Lisa Page speaks out in first TV Interview. TRANSCRIPT: 12/17/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much for joining us
tonight, I really appreciate it.
That is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with New Jersey Zone Brian
Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight the eve of the impeachment vote in the
House says tempers flared again today in the run up to the inevitable,
still starting just hours from now the House is starting its ultimate
And then today out of nowhere a letter arrives for Speaker Pelosi, written
or at least dictated mostly by the President and it reads that way. Six
pages, a rant filled with mistakes and false claims, fueled by anger, the
Speaker quickly dismisses it as sick.
Meanwhile as they plan for the next step, senators fight over who will
speak at the President`s trial. And just today another of the President`s
men learned his prison sentence all of it as the 11th Hour gets underway on
this Tuesday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New
York, Day 1062 of the Trump Administration on this the eve of the House
vote to impeach Donald Trump. The House will start debate in the morning
and the end of the day will vote on two articles, abuse of power and
obstruction of Congress.
Tonight the Associated Press and Washington Post both report the Democrats
have the votes. All Republicans are expected to vote as a block against
Today, the House rules committee meant to set the terms for tomorrow`s
floor session calling for six hours of debate on the articles, no
amendments can be offered earlier today, the President was asked about the
situation he finds himself in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you take any responsibility for the
fact that you are about to be impeached?
DONALDT TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. I don`t take any, zero
to put it mildly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Today Trump also wrote a letter, six pages to Speaker Pelosi,
attacking her, condemning her caucus for carrying out the impeachment
inquiry. For example he writes, “You have cheapened the importance of the
very ugly word impeachment, you are offending Americans of faith by
continually saying `I pray for the President` when you know this statement
is not true. You are the ones interfering in America`s elections, you are
the ones subverting America`s democracy, you are the ones obstructing
justice, more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch
A White House official tells NBC News the President came up with the idea
for the letter and then relied on aids to draft it while directing the
process, the official adds the council`s office did suggest some changes,
some were made, others rejected.
To be clear in part because it contains so many errors and misstatements,
the letter is not being regarded as a serious document. Tonight John Dean
called it pathetic. David Gergen who has served four U.S. Presidents said
it reads like a two bit dictator. Late today the Speaker was asked about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your reaction to the President`s letter?
NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE SPEAKER: No reaction. It`s ridiculous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have no reaction? Why not?
PELOSI: I mean, I haven`t really fully read it. We`ve been working. I`ve
seen the essence of it though, and it`s really sick.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Tonight the Trump campaign is also using language similar to
that letter to Pelosi in a fund raising email to supporters, under the
subject line impeachment war, it reads, “By proceeding with an invalid
impeachment, Democrats are violating their oaths of office, breaking their
allegiance to the Constitution and declaring open war on American
As the House prepares for tomorrow`s impeachment vote, the Senate is
getting ready to hold the President`s trial expected in early January.
This morning the Majority Leader McConnell responded to the Minority Leader
Schumer`s proposal for senators to subpoena documents and call witnesses
forward including White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former National
Security Adviser John Bolton.
McConnell who has already confirmed he is coordinating with the White House
on the impeachment trial, made it clear he had no interest in this idea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The Senate is meant
to act as judge and jury to hear a trial, not to rerun the entire fact
finding investigation because angry partisans rushed sloppily through it.
It`s not the Senate`s job to leap into the breach and search desperately
for ways to get to guilty. That would hardly be impartial justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: McConnell will indeed serve as one of 100 jurors at the Senate
trial which is why he said this for maximum shock value.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: I`m not an impartial juror, this is a political process, it`s
not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: At the White House the President pointed to McConnell`s comments
as a sign of Republican unity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I believe the Senate is equally as well-united. I watched Mitch
McConnell this morning. I watched numerous people last night, the
senators, and I think we`re equally well-united. They know it`s a hoax,
it`s a witch-hunt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Just this very evening on this very network, the Minority Leader
Senator Schumer signaled the debate over calling witnesses during the
Senate trial is far from over here. And he made clear he has strategy at
his disposal still.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Neither President Trump
nor Mitch McConnell wants to hear from these witnesses because they`re
afraid of the truth. They don`t want to know the truth because it will
probably – we don`t know, but probably put President Trump in an even
I`m allowed to ask for votes. I will ask during the impeachment proceeding
for a vote on whether Mulvaney should testify, and whether Bolton should
testify. And many of my Republican colleagues will be in a real dilemma.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: There is a new Washington Post, ABC News poll that`s got a lot
of headlines today because it finds 71 percent of those surveyed do want
the President to let his aides testify, 64 percent of Republicans
questioned in this poll said they agree. Trump`s television lawyer Rudy
Giuliani is back in the news.
