Trump to make announcement on shutdown. TRANSCRIPT: 1/18/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again
tomorrow. Now it is time for “The Last Word” with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel, and thanks for
returning that blue blazer to my closet –
O`DONNELL: – from last night. So –
MADDOW: Sorry about the makeup on the collar.
O`DONNELL: So, if we ever –
O`DONNELL: – if we ever get to infrastructure week –
O`DONNELL: It`s going to be really interesting because it isn`t about
infrastructure. It`s all about the Trump version of this, of course. It is
all about really big tax breaks to pavement companies, to companies that
are in the road-building business, and it`s not really about any government
spending or anything that would actually produce any infrastructure at all.
And so I`m kind of eager to get to infrastructure week. I have a funny
feeling we never will. I have a funny feeling the rhythm of this isn`t
going to allow us to get there.
MADDOW: It stands in for this idea that the Trump administration is eager
to work on policy issues, particularly those on which there might be areas
of agreement with Democrats. Like, it`s a – it`s a little avatar that
means that. And they don`t mean any of that.
And so they just pop the avatar up there whenever they want you to stop
talking about whatever else is actually going on in the administration. But
it`s like this little kind of puppet that they take out whenever they want
to seem like there is somebody who they`re not.
O`DONNELL: Yeah. As far as I can tell so far, there`s not one sentence of
agreement on what infrastructure legislation would be between Democrats and
O`DONNELL: Yeah. Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks. Have a good weekend.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. If true, those are the important words of the night.
If true, that`s the phrase that we always use when discussing stories that
aren`t yet proven to be true. And that`s the language that I used here
repeatedly last night at this hour when BuzzFeed reported that Michael
Cohen has told special prosecutor Robert Mueller that President Trump
ordered him to lie under oath to Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL (on camera): Is Michael Cohen – if this is proven true –
guilty of lying to Congress as a crime? Is he guilty of perjury as a crime?
Is the president of the United States guilty of suborning perjury if this
report is true?
JILL WINE-BANKS, LAWYER: Yes, yes and yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And now 24 hours later, the breaking news of the night is that
the special prosecutor`s office is disputing BuzzFeed`s reporting, but we
don`t know exactly what the special prosecutor`s office is disputing within
that reporting. Robert Mueller`s spokesperson issued a written statement
saying, “BuzzFeed`s description of specific statements to the special
counsel`s office and characterization of documents and testimony obtained
by this office, regarding Michael Cohen`s congressional testimony are not
BuzzFeed issued a statement standing by its reporting, and then issued a
second statement, asking the special prosecutor to specify what is not
accurate in their reporting. BuzzFeed`s report last night was attributed to
two unnamed “federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation
of this matter.”
Now, that certainly sounds like a description of two people working on
Robert Mueller`s team. That would be one way to describe people working on
Robert Mueller`s team. Two federal law enforcement officials involved in an
investigation of this matter. Identifying the sources that way might have
been part of why the special counsel`s office took the rare step of
commenting on reporting like this.
Normally, the special counsel`s office doesn`t say a word about
investigative reporting like this. Tonight`s statement by the special
counsel`s office might be Robert Mueller`s way of saying those two federal
law enforcement officials don`t work for me. They`re not on my Mueller
team. The special counsel`s statement disputes the “characterization of
documents and testimony obtained by this office regarding Michael Cohen`s
Now, that seems to take direct issue with this paragraph of last night`s
BuzzFeed report. “The special counsel`s office learned about Trump`s
directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple
witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company e-mails, text
messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those
instructions during his interviews with that office.”
The timing and content of the BuzzFeed story last night put more pressure
on the special counsel`s office than possibly any other news report that
has come before it. Senator Chris Murphy said, “listen, if Mueller does
have multiple sources confirming Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress,
then we need to know this ASAP. Mueller shouldn`t end his inquiry, but it`s
about time for him to show Congress his cards before it`s too late for us
Now, Senator Chris Murphy is a patient person. But even his patience with
Robert Mueller`s investigation was tested by last night`s BuzzFeed report
that if true, would have meant the president of the United States was
clearly guilty of impeachable offenses. And it could be that one of the
reasons Robert Mueller decided to respond to this story is because
impeachment is now a real possibility for the president.
And it wasn`t last year, because last year, the evidence like this could
come forward, and because Paul Ryan and the Republicans controlled the
House of Representatives. Impeachment wasn`t possible. And Robert Mueller
could be certain last year that House Republicans were not going to get out
ahead of his investigation and start impeachment proceedings.
