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President Trump TRANSCRIPT: 8/7/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Susan Page, Jeremy Bash, Anne Rimoin, Lynn Deutsch, Randall Lane, Jason Johnson, Steve Schmidt

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Tomorrow and every weekend morning starting at 8  a.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC. And of course, we`ll be covering the  tough questions around reopening schools in the next month.

In order to provide you with the best information possible, I`d like to  know how you`re preparing for your kids returned to school. Send me your  stories, your photos, your videos to my e-mail at MyStory@Velshi.com. I  hope you`ll join us.

The 11th hour with Brian Williams begins right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again as we bring  another week to a close. Day 1,296 of the Trump administration, 88 days  until the presidential election.

Tonight Donald Trump is at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. We know  that because the press was summoned for a press conference that turned out  to be a campaign rally of sorts in front of a crowd of assembled members of  his golf club. Some of them just off the golf course, many of them had a  wineglass on hand. Some of them brought their kids. Many were not wearing  masks.

The President was played into the room to a recording of Hail to the Chief.  Again, it was less a news conference than it was a list of grievances, a  dizzying slew of demonstrably false claims, including his latest version of  how well he says the nation is doing while in the grip of a pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s going to disappear.

In the United States, more than 80 percent of jurisdictions report  declining cases. We`re doing very well. You don`t hear that too often from  the media, but we`re doing very well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The reality is we are very close to 5 million coronavirus cases.  That`s about the populations of the cities of Houston and Chicago combined.  Over 161,000 people have died as of this Friday night.

Trump then rather stunningly said this about health insurance and  preexisting conditions already part of Obamacare, which of course the  President`s trying to end.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Over the next two weeks I`ll be pursuing a major executive order  requiring health insurance companies to cover all preexisting conditions  for all customers.

This has never been done before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Today the Labor Department reported the economy recovered nearly  2 million loss jobs unemployment now just over 10 percent. We`re still in  the grips of a cataclysmic downturn, the worst of the modern era. Many  economists say the nation has a long way to go before it`s anywhere close  to recovered.

From the shock of the pandemic and related lockdowns, congressional  Democrats on the White House are at a stalemate over another round of  coronavirus relief. Tonight, Trump blamed Democrats for the talks  collapsing while signaling he`s ready to move ahead with the executive  orders which he`s promised before using powers, no one is sure he has.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage, I will  act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need.  And what we`re talking about is deferring the payroll tax for a period of  months till the end of the year and I can extend it at a certain period.  Hopefully, I will be here to do the job.

We`re going to enhance unemployment benefits through the end of the year.  So, unemployment benefits will be -- that`s a big one, will be brought out  to the end of the year and defer student loan payments and forgive interest  until further notice. So, students who are paying student loans and in many  cases that not even allowed to go back into their colleges.

Extend the eviction moratorium, we will be extended that. So people aren`t  evicted, not their fault.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you concerned about the legality of the  deductible?

TRUMP: No, not at all. No, somebody, but you always get sued. I mean,  everything you do you get sued.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: All of that what you just heard is TBA. Let`s fast forward,  however, here is how the event ended.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President, you said that the pandemic is disappearing,  but we lost 6,000 Americans this week. And just in this room, you have  dozens of people are not following the guidelines in New Jersey which say  you should not have -- 

(Crosstalk)

TRUMP: You`re wrong at that because it`s a political activity. They have  exceptions, political activity, and it`s also a peaceful protest.

So what you, and as you know -- they ask if they could be here. You know,  the number of -- and to me they look like they all have pretty much all  have masks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So that`s about how that went. Earlier today we learned the U.S.  Intelligence Community believes Russia is trying to help Trump`s campaign.  They in turn are trying to warn the public.

A top Intelligence official has released publicly what he`s told lawmakers  behind closed doors about other countries efforts to influence our 2020  election. The statement from the Office of the Director of National  Intelligence says Russia is, "using a range of measures to primarily  denigrate former Vice President Biden. Some Kremlin linked actors are also  seeking to boost President Trump`s candidacy on social media and Russian  television."