The New York Times says Rudy alerted the President a couple of times about
how former U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch had in his view
blocked the investigations that he believed could be of use to Trump
politically. Those updates appeared to set the stage for the career
diplomat`s eventual ouster.
With that and here for our lead-off discussion on a Tuesday night,
Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times, her title until this week,
Washington Bureau Chief. And so we welcome her tonight with
congratulations. She has been added to the Times mast head as the paper`s
newest AME Assistant Managing Editor.
Also in D.C. tonight, Kimberly Atkins, Senior Washington Correspondent for
WBUR, Boston`s NPR News Station and visiting us here in our New York
studios from way down south is David Jolly, former Republican member of
Congress from the great state of Florida who has since left the House and
for good measure, his political party.
Good evening to all of you. Elisabeth, may I ask, considering it was
written in the same structure where Lincoln wrote his second inaugural,
have you ever seen anything like President Trump`s letter today?
ELISABETH BUMILLER, THE NEW YORK TIMES ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR: No.
Once again, this is unprecedented. We were talking at the office today
that it reads like one of Trump`s rants at his rally on White House
It sounds very much like it was dictated, we know, to White House aides.
We know that Eric Yulan, who was the legislative director at the White
House has had some of the writing. And also Stephen Miller was involved
with the writing. And it certainly bears a lot of extreme touches. Salem
witch trials are, for example, we should mention earlier.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I`m wondering who is going to tell him that there were 19
executions after that.
Kim, did the President, other than state of mind, reveal anything that was
picked up in your line of work that was perhaps new?
KIMBERLY ATKINS, WBUR, SENIOR NEWS CORRESPONDENT: No, it was nothing new.
It was clear that he wanted to submit this letter, not just to Nancy
Pelosi, but to history. He says so much in the letter itself, he wanted to
register his anger and his insults toward the Speaker of the House and
every single defense or rant he has made on Twitter since the impeachment
He clearly is unhappy about being impeached. Any other – if that was a
question at this point that has been laid to rest. He is angry, and it was
basically a letter of grievance.
So the question is, is it also a signal to Republicans as to how he expects
them to respond, how he expects them to defend him as this impeachment
inquiry moves forward?
WILLIAMS: Congressman, you sat down and reminded both of us, this letter
goes in the record, like it and not, this is history.
DAVID JOLLY, FORMER, REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: Yes. Yeah. And the question
is, how will history remembered this letter? Because it is rambling, it
shows mental unfitness, unwellness perhaps, in his emotional state on the
eve of becoming the third president to be impeached by the U.S. House of
And I would encourage anyone who has read that, that by contrast, maybe
read the two articles tonight or before the debate tomorrow, whether you`ve
read the President`s letter or not. Because I think what the President is
reacting to is the gravity of what the language of the impeachment articles
If you haven`t read it, and you`re watching tonight, it says that Donald
Trump, in the language of the impeachment articles, betrayed the nation.
The President betrayed us, betrayed the nation. It says, he subverted the
constitutional process. It says, he solicited foreign interference and
persists in corruptly doing so.
I think what Donald Trump is wrestling with, what we can see through that
letter is this is someone who, despite all the awesome powers of the
presidency knows. But it doesn`t contain the power to undo history or to
rewrite history. The President can`t undo the language of the articles of
impeachment in a tweet or in a six-page rambling letter to the Speaker
WILLIAMS: Are you expecting any shenanigans tomorrow in the will of the
House from your former colleagues?
JOLLY: I am. You know, typically the Rules Committee shuts out any
minority rights in a major matter like this, and they have done so. So the
minority will have half of the debate time. The question is do they try to
pull a stunt to take control of the narrative?
And to the earlier comment, I`m curious, you`ve seen on the hill
Republicans may begin to make the argument that there was no crime. They
seem to feel comfortable saying, look, there was no crime. So, therefore
this whole impeachment process is hogwash.
