The process of impeachment. TRANSCRIPT: 9/24/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris.
Enough news for you today?
HAYES: Busy, busy day. A lot going on.
MADDOW: I decided to take a nap most of the day. Just woke up five
minutes ago. I`ve learned everything I know from the last five minutes of
your show. Thank you.
HAYES: Ukraine, hmm.
MADDOW: Hmm, where is that again? Thank you, my friend. Much
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
So, there are only two instances in American history in which a U.S.
president has been impeached.
When Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868, that was the first time it had
ever happened in U.S. history. It actually took them a couple of tries.
They first voted on an impeachment resolution against Johnson in 1867.
They came back the next year and tried to impeach him again in 1868. That
one stuck. But when those articles of impeachment that passed in the
House, when those articles were conveyed over to the Senate for President
Johnson to face trial, they couldn`t get a two-thirds vote in the Senate to
convict him and remove him from office.
And so, the effort to remove President Andrew Johnson from office failed,
even though he was impeached in the House.
Basically the same dynamic at work in 1998. Just before Christmas, 1998,
when the House of Representatives voted for only the second time in U.S.
history to impeach the sitting U.S. president, who then was Bill Clinton.
And again, in that instance, the House voted to impeach the president but
then they had to convey the articles of impeachment over to the Senate and,
once again, they could not persuade two-thirds of the Senate to vote to
convict Bill Clinton and remove him from office. And so, again, that
effort to remove him from office via the impeachment process, it failed
even though Clinton was impeached in the House.
And those are our only two experiences in this country with a U.S.
president being impeached. Both presidents Johnson and Clinton were
convicted in the House, neither was convicted in the Senate. Neither was
removed from office.
The one president who did leave office in the context of impeachment
proceedings, of course, was Richard Nixon, but he left office of his own
volition. He quit rather than face an impeachment vote that he was sure he
So, it is this kind of irony of our constitutional history that the one
process the constitution gives Congress to remove a president from office
for high crimes and misdemeanors, that process has been used twice to
impeach a president. Neither of those guys got removed from office,
though. The one guy who did basically get removed from office because of
the threat of that process, he technically was never impeached.
So, anybody who tells you there`s a clear bright line in American history
about how these things go and how the Constitution dictates these things
go, it`s – that`s sort of a civic fantasy. The way it works in real life
is much more like a civic thriller. It`s got way more suspense to it. You
can definitely count on a cliff hanger or two.
When the process starts, I`m not sure anybody who`s being honest can tell
you how ultimately it`s going to end.
Today, when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced in an address to
the nation that the House of Representatives is opening impeachment
proceedings against president Donald J. Trump, she did make U.S. history.
This is just something that hasn`t happened very many times in the course
of our country. Because of that, I think we`re kidding ourselves if we
think there`s some typical way this is supposed to go now.
There isn`t a typical impeachment process. There`s no way to say how
history suggests this will unfold or how this thing would typically be
handled, or what`s a departure from consistent previous precedent. There
is constitutional guidance for what happens here, but there is very little
historical precedent from which we can extrapolate.
And on top of that, on top of the fact that days like this have only ever
happened a few other times in the history of our country, there are also
specific peculiarities about this time, about this instance, but really
interesting as factual matters, but they make it all the more suspenseful
and all the more unpredictable in terms of how this is going to work out in
the end and how this is going to unfold just from here on out.
I mean, let`s just start with the thing that was announced today by Speaker
Pelosi. What exactly is the House going to do now, now that she has
proclaimed that this impeachment process has started?
Despite earlier reports that today that Speaker Pelosi might be considering
forming a special committee in the House, specifically for the purpose of
drawing up impeachment articles against the president, at 5:00 Eastern
today, when Speaker Pelosi made her announcement, she made clear that she
isn`t forming any special new impeachment committee. Instead, she name-
checked the chairman of these six committees, which apparently will each
have their own role to play in this impeachment process going forward. –
the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee, the Foreign Affairs
Committee, Oversight Committee, the Ways and Means Committee, the Financial
Services Committee, we`re going to get some expert help over the course of
this hour, including speaking with one of these committee chairs, to
understand exactly what Pelosi has proclaimed here.
But as best as we can tell right now, the plan, I think, is for each of
these six committees to pursue their own inquiries into potentially
impeachable offenses by President Trump and then each of these committees
is expected to present what they believe is their best case for articles of
impeachment against President Trump on the subject matter that they have
been investigating. So, all these committees will all give their potential
articles of impeachment to the Judiciary Committee, to Jerry Nadler, who`s
the chair of the Judiciary Committee.
If warranted, Nadler and the Judiciary Committee will then sort of formally
compile these articles of impeachment that they will ask the House to vote
on. And then the House will proceed toward an impeachment vote. So, that,
we think, is the process, and in theory that all makes sense, right?
But how does that work in practice? What`s the timing on that? And what`s
different now going forward from what`s already been happening in these
committees? I mean, what is Nancy Pelosi`s specific expectation in terms
of what those committees are going to do now?
And I ask that because all of those six committees right now, they`re all
already pursuing various investigations of President Trump for a broad
range of alleged bad behavior by him – a lot of different things which
could conceivably be construed as impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors
when it comes to this president.