It says China, "prefers that President Trump, whom Beijing does sees as  unpredictable, does not win reelection."

And about Iran, they "seek to undermine U.S. democratic institutions,  President Trump and to avoid to divide the country in advance of our 2020  elections."

Here is how the President reacted to this report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The last person Russia wants to see in office is Donald Trump  because nobody`s been tougher on Russia than I have ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not what your intelligence -- 

TRUMP: Well, I don`t care what anybody says.

China would love us to have an election with Donald Trump lost to sleepy  Joe Biden. They would dream. They would own our country.

If Joe Biden was president China would own our country.

Iran would love to see me -- Iran would love to see me not to be president.  If I didn`t win the election in 2016, our country would now be, maybe it  would be over by now, but in war with North Korea -- 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Again, that`s along the lines of how that went.

Here for our lead off discussion on a busy Friday night Susan Page, "USA  Today" Washington Bureau Chief. Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at CIA  and Pentagon, former Chief Counsel to House Intel. And Dr. Anne Rimoin,  Professor of epidemiology at UCLA, where she runs the University`s Center  for Global and Immigrant Health Specializing in Emerging Infectious  Diseases.

Susan Paige, I need your overall reaction to this event tonight with  Country Club guests making up the cheering section in the back. Again, you  could hear people coughing occasionally, you could hear the occasional  child in the background, President portrayed himself to be the first  president to protect preexisting conditions.

And here`s the New York Times take from the duo of Karni and Haberman, away  from gridlock in Washington, Trump puts on a show for his club. "The  President held what was billed as a news conference, but there was almost  no news, he again said the virus would disappear. And his audience seemed  at times less the nation than his golf club members."

Susan over to you.

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: So I think it`s distressing.  I think the attitude toward a reporter asking a legitimate question was  distressing.

But I guess I think the bigger question is, does this serve the President`s  purpose, which is to get reelected in November. And I would say this is not  serve has not serve his purposes, his reelection purposes because it does  not portray him as focused on the issue that Americans care about, which is  this pandemic and its cost and its repercussions. And not identifying  himself with what most millions of Americans are feeling which is under  stress, under fire, under sage looking for leadership to help them get to  the next place, a better place.

So, I think this may -- this is a kind of event that we think President  Trump makes likes, makes him gets him energized. I`m not sure it`s one that  is actually in his self-interest.

WILLIAMS: Meantime, Jeremy Bash, the House, we are told is on fire. Absent  a president in the fight, it`s a uniquely helpless feeling, isn`t it, for  the remaining few of us troubled by the idea that Russia is actively  engaged in a presidential election less than 90 days away? Who do we -- is  there someone in customer service that, again, the small subset of us who  still care about such things? Who do we see about this?

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, where do we go to get our  apology or our outrage or our determination to protect America`s national  security? Because Brian, Russia got a fantastic return on their investment  in 2016.

Just think, I mean, the President Trump nearly pulled America out of NATO,  which would have certainly unraveled the transatlantic alliance that has  kept Europe and the United States free and kept Russian aggression in  check.

Russian officials in the intelligence services paid bounties to the Taliban  to attack American forces and of course, the U.S. didn`t do anything about  it. Trump didn`t do anything about it and Russia has paid no price.

And so, Russia has gotten a phenomenal return on their investment. And so  it does not surprise me at all, that they are engaged once again to  denigrate President Trump`s opponent election, Joe Biden, who of course is  leading President Trump in the polls.

And Trump`s responses, this is all a hoax. There`s nothing to see here. And  in fact, I would argue he`s tacitly welcoming it because he`s been on the  phone with Putin several times over the last several months and not once  has he confronted him over these intelligence reports, which were no doubt  briefed him before they were made public today, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Anne Rimoin, the President said again today out loud and on  camera, it`s disappearing. It`s going to disappear. What does a public  health official like yourself, how do you process that? How do you continue  to process that? And how should we treat such things spoken out loud by the  President?

