Committee subpoenas full Mueller report. TRANSCRIPT: 5/8/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, the great Rachel Maddow.
You know, I was just reading a tweet from the historian Kevin Kruse. I
actually retweeted this and I would like to read this to you.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: OK.
O’DONNELL: It says. In the last 24 hours, we learned the president is a
billion-dollar loser, his biggest evangelical backer covered up an apparent
sex scandal, his attorney general is facing a contempt charge in the House,
and his son is being subpoenaed by the Senate in the last 24 hours.
Now, I have not been able to cover all of that. But between the two of us,
O’DONNELL: You managed to work the Falwell story last night, and I have to
tell you, Rachel, I stared at it, and I tried to figure out how to approach
it, and I just – I couldn’t. I thought, you know, I’m going to wait for
the second day of the story if there is one. And it turns out it was wiped
out by subpoena day and –
MADDOW: Although, I mean, there is sort of a second day because now “The
Washington Post” published the actual audio of Cohen describing the
terrible photo. I mean, it’s like – you have – this is our lifestyle.
Like, we, instead of sitting down and having a meal every day, we arrive at
a buffet table that is 17 miles long. It’s like, what are you going to do?
Where do you start? How do you prioritize?
I mean, I could do an hour just on the Falwell story tonight, but all that
other stuff, too.
O’DONNELL: But this is what I’m counting you for. I look at stories
sometimes and I say it’s not going to fit. It is not going to fit in this
hour. But somehow, it fits in these two hours somewhere. It’s in there
O’DONNELL: And that’s what I’m counting on, Rachel. That’s what I’m
relying on you for.
MADDOW: We need each other, Lawrence.
O’DONNELL: You know what, over the phone we’ll fill in the rest of this.
MADDOW: I’ll talk to you about it in the morning.
O’DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
She really is the greatest.
Well, we’ve been showing you video of Lindsey Graham and other Republicans
during impeachment of President Bill Clinton. We’ve showed you
extraordinary videos that show you just how much those Republicans have
changed on all of the issues they were declaring to be matters of principle
to them, back then when they were trying to impeach a Democratic president.
And every Republican serving now in the House of Representatives and the
Senate who voted to impeach or remove Bill Clinton from office is now using
a completely different set of principles today in defending president
But at the end of this hour tonight, you will meet someone who has remained
consistent in his view of obstruction of Justice and crimes by presidents
of the United States. One of the prosecutors from the special prosecutor’s
team that accused Bill Clinton of obstruction of justice now believes
President Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice. And that prosecutor
will join us at the end of this hour.
But first, it was subpoena day on Capitol Hill. Subpoenas issued and one
subpoena denied. The subpoena denied by Attorney General William Barr was
the subject of votes today in the House Judiciary Committee on holding the
attorney general in contempt of congress. But two new subpoenas were
issued at the end of the day today, both with bipartisan support, one from
the Senate Intelligence Committee and one from the House Intelligence
The Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by Republican Senator Richard
Burr subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to testify to the Intelligence Committee.
Yesterday, the Republican leader of the Senate went to the Senate floor and
said case closed. And today, the Republican leader of the Senate
Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena to Donald Trump Jr.
It is the first time a member of the Trump family has been subpoenaed in
the investigation of the president.
Our first guest tonight, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff,
with the support of the top Republican on his committee, Devin Nunes,
issued, quote, a subpoena to Attorney General William P. Barr for documents
and materials related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation,
including all counter-intelligence and foreign intelligence materials
produced during the special counsel’s investigation, the full, unredacted
report and the underlying evidence.
The showdown on that subpoena is scheduled for one week from today.
Wednesday, May 15 is the deadline and Congressman Schiff to Attorney
General William Barr.
After the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines in 2016 to hold
William Barr in contempt of Congress, no date was set for when the full
house vote on that contempt of Congress resolution. We will ask Chairman
Schiff if he expects speaker Pelosi to delay the full house vote on
contempt of Congress until the Democrats see what the attorney general’s
response is to the new intelligence committee subpoena.
