Meet the Press - November 24, 2019

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday: Damning testimony for President Trump:

GORDON SONDLAND:

Was there a quid pro quo? With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting the answer is yes.

CHUCK TODD:

Ambassador Gordon Sondland says top Trump administration officials all knew.

GORDON SONDLAND:

Everyone was in the loop.

CHUCK TODD:

And that the word came from the top.

GORDON SONDLAND:

So we followed the president's orders.

CHUCK TODD:

Also, pushback to the Republican claims of Ukrainian election interference.

FIONA HILL:

This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.

CHUCK TODD:

As the parties fight over what the president did:

REP. ELISE STEFANIK:

One, Ukraine in fact received the aid. And two, there was no investigation of the Bidens.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Their defense is, well, he ended up releasing the aid. Yes, after he got caught.

CHUCK TODD:

Where does the impeachment process go from here? My guests this morning: House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Democrat Adam Schiff and Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. Plus, the infamous Steele dossier, a big focus of congressional Republicans:

REP. CHRIS STEWART:

Steele dossier.

REP. DEVIN NUNES:

Steele dossier.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Who hired Christopher Steele.

CHUCK TODD:

I'll talk to the men who hired Steele, about that dossier and the fallout. And the politics of race:

JOE BIDEN:

I have more people supporting me in the black community that have announced for me because they know me.

CHUCK TODD:

But how sturdy is Joe Biden's African American support? Joining me for insight and analysis are: NBC News correspondent Katy Tur, Neal Katyal, Acting Solicitor General under President Obama, Former North Carolina governor Pat McCrory, Eliana Johnson, Editor-in-Chief of The Washington Free Beacon and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest running show in television history, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. If this were a courtroom drama, the Democrats would seem to have all the evidence they need. Twelve witnesses in two weeks painted a picture of a president and his administration allies working behind the scenes against the nation's interests to benefit the president politically. We heard first-hand testimony that President Trump pressured Ukraine's President Zelinskiy on that July 25th phone call to investigate his political enemies that Ukraine officials began to ask questions about where the aid was as early as that July phone call, that President Trump doesn't give a quote -- blank about Ukraine -- only about the investigations. Most important, we heard from an insider who flipped that there was -- yes -- a quid pro quo that officials were following President Trump's orders and that the top echelon of the Trump administration was all in the loop. But this is not a courtroom drama. It's a political one, with few signs public opinion has changed. Republicans fought back fiercely, arguing the testimony was hearsay or inferred or unreliable, and that the witnesses were more discredited than damning. Democrats now face an uncompromising calendar. Do they keep going and risk accusations that they're more interested in impeachment than in doing the people's business? Or do they rest their case now and risk losing the chance to hear from possible key witnesses like Mike Pompeo, Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton and even Mike Pence, who might change public opinion. In other words, after all we've absorbed these last two weeks what now?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: The president has used his office for his own personal gain.

CHUCK TODD:

For two weeks - a dozen current and former officials have laid out a clear case, testifying that President Trump used the promise of a White House meeting, and a freeze on hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid, to pressure Ukraine's new president to announce an investigation into a 2020 opponent Joe Biden, and Biden's son. Running the shadow foreign policy through the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

GORDON SONDLAND:

Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump - making that quid pro quo explicit in a July 25th phone call with Ukraine’s president Zelenskiy.

ALEXANDER VINDMAN:

I was concerned by the call. It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent.

CHUCK TODD:

That same day:

LAURA COOPER:

The Ukrainian embassy staff asked what is going on with Ukrainian security assistance.

CHUCK TODD:

A day later, the president was on the phone with U.S. ambassador to the E.U. Gordon

Sondland.

DANIEL GOLDMAN:

You heard President trump ask Ambassador Sondland is he going to do the investigation?

DAVID HOLMES:

Yes, sir.

DANIEL GOLDMAN:

What was Ambassador Sondland's response?

DAVID HOLMES:

He said, ‘oh, yeah. He's going to do it. He'll do anything you ask.’

FIONA HILL:

He was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security foreign policy and those two things had just diverged.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump also pressed Zelenskiy to look into a conspiracy theory shifting blame for 2016 election interference onto Ukraine, a disinformation campaign that Russia has pushed for years.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

You know, the FBI has never gotten that server. That's a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company?

REPORTER:

Are you sure they gave it to Ukraine?

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Well that's what the word is.

FIONA HILL:

This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.

CHUCK TODD:

Now -- House Democrats are moving forward on an impeachment report and the president has been reaching out to Republicans ahead of a Senate trial, hosting lawmakers for lunches at the White House -- and weekends at Camp David

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Frankly, I want a trial.

CHUCK TODD:

Just a few weeks ago, Senate Republicans appeared divided about whether to target Hunter Biden.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I've tried to resist turning the Senate into a circus. I don’t want to go after Joe and Hunter Biden because people are mad Trump's not getting a fair deal in the House.

CHUCK TODD:

But now they're asking for documents and more.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

The vice president's son was serving on a board that was run by the dirtiest guy in the Ukraine.

JOE BIDEN:

I am disappointed and quite frankly I’m angered by the fact. He knows me. He knows my son. He knows there’s nothing to this.

