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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, September 2, 2020

Guest: Irwin Redlener


President Donald Trump and Presidential Candidate Joe Biden focus attacks on policing and COVID-19. Trump orders review to defund NYC and other "anarchist" cities. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told governors last week to prepare for the "large-scale" distribution of a coronavirus vaccine by November 1. Fauci warns COVID cases are still unacceptably high. DHS delayed intel report on foreign powers trying to raise doubts about Biden. Alexei Navalny was poisoned with the chemical nerve agent Novichok.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Thank you. Kristin Urquiza gets tonight's LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, once again, I'm Steve Kornacki in for Brian Williams, who has the night off.

Day 1,322 of the Trump administration and 62 days now until the Presidential Election. And the two candidates were on the attack today, each on the campaign trail, each in a city called Wilmington, though each in a different state.

Trump made a quick visit to the battleground state of North Carolina. Well, Biden stated his home state of Delaware. Former Vice President took aim at Trump's handling of the pandemic.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: American families all across this country are paying the price for his failures. Failure to take this virus seriously, failure to provide clear national science based guidelines, failure to take steps we need, and failure to model even basic responsibility. He's offering nothing but failure and delusions.


KORNACKI: In North Carolina, the President was again mainly focused on the outbreaks of violence that have erupted in several cities throughout the summer, Trump again tried to link a potential Biden presidency to lawlessness and chaos.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: This is the most important election in the history of our country. We're running against people that have got some big issues. They've got some big, big problems. They're stone cold, crazy and we have to keep our country. And as you know, Joe Biden, he doesn't have a clue. They're anarchists, they're anarchists. They're agitators. They're looters and rioters. We love our police. We love law enforcement.


KORNACKI: Just a few hours ago, the President said he had taken a controversial step that could have a big impact on several large cities governed by Democrats. He announced that he signed a memo ordering the government to begin the process of defunding for major cities saying this on Twitter, "My administration will do everything in its power to prevent weak mayors and lawless cities from taking federal dollars while they let anarchists harm people, burn buildings and ruin lives and businesses. We're putting them on notice today."

These new guidelines require the Department of Justice to put out a list of what it calls "anarchistic jurisdictions" in 14 days. Federal agencies must detail all funds provided to the cities of Seattle, Portland, Oregon, New York City and Washington D.C. and the Office of Management and Budget must issue guidance on restricting funds 30 days from now.

Tonight the governor of New York Andrew Cuomo dismissed the threat saying that the President "is not a king." But the Attorney General indicated he's ready to follow through. During an interview earlier this afternoon, William Barr appeared to back up his boss' allegations that there are people flying around the country trying to carry out violent acts.


BILL BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We receive numerous reports of individuals coming from Portland, Washington, Seattle and several other cities to come into Washington for the specific purpose of causing a ride.


KORNACKI: Today in North Carolina, Trump also suggested to supporters that they potentially vote twice in the upcoming election. Once by mail, and once in-person


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six hundred thousand people could vote by absentee in this state. Are you confident in that system?

TRUMP: Well they'll go out and they'll vote and they're going to have to go and check their vote by going to the polls and voting that way because if it tabulates and they won't be able to do that. So let them send it in and let them go vote and have their systems as good as they say it is then obviously they won't be able to vote.


KORNACKI: Casting multiple ballots in an election is a federal election crime. This afternoon, Attorney General Barr seemed to echo the President's words.


BARR: What he's saying is he's trying to make the point that the ability to monitor this system is not good.

We haven't had the kind of widespread use of mail-in ballots is being proposed. This is playing with fire. We're very closely divided country here. And if people have to have confidence in the results of the election and the legitimacy of the government and people trying to change the rules to this methodology which as a matter of logic is very open to fraud and coercion is reckless and dangerous. And people are playing with fire.


KORNACKI: Tomorrow both presidential candidates will be in key battleground states. Joe Biden will be traveling to Kenosha, Wisconsin, two days after Trump's visit there. The Biden campaign says that unlike Trump, the candidate will be meeting with the family of Jacob Blake, President Trump will be visiting the critical state of Pennsylvania.

And the pandemic threat of course remains as well. The Nation now has well above 6.1 million confirmed cases and as of tonight, more than 186,000 deaths.

