Public impeachment hearings begin tomorrow. TRANSCRIPT: 11/12/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: You bet, absolutely.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well.
Here at MSNBC, we work closely with, we work alongside – physically
alongside our NBC news colleagues. But that does not always mean we have
any inside information about what exactly they`re doing on the network side
and what they`re working on, and vice versa. You know, whatever we`re
working on and whatever we`re developing, they might not have, you know,
As such, when NBC News broadcasts it special report tomorrow morning on the
impeachment proceedings against President Trump, the first public
impeachment hearings in the impeachment proceedings against President
Donald J. Trump and when that NBC News special report tomorrow morning is
anchored by Lester Holt from “Nightly News” and NBC`s chief legal
correspondent, “Today Show” host Savannah Guthrie, and Chuck Todd from
“Meet the Press” – I mean, yes, we all work in the same together. Yes, we
are all part of the same big happy family, but I can`t tell you exactly
what that NBC news special coverage is going to look like.
That said, I can pretty much guarantee you it will not have a theme song as
cool or as oddly ponderous and artistic as the way NBC News played its
special theme song and lead-in to the impeachment proceedings in 1973 for
then-President Richard Nixon, because that was all covered with NBC News
special reports, too. But have you seen this? This was – they like
developed a whole theme song.
This was like the opening credits to the Watergate hearings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: NBC News special report.
ANNOUNCER: Watergate: Senate Hearings. Here from Washington is NBC News
correspondent Garrick Utley.
GARRICK UTLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. This is the Senate
caucus room in Washington, D.C., and it`s jammed this morning, jammed with
spectators, newsman, senators and their aides. And the scene adds to the
sense of drama as the Senate opens with what is likely to become the most
serious investigation it has ever made, an investigation of the American
political system and the presidency itself.
The name of the investigation is Watergate because that is the name of the
building where the Democratic Party offices were located, offices that were
broken into last year. But the investigation that begins today will go far
beyond that incident. The senators will also be asking questions about
other acts of political sabotage in last year`s presidential campaign. And
they`ll be asking about the money, secret cash that finance the sabotage,
where it came from and how it was used. That is the Senate committee,
seven members headed by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s NBC News correspondent Garrick Utley off camera but doing
like live color, live play by play of the NBC news special report on the
first day of the Watergate hearings, may 17th, 1973. Having to kind of
vamp there a little bit as everybody is getting seated. No more pictures,
no more pictures, OK, they`re convening the hearing.
And tomorrow morning, every network will do their own version of this
special report, right? As I just mentioned NBC News is going to have their
whole senior crew doing their special report. Again, 46 years and a half
on from the way it looked on Watergate.
Here in MSNBC, Brian Williams and Nicolle Wallace, they`re going to be co-
anchoring MSNBC`s special coverage starting at 9:00 a.m. All of the
networks are going to be doing something like this.
But as you can see from this vintage testimony from `73, the fact we have
done this so few times in American history means it`s hard to see any of
this as normal, right? It`s hard to extrapolate what we`ve already been
through to know exactly what it ought to be like when these hearings kick
off tomorrow. There`s nothing you can look at from `73 or from any other
impeachments that can tell you how it`s likely to go this time.
For example, I can tell you I don`t think they`re going to run that theme
music in the opening again. I will say, it`s cool enough I want to take it
for this show. What we need on this show is more tympani, I`ve always
thought so. Watergate.
Anyway, but as we head into the start of the public impeachment hearings
against President Trump tomorrow, I do think there`s an almost forgotten
element of how this was handled in Watergate that is maybe a bit
instructive for what we`re about to see tomorrow. And that is for all the
drama, for all the gravitas and momentum for that moment, that sort of
nationwide, show stopping suspense as to what would happen at those
Watergate hearings and how they would go, what we`d all learn.
For all that buildup to that first day, that first public hearing in
Watergate, do you want to know who they called their first witness that
first day, in the eyes of every single sentient human in America were on
this TV broadcast, their first witness they called on the big opening day
was the office manager whose name you will not recognize today. But even
at the time nobody recognized his name then either.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Councilman, call the first witness.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will Mr. Robert Odle please come to the witness table?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Robert Odle. See, they didn`t choreograph this for maximum drama.
This is the first witness. They didn`t have the first witness sitting
anywhere near the witness table or the front of the room. He`s got to make
his way through the whole crowd. Obviously, he`s also wearing his father`s
So there`s this choice they made to bring up their very, very young man to
be the first witness in the Watergate hearings. Nobody has ever heard of
him. They were not trying to wow the country coming out of the gate with
some big explosive witness or some big, very well-known witness right at
the top of the hearings.
