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New Inspector General report. TRANSCRIPT: 7/2/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Jill Colvin, David Fahrenthold, Madeleine Dean

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  That is tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight, haunting images of the crisis unfolding inside U.S. detention centers. A scene described as a ticking time bomb.  We`ll speak to a member of Congress just back tonight from tours inside these facilities.

Plus, $2.5 million newly set aside by the park service as Washington prepares for Trump`s Fourth of July bash.

And Democrats sue the IRS and Treasury for access to Trump`s taxes.  And Kamala Harris catapults higher in a new poll, within striking distance of Joe Biden.  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Tuesday night.

Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  I`m Ali Velshi in for Brian Williams.  Day 894 of the Trump administration.  And we now have shocking new images of the extent of the humanitarian crisis at the border, released today by the Department of Homeland Security`s own internal watchdog.  The government provided these images from facilities for migrants in Texas` Rio Grande Valley.

This photograph from June 10 in McAllen, Texas, look at this, it shows families packed behind these fence into an are labeled Pod 2.  In West Loco, detainees with children laying on the floor in a concrete benches, on top of each other, with what appears to be one water cooler, some wearing masks over their mouths.  And in Fort Brown Station, one man is seen holding up a hand written that says, "Help, 40-day here."  They are all included in a new report from the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General which surveyed those Rio Grande detention facilities last month.

The report describes, "serious overcrowding and prolonged detention of unaccompanied alien children, families, and single adults that require immediate attention.  Senior managers at several facilities raised security concerns.  One called the situation "a ticking time bomb."  Children at three of the five border patrol facilities were visited and had no access to showers.  Two facilities had not provided children access to hot meals.

Tonight a new CNN poll shows nearly three-quarters of Americans say the situation at the southern border with Mexico is a crisis.  A number of House Democrats toured migrant facilities in Texas yesterday, in Florida today.  Today they and party leaders are speaking out about the conditions and about the White House`s response.


REP. FREDRICA WILSON, (D) FLORIDA, VISITED HOMESTEAD FL FACILITY:  We came today to say we will shut this down if we have to.  And because this does not have to be this way.

REP. JERRY NADLER, (D) NEW YORK, JUDICIARY CMTE. CHAIRMAN:  All the people in the administration who have done this, who have permitted it, are guilty of child abuse, which is a crime.  We ought to prosecute.

REP. JUDY CHU, (D) CALIFORNIA, VISITED EL PASO, TX, FACILITY:  As soon as we went to the El Paso border station, we insisted on talking to these groups of women.  Tears were rolling down their faces as they talked about their conditions.  They said that they had no idea when they were going to leave.  They have been there over 50 days.  They said that they had been separated from their children.


VELSHI:  Just ahead, we`re going to have more on this with Democratic Congresswoman Madeleine Dean seen here of Pennsylvania who was at the centers in Texas and Florida and has seen the conditions up close.

In the wake of all this, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings announced this afternoon that his committee wants to hold hearings with the administration`s border chiefs next week, and issued a statement saying, "The Trump administration`s actions at the southern border are grotesque and dehumanizing."

Also today the President`s effort to add have a citizenship question to the upcoming census appears to have collapsed.  The administration will now go ahead and begin printing the census forms without that question days after the Supreme Court block its addition.

Just yesterday, Trump had said he was still looking at delaying the census.  Trump is also facing an escalating fight to get copies of his tax returns.  The House is now suing the Treasury Department and the IRS demanding copies of the returns which the administration refuses to release.

Even amid the crisis at the border, the challenges to his policy goals and the outright battles with Congress, Trump remains defiant.  This morning he sent this out.  "Robert Mueller is being asked to testify yet again.  He said he could only stick to the report and that is what he would and must do.  This witch hunt must now end.  No more do-overs."

Earlier this evening, Trump`s campaign also announced a rally in North Carolina on July 17th, the same day Mueller testifies to Congress.  Trump also made sure to get this out.  "The economy is the best it has ever been!"  And there was also this, "Big 4th of July in D.C. "Salute to America."  The Pentagon and our great military leaders are thrilled to be doing this incredible flyovers and biggest ever fireworks!"  Tanks are being moved into position for Thursday`s events.  Two defense officials familiar with the planning tell NBC News there will be a variety of military aircraft involved and that Air Force One may be included.

"The Washington Post" reports the White House giving tickets to the July 4th event to Republican donors and to political appointees.  The Trump campaign also says, it`s providing tickets to its staff and their families and friends.

Earlier today, NBC News` colleague -- NBC News` Peter Alexander asked the administration about the distribution of those tickets.


PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Why is the Republican National Committee giving out ticket to supporters of the President?  Why aren`t those going to members of Congress --

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT:  This is a public event.  It`s open to the public.  The public is welcome to come and celebrate our great country, the greatest democracy.  The constitution, all the amendments, not just the First Amendment that seems to only interest you only, the Second Amendment, all the others, but really just the birth of this country, the greatest democracy that ever lived.  I`m not going to allow you to politicize it.


VELSHI:  Wow.  OK.  Here for our lead-off discussion on a Tuesday night, Kimberly Atkins, Senior Washington Correspondent for WBUR Boston`s NPR station.  Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Price winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post" and Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for the Associated Press.

Phil, let`s start with you.  The administration has been defending what is coming out about the conditions at these migrant centers.  I want to listen to the Deputy Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Robert Perez on "Fox and Friends."


ROBERT PEREZ, CBP DEPUTY COMMISSIONER:  Everyone, in our custody, at all of our facilities, have ready access to freshwater.  They have access to consumables.  And the standards that we apply to make sure that on a recurring and very timed basis, that not only they have access to the types of consumables and freshwater that they would need, but even in between if they make those requests, that our agents and officers are at the ready to provide those types of requests to them.


VELSHI:  All right.  Phil, that stands in sharp contrast to what we`ve seen from a Department Of Homeland Security Inspector General report, what we`ve seen from lawsuits that have been filed, what we`ve heard from reporters, our own reporters who`ve been outside these facilities, and what we are now hearing from members of Congress who have gotten as close access as they can get.  What`s the real situation here as far as we can tell?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF:  Well, the situation is very dire indeed.  And you`re right that that statement that you just played is not in keeping with what we`re hearing in our reporting and what we`re seeing with the images that are coming out from some of these facilities.  Thanks to some of the members of Congress who have been there.

And it`s a real crisis for the Trump administration.  They have been struggling for the last several months to contain the situation at the border where there had been a surge in migrants.  The numbers of border crossings have actually declined over the last few weeks and the number of detainees has started to decline, although it remains at a very serious crisis level.  But the administration has not provided the kind of transparency that certainly Democrats are demanding, nor has there been much accountability.

And part of what`s going on here is a political story.  The President is eager to have headlines about immigration.  He sees this as a winning issue for him politically speaking.  And, in fact, his campaign advisers told my colleagues at "The Washington Post" today that they want to be talking about this every day between now and the 2020 election.

And so as it becomes such a core sort of emotionally charged issue in the Democratic debate, you`re seeing the President and his allies trying to make it politically advantageous to them as well.

VELSHI:  Kimberly, that may be a road that is fraught with peril because as we saw from the earlier poll released tonight by CNN, majority of this country thinks that the humanitarian situation is the crisis.  The President tries to portray the numbers people coming over the border as the crisis that he wanted to declare a national emergency over.  But the President is not getting pushback from GOP members of Congress.

KIMBERLY ATKINS, WBUR, SR. NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Right.  I mean, I guess crisis is in the eye of the beholder politically in this case.  Republican strategists believe immigration is the number one winning issue for them in 2020.  The President seems to think so as well, and he is eager to talk about this as much as he possibly can.  And Republicans are, as you said, largely falling in line even as more and more Democrats, almost entirely Democrats, entirely Democrats, members of Congress are going and viewing this -- these facilities, going there firsthand.

Keep in mind, this is several of the lawmakers describe that some of these folks had been moved in the last 24 hours before they arrived.  They surmise that this was an attempt to sort of sterilize as much as they could the conditions before lawmakers could come see them and talk about them and they were still that bad where people did not have access to facilities to water.  But, as you said, immigration is a sparking point before an election even when there are visuals of people actively suffering in U.S. custody.

VELSHI:  So Jill, the issue here is that between the competing narratives, the administration`s narratives through the DHS and the various branches of the DHS that deal with immigration, and then the other narrative that is largely coming from Democratic members of Congress, but others, where is the public in this?  We are starting to see movement in terms of people feeling it`s an emergency and a crisis.  But at this point, that backlash could find its way to the White House.

JILL COLVIN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Yes, absolutely.  Look, this has been something that`s been going on for month and months now.  I remember reading independent reports several months back talking about conditions like this, talking about the overcrowding at these border patrol facilities, these border patrol agents really just not knowing what to do, how to handle families coming in, people coming in needing medical care, children separated from their parents because their parents were taken to the hospital.  I remember one scene of this border patrol officer kind of trying to process people coming in as a two-year-old was sitting on a stool next to him going through his iPad, trying to keep him entertained.  And just nobody knowing how to deal with the situation because the government wasn`t giving them the resources that they needed.