ANNE RIMOIN, UCLA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH EPIDEMIOLOGY PROFESSOR: Brian,  you know, we`re coming again to this issue of disinformation, wishful  thinking, and a lot of, of just rhetoric that`s getting in the way of real  science and public health.

How does a public health person deal with this kind of information? You  handle it by looking straight ahead at the facts, and remembering the only  way through this pandemic is exactly that, through it.

And so what that means is that we all have to double down now. We have to  do all the things that we`ve been talking about. And we have to remember  with all of these events ongoing, you have Sturgis, we have schools opening  we have so many things to think about. We have to be able to forego present  pleasure for future greater gain.

That is going to be the theme of everything I say today. We all want to get  back to life. We can`t until we get the amount of virus that we have  circulating right now down.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, Dr. Rimoin does remind us that the backdrop for this  and all discussions is an ongoing pandemic. Our friend Clint Watts,  formerly of the FBI, has said for years on the subject of anti-vaccine and  the social media you see on that subject, it`s a very cheap and easy  investment for Russia. It`s based on an old theory that a sick enemy is  easier to fight.

Well, here we are, and I know neither you nor I is a pandemic specialist,  but doctors who are argue that we`re in for a hell of a fight when there is  a vaccine, getting to that threshold, that percentage of Americans willing  to take it and the Russians will be in that fight stride for stride.

BASH: No question. And intelligence has shown according to reports that the  Russians are trying to actually steal our vaccination research.

I think at a broader level, Brian, I mean, look at what`s going on. We`ve  got foreign interference clearly outlined by the statement from the  Director of National Intelligence today, and you`ve got the President  trying to discount the lawfully cast ballots of Americans who are voting by  mail.

And he even says he wants to postpone Election Day. And we may not know the  outcome of the election, he says for days, weeks or years, if that`s not an  echo of fascism, you know, no need for an election here because we`re in a  crisis. I don`t know what it is.

So I think these two things foreign interference, and the President`s  frankly fascist instincts to discount Americans ability to vote, and to  discount the -- or to undermine the ability of our democracy to operate,  these are very dangerous times. And I think we`re going to have to see a  major turnout on Election Day in order to dispel any sense that the  election is in doubt.

WILLIAMS: So Susan Page, you are a thoughtful person for a living, give us  the through line between election security, the Russians attacking election  security in our own country. We hear it from the President. And the  treatment of this virus thus far.

PAGE: So it`s all disruption. You know, and President Trump as a candidate  in 2016, promised disruption that was part of his appeal. And that`s what  we have, we have this most disruptive timing.

But we had an election during the Civil War. None of us were around for  that. I think that was a probably a pretty disruptive time. But I agree  that I think this feels like a very, very perilous time, where America 88  days to the election. That is both not very much time and an extraordinary  amount of time for things to happen, to go wrong, to go right, for people  to get engaged.

The electorate seems extremely interested in a selection. It looks like we  might have what we would always like to have which is heavy turnout.

But imagine if we had an election like we did in 2000 where it`s really  close. It turned to the Supreme Court, a divided Supreme Court decides it.

The reaction of America today would not be the reaction of American 2000,  which was to accept the results. We would have a different situation if we  had something like that happen in 88 days.

WILLIAMS: Terrific point. Scary point, but absolutely spot on.

Anne Rimoin, here in the New York metropolitan area, we had Governor Cuomo  of New York today as say he will allow schools to open in the fall. And  we`re going to talk more about this later in the hour.

But to be fair, that`s the minimum. He is the governor of the state. He is  letting it happened, but he knows these, in some cases, life or death  decisions have to happen at the local level.

RIMOIN: Brian, you`re absolutely right.

You know, here`s the thing. There`s no zero-risk situation here. But what  New York is able to do is to consider opening schools, because they have  reached such a low threshold of disease, they`re able to really bring this  to the table and bring this to communities to decide what to do.