Today, we learned that the Centers for Disease Control has been notifying health officials in all 50 states and five large cities in particular that quote, limited COVID-19 vaccine doses may be available by early November 2020.

The agency also asked states to be ready to distribute a coronavirus vaccine to healthcare workers and other high risk groups as soon as late October, or early November, and told states to be prepared for vaccine distribution by November 1. That would be two days before Election Day.

We are going to ask a doctor about the likelihood of that later this hour. And the CDC memo that went out last week. It was on August 27. That was the same day that President Trump told the Republican National Convention that a vaccine might arrive before the end of the year.

Here for our leadoff discussion on a Wednesday night, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, A.B. Stoddard, a Veteran Of Political Journalism, currently Associate Editor and Columnist for Real Clear Politics, and Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize Winning Columnist for The Washington Post. Thanks to all of you for being with us tonight. I really appreciate it.

Peter Baker. Let me start with you. From here to Election Day, take us through, you heard what the President saying, they're continuing this message. And what he says is lawlessness is sort of a law and order message, trying to be optimistic on the coronavirus and face of those statistics we're showing you. How does the White House see the road from here to November 3 for them?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I think the White House and the campaign are looking at the law and order issue as a winner for them, or at least something that gets some traction at a time when there's not a lot of other options, right? He doesn't really want to talk about the coronavirus. In fact, he's gone the other direction suggesting, you know, embracing conspiracy theories that the death toll is actually wildly overstated. He obviously doesn't want to talk about, you know, the unemployment. He wants to find economic numbers he can to suggest that we're on the upswing, even though many economists are worried about where things are right now.

He wants to talk about the stock market because it is hitting the highs again. But the law and order issues where they think they can get traction, and part of it of course is about riling up their base. You know, we're less than less, Steve, you know this better than most of us is that, it's less and less about reaching out to people in the middle of turning out the people who are already inclined to possibly vote for you, and so many Republican voters have been disappointed in President Trump because of the coronavirus has given them another reason to come out to vote, don't vote for me, you're going to get a socialist, you're going to get anarchy, you're going to get lawlessness, you have no choice but to come vote for your own good. Is not winning middle voters, I don't think that much. The latest spate of polls suggests that race is basically where it is today that same what was it where, it was right before the two conventions. But I think that's the message he's going to keep hammering home and hope that it gained some traction.

KORNACKI: Yeah. Eugene Robinson, a little later this hour I'm going to go over to the board. I think today, we might have set a single day record for most polls to come out in a 24 hour period, this entire cable. We're going to go through them all in a little bit. I just want to tell folks that. But we -- the headline, I think the numbers today and Peter is getting at it is the Trump campaign hoped that that convention, hopes that this renewed focus on law and order would be start moving the numbers in their direction. Right now you're not seeing any major indications that that's happening, but play it out a little bit. How do you see this issue playing out? Do you see this as having the potential to do that for the President?

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Well, look, one thing we learned in 2016, is that it's difficult to predict where things go when Donald Trump is running for president. So, you know, the usual playbook and expectations may or may not be right. However, one thing we learned in 2018 is that this sort of culture warfare is doesn't always work for him. I mean, remember, before the 2018 elections when the President was running around trying to get his base and everyone excited about caravans of bad hombres coming into across the southern border from Central America.

And it was every day, it was the caravan and the caravan, another caravan get closer, getting closer, you should be afraid of it. It's disorder. It's awful. And that didn't work. It did not work in 2018 at all. So there's no guarantee that they get the traction that they're hoping to get from the cultural warfare they're playing right now.

KORNACKI: We're going to play something from earlier tonight, Karl Rove, who of course guided George W. Bush's political career he was on Fox News tonight giving his take on where the President stands politically and where he thinks the president should be going, take a listen to this.


KARL ROVE, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF AND SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The President's bases with them, and no president ever gets elected, nobody ever gets elected president by on the basis of their base only. The President has to continue to do what he did during the Republican Convention. And that is make an appeal for a broader group of people, for suburbanites, particularly college educated women who may like what he's doing but don't like how he's done it by African American voters, particularly young black males who say, you know what, when '17, '18 and '19, I actually had better prosperity than I had when Barack Obama was president. And it's because of the policies of Donald Trump.


