tv The 11th Hour With Brian Williams MSNBC August 29, 2019 11:00pm-12:00am PDT
the president's tweets, he won't face prosecution. tonight's reaction and what 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. and today we got a highly anticipated report from the doj's internal watchdog that found former fbi director james comey violated policy in his handling of memos on his interactions with the president we also learned in the report that the doj has declined to prosecute comey over this episode. the report found that he violated policies by keeping four memos in a personal safe.
it said that comey 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 i.g. report reads in part, quote, 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 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. the first was for his unilaterally-held news conference in that letter he
wrote to congress about hillary clinton toward the end of the 2016 election. as you might expect, we heard from 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. the white house released a statement that read in part, quote, james comey is a proven liar and lyric. the inspector general's report shows comey violated the most basic obligations of confidentiality that he owed to the united states government and to the american people. comey defended his actions on twitter. he wrote this, quote, i don't need a public apology for 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 or being a liar and leaker, ask yourself why you still trust people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president.
"the washington post" points out today, quote, 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 into of an investigation into former national security adviser michael flynn. here's some of what we heard about the i.g. report tonight on fox news. >> the report shows that from the very beginning of the trump administration comey pursued a partisan political agenda and that he did it in the sleaziest, most feline possible way. >> and as it turns out, america's self-proclaimed superpatriot is nothing more than a dirty, corrupt former bureaucrat that will be in serious significant legal jeopardy as this all unfolds. >> this is the ultimate weasel. i mean, he knows what he does, and to try to blame it off on other people that i didn't leak. he used a mule, mr. richmond, and that's what i call it. that's what he's trying to portray himself as, somebody disconnected from this. he's not. james comey knows exactly what he was doing. >> here's what everybody has to put in perspective.
this was the head of the fbi. should president trump -- should president trump fire james comey? here is 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. so that's number one. should the president have fired him for 100 reasons, 70 pages of which are laying out right here. >> here for our leadoff discussion on a thursday night, elizabeth, washington bureau chief for "the new york times." jeremy bash, former chief of staff at the cia and the pentagon as well as former counsel to the house intelligence committee and frank figliuzzi, former fbi assistant director for counterintelligence. thank you all for being with us. frank, 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 that, you know, it said what many inspector generals' reports say, which is that some rules were broken. so 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 counterintelligence 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 i.g.s do in saying, yeah, you shouldn't have taken some memos home and we're really troubled by the fact that you gave them to personal attorneys. the problem is it's the director of the fbi. he's an original classifying authority. he gets to decide which memos to write and why. and the question i would pose to the i.g. is, what was he supposed to do under this scenario? who was he supposed to give the memos to that she 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 situation and the doj is trying to overlay the rule book on something we've never seen before. >> so, elizabeth, take us through. you got this intense criticism here of the actions, the decisions that comey made from the i.g.'s report. you also have doj, though, saying they're not going to prosecute him. basically saying he broke the rules but he won't be prosecuted. explain what the rationale is there. >> well, he broke no laws, that's the bottom line. he didn't 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 did not give any classified information to reporters. so he violated doj policy by disclosing information outside the fbi. but these written memos he himself had written. and, again, he -- the big question here is were they -- were they his memos or did they belong to the fbi? the i.g. said they belonged to the fbi, but he wrote the memos.