You know, most schools in the United States would not reach that benchmark  of less than 5 percent community transmission. So we`re really not here.  But it is a very complicated decision for everyone because it isn`t just  about the kids which are really suffering right now from not being in  school

But we also have to have the -- everything in place for the teachers, the  bus drivers, the people in the cafeteria, the custodial staff, the people  that the children come home to, you know, nobody lives in a vacuum. And so  this is a very big decision, and that communities are really going to have  to weigh the risk benefit and what matters and what they can do and what  they can put into place to protect everybody as best they can.

WILLIAMS: We are much obliged to our big three after the week we`ve had to  stick around with us late on a Friday night, Susan Page, Jeremy Bash, Dr.  Anne Rimoin, our thanks for helping us along the way.

And coming up, what does Dr. Birx tell community leaders in COVID hotspots.

Up next, we`ll talk to a Georgia Mayor who`s actually on one of those  calls.

And later, the strange and bizarre and ultimately sad story of Kanye West.  His candidacy for President seems more serious only when you consider a  lawyer for Trump is also trying to get Kanye on a ballot to siphon votes  away from Joe Biden. We`ll talk about it with our guests tonight. The 11th  Hour just getting underway on a Friday evening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): And look, let me say it this way, you look at our  infection rate, we are probably in the best situation in the country right  now. As incredible as that is. So if anybody can open schools, we can open  schools.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So, that much is true. The New York a former epicenter continues  to have one of the lowest infection rates in the country. Though, as we  said at the top of the broadcast, let`s say it again and plainly, it`s one  thing for the governor to say he will allow schools to open, its quite  another for all the local districts who now have a huge call to make.

This gets very complicated in current hotspots states like Georgia, which,  reported its "largest single-day increase in confirmed COVID-19 deaths"  since the start of the pandemic just today. Some school districts in  Georgia have delayed their reopening due to the spike in cases.

We are happy to have with us tonight, Lynn Deutsch, Mayor of Dunwoody  Georgia just outside Atlanta.

Madam Mayor, thank you very much for being with us. What`s it like to be on  one of these calls with Dr. Birx, for starters? We don`t get to hear them.  Wish we could. It is a matter of public health. Is she candid with you  guys?

MAYOR LYNN DEUTSCH (I-GA), DUNWOODY: She`s been very candid. And what I`ve  noticed in the most recent calls is that she`s been much more firm about  what she would like to see local and state governments do if their cases  are continuing to grow. And so closed the bars.

WILLIAMS: So, we`ve seen some of the -- OK, go ahead.

DEUTSCH: Closing bars is just an example of something she said on this past  week`s calls.

WILLIAMS: On schools, which is again, a huge responsibility, huge for  public officials, intensely personal for parents and teachers and all their  families. We`ve seen some of the Georgia schools open. Kids slammed back  into quarantine after positive cases. Are you ready to reopen?

DEUTSCH: Well, my city doesn`t control the school system, and our school  system has delayed in-person learning. It`s virtual only to the middle of  September.

But I think these are really good questions. Dr. Birx on our call this week  mentioned that my county, DeKalb County may have plateaued and is actually  stabilizing. And I think that`s a good sign.

But there`s a lot to consider. And I expect that we`ll hear more from the  Metro Atlanta systems in the next few weeks about how and if they plan to  open face to face.

We have a lot of work to do here in Metro Atlanta, particularly, and in  some of the rural counties in Georgia, where our cases have been going the  wrong way and our infection rate is continuing to grow. And so, to get  schools open safely, we need the goal of buckling back up a little bit as a  community and as a state so that we can reopen schools and keep them open.

WILLIAMS: Tell us about testing if I needed or wanted a test tonight in  Dunwoody, Georgia, could I find one and what`s the average wait time for  the results the these days?

DEUTSCH: So it`s -- it is very difficult to get a reservation for a test.  And up until a couple of weeks ago our local our local health department  was openly permitting people to arrive at a test site without an  appointment. They began discouraging that.

My daughter was tested last week and her test results took four days. But I  have still after a while of having better results across the metro area I`m  hearing more and more from my constituents that they are waiting weeks for  their results, which doesn`t do anybody any good -- 

WILLIAMS: Which of course renders -- Yes, I was just going to say renders  all the results moot, anyway, and reverses the purpose of testing. Well,  we`re thinking of you. Best of luck to you. We realize these have to be  baby steps because you`re in the thick of the fight there.

