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tv   The 11th Hour With Brian Williams  MSNBC  August 29, 2019 8:00pm-9:00pm PDT

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department's inspector general slams james comey but despite the president's tweets, he won't face prosecution. tonight's reaction and what republicans are planning next. plus, the democrats think they have a new way to strip mitch mcconnell of his title of majority leader. and what all of this means for president donald trump "the 11th hour" on a thursday night starts now. >> good evening once again. from our nbc news headquarters in new york, i'm steve kornacki in for brian williams who has the night off. day 952. we got a highly anticipated report from the internal watch dog that it found the former fbi director james comey violated policy in his habuling of memos on his interactions with the president. we learned in the report that the doj has declined to prosecute comey over this episode. the report found that he vial
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aid policies by keeping four memos in a personal safe. it said that he shared one of the memos with a friend and he had that friend leak its contents to the "new york times." that particular memo that was leaked, the report noted, did not contain classified information. comey also, according to the report, shared four memos with his private attorneys. one of which contained information that was retroactively classified at the lowest level. the ig report reads in part, by not safeguarding sensitive information obtained during the course of his fbi employment, by using it to create public pressure for official action, comey set a dangerous example for the over 35,000 current fbi employees, and the ms now former fbi employees who similarly have access to or knowledge of nonpublic information. we should note that this is the second inspector general report to criticize comey's conduct in presidential politics. first was for his unilaterally
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held news conference and that letter he wrote to congress about hillary clinton toward the end of the 2016 election. as you might expect, we flared the president on twitter today. quote, perhaps never in the history of our country has someone been more thoroughly disgraced and excoriated than james comey in the just released inspector general's report. he should be ashamed of himself. it read in part, james comey is a proven liar and leaker. the inspector general's report shows comey violated the most basic obligations of confidentiality that he ode to the united states government and the american people. comey defended his actions on twitter. i don't need a public apology from those who defamed me but a quick message with a sorry we lied about you would be nice. to all those who spent two years talking about me going to jail, being a liar and leaker, ask yourselves why you still trust people who gave you bad info for so long including the president.
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matt from the "washington post" points out today, by now, comey's memos are well known. they described among other things how trump had pressed comey for loyalty and had asked him about letting go of an investigation into former national security advise every michael flynn. >> the report shows from the very beginning of the trump administration, comey pursued a partisan political agenda and he did it in the sleaziest, most feline possible way. >> it is a turns out, america's self-proclaimed super patriot is nothing more than a dirty, corrupt, former bureaucrat that will be in serious significantly legal jeopardy as this all unfolds. >> this is the ultimate weasel. he knows what he does. to try to blame it off on other people that i didn't leak. he used a mule. that's what i call it. that's what he's trying to say, somebody disconnected from this. he's not. james comey knows exactly what he's doing. >> here's what everybody has to
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put in perspective. this was the head of the fbi. should president trump, should president trump fire james comey? here's 70 pages of the reason why. by the way, this is not the first time james comey has violated rules, regulations of the department of justice. we've already had reports on that. that's number one. should the president have fired him? 70 reasons. 100 pages of which are right here. >> elizabeth b. miller, washington bureau chief for the "new york times," jerry bash from the cia and pentagon, and frank, former fbi assistant director for counter intelligence. thank you for being with us. i'll just start with you. did this report say what you expected it to say? >> it did. it tried to straddle the middle. it said what many inspector general reports say.
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some rules were broken. my question on that is, which rules are you talking about? the rules that govern a corrupt president that is trying to obstruct an investigation who is under a counter intelligence inquiry? who is about to fire the fbi director? i don't know what those rules are. and i was part of internal affairs functions in the fbi. so i don't know what the inspector general is doing except doing the bean counting that igs do and saying, you shouldn't have taken some memos home. we're really troubled by the fact that you gave in to personal attorneys. the problem is it is the director of the fbi. he is an original classifying authority. he gets to decide which memos to write and why. the question to the ig is, what was he supposed to do under this scenario? who was he supposed to give the memos to that he should never have possessed the deputy attorney general of the united states who wrote a memo justifying his firing? the white house who is trying to obstruct an investigation? this is an unprecedented
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situation, and the ig is trying to overlay the rule book on something we've never seen before. >> so elizabeth, take us through, you've got this criticism. intense criticism here of the actions of the decisions that comey made from the ig's report. you have doj saying, they're not going to prosecute. saying he broke the rules but he won't be prosecuted. explain what the rationale is there. >> he broke no laws. that's the bottom line. he did not leak classified information which would be breaking the law. he was very careful with the memos. you can see if you look at the report, how he redacted some of the memos before he gave them to his lawyers. he certainly didn't give any classified information to reporters. so he violated doj policy by disclosing information outside the fbi.