MEDIA I

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. Congressman Schiff, welcome back to Meet the Press.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Thank you. Great to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with this, you've said that you can continue to investigate while also compiling your report. How does -- what does that look like? And is that more for show or is there w -- do you have some evidence that more investigation is going to happen next week?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Certainly not for show. I mean, there is more work to be done, but at the same time we've already accumulated quite overwhelming evidence that the president once again sought foreign interference in an election, conditioned official acts, a White House meeting that Ukraine desperately wanted, as well as $400 million of bipartisan taxpayer funding to get these political investigations that he thought would help his reelection. So, you know, we view this as urgent. We have another election in which the president is threatening more foreign interference, but at the same time there are still other witnesses, other documents that we would like to obtain, but we're not willing to go the months and months and months of rope-a-dope in the courts which the administration would more than love for us to do.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, you have somebody right now, Lev Parnas, the -- who, according to his attorney, this is one of the associates of Mr. Giuliani that apparently was always with him on these Ukraine trips and may have been involved in a campaign finance scheme that's being investigated right now. He says he has some things to talk to Congress about. Are you going to hear from him?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, we have already subpoenaed him for documents and we're in discussions with the Southern District of New York, so we are pursuing it, but at the same time we'd like to know what the documents have to say before we make a decision about witnesses. This is why we've subpoenaed Pompeo for documents and others for documents. As we saw during the hearings that we had, those documents can be awfully important to knowing the right questions to ask.

CHUCK TODD:

You just got some documents actually. A FOIA investigation, you know, a FOIA request --

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

-- by an outside group ended up getting some documents that raised some more questions that tie Rudy Giuliani -- confirm some phone calls between Rudy Giuliani and the Secretary of State. Confirm -- and you'd gotten those articles that Giuliani was spreading around from the State Department's IG. So, there's more documents, again, more evidence.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, the --

CHUCK TODD:

I want to put -- I mean, you have all these open leads. It just seems odd that you're stopping.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, we're not --

CHUCK TODD:

I mean, look at all these open leads.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Yes, Chuck, it's --

CHUCK TODD:

You have Bolton, you have the energy deal, the --

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

It's important to know we're not stopping, but it's also important to know this, Chuck, and you've acknowledged this, and I find this remarkable, the evidence is already overwhelming, right? The evidence is already overwhelming. The questions is not --

CHUCK TODD:

But you're not in a courtroom. You know that.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well --

CHUCK TODD:

You have a political bar you have to meet.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

That's true. That's true. But the fact that Republicans may be derelict in their responsibility doesn't relieve us of our obligation to do our Constitutional duty. And we feel an urgency about that. So, even as we compile this report, even as we submit evidence to the Judiciary Committee, we're going to continue with our investigation, but we are not going to let the administration stonewalling us stop us. And if people are acknowledging, and I think they're quite right, that the evidence is overwhelming, then you have to ask, "What more would be necessary to show Republicans? Indeed, is there anything that could move Republicans?" --

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me give you one example --

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

I would hope, I would hope they'll do their duty.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me give you one example because it's one that a lot of Republicans are hanging their hat on, that if there is one piece of evidence you have not been able to surface, it is direct -- it is this idea that the president -- when did he order that the aid, itself, was to be withheld as a quid pro quo. You only have Gordon Sondland saying that it was the meeting --

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

No, we have the --

CHUCK TODD:

It was the meeting, it was the meeting and he assumed it. You don't have the direct. This is how -- they're hanging their hat on it.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

No, no, I realize that.

CHUCK TODD:

And you could say it's a thin reed, but is a reed.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Chuck, let's look at this. First, they hung their hat on there's no evidence of a quid pro quo. Then there was overwhelming evidence of a quid pro quo. Now, some are hanging their hat on, well, what's your evidence that the president withheld the military aid. The president's own chief of staff has admitted they withheld the military aid to get this investigation, this crazy DNC server investigation, which is part of a Russian disinformation campaign. The president's own chief of staff. I mean, they seem to be saying unless Donald Trump writes out, "I bribed Ukraine," the evidence will be insufficient. What every juror is told, and I don't think that the Senate is different than a jury here, at least it shouldn't be, is they don't leave their common sense at the door. There was no plausible explanation but one, and that was the president wanted this leverage to get Ukraine to do his political dirty work.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you -- are you going to be a House Impeachment Manager?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

That'll be up to the Speaker.

CHUCK TODD:

That's up to the Speaker?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

Would you like to be one? Would you like to be one of the prosecutors?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

I don't, I don’t want to get ahead of where with are, which is we haven't even brought up articles, made a decision about articles.

CHUCK TODD:

Is it possible you don’t -- that articles are not filed this year?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

I don't want to prejudge the outcome here. I do think the evidence, the facts of what the president did, are really not contested. They're largely not contested. That's the remarkable thing. So, the question is, knowing the president sought foreign interference in an election, knowing that he conditioned official acts to get political favors, are we prepared to say that that's okay, that's consistent with the duties of the office? And I will say this, members are going to have to think hard about two things. One, the knowledge that if we do nothing, it is very likely the president will do this again. But second, are Republicans prepared to say that they will allow this president and any future president to simply stonewall the Congress and refuse to provide evidence? And if they do, it means that the impeachment clause is a nullity. And more than that, it means that our oversight ability is also a nullity.