They knew everybody in the country was watching. The anticipation could
not have been more dramatic, and they bring on this 29-year-old kid who had
been the office manager for the Nixon re-election campaign. And what they
had him do for most of his testimony is they literally had him take out of
a pointer, you see him holding the microphone there and holding a pointer,
and he walks through the organizational chart of how the Nixon re-election
campaign was organized. Who was running it, who was running security, who
was deputy to who, where did everybody sit?
The morning after that first hearing, the front page of “The New York
Times” had Robert Odle Jr., there he is, age 29, on the front page of “The
New York Times” pointing at the org chart for the Nixon re-election
campaign. It might not have been the blockbuster beginning that the
country had been hoping for.
But looking back at that now and especially knowing how things unfolded
over Watergate, it kind of looks like that might have been a good way to
start on day one. It just made sense in terms of setting the stage for
what the whole country was going to learn. As those hearings would
ultimately stretch on and on, through the late spring and into the summer,
those hearings almost lay the groundwork for the president`s resignation
the following year.
But they brought on the office manager for the campaign at the very start
of the Watergate hearings. And the effect of that was to introduce someone
to the country who was totally normal and who was not involved of any of
the criminal behavior at the heart of this scandal. Someone who wasn`t
even necessarily a witness to the core and most serious wrongdoing that
Congress was investigating in Watergate. I mean, by starting with him, by
starting with this guy, Bob Odle, the Watergate committee essentially
calibrated our moral vision for what we were about to learn.
They started us off with a normal law-abiding person who hadn`t done
anything wrong, somebody who is behaving in a normal, rational law-abiding
manner. In so doing, through his eyes, we could see how abnormal the
president`s behavior was and how abnormal was the behavior of the
president`s henchman, how wrong and weird and inappropriate it all was when
these crimes started to happen, and when the criminal conspiracy kicked in
to try to cover up those crimes.
I mean, as much as President Nixon at the time and his defenders might have
wanted to characterize his actions as normal politics, everybody does it,
nothing to see here. Through the eyes of a normal person trying to do his
job, caught up in the middle of this, you could actually see through him,
that first witness actually this wasn`t normal at all, this was totally
weird and wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT ODLE: One of the things that happened, and I very honestly don`t
know if it happened before or after the phone call, is I saw Mr. Liddy as I
testified at the trial.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he call you?
ODLE: No, sir, nobody called anybody. I saw him in the hall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see.
ODLE: And he asked me where the paper shredder was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
ODLE: The paper shredder. The paper shredder was a very famous big paper
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there a big paper shredder – was there more than
ODLE: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he asked where the big paper shredder is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ask him why he wanted to know?
ODLE: No, sir, I didn`t. I said it`s in there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he have anything with him?
ODLE: Not at that time. He later came out and said how do you work it,
and I said you press the button. And then later on, I saw him with a pile
of papers perhaps a foot high.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what was he doing with it?
ODLE: He was on his way in the shredding room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see him shredding the paper?
ODLE: No, but I assume that he was going to shred them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you shred papers of that sort and that quantity
ODLE: No, sir, I don`t.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does anyone?
ODLE: Well –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, well. Is it normal to be shredding a foot tall pile of
paper at the president`s re-election campaign headquarters just after we
learn there`s been a mysterious break in into one of our opponent`s
offices. Well, I mean, it was not normal for me, sir. Normal?
That was the first witness in the televised public Watergate hearings which
ultimately led to President Richard Nixon`s resignation. The office
manager in the re-election campaign, right, who is just, earnest just
trying to do his job, not caught up in Nixon`s crimes until that he saw
some of the residue of the crimes and that criminal behavior around him in
this office he was managing. And he was able to describe on that first day
of hearings the sort of creeping revelation that something was wrong.
He was able to describe that through the eyes of somebody who hadn`t really
expected anything to be wrong and who himself was not in on any of the
crimes. Do you see how that`s sort of like a moral calibration, right,
rather than starting with a villain, rather than starting with somebody
who`s got an axe to grind? Starting with somebody that happens to be
there, whoa, what`s going on here?
Tomorrow, the impeachment hearings against President Trump, only the fourth
impeachment proceedings against a sitting president in the United States.
Tomorrow they will not start with the campaign office manager, but they are
going to start with two witnesses. The current top diplomat for the U.S.
government in Ukraine. You may remember he was sent on short notice after
America`s previous ambassador for that country got recalled from her post
which is apparently part of the scheme for which President Trump is now
impeached. They needed her out of there so she wouldn`t stand in their way
for what they were trying to get the Ukraine government to do.