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the ig said, i would like to point out, because he made one of them public, and he said he did this on purpose. he triggered the special counsel investigation. as a result of that, we learned in pretty good detail about russian interference in the 2016 election. and also, potentially obstructive acts by the president. so i don't see, i don't, it is not a good idea that we learned that? that's my question. >> let's pick up that question. that was comey's justification for leaking this. for having his friend leak the story to the "new york times" in the first place. he had just been fired. he had these memos. he believed he had witnessed conduct by the president that needed to come to light. that needed to be investigated. and a lot has happened since then. the ig's report does address
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comey's rationale as i just laid out there. this is their response. even when these employees believe that their most strongly held personal convictions might be served by an unauthorized disclosure, the fbi depends on them not to disclose sensitive information. it says were current or fbi employees to follow the former director's example in disclose sensitive information in service of their own strongly held personal convictions, the fbi would be unable to dispatch its law enforcement duties properly. what do you make of that about comey's justification? >> well, there are two lenses through which to view his conduct. the first is the legal lens. this report focused on while policies were violated, the law was not violated. but then i think there's a broader lens. an ethical lens. did jim comey do the right thing in speaking out about the president's obstructive conduct? the first manner in which he
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spoke was anonymously. he had just been fired by the president and i think he rightly felt if we to speak out publicly, go to the microphones and explain that the president tried on get the fbi to drop the investigation of mike flynn, in fact president would dismiss it right away. the president was out there explaining and justifying his firing of jim comey. so first he spoke anonymously. then he spoke there after. jim comey spoke publicly. he testified in front of the senate. and he's spoken out publicly in other fashions as well. in all of his public statements, both anonymous and public, not a single fact has been disproven. the mueller report validated independently every single fact that jim comey put on the public record. >> yeah. and frank, it does seem like an unusual situation. i guess i'm curious. maybe with the benefit of hindsight. could you look back and see a way for comey to have achieved what he was trying to achieve
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that would have lived within the rules of the doj and the fbi to establish? >> well, let's understand the context. it even says in the ig report, he told the ig, i'm doing this because i could not trust the white house. i could not trust the president. and as jeremy said, all of his mistrust was actually right on the money. he ended up getting fired soon after did this. so what would i have done? i've thought about this. there is a possibility you could have provided those memos to the house or senate. intelligence committees. you could have sent them to the ig. the ig works for the doj and the attorney general. he did what he felt he had to do. i once read an account of a state trooper who saved a family are a burning car on the highway. his supervisor rolls up on the scene. looks at the trooper and reprimands him for not wearing the regulation hat that was required. that's essentially what the ig did today. like it or not, comey felt the white house was on fire.
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right? he did what he felt he needed to do. he's been reprimanded for not wearing the mandatory hat. that's essentially what we saw today. >> and jeremy, these are events that took place. they're sort of being discussed. they took place a little over two years ago. there's been spoech happened the last two and a half years. there was the firing of james comey. there was the story that landed in the "new york times." the appointment of the special counsel. this all played out in a one or two-week period in 2017. the "new york times" story that was based on the memo that comey got through his friend. is there a special counsel investigation without that? >> it is hard to know. i think we can all feel better off for the fact that james comey' actions led to the special counsel appointment. and after all, bob mueller's investigation led to the prosecution of numerous individuals. it led to the conviction of
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numerous individuals. it led to the exposure of russian intelligence efforts to interfere and obstruct our election. and it led to a volume ii of the report that explained in grave detail the way the president tried on undermine justice. so i think we are all better off for the bob mueller investigation. and i think without james comey' conduct, we may never have had it. >> comey has obviously towered over our politics for several years now. obviously in the trump administration for all the reasons we're discussing, if you think back previous to the trump administration in the 2016 campaign, there was that press conference he held that summer saying, hey, there won't be charges against hillary clinton. but then essentially indicting or in the court of public opinion, the letter he sent to congress before the election. there are clinton folks who still believe she is not the president because of that letter he sent about ten days before the election. i know it seems, there is some irony today in this doj, inspector general report declining to prosecute him.