The President is making a very different argument in saying that it was
invalid. He`s tearing down the powers of the Congress and saying, this is
invalid, using language suggesting it`s unconstitutional. I`m curious if
House Republicans stick with, there`s no crime, or do they adopt the
President`s very unscrupulous language, because that`s where you begin to
enter the danger zone for moments of history, and frankly, for the future
of the House impeachment power.
WILLIAMS: Elizabeth, gallons of ink have been spent many, many column
inches spent just in the past few days either accepting or rejecting any
comparisons to where we`ve been before, most notably, I guess, Clinton a
generation ago. In your view, where are we right now tonight?
BUMILLER: Well, there was actually – first of all, Clinton was contrite,
a publicly contrite, at least. He was raging behind closed doors at the
White House, but he was very contrite and apologetic and remorseful in
public. Obviously, Donald Trump is the exact opposite of that.
But if you look back, we were looking back today at the four, the three
impeachments – three – the two previous impeachments and then the, a near
impeachment of President Nixon. Each one of those was really about the
divisions in the country at the time.
We look back at Andrew Johnson, it was 1868. There was a raging debate in
the country about what kind of America it would be post civil war. And
during the time of Nixon it was – there was just a continuing division of
culture – the culture wars of Vietnam and Watergate certainly.
Clinton was much the same. The divisions in the country were quite
pronounced at the time between Republicans and Democrats. And we see it
today with Donald Trump. Not that this is just about the divisions in the
country. Obviously, the President did leverage military aid to Ukraine in
return for a political favor.
WILLIAMS: Kim, the President, I`m told, has been tweeting in the last few
minutes. Control room has these to put up on the screen. “Good marks and
reviews on the letter I sent to Pelosi today. She is the worst! No wonder
with people like her and Cryin` Chuck Schumer, D.C. has been such a mess
for so long. And that includes the previous administration who and now we
know for sure SPIED on my campaign.”
Kim, give us a quick glancing fact check here on the spying issue, one more
time. And do you think the President is disappointed there haven`t been
more Democratic defections?
ATKINS: I think perhaps he is. I think that`s probably just a bit of what
we can expect from his rally tomorrow night in Michigan, which will be
taking place at the very same time as he – as the House may be voting on
these articles of impeachment. Yes, we know from the report that was
released by the I.G. that the Obama administration or anybody else spied on
President Trump`s campaign.
There were certainly mistakes that were made by the FBI, but in no way
amounted to a spying campaign. That is just one of a number of
inaccuracies in President Trump`s letter, which again, mirrors his Twitter
feed, which is also usually filled with a bunch of factual, inaccuracies, I
believe, according to The Washington Post. He has exceeded 15,000 since he
took office. It`s just one more bit of his messaging, the messaging we can
expect throughout this process as it – as the impeachment process leaves
the House and heads to the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.
The question then, again, is how the Republicans, each one who has to
answer not only to – for themselves, but to their constituent treats this
process and how they move forward.
WILLIAMS: David Jolly, to Kim`s point, the Republicans she was just
talking about, not that they are all not deeply principled people. These
poll numbers out this morning, get your attention. And if they are
followed by more poll numbers, that robust, they`re going to get the
attention of Republicans.
JOLLY: And the interesting thing in today`s poll numbers is that the
American people want a fair trial. You know, when we see impeachment, yes
or no, around 50/50, to me that says we have a fully informed public. And
generally we behave in 50/50 partisan lines.
These are poll questions around should there be a fair trial in the Senate?
And to go back to what the President just tweeted, because this draws into
light and contrast the behavior of Senate Republicans. The President
tonight is frustrated, angry that he cannot control the Congress. He can`t
stand the lack of control. He can`t control tomorrow in the House. And so
you`re seeing the true presidential behavior.
In the Senate, he feels safe because he can control it because Mitch
McConnell has told Mr. President, I will do whatever you want me to do.
Lindsey Graham has said, I will do whatever you want be me to do. Don`t
worry, Mr. President, you`re in charge of the Senate.
That is the most damning condemnation of the United States Senate in 2019
that the President of the United States feels like he can control that
independent body on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue when what we
should see is the behavior of an independent Congress that we`re going to
see tomorrow, a lower House, saying Mr. President, this is not your
process, this is ours.