i'd just like to point out that because he made one of them public and he said he did this on purpose, he triggered the -- the special counsel investigation. and 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 -- do americans think that's not a good idea that we learned that? so that would be my question. >> well, so let's pick up that question, jeremy, because that was comey's justification for leaking this story, for having his friend leak this story to "the new york times" in the first place. he had just been fired. he had these memos. he believed he witnessed conduct by the president that needed to come to light, that needed to be investigated. this appeared in "the new york times" and a lot has happened since then. the i.g.'s report does address 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 personal information. former director comey failed to live up to his responsibility. were current or former fbi employees to follow the former director's example and disclose sensitive information in service of their own strongly-held personal convictions, the fbi would be unable to dispatch its law enforcement duties personally. what do you make of what the i.g. is saying there about comey's justification for this? >> well, there two lenses through which to view jim comey's conduct. the legal lens. this report focused on the fact while policies were violated the law was not violated. then i think there is a broader lens, an ethical lens, which is did jim comey do the right thing in speaking about about the president's obstructive conduct? the first manner in which he spoke was anonymously. he did that, of course, because
he had just been fired by the president and i think he rightly felt if he were to speak out publicly and go to the microphones and explain the fact that the president tried to get the fbi to drop the investigation of mike flynn that, in fact, the president would dismiss it right away because, of course, the president was out there explaining and justifying his firing of jim comey. so first he spoke anonymous. but shortly thereafter, after the special counsel was appointed because of that anonymous speech, jim comey spoke publicly. he testified in front of the senate. he's also spoken out publicly in other fashions as well. and by the way, in all of his public statements, both anonymous and public, not a single fact has been disproven and, in fact, the mueller report validated independently every single fact that jim comey put on the public record. >> yeah, i mean, frank, it does seem like an unusual situation. i guess i'm curious -- maybe with the benefit of hindsight here, could you look back and see a way for comey to have achieved what he was trying to achieve that would have lived within the rules of the doj and
the fbi had established? >> well, let's understand the context. it even says in the i.g. report he told the i.g. 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 he did this. so what would i have done? i've thought about this. there's a possibility you could have provided those memos to the house and senate intelligence committees. you could have sent them to the i.g. but, again, the i.g. works for doch 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 from a burning car on a 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 essential what the i.g. did today. like it or not, comey felt the white house was on fire, 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. >> jeremy, this is -- these are events that took place -- this is sort of being discussed here that took place a little over two years ago. there's been so much that's happened the last 2 1/2 years but i think folks -- remember, there was the firing of james comey. there was this story that landed in "the new york times." there was the appointment of the special counsel. this all played out in a one or two-week period in may of 2017. that "new york times" story that was based on the memo that was -- that comey got through his friend to "the new york times," is there a special counsel investigation without that? >> it's hard to know the counterfactuals, steve, but i think we all can -- can feel better off for the fact that jim comey's 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 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 to undermine justice. and so i think we are all better off for the bob mueller investigation, and i think without jim comey's conduct we may never have had it. >> elizabeth, you know, comey has obviously touwered over our politics for several years now. obviously in the trump administration for several 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. >> right. >> saying, hey, there's not going to be charged against hillary clinton, but then essentially indicting her in the court of public opinion. the letter he sent to congress just before -- there are clinton folks who still believe she is not the president because of the letter he sent about ten days before the election. i note it seems there is some irony today in this doj inspector general report that declining to prosecute him, but then excoriating him for
terrible judgement, terrible decisions. that's essential what ly what h when it came to hillary clinton in 2016, isn't it? >> well, comey has infuriated both sides. he's done something pretty extraordinary. the democrats despise him and the republicans despise him. although they have their moments. but it's, you know, he is -- he -- if you read his book, he's a man who believes he's deeply ethical who thinks he is always doing the right thing. he thinks he's doing the right thing for his country and, you know, he thought at the time, i mean, he thought at the time when he had that press conference about hillary that, you know, there just wasn't the -- there wasn't the material to -- to -- to indict her, but -- but he had to, you know, not be political and criticize her, and it just blew up in his face and, you know, he will always be a part of history in that 2016 election. and there will always be a debate. certainly not a debate with hillary ranks about whether -- how much he cost her the
election. they believe he was a major factor. >> there is much to discuss on this topic. much relating to it. but i do want to jump to a different subject, elizabeth, because we have you here tonight 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 about what you know here. >> well, i'm not going to tell you more than what we have in the story, which is that there was some issues at bedminster. and that is all we can report right now about her. she's been there since day one. she's been a very loyal lieutenant, but she is now out at the white house. that is all i can tell you. >> the story that -- she had spoken at an off the record dinner, is that correct? >> right. that's what we reported. >> all right. elizabeth b. miller, jeremy bash, frank figliuzzi, thank you. and coming up, the next target in the republicans' pushback on the russia investigation. and later, the numbers likely keeping mitch mcconnell up at night.