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but then excoriating him for terrible judgment. terrible decisions. that's what did he when it came to 2016. >> comey has infuriated both sides. he's done something pretty extraordinary. the democrats despise him and the republicans despise him although they had their moments. if you read his book, he is a man who believes he is ethical, who thinks he is always doing the right thing. he thinks he's doing the right thing for his country. and he thought at the time when, he thought at the time when head press conference about hillary, you know, there was not the material to indict her. but he had to not be political and criticize her. and it blew up in his face. and he will always be a part of history in that 2016 election and there will always be a debate. not a debate with the hillary ranks about how many he cost her
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the election. they believe he was a major factor. >> there is much to discuss on this topic much relating to it. i want to jump to a different subject, elizabeth. we have you here and your paper is reporting some interesting news out of the white house. that the president's personal assistant has abruptly stepped down. tell us what you know here. >> i won't tell you more than we have in the story. that there were some issues ad bed minutester. she's been there since day one. she's been a very loyal lieutenant. but she is now out at the white house. that's all i can tell you. >> the story that we see at an off-the-record dinner. >> that's what we reported. >> all right. the thank you. coming up, the next target in the republicans pushback on the russia investigation. and later, the numbers likely
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i want to know when is barack obama going to be interviewed by john durham and the fbi. >> do you believe that will happen? >> i believe it will. in fact, there is no way you can finish this investigation without interviewing the former president of the united states. >> that is former u.s. attorney and fox news mainstay joe just a short while ago on fox news. some supporters of president
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trump are now turning their attention to what president obama knew about the early stages of the russia investigation. during an interview last night, before the release of the ig report, senator lindsey graham, the cheryl of the judiciary committee said it is a plan he wants answered each week. >> stuck between white house wanting to know any detail. does that mean barack obama, the president at the time, should be asked what he knew and when he knew it about all this? >> i can't imagine an investigation of the republican nominee for president counter intelligence investigation of his campaign was not approved at the highest level. the question for me is, who told obama, and when you find out who that person is, you begin to put the puzzle together. >> do you think he needs to be asked those questions under oath? >> absolutely. i'm going to say, mccabe, comey, all of them.
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did you ever inform president obama about the counter intelligence investigation? what did you tell him and when did you tell him? yes. i would like to know what president obama thought about the investigation. why did not somebody tell trump? the whole point of a counter intelligence investigation is to protect people. >> still with us, frank, i want to get your reaction to what we just played from lindsey graham. he is saying this counter intelligence probe launched in the summer of 2016 potential ties between trump and folks in the campaign. he said they had to have president obama's knowledge and apparently sign-off. what's your reaction to that? >> he also said that the whole point of a counter intelligence investigation is to protect people. it's to protect the united states is what the point of the counter intelligence investigation is not to protect the president.
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would a counter intelligence investigation involving russian meddling and interference with a presidential campaign get briefed to the white house? you bet. you bet. and guess what. all of it played out in the indictments of a couple of dozen russian operatives, including russian intelligence officers who did mess with our election process. so i'm all for interviewing barack obama. and my guess is, he'll say i was briefed that the russians were trying to enter gear this election. now, remember that trump's name got add later to the investigation by andy mccabe. once additional conduct was known by the public and by that time, barack obama may have been out of the picture. by all means, go ahead and enter view the president. the counter intelligence investigation protects the people. not the president. >> jeremy bash, lindsey graham has the ability. he has the ability to pursue this. what would that look like?