Now, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats control the House of
Representatives and now impeachment in the House is a real possibility. And
that might be why Robert Mueller decided to pump the brakes on this story,
after watching 24 full hours of momentum for impeachment building,
specifically because of this story.
Leading off our discussion now on this Friday night: Joy Reid, MSNBC
national correspondent and the host of “AM Joy,” weekends on MSNBC; Ken
Dilanian, intelligence and national security reporter for NBC News; and
Mimi Rocah, former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal contributor.
Ken Dilanian, I know you`ve been doing some of your own original reporting
on this story on what might or might not be being disputed by Robert
Mueller`s office. What can we make of that at this stage?
KEN DILANIAN, INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Well,
Lawrence, it`s more of an analysis. My take on the statement, which is very
specific, is that they are disputing the part of the story that asserts
that the special counsel gathered texts, e-mails, and interviews with
members of the Trump Organization that corroborated Michael Cohen`s
statement that Trump told him to lie.
In fact, the sequence was, Mueller got that first and then went to Cohen
and Cohen acknowledged that, yes, Trump told him to lie. That appears to be
what Mueller is specifically disputing. He is not commenting and certainly
not disputing the notion that Michael Cohen`s story is that Trump told him
And, in fact, there`s a paragraph buried in a sentencing memorandum that
was filed by Cohen`s lawyers in November that specifically says he lied to
Congress at the direction of client one, which is Donald Trump. Now, there
are other parts of what Michael Cohen said in court that day where he
discussed why he lied to Congress, where he doesn`t say it was at the
direction of Donald Trump.
But it`s possible that, you know, he was under instruction not to say that
at that time. We just don`t know. But what we do know is that Robert
Mueller is not disputing the entirety of the BuzzFeed story. He is,
however, disputing this notion that his office has reams of corroborating
And in fairness, that is one of the things that got everybody`s attention
about this story because, you know, the House of Representatives is not
going to impeach Donald Trump on the word of Michael Cohen admitted liar.
But if there is other corroboration for members of the Trump Organization,
that`s a different matter, and it appears that there isn`t, at least the
way BuzzFeed described it.
O`DONNELL: I want to read a tweet tonight from investigative reporter,
Ronan Farrow, who has been apparently working in this same territory.
He said, “I can`t speak to BuzzFeed`s sourcing, but, for what it`s worth, I
declined to run with parts of the narrative they conveyed based on a source
central to the story repeatedly disputing the idea that Trump directly
issued orders of that kind. Note that the general thrust of Cohen lying to
Congress in accordance with or to support and advance Trump`s agenda, per
Cohen`s legal memo, is not in dispute. The source disputed the further,
more specific idea that Trump issued and memorialized repeated direct
And Joy Reid, that part about memorialized would be, I think, a reference
in the BuzzFeed article to there is supporting documentation –
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Right.
O`DONNELL: – either from texts or e-mails to what BuzzFeed was reporting
that the president basically ordered Michael Cohen to commit perjury.
REID: Right. As well as one line in the BuzzFeed story where they
characterized something that Cohen allegedly said to the Mueller team. The
Mueller team is very tight-lipped. They do not leak. And, you know, one
could assume that maybe what they`re also trying to project and telegraph
is, do not write a story in which you`re projecting that we have now –
that members of the Mueller team have leaked information to BuzzFeed,
I mean, when Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in the southern district of New
York, he said, you know, himself, as he stood up and spoke to the judge,
that he lied specifically about this Moscow Trump Tower Project. This is
something that is already on the record. It`s something he`s already
admitted to in the southern district of New York.
So I think I agree with Ken that, you know, I think everyone is now kind of
hair on fire about the denial by the special counsel`s office, but I kind
of try – I`m reading it narrowly until we know more.
O`DONNELL: So, Mimi Rocah, we know that there are a bunch of federal
officials in Michael Cohen`s life. There is the special counsel`s office,
Robert Mueller, and then there is separately your old office, the U.S.
attorney`s office in the southern district of New York, where he has
already pleaded guilty. He has already been sentenced there. Donald Trump
has been identified there in effect as an unindicted co-conspirator,
referred to in the documents as individual one.
One of the blooming theories of the hour this evening is that these federal
officials – federal officials quoted in this are from the southern
district of New York as opposed to Mueller`s team. Does that – when you
read the BuzzFeed article, does that read as possible to you?
MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: No. I mean, first of all, let
me be clear about something. People are using this term, the southern
district of New York. That to me and to almost any prosecutor, defense
lawyer, anyone working in the system, means the U.S. attorney`s office, OK?