WILLIAMS: And that, ladies and gentlemen, watching at home, is where we
are on a Tuesday night in December with great thanks to Elizabeth Bumiller,
Kimberly Atkins, and David Jolly for starting off our conversation tonight.
Coming up for us, Rudy appears to pull his client Donald Trump further into
the morass of the Ukraine ambassador case. And later, a new campaign to
defeat the President launched by anti-Trump conservatives. We`ll talk with
a founding member of the Lincoln Project when we continue as The 11th Hour
is just getting started while Abe Lincoln looks on, on a Tuesday night.
WILLIAMS: As we mentioned, Rudy Giuliani told The New York Times he gave
information to President Trump about how Ukraine Ambassador Marie
Yovanovitch was impeding those investigations in Ukraine.
Giuliani said he told Trump a couple of times about how Yovanovitch had
frustrated investigators that could help Trump. Giuliani said the
President then connected him with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as one
does, who asked for more information. And within weeks Yovanovitch was
recalled, out of a job.
Meanwhile, a judge ruled today that indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas
could remain free on bail after prosecutors argued it could – it should –
his bail should be revoked for concealing assets.
The judge said he didn`t believe Parnas was being intentionally untruthful.
Prosecutors said Parnas hid or forgot about a million dollar payment from a
lawyer for Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash. If that name Firtash sounds
familiar in addition to being unique, it`s because he had ties to former
Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. We should note Lev Parnas has
pleaded not guilty to campaign finance charges.
With us to talk about all of it tonight, Maya Wiley, Former Assistant U.S.
Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now with The New School
here in New York. And Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for
Maya, at a very basic level Maggie Haberman tweeted tonight that Trump`s
job is to keep Rudy close but not too close. Rudy`s job is to arise any
room between the two guys. Is Rudy inadvertently helping the feds and
hurting himself continually?
MAYA WILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:
Yeah. I mean, that – it`s not plus, it`s not every day where you see the
defense attorney saying to the prosecution, let me hand you something
that`s going to help you make your case against my client, which is
essentially what we heard Rudy Giuliani do. So he`s not – he`s certainly
not helping himself, but he really isn`t helping Donald Trump since –
remember that the Democrats have said that this begins as, you know, act
one scene one –
WILEY: – is clearing the decks of Marie Yovanovitch who is going to stand
in the way of resurrecting conspiracy theories that have been debunked
because they`re not in the national interest. So if you have to move her
out of the way in order to set your own team in place to accomplish what it
is you`re trying to get done, which is the investigations on the Bidens,
which we`ve already heard from her she spoke quite eloquently about. You
know, what you`re really doing is saying, yes, when the Democrats in their
articles of impeachment say that we were trying to clear away the anti-
corruption ambassador in order to be able to move the defense of Donald
Trump by getting these investigations started, that`s just making the case.
But remember that Giuliani has to worry about. He has gotten a counter
WILEY: Maybe you should talk about that connected to Firtash. But this is
just not a good for either him or Donald Trump.
WILLIAMS: Hey Frank, do you remember during normal times when the
introduction of Russian money, a Russian revenue stream into a case
anywhere near the President of the United States would have been a pretty
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:
Would have been the lead story and talked about for days. But in this
bizarre world we`re living in, it`s a blip on today`s radar screen. But
let`s let this resonate for a while. We`ve learned now that a million
bucks has flowed from this guy Firtash who is connected to Putin and flowed
into the hands of Parnas and then perhaps into – or his wife`s hands,
let`s put it that way and then perhaps ended up somewhere near Rudy
Do we have a Russian government flow of cash that Rudy needs to explain?
Do we have Rudy explaining to all of us that he confesses now to having
removed – caused a U.S. ambassador to be removed, to do what? To push a
rash of Russian narrative, a Russian intelligence myth that it was Ukraine
that muddled and meddled and interfered with our election? What`s going on
here? And that`s the nature of counterintelligence, trying to figure out
who is dominating, who is influencing, who is getting paid, who is working
for the other team?
WILLIAMS: Maya, is it your impression that this federal judge did Lev a
huge solid today and allowed Lev to walk the streets of New York in effect
of free man?