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these questions he's raising. these names he's raising. if he is going to have an investigation like this, what would it look like? >> they want president obama to speak under oath but they were fine when president trump did not speak under oath to bob mueller. i don't understand that. putting that aside, the issue that the senator is raising, whether or not the orange investigation was predicated, whether or not there was a factual basis to believe that number one, russia was seeking to interfere in the election and number two, whether or not there were any individuals associated with a presidential campaign who somehow knew about it or benefiting from it or somehow welcomed it. and i think we now know from the bob mueller investigation that in fact, we do know that russia did interfere. that it was of benefit to the trump campaign. and that it was welcomed. in some important respects, it
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has been rewarded. so i think the investigation as to whether or not this was all well predicated should proceed. i think you'll find in fact it was well predicated. >> i'm curious. you're familiar with how these investigations work. lindsey graham is saying he wants to get the former president barack obama under oath. he is mentioning others as well. do you think realistically that will happen in i don't know of any precedent of a former president speaking to congress in that fashion. but again, i'm not sure where this investigation leads. i think it will lead us right back to the original intelligence assessment of january 17 which may clear exactly what russia did. >> this is one of those moments where i think you think back to the mueller report. the reactions to it. two almost completely different narratives. one belonging to the democratic controlled house. the other belonging to the republican controlled senate. you see the republicans in the senate pursuing the investigation that lindsey graham is outlining while the
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democrats in the house have what jerry nadler, the chairman, said already is an impeachment inquiry. could not be in important opposite places. >> i'm not sure where the republicans want to go with this. polls have consistently shown that the voters are not very interested in the russia investigation when mueller was in the middle of it. it has died down as an issue. perhaps they want to revive it. they think it might be a winning campaign issue for them but i don't see where it goes. i agree that you investigate the origins of the russia investigation and you will find that there was a lot of information out there. even in the mueller report, you see how many contacts there were between trump associates and russians during the campaign the mueller probe was never able to prove that there was collusion. that they worked together in the conspiracy to swing the election to donald trump.
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but there were an awful lot of contacts. so i'm not sure what the republicans would find here other than there was a lot of reason to open an investigation. and again, i don't see, i guess they think this works for them politically. right now biggest issues on the campaign are the economy, you know, perhaps the coming recession, jobs, and again, i think this is, i'm not sure what the goal here is. just to muddy the waters more. >> all right. thank you for joining us. and coming up, florida residents are emptying store shelves ahead of hurricane dorian. the latest on where that strengthening storm is headed when "the 11th hour" continues. our 18 year old was in an accident. usaa took care of her car rental, and getting her car towed. all i had to take care of was making sure that my daughter was ok. if i met another veteran, and they were with another insurance company, i would tell them,
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florida's governor has expanded a state of emergency to include his entire state. hurricane dorian is expected to make landfall there by monday. possibly as a powerful category 4 storm. officials are warning residents up and down the state's eastern coast to get ready. and the president has canceled a planned trip to poland over the weekend to oversee the federal response to dorian. this shows the size of the storm. this was captured by the crew aboard the international space station when they crossed over dorian earlier today. an update on the storm's projected path was released a few minutes ago. we'll bring in bill.
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what is the very latest? >> i'll try to put a positive spin on it. right now, three or four days from a landfall. the hurricane forecast i just read, just got done briefing on, is about the worst case possible scenario. why is that good news? i'm glad it's not tomorrow. then it would be as dire as possible. let me explain. now we're up to 105-mile-per-hour winds. dorian is up to a category 2. we know there is not much to stop it from getting more intense. it could be a category 3 tomorrow. it could be a category 4 friday into saturday. here's the new forecast. we know it will be a big bad intense storm. wherever it hits, it will be catastrophic. with the irmas and marias and michaels.
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this takes it to a 2 or a 3. by sunday night tlurgs northern bahamas, it is a little further south. they shifted it to the south. now just north of west palm beach as a category 4. 140-mile-per-hour winds. the problem is the biggest issue, between here and here. that's 215 miles. it's possible this storm could approach the coastline at about four to five miles per hour. that's never happened before. usually they're up around eight, nine, 15. those have multiple rainfall issues. the high winds in the same locations over a long period of time have more stress on all the roof tops and the structures and the trees and everything else in its way. so from here on out, so we have no land in the way. we'll be watching our computer models. they come out every six hours. we'll continue to see what the
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trendsful are the hurricane center has the forecast down here. you noticed the models here if it goes even slower, just maybe we can weaken the ridge and up to the north one of these squiggly lines can take place. where it stalls out a little bit. maybe gets near the coast. scares it. and then wiggles it off juror. it is not 0%. you can see most of them come across the lower peninsula. even a few would bring it back into the northeastern gulf. this is what we got this afternoon. we'll get a new one that will come out about 2:00, 3:00 in the morning. a lot of meteorologists will be staying up and emergency managers to see what it does. it takes it toward west palm beach and then right up the
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florida coastline. we'll see what that model does. this will be coming out about every 12 hours or so. that's all we can do. too early for hurricane watches. too early for the warnings and evacuation orders. it is just get prepared. when the orders come, move out quickly. >> you got my attention with one thing i said. you said you have never seen a storm moving in potentially as slowly as this one. four miles an hour. i guess that's about half the speed you're saying. >> we have had storms that have stalled out. we've had storms that have smaller, weaker storms that have stalled right near the coast. just look at the houston storm with 50, 60 inches of rain. what i've never seen is the forecast for a 140-mile-an-hour cat 4 to stall out and move on shore that slowly.