But I think that when the ball really started to shift and the public really started to pay attention here and to express some outrage is when we started seeing these images, you know, coming out.  We`ve got Members of Congress, especially members -- Democrats who are running for president right now, who are going to those facilities every day, taking tours, putting out pictures, describing the conditions that we`re seeing.

There was that very just heartbreaking, devastating photograph of that father and his daughter who died as they tried to make the journey across the Rio Grande, you know, pointing to how dangerous that journey is to these people, how desperate they are as they try to make their way to the U.S. only to face the kind of conditions that they`re facing here, you know.  And as this becomes politicized, as the President`s team continues to believe that this is a winning issue, and as the Democrats running believe that this is an issue that they can win on and that they can score points against the President on.  You know, I imagine that it`s going to stay very much in the forefront.

VELSHI:  Kimberly, we`re two days away from the Fourth of July, a matter that the President has been remarkably concerned with.  We hear tonight that there are logistical issues about getting these tanks that the President wants into Washington, into position.

You heard Kellyanne Conway saying to the reporter, "I`m not going to let you politicize this."  The criticism of the White House, including some of it from the military, says the President is politicizing this.  In fact, there`s a quote from Politico that says, "This looks like it`s becoming much more of a Republican Party event, a political event about the President than a national celebration of the Fourth of July.  It`s unfortunate to have the military smack dab in the middle of that, said a retired army Lieutenant General David Barno who commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan under President George W. Bush."  Your thoughts?

ATKINS:  Yes, I mean we`ve seen this President express admiration for military-style parades since he saw one on Bastille Day in France.  We`ve seen him express, you know, affection for authoritarian leaders like Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin in places where you see shows of force, military equipment rolling through the streets of one`s own country, that tends not to happen here in the United States but it`s exactly what Donald Trump wants.

And as you mention right now, my Twitter feed is full of video of tanks being transported through D.C. trying to figure out how to get them in place for this money -- with money that has been diverted in part from national parks entry fees that are meant to maintain our national parks, being transferred to do this.  And at the same time that you have folks saying they don`t have the resources at these border facilities to care for young people.

Still, the President thinks that this is a winning message.  He`s making this about him, not about the Fourth of July.  And why not have two VIP tickets available too for his donors?

This is in line with what the President has always done.  He sees the United States, the celebration of the United States, the White House, and the celebration of himself, as one and the same.

VELSHI:  Jill, the President -- you know, it`s hard to keep track of all the topics that we all need to cover because they move with such speed.  The President has reminded us again about the government`s loss at the Supreme Court with respect to the census question.  Donald Trump has tweeted tonight, "A very sad time for America when the Supreme Court of the United States won`t allow a question if is this person a citizen of the United States to be asked on the 2020 census!  Going on for a long time.  I have asked the Department of Commerce and the Department of Justice to do whatever is necessary to bring this most vital of questions and this very important case to a successful conclusion.  USA!  USA!  USA!"

Jill, the President has lost his battle for the time being because the census questionnaires are now being printed.

COLVIN:  Yes.  I mean that`s what`s so interesting about this tweet from him tonight.  I mean the Department of Commerce, the Trump administration admitted defeat.  They were overruled here, the Supreme Court decided that their argument was just not legitimate, not sufficient.  And the Census Department is now printing those surveys that are going to be mailed to every household across this country.  And yet the President refused to admit defeat, insisting there that he`s going to direct the Commerce Department, he`s going to direct DOJ to do something, anything, to put that question on a, you know, questionnaire that is already being printed.

There`s no evidence at all that DOJ or Commerce have taken any steps to try and go along with his will.  But he still wants to try to spin to the American people.  He still wants to spin to his supporters that he`s won here.

VELSHI:  Phil, I mean what is that -- what, I mean, not that we can figure out many of the President`s tweets, but this one is, to Jill`s point, quite unusual, given that for whatever reason, this one is settled for the time being.

RUCKER:  Yes.  And what you have here is a president who`s not on the same page as his own government, because earlier this week, the President was saying that he wanted to delay the census beyond 2020 for an undetermined period of time in order to appeal the Supreme Court decision and to bring evidence to the Supreme Court that would somehow convince the justices on the bench, the high court, to change their minds on this issue.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice and the Commerce Department, which oversees the census, has been moving to adhere to the law and to follow the ruling of the court which the President refuses to acknowledge.  And this is in keeping, by way, with his general sort of inability, really, to admit a defeat or show any signs of weakness, even when one is at hand.  He wants to project to his supporters that he`s going to be defiant and digging in and fighting on.