I mean, everything from whatever is going on with the president`s tax
audit. The audit of his taxes is being investigated by the Ways and Means
Committee under Chairman Richie Neal. Chairman Neal says a whistleblower
has come forward to suggest that there`s been some sort of improper effort
by someone inside the administration to interfere with the IRS` audit of
the president`s taxes. Ways and Means Committee is already looking at
Over at the Financial Services Committee under Chair Maxine Waters, they
are reportedly looking among other things at potential bank fraud and
insurance fraud by this president, by his family, by his businesses.
In the Oversight Committee under Congressman Cummings, they`re
investigating a whole bunch of different alleged behaviors by the
president, any number of which could be impeachable, including whether he
may have endangered national security by mishandling security clearance
applications, including those for his children.
In the Intelligence Committee, they are also investigating a number of
different allegations against the president, including continuing questions
about the president`s involvement in the Russian election interference of
At the Judiciary Committee under Chairman Nadler, they are already actively
investigating the president`s alleged efforts to obstruct the law
enforcement and counterintelligence investigation into the Russia scandal.
I mean, those things are all under way already in all of these six
committees. They all implicate potentially impeachable behavior by the
president, depending on what these ongoing investigations turn up.
Well, now, today, that Speaker Pelosi has made this historical announcement
that impeachment proceedings are beginning against this president, and
she`s made that announcement specifically in the context and with reference
to these new allegations about the president and Ukraine. The president
basically admitting that he solicited foreign help for his re-election
effort from the country of Ukraine.
Well, are these six committees just supposed to look at matters related to
the president`s interactions with Ukraine? Or are these six committees
supposed to forward to the judiciary committee evidence of any potentially
impeachable conduct by the president that they have been investigating,
including on the subject of all those other topics that I just mentioned,
things that they`re already looking at, right? If they`re supposed to do
that, like let`s say the Oversight Committee turns up behavior by the
president with regard to the security clearances for Jared Kushner and
Ivanka Trump that actually rises to the level of high crimes and
misdemeanors in the view of that committee, if they turn that up, are they
supposed to forward that to the Judiciary Committee, too, for that also to
be folded into these impeachment proceedings?
I mean, as interesting as I find say, for example, the Financial Services
Committee investigating whether the president committed insurance fraud
when he misstated his financial assets in order to get better deals on his
insurance policies, I find that very interesting. I don`t have any reason
to expect that that investigation is wrapping up imminently.
So as I said, we will try to get some clarity on this as to what changes in
the investigating committees in Congress now that what they`re doing is
part of an investigation proceeding that has been proclaimed today by the
speaker of the House and that was proclaimed with specific reference to the
president going to Ukraine to try to get help from them for his re-election
What did become obvious over the course of today, I think, is that the
story is moving very fast. I have written and torn up a lot of drafts of
this show already today.
But just today, it`s been – well, this whole thing has been going fast. I
mean, you look at it even in the biggest, widest possible lens, it`s only
been a week since it first came to light that the president and his
personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, made these overtures to Ukraine, seeking
dirt on President Trump`s potential Democratic opponent in the 2020
election. We have known about that literally for only a week. We only
even knew that there was some sort of whistleblower complaint about
something related to Trump for a few days longer than that.
While support for starting impeachment proceedings against Trump has been
at a sort of low simmer among house Democrats for quite some time, there
was a sort of relatively steady increase in the number of House Democrats
who supported impeachment proceedings against the president since the
Mueller report was published a few months ago. In the last 48 hours, the
number of Democrats supporting impeachment proceedings has gone through the
Now with Nancy Pelosi`s endorsement and her announcement today, the number
of House Democrats supporting impeachment proceedings against President
Trump is starting to look like it won`t – it may not necessarily end up
being unanimous, but it may be close. It`s already close to 200 at this
point, 218 is a majority of the House which is all you need to actually
So this thing is developing fast. We clearly have an incomplete
understanding as of tonight as to how the Democrats are going to proceed
here and on what kind of a timetable. We`re going to be speaking, as I
mentioned, with one of the chairs of one of the six committees that has
been named as key to this process coming up live in just a moment.
We also, of course, have an incomplete understanding of the facts and the
behavior by the president that has led very quickly to this moment. “The
Washington Post” was first to report a week ago that an anonymous
whistleblower from inside the intelligence community had come forward and
filed a complaint with the inspector general of the intelligence community.
The inspector general reviewed that complaint, found it to be both credible
and urgent. That should have set in motion a process by which that
complaint was forwarded to Congress. The administration, the Justice
Department and reportedly the White House apparently stepped in to stop the
complaint from being conveyed to Congress.
Since then, we have learned through open source reporting that the
whistleblower`s complaint not only had something to do with the president`s
behavior specifically, it had something to do with the president making
some kind of troubling promise to a foreign leader. Since that story first
broke, the president has confirmed that in fact he did raise the issue of
wanting some sort of investigation into Joe Biden when he was in
communication with the president of Ukraine. The president initially
denied that but then later confirmed that at basically the same time, he
was also withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
So the White House and the administration have come up with a million
different explanations for why that military aid was being withheld from
Ukraine. They denied that it was being withheld at first. Then they
admitted, OK, yes, we were withholding that aid. They said it was delayed
by some sort of interagency process, whatever that means. Then they told
some lawmakers that the aid was being withheld so the White House could try
to gauge the effectiveness of the aid in Ukraine, a claim that reportedly
struck some lawmakers as, quote, odd.