I can sit here right now and tell you that there is a less than zero chance
that someone in the U.S. attorney`s office –
O`DONNELL: OK, but could also refer to FBI officials in the same building?
ROCAH: Whether or not in the same building. The FBI is in a separate
building. Look, I`m not as integrated in that culture. I can`t give that
same statement as I would about the southern district of New York. There
have been leaks from the FBI in the past. But this did not read to me like
statements coming from someone who has been sitting in the room with Cohen.
In other words, it sounds to me, and I think what we`re all saying, is
there is truth in this story, right? It`s not as clear-cut as it was a few
hours ago. A few hours ago, we had a clear-cut crime of Trump directing him
to lie, and supposed mountains of evidence external to Cohen.
Now, we have something more vague. We`re back to the gray area, which is
criminal law, frankly, which is Cohen lied. He – he has made statements,
Mueller has made statements in his sentencing memorandum that in support of
Cohen, that there were discussions between Cohen and the White House, that
he circulated his testimony. It`s not as clear what those discussions were,
who they were with. But it doesn`t exonerate Trump. It doesn`t mean
something didn`t happen.
ROCAH: It`s just not as clear what it was. And I think what Mueller is
saying is, whoa. You know, let`s not rush to impeachment. He`s putting the
brakes on, as you say. And let`s see – let the facts come out the way I,
Mueller, am going to describe them.
And so back to your original question. It seems to me that something got
lost in translation here. I don`t necessarily think this is someone who
made up facts, meaning whoever the sources are, or that BuzzFeed got it
But things are very nuanced when you`re describing things in proffer
sessions and sessions with cooperators when you`re looking at 302s. I mean,
there are terms of art and it seems to me that somebody who has some
familiarity got something lost in translation. I don`t think that would be
the New York FBI.
O`DONNELL: Yeah. Ken Dilanian, BuzzFeed is asking for a clarification on
the special prosecutor`s statement tonight. Any chance of that happening?
DILANIAN: No, I don`t think so. And look, I feel for BuzzFeed. I think –
I think Robert Mueller`s strategy of saying nothing about anything ever,
even off the record, is very frustrating. I mean, even the Central
Intelligence Agency will give reporters a steer at times if they think
they`re about to get something horribly wrong.
And if Mueller had done that in this case, perhaps BuzzFeed would have been
more cautious and could have avoided this whole matter, which is not good
for journalism. It`s really frustrating. It feels like Robert Mueller at
this point in the investigation owes the public a little bit more
information than we`re getting about something so important. Lawrence,
that`s my feeling about it.
O`DONNELL: So, a Democratic House member, Ted Lieu, last night tweeting
when this story broke. This is how hot it felt at this hour last night.
“Based on the BuzzFeed report and numerous other articles showing Donald
Trump committed obstruction of justice and other possible felonies, it is
time for the House Judiciary Committee to start holding hearings to
establish a record of whether POTUS committed high crimes.”
And Joy Reid, that`s a reality now.
O`DONNELL: And that tweet would have gone to nowhere a year ago or any
time last year because Republican control of the House Judiciary Committee
would have meant that tweet wasn`t worth wallpaper. But now, that kind of
momentum is what Robert Mueller was watching today.
O`DONNELL: And eventually deciding he had to say something.
REID: Well, I think in a sense, rarely saying anything, and then coming
out and disputing part of the story, but not definitively knocking the
story down. I think the most difficult line to maintain in Washington right
now is the line, “we need to wait and see what Robert Mueller does before
we exercise our own independent oversight authority.”
The House of Representatives has every right, and in a sense a duty, to
allow the public to understand what`s happening here. They have to respect
what`s going on in Robert Mueller`s investigation. Of course, they don`t
want to ruin or, you know, harm the investigation. But there is no –
there`s no logical reason why hearings couldn`t be held.
And under the constitution, that is what impeachment is. It isn`t throwing
Donald Trump out of office. It`s allowing hearings where the public can
start to understand the narrative of what was done, potentially to our
election, to elect Donald Trump and what he did while in office.
O`DONNELL: Yeah, and as we`re going to discuss later in the show, that`s
the way it worked in the Nixon situation. Congress was moving at the same
speed, basically, as the special prosecutor. Mimi, some fascinating elapsed
times here in this case. Yesterday, BuzzFeed reports that five hours went
by – five hours of silence from the White House after they disclosed their
reporting to the White House, and they`re asking for comment from the White
House. The White House does not say a word.