WILEY: Yup. I was surprised Lev Parnas got to walk the streets. I mean,
remember that Lev Parnas had a one way ticket out of the country when he
WILLIAMS: Yes, pretty much at Dulles in the departure lounge, yes.
WILEY: Yes. When he was arrested and pleaded poverty, essentially, when
he said I can`t pay all this bail. And only had to post $200,000, that`s a
lot of money for us, but compared to what he was being asked to.
And then we find out $1 million from, as Frank says a Russian-connected
oligarch apparently – why do you think he`s not a flight risk? I mean, it
seems to me that he has all of the markings of one. Obviously the judge –
you know, I think judges do really important work for us and judges
evaluate the facts as they see them. I think that Lev Parnas got something
that most of us would not get, big, big gift at holiday time.
WILLIAMS: Frank, we learned a bunch of things today. Number one, on the
Manafort front, he is in the prison hospital, has been apparently since
Thursday with heart trouble. So there`s that, number two. His former
buddy, Rick Gates, who was very helpful in at least three cases that we
know of, was sentenced to 45 days ever weekend jail, who knew that was a
thing. Three years of probation, is that commensurate, in your view,
FIGLIUZZI: So, here`s how to read this. When you see something – and
I`ve seen a lot of people today on Twitter complaining this was way too
lenient and that Gates got off easy. Here`s how I read it. He must have
given up everything he has and everything he could possibly give up on big
targets. And he`s been rewarded for that. And here`s what I zeroed in on
and focused on like a laser in the sentencing today.
The judge saying he is continuing to cooperate. He`s agreed to cooperate
in ongoing and sealed investigations. That is huge for anyone watching
this closely. This isn`t over yet. And part of the reason he, “got off
easy” is because he`s still working ongoing cases that we don`t even know
WILLIAMS: The gift that keeps on giving. Both of these guests have agreed
to stay with us. Coming up after this break, she is one of the President`s
favorite targets. Tonight Lisa Page made her television interview debut in
this very studio on this very network. A look at what she had to say when
we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Given what you`ve been through with the past
couple of years, why speak now on your own terms?
LISA PAGE, FORMER FBI LAWYER: Honestly, I just wasn`t planning to and I
didn`t want to. I`ve led an entirely anonymous life and hoped to return to
one. And when the President, you know, finally did that vile sort of
simulated sex act in a, you know, rally in Minneapolis, I just finally had
to accept it`s not getting better. And being quiet isn`t making this go
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page who is a frequent target of our
President tonight granted her first television interview. And in it she
was asked by Rachel Maddow about that insurance policy text message that we
hear so much about from the President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Can you explain to us tonight what was meant by, for example, the
insurance policy text message? So this is you and Peter Strzok texting
about prospect of that President Trump was going to be elected, the
PAGE: Right, I mean, it`s an analogy. First of all, it`s not my text, so
I`m sort of I`m interpreting what I believe he meant back three years ago.
But we`re using an analogy. We`re talking about whether or not we should
take certain investigative steps or not based on the likelihood that he`s
going to be president or not, right?
You have to keep in mind, if President Trump doesn`t become president, the
national security risk, if there is somebody in his campaign associated
with Russia, plummets. You`re not so worried about what Russia is doing
vis-a-vis a member of his campaign if he`s not president, because you`re
not going to have access to classified information. You`re not going to
have access to sources and methods in our national security apparatus.
So the insurance policy was an analogy. It`s like an insurance policy when
you`re 40. You don`t expect to die when you`re 40, yet you still have an
MADDOW: So don`t just hope that he`s not going to be elected and therefore
not press forward with the investigation hoping, but rather press forward
with the investigation just in case he does get in there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Back for more, Maya Wiley and Frank Figliuzzi. Maya, I just
looked at you. She matter of factly said that if Trump doesn`t get
elected, the national security risk plummets. Put that on the pile of
notable sound bites of 2019 that we`ll get to some day. Talk about the
degree to which in attacks on people like her, the President has changed
our perception of our institutions, whether it`s your beloved Department of
Justice, Frank`s beloved Federal Bureau of Investigation.
MAYA WILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT US ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:
Yes, it`s an astounding thing, a shocking thing that we have a sitting
president undermining the very agencies that he sits atop of. Remember
that as the chief executive of the country, the executive branch, these are
agencies that essentially report up to him. And we rely upon in this
country to make it work for us. In other words, public servants serve us.