CHUCK TODD:

I know where you are on the whistleblower and the belief that you really don't need to hear from the whistleblower anymore, but you did pledge that the Intelligence Committee would hear from the whistleblower in some form or another. Are you going to fulfill that pledge?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

We had a deep interest in having the whistleblower testify until two things happened. One, we were able to prove everything in the whistleblower complaint with witnesses that had firsthand information, and second, the president and his allies effectively put that whistleblower's life in danger. The president said the whistleblower and others should be treated as a traitor or a spy and we ought to use the penalty we used to use for traitors and spies, and that's the death penalty. So, here's the thing, Chuck, we don't need the whistleblower's secondhand evidence anymore. It would only serve to endanger this person and to gratify the president's desire for retribution, and that is not a good enough reason to bring in the whistleblower.

CHUCK TODD:

And one last thing, on the Senate trial, is one of the reasons you're not going to fight to try to -- in the courts right now for Bolton is that you believe - -there’s this theory that's been on, I think, Talking Points Memo, a liberal news organization, Josh Marshall. There's a legal theory running around that it's a lot easier to get the Chief Justice to compel John Bolton to testify at a Senate trial than it would be waiting around to get him to Congress. Do you buy into that theory?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

I think that may very well be true. Now, people like John Bolton, whose deputies had the courage to come in and testify, are going to have to answer one day why they saved what they knew for a book rather than tell the country when the country needed to know. But I do think that when it comes to documents and witnesses, that if it comes to a trial, and again we're getting far down the road here, that the Chief Justice will have to make a decision on requests for witnesses and documents. And, and so, I don't envy that job for the Chief Justice --

CHUCK TODD:

He may say that you should be a witness. They may want to call you.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, look --

CHUCK TODD:

Are you ready?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

-- if the Senate wants to call me as a witness, then they pretty much made the decision not to take this process seriously. I'm not a fact witness. I was the chairman of one of the committees doing an investigation. I am not in the shoes of a special counsel. I don't work for the Justice Department. All I can relate is what the witnesses said in deposition and in the open hearings, and that's no reason to call me as a witness.

CHUCK TODD:

Adam Schiff, I'm going to leave it there. Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. So, right now, no public hearings scheduled for any time in the rest of this year?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, we don't foreclose the possibility of others.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright. Adam Schiff, Democrat from California. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee. He also co-chairs the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Senator Wicker, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

Thank you. Glad to be here.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to start with something that we got a report on earlier this week and it has to do with supposedly an intelligence briefing that senators have received. First, let me play what Fiona Hill said about Russia and Ukraine at the hearing earlier this week. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

FIONA HILL:

Right now, Russia's security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We are running out of time to stop them. In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Can you confirm that you guys have been given an intelligence briefing on this issue that Russia is trying to frame Ukraine?

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

Some members have. I have not.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

But I'm not at all surprised that Russia is gearing up. I'm not at all surprised that -- she's correct that Russia tried to interfere in 2016. Also Ukrainians themselves tried to interfere also. But Chuck, I --

CHUCK TODD:

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

Isn't there a big difference between the two and the Ukrainians? Look, I understand there's individual Ukrainians who were upset that candidate Donald Trump wanted Crimea to stay with Russia. Is that the same as the Russian government and Putin ordering a full-fledged interference in the United States election.

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

I'm concerned about both. I'm concerned about both. But let me say this, Chuck, I just have to start, I totally disagree with your lead-in to this whole show today.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SENATOR ROGER WICKER:

I think the Washington punditry is somewhat in a bubble on this. I think the Democrats had a bad week --

CHUCK TODD:

Why is that?

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

-- last week.

CHUCK TODD:

Why is that?

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

Well, okay, for one thing, the polls are turning in the president's favor. You've got the Marquette Poll in Wisconsin, which is the gold standard of Wisconsin polls. Then you've got the Emerson Poll, which is a nationwide poll, which actually shows Trump's favorability going up. And I just think the people out there don't think this investigation is fair. They know that only Democrat witnesses were allowed to be called. None of the witnesses --

CHUCK TODD:

That's not true. They made requests. Some of them were indeed called. There were some witnesses that Republicans requested that were called.

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

And as a matter of fact, here's what happened. There were three witnesses that Democrats asked for and Republicans asked for. Those three witnesses --

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough.

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

-- got called. None of the witnesses that were exclusively called by the Republicans were asked. And you know, you asked the question about the whistleblower. And so, Chairman Schiff has decided that it wouldn't be beneficial to his case. Well, it might be beneficial if some of the Republicans were allowed to cross-examine this person. So, it's totally inadequate to say --

CHUCK TODD:

I understand you disagree with my premise. --

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

-- we already know --

CHUCK TODD:

-- Let me put up with Peggy Noonan said. She's no liberal the last time I checked and here's Peggy Noonan's take on this impeachment process. "As to impeachment itself, the case has been so clearly made you wonder what exactly the Senate will be left doing. How will they hold a lengthy trial with a case this clear? Who exactly will be the president's witnesses? Those who testify that he didn't do what he appears to have done and would never do it." Respond to Peggy Noonan on this.

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

Well, I just totally disagree with Peggy on that. And of course, she writes a column every week in the Wall Street Journal and it's not the first time I've disagreed.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough.

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

But you know, again, let me go back to what the public is seeing. I do think the public is kind of tuning out, kind of bored with it --

CHUCK TODD:

I think, well, look --

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

-- and they don’t think the system is fair.