Donald Trump had – knew what BuzzFeed was going to write for five hours.
He didn`t issue or offer one word of denial. And then we have the 24 hours
– the 24 hours that Robert Mueller watched this story. Now, given the size
of his team, does that elapsed time make sense to you? Because one of the
first things he`s going to want to do is make sure this leak did not come
from my shop. That presumably would take some portion of the day to be sure
ROCAH: Absolutely. I mean, look, I think you hit the nail on the head. He
could have been doing sort of their own check to make sure before they said
things. And, you know, I think the fact – it is frustrating. I understand
what Ken is saying, and to Joy`s point of this selective putting out of a
statement. It`s frustrating, right?
And – but on the other hand, I think the fact that he put this out tonight
should reaffirm to the American public that Robert Mueller is trying to
find the truth, right? And I think what caused him to do something
different this time after hopefully checking and doing their own internal
investigation, is the political, you know, impetus, as you were saying. And
he wants what he is doing to be about fact-finding in a certain setting,
not in the political setting.
That, I think, actually may weigh in favor of parallel impeachment hearings
beginning. Because Mueller`s job is not to inform us. He does, and he does
it really well. And when you look at his documents, you know those are
things he can prove. And I think what made him nervous was exactly what,
you know, was in that tweet you read from Senator Murphy, which is, you
know, that Mueller is sitting on this mountain of evidence that he`s not
And i think what Mueller is saying is, no, if I had a mountain of evidence,
I would be doing something about it, I might have charged someone. But he`s
also not saying that the allegations aren`t true. And so if what we – if
what the people need now and we`ve gotten to that point is we need more
information than just what Mueller`s job is to give us. Then that`s a
O`DONNELL: And that is what we`re going to turn to as this program goes on
later tonight. Mimi Rocah, Ken Dilanian, Joy Reid, thank you for starting
us off tonight. Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, the lessons of Woodward and Bernstein Pulitzer
Prize-winning reporting on the Watergate scandal and how their biggest
mistake only made them work harder on the pursuit of the truth about
President Richard Nixon, the truth that eventually forced Richard Nixon to
resign the presidency.
And the president announced this evening that he is going to make an
announcement tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 p.m. about the shutdown. It will be
televised at 3:00 p.m. Joy Reid will be covering it live here at MSNBC. I
just discovered it. I have a theory about what the president is up to and
supporters of the wall are not going to like my theory, anyway. That`s
O`DONNELL: Tonight is the right time to look back at a key piece of
reporting by The Washington Post during their investigation of the
Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon. And this piece of
reporting was disputed by the Nixon White House and used by the Nixon White
House to try to discredit all reporting on the Nixon scandals, because this
reporting was proved to be wrong. At least in part.
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein became two of the most respected
journalists in history because of their reporting on Watergate, but they
once got a key fact wrong in one story, and it led to an attack from the
Nixon White House.
In October 1972, they published a piece reporting that Richard Nixon`s
White House chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman “was one of five high-ranking
presidential associates authorized to approve payments from a secret Nixon
campaign cash fund.”
According to their report, the fund had been used for payments to the men
who burglarized the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The report
attributed its information to “federal investigators and accounts of sworn
testimony before the Watergate grand jury.” And the sourcing was incorrect.
As Carl Bernstein later explained on NPR.
CARL BERNSTEIN, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST (voice over): We had the story
right, the substance of it. What we had wrong was the attribution. It had
never come before the grand jury. It was the substance that was really
important, and at the same time, we had not been diligent in nailing this
down, this one aspect of it.
O`DONNELL: And Bob Woodward will never forget what that felt like.
BOB WOODWARD, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST (voice over): This was one of the
real dreary days of our reporting life. In fact, I don`t think I`ve had one
that bad, because it was just flat-wrong.
O`DONNELL: But the rest of Woodward and Bernstein reporting was right. And
in the end, Richard Nixon chose to resign the presidency rather than face
certain removal from office in an impeachment trial in the United States
Joining us now, David Corn, Washington bureau chief from Mother Jones and
an MSNBC political analyst. Also joining us, Elizabeth Drew, political
journalist and author whose book about Watergate is entitled, “Washington
Journal: The Events of 1973-1974.”
Elizabeth Drew, you were there. You read every one of these accounts as
they were emerging in The Washington Post and other reporters` coverage at
the time. Did we have other than this Woodward and Bernstein episode that
we now all look back on? Were there other such bumps in the journalistic
road in covering Nixon in those days and the unfolding of that scandal?