The president and Vice President Mike Pence then both claimed that the aid
was being withheld because they wanted to make sure that Ukraine wasn`t too
corrupt as a country, because you shouldn`t sent any money to a country
that`s corrupt. Within 24 hours, that explanation from the president
changed to what appeared to be a total non-sequitur from him, in which he
said he was upset that Germany and France were also to give money to
Ukraine alongside us. If you think about it, that`s a weird thing to be
worried about, right?
Five minutes ago, your big worry was that nobody should be giving money to
Ukraine because they`re corrupt. Now, you want to make sure that the
French and the Germans are giving money to Ukraine too alongside us because
we`re giving them money? I mean, these shifting and nonsensical
explanations for why Ukraine was denied that military aid that had been
approved by the Pentagon, that had been appropriated by congress, that
presumably is fertile ground for Congress to investigate if they do want
more information about what happened here and whatever it is that this
whistleblower has laid out in his or her complaint that the administration
is blocking from coming to Congress.
But honestly, one of the strange things about this moment in history, this
rare day in history in which impeachment proceedings have been announced,
one of the weird things about the way it`s happening now and the way it has
broken open over the last few days is that Congress might not actually need
to do an investigation here. I mean, they might not really need to figure
out much more about whatever has gone wrong here simply because the
admitted facts, the facts that are not in dispute anymore, are the basis
for what you`d impeach him on, right?
I mean, it`s sort of an undisputed and admitted fact now that President
Trump asked a foreign country to help him in his re-election bid by giving
him dirt on Joe Biden. And the president personally intervened to withhold
military aid from that country at the same time that he was making that
request about Biden. In so doing, the president, according to the laws of
common sense, created the impression in that foreign country that they
wouldn`t get that life-saving military aid from our country unless they
coughed up the help that Trump wanted for his campaign.
I mean, even if you know nothing else about this, you know that. That`s
what`s known. That`s what`s the starting point. That`s what they`re
Now, investigating all the circumstances around that would certainly turn
up more interesting information, but the president`s behavior here is not
in dispute. He went to a foreign country, asked them for help with his re-
election effort. At the same time, he was personally intervening to deny
military aid to that country, creating the impression in that country that
they couldn`t get their military aid unless they helped him out with his
re-election effort. That`s the starting point.
Now, are they going to investigate to flesh out more than that? Maybe. Do
they need to? I don`t know. And so, the Democrats are now moving forward
in a way that we don`t quite understand the contours of yet.
This historic announcement from Nancy Pelosi today has nevertheless already
shaken loose a whole bunch of stuff already. When it was becoming apparent
today that she was going to announce that there is now an impeachment
proceeding under way into the president, the president announced that he
would release the transcript of his July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian
president, and that`s all fine and good. It should be noted that there`s
no recording of that call. The supposed transcript of the call is just
Trump White House notes on what happened in that call, so I`m not sure
anybody has real high hopes for what might be in those notes from the call.
If anything super incriminating did happen in that call, whether the White
House would include that in the notes and then release them publicly.
Also today, the intelligence committee in the House and in the Senate, both
of those committees announced today that they had been in touch with
counsel for this unnamed whistleblower who had come forward with this
troubling report about the president`s behavior. Both committees report
that the whistleblower is seeking to make contact with the intelligence
committees to presumably convey the substance of his or her complaint, even
as the Trump administration has been trying to block that complaint from
being handed over to Congress directly.
Well, the bipartisan leadership of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate
and the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee in the House have
both said in writing today that they would like to hear testimony from the
whistleblower by the end of this week. By the end of this week, and it is
We then got this release of documents from the whistleblower. It`s a
letter to the director of national intelligence from the whistleblower`s
Quote: Dear Acting Director Maguire: My firm represents a member of the
intelligence community who has reported an urgent concern to the
intelligence community`s inspector general. My client submitted a
disclosure on August 12th through established procedures promulgated by
law. Within the statutorily mandated period, the inspector general
concluded that my client`s disclosure was both credible and urgent, as the
underlying information disclosed meets the standards set forth under law.
In accordance with U.S. whistleblower law, I am providing you formal notice
of our intent to contact the congressional intelligence committees
directly. Accordingly, I request direction on doing so in accordance with
appropriate security practices. I thank you in advance for your time and
attention to this matter and I look forward to your forthcoming guidance.
So that`s dated today, a letter from the whistleblower`s lawyer to the DNI,
to the director of national intelligence. The director of national
intelligence has now written back in a letter that`s dated today. It
starts off by saying that as far as the Office of the Director of National
Intelligence is concerned, this whistleblower complaint, quote, does not
fall within the statutory definition of an urgent concern, meaning you`re
not going to be protected by this process.