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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. i believe it must. 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 degeneva just a short while ago on fox news. some supporters of president 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 today's i.g. report, senator lindsey graham, the chairman of the senate judiciary committee, said it's a question that he wants
answered. >> strzok and page referred to the white house wanting to know every detail. does that mean that barack obama, the president at the time, should be asked what he knew and when he knew it about all of this? >> i can't imagine an investigation of the republican nominee for president counterintelligence 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, sir, under oath? >> absolutely. if there's -- i'm going to talk to mccabe, comey, all of them, brennan, clapper, did you ever inform president obama about the counterintelligence investigation? what did you tell him and when did you tell him? yes, i'd like to know what president obama thought about the investigation. why did not somebody tell trump? the whole -- >> good point. >> -- the whole point of the
counterintelligence investigation is to protect people. >> still with us, elizabeth, jeremy, frank. frank, i want to get your reaction to what we just played from lindsey graham there. he's basically saying this counterintelligence probe launched in the summer of 2016 about potential ties between folks in the trump campaign and russia. he's saying that had to have president obama's knowledge and apparently signoff. what's your reaction to that? >> so -- so he also said that the whole point, quote, of a counterintelligence investigation is to protect people. it's to protect the united states is what the point of a counterintelligence investigation is, not to protect the president, and so would a counterintelligence 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 interfere with this election. now, remember that trump's name got added later to the investigation by andy mccabe once additional conduct was obvious to the public. and by that time barack obama may have been out of the picture. but by all means, go ahead and interview the president, but lindsey graham's got to get it right, a counterintelligence investigation protects the people not the president. >> well, so jeremy bash, lindsey graham has the ability, he runs the judiciary committee in the senate, he has the ability to pursue this. what would that look like? these questions he's raising, these names he's introducing, including barack obama, if he's going to pursue an investigation like this, what's that going to look like? >> let me get this straight. so they want president obama to speak under oath but they were fine when donald trump,
president trump didn't speak under oath to bob mueller? i don't understand that. but putting that aside, on the issue that the senator is raising and that joe degeneva was raising is whether or not the original russia investigation was predicated, whether or not there was a factual basis to believe that, number one, russia was seek to interfere in the election, and number two, whether there were any individuals associated with a presidential campaign who somehow knew about it or were benefitting 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 that interference was of benefit to the trump campaign and that it was welcomed and that in some important respects it has been rewarded. and so i think the investigation has to whether or not this was all well predicated should proceed because i think we'll find that, in fact, it was well predicated. >> i'm just curious because you're familiar with how these congressional investigations work. lindsey graham is saying he
wants to get the former president barack obama under oath. mentioning other names, brennan, clapper, so on. do you think realistically that's going to happen? >> 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 all lead us right back to the rick signal intelligence kmumt assessment of january 17th which made clear what russia did. >> elizabeth, this is also one of those moments where i think you think back to the mueller report, the reactions to it. two almost completely different narrates. one belonging to the democracy-controlled house. the other belonging to the republican-controlled senate. you see the republicans in the senate pursuing the kind of investigation that lindsey graham is outlining while the democrats in the house have what jerry nadler, the chair of the judiciary committee on that side, says is already an impeachment inquiry. just couldn't be more opposite in more opposite places. >> right. i'm not sure where republicans want to go with this. polls have consistently shown
that voters out there were not very interested in the russia investigation when mueller was in the middle of it. it's died down. it's an issue perhaps they want to revive. they think it may be a winning campaign for them but i don't see where this goes. i agree with jeremy, you investigate the origins of the russia investigation and you will find that there was a lot of -- a lot of information out there. there was -- even in the mueller report you see how many contacts there were between trump associates and russians during the campaign. you know, there were -- the mueller probe was never able to prove that there was collusion, that they worked together in a conspiracy to try and swing the election to donald trump, but there were an awful lot of contacts, so i'm not exactly 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, but right now the big issues out on the campaign are, as we all know,
the economy, you know, perhaps a coming recession, jobs and, again, i think this is -- i'm not sure what the goal here is other than to muddy the waters a little bit more. >> elizabeth, jeremy, frank, thank you for joining us. 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. ♪ tide purclean, because it's made with plants. ♪ ♪ tide purclean, gets stains out his pants. ♪ ♪ tide purclean, it has nothing to hide. ♪ ♪ it's made with plants and ♪ ♪ has the cleaning strength of tide. ♪ the first plant-based detergent with the cleaning power of tide.
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. florida's governor has expanded a state of emergency tonight 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 cancelled a planned trip to poland over the weekend to oversee the federal response to dorian. this video released a short time ago shows the size of the storm. this was captured by the crew aboard the international space station when they passed over dorian earlier today. and an update on the storm's projected path was released just a few minutes ago so we're going to bring in our meteorologist bill karins. bill, what is the very latest here? >> the very latest. i'm going to try to put the positive spin on this because right now three to four days from a possible landfall, direct impact, the hurricane forecast i just read and got briefed on is about the worst case possible scenario. you're saying why is that good news?