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trying to think of the big cat 4, 5s. michael was faster than that. camille was faster than that. i've never seen this powerful of a predicted storm do this. i don't see what will speed it up. these storms are steered by big huge areas of high pressure. sometimes influenced by cold fronts or what we call troughs. very weak steering pattern for this storm. so it is moving pretty well and pretty quickly and then it will slow down. slow down. and maybe stall out or just drift across the florida peninsula. so yeah. it just brings in so many multiple problems. especially with a major hurricane. you get prolonged winds, multiple high tide cycles and then about, i think it is 70 or 80% of fatalities are from water. so we get storm surge and the problem with all that heavy rain, i know florida has sandy soil.
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you get a storm that moves this showily through the florida peninsula. flooding will be a huge epic problem well into next week. so as i am earlier, the 11:00 update was one of the worst scenarios you could possibly have anywhere in the world for a hurricane landfall. but we have three days to change it. >> this is really not what i was necessarily expecting. i've watched the forecast get worse and worse over the last few days. hopefully it gets better. is there a scenario where it could get worse? >> the only thing that would get worse is if it got to a category 5. it who is the get over 155, another 15 really isn't that big of a deal. with the low sheer environment. extremely warm water temperatures along the way. there's not much that is stopping it. some dry air around the storm that may interrupt it here or there. but if it got to a cat 5, would
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it surprise me or anyone else? no. but the possible of a good size cat 4 right on the florida coastline come labor day afternoon and evening. if that's the case, that's the scenario. this forecast holds true, to let everyone know the timing. you all of a sudden we're further down the coast. we were at the space coast, vero beach, now toward west palm. we're talking about some huge population centers that will have to make some hard calls with evacuations. you know, we're about 24, about 48 hours away from a huge mass evacuation order if this forecast holds true. >> all right. we will look forward to the next update and hope there's been a change for the better. thank you. we appreciate that. coming up, the other big political drama of 2020. who ends up controlling the senate? i'll head over to the big board to show you which races to watch. at fidelity, we believe your money
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polident. clean. fresh. and confident. of odor causing bacteria. yesss, i'm doing it all. the water. the exercise. the fiber. month after month, and i still have belly pain and recurring constipation. so i asked my doctor what else i could do, and i said yesss to linzess. linzess treats adults with ibs with constipation or chronic constipation. linzess is not a laxative, it works differently. it helps relieve belly pain and lets you have more frequent and complete bowel movements. do not give linzess to children less than 6, and it should not be given to children 6 to less than 18, it may harm them. do not take linzess if you have a bowel blockage. get immediate help if you develop unusual or severe stomach pain, especially with bloody or black stools. the most common side effect is diarrhea, sometimes severe. if it's severe, stop taking linzess and call your doctor right away. other side effects include gas, stomach area pain, and swelling. i'm still doing it all. the water. the exercise. the fiber. and i said yesss to linzess for help with belly pain
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and recurring constipation. ask your doctor. almost every day i am right here at this board talking about the presidential race. the 2020 campaign for president. tonight we'll talk about one of the other major races. one of the other major series of races. not just the presidential race. also the house and the senate. and there was some big news this week. big news just yesterday on the senate front. it comes from the state of georgia. republican johnny isakson announced he will be resigning from the senate at the end of this year. for health reasons. that means immediately the seat will be filled by an appointment. the governor of georgia who is a republican. brian kemp will appoint someone to the seat when isakson steps down. presumably a republican. it also triggers a special