ELIZABETH DREW, POLITICAL JOURNALIST: Nothing in that order, Lawrence. I
think a little perspective is in order here. Yes, it was a mistake. It was
a subject of headlines and head scratching and nothing – a White House
being investigated. They just love when some mistake is made because then
they denounce all of journalism.
Well, look at the end of the story. In the end, it didn`t matter all that
much. In a perfect world, no journalist`s story would ever be wrong at all.
But it`s going to happen. The question is, do they clean up their act
afterwards? I can`t tell you how appalled the people at the Post were and
people in the Democratic committee. They were very upset about it. But in
the scheme of things, it didn`t matter all that much.
O`DONNELL: David Corn, your reaction to the BuzzFeed story tonight, and
its parallels to that Woodward and Bernstein mix-up, mistake, back in their
big days of covering Richard Nixon?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, now we know that
what they reported, Carl and Bob, you know, ended up being true. Though, as
they note, they got the attribution wrong and it gave the Nixon White House
and their detractors ammunition to go after them. What we don`t know yet is
whether BuzzFeed got it right, but somehow screwed it – you know, screwed
up the attribution or there was some miscommunication here.
But what do know, to get to Elizabeth`s point, that the big picture remains
that Donald Trump himself lied to the American public. He said he had
nothing to do with Russia while he was campaigning. Yet there he was,
pursuing a deal that would have enriched him to the tune of hundreds of
millions of dollars.
And that`s what Michael Cohen was trying to cover up. He says, you know –
he said publicly at his sentencing in sort of synchronization with what
Trump wanted. Whether he was directed to do this specifically or not. So
the big lie is out there. That`s, you know, the big story here. And it`s a
pity that now we are being distracted by what might have been a mistake by
BuzzFeed or might be an unclear statement by Mueller.
But I think at the end of the day, whether we have House Democrats
investigating this or Mueller giving us some more information, we will get
the truth of what really happened. And that will be the issue, not how it
O`DONNELL: And Elizabeth Drew, it might be Ben Bradlee who has the very
best line about how people out there and editors in these situations should
regard developments like this after reviewing how the mistake was made by
Woodward and Bernstein.
He had a few words with them about, you know, how they needed to clean up
their processes, make sure this would never happen again, and it didn`t
ever happen again. But he finished that discussion by saying to them, what
have you got for tomorrow? And that`s what really matters, isn`t it?
DREW: That`s right. Tomorrow is another day and another story and other
stories. And I agree with – who was just talking – these things happen.
They don`t happen – the amazing thing is, they don`t happen very often. I
want to point something else out.
In Watergate, we had no cable. We had no internet. We had none of the
things that go on now. So you have that many more people reporting. In
Watergate, there weren`t that many on the story. So I think exponentially,
the odds on somebody getting something wrong at some point are all the
But keep in mind, the big picture. David was right. The big picture is
something happened here. We`ll find out what it was. But a lot of other
things happened, too. Even if this story didn`t exist. There is still a
very, very big story.
O`DONNELL: And we all need patience and we all need to remember the
phrase, if true. Elizabeth Drew, David Corn, thank you for joining us on
that part of our discussion.
And when we come back, tomorrow`s breaking news. Tomorrow`s breaking news.
We`re going to cover it tonight. President Trump has announced that he is
going to make an important announcement about the shutdown tomorrow from
the White House at 3:00 p.m. Joy Reid will be covering that announcement
live for MSNBC right here. And she will join us to discuss the big news of
tomorrow. I`ll offer my wild guess about what Donald Trump just might
O`DONNELL: Just before 6:00 p.m. tonight, President Trump announced on
Twitter that he will make an announcement tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 p.m.
about the longest government shutdown in history, the shutdown that he
promised to start and take full blame for.
He made good on half of that promise. He did start the shutdown. But then
he blamed the people he promised not to blame, Congressional Democrats.
But a senior administration official told “CBS News” that “Trump will
present what the White House believes could be a deal to end the shutdown.”
The deal was largely influenced by talks between Vice President Mike Pence,
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Trump`s son-in-law, and Senior
Adviser Jared Kushner, who is not the speaker of the House.
Joy Reid and David Corn are back with us. And Joy, this is the most
mysterious deal I`ve ever heard of. Three Republicans get together in a
room. What`s the deal? Whatever it is, it`s not a deal.
JOY REID, HOST, AM JOY: Yes.
O`DONNELL: Because if you go to Capitol Hill to make a deal, you got to
have Nancy Pelosi in the room –
O`DONNELL: – you have to have Schumer. You have to have Mitch McConnell.