KORNACKI: So A.B. Stoddard, Karl Rove there talking about the idea of finding folks who did not vote for the president in 2016. And getting them to change their minds and give him a shot in 2020. When you look at what the President is doing and saying right now, do you see any potential openings for him to connect with a segment of the electorate at least that wasn't there for him? Or do you see a message out there? If not, do you see a message out there that might?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST: Well, the President, as Steve, as you know, Newt Gingrich once said wakes up every day figuring out how to stay on offense. So everything that was messaged at the RNC, so effectively, I thought was all that other people, testimonials from mom and pop in small businesses and hard hit industries across the country and important states and constituencies, non-white validators making a credible case. They didn't believe the President was a racist.

Donald Trump does not reach out himself to the middle of the electorate. He does not persuade, he mobilizes. So what I think he believes is by staying on offense on the law and order issue, he can get new voters who did not vote millions of them in the Rust Belt in 2016, who would be voting for him if they were engaged politically to get them registered and to get them out? That he is not looking to win back suburban moms the way his campaign desperately wants him to infringe the entire convention around.

So yes, Karl Rove is right. But here we are two months before an election Donald Trump is not going to change. He's all fear, all division and he believes that it works because it's worked for him in the past. And it helped him defeat two democratic senators in red states in 2018, turning out massive numbers of his supporters in Missouri and Indiana and he just believes that that his magic touch. So the idea of him and not surrogates trying to make the case to a broader part of the electorate in the last two months to me sounds absurd. He's never done it before.

KORNACKI: Peter, I'm curious what you know about -- what the President was tweeting tonight about this idea of defunding cities for cities they're controlled by Democrats putting this up on Twitter. Apparently, there's a five-page memo here that outlines steps to identify areas where federal money could be withheld. What do you know here about the potential scale of this, about the potential legality of this? Is that clear right now?

BAKER: Yeah, that's a great question. These are back the right questions to ask. It may all -- may be mostly symbolism, right? He's trying to send a message. He's saying that these cities are, you know, abrogating their duty to public safety and he wants to take action about it as A.B. said, you know, he wakes up every morning trying to be on offense. This is his way of being on offense.

It may be less than meets the eye, right? The memo itself just asked for information. It doesn't actually do anything, doesn't order anything at this point. And it's unclear to me how much latitude he has to actually do that. Remember the federal power the personalized with Congress, if they say that cities and states get so much money, I don't know how much latitude the President has to withhold it if it's been allocated by Congress.

Having said that, he's already shown a number of occasions that he can push that power further than Congress would like. We saw that with the border wall where he diverted money from one pot to another in order to pay for something Congress refused to fund. So it's possible he has more authority there than we know that'll be a question. But I think people we'll look at tomorrow the lawyers will be studying it. But mostly, I think it's meant as symbolism. It's meant to be a threat. It's meant to be a statement of where he stands and sort of keeping the ball rolling on his law and order theme.

KORNACKI: Eugene, A.B. says in her view, the President, his messaging is not so much about trying to win back suburbanites. It's about trying to do even better when sort of those rural areas, those blue collar areas. I think it does raise a practical question here when you start to look at the electoral map, the idea being he's got to win back. He's got to get Wisconsin, maybe Pennsylvania, Michigan, do something in the Rust Belt with the kind of strategy, A.B. is describing, but does that potentially come at the expense? If he can pull that off, does that potentially come at the expense of alienating voters he needs in a more suburban state, like say, Arizona or maybe North Carolina?

ROBINSON: Well, it certainly does. I mean, those are the trade offs. If he goes for those Trump ish non voters in 2016 and tries to somehow bring them out and apparently, you know, and I do believe that there are numbers of them, potentially out there. I think he does alienate those white suburban women in college educated white voters in other state that he absolutely has to win. I mean, remember, he's got to thread the needle again.

And I know you're going to get to the polling later. And you don't put too much stock in one poll. But the one poll that came out today about the swing states is it does not look very good for him at all. And so, we'll just see.