We`re going to hear from that recalled ambassador on Friday of this week.
But tomorrow, we`ll hear from the veteran diplomat who was called in on
short notice to take her place after she was fired and his name was
Ambassador Bill Taylor. And we`ll also hear tomorrow from the top career
official at the State Department who has responsible for Ukraine, Deputy
Assistant Secretary of State George Kent.
And as far as we understand it, these two witnesses are going to be seated
at the same time, so presumably next to each other at this witness hearing.
It will held in a large committee hearing room at the Longworth House
Office Building, which is really ornate, really large room. It sometimes
can be mistaken for the House chamber. It`s a big room you can fit a lot
of people in, and it`s very fancy.
The proceedings will start tomorrow morning. Doors will open at 9:45 for
people to take their seats, and for the press to get into their positions.
And then 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, the hearings will be gaveled into order.
There will be opening statements from California Democratic Congressman
Adam Schiff who chairs the intelligence committee and after him there`ll be
an opening statement from Devon Nunes, who`s the top Republican on that
And after their opening statements, both of the witnesses, Bill Taylor and
George Kent, will be sworn in. There`ll be time for them to give opening
remarks as well although we don`t know if either of them will do so. And
then the question will start.
Technically, the first 45 minutes of questioning on each side belongs to
the top Democrat and top Republican on the committee, again Adam Schiff and
Devin Nunes. But at least Schiff, if not both of them are expected to give
up most of that time, to cede most of that opening 45 minutes for each side
to lawyers who have been hired by the committee in part with an eye towards
this process. So, Adam Schiff and Devin Nunes can take back any of that
time they want. They can do any of that questioning themselves, but we`re
expecting in all likelihood it`ll start after those opening statements, 45
minutes by the lawyer on the Democratic side and 45 minutes by the lawyer
on the Republican side.
For those of us who are going to be watching this at home trying to follow
along, that`s probably a blessing. It means there`ll at least be
continuity at the start. They`ll be continuity of purpose in questioning
that is not continuously interrupted by needing to flip to a new questioner
every few minutes, right? That`s how it`ll start, two 45-minute chunks
from Democrats and Republicans.
And after that, we`ll get into that disorienting rhythm where each member
on the committee, all the remaining 20 members of the committee, 13
Democrats and nine Republicans including the chair and ranking member on
each side, all the remaining members will each get five minutes to do their
questioning. Thereafter it`ll ping-pong back and forth between the
Democratic and Republican members.
And so, we shall see how all that goes. I can`t wait, like I don`t know
how I`m going to sleep tonight in part because this is historic thing.
There aren`t very many Americans since the history – since the origins of
our country who have lived through an impeachment. Just hasn`t happened
very many times in our history as a country.
To be here for it, let alone to have the privilege to cover it as a news
story is humbling and exciting thing.
We also learned late tonight just before getting on the air tonight a
little bit more about the overall schedule for these hearings after
tomorrow. This first one tomorrow, George Kent and William Taylor are the
witnesses. We`ve known for several days now that the second hearing will
be Friday of this week with that ambassador recalled from Ukraine, Marie
But just tonight, Chairman Schiff announced the next several days of
impeachment hearings which will be next week Tuesday, Wednesday and
Thursday. But they`re divided into morning and afternoon sessions.
Tuesday in the morning, the public hearing will include testimony from
Jennifer Williams. She`s the only official from the vice president`s
office who`s been called to testify thus far. She`ll testify Tuesday
morning alongside Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.
He`s the active duty military office who serves as the top Ukraine official
on the National Security Council at the White House. He`s the lieutenant
colonel in the Army who`s been vilified and attacked by Republican members
of Congress and particularly by the conservative media. He`s going to
testify in public in these impeachment proceedings a week from today in
that morning session with Jennifer Williams.
And then on Tuesday morning – excuse me, Tuesday afternoon next week,
there`ll be a second session with two more witnesses. Kurt Volker recently
resigned as the U.S. government special envoy to Ukraine. He resigned that
job right after he was first summoned to testify with the impeachment.
He`s going to testify publicly Tuesday afternoon alongside Tim Morrison,
who`s an acolyte of John Bolton, recently fired as national security
advisor. Morrison is another senior national security official who has
responsibility for Russia.
And Wednesday morning next week, Ambassador Gordon Sondland will testify.
There`s been questions as to whether or not he`d be summoned for a public
hearing given the reported problems for some of his closed door testimony.
Another one of his witnesses contradicted things he said in his testimony.