VELSHI:  Up is down, and down is up, some of these days.  Phil Rucker --


VELSHI:  -- Kimberly Atkins, Jill Colvin, thank you to the three of you.

The upcoming legal battle over Donald Trump`s tax returns.  When if ever could we see them?  And what could they reveal about the President?

And later, if you`re a Democrat, it`s a good week to be on team Harris.  The senator surges ahead in yet another poll to a virtual tie with Joe Biden.

THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Tuesday night.


VELSHI:  Another major escalation today in the oversight battle between Congress and the White House.  House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Richard Neal, filed a lawsuit against the IRS and the Treasury Department, seeking access to President Trump`s tax returns.  Now, Neal had originally requested six years of Trump`s returns back in April.  In May, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected a subpoena from Democrats for Trump`s returns.

Today`s lawsuits says the defendants including the Treasury Secretary have, "Mounted an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the IRS, and the tax laws on behalf of the American people who participate in the nation`s voluntary tax system."

And "The New York Times" points out, "The case may ultimately go to the Supreme Court, and the outcome is likely to determine whether financial information that Mr. Trump has kept closely guarded in spite of longstanding presidential tradition will be viewed by Congress and ultimately the public."

President Trump`s attorney Jay Sekulow reacted to the lawsuit with a statement that reads, "We will respond to this latest effort presidential harassment in court."

Here to talk about all of it, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post, and Mimi Rocah, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now a distinguished fellow in Criminal Justice at the Pace University Law School.  Thank you to both of you for being here.

David, we -- you and I have talked about this for so long that one would be forgiven for not understanding.  After all we know about Donald Trump, what we could possibly learn now from seeing a few years of his tax returns?

DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, THE WASHINGTON POST REPORTER:  We don`t know until we see them.  Obviously Trump, he runs his entire business, his large, sprawling business through his personal tax returns.  So, if you saw his personal tax returns, you would see a lot about how his business worked, about how he was using his businesses to evade or not evade tax law.  "The New York Times" has done a lot of great stories about how Trump basically built his empire in the beginning by relying on some very dubious tax schemes involving his father.  Maybe we`ll see if he`s continuing to do that.  There`s probably a lot in there, but we don`t really know until we see them.

VELSHI:  Mimi, you`ve had a -- based on what you had a chance to see on this lawsuit, what are we talking about in terms of timeline?  We are 16 months from an election.  This is the kind of thing, as we mentioned, might work its way up to the Supreme Court.

MIMI ROCAH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  It might, although, look, I think what`s likely to happen is the District Court will rule in favor of Congress because the law is very clear.  It says "shall furnish the tax returns," shall is must.  And then the administration will appeal to the Circuit, the D.C. Circuit.  That can be expedited.

But even an expedited appeal to a Circuit Court -- I mean, first you have the whole District Court and then the expedited appeal to the Circuit Court, it`s not going to be done by the election.  I would be surprised.  I am not as sure as others that it`s going to go to the Supreme Court.  I mean, there is not a split, you know, if there is a good opinion by a Circuit Court that says how clear this law is, there`s really a reason that the Supreme Court should take it.  But even putting that aside, it`s going to take a while for this to play out.

VELSHI:  Why, David, did Congress delay in pursuing this?

FAHRENTHOLD:  That`s a great question.  This obviously is one of the most important documents that Congress could get to understand President Trump and his relationship with the tax laws.  And for some reason they`ve moved the slowest, even though it is so important.  It`s taken this long just to file a lawsuit, when this has been the obvious outcome we`ve been heading for all along.  Of course the Trump administration wasn`t going to give this up voluntarily.  Of course they were going to have to sue.  And yet it took six months to get here.

Meanwhile, the New York State Legislature just passed a law to let Congress see that his New York State tax returns, the President`s New York State tax returns.  And Richard Neal, the congressman of Massachusetts who is the head of Ways and Means has said, he doesn`t want to see them because he thinks that would somehow taint his motivations in this other lawsuit.  So, it`s puzzling how slow they`ve moved.

VELSHI:  Mimi, this comes down to the Ways and Means Committee saying, we have a law, they`re pointing to this 1924 law that says the Treasury shall furnish any returns requested by the Chairman of House Ways and Means Committee.  And it`s meant to be something about IRS oversight.  The White House feels that it`s up to them to say no.  And that`s the legal battle depends on whether or not the White House has the right to say no or whether this is something that Congress has the legal right to get.