In a statement announcing that subpoena, Chairman Schiff described, quote,
a good faith effort to reach an accommodation with the attorney general.
But, quote, the department repeatedly pays lip service to the importance of
a meaningful accommodation process but it has only responded to our efforts
with silence or outright defiance.
Chairman Jerry Nadler told a similar story about dealing with William Barr
and the Justice Department.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The department abruptly announced if we moved
forward today, it would ask President Trump to invoke what it refers to as
a protective assertion of executive privilege on all of the materials
subject to our subpoena. Just minutes ago, it took that dramatic step.
Besides misapplying the doctrine of executive privilege, since the White
House waived these privileges long ago, and the department seems open to
sharing these materials with us just yesterday, this decision represents a
clear escalation and the Trump administration’s blanket defiance of
Congress’ constitutionally mandated duties. I hope that the department
will think better of this last-minute outburst and return to negotiations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: The Republicans spent the first couple of hours in the
committee meeting today, relying on the completely false talking point that
Chairman Jerry Nadler’s subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report would
force the attorney general to break the law by releasing grand jury
information that has been re redacted and must remain by law.
Chairman Nadler’s subpoena was very clear about that point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NADLER: All we’ve ever asked is that the department join us in petitioning
the court to determine if it is proper for us to have access to this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: That didn’t stop every single member of the community leaning
on the same falsehood for hours.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we’re doing here is forcing the attorney general
to break the law.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Democrats and Chairman Nadler and this committee
are asking the attorney general to break the law. Break the law! By
releasing grand jury information to Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To comply with the subpoena, he must break the law. If
he obeys the law, he must disobey the subpoena.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: To prove that wasn’t true, the Democrats accepted by unanimous
voice vote a Republican amendment that clarified that grand jury
information won’t be subject to the subpoena unless a federal court
approves the release of that information. The Republicans on the committee
did not seem to feel the historical weight of the moment in the same way
that Democrats did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NADLER: There can be no higher stakes than this attempt to arrogate all
power to the executive branch away from Congress, and more important, away
from the American people. We’ve talked for a long time about approaching a
constitutional crisis. We are now in it. We are now in a constitutional
REP. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R-ND): If we’re using phrases, I’ll just use cart
before the horse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: That is Kelly Armstrong. He is North Dakota’s only member of
the House of Representatives because while the land mass of North Dakota is
bigger than the entire state of New York, the entire population of North
Dakota would fit in Jerry Nadler’s district on the west side of Manhattan.
Jerry Nadler and Kelly Armstrong represent the same number of people but
they approach their work very differently.
There is no easier job in American politics than being the Republican
member of the House of Representatives from North Dakota, and Kelly
Armstrong sure makes it look easy.
Here he is casting his historic vote on holding the attorney general in
contempt of congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Reschenthaler votes no.
REP. BEN CLINE (R-VA): No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Cline votes no.
REP. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R-ND): No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Armstrong votes no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Hard to see who works harder, Kelly Armstrong or Donald Trump.
Leading our discussion today is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of
California. He is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman Schiff, your subpoena tonight, that seems to have bipartisan
support on your committee with Devin Nunes. How are you achieving a
bipartisan approach to a subpoena where the judiciary committee can’t?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, this is probably the last venue you thought
that would happen, but, look, you know, the ranking member has his own
reasons for wanting to get the underlying evidence behind the report. We
have our reasons and there is that confluence of interests to make sure
that the Justice Department follows the law.
We both understand there is a statutory obligation to provide all foreign
intelligence, counter-intelligence. It’s not discretionary, and we’re
insisting on the information. We may have to go down the same road in our
committee that the Judiciary Committee did if the Justice Department again
stonewalls and makes this overbroad and in support of a claim of executive
O’DONNELL: Is it your sense that Devin Nunes is hoping to find all these
things that he’s been suggesting for a while now about the beginn ings of
Russian interference in the election, that there could be things in the
Mueller report that would be very damaging somehow to the Democrats in this
SCHIFF: Well, I’m sure his motivation is not to expose the evidence of the
president’s obstruction of justice or all of the interactions between the
Trump campaign and the Russians and the issue of collusion. I don’t think
that’s where he’s coming from.