That led among other things to Sondland submitting a revision to his
testimony where he said he suddenly recalled things he previously hadn`t
recalled when he`d been asked about them under oath. But he`ll be
Wednesday morning on his own.
And then Wednesday afternoon, it`ll be Defense Department official Laura
Cooper who will testify as well as David Hale who I believe is the number
three official in the State Department.
And Thursday of next week, yet another public impeachment hearing. And
again, as far as we know this one will feature a solo witness, Dr. Fiona
Hill, whose deposition transcript honestly read like a spy thriller. She
before Tim Morrison was the top Russia official on the National Security
Council. She`s also just a veteran national security official in
Washington who served multiple presidents.
So all told, in terms of what we understand of this schedule, that means
we`re looking at seven different public impeachment hearings that are now
scheduled just between tomorrow and the end of next week. Again, some of
them will be broken down into two sessions per day. But when things kick
off tomorrow, I do think we`re going to see a little bit of a – at least a
conceptual parallel between how the Watergate hearings started back in `73
and how these hearings are starting tomorrow.
Not because, you know, either of the witnesses we`re going to hear from
tomorrow is the office manager, right? Neither of these witnesses is
Robert Odle Jr. and his, you know, dad suit and sitting in the back of the
room and making his way down and holding the pointer, and no, I don`t
usually shred stuff. It`s not going to be – I don`t think we`re going to
recognize Mr. Odle in the characters that we see tomorrow as these
But with both George Kent and Bill Taylor, the guys you are going to hear
from tomorrow, you do have this sort of same dynamic at work that you had
that the start of the Watergate hearings, which is that these public
impeachment hearings are going to start with people who can attest to what
normal is. It`s going to start with people who know how things are done
normally in the U.S. government and in U.S. foreign policy, who knows –
they know how normal policy disputes arise and are resolved. And they know
what U.S. policy is towards Ukraine and how it`s carried out.
They`re both super high level subject matter experts in this area of the
world in which they were both working for the State Department, which means
they know how things are supposed to go. They know how the U.S. government
is supposed to work. And they understand Ukraine. They know the
importance of those normal ways of doing things being abandoned. They know
the importance of our relationship with this country, Ukraine, being
perverted for some self-serving, improper and possibly illegal purpose by
the president and people who directed to act on his behalf.
So they get not only what went wrong but what the stakes were of it, right?
These are two officials we`re going to hear from tomorrow who understood
how things were supposed to be and who are almost uniquely qualified to
recognize what was going wrong and what the cost of that would be, how much
this scheme that the president was carrying out was going to screw up
something that`s actually very important for our country.
And we know they`re able to attest to that because of their biographies but
also because of their deposition transcripts, from their closed door
testimony. Those transcripts have already been released. I mean, here`s
Bill Taylor staking his claim on that right at the start of his testimony,
right in his opening statement, making clear what the stakes are here in
terms of what the president messed with about what`s supposed to be normal
here and how we`re supposed to be behaving towards this crucial ally and
why it matters someone might have messed that up for their own purposes.
Taylor says, quote: At the outset, I would like to convey several key
points. First, Ukraine is a strategic partner of the United States,
important for the security of country as well as Europe. Ukraine is right
at this moment while we sit in this room and for the last five years under
armed attack from Russia. The security assistance we provide is crucial to
Ukraine`s defense against Russian aggression. And more importantly, it
sends a signal to Ukrainians and the Russians that we are Ukraine`s
reliable strategic partner.
And finally, as the committees are now aware I said on September 9th in a
text message to Ambassador Gordon Sondland that the United States
withholding security assistance with Ukraine in exchange for help with a
domestic political campaign in the United States, that would be crazy. He
says, quote, I believe that then and I still believe that.
That is Bill Taylor testifying about what`s normal in terms of our
relationship toward Ukraine and why it matters and why it would be crazy to
throw that away, to screw that up, to upend that entirely for some domestic
political gain that we`re trying to illegally extort out of that country
for our own purposes.
George Kent, sort of same deal. I think George Kent is there tomorrow to
calibrate, again, what is normal and how things are supposed to happen so
we can see how radical and damaging the president`s behavior was when he
came in and started messing around for his own purposes with this country
with whom we have a very important relationship for a very important
Here is from George Kent`s testimony that we`ve already seen. Quote: On
August 15th, Catherine Croft came into my office and asked me – she said
she was trying to find out some information on behalf of special
representative Kurt Volker. She said, you, George, you know about our
relations with Ukraine, particularly in law enforcement. Have we ever
asked the Ukrainians to investigate anybody?