I do have a question about the memo that sort of kind of pretends to be an executive order, but at the memo and about anarchist jurisdiction. I thought the whole point of anarchy is that nobody has jurisdiction, but it's just me.

KORNACKI: Interesting observation there. A.B., you also made an interesting observation a minute ago talking about what you felt was the effectiveness of the portions of the Republican National Convention that were not in the voice of Donald Trump. And I'm thinking back to the closing days of the 2016 campaign. This probably is, feels like ancient history right now, but I remember -- I'd say the last week or 10 days of that campaign, the President was actually off Twitter. I don't know if he sent a tweet in the homestretch of that campaign. He was actually on stage reading the scripts for his -- It was a very different version of Donald Trump. And there were a lot of things happening in the closing stretch of that campaign. But that is when he made up the ground. And that is when he got just enough over the top in those states to become president. Do you think there's any chance there are folks around Trump who would remind him of that and he would agree to go back to that form and in some way in this campaign?

STODDARD: Well, that's all true. And that was also directly around the time that James Comey alerted the world, that they were looking again at Hillary Clinton with their FBI investigation, which, as we all know, moved the number significantly with double haters who didn't want to support either one and then broke for Trump by 18 points, double haters now braking for Biden in some cases in more than 30 points.

What's interesting about your premise is, of course, his campaign wants him to do that. They want him off Twitter, you know, eight years ago. So the idea of him reading from the script and staying off Twitter in the final days would be, and that kind of message discipline is obviously their goal. What you saw the final night of the convention was absolutely amazing. The President was reading his laundry list, super boring speech, and he was so miserable. He practically stopped in the middle and told us so. It was absolutely the opposite of what Donald Trump wants to do.

My final point is this, in 2016, Donald Trump was an idea. He's the incumbent. He has a long, well documented record. And it's just not the same when he goes back to teleprompter Trump than it was in October of 2016.

KORNACKI: Peter Baker, just one final question to you. I'm curious because you get this sense of obviously confidence from the President. He never lacks for confidence. When you look at the poll numbers thought, when he looks at the poll numbers, he certainly has the memory of 2016 the sense of hey, you know, the polls didn't look so hot in the fall of 2016. And I won. Do you get the sense, though, that there could be a point when the President looks at these polls, and that confidence is shaken at all? Or is it just locked in? And in his mind, as best we can tell, at least he's going to win in the end?

BAKER: Yeah, that's a great question, right? How much is he telling himself? Same thing that he's telling the rest of us in the privacy of his own, you know, room at night or something like that? I think he has some well founded skepticism about polls. And I think he has, you know, one election under his belt and that one, and it worked. And therefore, I think Eugene said earlier, because it worked and he thinks it's going to work again, it always does, because it always did meaning one time.

But he was always sort of aiming for inside straight, right? I mean, winning the Electoral College while losing the popular vote by 3 million is hardly a strategy you should try to replicate because it was such a fluky thing last time, but they think could still work this time. I mean he -- the way they look at it is if they can hold on to Florida, Arizona and Georgia then they can still lose most of those Midwest states as long as they hold on to one of them and eke out eke out a victory.

Now, Arizona may be slipping away. Those numbers are looking pretty bad for him there. I also obviously worried about North Carolina. He was there today. He plans to go back there tomorrow next week. And so, you know, the math is fluid and changing and it may be, you know, slipping away from him in a way that he doesn't want to admit. But they do look at these polls and say look how wrong they were last time don't get too panicked, especially with 60 days left, anything can happen. Look how much the world has changed in the last 60 days. Six days in the life of a Trump presidency is like an eon

KORNACKI: That is very true. Peter Baker, A.B. Stoddard, Eugene Robinson, thank you all for being with us. I really appreciate that.

And coming up, coronavirus case numbers are now dropping in several states. Why the experts are still worried about the holiday weekend ahead though.

And later the author of the brand new book, Donald Trump versus the United States, the lingering cloud of Russia over his presidency, THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on Wednesday night.



BIDEN: When we get a vaccine, that is good works, why do we think the public's going to line up to be able to take -- being willing to take the injection? We've lost so much confidence, the American people.


