of TV ads on the air, a lot of digital ads. He`s also hired some state lawmakers as advisers on his campaign, and he`s gotten other support from state law, some black state lawmakers in the state to help his -- to help gin up support for him. He`s also invested heavily in black-owned media, and as well as we`ve been talking about reparations in the state, as well as investing in HBCUS.

KORNACKI: We`ve also talked about Pete Buttigieg and the struggles. He`s had to win over black voters. He did very well in Iowa and New Hampshire, two states with largely white populations. I am not seeing from afar when I look at these polls any signs of significant movement there among non-white voters towards Buttigieg. Is there anything different happening on the ground in South Carolina?

BUSTOS: Well, I think part of it is it`s a heavily black, African-American electorate, and that`s going to be where a lot of the support`s going to have to come from for candidates. Pete Buttigieg did recently get an endorsement from a state law, a black state lawmaker, JA Moore, but that`s the only one he`s gotten so far.

KORNACKI: All right, Joseph Bustos joining us from the Palmetto State. All the eyes of the world will be on you in about 24 hours. Again, if we get these results out of Nevada, and that is finished at this time tomorrow. We will see. That`s politics in 2020.

Coming up, if you don`t understand why Bernie Sanders is having a moment, we show you why when "The 11th Hour" continues.



CHUCK TODD, CNN HOST: Should the person with the most delegates at the end of this primary season be the nominee even if they are short of a majority?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whatever the rules of the Democratic are, they should be followed.

ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A convention working its will means the people have the delegates that are pledged to them, and they keep those delegates until --

TODD: To the leading person?

WARREN: -- you come to the convention. All of the people.

TODD: Yes or no? Leading person with the delegates, should they be the nominee or not?

BIDEN: No. Let the process work its way out.

TODD: Mayor Buttigieg.


TODD: Senator Klobuchar?

KLOBUCHAR: Let the process works.

TODD: Senator Sanders.

SANDERS: Well, the process includes 500 super delegates on the second ballot, so I think that the will of the people should prevail, yes.


KORNACKI: Bernie Sanders had a different answer than all the other candidates on that question. Why would it be? They`re probably all thinking the same thing. The possibility you get through these primaries and if one candidate right now, at least, you look at Sanders in the national poll compared to all the other Democratic candidates here. If one candidate looking at this national poll is positioned to get the most delegates without getting that outright majority of 1991 in the primary season, at this moment you look at this poll and you would say that`s Bernie Sanders.

So there`s Bernie Sanders saying that should be enough to make me the nominee. And there`s every other candidate onstage saying, know, no, it shouldn`t. I guess strategically not a big surprise here.

But let`s take a look at Bernie Sanders` prospects from this point forward because the big question I should say with Sanders is, can he grow this 29 percent support substantially if he wins Nevada tomorrow? Let`s take a look at Nevada. If he gets a big win out of Nevada tomorrow, can that national support rise, can he have a bandwagon effect that benefits him here. Or, you`ve heard this possibility put out there certainly by his rivals, is there a ceiling on Sanders` support.

As he wins, perhaps, as he wins in New Hampshire as the prospect of Sanders nomination grows stronger, the Democratic voters collectively say, wait a minute. Let`s not do this, and do you find that he really can`t get past 30 percent in these primaries? That`s the question with Sanders right now.

So again, Nevada we say tomorrow in the afternoon of polls right now, Sanders goes into this thing the favorite, does he end up with a big tomorrow, a double-digit win tomorrow, does he end up with a win that shows folks he can get the Hispanic vote, that he can get the Hispanic vote by a large margin. Or, at this time tomorrow are we talking about, wow, you know, that was a very close race here in Nevada, did Sanders underachieve, did somebody else rise up and nearly beat him, did somebody else rise up and actually beat him tomorrow? Big test there in Nevada.

Then, of course, you go a week later to South Carolina. And if you look here, new poll out of South Carolina just yesterday, Biden still in the lead, it`s only five points over Sanders. In the world where Bernie Sanders gets a big win in Nevada tomorrow, in a world where maybe Joe Biden doesn`t do that well in Nevada tomorrow, could Bernie Sanders rise up and win South Carolina?

If Sanders got Nevada and South Carolina, and already had New Hampshire and got whatever you want to call out of Iowa, Sanders could come out of those first four saying I won three, arguably four of the first four, would that build a bandwagon effect nationally.

One thing to keep in mind here, I`ve been looking at this numbers. This is the baseline of good will that these Democratic candidates have with Democratic voters. They are favorable unfavorable score with Democratic voters. In the most recent poll, Sanders continues to have the strongest thing here. Democratic voters at least right now, they like Bernie Sanders in this poll.

So that`s the question for him, can he parlay that goodwill into some big numbers on Super Tuesday, particularly in California. Anyway, I could go on and on, I`m going to have so many chances tomorrow with our coverage. You can pick it up, you could catch us tomorrow, I should say. You can catch Brian, myself, the whole MSNBC team covering the Nevada caucuses, 2:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, we go on the air.

And until then, thank you for being with us. Good night from NBC News headquarters in New York.

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