And I told her, well, Catherine, there are two ways of look at that
question. If there was a crime committed in the United States and there`s
some nexus for us to take action, we have two mechanisms for that. We have
a mutual legal assistance treaty and we have the legal attaches of the
embassy. That`s a way a law enforcement investigation should engage the
But then he says the other option, maybe what you`re asking is the
political option. And if you`re asking if we have ever gone to the
Ukrainians and asked them to investigate or prosecute individuals for
political reasons, the answer is I hope we haven`t, and we shouldn`t
because that goes against everything we`re trying to promote in post-Soviet
states in the last 28 years, which is the promotion of the rule of law.
Kent says: And that was as I said August 15th. The 16th, the next day, I
had a conversation with Bill Taylor in which he amplified the same theme.
Taylor indicated that Special Representative Volker had been engaging an
assistant to the Ukrainian president. That President Trump and his private
attorney, Rudy Giuliani, were interested in the initiation of
investigations. And I told Bill Taylor that is wrong, we should not be
doing that as a matter of U.S. policy.
The questioner then says what did he say, what did Taylor say?
Kent answers, he said he agreed with me. Quote: So after having these two
conversations, I wrote a note to the file saying I had concerns there was
an effort to initiate politically motivated prosecutions that were
injurious to the rule of law, both in Ukraine and the United States.
Injurious to the rule of law there and here.
And now, those two officials who had that conversation, who agreed that
this was wrong, this is not the way this is done, there is a legal and
proper way to engage with Ukraine on real investigations and real law
enforcement matters if there is some real concern here under U.S. law.
But that`s not what`s happening here. Doing this for political reasons to
try to affect political outcomes in the United States is wrong under U.S.
law. It`s also wrong and hurtful to this key ally of ours who at this
moment is fighting a war with Russia, and we`re undermining them in that
war with everything we are doing here.
I mean, these are the two guys who maybe more than anybody get that. And
they will start the public impeachment proceedings against president Trump
tomorrow. And it is not going to be, you know, Bob Odle standing there
with a pointer pointing at an org chart for the Nixon campaign. At least I
don`t think they`re going to do anything like that.
But it is going to be starting from the perspective of people who know how
things are supposed to go and what the legal and proper channels are
supposed to flow through, what those channels are. And I think that starts
us off basically with a moral calibration, so we can sort of calibrate our
moral vision so that the country through these impeachment hearings will be
able to see how wrong it was and how injurious it was when President Trump
came in and started acting for himself here instead of for the interests of
the United States of America.
And to that end, I will tell you one other thing you should know before
that testimony tomorrow. I`m not sure how much pickup this has had today
if any. But I mentioned that Bill Taylor is serving as the top U.S.
diplomat in Ukraine right now. So he`s based at the embassy in Kiev. He`s
obviously had to leave Ukraine and come back to the U.S. in order to give
this public testimony tomorrow.
But before he did so, Bill Taylor just published an op-ed in a weekly
newspaper in Ukraine, and that op-ed that he wrote is running right now in
that weekly paper ahead of his impeachment testimony tomorrow. And in this
op-ed, Bill Taylor says nothing about impeachment explicitly, nothing about
president Trump, but he sets the scale – he zeros it again, right? He
calibrates our vision again back to what is normal and how the U.S.
government is supposed to behave towards Ukraine and why.
He`s very emphatic about it. This is what he says in this brand new op-ed.
He says, quote, the United States stands side by side with the people and
government of Ukraine ready to help Ukraine achieve its goals, halting
Russia`s aggression against Ukraine and cementing Ukraine`s place in the
Euro-Atlantic community. The United States is firmly committed to
Ukraine`s success. Your success is our success.
We will not allow Russia to dismantle the international order that was
painstakingly built after World War II. The concepts of sovereignty,
territorial integrity, peaceful resolution of disputes will benefit all
nations. Russia`s war against Ukraine shreds the international norms that
kept peace and enabled prosperity for decades. The United States continues
to provide weapons and training and equipment to Ukraine`s armed forces,
and we continue to impose sanctions on Russia for its illegal actions in
This is Bill Taylor writing in Ukraine today, setting the sort of benchmark
what used to be the noncontroversial, nonpartisan U.S. policy toward
Ukraine and what U.S. support for that country was and why.
And then he closes with this. Quote: As everyone who promotes democracy
knows, strengthening and protecting democratic values is constant process
requiring persistence and steady work by both officials and ordinary
He says, quote: As in all democracies including the United States, work
remains in Ukraine especially to strengthen rule of law and to hold
accountable those who try to subvert Ukraine`s structures to serve their
personal aims rather than the nation`s interests.