ROCAH:  Yes.  Look, it`s very simple.  If you -- if I were writing a brief on this to a court, I would say, point one, the law is clear, there`s no exception here, "shall" means "shall."  As I said before, "shall" means "must," not may, not shall if, not if you have a.  And second point is even if we need a good reason to be doing this, we have one here.  We have to see if this whole IRS mandatory under the regulations review of audit of presidential tax returns is working.  And guess what, the President himself is claiming its not working.  He is complaining about it, saying he`s been targeted because of his religion.  And Congress is saying, OK --

VELSHI:  Let`s find out.

ROCAH:  -- then let`s look at it.  So, you know, your original question to David was, you know, what more can we learn?  We don`t know.  But Trump sure seems to think we`re going to learn something because he`s still trying to keep them.  And he could voluntarily disclose them as every other past president has done.  So why isn`t he?  There`s something he still doesn`t want us to know.

VELSHI:  David, the argument that the administration makes is that this is politicized and if you give the House Ways and Means Committee the right to demand to somebody`s tax returns through the Treasury Department, it`s the same argument that the Treasury Secretary has made, somebody can do that to all of us one day.

FAHRENTHOLD:  Well, if you don`t like that, change the law.  As Mimi said, that`s the law.  The law says, it`s not a very well-used law, but the law is clear.  If that`s the Ways and Means Committee wants anyone`s tax returns, it shall be furnished by the IRS.  So if Republicans thought was improper, that that give Congress too much power.  They had a lot of time to be in control of Congress to change that law.

VELSHI:  Thank you to both of you for giving us some clarity on this, David Fahrenthold and Mimi Rocah.

Coming up, four weeks ago, Joe Biden had a 23-point lead over Kamala Harris.  Today that number is two.  Two of the best campaign reporters are coming here next.  THE 11TH HOUR is back after this.


VELSHI:  California Senator Kamala Harris is riding a wave of post-debate momentum.  Two new polls out today show her leapfrogging into second place.  In the early caucus State of Iowa she is trailing frontrunner Joe Biden by 8 points.  Of note, Elizabeth Warren also moved ahead of Bernie Sanders there.

But what`s raising the most eyebrows is this new national Quinnipiac Poll, where Harris is essentially tied with Biden.  She`s trailing by 2 points, which is within the margin error.

Now here to talk to us about all of this, Beth Fouhy, NBC News Senior Politics Editor, and Jeremy Peters, Political Reporter for the New York Times.  Welcome to both of you.  Thank you for being with us.

Jeremy, what is it mean 16 months out in a national poll.  Obviously, this is an indication of momentum on the part of Kamala Harris and some slowing on the part of the Joe Biden.  Is this meaningful to you?

JEREMY PETERS, NEW YORK TIMES POLITICAL REPORTER:  I think the keywords there are 16 months out, Ali, of course, you know, these don`t tell us all that much about who the nominee will be.  But what they do tell us are about the respective weaknesses and strengths of the people we assumed were going to be the leading candidates.

Kamala Harris really rocketed to the top of the field after puncturing two assumptions that we had about the race, one, that Biden had this aura of strength, dominance in the field.  And two, what a general election debate challenger to President Trump could look like.  And she really I think performed at a level that would make Americans comfortable, seeing her side by side against President Trump, she could be a very nimble debate competitors.

Let`s not forget, television is very important to this president.  His performance in these settings is a big reason why he`s president of the United States today.  And if he can go up against somebody who can knock him back on his heels, and I really think Kamala Harris has thrown him for a loop.

We did a report over the weekend, my colleague Andy Carney and I, about how Trump doesn`t really know how to engage her.  He can belittle Elizabeth Warren and call her Pocahontas and goofy, he can say things about Biden, like, you know, Sleepy Joe and Crazy Bernie, he has these diminutive nicknames for all this rivals.  He hasn`t settled on one for Kamala Harris, of course, and that`s because she`s a lot harder to attack, she`s a lot harder to ridiculous.  And that`s a problem for him and I think`s it`s really disoriented him.

VELSHI:  Beth, who worries more about Kamala Harris` ascendancy, is it the Biden camp or the Trump camp?

BETH FOUHY, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR:  Great question.  I mean, initially, obviously it`s going to be Biden.  But Kamala`s rise in this  poll that we`re seeing, these couple of polls so to speaks more to Biden`s very fragile positioning more than specifically her strength.

She`s very good at moments.  Kamala Harris is very good at seizing and creating a moment.  She had a moment when she got into the race initially, back in Oakland, she had that huge rally. She had a moment when she was grilling Brett Kavanaugh when he was going through his Supreme Court hearings.  He had a moment when she was grilling Bill Barr about the Mueller report.