because i'm glad it's not tomorrow. then it would just be dire as it could possibly be. hopeful this could change in the next three to four days. let me explain. now we're up to 105-mile-per-hour winds. dorian is up to a category 2. there is not much more to stop it from getting more intense. it could be a category 3 by tomorrow and a category 4 by the time we get into friday and saturday. here is the new forecast path. we know it's going to be this big, bad storm. there will be storm surge problems. everything that comes with a big, huge storm just like we've seen with the irmas and the marias and also last year with michael. so the hurricane center has it. takes it 2 to a 3. then by the time we get to sunday night through the northern bahamas, notice it's a little farther south. h they shifted it about 20 miles to the south. just north of west palm beach as a category 4. 140-mile-per-hour winds. the biggest issue as i measure
the distance between here and here, that's 215 miles. it's possible that this storm could approach the coastline at about 4 to 5 miles per hour and a category 4 storm. that's never happened before. usually they're 8, 9, 10 miles per hour, maybe 15. that's an extremely cee slow-mo storm and those have multiple high tide cycle issues, rainfall issues, not to mention that those high winds in the same location over long periods of time have even more stress on the rooftops and the structures and the trees and everything in its way. over the next about 48 hours we have no land in the way. we're just going to be watching our computer models. this is one of the latest batches, they come out about every six hours. we'll continue to see what the trends our. the hurricane center has our models down here. there is a possibility at least that if this storm continues to go even slower that just maybe we can weaken the ridge enough to the north that one of these squiggly lines can happen and
take place. where it kind of stalls out a little bit. maybe get nears the coast, scares it and kind of wiggles itself offshore. that would be the best-case scenario. it's unlikely right now but it's not 0%. you notice most of the lines do come across the florida peninsula. even a few would bring it back into areas of the northeastern golf. our european computer model, our most reliable long term model, this what we got this afternoon. we'll get a new one to come out at about 2:00, 3:00 in the morning. a lot of meteorologists and emergency managers will be staying up to see what it does. takes it down to west palm beach and rakes it up the florida coastline. steve, we'll wait and see what that model does. this will be coming out over 12 hours or so. it's too early for hurricane watches. it's too early for the warnings. it's too early for the evacuation orders. it's just get prepared. when those orders come you're going to want to move out
quickly. >> well, you got my attention there with one thing you said. i just want to ask you about it. you said you have never seen a storm moving in potentially as slowly as this one, 4 miles an hour. i guess you're saying that's half the speed it normally would be? >> we have had storms that have stalled out before and we've had storms that have, you know, smaller, weaker storms that have stalled right near the coast. just look what happened in the houston area with the stalled out storm, you know, 50, 60 inches of rain. we've had that before. what i've never seen before is the forecast for 140-mile-per-hour cat 4 to stall out and move on shore that slowly. andrew was much faster than that. the labor day storm way, way back when was faster than that. i'm trying to think of some of the huge category 4 and 5s. michael was faster than that. camille was faster than that. i've never really seen this powerful of a predicted storm do this. now, again, it could change in, you know, i don't see what's going to speed it up. these storms are steered by big
huge areas of high pressure. sometimes they're influenced by cold fronts or what we call troughs. there is very weak steering pattern for this storm. moving pretty well and pretty quickly and then it's going to slow down and maybe stall out and just drift across the florida peninsula. that just brings in so many multiple problems, especially if you have a major hurricane. you get prolonged winds. you get multiple high tide cycles and then, you know, i think it's 70 or 80% of facilities are from water. so we get the storm surge and the problem with all that heavy rain with a slow-moving storm. i know florida has sandy soil, but if you get a storm that moves this slowly through the florida peninsula, flooding will be a huge epic problem well into next week. so as i said earlier, the 11:00 update was one of the worst-case scenarios that you could possibly have for anywhere in the world for hurricane
landfall, but we have three days to change that. >> just quickly. because, i mean, this is not what i was necessarily expecting. i have watched the forecast get worse and worries, though, over the last few days. hopefully it gets better. is there a scenario where it could even get worse, though? >> the only thing that would be worse is if it got up to category 5. it has to get over 155 with another 15 really isn't that big of a deal. you know, with the low sheer environment, extremely warm water temperatures along the way, you know, there's really not much, you know, that's stopping it. there is some dry air around the storm that may interrupt it here or there, but if it got to a cat 5 would it surprise me or anybody else? no. right now they're saying the possibility of a good size cat 4 right on the florida coastline come labor day afternoon and evening. if that's the case and this forecast holds true, just to kind of let everyone know the
timing. of course all of a sudden further down along the coast. yesterday at the space coast. earlier today we were down at indian river and vero beach. and now we've shifted towards west palm. we're talking about some huge population centers that are going to have to make some hard calls with evacuations and, you know, we're about 24, about 48 hours away from a huge mass evacuation order if this forecast holds true. >> all right. bill karins, we will look forward to the next update and hope there's been a change for the better. thank you, though. we appreciate that. >> we'll pray for it. coming up, it is the other big political drama of 2020. who ends up controlling the senate? i'm going to head over to the big board to show you which races to watch when "the 11th hour" comes right back.