But look, I’ll let him speak for himself. I’m just glad that we’ve had the
support to press the department to comply with the law. And at the end of
the day, this is about more than just this president, more than just this
investigation. What’s at stake is whether Congress can do its job,
whether, if an administration is corrupt or malfeasanced or just
incompetent, that can be exposed and corrective action can be taken.
If we can’t do it vis-a-vis Donald Trump, it means that every president who
follows him will be equally above the law.
O’DONNELL: So what does your subpoena mean to the timing of the vote in
the full house on the resolution that we just saw today come out of the
SCHIFF: Well, the advantage and the strength of our subpoenas relies on
different legal grounds than the judiciary subpoena. So, we have the
National Security Act, the Patriot Act and other provisions that require
the department to turn these materials over to Congress. We have a
separate grand jury exception that applies. We don’t have to initiate an
impeachment proceeding, nor a plenary to impeachment proceeding. They’re
required to provide this information.
So, we have an independent case to make, and that gives us, if necessary,
an alternate argument to make in court why this material needs to be
provided. So, we’ll go forward. It’s more difficult, I think, for them to
write this office and partisan exercise when both the chair and ranking
member have demanded that the department –
O’DONNELL: Do you any sense of when the full House will vote on the
contempt of Congress of attorney general?
SCHIFF: You know, I think a lot of these issues are coming to a head in
the various committees, and I think it would make sense to at least
consolidate the date when we take up these contempt resolutions, if there
are multiple resolutions, so they can be adjudicated at one time and we
don’t take up time every week to relitigate this.
But at the end of the day, we’re going to use the mechanism necessary to
make sure we can do our oversight. We may have to look if the core process
takes too long in using Congress’ inherent contempt power. We may look at
fencing money for these agencies so they can use it until they comply.
We’re going to have to use whatever tools we can.
O’DONNELL: What is your sense of what’s happening in the Senate
Intelligence Committee the day after the Senate majority leader says case
closed, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee
subpoenas the president’s son?
SCHIFF: Well, look, I think in the Senate Intel Committee, they don’t want
to be messed with by these witnesses. And when they have someone who is –
where there are questions about truthfulness if that’s the issue, or
there’s additional facts that have come to light that they need to explore
and they feel they’re getting the runaround, they’re going to use
compulsion to bring people in. That’s as it should be.
You know, we have concerns about Don Jr.’s testimony before our committee,
and we’ve had concerns about others. We may bring back some of the
witnesses we had in before. Others like Erik Prince we chose not to bring
back, we chose to refer to the Justice Department for potential perjury
prosecution, but we’re going through those analyses now.
O’DONNELL: So in the case of Erik Prince, you believe just on what you see
in the Mueller report, and what you see in your transcripts with him, do
you see perjury as you look?
SCHIFF: You know, Prince’s testimony was so demonstratively false before
our committee that we felt compelled to make the referral and show side by
side what he told us and what was revealed in the special counsel’s report.
How he told us that his meeting with Dmitriev, the Russian state banker,
was pure coincidence. That he happened to go halfway around the world and
run into the Seychelles and bumped into this guy in a bar, invited to meet
him by the crown prince.
The number of his meetings he said he had, the topics he said he had,
whether he had advance notice of the meeting, all that stuff, is
contradicted by the Mueller report, by witnesses who spoke to Mueller and
often by Prince himself. Now, there may be issues about whether they can
prosecute that because of the admissibility or the availability of
witnesses and testimony, but nonetheless, the testimony was so palpably
false, we felt the need to refer it.
O’DONNELL: Do you feel the need to hear from Donald Trump Jr. again? Will
you subpoena Donald Trump Jr.?