CHUCK TODD:

-- there's a political argument and there's a legal argument. Do you -- let's set aside the political argument. Are you at all troubled by the behavior of the president, Rudy Giuliani, what was done here? The fact that he mentioned the Bidens, never talked about corruption on the phone call? Any of this stuff trouble you?

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

I think the phone call, and I read the transcript -- I went back and read it last night in preparation for this. I think the phone call was legitimately about corruption in Ukraine. Vice President Biden asked about corruption --

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me pause there because here's what the president --

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

-- in Ukraine and had a right to do so.

CHUCK TODD:

Here's what the president said he wanted to see President Zelenskiy do in response to his phone call. This is the president's own words.

[BEGIN TAPE]

REPORTER:

Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelenskiy would do about the Bidens after your phone call? Exactly?

PRES. DONALD J. TRUMP:

Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they'd start a major investigation into the Bidens.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

More confirmation he was asking about the Bidens, Senator, not corruption.

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

Well, okay, I --

CHUCK TODD:

He didn't mention corruption.

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

I just heard what the president said. Here's what Zelenskiy said. Zelenskiy said that he was under no pressure to do anything. He didn't even know the aid was being held up. And the aid --

CHUCK TODD:

You don't think he feels pressure not to disagree with President Trump right now in public? In fairness, do you think that would be a good idea of him if he disagreed with the president's take?

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

I think he's telling the truth and I think that, you know, if you're going to try to remove the president of the United States from office, you need concrete evidence. And, and the other person on the part of this so-called quid pro quo denies that there was a quid pro quo. And also, let me just, I have to interject this, everything that you felt was so compelling in your lead-up was guesswork, was hearsay. There was no direct evidence of pressure on the Ukrainian government to do a certain act in order for the aid to go forward. And I just, I really, I don't see what you and producers see in the lead-up there. I think it was a bad week and I think the American people are moving away from the Democratic position on this.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. I want to play an excerpt from your support for Clinton's impeachment.

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

Okay. Good.

CHUCK TODD:

And let me play that.

[BEGIN TAPE]

REP. ROGER WICKER:

The rule of law means that the commander in chief of our armed forces could not be held to a lower standard than are his subordinates. The rule of law is more important than the tenure in office of any elected official.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

If you see proof in the Senate trial that this president of the United States violated the rule of law, would that be enough for you?

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

Well, I haven’t -- I'm nowhere close to seeing that proof. Let me say this, we learned some political lessons in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, but give us this, there were Democrats who voted for impeachment also in the House of Representatives. And a judge in Arkansas had --

CHUCK TODD:

Do you regret that impeachment?

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

-- found as, found as a matter of fact that President Bill Clinton had committed perjury, a felony in almost every state. So, the evidence was pretty overwhelming, not to mention the taking advantage of a young employee.

CHUCK TODD:

You have a lot of military bases. You have a lot of military constituents. I'm curious, we’re going to have -- may have a large debate about this, who should decide who's a SEAL? The president of the United States or fellow SEALs? You're probably aware of the controversy involving this chief -- Chief Gallagher. Should the president short circuit this or not? Would you like to see the SEALs make this decision?

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

I think the president, as commander in chief, can make this decision.

CHUCK TODD:

He can legally make it. Should he though?

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

I think he -- I feel comfortable with him making it. I feel very comfortable with what he's done on the other two cases. So, I'm with him there, sorry.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. No, I'm just asking. Don't apologize to me. Senator Roger Wicker, Republican from Mississippi, thanks for coming on sharing your views.

SEN. ROGER WICKER:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

I appreciate it. When we come back, where does impeachment go from here? We've got a lot to discuss. The panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with the panel. It's going to be an exciting one. Neal Katyal, he was acting solicitor general under President Obama. He's author of a new book, where he makes the case to impeach Donald Trump, Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump. Georgetown professor, Michael Eric Dyson, he's author of a new book, Jay-Z: Made in America. Eliana Johnson, editor in chief of the Washington Free Beacon, which is actually a new gig for her, since we last saw her on this show. Congratulations to you. Katy Tur, NBC News correspondent and host of MSNBC Live; and former Republican governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory. Welcome, all. I almost want to just throw the puck out here. But Neal, this is -- we're having you, I think, for one block here. So I'm going to start with a quote. Your -- the essential case you're making that we feel like -- we call it the Monopoly quote. "Asking us to wait until the election to remove President Trump from office is like asking to resolve a dispute based on who wins a game of Monopoly, when the very crime you've been accused of is cheating at Monopoly." I heard Adam Schiff start to try to make that case better. But that has not been a -- that has not been the lead way the Democrats have made their case. Has that been a mistake?

NEAL KATYAL:

I don't think it's been a mistake. I think there's a lot of complexity around the whole investigation, a lot of details, witnesses, and the like. I think now is the time to simplify it. That's what the book is about. It's the simple, definitive guide to why the president needs to be impeached. And it begins with a simple point. What's impeachment about? In 1787, it was put in there. A lot of founders didn't want it in the Constitution. They put it in for a simple reason, which is they said, "We're worried about a president who self-deals, who cheats, and who gets help from a foreign government." Fast forward 200 years, boy, that's exactly where we are.