but tonight we're going to talk about one of the other major races, one of the other major series of races in 2020, not just the presidential race. remember, also the house and the senate. there was some big news this week, big just yesterday on the senate front. comes from the state of georgia. republican johnny isakson, he announced yesterday he is going to be resigning from the senate in just a couple of months for health reasons. that means immediately the seat will be filled by an appointment. the governor of georgia who, of course, is a republican, brian kemp is going to appoint somebody to the seat when isaacson steps down. presumably that will be a republican, but it also triggers a special election that will coincide with the 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 because georgia is a state they've been starting to look a little bit more
closely at as a potentially competitive state. in 2012 this was a safely republican state. mitt romney won by 8 points. that margin came down in 2016 to 5 points. in 2018, democrats weren't able to win statewide but they got close, to within about 50,000 votes in the governor's race. this is a state where demographics are changing and suburbs particularly around atlanta are moving more and more away from donald trump. democrats are looking at georgia maybe in the presidential race, maybe when it comes to the u.s. senate this could be an opportunity for them in 2020. by the way, this means there's going to be two shots for democrats in georgia. david purdue, the other republican senator from georgia is up for re-election. two senate elections in georgia in 2020. and of course the significance when we talk about the battle for senate control. republicans go in to 2020 leading 53-47. what does that mean? democrats, they need a net gain of three if they win the presidency. remember, the vice president
breaks any tie in the senate. if the democrats win the presidency, democratic vice president breaks the tie in the senate, but if trump gets re-elected, democrats would need a net gain of four seats to control the senate. net gain of three if they win the presidency, colorado, this is a state that's a major target for them already. maine. why do we have these two highlighted? these are the two republican senators who are up in 2020. in states that hillary clinton won. these are electorates that already rejected trump. clinton won colorado. clinton won maine. republican senators running for re-election in these places in 2020. democrats think these are probably some of the most vulnerable republican senators up. if democrats could pick those two up, that would move them close to 20. there are other places democrats are looking. arizona, that's a state they think they have a shot at in the republican race. martha mcsally is an appointed incumbent. texas, you saw how close beto o'rourke got in 2016. tom tillis in north carolina. another state trump won it, but
a close state. so democrats think there could be a combination, but the thing they have to be careful for is there are some really vulnerable democrats. there is one extremely vulnerable democrat. remember doug jones? doug jones won that special election in alabama against roy moore at the end of 2017. this is a state, though, that donald trump is probably going to 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, though. that one is a very, very possible republican pick up. it would mean democrats would have to win another one somewhere else to make up for it. you can't see him on the board here, republicans might take a look at new hampshire, gene shaheen runs for re-election there. trump lost that state by about 3,000 votes in 2016. theoretically there is minnesota. tina smith is up there. trump lost there by 2 1/2 points in 2016. although tina smith did very well facing the voters there just last year. so a couple of opportunities maybe for republicans, but the bottom line, we bring all of
this up. big news in georgia on the senate front. it's a reminder for all the talk on the presidential race, whoever wins the presidency, their ability to get their agenda through, their ability to get people confirmed for major posts like the supreme court depends on who controls the u.s. senate. major story. we're going to keep a close eye on it. coming up, what is really at stake in 2020? we're back after this.