The problem is Kamala Harris is she tends to have the moments and then they kind of all -- everything sort of drops away.  She doesn`t know how to keep that momentum going.  So, yes, she`s definitely stolen the spotlight.  She showed how Biden has got perhaps a glass jaw in a lot of ways, particularly around issues of race and kind of what things were like back in the `70s when he seems to sort of feel nostalgic about the past.

But does that then sort of become a source of strength for her, that she`s going to go to Iowa tomorrow, for example she`s kicking off an Iowa swing, is she going to be out there, you know, bringing up policy positions that she`s going to promote?  Is she going to announce any new plans that she has in her arsenal?  Is she going to take what out of that piece of significant momentum and bring it forward in a way that`s meaningful?

VELSHI:  Jeremy, to the extent that the Trump campaign has really focused most of its fire on Joe Biden, with Kamala Harris polling this way, have they got a plan for her despite, you know, what you`ve already said, that he doesn`t have a name for her, a nickname for her, have they got a larger strategy around Kamala Harris, maybe keeping this strong showing for a while?

PETERS:  Yes and no.  I think what Harris does is for Republicans, for the Trump campaign, she fits easily into this caricature that they`ve created of the Democratic Party, of the left, as radical socialist.  And, you know, she will have some problems there.

I think, you know, she walked it back but she was one of the candidates who raised their hand on the stage when they asked whether or not there -- was anybody up there who wanted to abolish private health insurance.  You know, that`s not something that Americans support.

She is going to have issues defending her comments like saying that we ought to look at whether or not terrorists like those serving time for the Boston bombing should be able to vote.  You know, these are things that are easily plucked out by the President, by Republicans from her record and ridiculed.

I think, though, on closer inspection of her record as a prosecutor, as a senator, she`s not as easily caricatured as some of the others like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, who really do kind of lend themselves to this socialist critique.  Although I think that the critique is highly misleading in an awful lot of ways.

That`s the playbook, Ali.  The Republicans and the Trump campaign are going to make this the nastiest, most brutal campaign probably that we have ever seen by denigrating and wearing down the Democratic nominee before there is a Democratic nominee, but trying to portray them as a bunch of Looney Tunes. 

VELSHI:  Jeremy, Beth, stick around.

Coming up, the number on the Republican side that could spell trouble for Democrats.  We`re back after this.


VELSHI:  President Donald Trump is posting blockbuster fundraising totals.  His reelection campaign announced a $105 million fundraising haul in the last five months.  That`s far more than any Democratic challengers hoping to challenge him next November.

The New York Times reports this, "An RNC official said the small donor enthusiasm for Trump was something unprecedented in Republican politics and noted that for the first time ever, the RNC attracted a larger share of donations under $200 than the Democratic National Committee."

Back again for round two, Beth Fouhy and Jeremy Peters.  Beth, give me context on this fundraising haul, $105 million for President Trump.

FOUHY:  Well, it`s a heck of a lot bigger than we`re going to see out of any Democrats this time.  I mean, we`ve had Pete Buttigieg come forward with his second quarter --

VELSHI:  $24 million.

FOUHY:  $24 million, almost $25 million.

VELSHI:  Almost $25 million, yes.

FOUHY:  So obviously he`s about a quarter of the way of what the President has.  But here`s a couple of different ways to look at this.

Number one, President Trump is the incumbent president, always far at races, the field of candidates on the other side no matter which party they`re in.  It`s just a built-in advantage.  Also President Trump as we know has been in this race, he declared his candidacy for president the day he was inaugurated the first time around.  So he`s been --

VELSHI:  Which is unusual.

FOUHY:  Very unusual.  So he had quite a large head start over the rest of the field.  So that`s one thing.

The other is that, we have 20 plus candidates on the Democratic side.  Right now all that money is being spread out among a gigantic field.  Once that field consolidates a little bit, once we have a better idea of who the likely finalists are going into Iowa and New Hampshire next year, you`ll see that change.  And you`ll see those candidates start to raise much more money than we`re seeing right now.

VELSHI:  Jeremy, in terms of fundraising, in terms of anything, what do you see at this point being the biggest challenge to Democrats in the face of this?

PETERS:  Well, right now, to give you a perfect example, they`re being outspent six, seven to one on Facebook and Google.  The Trump campaign and his allies, it`s a super PAC, are spending upwards of a million dollars a week right now, advertising on Facebook and Google, and that`s just extraordinary.

And he`s getting his message out there where it needs to be.  It`s a real challenge for Democrats until they have a nominee.  And guess what, Trump is spending all of that money making the Democratic Party out to be a bunch of radical socialist Democrats.  And that`s the message that voters in these swing states like Florida are going to hear. ] That`s the message that Latino voters in Florida are hearing right this minute from these Facebook ads, from Donald Trump`s campaign, where he`s running this campaign about Venezuela and every thing he`s done to stand up to the socialist regime there.  So there`s that kind of common thread.