But then it gets really interesting. The DNI`s letter says, quote:
Notwithstanding the inapplicability of the statute, it actually says the
inapplicability of the statue, but I think he means statute.
Notwithstanding the inapplicability of the statute to the present
situation, we understand that your client seeks guidance on how to contact
and directly share information with the congressional intelligence
committees in a manner consistent with appropriate security practices.
Because your client`s complaint involves confidential and potentially
privileged communications by persons outside the intelligence community,
the president, we are consulting with other executive branch stakeholders
before transmitting to you the guidance sought. We understand the time-
sensitive nature of your request and expect that we will be able to provide
actionable guidance soon.
In other words, this letter tonight from the director of national
intelligence, from the general counsel in his office, says basically, we`re
listening to the White House when it comes to the proper handling of this
whistleblower complaint about the White House, which is not the way it`s
supposed to go. You`re not supposed to go to the subject of the complaint
to ask them for guidance in dealing with the complaint about them.
But with the director of national intelligence and the inspector general of
the intelligence community both set to testify in open session before the
intelligence community on Thursday morning on these matters, and with the
speaker of the house having announced a formal impeachment proceeding
against President Trump on this subject today, that has a way of calling on
– I don`t know – I don`t feel like I`m qualified to say conscience in
this matter. Maybe it calls on people`s better angels, maybe it calls on
people`s worries about their own place in history on a day like today.
But here is how this letter ends from the Office of the Director of
National Intelligence. Quote: Please know that the DNI`s highest priority
is ensuring that the women and men of the intelligence community have
everything they need to carry out their mission in support of our nation`s
security. This includes supporting the rights of whistleblowers to provide
information to Congress. I commend your client`s willingness to come
forward to the inspector general and the director of national intelligence
is committed to protecting your client from retaliation for that
I also want to take this opportunity to state that we have every reason to
believe that your client, our intelligence community colleague, has acted
in good faith and fully complied with the law. Furthermore, we understand
that your client has respected the confidential and privileged nature of
the information while awaiting the guidance that your letter references.
Then it closes. Again, we will report back to you soon.
It`s quite a difference in tone there from what the president has been
saying on Twitter and in other venues, questioning the patriotism of this
whistleblower and suggesting that this is a person who`s just out to hurt
the United States and is an enemy of this country. That said, unless the
director of national intelligence is personally offering to be the
bodyguard and defense lawyer for this whistleblower, this sort of personal
assurance that I`ll make sure you`re not retaliated against, even though
I`m declaring you to be outside the protection of the whistleblower law
here, it may ring a little hollow to the whistleblower, him or herself.
But you can see the change in tone there from the director of national
intelligence. You can see maybe what counts as nervousness there, I don`t
You can see in any case that this question is being called. You can see
now that this is not just spinning out as some other Trump – norm-breaking
Trump scandal that never goes anywhere. You can see now that this is the
place where at least someone is finally trying to draw a line.
Tonight, as we were getting ready to go on the air, “Politico” and “The New
York Times” broke the news that the White House is no longer just planning
on releasing White House notes on the president`s call with the president
of Ukraine, which is what they had said earlier today. Now they are
reportedly preparing to release the whistleblower`s complaint to Congress,
at least some iteration of it.
Joining us now is one of the reporters who broke that story, Washington
correspondent for “The New York Times”, Michael Schmidt.
Mr. Schmidt, thank you for being here. It`s nice to see you. Thanks for
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for
MADDOW: So, I know that since I printed out this version of your article
and highlighted it and made plans to ask you about it, you have updated
your story with more detail. What`s the latest?
SCHMIDT: The latest is that the White House realizes they`re in an
untenable position and they have to disclose this stuff because
stonewalling looks worse than what they think is in the complaint.
The other thing is that the president himself thinks that the Democrats
have overplayed their hand here. And if this is disclosed, then it will
take some of the heat off of him.
MADDOW: What do we expect them or what are they working on potentially
releasing? Obviously, the president had said earlier in the day today that
he wanted the transcript of the call, which means notes on the call
released. That led to a lot of Democrats saying, no, we need to see the
whistleblower complaint because we think it`s not just about the call, it`s
about other matters and also because we want to see what the whistleblower
believed about that call.
Now, the whistleblower`s complaint or some redacted iteration of it is
going to be potentially released?
SCHMIDT: And the whistleblower himself would be able to go up to the
committees that are now considering impeachment and speak with them. And
if you think about it, and you think about – you were pointing out before
about sort of how these scandals get momentum or don`t get momentum,
they`re at sort of the beginning here and trying to get momentum. And if
they could get a fresh stream of evidence at the beginning, maybe they
would be more successful than they have been in the past. We`ve seen them
really struggle to get off the ground on a lot of different fronts.
MADDOW: What kind of risk is the whistleblower at? How much does room to
maneuver does the whistleblower himself or herself have in terms of
conveying this information to Congress? Obviously, that letter from the
whistleblower`s counsel is interesting. We want to convey information
directly to the committees and let you know we`re doing it. We want to do
it in accordance with the law.
How much room to maneuver does this person have?
SCHMIDT: Well, there are some guidelines here where the director of
national intelligence sort of has to OK the movement of this classified
information to Congress. It just can`t be done without the sign-off there.