They serve the public. So what trump has done is tremendously damaging,
particularly to law enforcement, particularly to the notions of an
independent law enforcement.
Because what he`s essentially said is, unless I think you`re loyal to me, I
will come for you. And you will have a very hard time defending yourself
because as president, he has a bully pulpit almost no one can compete with.
That`s essentially what we`re hearing from Lisa Page, is. Here I was a
public servant. You know, I regret some of those exchanges, and we should
not ignore that, of course. Public servants have political views that they
must keep for themselves and not have infused in their work. But she was
cleared of any wrongdoing by an inspector general, and she still, still has
to live with the reputation damage to her.
But the department, it`s not just her. Remember, James Baker who was –
WILLIAMS: Right, counsel.
WILEY: – was counsel also felt that he had to come out because Trump
called him a liar, and he had trouble getting work, he says, after that.
WILLIAMS: Frank, you`ve been tough on Lisa Page. She has her regrets as
she expressed again tonight. But I think you`d also agree has paid a heavy
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. We may say
that Lisa Page had terrible judgment in having an extra marital affair in
the workplace. We may say she had terrible judgment using FBI devices to
talk about politics and opinions.
But what we can no longer say, as Maya pointed out is that, Lisa Page had
anything to do with the opening of the Russian case or the supervision of
it afterwards. That`s in writing from the inspector general of the
Department of Justice. So when we`re seeing the lashing out and attempted
destruction of a woman who dedicated her career to public service, what
we`re really seeing is a president who doesn`t have any facts on his side
any more and just chooses to find the most convenient scapegoat and victim
he can lash out.
And, boy, it increasingly looks like he likes to do that with women. And
Lisa Page has decided to fight back. And I`ve toyed all day knowing she
was going to do this, very substantive interview with Rachel tonight. I
toyed with this theory of, what would you do in this situation?
She`s going on the offensive. It doesn`t mean Trump is going to stop, but
it means that Trump now knows he`s on notice that when he lies about her
and continues to denigrate her, she can come back publicly and come right
back at him.
WILLIAMS: Our thanks to two former public servants, frequent contributors
around here. Maya Wiley, Frank Figliuzzi. I greatly appreciate it.
Coming up, they are four Republicans who will here after become known as
the co-founders of a group to channel the Republican Party of Lincoln and
by doing so, defeat Donald Trump. One of the co-founders is here with us
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D) RULES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: And he claim “More due
process was afforded to those accused in the Salem witch trials.” I mean,
are you kidding me? Innocent people were tortured and hung. Their corpses
were thrown in shallow graves. An 80-year-old farmer named Giles Corey was
literally placed between boards and crushed to death. I mean, for the
President to say that he is being treated worse than the Salem witch trials
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Some prominent conservatives are now taking formal steps to stop
the President`s reelection. The group which includes Rick Wilson, John
Weaver, our own contributor Steve Schmidt and George Conway, the very
husband of Kellyanne, are forming a Super Pac they call the Lincoln
In today`s New York Times` op-ed, the organizers write this among other
things. Over these next 11 months, our efforts will be dedicate to
defeating President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box and to elect those
patriots who will hold the line.
It`s not just the President they`re taking to task. They go on to say this
President`s actions are possible only with the craven acquiescence of
There was praise for this group tonight from Jennifer Ruben of the
Washington Post who writes, “At least the Lincoln Project founders can say
to their children and grandchildren that they gave their all to defend the
deeply held principles on which this country was founded. That is far more
than many will be able,” and I would add willing, “to do.”
With us for more, Rick Wilson, Lincoln Project Co-Founder, long-time
Republican Strategist, author of the forthcoming book, |Running Against the
Devil”, due out next month.
By way of explaining your new effort, are you sure you want to do this,
this putting country over party thing, because I don`t see anyone else out
there doing this.
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, we`re not doing it for any
of the normal reasons people would do these things. We`re not doing it to
make a ton of money. We`re not doing it to aggrandize our egos. We`re
doing it because between the four of us, the main founders, we`ve been
around politics for about 120 years collectively. We`ve been to this rodeo
a few times.
And all of us give a damn about this country in a way that Trumpism denies.