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election that will take place next year. it will coincide with a normally scheduled november election. so this senate seat and whoever is appointed by the governor probably will be up in 2020. and for democrats, that's interesting news. georgia is a state they have been starting to look a little more closely at as' potentially competitive state. in 2012, this was a safely competitive state. mitt romney won by 8 points. the margin came down in 2016 to 5 points. in 2018, democrats weren't able to win statewide but they got close. they got within about 50,000 votes. demographics are changing pretty substantially there. suburbs, particularly around atlanta. maybe more and more away from the republican party of donald trump. that's a major factor. so democrats have been looking at georgia. maybe in the presidential race. maybe when it comes to the u.s. senate. this could be an opportunity in 2020 this means this will be two
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shots in georgia. so two senate elections in georgia in 2020 and the significance, we talk about the battle for senate control. republicans go into 2020 leading 53-47. that means they need a net gain of three if they win the presidency. remember, the vice president breaks any tie in the senate. if trump gets reelected, democrats would need a net gain of four seats to control the senate. so net gain of three if they win the presidency. colorado, this is a state that is a major target for them already. maine. why do we have these two highlighted? these the two republican senators up in 2020 in states that hillary clinton won. these are electorates that already rejected trump. clinton won colorado. clinton won maine. republican senators in re-election, if they can pick
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those two up, that would move them close to 20. there are some other places democrats are looking. arizona. that's a state they have a shot at. john cornyn in texas. you saw how close beto o'rourke got. tom tillis in north carolina. another state. trump won it because close state. so democrats think there could be a combination. the thing they have to be careful for, there are some vulnerable democrats. doug jones won the special election in alabama against roy moore at the end of 2017. this is a state that donald trump will be winning by 20. 25, 30 points, something like that. tough, tough, tough for a democrat to win in a presidential election in a state like alabama. we will see it. that one is a very possible republican pick-up that would mean democrats would have to win another one to make up for it. you can't see him on the board here. republicans might take a look at
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new hampshire. gene running for re-election there. theoretically, there is minnesota. tina smith is up there. trump lost there by 2 1/2 points. tina smith did very well facing the voters there just last year. so a couple opportunities for republicans. but the bottom line, we bring all this up. big news in georgia on the senate front. a reminder for all the talk about the presidential race. whoever wins the presidency, their ability to get their agenda through, to get people confirmed for major posts like the supreme court, it depends who controls the u.s. senate. a major story. coming up, what's really at stake in 2020? back after this. banjo? (man) go home. (woman) banjo! sorry, it won't happen again. come on, let's go home.
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what if there were five justices selected by democrats. five selected by republicans.
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and those five picked five justices independent of those who chose the first ten. >> first they steal a supreme court seat. then they change the rules on filibuster. when it swings back around to us, what are we going to do? my answer on that is, all the options are on the table. >> not just expanding the number members but doing it in a way where some are sloektd a concensus nonpartisan basis. >> well, some 2020 candidates are floating the idea of changing the make-up of the supreme court. a move they could make if democrats take control of the senate and the white house. it is something the majority leader mitch mcconnell is warning against. he and his fellow republicans took the rare step of writing a letter to the supreme court. they warn that the court, quote, must not be cowed by the threats of opportunistic politicians. calling them a threat to the independence of the judiciary and the rights of all americans. here to talk about all of this.
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michael steele, and amber phillips, reporter for the "washington post" political blog. let me ask but this. i'm not sure writing a letter to the supreme court, what you're expecting the supreme court to turn around and do. i'm going on read this as a politically motivated action. let's try to decipher what it is. is it trying to offer motivation potentially to what they call those reluctant trump voters? folks who might like republicans more than democrats, but don't like donald trump? >> sure. it is a way, i guess, an idea to sort of put something in front of the court to say, we take this very seriously. this president has been very successful at putting two conservative justices on the bench. and i think for the base, that is certainly a big kudos for that. so this is a remind per republicans rthing about the court as they have been, as you know, for is well over 20 years.