That`s a technical thing.
I think a broader perspective, this whistleblower is exposed in a lot of
different ways. The president could fire this whistleblower. The
president is the head of the executive branch. That`s the whole issue at
the center of this.
And when a whistleblower comes forward, who knows what happens. Sometimes,
they can become heroes. Sometimes, they can see their credibility
undermined. Sometimes, they can be attacked, doxed, anything. And there`s
great risk there.
SCHMIDT: There`s a real personality in the type of person who`s a
MADDOW: Well, the – but the whistleblower law if this complaint were
being treated within the four corners of the whistleblower law, that would
protect this whistleblower from being fired in retaliation from coming
forward for something like it, wouldn`t it?
SCHMIDT: I guess it would. But I guess with Donald Trump, I just feel to
consider al – have feel like I have to consider all the possibilities
MADDOW: Because of that, though, if there`s an expectation that the
president would defy even the whistleblower law to do something like that,
I guess what I start thinking about is if the director of national
intelligence says, no, I don`t give you the authority to bring this
classified information to Congress and the whistleblower says, this is so
important, this is so important that I knowingly put my job on the line,
put my career on the line, stuck my neck out there to report it, and I`m
going to defy those orders and show up and tell you anyway. I mean,
clearly they would be risking criminal prosecution for exposing this
information but –
SCHMIDT: But the public would certainly – a certain portion of the public
would rally around that whistleblower.
SCHMIDT: And it would become a political issue in many ways.
MADDOW: Mike, how much – how settled is this at this point? Obviously,
this is happening very quickly. We expect the inspector general and the
DNI to be sitting next to each other at an open session in the House
Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning and a closed session with the
Senate Intelligence on Thursday afternoon. We saw a rapid evolution in
terms of what the White House is willing to disclose or at least talk about
How settled is this?
SCHMIDT: That they`re going to put this information out?
SCHMIDT: Look, like anything in the Trump administration, I don`t think
it`s settled until it`s done. When it`s done, it can change after the
fact. So, yes, sure, he wants it to be out there. That`s what they want
to do right now. But he could wake up tomorrow morning and realize that
this transcript may look bad in other ways and, you know, Giuliani says
maybe we shouldn`t do it and they don`t do it.
So it`s very fluid, but very similar to a lot of other things we`ve seen
with them. You kind of have to sit back and cover it through the minutes.
MADDOW: Last question for you. I was struck, as you might have noted, by
the tone of this letter from the director of national intelligence to the
counsel of the whistleblower, essentially praising the whistleblower and
acknowledging that person, our intelligence community colleague. So
different from the tone the president has already taken attacking this
person, describing them as a partisan, questioning their patriotism,
questioning whether they`re even an American and all this stuff.
Is there a fight here between the president and the acting director of
national intelligence who he just recently appointed?
SCHMIDT: Not that we know of, but it is true. There is a difference of
body posture on this issue.
SCHMIDT: Even if you – as you read between the lines there. And I think
that they have seen the reaction to this. The reaction has been stronger
than anything else that we`ve seen, certainly more significant than the
Mueller report. More significant than pick your other thing that the
president has done.
And my guess is that that woke up some folks in the city or at least in the
administration to the severity of this issue.
MADDOW: Michael Schmidt, Washington correspondent for “The New York Times”
– playing an important role in breaking this continuing to break story.
Thanks for being here. It`s really good to have you here.
All right. I want to bring into the conversation now one of the chairs of
one of the six committees that was mentioned today by speaker Pelosi when
she made this announcement. When she announced a formal impeachment
inquiry into the president today, she listed off the six committees that
have been investigating the president already. She said those half dozen
committees will continue investigating him, but now under the umbrella of
an impeachment inquiry.
I have a lot of questions about how this is going to work and what we
should expect to see next.
I`m very pleased to say that joining us now live is Congresswoman Maxine
Waters, who is the chair of the Financial Services Committee.
Chairwoman Waters, thank you so much for making time to be with us tonight.
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): You`re welcome. Delighted to be with you.
MADDOW: So, this has been a very fast-moving day. I want to start just by
getting your top line reaction to the events of this day and to this
announcement by the speaker.
WATERS: Well, I`m absolutely supportive of the way in which the speaker
has provided the leadership to get into this formal impeachment inquiry.
I`ve known for some time that the president of the United States had been
in violation of what is expected of a president, and I could count any
number of reasons why I think he should have been impeached.
And it seemed as if this latest revelation by the whistleblower has caused
others to join me in saying that there should be an impeachment inquiry.
This has kind of – he went over the line. It`s like a thousand nicks, and
he`s finally stepped into a situation with the whistleblower where people
are tending to believe that there`s a lot to this.
And so, the speaker has moved very decisively. She now knows that she has
the support of most of the caucus, and she has formalized the impeachment
inquiry. And I support that.
MADDOW: In terms of that formalization of the inquiry, I wonder if you
could share with us some of how this is going to work. Obviously, your
committee is key here. Your committee has already been investigating a
number of allegations about the president related to the remit of your
committee, financial services.