Mayor Lynn Deutsch of Dunwoody, Georgia, thank you very much. Enjoy your  weekend if possible.

Coming up for us here, Kanye West reveals the motive behind his reportedly  Republican Party backed run for the White House. The Forbes reporter who  spoke to Kanye along with Jason Johnson both join us when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I like Kanye very much. No, I have nothing to do with him getting on  the -- We`ll have to see what happens. We`ll see if we get something out.  But, I`m not involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Kanye West is apparently getting help from the Trump campaign in  his presidential bid. NBC News has learned quote, Republicans in at least  four states are helping him gain ballot access. And in an interview with  Forbes reporter, Randall Lane, who joins us in just a moment, quote, the  billionaire rap superstar indicated that he was in fact running to siphon  votes from the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

With us tonight to talk about all of it and it`s troubling, detailed Jason  Johnson, veteran journalist and contributor over at The Grill and a  professor at Morgan State University. Also Randall Lane, Chief Content  Officer of Forbes Media happens to be editor of Forbes Magazine who  interviewed Kanye West again this week.

Randall, I`d like to begin with you. What did he say to you about this race  for president?

RANDALL LANE, EDITOR, FORBES MAGAZINE: Well, you know, obviously it`s  become a bigger deal. I think what happened once, you know, when he was  eligible for the ballot in Wisconsin all of a sudden this went from kind of  a side show to potential to be the Jill Stein of 2020. And what he said I,  you know, I was this was a text interview, I talked to him on the phone for  about four hours last month. I followed him but by text to ask him about  these reports, including the one you just mentioned. And I pointed out to  him that he can`t win. He said, you know, he said he`s running to win. And  I said, you know, you can`t win. He said, he`s walking, he`s walking to  win.

And again, I point out, he couldn`t win. He`s not going to be on the ballot  to get 270 votes, there`s no chance for him to win. And he`s got -- he`s  going to be a spoiler and siphon votes from Joe Biden and his text was I  can`t argue with that, I won`t argue with it. Which I took as, you know, as  a sign he could have denied it. But, you know, he keeps on talking about  running to win even texted last night. I`m running to win. He can`t win and  acknowledges that he`s going to hurt Biden more than Trump.

WILLIAMS: Well, Jason, my friend, this is where we come to you. I`m going  to play for you a bit of Congressman Clyburn as personally responsible as  any other individual not named Joe Biden, for the fact that Joe Biden is  about to take the nomination of his party. We`ll listen to the congressman.  We`ll talk to you on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): African Americans, most especially know what this  campaign is all about. They`ve seen this kind of tactics before. We fell  victim to it when we didn`t know where it was coming from and what was  going on. We now know and we`re not going to make that mistake again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Jason, here`s a fact, Kanye West is battling and managing and  living with mental illness. Full stop. So what`s this all about?

JASON JOHNSON, PROFESSOR, MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: Oh, Brian, you look I`m  like a lot of people I vacillate between rage at Kanye`s foolishness and an  immense amount of sympathy because I like his wife and several other  people. You know, it doesn`t take a psychologist to say, look, this guy  looks like he`s hurting. But if you step back for a second, this is an old  school trick Clyburn knows about this in particular. You go back about 10  years in South Carolina. You remember Alvin Greene, the random unemployed  candidate who Republicans back in order to knock out a Democratic  challenger to Jim DeMint. This is an old trick of the Republican Party, you  find sort of no name, non-politically affiliated black people throw a lot  of money behind them in order to weaken the Democratic candidate.

Now, I think the difference is and Alvin Greene, you know, he ended up  winning and Jim DeMint took over, because Jim DeMint was a powerful guy  anyway, I don`t see Kanye West is being that much of a threat. I don`t know  who is going to brave COVID and voter suppression from the Republican Party  to vote for the late registration guy, but the Republicans seem to think  that at least paying attention to this will somehow distract away from  people realizing that Joe Biden might be a better candidate than Donald  Trump.