That`s who you need for a deal. My own theory – I`m just going to get my
theory out of the way.
REID: Get it out there.
O`DONNELL: The only thing that he`s empowered to announce tomorrow is some
form of surrender, is to say, because of this, that, and the other thing,
we`re going to reopen the government. And Mitch McConnell has promised
that there will be a vote in the United States Senate on the wall the day
after we reopen the government, you know, next Tuesday. And Mitch
McConnell will, you know, bring that up for a vote and it won`t get the 60
votes and that`s the end of that.
REID: And I think what makes your theory sound and what you`re saying
essentially is this will end the exact same way when the Democrats
attempted to do a shutdown that lasted a couple of days over DACA. They
ended very quickly. They didn`t like the public relations look. And they
ended it for a promise from Mitch McConnell that he would bring up a
document that he never did.
So the only thing Mitch McConnell is empowered to deliver at this point
without Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, is to put the, what, nine
bills that this – that the House has passed, that already had unanimous
consent from the Senate back on the Senate floor and pass them. That`s all
Mitch McConnell can do by himself. I`m not sure what Jared is doing there
but I guess he does everything.
But Mitch McConnell can do that. And probably yes to your point, will
promise Donald Trump that the next thing he`ll do after those nine votes
and after the government is reopened – because I`m sure his members are
They`re having to fly home, going through TSA. They`re going home to
states like Colorado and Oregon and all over this country where they`re
being screamed at. They want the government back open. That`s all Mitch
can do is give in.
O`DONNELL: David Corn, big announcement, live, 3:00 p.m. tomorrow. That`s
– the woman`s march will still be going on at that time, do we think?
REID: We think it will be the end of it.
O`DONNELL: So he didn`t time it as a direct conflict with the women`s
march. He`s staying out of the way of that for the most part. What can
possibly go wrong or go well?
DAVID CORN: Your theory may come to pass. I think we could come up with
alternative reality theories. For instance, who remembers that big
immigration speech that Trump gave a week ago? I mean it seems like seven
months ago and you can`t remember a single thing he said.
It`s quite possible he may forget about this announcement by 3:00 p.m.
tomorrow. Or it`s quite possible that he may just want to say something
nasty about Nancy Pelosi. He cares more about revenge and spite, I think,
than making a deal.
So I mean – I think anything is game here. And the real question is, for
your theory to come true, Lawrence, it means that Trump is willing to stand
up to Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh because they will crucify him for
anything like that. And he caved in once to them. Is he ready now to not
cave into them? Who knows?
O`DONNELL: Joy, do you think there is any chance that in tomorrow`s
announcement by the president from the White House, he will find time to
explain why he would not authorize a government aircraft to carry the
speaker of the House to a war zone to visit American troops and commanders,
but he would authorize a government aircraft to fly his wife to Florida for
a long weekend?
REID: For her vacation, yes. I mean probably not. He probably won`t get
to that. Maybe that will be Jared`s portion of the afternoon because he
does need to have something to do, because he is getting to go, you know.
And not only that, but Donald Trump and his administration outed not one,
but two, you know, visits to Afghanistan, both the commercial and the
military flights, which actually is a threat to the security of those
involved in those delegations. So he doesn`t really have any respect or
regard for the security of the speaker of the House or those involved in
The other thing he could do is deliver his State of the Union Address
because obviously, the speaker of the House said he ain`t doing it in the
House chambers. So he could take advantage of the hour and do that.
O`DONNELL: Joy –
CORN: I would also make one prediction.
O`DONNELL: Go ahead, David.
CORN: He will claim that he won and this was the best shutdown ever.
O`DONNELL: Yes, exactly. Joy, I would love to be with you tomorrow for
the live coverage.
O`DONNELL: I`m going to be in a matinee over there.
O`DONNELL: On Broadway, 2:00 p.m. Kerry Washington`s play “American Sun”
which you`re going to see before it closes, right?
REID: I`m going to see before it closes.
O`DONNELL: Everyone`s going to see it.
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, David Corn, thank you both for joining us.
And when we come back, the question of impeachment. The question of
impeachment was already looming large in Washington this week. Before last
night`s “BuzzFeed” story came out and raised it even more loudly.
We`re going to consider where the question of impeachment stands tonight.
Should the House of Representatives wait until Robert Mueller has finished
his investigation, or should they do it the way they did it during the
Nixon presidency and have the House impeachment investigation take place at
the same time as the special prosecutor`s investigation?