But I think that the issue, though, is the ground game.  Trump is going to have a long time and a lot of money building up an infrastructure, a list, people that they know that they can go out and they can reach and they can hammer again and again and again with messages and drive them out to the polls.

The RNC has already spent $20 million building out its list of potential voters, because Donald Trump can`t win unless he finds new votes.  His coalition has shrunk.  He`s bled support since he`s become president.  What does he need to do?  He needs to go out and find new people.  That`s very expensive, but they have a lot of money to do that with.

VELSHI:  Jeremy Peters, Beth Fouhy, thanks to both of you for helping us out tonight.

Coming up, a first hand account of the crisis at the border from a member of Congress who has seen it with her own eyes just today.  THE 11TH HOUR is back after this.


REP. FREDERICA WILSON (D), FLORIDA:  They are spending weeks and even months in detention conditions that are tantamount to living under house arrest.

REP. BRENDA LAWRENCE (D), MICHIGAN:  Do you realize that these children get 15 minutes to eat?  In prison they get 30 minutes. 

REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  I was shocked at how little we saw of the children, how little we saw of any kind of educational value.


VELSHI:  House Democrats were floored today by what they saw at a children`s detention center in Homestead, Florida.  Their trip comes just one day after Democratic lawmakers also stopped by a facility in Clint, Texas.  It was at that location that members of Congress said one woman told them she was ordered to drink water from the toilet.

NBC News has not verified that woman`s story.  But tonight, the New York Times reports, "At a news conference on Tuesday, doctors in Texas who care for children released from the facilities said they were surprised more had not died.  They described children having lifesaving medication taken away, or released with serious ailments but without any medical records from the time they were detained."

With us for more, one of the members of Congress who had seen all of this firsthand, today, Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, Democrat of Pennsylvania.

Congresswoman, good to see you, thank you for being with us.  Please tell us what you saw in your visits to Texas and Florida.

DEAN:  Thank you for covering this, Ali.  I was on both trips.  I was yesterday in Texas.  It was actually at border station, El Paso Border Station 1.

VELSHI:  My mistake, I`m sorry.

DEAN:  That I was among colleagues of mine -- not at all, not at all, it`s confusing.  I was among colleagues and we visited there where there were adult women held in a cell.  The border patrol had no interest in us speaking and told us not to speak to any detainees.  But we did not mind that.

So we went into that -- half a dozen of us went into a cell, a very cold concrete cinder block cell holding 15 women and spoke to them.  They were seated on the floor or lying on the floor, quite resigned, most tearful, some sobbing.  And they talked to us and told us, many were from Cuba, that they had been held there for 56 days, that just yesterday they had come inside.

That was their first day inside in what they called a refrigerator, this cold cell.  15 of them, if they lay on the floor, side by side, there would be no floor space.

VELSHI:  When you say the first time they have been inside, they were living outside?  They were made to remain outside, sleep outside?

DEAN:  They were in some other temporary shelters, outside temporary shelters, and they did not have blankets.  They had those thin metal aluminum things that you`ve seen.  In fact, they gave me one that I have in my suitcase I brought home.

They were lying there with sleeping bags that they said they had only recently received.  They had been outside with just the metal blankets, no pads, no cots.  And by outside I mean temporary shelter.  They came inside to this location.  We looked past a little partition wall and saw that they had for the 15 of them a metal stainless steel toilet with no seat, a prison toilet, a sink that was not operational.  And when we asked the guards, what about drinking water, the women said to us, oh, they told us we can drink out of the toilet, that water is clean.

VELSHI:  I want to play for you --

DEAN:  A person that had been there --

VELSHI:  I want to play for you a comment -- I`m sorry to interrupt you, by Kellyanne Conway about that reference to drinking from the toilet.  Let`s listen.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT:  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez going down to one of these facilities and claim -- making this outrageous claim that a woman`s drinking from a toilet, which everybody who has control over that facility over control for the Border Patrol has said that`s not true, they`ve not heard of this.


VELSHI:  Anybody who has control over that facility --

DEAN:  I was there.

VELSHI:  -- or control from the Border Control has said that`s not true.  But here`s the problem, Congresswoman.  We have just heard from the Department of Homeland Security`s own inspector general, things that stand in stark contrast to what we`ve heard from Department of Homeland Security officials and this administration.  So we are left with a situation where we`ve got reports from members of Congress and we`ve got reports from the administration and they clash with each other.