WILLIAMS: Well, Jason, what does this mean for Kanye West, he is had as no  one needs to remind any of us in this conversation of something of an  empire that includes but is not limited to music and clothing. He is  attached to an empire even larger than that. What does this do to him and  his name?

JOHNSON: You know, I think his brand has been damaged probably since his  last two albums ago Life of Pablo. I mean, like, if you want to see someone  who`s gone from a great height to like, little or no respect, it`s like  Kanye, Michael Jackson, years before he you know, finally passed away.  There`s not a lot of people who think Kanye West is a serious candidate. A  lot of people don`t even necessarily think he`s a serious musician anymore,  even as he goes around and has these sorts of religious festivals. But I  think is dangerous and the one legitimate danger is this. If he starts to  spend money or Republican start to spend money on his behalf. If Kanye West  starts doing commercials in Michigan, in Wisconsin and talking about, you  know, criminal justice issues.

If Kanye West starts running around and saying, you know what, there`s  really no difference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. What have you got  to lose if he becomes a voice for disenchanted disenfranchised black  voters? Again, as a political scientist, I can tell you, for most black  people in America, it`s not a choice between Trump and Biden. It`s a choice  between Biden staying home and if Kanye can convince people to stay home,  because it`s all a joke on a carnival, then Donald Trump is one and he`s  been an effective surrogate.

WILLIAMS: Again, Randall bears repeating Kanye West is living with and  battling and managing mental illness as we said, full stop. What has he  talked to you? What is he said to you about the subject of mental illness?

LANE: Listen, Kanye. Kanye West is somebody who is very -- he, you know, I  we`ve talked about it in detail he considers it a gift. And while he  considers his pipe bipolar disorder gift, he does not consider himself  somebody who`s handy. This is somebody who you can talk about whether or  not he`s as high as he wasn`t music, but he has the second bestselling  sneaker in America, the Easy Sneakers that made him a billionaire. So  here`s somebody who`s accustomed to going into new areas and being  successful. So and he attributes a lot of that there`s creativity, which he  attributes to his pipe bipolar disorder. This -- so this is somebody who  acknowledges that but doesn`t actually see it as a weakness and isn`t  willing to let that, you know, let other people tell him he can`t do that.  And so, that`s what I think some of the people around him are having to  deal with, that somebody who`s not used to having anybody tell them what to  do.

WILLIAMS: Well stay on it. We`re grateful for having both of you, gentlemen  to talk about it with here tonight. Jason Johnson, Randall Lane, great  pleasure having you. Thank you.

Coming up for us tonight, Donald Trump said he`s been doing the job like  nobody could like nobody would. So we had to hear from Steve Schmidt and we  will after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We`ve done a good job. I think we`re actually -- we are going to be  in two, three, four weeks by the time we -- next week. I think we`re going  to be in very good shape.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Trump fact checker Daniel Dale pointed out today that interview  was one month ago on July 7th. Today a frequent guest of ours Dr. Michael  Osterholm and Neel Kashkari, who serves as president of the Federal Reserve  Bank up in the Twin Cities wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, calling  for state by state lockdowns to save lives and fix our economy. They write,  quote, if we are willing to take this action, millions more cases with many  more deaths are likely before a vaccine might be available. In addition,  the economic recovery will be much slower with far more business failures  and high unemployment for the next year or two. There won`t be a robust  economic recovery until we get control of the virus.

Back with us tonight, Steve Schmidt veteran political strategist who led  the McCain `08 campaign has since left the Republican Party and was among  the founders of the Lincoln Project dedicated to the defeat of Trump and  Trump-ism.