O`DONNELL: Impeach. That is “The Atlantic`s” next cover story which won`t
be on the newsstands until February 12, but was rushed into publication
online earlier this week by “The Atlantic`s” editor by Jeffrey
Goldberg, because “the Trump-caused government shutdown unmatched in length
and consequence and the debate over whether the 45th president of the
United States is secretly operating on behalf of Russia.”
In the piece, Yoni Appelbaum makes the case that impeachment proceedings
should begin now in the House Judiciary Committee and not wait for the
conclusion of Robert Mueller`s investigation. The article points out
that`s exactly how it worked in the case of President Richard Nixon, who
was being investigated by a special prosecutor at the same time that the
House Judiciary Committee was conducting its own impeachment investigation,
which eventually led to the committee passing three articles of impeachment
against Richard Nixon.
The evidence to impeach Richard Nixon was developed as a result of the
committee`s investigation. The Judiciary Committee and the special
prosecutor investigating President Nixon both subpoenaed the White House
tapes that ultimately led to President Nixon`s resignation when the Supreme
Court ordered the president to turn over to the committee and the special
prosecutor the tapes that turned out to include the so-called smoking gun
of Richard Nixon`s own voice participating in the Watergate conspiracy in
the oval office.
The article in “The Atlantic” makes the argument Congress can`t outsource
its responsibilities to federal prosecutors, the process of impeachment
itself is likely to shift public opinion. If Trump`s support among
Republican voters erodes, his support in the Senate may do the same.
The only way for the House to find out what Trump has actually done and
whether his conduct warrants removal is to start asking. This is the essay
on impeachment that is going to be read by most Democratic Senators and
certainly, by all Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee and
many Republicans. And it will be read by the staff of every Senator and
every member of Congress, Democrat and Republican.
This is the important impeachment article of the year so far. The
president of the United States is an unindicted co-conspirator in a
criminal federal case, where his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen,
confessed his guilt and claimed under oath that he committed those crimes
at the direction of Donald Trump.
Since that conspiracy was exposed in federal court in Manhattan and since
the election of a Democratic House of Representatives, the question seems
to have shifted from will there be an impeachment investigation in the
House to when will there be an impeachment investigation in the House.
To consider these questions from the important historical perspective of
the Nixon impeachment proceedings, we will be joined by two people who were
there during the Nixon investigation.
Former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman who was one of the members of the
House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate investigation, one of the
members who recommended impeaching the president. And Elizabeth Drew who
was covering it all for “The New Yorker” at that time and then wrote the
authoritative book on what drove Richard Nixon out of office.
They will both join us after this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To continue to fight
through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally
absorb the time and attention of both the president and the Congress in a
period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad
and prosperity without inflation at home. Therefore, I shall resign the
presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: President Richard Nixon quit the fight because he was told by
Republicans in Congress that the articles of impeachment against him that
passed the House Judiciary Committee would definitely pass the House of
Representatives. And he would then be convicted in an impeachment trial in
the United States Senate and removed from office.
Joining us now, two people who were there, Elizabeth Holtzman, former U.S.
Congresswoman and a member of that House Judiciary Committee that voted to
impeach President Nixon. She is the author of “The Case for Impeaching
Trump.” Also with us, author Elizabeth Drew. She`s back with us. She
covered Watergate for “The New Yorker” at that time.
And Congresswoman Holtzman, you were just reminding me of the sequence of
things and how it`s different today from what we saw there that your
impeachment hearings were able to use what came out of Senate general
investigative hearings, just the Senate-ran hearings about the Watergate
scandal that did not have a particular mission in mind other than fact-
finding. They found those facts, you used them.
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN, FORMER REPRESENTATIVE, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, WATERGATE:
That`s correct. And not only did they find the facts, but they educated
the public, which was vital. Because what we have now is the only basic
hearings that have been held, have been behind closed doors, the Senate
Intelligence Committee, House Intelligence Committee, a lot of other
witnesses have been in secret. The public hasn`t really seen their
We have Mueller`s hearings, Mueller`s proceedings, all you do is see
someone standing up in court pleading guilty, but that`s not the same as
public testimony, which is what the Senate Watergate committee did. And
then, that educated the public.
The Saturday night massacre, the American people said no, the president
can`t pick his prosecutor. And at that point, the House Judiciary
Committee came into focus on impeachment, not until then.
O`DONNELL: And now you also just told me during the break, that you
members of the House Judiciary Committee, many of you were agitating to get
started on impeachment proceedings and the Democratic leadership of the
House was doing what?
HOLTZMAN: Saying no.
O`DONNELL: Just like today?