KORNACKI: The Trump administration sending more signals today that it is optimistic that a coronavirus vaccine could be available to at least some Americans as early as November. This says some public health experts continue to warn that politics and more specifically the looming presidential election may be playing a role here.

In a letter obtained by McClatchy, the CDC Director pressed governors to eliminate hurdles for vaccine distribution. The letter reads, "CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities. And if necessary, asks that you consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by November 1, 2020."

Joining me now is Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrics physician and a Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University's Earth Institute. He's also the Founding Director of Columbia's National Center for Disaster Preparedness with an expertise in pandemics.

So Doctor, thank you for joining us, I appreciate it. So this letter we're reading from here, it seems to be saying maybe some kind of vaccine is coming here in the relatively near future states be ready to have the facilities to get it out there right away. If it is a ready, what's your take and what you're hearing and seeing here? Is that a reasonable thing they're saying?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Yeah, hi Steve. No, it's crazy and blatantly political move to get something going before the November election. And it's also extraordinarily reckless and dangerous. That means that we be pushing out a vaccine that's not been fully or even partially sufficiently tested. And clearly, the goal is to try to get something gone before the election.

I'm just stunned and nobody in my community of public health experts and scientists think this is remotely a good idea. We won't know by November 1, or we won't even know by the first quarter of next year whether a new vaccine is actually safe. A lot of the new vaccines are being developed with new technologies. And we have no idea whether they're going to be efficient and effective, no less safe. So it's really among the pantheon of irresponsibility and reckless things that the President has done since the beginning of this pandemic. This is going to rank right at the top. If we start to, we start to see a push out of an untested vaccine, Steve.

KORNACKI: So you're mentioning that several months out into next year, take us through how you're looking at the prospects for a vaccine right now, because I'm just looking at it looks like there are three here in the United States that are in this phase three portion right now of Pfizer, Moderna, I guess AstraZeneca that's actually the one that teamed up with Oxford. They are all in phase three. Is that right? How are you looking at the candidates for a vaccine right now and the prospects there?

REDLENER: Sure. Yeah. Well, phase three takes a long time. That's when we go to large numbers of people being given the vaccine and waiting a sufficient amount of time to see if there's any late complications. We already have a huge problem in the country, Steve with, you know, the anti vaccine movement, people who are going to refuse to take the vaccine. We already have enormous numbers of people telling pollsters they simply won't take the vaccine.

All we need now is a couple of really horrible mistakes or mishaps in the administration of a vaccine before it's ready. And that'll basically shut down our ability to convince the public that's a good idea. So it's not prudent to rushes. It's not safe to rush this. And yes, we have a lot of things in the pipeline, at least six or seven that we know of that are good and probably a lot more than that if we're looking at this situation globally. So we have a lot to think about a lot to worry about. And I think we need to make sure that the health care professionals, the FDA, the CDC are not pushed into a decision that makes no sense and is dangerous by forces that are blatantly political, Steve.

KORNACKI: We mentioned to the Labor Day holiday coming up here another long weekend. At the end of the summer, traditionally, obviously a time, Americans are out usually doing a lot of things. Anthony Fauci was on our air earlier today, expressing some concern about that. Let's take a listen to what he had to say.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We're right around 40,000 new cases, that's an unacceptably high baseline. We've got to get it down. I'd like to see at 10,000 or less, hopefully less, or really want to use this opportunity almost to have a plea to the people in this country to realize that we really still need to get our arms around this. You can have an enjoyable weekend. But you can do a couple of fundamental things that we talked about all the time, masks, distance, avoiding crowds.


WILLIAMS: What Dr. Fauci is saying there about his target, getting it under 10,000 new cases a day, how realistic is that? What would that take?

REDLENER: Well, we'll take a lot of discipline to make sure that, you know, we have two or actually three potential, excuse me, outbreak time bombs. One is what's happening on the university campuses across the country, a serious series of outbreaks from coast to coast. The second thing is the Labor Day weekend, which is going to really get a lot of people going to parties and outdoor activities and things where they're crowded together, which is not safe. And third, is this 55 million child experiment of really reopening the schools right now.

All of those events, the university outbreaks, the school reopenings and the Labor Day holiday, are all potential places where we could see an outcome that results in a massive increase in number of cases.