When the speaker said today that your committee and five others are going
to pursue these matters and then essentially forward potential articles of
impeachment to the Judiciary Committee for them to collate and make a
decision on, do you expect that that means that everything that you`ve been
investigating the president for already will be wound up in this
impeachment proceeding –
MADDOW: – or are you specifically focusing on this Ukraine issue?
WATERS: Well, no, here`s what I understand. I understand that all of the
chairs of the six committees will be involved in basically coming up with
what should be articles of impeachment based on the work that we have been
doing. Some will have more to say about what those articles should be
based on the work that they have been doing, some will say less. And we
will agree basically what those articles should be based on our experiences
that we`ve had with our investigations and that will be what the Judiciary
Committee will be working with.
MADDOW: Can you tell us anything about the expected timeline there, either
in terms of when you and your fellow chairs are expected to meet to talk
together about these matters or when this overall is something that we
should expect to come to fruition?
WATERS: Well, it`s going to move very quickly. We met today and we will
be meeting perhaps tomorrow, programs the next day. But it`s going to move
MADDOW: When do you expect the Judiciary Committee might be considering
potential articles of impeachment?
WATERS: I don`t have that information, but I do expect that the Judiciary
Committee is prepared to move very quickly.
MADDOW: Madam Chair, one last question for you. In terms of the
investigations that you have been pursuing thus far, and I know some of
that has brought you into court. You`ve been involved in litigation to try
to shake loose documents that your committee has been seeking.
Do you feel that you have the support you need to – and the resources that
you need to get answers to the questions that you have been pursuing? Do
you feel that you have the support and the resources that you need to
follow this new process that you`re describing with regard to this new
WATERS: Well, let me just say that we have been seeking documents relative
to Deutsche Bank and his involvement with the president of the United
States, but we`ve also been seeking documents from several other banks. We
are getting information in. The information that we`re seeking that
directly speaks to the relationship between Deutsche Bank and Trump, we
don`t have yet. It is still under litigation.
Now, remember – if you remember, we sought subpoenas, we got subpoenas, we
got support for that. That has been absolutely opposed by the Trump
lawyers, and so now we`re still in court. And we have to follow the court
No, I don`t have all of the information that I need in order to move
forward with specific language that would go into the impeachment inquiry.
MADDOW: Given what you`re describing about how fast this is moving, this
specific new proceeding announced today by the speaker. As far as I
remember from looking at the congressional calendar, a new recess for
Congress I think is supposed to start on Friday of this week.
Do you know if there`s any consideration to potentially cancelling that
recess in order to keep this proceeding going rather than taking a break so
soon after it starts?
WATERS: I know that a discussion has started on that. I don`t know that
it will happen, that we will not be in recess. But I know that that is
MADDOW: Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the chair of the Financial Services
Committee in the House – Madam Chair, thank you so much for taking time to
be with us tonight.
WATERS: You`re so welcome. Thank you.
MADDOW: I appreciate it.
All right. In terms of very next steps, I said at the top this is a still
developing story. It`s been such a remarkable news day to see this story
just break open from the first inklings that the Democrats might be taking
this big step to some understanding of what the contours of that step might
be, to see this blossoming number of Democrats in the House start to
proclaim themselves as in favor of these types of impeachment proceedings
and then to see these developments as this announcement from Speaker Pelosi
has led to so many new marginal advancements in terms of what we`re allowed
to know and what is supposedly being released to Congress and the public.
The story continues to develop even since we`ve been on the air tonight.
NBC News is now reporting that the White House does intend to give Congress
the whistleblower complaint, at least a version of the whistleblower`s
complaint by Thursday. The complaint will reportedly go through a
classification review and then Congress will get it.
I mean, bottom line here, we haven`t known about this whistleblower`s
existence or about this complaint for very long. The complaint was
reportedly filed on August 12th. It`s a member of the intelligence
community who was reportedly disturbed by something he or she observed when
it came to President Trump and his contact with foreign leaders. That
whistleblower conveyed that information by the process that he or she was
supposed to under law in a way that should protect him or her from
retaliation up to and including losing his or her job or being prosecuted.
The White House then apparently intervened to stop that complaint from
being conveyed to Congress. That has led to these two twin stories. The
stymieing of the congressional oversight process, including what is
supposed to be a sacrosanct legal whistleblower regime and whatever it is
that so upset that whistleblower in the first place.
If the whistleblower`s complaint is conveyed to Congress because of this
announcement from Nancy Pelosi today, both of those matters will make
serious progress both in terms of the obstruction and in terms of the
content here. It`s amazing what a little focus will do to what had
previously seemed like a real impasse on a story this big.
All right. Lots to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`re continuing to follow the fallout over the president`s
handling of Ukraine, this allegation that he leaned on Ukraine to dig up
dirt on his political opponent in advance of his re-election effort.
The story keeps unfolding not in dribs and drabs over the course of today
but sort of in buckets, because there is on top of everything else a
presidential campaign going on in the middle of all of this, and not just
the president`s campaign.
There was a chorus of reaction from 2020 Democratic candidates after Nancy
Pelosi today formally launched this impeachment investigation against
President Trump. It was also a good illustration of just how fast this
thing is moving.