HOLTZMAN: Just like today, because in a way you can understand it. For
us, the only impeachment that we knew of was Andrew Johnson. That was a
failure. And they were very worried that the same thing was going to
Today, most people remember the Clinton impeachment. That was a failure.
American people didn`t support that. That was a partisan effort. So the
leadership says, that didn`t work for the Republicans, why should we do it
But the point that I want to make is that when we started the impeachment
hearings, the American people forced the Congress to act. They said
enough, President Nixon can`t fire the special counsel prosecutor, this is
a country with a rule of law, you got to do something. And then there were
We didn`t take a nose count in the House Judiciary Committee. We didn`t
have any idea what the House would do. We certainly didn`t know what the
Senate was going to go. And we didn`t even know what impeachment was.
We had to start from scratch. But we did it the right way. We had the
facts, solid evidence, and the American people supported.
O`DONNELL: And Elizabeth Drew, you were covering all of this from the
special prosecutor`s investigation which is also going on while the Senate
public hearings. That`s where we discovered there was a tape system in the
We discovered all of the great drama, really, publicly in those Senate
hearings. And then you also covered the impeachment hearings that
Elizabeth Drew – Elizabeth Holtzman was part of and that you voted on.
Was there any big – was there any sense in Washington at the time that
this should be slowed down, everyone should wait for the special prosecutor
to finish doing the special prosecutor`s work?
ELIZABETH DREW, COVERED WATERGATE SCANDAL: No. But I think you had an
entirely different special prosecutor`s mission at that point. Right now,
what you have is a set of very serious and important questions and only the
special prosecutor can get the answer to. And that is, did the Russians
try to affect our election?
I think the verdict is in on that, yes. The other one is, did the
president cooperate with, conspire with, collude with, whatever, he and his
campaign with them? you can`t get that anyplace else. And so I do think
that the special prosecutor`s role this time is much larger than it was
Lawrence, can I sort of just add one thing before we all get dug in on this
fact? As you mentioned, the House Judiciary Committee voted three articles
of impeachment. It was understood – before that piece of tape was found,
it was well understood that these were going to be carried by the House and
that the president`s support in the Senate had collapsed. The only thing
that that piece of tape did was speed it up, but he was going to get
impeached and convicted anyway
O`DONNELL: And Elizabeth Holtzman, talk about how the Saturday night
massacre changed everything in Washington when President Nixon fired the
special prosecutor. And it looked like everything had been derailed?
HOLTZMAN: Well, the thing that was really important was because they were
public hearings, the Senate had public hearings and John Dean had testified
at those hearings and said “I told the president there was a cancer on the
presidency. I told the president that hush money was being paid to the
burglars. I told the president that pardons were being offered to the
And the president said basically I know where the money can be gotten and
he didn`t have any objection to the pardons. And then the president said,
“Well, no, I never said that.” When the special prosecutor – so you had
the president, on one hand, Dean on the other hand.
And so when the special prosecutor was trying to get the tapes, everybody
in the country understood what the significance of the tapes was. They
were going to prove whether Dean was telling the truth or the president was
telling the truth.
Here, we don`t have that kind of educational background and that`s what`s
vital. And I do think the special counsel prosecutor, while he plays an
important role, doesn`t preclude Congress from acting now. We don`t have
to wait for the special prosecutor. Congress needs to start looking
immediately into whether the president has engaged in various kinds of
misdeeds, including with Michael Cohen.
O`DONNELL: Elizabeth Holtzman and Elizabeth Drew, thank you both for
joining us very much tonight. Really appreciate it.
Tonight`s last word is next.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s and this week`s last word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SETH MEYERS, HOST, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS: Yes, you did say there was
no collusion. And you didn`t say it once or twice, you said it a bunch of
RUDY GUILIANI, SPECIAL COUNSEL: Russian collusion. Here`s what they
found, zero, nada, nothing. If anything, it`s proof there was no
collusion. Nobody talked about Russians. Nobody knew about Russians.
There was no collusion with the Russians. No collusion with the Russians.
There was no collusion. There was no Russian collusion.
No Russian collusion, case over. Was there collusion? Come on, nobody
believes there was collusion
MEYERS: Think about how much their argument has changed. It went from
there were no contacts with Russians, to there was no collusion with
Russians, to we tried to collude but nothing came of it, to collusion is
not a crime, to there was collusion but it didn`t involve Trump. If this
keeps going, Rudy is going to be telling Trump, it`s not jail, it`s a gated
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Seth Meyers gets tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE
11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams starts now.
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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