CHUCK TODD:

Pat McCrory, are you on the side of they haven't made their legal argument, or they haven't made their political argument?

PAT MCCRORY:

They haven't changed any opinions on the jury of the people or the jury of the Senate.

CHUCK TODD:

So you believe it's only a political case that they should be talking about.

PAT MCCRORY:

No, I think it's both. I think, from a legal standpoint and a political standpoint, no opinions have changed on the jury on either side, no matter what Nancy Pelosi has said, no matter the arguments that Adam Schiff and others are presenting in books. The, the -- everyone's heard the arguments on network TV, I mean, gavel-to-gavel coverage. Nothing has changed. A taxicab driver told me, last night, "Move on. Do the work of Congress. Work on immigration. Work on healthcare. Work on foreign policy. Work on the deficit." They've heard everything. And you can't go now attack the jury. You can't say, "Oh, the jury has no common sense. The jury is a bunch of idiots." You know, it's almost getting into the deplorable thing. If you disagree with the conclusion that people have, you can't then go insult them even more. They're not going to change their opinion on what they've heard so far.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me play - look, Republicans are in lockstep on what they believe they learned from the hearings. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Well, I think it's very clear there was no quid pro quo.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Whether she's right or he's right, it doesn't change the facts. There was no quid pro quo. You can't just have, "Well, we presume this was the case." It didn't happen.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK:

The facts remain the same. Ukraine got the aid. There was no quid pro quo. And there was no investigation into the Bidens.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

And Katy Tur, this seems to be, I think, among the,i think, safest harbors that Republicans hang their hat on, is what Elise Stefanik said in that last comment, which is, okay, at best, you can say he attempted to do all these things. But ultimately, it didn't happen.

KATY TUR:

But it only didn't happen, because the whistleblower complaint came out. That's the argument the Democrats are making. They're lining up that timeline. And they're saying, "This is a suspicious timeline. And oh, also, if you try to rob a bank, you still tried to rob a bank. You did something wrong." You almost have to suspend disbelief in order to make the argument that the president wasn't involved in any way, or that the Ukrainians didn't know about this, when witness after witness testified, over and over again, that they were working at the direction of Rudy Giuliani, or they had conversations with the president or were talking to the Ukrainians. And the Ukrainians felt pressure, or the president wanted these investigations done. Also, the president, himself, has said it. He's said it on camera. You played it a moment ago. And he said it in the phone call with President Zelenskiy.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, guys, it does feel like, Eliana, that the two sides just not --they’re talking past each other. Republicans are making a political argument. Democrats are making a legal argument. And they're going, "How do you, the other side, not see what we see?" That's what I'm taking away from this.

ELIANA JOHNSON:

Well, I actually think they're choosing to emphasize different things. Republicans are trying to say, "The president tried to do something, but it never happened." And the Democrats are saying, you know, "There was a quid pro quo," or, "Even if he tried, it was still very bad." Ultimately, it's a political question. I think this was a gamble for Democrats. And I think what the senator tried to say, and maybe didn't do artfully, is it's a political question. Americans tend not to care a whole lot about foreign policy. I think it was risky for Democrats to pursue impeachment on a question of foreign policy. Over the past week alone, support for impeachment, among independents, has dropped 7 points. In a Politico poll that is the one that I'm referring to, independents ranked impeachment lowest among things they care about, below the deficit, healthcare, and even Trump's border wall. So in pursuing it, I think it was risky for Democrats. It's looking like a losing bet, at this point, in that it dropped an enormous amount during the public hearings.

CHUCK TODD:

Michael?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:

Yeah. Well, you know, at least this raises our IQ, when it comes to Latin, quid pro quo. I don't know if it's quid pro quo, but it is petitio principii, you know, arguing in a circle. And so you do begin with the presupposition that you want to confirm. You look at the evidence. And you subject it to your own understanding. And you see it through your own prism. Well, my God. I mean, there are such things as incommensible vocabulary. You're saying one thing. I'm saying another thing. Never the twain shall meet. But let's be real. The Senate is the electoral college for Donald Trump, right? He lost the popular vote. But he won the electoral college. So now, you know, despite these polls, the fact is that we have incontrovertible evidence that this man has committed a huge wrong, bribery and whatever else that has been reasonably put forth and been supported by, in a court of law, you know, hearsay evidence and second-hand evidence. All of those things are exceptions and asterisks that are allowed, when you have an overwhelming case. And here's the thing. No matter what Donald Trump does, he admitted, from the very beginning. He said, "If I go out here, in the middle of the street and do some stuff, kill somebody, then America will stand with me." His base is proving that he's right. And I think the unfortunate loser here is the American public. But I think the Democrats must not give in and capitulate to the notion that, "Oh, if we engage in theater here, trying to win the political argument." It is not theater. It is strategy, trying to determine how we make the facts more salient to the American public.

CHUCK TODD:

Neal, what’s a Senate trial -- Democrats might not win the verdict they want in the Senate trial. But can their trial be effective?

NEAL KATYAL:

Absolutely. So first of all, I totally disagree with this idea that the jurors are baked, and we know what's going to happen. As a lawyer, you don't count votes until it's over. And that vote occurs in the Senate. And it's a long time from now. We are at chapter one. And then chapter two is that Senate trial. And how does it look, Chuck? I think it looks like a lot of evidence that we're not even able to see right now, testimony of Bolton and other people.