Bill Taylor, America`s top diplomat in Ukraine writing that op-ed in a
Ukrainian newspaper before flying back to this country to give testimony in
the public impeachment proceedings against President Trump tomorrow. Work
remains to strengthen the rule of law and to hold accountable those who try
to subvert these structures to serve their personal aims rather than the
nation`s interests. Work remains.
This is an exciting eve. We`ve got Michael Beschloss here tonight to talk
about what history tells us we should be watching for in the morning.
Chuck Rosenberg is here with us tonight. We got a lot to get to.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you were employed on January 21st, 1969, and
continued to be employed until March 14th of this year, is that correct?
ALEXANDER BUTTERFIELD, NIXON AIDE: That`s correct.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you aware of the installation of any listening
devices in the Oval Office of the president?
BUTTERFIELD: I was aware of listening devices, yes, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nixon aide Alexander Butterfield`s shocking admission July 1973
that there were listening devices inside the Oval Office. That came a full
two months into the Senate Watergate hearings. They started in May. That
didn`t happy until July.
That, of course, is the development that would ultimately lead to President
Richard Nixon`s resignation the following year. It was two months in. The
Watergate hearings didn`t start off with that kind of fireworks.
On day one of the Watergate hearings, they started off with the Nixon
campaign office manager. “The Washington Post” reported, quote, if you
like to watch grass grow you would have loved the opening yesterday of the
Senate Collect Committee`s hearings on Watergate.
Well, tomorrow, the House Intelligence committee will kick off its first
day of public impeach hearings with testimony from the top U.S. diplomat in
Ukraine and top U.S. official at the State Department with responsibility
for that part of the world. Both of them saw up close the impact of
President Trump trying to pressure Ukraine into investigating his domestic
political opponents and hanging up U.S. aid to that country to add to the
pressure that they must do so.
Joining us now is NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
Michael, it`s great to have you here. Thank you so much for joining us
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: My pleasure as always,
MADDOW: Let me ask you first to correct me or put me in better context if
you think I`ve laid that out poorly in the way the way Watergate hearings
BESCHLOSS: No, I think you`re absolutely right. And what they were trying
to do in the Watergate hearings was sort of courtroom procedure. You start
off with the manager and he describes how the Nixon campaign was organized
and you sort of work your way up. John Dean who was star witness didn`t
testify until something like about five weeks later.
And the other thing is unlike tomorrow, before the Watergate Senate
hearings began, people may have had suspicions that Richard Nixon was at
the center of the cover-up, but they could not know that for sure. Nor
could they know as you were saying a moment ago the fact that Richard Nixon
was taping most of his private conversations, which would completely alter
the outcome of the case.
MADDOW: Michael, one of the things that I learned tonight looking at that
old news footage of the way the first day the hearings were covered in
Watergate was that at least according to the White House, Richard Nixon
didn`t watch, that he didn`t have a TV setup in the part of the White House
he was spending his time at the time the hearings were on. The White House
made clear, went out of their way to say he was working on much more
important things and wasn`t going to spend time engaged in this Watergate
MADDOW: I wonder if looking back on that, if historians feel the Nixon
administration was out of sync or not paying close enough attention to
recognize the impact that those hearings were having on the country and on
perceptions of Nixon himself.
BESCHLOSS: I think that`s right, although Nixon probably watched a little
bit more than people were claiming. He was trying to suggest that he was
not being affected. And even in support of that theory, it was mentioned
that Charles de Gaulle did not have a telephone in his office in Paris, so
Nixon was sort of emulating de Gaulle and keeping his distance from the
But that`s exactly right. Nixon had no idea these hearings would move
public opinion as much as it did. But as you were suggesting, you know, it
took a while, because the Senate Watergate hearings which were not
impeachment hearings, those were an investigation. Those began 15 months
before Nixon finally resigned.
But we`re talking about now is a period that`s about to be much more sped
MADDOW: Michael, to that point, one of things you`ve raised in the past in
terms of trying to find some guidance in history here, is that an unusual
thing about these impeachment proceedings is they`re happening before the
president`s re-election effort rather than happening in a second-term,
which we saw with both Clinton and Nixon.
Now, part of the reason for that is situation specific. I mean, what the
House believes they found here was an effort by President Trump to cheat in
the forthcoming election, to engage a foreign power to illegally intervene
to benefit him and his campaign. And so, that put some urgency on trying
to hold him accountable for that before that election takes place.
I wonder how you`re thinking about that though in how that dynamic play
differently in the Trump impeachment that it hasn`t in those others, given
that the re-election campaign looms.