I think Tony Fauci is absolutely right. And I'm hoping that the administration will listen to him and Dr. Burks and the other professionals as opposed to being so influenced by what they're looking to accomplish before the election, Steve.

KORNACKI: All right. Dr. Irwin Redlener. Thank you for taking a few minutes really appreciate that.


KORNACKI: All right. And coming up, we mentioned this at the top of the show, I don't think there has been a day this entire campaign, where we have gotten as many polls from as many different places. As we did today, we are going to go over to the big board and show you all that we learned today, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.


KORNACKI: Well, 62 days before the election today, today was the day of 1000 polls. That is what it felt like we were getting hit with them left and right one after another new poll here. A new poll there. Very hard to keep track of these are polls that came out a lot of these today. Certainly the last couple days. These are national polls here.

See the margin here? Joe Biden consistently. You see ahead here. The margins vary, but just a ton of new polls. Now, obviously, the significance of this look, we had the Democratic Convention, we had the Republican Convention. We're asking that question at the end of last week started this week. Did it amount to anything? Was there a bounce for one of the candidates? The Trump campaign certainly believed that the combination of his speech, the focus of the Republican Convention, the events on the ground in Kenosha had given them an opening to cut into Biden's advantage.

Now, we finally have enough numbers to really answer some of these questions here. So again, all these different polls out here, here we see it like this, best thing you can do averaged them together. So average all the polls out there right now together. This is the RealClearPolitics average right now. And it shows Joe Biden with a lead on average of just over seven points. 7.2 points, as with everything averaged in there.

Now, what does that mean? If you go back exactly one month ago, let's go back to the start of August. This is before the Democratic Convention, before the Republican Convention, before Kenosha, what was the national polling average? Before all of these events that was Biden by 7.4.

So the race really hasn't moved. The upshot of all. That's how it works with this stuff. You have major events, you ask, does this does this affect it? Is this going to affect the numbers? You wait, you get the numbers, and you get an answer. Right now, at least right now, we've not seen significant movement in this poll, a significant change in the polling from a month ago. This is actually a pretty steady state race. That's what it's telling us.

Now, that can obviously change. We'll keep monitoring the polls. But the big question we were asking a week ago was, you know, was this going to be down to 6, 5, 4? Something like that. It's 7.2. It was 7.4 a month ago. That's the national picture.

We also got today, a number of state polls. Now obviously significant because Trump showed in 2016. He could lose the popular vote when the Electoral College what's happening in some of those states that he picked off in 2016. We got this morning from Monmouth, good pollster. Pennsylvania, Trump wanted in 2016. You see here Biden leading in Pennsylvania. Wisconsin, Trump wanted in 2016. First Republican since Reagan in '84. Biden, this is a Fox News poll Biden leading by eight in Wisconsin. How about this one? Arizona. No Democrats carried it since Clinton is '96 reelection campaign. They've got Fox does Biden ahead by nine in Arizona and then North Carolina. Again, Trump won that state by three and a half points in 2016.

There's Joe Biden, not just ahead, hitting 50 percent in this poll in North Carolina, so four state polls, four states that Trump won in 2016, four Biden leads right now. Again, if we just pull up here, the road to 270. This is where it landed in 2016. You could see here, Pennsylvania, if that poll held up. If Trump lost Pennsylvania here, you can see Biden getting a little closer. If Biden got Wisconsin, that's what that poll is pointing to at least right now. Biden gets closer Arizona. Those three that would put Biden over. I don't know. Let's say he misses an Arizona somehow gets North Carolina.

These are the states just the four states we got polls in today. You play with different combinations here. Biden is not far off. That's the thing. He starts out. Remember, Trump won those three Midwest states by a combined 74,000 votes. So very, very, very margin of error for Trump. Four state polls today, four Biden leads, Trump's got some catching up to do.

That's the upshot is the New York Times. I'm not supposed to say that. That is the bottom line. How about that? That's the bottom line. After this wave of polling we got today.

Coming up, your rights. The President once suggested a simple solution for ending the Mueller investigation with Russia interference. Back in the news, we're going to talk to author in New York Times reporter, Michael Smith, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.