CHUCK TODD:

You think we will all see that. You think the chief justice, and that suddenly -- that changes a lot of dynamics.

NEAL KATYAL:

Absolutely. And so I think we're at the very start of this. We're not at the end. And I do not think this is about polls. This is about our Constitution and what our duties are and to get the truth out about what this president did.

PAT MCCRORY:

We heard the same argument during the Mueller. Wait until the next argument. And it's not going to happen. We know the end of the movie.

CHUCK TODD:

I will say this --

NEAL KATYAL:

Let's see the process unfold.

CHUCK TODD:

I will say this. I think what we learned here is that both sides are convinced that their angle of the argument, Eliana, and I think you put it well, is a winning hand. We shall see. When we come back, the men behind the man behind the infamous dossier. These are the guys who hired Christopher Steele. Find out what they have to say now next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Few things were cited more often by Republicans in the impeachment hearings than the so-called Steele dossier. In fact, the dossier, its author Christopher Steele, and the company that hired him, Fusion GPS, were mentioned 32 times by House Republicans. The dossier said Russia had dirt on Mr. Trump that could be used to blackmail him. The Clinton campaign paid Fusion GPS. And Republicans have argued the salacious dossier, or memos if you will, is evidence that Russia was working with Democrats to smear Mr. Trump. Well, now the two men who created Fusion GPS have written a book, “Crime In Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion GPS Investigation of Donald Trump.” And Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, the founders of the company, join me now. Gentlemen--

GLENN SIMPSON:

Good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome to Meet the Press.

PETER FRITSCH:

Nice to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Peter, why did you feel the need to write this book? And I say this because it, it also means revealing a lot of secrets.

PETER FRITSCH:

Right, well, thanks for having us on. You know, we wrote the book to tell the real story of the Steele dossier, which is arguably now, I think you'd agree, one of the most important documents in recent political history. You know, it's important to remember we started this work on Donald Trump in the fall of 2015, looking for Republicans, to look at the business dealings of Donald Trump and his business records --

CHUCK TODD:

You had a Republican donor and another Republican organization that was looking for background information for what, reporting, opposition research?

PETER FRITSCH:

That's, that’s correct. I mean, they were looking for -- look, they were trying to stress test his suitability for president. I don't know if they were pro-Trump, anti-Trump. You know, that's to be decided. But, you know --

GLENN SIMPSON:

It started out as an ordinary business investigation. It wasn't really about Russia. As time went on and we realized that he had branched out his business empire around the world, we began looking at other countries. It wasn't just Russia.This is all recounted in great detail in the book.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

GLENN SIMPSON:

It was a fairly typical investigation for the first seven months or so. But it eventually did lead us to Russia. But it, it doesn't make logical sense for it to be a Democratic conspiracy if half, if the first half of the investigation was paid for by Republicans.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask this about the, about the Steele dossier. Some of the larger findings, some could argue, have been proven true. Trump is vulnerable to Russian blackmail was one of the allegations. There was a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump's team knew and approved of Russian's plans to provide emails to WikiLeaks. But none of those three allegations have been proven. You still stand by them?

PETER FRITSCH:

I mean, first, it's important to remember who Christopher Steele is. He's a former British intelligence officer who rose to run MI6's Russia desk. This is one of the most capable and one of the most knowledgeable experts on Russia in the world today. And he, he'd spent a lot of time going through the dossier to sort out information from disinformation, credible facts from non-credible facts.

CHUCK TODD:

But let me ask this, though. You guys, and Glenn, you know, one of the odder coincidences is the Russian lawyer, Veselnitskaya. And I hope I pronounced her name correctly --

GLENN SIMPSON:

Veselnitskaya.

CHUCK TODD:

Veselnitskaya, who you were working with -

GLENN SIMPSON:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

- saw her on the same as the infamous Trump Tower meeting. You claim in the book you did not know it at the time. But you even write in the book that, oh, now you're starting to wonder, were you sort of drawn in and worked in a way? So if you might have been drawn in and worked in a way, how do you know Christopher Steele wasn't?

GLENN SIMPSON:

Because Chris is a true pro at this. I'm an ex-journalist. He spent his whole life in this area. This is his single focus of expertise, is Russian counter-intelligence and Russian disinformation. So that’s, that’s, we talk about that at length in the book. We also talk in the book very candidly about, you know, let's be honest. We have to -- there are certain things we wonder about.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah?

GLENN SIMPSON:

Yeah, we'd like to know more.

CHUCK TODD:

Like what?

PETER FRITSCH:

Well, I mean, it's important to remember, by the way, that the past is prologue, right? We're sitting here today at the end of 2019. Does anyone doubt that Donald Trump would be capable of inciting a foreign or working with a foreign government, to affect the political process here in this country? That's exactly what the House is looking at right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me get to respond to Fiona Hill. She called it - most people may know what was said. But here's what she said.

[BEGIN TAPE]

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Dr. Hill, during your deposition, I asked you was Christopher Steele's dossier a rabbit hole? Do you remember, do you remember the answer you gave to that question?

FIONA HILL:

Yes, I thought it was a rabbit hole.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Yeah, and you also said a couple pages later in the deposition, or in the transcript that I have here of your deposition, that you thought he got played. Is that fair?