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the democrats are late to this conversation. and of course, they're coming to the conversation, talking about, we want to add five independent seats. that's not what this is about. this is about whoever is sitting in the white house, is about. having the senate of their party in power, that's where the play is. and this is just typical noise from the democrats on this subject matter that confuses the public, they roll their eyes and they move on, whereas on the republican side, they know exactly what this is about. this is about taking those nine justices and getting seven out of those nine on your side. that's the politics that republicans have been better at it because they've been focused on it for a longer time. the democrats are coming to it and again talking about it in a way that's confusing the hell out of everybody. >> amber, i wonder what michael is describing, your sense of maybe how that's changing on the democratic side, talking about a situation here where democratic voters watched democratic
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activists, watched in 2016 as mitch mcconnell in the senate held that supreme court sea open, trump was able to appoint a republican to fill it and the whole cavanaugh drama last year. how has that changed how democrats are approaching this? >> i think you're exactly right to take this moment and go all the way back to 2016, steve, because what i hear from democrats is that merrick garland seat that got held before the election woke democrats up from the democrats to say oh my gosh, we've been losing on focusing on the judicial branch of government, how we can reshape government. and then the kavanaugh fight activated them. and then you have the 2020 presidential candidates come in and say why don't we have an open conversation about
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something that hasn't been done in centuries? it's really a reflection of how democrats have not been focusing on the court for so long and are now at risk of being out of power, the balance of power at the supreme court for years, maybe even a generation depending on retirements in the trump era that they're having this conversation of like, wait a second, we might lose it all right now. let's throw in this one radical idea to pack the court. >> it's the senate that has all these confirmation battles when it comes to the supreme court. amber, you're writing about georgia. two senate races in georgia next year now, two opportunities potentially for democrats but the biggest named democrat lately out of the state of georgia, stacey abrams, has already taken herself out of the mix. tell us who they might turn to. >> stacey abrams who ran for
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governor and showed to georgia that democrats can be competitive almost immediately as this open seat came out this week said, nope, i'm not going to run. thanks, guys. it sounds more like she has her eye on being a potential vice presidential nominee depending on who wins the nomination. what that leaves democrats with is a state in georgia that looks competitive. they feel like it's trending their way quicker than they realize but not a very thick bench of candidates with which to choose from. they have a couple candidates already running in a primary to challenge senator david purdue. with stacey abrams, who didn't even want to enter that race when they thought that was the only georgia senate race going, they're not really sure who else they can pick from. republicans i talk to say that's what makes them feel secure that they're going to hold one, if not both seats here. >> michael, we saw in 2018 an interesting dynamic. when it came to house races in the midterm election, blue wave,
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40-seat gain. when it came to the senate, republicans made gains there. it had to do in the type of states that were up last year. how do you see that dynamic playing out in 2020. >> you say democrats have more opportunities there? >> the conventional wisdom is that the republicans, their waterloo, if you will, policemenically policemen ical -- politically in terms of the senate doesn't come for two years later. i think what's happened is the conventional wisdom, steve, has turned on its head a little bit, the transformation of the landscape in georgia where the democrats have a chance to go after two seats. the problem, they have to bench. so republicans sit there saying you figure that out and meanwhile mitch mcconnell is
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doing the lockdown on a number of key states. it's early still but the republicans are looking at the seat because in one sense it could be a bellwether for some of the more sweeping changes that potentially that could come for the senate in 2020. if the dems are able to align their nominee with the country in a way that expands their base of opportunities and i don't mean in terms of more democrats necessarily voting but independent, senate right republicans who also are coming out not to support trump but then also liken the idea of giving the senate to the democrats, that's the sweet spot i think they're trying to go for. but right now with no bench and a lot of open holes, it's going to be tough. >> all right. michael steele, amber phillips, thank you both for taking a few minutes. we'll be right back.
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♪ we go. >> reporter: before we go tonight, we do have a few reminders. you can watch us any time you please by downloading the msnbc
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app. the show is also available as a podcast. there's no reason ever to miss a single edition of the 11th hour. that is our broadcast for this thursday night. thank ul for beiyou for being w good night from msnbc headquarters in new york. thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. there's a whole bunch of developing news we've been watching over the course of this afternoon and into tonight and we've got an update tonight on this story that we have covered pretty intensively over the course of this week that until now as far as i can tell hadn't received any other national news coverage. this is the story we've been covering of this new policy by the trump administration that they didn't announce but it came to light when families of seriously ill children started getting letters last week from the trump administration telling these families that although they may have had


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