BESCHLOSS: Yes, well, I think it`s going to be more super heated, more
divided atmosphere even than it was at the beginning of Watergate, which
became even more so.
MADDOW: NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss – Michael, it
is always good to see you. This is –
BESCHLOSS: Thank you.
MADDOW: – a sort of rivetingly historic time. I know we`ll be talking to
you a lot in the next few days. Thank you, sir.
BESCHLOSS: Fascinating. Thank you so much.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to get to. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I don`t know what it`s like to be a president on the eve of the
public impeachment hearings against you. I don`t know how it feels. I
don`t know what would be a best case scenario for a president in such
But I know it`s probably closer to a worst-case scenario to have spent the
eve of your public impeachment hearings watching your deputy campaign
chairman testifying against you in a criminal trial, testifying for the
prosecution, testifying that you the president appeared to have lied under
oath to the special counsel. It is probably also approaching a worst case
scenario for day one of your public impeachment hearings to start just as
jury deliberation simultaneously start in the ongoing criminal trial
against your longest standing political advisor.
That is how the president is getting ready for his impeachment today, and
the overlap gets even more uncomfortable than that. That story`s next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: It is amazing that it is happening at the same time that
impeachment hearings are starting against the president. But there were on
their own terms very headline-grabbing moments from the courtroom today in
the trial of President Trump`s long time political advisor, Roger Stone,
whose testimony today in court from Trump`s deputy campaign chairman Rick
And according to Gate`s testimony, the Trump campaign was told months
before WikiLeaks ever posted any stolen Democratic documents months before
they were told months before they were told that WikiLeaks was going to
start doing that during the campaign.
Rick Gates also testified today he witnessed a phone call between Trump and
Roger Stone about a forthcoming document dump from WikiLeaks. And that
sure makes it seem that the president may have lied in his written
testimony to Robert Mueller when he told Mueller in writing that he never
talked to Roger Stone about that subject.
So those headlines from the testimony are bad, right, particularly as the
public impeachment proceedings are about to start tomorrow. But the
testimony itself is just – even beyond those headlines, it`s just deadly.
I just want to read you this. We just got in the transcript from today`s
trial. Check this out.
Prosecutor, quote, do you recall, sir, on June 14th, 2016, the Democratic
National Committee announced that it had been racked by the Russian
government. Rick Gates, yes, I do. Question, and did you have
conversations with senior leadership of the Trump campaign regarding the
DNC`s announcement? Answer, we did.
Question, what was the campaign`s attitude toward the DNC`s announcement
that it had been hacked by the Russian government? Answer, we believe it
information were to come out based on what we were told that information
might be about, there were a number of us that felt it would give our
campaign a leg up. Mr. Stone indicated that he wanted to reach out to
Jared Kushner and political director Jim Murphy to debrief them on the
developments of the DNC announcement.
Question, on July – were there any brainstorming sessions done at that
point? Answer, oh, yes. Prior to July, there were brainstorming sessions
on the idea of if the information was leaked, what would the campaigns say
And then once WikiLeaks did release the hacked material, question, what was
the campaign`s attitude towards the release? Answer, the fact the
information had come out, the campaign was in a state of happiness.
When the Trump campaign heard that specifically the Russian government had
hacked the Democratic Party, they thought that was great for them. They
thought they could definitely use that to their advantage. They then held
brainstorming sessions about how they`d plan to use this stuff that had
been hacked and stolen by the Russian government.
And when the material hacked by the Russian government was indeed actually
released, which they say they had months of warning about, the campaign was
– what`s the phrase? – in a state of happiness.
Public impeachment hearings start tomorrow over the president`s efforts to
use a foreign government to help him win the next election. Today`s
courtroom drama in the Roger Stone case, a timely reminder about the first
time he did exactly that.
Joining us now is Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney from the Eastern
District of Virginia, former senior official at the Justice Department and
Chuck, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: My pleasure. Thank you for having
MADDOW: I am allergic to Roger Stone, so I find it hard to talk about him
as a character, because he still wants to be viewed this character. But it
does seem to me that what he`s ended being important about this trial is
that we learned a lot about the Trump campaign and indeed the president and
their interactions around the Russian documents that were stolen and the
Russian efforts to interfere in the election.
ROSENBERG: Of course. I mean, of course, they`re in a state of happiness.
This is big deal. The Russians hacked into the DNC and DCCC computers and
stole stuff, that would be helpful to the president – well, then candidate
Trump and the campaign. Of course, they`re happy about that.