FIONA HILL:

That is fair, yes.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Fiona Hill's an expert.

GLENN SIMPSON:

She is. Actually, she's not of the same exact area of expertise as Chris. She's not a disinformation specialist.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

GLENN SIMPSON:

And so she is a Russia specialist in general. She's entitled to her opinion. I know she knows Chris and has worked with him for a long time. So I'm not sure that that is very well-understood within that one remark.

PETER FRITSCH:

I mean, I was puzzled by her comment, because I don't really know what a rabbit hole means in that context. I will say, though, that you can't actually catch rabbits without going down some rabbit holes. So you need to actually follow leads where they take you. And we have full confidence in Chris' ability to do exactly that.

GLENN SIMPSON:

And, and her broader statements about what the Russians are doing, not just in our country but around the world, match up exactly with our work.

CHUCK TODD:

One of the things that I think people may not realize is you're still actively doing an investigation of Donald Trump. Explain what it is.

PETER FRITSCH:

It's actually not an investigation of Donald Trump. What we're doing is investigating Russia's efforts to affect and disrupt western democracies. So that's France. That's Britain. That's Hungary. That's any number of countries.

CHUCK TODD:

Who's paying you to do it--

GLENN SIMPSON:

It's a non-profit.

CHUCK TODD:

Is this this Rob Reiner thing, that he's a part of, an independent -- that whole consortium group?

GLENN SIMPSON:

It's called the Democracy Integrity Project --

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

GLENN SIMPSON:

-- and I don't know what his connection to it is --

CHUCK TODD:

Gotcha.

GLENN SIMPSON:

-- if he has one.

PETER FRITSCH:

It's run by Daniel Jones, which is all obviously public record. He is the former staffer who wrote the intelligence report on the CIA torture program for Senator Feinstein.

CHUCK TODD:

And what are, what is going to happen to these findings? Is it going to be made public? Do you turn it over to law enforcement? Are you giving it to a political campaign?

GLENN SIMPSON:

That's for the, the nonprofit to decide. So it depends on what the information is. But we have tried, you know -- I mean, the charter is public education. So in one form or another, we are attempting to educate the public about Russia's attempts to undermine western democracies, not just in the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I go, what kind of toll has this taken on you guys personally? I would assume quite a bit? You've been targeted personally, harassed personally online. Talk about it.

PETER FRITSCH:

It’s -- it was really unpleasant for a long time. You know, we were forced, by various covenants we had with our clients, to remain silent about our role. And that was hard to take, when you have, on a daily basis, Republicans pushing lies about you, much as they're doing about whistleblowers today and other, you know, patriots who are actually standing up for democracy. It's really, really unhappy. And we had some legal bills.

CHUCK TODD:

Glenn, you had Rudy Giuliani attacking you this week, making claims. And you confronted him.

GLENN SIMPSON:

That's right. I wanted to put him on notice that we're just not going to let him deliberately lie about us. Let's be clear. He's not confused. He's deliberately lying. We're going to respond when people deliberately lie about us, especially if it's the President of the United States' lawyer.

CHUCK TODD:

Peter Fritsch, Glenn Simpson, the book. It is a fascinating read, no matter what you think of the Steele dossier. If you talk about it, you should read this book and then start talking about it again. When we come back, the Democratic race. African American support is keeping Joe Biden's candidacy afloat. But can he count on keeping it? That's next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, Data Download time. Many of the Democratic 2020 hopefuls used Wednesday night's Democratic debate in Atlanta to court African American voters, whose support, so far, has kept Joe Biden on top, nationally. But just how sturdy is that support? Well, we decided to dig into data from our NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls conducted all throughout this year, combined them into one big poll. Biden is still the clear frontrunner in our poll, among voters overall. In fact, among black voters, he does even better. He's at 50%, among African American voters, compared to just 12% for Elizabeth Warren, 10% for Bernie Sanders, and just 2% for Pete Buttigieg. Now, some may chalk this up, simply, to Biden's high name ID and his time serving as vice president to the first African American president. But in fact, it may be because black voters just look a lot like Biden's other core constituency groups, regardless of race. Only 34% of black Democrats call themselves liberal. That's a 20-point drop from other Democrats, compared with 61% of Democratic African American primary voters, who self-describe as moderate or conservative, 16 points higher than the rest of the Democratic Party, overall. And how about age? Only 18% of the African American primary vote, right now, is in the 18-to-34-year-old age group. That's nine points lower than the party, overall. That's compared with 57% of African American primary voters, who are 50 and older, six points higher than the party, overall. So look at it. Older, moderate, or conservative voters, they've always been voters that Biden has been able to win over. That's true even when you remove race from the equation. And that might make black voters less likely to support sweeping changes that Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren are running on. They're looking for a small “c” conservative change. Is that Joe Biden? And as this race shifts south, black voters could keep Biden in the front of the pack, regardless of what happens in Iowa or New Hampshire. When we come back, End Game. With Colin Kaepernick, Jay-Z, and Joe Biden, sort of. Stay with us.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game. The issue of African American support for Pete Buttigieg seemed to be a theme of the debate on Wednesday night, except it seemed as if all the candidates didn't know how to talk about it, other than Buttigieg. Here's Buttigieg and Kamala Harris back to back here, on this issue of Buttigieg's, arguably, inability, so far, to woo African American voters.