For example, just last week, candidate Andrew Yang, former tech executive
and entrepreneur in the 2020 primary, Andrew Yang just a week ago said he
was for impeachment but he called it impractical to try to do it without
the votes in the Senate to successfully remove the president from office.
Now after a week of fresh reporting on this president and his involvement
in the Ukraine scandal, Mr. Yang as of today has a fresh take. Quote:
Given the president`s latest actions, I think impeachment is the right path
forward. Asking foreign leaders for political help in return for aid and
then suppressing your own agency`s inquiry is egregious. There have to be
limits and Congress is right to act.
I have spoken to a lot of the 2020 presidential candidates. I have never
before had a conversation with Andrew Yang, but I`m very happy that he is
here in studio tonight.
Mr. Yang, thank you so much for being here.
ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, it`s great to be here. I
wish that we had a busy news day to talk about.
MADDOW: I know. Unfortunately, we can just chitchat for 20 minutes or so
because there`s nothing happening.
MADDOW: I will – actually, let me just say this out loud, even though I
said this to you off camera. Because we haven`t spoken before, I would
love to do a long format interview with you where you`re here for most of
the show, mostly because I have lots of questions to ask you. In this
case, you got squoze a little bit by this breaking news, but I promise
you`ll come back for a longer discussion.
YANG: Thank you. And, obviously, I mean, it is a historic occasion. So,
I just feel fortunate to have this conversation with you.
Well, let me get your reaction to what`s happened today. Obviously, this -
- what happened over the last few days and today shifted you a little bit
on this question of the president`s liability and whether he should be
pursued with an impeachment proceeding.
How have you evolved on this issue? What do you think about this latest
YANG: You know, I`m – I`m in lock-step with Nancy Pelosi. Where I think
she was reluctant earlier to pursue impeachment because she thought it
would run aground in the Senate, and then there would end up being this –
this motivating or galvanizing force for Donald Trump supporters, how he`s
being persecuted unfairly. And then after you impeach him if it doesn`t
work, then it`s hard to impeach him again.
And so, I think these were some of the things that were going through Nancy
Pelosi`s head. They were going through my head. But then this past week
when we saw just how far he`s willing to go even now after we had already
investigated his collusion with foreign powers, I feel like Nancy Pelosi
felt she had no choice but to move forward and I agree with her.
MADDOW: In terms of – I have been thinking of this as collusion 2,
Electric Boogaloo, that this is the president turning around – I mean,
literally, the day after Mueller testified, to say that he`s willing to try
– he didn`t get nailed for it, for what happened with Russia, he`s willing
to try it with Ukraine.
I guess the part of the strategic calculation the Democrats have to make
here is whether or not this is something that they should investigate,
spell out everything that happened behind it, get to the bottom of
everything, or should they just consider this the president has admitted
to, publicly admitted behavior. Is that enough to just move forward with
impeachment proceedings regardless of what else happened around this?
YANG: Well, I think this is a great catalyst, but I believe one of the
benefits of impeachment is that we can unearth new details about any of the
myriad avenues of investigation that maybe individually might not have led
YANG: But I think this is in many ways an opportunity for us to see just
what`s been going on after you turn over the rocks.
MADDOW: In terms of the president`s behavior here, your initial reaction
about this. That if he`s not removed from office by this process, that it
might politically bolster him, might make him more effective in the 2020
campaign, might make him be able to turn sort of a persecution complex into
more support from his base – do you just feel more relaxed about those
concerns or do you feel like they can`t be operative given the seriousness
of what – the thing he`s accused of?
YANG: I think it`s the latter, where at some point, you have to exercise
your constitutional authority and utilize the checks and balances system to
say, look, this is a country that has the rule of law and that you can`t
have your president colluding with foreign powers and putting pressure on
them in return for aid against political rivals.
At some point, you have to do the right thing, even if the political
calculation isn`t necessarily in your favor.
MADDOW: Uh-huh. In terms of the Democratic field – obviously, you`ve had
a slow and steady rise in the polls. You got – in a national poll, you
came in at 8 percent today.
YANG: Yes, I like that one.
MADDOW: Yes. So, I was going to say, it`s the highest standing that
you`ve had in a national poll, put – leaving in the dust a lot of your
fellow candidates who have held elective office before when you haven`t.
Obviously, you have to be really happy with where your campaign is right
now. And I feel like it`s been sort of an important stylistic difference
in the campaign that some candidates have talked about Donald Trump as
being a really singularly bad thing for the country, somebody who sort of
hit the country like a lightning strike. Whereas other candidates have
talked about the country as being sort of sick enough to elect Donald Trump
in the first place and that he should be seen as a symptom rather than a
singularly bad thing.
Where do you come down on that?
YANG: I`m very much in the camp that Donald Trump is a symptom but he`s
not the cause of all of our root problems.
YANG: If you dig in, you see that 78 percent of Americans are living
paycheck to paycheck. We automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs in
the swing states, and now, 30 percent of America`s stores and malls are
closing because of Amazon. And being a retail clerk is the most common job
in most of the country.
Even if we were to get rid of Donald Trump in 2020, and I frankly expect
him to be there and to beat him at the ballot box, then we have to do the
hard work of reversing many of the problems that got him elected in 2016.