SCHIFF: We may. We haven’t made that decision yet. We’re looking through
what are the most important witnesses to bring back first, which witnesses
can shed additional light? And we’ve had that dilemma with other witnesses
as well where we thought they were less than truthful. Do we bring them
back in and give them an opportunity to try to get their story straight, or
do we make a referral, or are there other purposes for bringing them back?
O’DONNELL: What’s your timetable on those kinds of decisions?
SCHIFF: You know, we’re making them an ongoing basis, so we have made
outreach to witnesses. We’re starting with those that we believe may be
cooperative that can shed light on issues. We’re dealing with others
privately right now who are resisting and we’re trying to work out an
agreement for them to come in and testify before we have to compel them.
So all of that is ongoing and all that for the most part is outside the
O’DONNELL: On Donald Trump Jr., there are a couple things. One is he had
said to Congress that he had very little involvement in the Moscow Trump
Tower. Michael Cohen said he was heavily involved and he talked to him at
least 10 times and during the campaign. That’s one possible change,
difference in Donald Trump Jr.’s testimony.
The other is, in the Mueller report, Michael Cohen said he heard Donald
Trump Jr. telling his father about the meeting with Russians in Trump Tower
before the meeting occurred. That’s also in the Mueller report.
That’s not something that Donald Trump Jr. said to either committee when he
spoke to the committees. Are those the areas that you’d like to clarify
with Donald Trump?
SCHIFF: You know, those are certainly some of the areas. One of the
issues we had with Don Jr. was his simple refusal to answer whole
categories of questions. And this was not the case alone with Don Jr.
Steve Bannon did the same thing, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks, there were
whole sets of questions that these witnesses refused to answer.
And this, again, proves just what a falsehood it is when Bill Barr talks
about how cooperative the president has been with the investigations.
These witnesses often told us that they would not answer the questions
under instructions from the White House. We would ask them, are you
asserting some sort of privilege? They would say, no, we’ve just been
asked basically not to cooperate.
So with respect to a number of these areas, we simply got no answers. With
respect to others, we got answers that we have serious questions about
O’DONNELL: And we should remind viewers that that was when the committee
was under Republican control. And the rules of these interactions were
being set by the Republican majority on the committee, basically, and that
no one was under subpoena. They could all get up and walk out of the room
if they wanted to.
SCHIFF: You know, yes. And the most graphic example was actually Steve
Bannon who came in – and when he came in, he was no longer Breitbart, he
was no longer in favor in the White House, so the Republicans took umbrage
when he refused to answer questions. They felt there were no repercussions
for them to look like they were serious about the investigation.
He refused – they actually subpoenaed him on the spot, but when we tried
to get them to enforce the subpoena, hold him in contempt because he
refused to answer the questions, that was a bridge too far. And it shows
just how willing they were to go through the show of it, the show of an
investigation, but not the reality of it when it came to compelling answers
O’DONNELL: Chairman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining us
SCHIFF: Thank you.
O’DONNELL: Really important night to have you here. Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, they are closing in on Trump’s tax returns. “The
New York Times” is closing in. The New York state legislature is closing
in. And the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is closing in
on Donald Trump’s taxes. That’s next.
O’DONNELL: The day after the “New York Times” revealed that Donald Trump
has paid zero in taxes over several years, he complimented his rally
tonight in Florida for paying their taxes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The invisible people, and
you know what you are, you’re the smartest, you’re the hardest working, you
pay your taxes, you do all of this stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: And who can forget when Hillary Clinton accused Donald Trump of
not paying taxes and he said that means he’s smart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Maybe he doesn’t want
the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid
nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody has ever seen
were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities
when he was trying to get a casino license and they showed he didn’t pay
any federal income tax. So –
TRUMP: That makes me smart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Donald Trump was not telling the truth tonight when he said
that the people who pay their taxes are the smartest people, but the people
much smarter than Donald Trump now are closing in on his taxes. House Ways
and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal has issued a legal demand for
Donald Trump’s taxes which the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee is
uniquely empowered to do by law. He will either get those tax returns
either at the end of a long court battle or on the next inauguration day
afternoon when a president not named Trump is sworn in on January 20th,
2020, just about a year and a half from now.