MADDOW: In term of the president`s, I mean, I`m reluctant to say liability
here, but the testimony from Rick Gates today suggests when the president
told Mueller in his written answers, I didn`t have a conversation with
Roger Stone about WikiLeaks, I don`t know if anybody in the campaign ever
talked to Roger Stone or anybody else about WikiLeaks, let alone the
advance knowledge of the timing of those releases, Gates is saying, I
witnessed a conversation between Trump and Stone where that`s exactly what
they talked about.
ROSENBERG: Right. In the president`s written responses, his lawyer put in
an important caveat. Let me give you two statements to illustrate the
point. I have never been a guest on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. Demonstrably
false. You`re a witness.
ROSENBERG: We could use the tape to prove that I lied.
I don`t recall being a guest on the Rachel Maddow. Prove that false.
That`s much tougher.
And in the witness responses everything is caveated. I think that`s a
verb. Everything includes the disclaimer, I don`t recall, to the best of
So I don`t doubt that the president had those conversations, but you`re
going to have a hard time proving it because he caveated it with the “I
MADDOW: In terms of the odd, sort of, news gods, sort of joke of
coincidence of the jury deliberations likely starting tomorrow in the Stone
trial just as the impeachment hearings are being convened for President
Trump and the Ukraine matter, I have to ask you about this parallel that a
lot of us in the news business are drawing, between the Russian effort to
interfere in the 2016 election to benefit President Trump and what we now
know in part of the Stone trial, about the way the Trump campaign welcome
The parallel we`re drawing between that and what the president was trying
to elicit from Ukraine for 2020, do you look at those things and see them
as parallel if not equivalent?
ROSENBERG: I look at them as parallel but not perfectly so. For instance,
the Russian effort started in 2014. We know that. That`s in the Mueller
That`s when the Russians tried to get four of their operatives into the
United States. Two of them eventually came on false visas. And so, that
was even before we knew who the candidates would be.
In this case, it was the president soliciting help, right? One is Russia
gifting it to the Trump campaign, and they appear to be willingly, happily
accepting it. But this one is little bit different, right? In broad
strokes, it`s parallel, but the president is going out and soliciting help
for his campaign, using publicly appropriated military aid for Ukraine.
MADDOW: Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of
Virginia, former senior FBI and senior Justice Department official, a
person I will say talking to you ability these matters and the way in which
you present this information is one of my benchmarks and one of the reasons
I`m very excited that it`s going to be trained prosecutors conducting the
testimony – conducting the questioning tomorrow.
ROSENBERG: Me too.
We shall tell you that Chuck is the host of an awesome MSNBC podcast which
is called “The Oath.” This week on “The Oath”, Chuck sits down with the
former ambassador with Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, who honestly is a force of
Chuck, I really appreciate you here, my friend. Thanks a lot.
ROSENBERG: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This is my favorite kind of breaking news. At the very top of the
show tonight, I was caviling about how NBC covered the first day of the
Watergate hearings in 1973, specifically this title sequence that was the
lead-in to the live NBC News special report for the first day of the
Watergate hearings in `73. And I caviled about this for obvious reasons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: NBC News special report.
ANNOUNCER: Watergate: Senate hearings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I was like we are definitely taking that special report theme song
from 1973. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW needs more tympani.
Well, because you are all the best viewers in the world, I am now informed
and absolutely convinced that is Berlioz symphony, that is from Symphonie
fantastique composed in 1830.
And here`s the amazing thing, because you are the best viewers in the
world, I almost can`t believe NBC was this on the nose with its music
choice that day. But it wasn`t just Symphonie fantastique, the music NBC
used as the lead-in to the impeachment hearings in May 1973 was
specifically from the fourth movement of that symphony which had a title.
The title was “March to the Scaffold.”
Thank you to RACHEL MADDOW SHOW viewers for knowing your French composers -
MADDOW: Tomorrow starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, Brian Williams and Nicolle
Wallace will anchor MSNBC`s live special coverage of the Trump impeachment
If you can`t get a TV but you can get to an Internet-connected device, you
should know that the hearings will also be live-streamed at NBCnews.com.
Today, obviously, is a historic day. The president himself the subject of
those impeachment hearings, what will he be up to on his big day? Well,
he`ll be welcoming the authoritarian leader of Turkey, President Erdogan,
to an Oval Office meeting, followed by a joint press conference.
You recall that the last time President Trump talked with Erdogan, he
immediately abandoned our Kurdish allies. The last time Erdogan visited
the United States, you might remember his security team beat up a bunch of
American protesters here in the United States. So, basically anything
could happen tomorrow. Get a good night`s sleep.
We`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” where Ari Melber is in for Lawrence
Good evening, Ari.
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