Public impeachment hearings begin tomorrow. TRANSCRIPT: 11/12/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Transcript:

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,

total transparency. 

 

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. 

 

(MUSIC)

 

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

suit. 

 

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

shredder. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Was there a big paper shredder – was there more than

one? 

 

ODLE:  Yes, sir. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And he asked where the big paper shredder is? 

 

ODLE:  Right. 

 

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

regularly? 

 

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

committee. 

 

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

Yovanovitch. 

 

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

witnesses.

 

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

reason. 

 

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

Ukrainians.

 

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

Ukraine. 

 

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

citizens. 

 

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. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(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

tonight. 

 

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  My pleasure as always,

Rachel. 

 

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

started. 

 

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

circus.

 

BESCHLOSS:  Right.

 

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

television. 

 

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

up. 

 

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. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

circumstances.

 

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. 

 

(COMEMRCIAL BREAK)

 

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

Gates. 

 

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 respond? 

 

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

FBI. 

 

Chuck, it`s great to see you.  Thanks for being here. 

 

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  My pleasure.  Thank you for having

me.

 

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. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes.

 

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

my recollection. 

 

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

don`t recall”. 

 

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

that. 

 

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

report. 

 

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.

 

MADDOW:  Yes.

 

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

nature. 

 

Chuck, I really appreciate you here, my friend.  Thanks a lot.

 

ROSENBERG:  Thanks for having me.

 

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ll be right back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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. 

 

(MUSIC)

 

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 -

-

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

hearings. 

 

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

tonight.

 

Good evening, Ari.

 

 

                                                                                                               

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

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