[BEGIN TAPE]

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

While I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country.

KAMALA HARRIS:

So we're going to now say that my pain is worse than your pain? These are all injustices. But to start comparing one group's pain to the other is misguided.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Michael Eric Dyson, what was interesting about Kamala Harris' criticism there, post-debate, is that she actually had an opportunity to say that right directly back at Pete Buttigieg. And she backed off. She actually, when he gave his answer, and there was more to it, and I think, at some point, he even threw out the caveat, going, "I know I'm not going to compare struggles, but ...” And she decided not to do it, but she did it off camera. What does that tell you?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:

Well, first of all, she's reinforcing a point that many people have made. You can't engage in an oppression derby, the Jews, the blacks, the Italians, the gays.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, you're always going to lose. Whatever derby, you're always going to lose. Somebody always feels oppressed.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:

I mean, if you're in Kentucky, it's bad. So what's interesting is that she also had to deal with the gauntlet that had been throw down, which is that black people are more gay, I mean more homophobic, right? So now, you're thinking, "If I come at him, then it reinforces the perception of black people being more homophobic." And I think it's unfortunate, right? James Baldwin said that the problem that many black people had with some Jews in the '60s was not that they were Jewish. It's that they were white. The problem with Pete Buttigieg is not that he's gay. It's that his politics have been so whitewashed to a certain degree that they have undermined his capacity to forge connection with African American people. Now, that's not to say that there's not homophobia in black communities, as there is in every other community in the world. But to single out black people is especially ironic. Because for one, in one sense, the reason some black people are so sensitive to homosexuality is their heterosexuality has already been queered. When you come here and get your testicles looked at on an auction block, that ain’t normal. So now, we're hypersensitive to anybody else who steps outside of that realm. So that's, I think, what was at stake there.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me just ask this quick. Can Pete Buttigieg become the nominee? Or is this too big of a problem?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:

Of course. No, no, it's not too big of a problem. But he's got to be willing to be self-critical and to acknowledge that most black people are unlike me, are conservative morally and conservative socially, even though they're not politically. If many Republicans hadn't been caught in a quagmire of bigotry, they could exploit the inherent cultural conservatism of black people.

PAT MCCRORY:

Wow. Well, you know, what's kind of interesting, also, is that Joe Biden, when he was vice president, was the one who converted Barack Obama into supporting gay marriage, which he didn't support in his second term, when he was running for reelection.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:

Or at least he outed him. He outed Obama.

CHUCK TODD:

As a supporter, yeah.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:

As a supporter. That's what I'm saying.

PAT MCCRORY:

So it's kind of a triangle here that we have in the Democratic Party. And the only other thing is, you can't out-cool Barack Obama. I mean, that's one thing the Democrats are lacking is anyone who has command of the stage, like Barack Obama did. And plus, I was on the campaign trail against Barack Obama. He's cool.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:

Very much so.

PAT MCCRORY:

And he's personal with the African American community. Kamala Harris is trying to be cool. She can't. She doesn't have it.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:

Can I jump in on that? You know what's interesting is that I think the black response to Kamala and Cory, tremendous individuals with extraordinary talent, is a delayed response of disappointment in Barack Obama that black people cannot explicitly articulate. So because they love Obama, the man. But politically, they see, now, that there were some really problematic situations. And so they want their cake and eat it, too.

CHUCK TODD:

Katy?

KATY TUR:

My question for the Democratic Party is, who is the candidate that both sides, at the end of the day, both sides of the Democratic Party, progressives and the moderates, conservatives, and liberals, can agree on in the general election? Is that going to be somebody like Pete Buttigieg? Maybe. Is it going to be Biden? Is Biden going to inspire the progressive base? Will those Bernie supporters, who are also kind of curious about Donald Trump, move over to Biden? Is that a good bet in 2016? You're going to talk about who can present a diverse coalition. And yes, Biden certainly has the black vote locked down, at least as of now. But who can lock down that vote? And who can lock down the progressive vote? Who can convince Bernie supporters to support them, along with those moderates?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:

That's a great point.

ELIANA JOHNSON:

I think Democrats are in an interesting position right now. They basically have four frontrunners. And none of those frontrunners really has the momentum. And the race, the race question, for Pete, was basically a subtext of that debate. Nobody really came at him. And even though Kamala Harris criticized him afterward, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker also don't have the support of African American voters. Joe Biden is really the only candidate who has strong African American support, right now, which is fascinating.

CHUCK TODD:

Michael, you're going to kill me here. I've only got a second here on this Jay-Z book. Let me just ask this. Does Jay-Z at all feel like the NFL's using him with this Kaepernick stuff or not? There's been a lot of accusations out there, that he's being used --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

-- by the NFL on this. Do you find that?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:

Of course not. Here's the thing. You're talking about racism and a racial lens. Why is it that we think, when a black guy sits at the table with a white guy, the white guy is using you, as opposed to, guess this, it was Jay-Z's presence that forced the NFL to do something it hadn't done in three years, give Colin Kaepernick a shot. So at that level, we've got to say Jay won.

CHUCK TODD:

You know how to listen to production. Thank you, sir. That's all we have for today. Thank you for watching. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. It is my favorite tradition because you can make any tradition you want. We'll be back next week, though. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.