KORNACKI: The Department of Homeland Security has delayed distribution of a report warning that foreign powers are trying to cast doubt on the health of the presidential candidates. Our own Ken Dilanian writes this quote, the unclassified report mentions Iranian and Chinese efforts to criticize Trump on health issues, but focuses on Russian backed narratives about the mental health of former Vice President Joe Biden. It cites public sources including Russian state media.

Earlier today, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf was asked about the report.


CHAD WOLF, ACTING HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The report that you reference was at the end of the day a very poorly written report. I had questions about it when I talked to career officials in INA in the office that produced the report. They also had questions about it. They're hard at work on rewriting that report, put it in put some better context. And I hope to see that report out soon.


KORNACKI: Back with us tonight, Michael Schmidt, Pulitzer Prize winning Washington correspondent for The New York Times. His new book available now is "Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President."

Michael, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it. Well, we've got this news. We just have more news today. Foreign interference presidential election, we've obviously going over 2016 and everything we've learned since then, quite a bit. I'm just curious as the president tries to recover from the gap in the polls we just showed you there, this topic of foreign interference of Russian interference in particular, how does he view that topic right now? How does his campaign view that?

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, THE NEW YORK TIMES WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, for him, it's not an issue. And I write some about this in the book. 2016 was the greatest intelligence failure since September 11, 2001.

Now, the difference is, is that after 9/11 people came together, and they studied what happened, good government people, and they came up with ways that they could stop it. The Federal Government basically remade itself into an anti-terrorism fighting force.

In this case, there was very few efforts like that. There's some efforts off of the Hill, but even those didn't have a lot of angst (ph). There was no commission that looked at this. There are no wholesale changes that I think the American people would have confidence in coming into this election that the government would know how to deal with such a multi-pronged attack in problem like election interference.

So here we are just months away from the next election. And as a government, I'm sure that the FBI and the intelligence community would say, yes, you know, we have a better handle on this and stuff. But there has been no large wholesale recreation to be in a better stance for this election.

KORNACKI: Obviously, the topic of your book is the closest thing if there is such a thing to what you're describing the Mueller investigation. They're looking into these topics, and you writing extensively about the investigation of what was going on in the White House during it as well, one character who, who looms large in your book besides the President himself, the White House Counsel at the time, Don McGahn.

Interesting there. You have some passages, I think you paint a picture of McGahn. Somebody who's unique among folks around the president in that he would push back on him occasionally. Talk about that relationship a little, if you would.

SCHMIDT: As I write about in the book, I think Don McGahn is probably the most remarkable person, obviously, besides the president of the Trump era, Don McGahn did three really unusual things. He was in charge of the umbilical cord, the tie between the president, his base, the judges, the thing that allowed the president to behave the way he did and continue to maintain that Republican support.

He was the chief container of the President, someone who stopped the president from doing things to damage himself for the country, or the Office of the Presidency. He was also the chief witness against his client in an existential threat to the presidency in the Mueller investigation. And you would say why did Don McGahn put up with this. Why did he risk all this? He has a whole another career ahead of him. He has to put food on the table. How -- Why would he risk this?

He's such a believer in the judges. He realize he had a once in a never again opportunity to remake the federal courts. We will be living in Don McGahn's America for decades to come because of how he remade the courts.

And in April and the spring of 2018, he probably should have left the White House. His lawyer was saying to him, it's time to go, but McGahn didn't want to leave. He knew that Kennedy, Justice Kennedy was considering retiring when he least McGahn could hear that in Kennedy's voice. And McGahn says, I need to stay here, because if I stay, Kennedy will be more likely to retire because he knows that if I'm here, we're not going to put a Fox News analyst on the court to fill his position. So McGahn stays through all of the chaos and gets to that point, Kennedy retires and we know the rest.

KORNACKI: You also speaking of McGahn have an interesting scene in here, I think, where the President is talking to him. And the President basically says to McGahn, hey, if he feels Mueller, the Special Counsel is zeroing in on him. He Trump will just go take care of it himself. Explain a little bit was going on there?

SCHMIDT: No, the President thought that if Mueller was getting close to him, that he could settle, that this was just like a civil lawsuit in New York City with someone that was sending him bills, that if this thing was really encroaching on him that he could settle. It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem he faced in the Mueller investigation, what that that threat was to the presidency.