Steve, before we begin our discussion, I want to play for you some of what  CNN`s hot mic overheard the President saying he comes into the ballroom  addresses the folks their guests at his country club. Then after we hear  this, they waited for the playing of Hail to the Chief and he stepped to  the microphone. So here is the hot mic.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: Hello, everybody. Hello, everybody. Thank you. So we`re going to do  a press conference, and I thought you were here. You might as well come in  and see you`ll get to meet the fake news tonight. You get to see what I  have to go through.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So Steve, we`re at a country club in New Jersey. People just in  off the golf course, some folks brought a glass of wine. Some folks brought  their kids, some folks brought both. The last bit of that quote from the  President is you`ll get to see what I have to go through. Let`s contrast  that against the fact that we have over 160,000 souls gone from our  population and our lives, and we`re losing roughly 1,000 people a day.

STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It`s a typically despicable  statement from Donald Trump, Brian, one that -- once again demonstrates his  complete on fitness for the Office of President of the United States. We  have, as you mentioned, 160,000 dead Americans in a shattered economy.  There are more Americans unemployed on this date, on this August 7th than  there has ever been on any other August 7th in the history of the United  States. And Donald Trump is out there bragging about how great the economy  it is. Is standing in front of a room of people who paid $350,000 for  membership in the golf club? It does outrageously out of touch. But it  points out to this larger dynamic of what`s happening politically.

The walls are closing in on Donald Trump. The number of people in the  country that identify as Republicans is collapsing. And at the same time,  the intensity of what remains is going up. But his world is shrinking. And  across the country, what you`re saying, in states like Georgia and Texas  that have voted Republican for a generation, you`re seeing very, very close  races as Joe Biden is assembling one of the broadest electoral coalition`s  in American history. It includes Americans of all races and creeds and  religions and ideologies. From Bernie Sanders to disaffected suburban  Republicans, who look at this travesty, who look at the most incompetent  and inept president, who has found this country at a historic level, there  has never been an American moment where somebody was tasked with  responsibilities, to protect the country that has failed as badly as Donald  Trump has.

And so as we get into September, we`re going to see the next stage of this  began to unravel. And the tragedies just beginning. We`re going to see  hundreds of thousands of dead Americans by the time this is over. Anybody  with kids who are supposed to be in school, understands if they`re going  back, it`ll be for a week or two before the schools are shut down. We know  that the mortgage and the eviction rates the mortgage crisis that`s coming  is going to dwarf anything that happened in the Great Recession. So we`re  at the precipice of great economic tragedy and more death and more tragedy,  from the wreckage that the most incompetent person ever sit behind the  resolute desk has ever been.

And once again, we saw tonight also, Brian, you know that Trump just  conceived him himself as the biggest victim in America. That grievance and  victimhood is the high-octane fuel of Trumpism. And you see that dimension  of his character play out once again, just an aggrieved riddle, man.

WILLIAMS: Steve, let me fit a break. And when we come back, I want to talk  to you about what I said that Jeremy Bash this uniquely hopeless feeling of  knowing the role. Russia is playing in our election process. And the  question who do we see about that? We`ll do that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Still with us for our conversation is Steve Schmidt. And without  delay, we`ll get right into the topic of Russia. Steve, what do we do about  this, as I`ve called it uniquely helpless feeling we know that we have  almost an invisible candidate and invisible force in an election, less than  90 days from now. The boss we would usually look to defend all of us from  it is the recipient of it. And we`ve never had anything like it in our  history say nothing of the fact that Russia can`t believe we`re saying this  has friends in the U.S. Senate, who are helping Russia disseminate their  talking points here.

SCHMIDT: There are three issues, Brian that are an emergency for this  country to deal with and the only people left to deal with it or the voters  or the American people, American citizens who have to rise up and repudiate  this. And there are three specific aspects. Number one, this is the first  president in the history of the country who has left the United States on  defending against undefended against a hostile foreign powers attack. And  it is an attack and attack on American sovereignty on our elections  process, the peaceful transition of power that has gone on in this country  since 1797. That`s what our inheritance is as Americans. And we`re here for  a short time to be stewards of it, to make the union stronger and to hand  it off to our kids and our grandkids and that any president would have bet  a hostile foreign power doing that is horrendous.

Secondly, the Russians have found bounties on the heads of American  soldiers in Afghanistan. Some have been killed. Bounties have been paid.  The President of the United States has refused to confront the Russians  about it.