MADDOW: If you had the choice between running against Donald Trump or
running against Mike Pence because Donald Trump just got removed –
YANG: Oh, no (ph), you just said that, President Pence.
MADDOW: President Pence. I mean, I doubt that Donald Trump is going to
get removed by the impeachment process, but today has been a weird day.
If you, Andrew Yang, had the choice of running against Donald Trump,
president, or Mike Pence, president, who do you think you`d have an easier
YANG: I would be thrilled to be running against Mike Pence because that
means that Donald Trump has been out of office for some period of time.
That would require 20 Republican senators to have a change of heart, which
as you suggest, you know, I don`t see happening. But if that were to
happen, I`d be there celebrating alongside many other Americans.
MADDOW: Andrew Yang, thank you for being here on this very, very busy day.
I look forward to having another opportunity to talk to you in this exact
same place and I look forward to seeing you at the debate next month.
YANG: Thanks. I`ll see you soon, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot. Really appreciate it. Thanks.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, on the one hand, Democrats launched impeachment proceedings
against President Trump today, a historic day. And as we have been
covering, this story is still evolving right now as I speak.
The basics are these: a whistleblower who works on the U.S. intelligence
community came forward with information about something related to
President Trump, we don`t know, because we don`t know who the whistleblower
is, and we haven`t seen the complaint.
But the whistleblower went through legal channels in a way that should have
protected him or her from retaliation or from prosecution, and that should
have resulted in their complaint, that information being conveyed to the
Congress. That didn`t happen, because the White House, with an assist from
the Justice Department, nevertheless despite the law, tried to block this
whistleblower`s complaint from being conveyed to Congress.
Well, tonight with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proclaiming that impeachment
proceedings are now underway against the president on this matter, that
seems to be shaking loose.
We have news that the whistleblower has tried to make contact with the
intelligence committees him or herself, that the intelligence committees
both want to hear testimony from that whistleblower by the end of the week.
We have information from open source reporting tonight, from “Politico”,
“New York Times,” NBC News and others, that the White House is starting to
cave on whether or not at least some version of the whistleblower`s
complaint will finally be conveyed to Congress.
There is also word from the president himself that some White House notes
on a call between the president of the United States and the president of
Ukraine may be released tomorrow. Whether or not people are going to trust
White House notes on that call or whether or not that`s going to be seen as
a primary document remains to be seen, but all of this stuff is shaking
loose, and this story continues to develop. And while all of that has been
happening today, a whole bunch of other stuff has happened with regard to
presidential scandals and indictments adjacent to and related to the
president in the Russia scandal.
Today, for example, a judge in the eastern district of Virginia vacated the
conviction, basically tossed out the conviction of Mike Flynn`s former
business partner, a man named Bijan Kian. Bijan Kian was convicted in July
by a jury, convicted on charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent
when he and Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn took on the project
for Turkey. Well, despite the jury`s ruling today, the judge in this case
today threw out the indictment, citing insufficient evidence. And so, the
Bijan Kian conviction today has been essentially wiped off the books.
We also learned today that the U.S. Justice Department has dropped what was
reported to be an ongoing investigation of Tony Podesta and Vim Weber after
two years of running that investigation. These were essentially lobbyist
and PR guys who were potentially going to be charged along the same lines
as Greg Craig for having participated in a scheme in Ukraine involving the
president`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Paul Manafort is in jail. Greg Craig was tried before a jury. His was the
first jury trial to end in an acquittal from anything derived from the
Mueller investigation. Now in the wake of Greg Craig being acquitted
before a jury, Podesta and Weber say the Justice Department has also told
them that they are not going to be charged at all.
We also tonight have some indication, although we haven`t been able to
confirm it with any court filings or documents yet, but we`re getting
reports from conservative media tonight that Trump national security
adviser Mike Flynn might have told the House Intelligence Committee that
he`s taking the Fifth. He`s invoking his Fifth Amendment rights and
refusing to testify to the House Intelligence Committee despite them
demanding that he do so.
It is remarkable for any witness to take the Fifth before Congress. It`s
remarkable in its own right. It is particularly remarkable when that same
witness is right now awaiting sentencing on federal felony charges before a
And tonight, we have also been covering over the last few days this
remarkable sort of under the radar story in which President Trump himself
has been ordered by a New York judge to testify, to give testimony in a
trial. It`s a personal injury case involving President Trump`s bodyguard
who was involved in a physical altercations outside Trump Tower in 2015
during the presidential campaign. President Trump is named as a defendant
in that case.
As of last night, as we reported here, President Trump has been ordered to
testify in that trial. The president had been ordered to give videotaped
testimony. Well, today, there was a court hearing in that case. The judge
decided to delay that trial until the first week in October. As of right
now, though, President Trump`s testimony looks like it is still expected,
even if it is not expected literally tomorrow, which is what could have
happened had the judge not made that delay today.
So, all this happening on the same day that the House proclaims impeachment
proceedings. I have a feeling I`m not going to sleep tonight.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I`m officially standing in Lawrence O`Donnell`s real estate. I
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it is time for Lawrence`s show, “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE
Good evening, Mr. O`Donnell.
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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