And Trumpism is not about the sacred nature of the American experience and
about the propositional nature of this country. It is a cult dedicated to
a mad man. He is displaying it today and tonight that he is an unhinged
maniac. That he is lavishly corrupt and will do anything to defend
himself. And we happen to believe that the country is more valuable than a
temporary moment, a blip in the politics of this country.
You know what, we`ve gone back and forth. We`ve played ping-pong
ideologically in this country a long time. And no Republican ever gets too
much power too long and no Democrat ever too much power for too long. And
that`s part of the design feature of this country.
This is a man who sees himself as unbounded by the law, by the
constitution, by anything else. And we believe firmly that he needs to be
stopped. And frankly, the people that are enabling him and empowering him,
and looking away from the immorality and criminality of this man, they need
to have a political lesson applied to them as well.
You know what, we`re not going to have as much money as Mitch McConnell and
Donald Trump, but we are some scrappy old bastards. We`re going to get in
WILLIAMS: Explain to the good people watching your theory about going
after you other Republicans with their names on ballots to get to the king.
WILSON: Sure. Let me tell you, right now Susan Collins and Corey Gardner
and Martha McSally, they`re nervous as long tailed-cats in a room full of
rocking chairs, OK? They do not want to be asked questions. They do not
want to be on the spot. Why is that?
It`s not because they have some moral question, it`s because they know that
Donald Trump is political poison and if they are exposed to that, it will
kill them. And so, we`re going to offer them the opportunity. You can
either win fabulous prizes or you can have Donald Trump smeared all over
you like a carcass in the middle of a – road kill carcass and it`s going
to stink you up for a long time. Your call.
And in a lot of these cases, you know, we`ve got – what we see right now
is that there are – it takes four Republicans in the Senate to blow the
whistle on this thing and just say, we have to have a trial. We have to
hear witnesses. That`s it, just four. Just four could stand up and do
this. Even three could probably make it happen.
But right now even the ones who claim that they are all morally concerned
and they have questions and issues, they`re going to vote with Mitch
McConnell on this. There`s no external pressure. They`ve abandoned their
oaths. They`ve abandoned their principles. And right now nothing else is
out there to stop them.
WILLIAMS: Rick Wilson has agreed to stay here with us over this break.
We`ll do that and when we come back, some of the President`s supporters
seem to be ignoring a repeated plea in his impeachment defense, one that
you may have read on a t-shirt near you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I would say read the transcript.
Just read the transcript of the phone call.
Read the transcript.
And I`ll say it and I`ll say it again. Read the transcript.
Read the transcript. It`s all about the transcript.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: To be clear and for the record, we`d love to read the
transcript. We`ve never seen a transcript of the call Trump made to the
Ukrainian president. We just saw a summary with gaps and ellipses built in
that the White House put out to us.
But what it does say, what we are allowed to read from the call, backs up
what the whistle-blower said. And despite the fetching rally attire, Trump
supporters don`t seem to be in a rush to read the transcript or the
summary, at least not those that talked to the daily show last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Read the transcript right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you read the transcript?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have not read it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we should read the transcript.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the transcript, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, look at the transcript.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you read the transcript?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I trust the word of our President, man.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s important that everybody reads the transcript.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very important. Pay attention and think for
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. You have – but to be clear, you have not read
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven`t.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it is just important.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t be a sheep, think for yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Rick Wilson is still here with us. What is this moment we`re
WILSON: This is a moment where a parasite crawled inside of a political
party and ate it from the inside out. And it still sort of sounds like and
looks like the old Republican Party, but right now the virtues of the new
party are slavish obedience to Trump, blistering pig ignorance.
I mean, those guys, they should be ashamed. They should sink in the damn
earth out of shame by thinking – having a moment where they`re called on
the primary – the primary defense of this President in this case and they
should say to themselves, I should go home and read.
Maybe I should switch off the agitprop channel for a little while. And
maybe I should try to grind my way through a few of the basic facts in this
thing. But they don`t and they won`t. That`s the old party. Now it is,
you know, are you enough – is your passion for Trump strong enough?
WILLIAMS: Let`s go back to Susan Collins, just because it`s fun to go back
to Susan Collins. What does she do if Chuck Schumer gets an up or down
vote on the Senate floor. Should we call John Bolton? Should we at least
hear from John Bolton? What does she and her ilk do?