Lastly, we literally have the term would have been useful idiots in the  Cold War. Those were naive people either by sins of commission or omission  who would do the work of the Soviet Union. So we see now useful idiots in  the United States Senate that are passing off to the American people  information that`s incepted by the Russian intelligence services, intended  to undermine faith in the American system, and democracy in the elections  process. We`ve never seen anything like it in the entire history of the  country. So Lindsey Graham, who`s involved in it, Ron Johnson, who`s  involved in it, these men are unfit to serve in the United States Senate,  they have utterly violated their constitutional oath and it`s particularly  egregious for Lindsey Graham, who serves as a colonel in the Air Force  Reserve.

We`ve never seen such faithlessness the ideas and ideals of the country  into the solemn oath that the country`s most senior elected officials take  for the honor of being able to preserve and protect and defend the  Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.  They have failed when it was their moment to be friends of liberty.

WILLIAMS: I asked a partner of yours at the Lincoln Project, Stuart Spencer  last night on this broadcast, in plain English, why your ads are better  than the Democrats own ads against Trump. His answer surprised me was very  quick, but it makes a lot of sense. You have no client, you have no one to  run it past. You guys seem fueled on just the passion and anger of what`s  become of what was your party.

SCHMIDT: We all share a belief that the country faces a real threat from  Donald Trump and we all believe this is the most important election the  country`s face since 1864. When we see what Trump is doing, he`s acting  from a position of weakness, the deployment of militarized federal agents  without badges, IDs, stuffing people into white vans, the assault on the  election process, the shenanigans that are going on at the post office. Its  constant questioning the legitimacy of the election, should he not when his  threats that he won`t leave office. We`ve never seen conduct like this from  an American president. It`s fundamentally illiberal. He has an autocratic  fetish. We`ve seen this administration assault, the rule of law, we`ve seen  these pardons in corruption, that beggar the imagination, so much is at  stake in this next election.

What we should all understand in this country, is that our freedoms, our  democracy, it was all so much more fragile than we ever could have  imagined. And that these institutions were not designed to be frontally  assaulted by the President of the United States, the highest executive  officer in the land, who`s charged with fulfilling the founders mandate to  faithfully execute the laws of the land. And we just see a president who is  checked out completely at every level, who is mentally, morally and  intellectually unfit for the job and is a real threat to the future of this  country. And he`s put this country into a tailspin of decline and weakness,  the likes of which we`ve not seen ever in American history.

WILLIAMS: Reminder to our viewers, the new book by Stuart Stevens, Steve`s  partner is just out and available for sale. I happen to know Mr. Schmidt  consumed it in a matter of hours. Our thanks to Steve Schmidt on a Friday  night for spending some time with us. Thank you, Steve.

SCHMIDT: Thank you Brian.

WILLIAMS: Coming up the effort to protect a genuine American institution  that is in genuine danger.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, is the clear and present  danger to the U.S. Postal Service. For all of our lives in this country  mail delivery has been something of a sacred trust. Ask any service member  getting or receiving or sending rather mail from deployment overseas. The  U.S. Postal Service employs 633,000 Americans of that number 97,000 are  veterans. They once wore the uniform of this country and now wear the  uniform of the Postal Service.

Just today, about the boss while he`s being looked into by congressional  Democrats. The Trump appointed postmaster general who has presided over  delivery delays due to cost cutting, blew up his whole management team and  a reorganization that Virginia Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly, who  was on with us here this week called a deliberate sabotage of the Postal  Service. Of course, just in time for mail-in balloting that the President  undermines every day. Well, against that backdrop, we offer you this new  effort to rally support for our mail carriers and their employer.

How about that along with that fantastic 1959 recording of the Alabama  Sacred Harp Singers. That was from People for the American Way, founded in  1981 by Norman Lear, who just happened to have celebrated his 98th  birthday.

And that indeed, will take us off the air tonight. And for this week with  our thanks for watching. On behalf of all of my colleagues at the networks  of NBC News, have a good weekend. Good night.

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