DEAN:  We heard from the women themselves.  And I have to tell you, they were fearful to tell us what was going on.  The practice of drinking out of the toilet didn`t start with their housing in that one location yesterday.  They said that that was common before.  Guards stood there and denied it.  I will tell you that.  But the women in communication with us, with members of Congress, explained that that was the case.

The women then said to us, whispered to us, they were fearful.  Fearful that there would be retribution because they talked to us.  Two of the women have epilepsy.  They`re very worried about their own conditions.  Another woman asked me to touch her back because there`s a large lump on it.  And they -- she was told she needs a biopsy but that will not happen there.  Two of the women were sobbing because their adult daughters had been separated from them and they had not been in communication, didn`t know where they were.

They were fearful for retribution.  So I asked the guards and a woman who worked there at the facility and is a lawyer.  I said, can you guarantee me there will be no retribution?  That these women spoke up and told us of the conditions they`ve been held under.  And the woman lawyer said to me, well, of course, when you leave they can just report to us if there`s been any retribution.

I pointed out the strange notion of that.  I said they`re worried with six members of Congress standing inside this cell.  When we leave do you think they`re going to feel more free to say something and to speak up?  I said, it is your obligation to protect their rights.  They have rights as detainees.  They have human rights and they have legal rights.  And then they did assure me that they would protect their safety and that there would be no retribution.

The women feared retribution of even taking out a snack.  They showed me a snack in their backpack -- excuse me, in their sleeping bag.  They had no personal affects.  It was just grievous.

VELSHI:  Remarkable.  And I thank you for -- I know you just literally got off a plane and rushed over to talk to us.  And we appreciate you giving us your firsthand account.

DEAN:  I`d love to tell you sometime about the children.  But thank you.

VELSHI:  We will talk more about this, Congresswoman.  Thank you.  Congresswoman Madeline Dean.

Coming up, with all that we`ve covered tonight, it is but a drop in the bucket.  A reminder, of all we have seen from this administration in just the past month and how far from normal we`ve come, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In one week, in one week the President of the United States has had a credible rape charge against him, and that didn`t make the front page of "The New York Times" when it first came out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In a typical week five or six things like this can happen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:   Offenses to democracy.  Offenses to the truth.  And it`s all done cynically.  And that -- remember that word we all used to use in the beginning, we have to be very careful of normalizing Donald Trump?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, mission accomplished.


VELSHI:  "New Yorker" editor and presidential biographer David Remnick brings us the last thing before we go tonight.  A reminder of the context to what happened today and its place in the history of a nation about to celebrate its 243rd birthday.

The Trump presidency creates a daily avalanche of news, breaking norm after norm.  So before we go tonight a reminder of just this past month.  The President began June with a state visit to the United Kingdom denying that he called Meghan Markle nasty and responding to criticism from London`s Mayor Sadiq Khan by calling him terrible and a stone cold loser.  He then claimed thousands in London streets protesting him were actually there to support him.  From there the President went to Normandy and while sitting in a cemetery of America`s fallen heroes he attacked Robert Mueller and added this about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think she`s a disgrace.  She`s a nasty, vindictive, horrible person.  Nancy Pelosi`s a disaster.  OK?  She`s a disaster.  She is a terrible person.  And I`ll tell you, her name, it`s nervous Nancy because she`s a nervous wreck.


VELSHI:  Back in Washington on June 12th, Trump spoke to ABC News and said this when asked about potentially taking political dirt from a foreign power during the 2020 election.


TRUMP:  If somebody called from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent.  Oh, I think I`d want to hear it.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS:  You want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP:  It`s not an interference.  They have information.  I think I`d take it.


VELSHI:  Trump officially launched his re-election campaign by the third week of June and by that Friday was in a high-stakes showdown with Iran over a U.S. drone being shot down.  The Pentagon was reportedly within minutes of launching a military assault before the President changed his mind.

The President of the United States was also accused of sexual assault by writer E. Jean Carroll and responded that he`d never met her despite this photo showing the two of them together.  Lawyers have characterized the alleged attack as rape.  Trump told reporters, "She`s not my type."

And facing allegations of migrant children at the border held in deplorable conditions, the President blamed Democrats for a lack of funding and Barack Obama for creating his own family separation policy.

June ended with a trip to the G20, where Trump smiled while telling Vladimir Putin not to interfere in the 2020 elections.  Trump then tweeted an invitation to North Korea`s dictator to meet him at the DMZ for a handshake and then went there shook Kim Jung-un`s hand and stepped on to North Korean soil.

All that in just one month of Donald Trump`s presidency.

That is our broadcast for tonight.  Thank you for being with us.  And 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