what if there were five justices selected by democrats? five justices selected by republicans and those ten then picked five more justices independent of those who chose the first ten? >> first they steal a supreme court seat then they turn around and change the rules on filibuster on a supreme court seat. and so when it swings back around to us, what are we going to do? and my answer on that is, all the options are on the table. >> the reform of not just
expanding the number of members, but doing it in a way where some of them are selected on a consensus, nonpartisan basis is very promising way of doing it. >> some 2020 candidates are floating the idea of changing up the makeup of the supreme court. a move they could take if democrats take the white house. it's something that mitch mcconnell and his fellow republicans are warning against. in it they warned that the the court, quote, must not be cowed by the threat of opportunistic politicians. calling the democrats' plan a direct immediate threat to the independence of the judiciary and the rights of all americans. here to talk about all of this, michael steele, former chairman of the republican national committee and amber phillips, reporter for "the washington post's" political blog "the fix." michael, let me ask you about this. i'm not sure writing a letter to the supreme court what you're expecting the supreme court to turn around and do, so i'm going to read this as a politically motivated action here. let's try to decipher what the political motivation 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. i mean, it's an idea to sort of put something in front of the court to say, you know, we take this very seriously. this president's been very successful at putting two conservative justices on the bench and i think for the base that's certainly a big kudos for that. so this is just a reminder that republicans are thinking about the court, as they have been, as you know, steve, for well over 20 years. the democrats are late to this conversation. and, of course, they're coming to the conversation talking about, oh, we want to add five independent seats. the american people -- that's not what this is about. this is about whoever is sitting in the white house having the senate of their party in power. that's where the play is. and all of these other
machinations are just typical noise from the democrats and 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 7 out of those 9 aboon your side. that's the politics. republicans have been better at it because they've been focused at it for a longer time. democrats are coming in and talking about it in a way that is confusing the hell out of everybody. >> amber, i wonder what your sense is how that's changing on the democrat side. democratic activists watched in 2016 as mitch mcconnell held that supreme court seat open. trump got elected. trump was able to appoint a republican to fill it. then then the whole kavanaugh drama last year. how has that changed how democrats are approaching this? >> i think 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 base on up to lawmakers. and said, oh, my gosh, to michael's point, we've been losing at this game of focussing on the judicial branch of government and how we can reshape government and win at politics there. and then the kavanaugh fight cemented that. activism. of course, democrats are still trying to figure out, like, what that means for them as a party and that's where i think you have these 2020 democratic presidential candidates come in and say, why don't we have an open conversation about something that hasn't been done in centuries? it's really a reflection of how democrats have not been focussing 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 more 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 once radical idea to pack the court. >> well, talking about -- it's the senate, of course, that does the -- has all these confirmation battles when it comes to supreme court. >> right. >> amber, you're writing or georgia. we were talking about that just a minute ago. two senate races in georgia next year. now two opportunities potentially for democrats. but the biggest-name democrat out of the state of georgia stacey abrams has already taken herself out of the mix for that. tell us what's going on on the democratic side, why she's not running and who they might turn to. >> yeah, stacey abrams, who, of course, ran for governor and really showed to democrats that georgia 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 and more, this is my interpretation, she has her eye on being a potential vice presidential nomination depending on who wins the nomination. so what that leaves democrats with is a state in georgia that
looks competitive. they feel it's trending their way quicker than they realized, but not a very thick bench of candidates with which to choose from. they have a couple candidates already running in a primary -- excuse me, in a primary to challenge senator david purdue. with stacey abrams who didn't 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 that i talk to say that's what makes them secure that they're going to hold one, if not both seats here. >> michael we saw in 2016 an interesting dynamic when it came to house races in the midterm election. blue wave. 40-seat gain for the democrats. when it came to the senate, republicans actually made gains, it had to do with the type of states that were up last year. how do you see that dynamic playing out in 2020? do you think more of the same or do you look at the map and say democrats have more opportunity there? >> well, the conventional wisdom is that republicans, their
waterloo, if you will, politically in terms of the senate country doesn't co senate doesn't come for two years later. potentially donald trump in a second term that's where you see the bloodletting of a president. but what i think has happened, the conventional wisdom, steve, has turned on its head a little bit, particularly with what we're talking about, the transformation of the political landscape in georgia. now the democrats have a chance to go after two seats. their problem, they have no bench. republicans rightly sit there and go, all right, you guys figure that out. meanwhile mitch mcconnell's doing the lockdown on a number of key states, including out there with senator mcsally where mark kelly is running a fairly competitive race now. it's early still, but republicans are looking at that seat because in one sense, as you probably know, steve, it can be a bellwether for some of the more sweeping changes that potentially 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, center-right republicans also who 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 and we'll be right back. - in the last year, there were three victims
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be a very, very big one, indeed. >> with a hurricane heading towards florida and forest fires raging, and ice caps melting, tonight donald trump's new environmental insane. >> i've actually been called an environmentalist, if you can believe that. then, why james comey is calling out the president after being cleared of criminal wrongdoing. new reporting that prosecutors are building a case against jeffrey epstein's inner circle. and as brexit protests keep growing, just what is going on in the united kingdom? >> why this unelected parliament did this to us. >> when "all in" starts now. >> good evening from new york. i'm chris hayes. the front page today of two major newspapers tells you everything you need to know of the moment we are in the trump administration and the global crisis we face. the "new york times" front page, ferocious fires scorch terrain