WILSON: Well, look, my prediction of what she does is she will agonize and
she will waffle and she will go through a whole fan dance. She will furl
her brow and she will express deep concern.
And then at the end, she`ll give this anodyne speech and say, well, I
didn`t see enough evidence, so we have to move forward and won`t vote for
it. That`s what`s going to happen in my pessimistic prediction. And I
think you`re going to find a lot of people who politically might be smart
Look, Cory Gardner`s in a state that`s not just turning purple, it`s
turning dark blue. His survival may depend on this. You know, 63 percent,
64 percent of the vote is going to come out of Boulder and Denver.
WILSON: It`s not red hat country. He`s got a political existential crisis
on his hands. Martha McSally, if she wants to keep that seat, that`s not a
state that`s deep red anymore either. So the political cost of supporting
Trump is something they are weighing against their terror they feel about
him being angry at them or tweeting at them. But as we`ve seen over and
over again, they`re much more comfortable being in the tall grass scared to
death than they are standing up for what`s right.
WILLIAMS: Final question is about the six-page screed that we got from the
WILLIAMS: You`re a student of history as well. I can`t drop the thought
that that was written in the same structure where FDR wrote in the word
infamy in pencil.
WILSON: Sure. This is, you know, there is a great rhetorical tradition in
this country with presidents. It is – the work of presidential speech
writing and communication is something that has mattered for a long time.
I mean, the power of words in the presidency has mattered since Washington.
I mean, you look at some of the things that were produced from the pen of
WILLIAMS: The letter to Mrs. Bixby.
WILSON: And they are emotive, and they are powerful, and they`re
passionate, and they uplift America. This was the rantings – this is
like, you know, they walk into the lunatic asylum and the guy`s written his
manifesto on the wall in his own waste products. I mean, he`s just
And so, you know, we`re not seeing – when they send us their rhetoric,
they`re not sending their best.
WILLIAMS: What day do people have to wait until this comes out?
WILSON: January the 14th.
WILLIAMS: This is a galley copy for just really cool kids.
WILSON: Yes, it is.
WILLIAMS: But it will be out in hard cover and kindle and all that.
WILSON: It sure will.
WILLIAMS: And you`ve recorded the audio book. Great to see you.
WILSON: I have recorded the audio book and looking forward to it. Thank
you for having me, sir, as always.
WILLIAMS: One of the co-founders of today`s Lincoln Project.
Coming up for us, why so many of our fellow citizens spent this December
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, a couple of related items.
First off, in cities and towns and hamlets across our country tonight, on
this eve of the impeachment vote, under the banner of the indivisible
movement while also as small as the molecular local level, people marched
They marched in 27 degree snowfall weather in Maine. They marched outside
the offices of congressmen with names like Scalise and Van Drew, to name
two Republicans. From New York, to Georgia, to Oregon, on west to Alaska
and Hawaii, they marched in cold weather and warm under clear skies and in
the rain. They marched in support of impeachment.
A related item, the folks at PolitiFact have arrived at an important
decision, determining the lie of the year from among some of the 15,413
lies that “The Washington Post” has determined this President has told thus
far in office.
PolitiFact`s honor this year goes to the President`s contention that the
whistleblower got the Ukraine call almost completely wrong and because the
opposite is true, because that is completely wrong, and because the
President has predicated so much on that false statement.
And finally, on the eve of the vote tomorrow in the House, a look at where
we`ve been, a reminder of the voices we`ve heard from in the long journey
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM TAYLOR, TOP US DIPLOMAT IN UKRAINE: I encountered an irregular,
informal channel of US policy-making with respect to Ukraine.
ALEXANDER VINDMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL, DIRECTOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS:
It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign
government investigate a US citizen and a political opponent.
GORDON SONDLAND, US AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Was there a quid pro
quo? The answer is yes.
FIONA HILL, FORMER RUSSIA ADVISER, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: 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.
SONDLAND: Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret. Everyone was
informed via e-mail on July 19th, days before the presidential call.
MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Such conduct
undermines the US, exposes our friends, and widens the playing field for
autocrats like President Putin. Our leadership depends on the power of our
example and the consistency of our purpose. Both have now been opened to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: With that, that is our broadcast for this Tuesday night. Thank
you so much for being here with us. Good night from our NBC News
headquarters here in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the