And the New York legislature is trying to help Congress bypass by passing a
bill today in the New York state senate that mirrors federal law. It says
that New York state will provide any New York state tax returns demanded by
the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee or the chairman of the
Senate Finance Committee, or the chairman of the Joint Tax Committee. That
is the exact mirror of the federal law that Chairman Neal has been using to
obtain the Trump tax returns.
The state legislature is expected to pass the bill. Governor Andrew Cuomo
has said he will sign. So New York state tax returns mirror federal tax
returns. They contain much of the same information, so Chairman Neal may
now be just weeks away from obtaining Donald Trump’s New York state tax
returns, which will be almost as revealing as his federal tax returns.
In the meantime, “The New York Times” has taken a giant step closer to
Donald Trump’s tax returns with their blockbuster reporting last night on
10 years of IRS transcripts of Donald Trump’s tax information showing that
Donald Trump lost over a billion dollars in those 10 years and did not pay
taxes in eight of those years. “The Times” article quotes the former
director of research, analysis and statistics at the IRS, Mark Mazur, on
the accuracy of IRS transcripts. Mark Mazur will join us in just a moment.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi commented on the “New York Times” story today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It does tell us, though, that it would be useful
to see his tax returns as the law says. The administration shall give –
shall. It doesn’t say must, should, could, under certain circumstance. It
says shall give those tax returns to the Ways and Means chairman.
Again, all of this is so law and precedent-based to do the right thing as
we go forward, and there are several options. One of them is to go
directly to court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNEL: Joining us now is Congressman Lloyd Doggett, a senior member of
the House Ways and Means Committee. He’s a Democrat from Texas.
Also joining us is Mark Mazur. He’s a former director of research,
analytics and statistics at the IRS and a former assistant secretary of the
treasury for tax policy. He’s currently with the Tax Policy Center.
And, Congressman Doggett, I want to start with you. It looks like the New
York state legislature may be giving you some help as well as the help you
got last night from the “New York Times.”
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): Well, of course, the report in the “New York
Times” shows what a loser this president is, that he demonstrated in
business about the same negotiating skill he’s shown recently with the
North Koreans, and it points up why we really need these returns, because
there’s so many lies that are here and so many questions about how
Americans can have confidence in the tax system if the president is not
doing his part and has not done his part.
As far as the New York action, I think it’s important. I’m pleased they’re
proceeding, but there is other information, the working papers, the
auditing, the questions about whether he was even under audit that we need
to get directly with Chairman Neal’s important request under Article 6103
or Section 6103.
O’DONNELL: Mark, actually, I want to call you Mr. Secretary because the
last time we talked, it was in your office at the treasury years ago when
you were the assistant secretary for tax policy. So many issues to deal
First of all, I learned from you in the “New York Times” reporting that
your quotes about what IRS transcripts are. I actually didn’t know about
these documents that the IRS has. What are – who gets those documents?
The “New York Times” could have obtained those documents from sources other
than just the IRS, correct?
MARK MAZUR, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF TAX POLICY, TREASURY: Yes.
Those documents are available at the taxpayer’s. They can request the
summary from the IRS. It’s basically a summary of your tax return.
Some people may keep the tax returns and request a transcript. Sometimes
lenders will request a transcript. If you get a mortgage, the mortgage
company wants to see what your earnings are. They may ask you to get a
transcript and give it to them
O’DONNELL: It’s kind of a simpler set of documents that can show many more
years of tax information than just a single stack of a tax return.
MAZUR: Well, the transcript shows one year a time.
MAZUR: You can get a bunch of them and put them all together.
O’DONNELL: And the accuracy of those transcripts?
MAZUR: So, if you think about the time period in question here, it’s the
mid-1980s and mid-1990s, many people – most people filed by paper in those
days. The IRS had an army of people at service centers who would
transcribe those returns and put them in machine readable form. They were
typically keypunched twice, either by the same person or two different
people keypunching it. And that helped ensure that they’re accurate
because they were used through electronic version, all the data on tax base
so it was used for every purpose.