Luckily, the Mueller team declined to make a decision about whether he broke the law on obstruction of justice. And because of that, he didn't really have to face the consequences of it. The report became public, but the president with the help of his attorney general were able to get past that.

But as this is going on, as this is captivating the country as they are literally conducting an active investigation into the president. They -- they're looking at what he is doing in real time. The President's behaving in a way that is spawning new tentacles of the investigation on nearly a weekly basis. He thinks he can settle it.

KORNACKI: The book, again, Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President." Michael Schmidt, thank you for the time. Really appreciate that.

And coming up, German officials confirmed today, Vladimir Putin's chief critic was poisoned. How this incident matches a pattern of behavior from deep inside the Kremlin. We're going to have a report from London when THE 11TH HOUR continues.


KORNACKI: Weeks after Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny collapsed on a flight. German authorities are confirming suspicions that he was poisoned with a nerve agent and he's not the only Russian dissident attacked this way in recent years. NBC News correspondent Helena Humphrey has a report from London.


HELENA HUMPHREY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was the former Russian spy someone wanted to silence. Alexander Litvinenko poisoned in 2006 after defecting.

MARINA LITVINENKO, ALEXANDER LITVINENKO'S WIDOW: Anybody who can provide any true information. They try to stop them because they want to control this information.

HUMPHREY: Even Kremlin critics say if that means reaching beyond Russia's borders.

(on camera): Alexander Litvinenko had been granted asylum here in the UK, but it was at this London hotel where he met with two former Russian agents, believing he was amongst friends and drank a cup of tea laced with a fatal dose of polonium, and he's not the only Russian dissident to be poisoned on British soil.

(voice-over): In 2018, a similar fate awaited former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in their adopted home Salsbury. They survived but the toxin spread, killing a British woman terrorizing a city.

The same kind of nerve agent German authorities now say was used on Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, just a matter of weeks ago.

KARL DEWEY, CHEMICAL WEAPONS EXPERT, KING'S COLLEGE LONDON: Poisons by Germany administered like a like a tailored suit. If you have too much poison, then it will still be detectable in the system afterwards in any autopsy, or perhaps in any remaining materials. There isn't enough quantity. For example, if a target only has half a cup of poison, or something, then they will get ill, but they may not die.

HUMPHREY: Right. And while the method may seem like a Cold War relic, Karl Dewey recorded 27 incidents of poisoning or suspected poisoning since Putin's first Premiership in 1999. The Russian government denies involvement in the case of Navalny because for retribution are intensifying. For U.S. born investor Bill Browder is personal.

BILL BROWDER, MAGNITSKY GLOBAL JUSTICE CAMPAIGN: I think at this point, Vladimir Putin's assets should be frozen.

HUMPHREY: Browder's Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in prison after exposing government corruption, inspiring Browder to create the Magnitsky Act sanctioning offenders of human rights.

BROWDER: I'm almost sure that that nobody will have the guts to sanction Vladimir Putin himself. If Trump minimizes or diminishes his Putin's responsibility for grave crimes that emboldens Putin to do more things.

HUMPHREY: Without major international intervention, those touched by the toxic legacy of these attacks, have dedicated their lives to prevention.

LITVINENKO: You'll fight for your husband, for your memory for your life. I always said it was not enough international reaction for what happened since my husband was poisoned. Because people still believe you can do business as usual, is Russia but you can.

HUMPHREY: Tonight Alexei Navalny continues to fight for his life. Another ruthless attempt to silence a Kremlin critic. Successful, at least for now. Halena Humphrey, NBC News, London.


KORNACKI: And there is more 11TH HOUR right after the break.


KORNACKI: Before we go tonight, we have some reminders for you, especially for our time shifting viewers. You can watch us anytime you please by downloading the MSNBC app on your phone. And if you're on the move, you can listen live each night on SiriusXM satellite radio, that's channel 118. And we're also available as a podcast. So there's really no reason why you never have to miss a single broadcast of THE 11TH HOUR.

And that is our broadcast for tonight. On behalf of all my colleagues here, good night.


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