O’DONNELL: Congressman Doggett, the deadline has come for Chairman Neal to
decide which way to proceed. He has indicated he will decide soon, within
the next day or two.
Is it most likely going to be, Chairman Neal, simply suing the treasury
secretary for basically violating the law that requires the handing over of
the Trump tax returns?
DOGGETT: Well, it’s his decision, but I believe that is the most
expeditious path. It’s a path that you outlined on your program by
professor George Yin (ph), an expert in that area, just as Mark is on his,
someone we would all turn to for advice on this. That would allow us to
move directly, expeditiously without a subpoena.
At a later time it may be, and it’s not inconsistent, to go ahead and
subpoena them also, and, of course, just as Adam Schiff told you about the
work of his committee, there is the matter of inherent contempt power with
Congress. If we just have them running out the clock, I think we need to
invoke that inherent contempt of power and use it with regard to this
O’DONNELL: And, Mark, you have so much experience in the joint tax
committee and as the assistant secretary for tax policy at the IRS. When
you look at what the “New York Times” was reporting from those transcripts
over those ten years, including this very sudden and mysterious mountain of
interest income of $52 million that just kind of – in tax information
terms comes from out of nowhere and disappears. So there is some
mountainous asset that’s throwing off $50 million in interest that wasn’t
there before. Wasn’t there later? What do you see when you read all that
So you look at this and basically, you expect real estate investors to
occasionally have losses.
O’DONNELL: Especially on depreciation.
MARK MAZUR, FORMER DIRECTOR, RESEARCH ANALYTICS AND STATISTICS, IRS,
Exactly right. Right, exactly. So they depreciate the property. That’s
part of the investment then you get a loss, you sell the property, you hope
to get a gain. What’s different here is the string of losses all together.
And when debt was forgiven, it is supposed to be income taken into account
then that doesn’t show up anywhere during this decade.
O’DONNELL: Oh, that’s a really important point. So if I owe a million
dollars, and at some point, I simply default on the paying of the million
dollars, and the creditor or the bank, whoever that is says, “You know
what, forget it.” That’s actually a million dollars of income to me.
MAZUR: Yes, And if you had a student loan, same thing.
O’DONNELL: Yes, and none of that – so he seems to be having debts
forgiven. And none of that’s being declared as income.
MAZUR: Right, so I think the story here is really there’s a lot more
questions than we have answers to. You point to the interest income, which
is a question not obvious where it comes from or where it went. But also
having all these losses and no corresponding income when debt was forgiven
also is another mystery.
O’DONNELL: You both know that I could continue this discussion for the
next couple of hours. So we’re going to have to do it on another night.
Congressman Lloyd Doggett, Mark Mazur, thank you both very much for joining
I really appreciate it.
MAZUR: Thank you.
O’DONNELL: And when we come back more evidence today that House Democrats
could be moving closer to impeachment, whether they want to or not.
O’DONNELL: Nancy Pelosi has been trying to manage the politics of
impeachment for over a year. During last year’s congressional campaign,
she didn’t want Democratic candidates talking about impeachment, but
reporters kept asking questions about impeachment, which left Speaker
Pelosi saying things like, “He’s just not worth it,” when asked about
impeaching President Trump.
But as Speaker Pelosi said today, Donald Trump has kept adding fuel to the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I had said the President is goading us into –
wants to goad us into impeachment because that he knows – that’s not a
good thing for the country and maybe he knows that. But he knows that I
think that, let’s put it that way. He knows I think that. The point is, is
that every single day, whether it’s corruption, obstruction, obstruction,
obstruction of having people come to the table with facts of ignoring
subpoenas every single day, the President is making a case. He is becoming
self-impeachable in terms of some of the things that he –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Speaker Pelosi has not been trying to control the rhetoric or
the positions of the Democratic presidential candidates and many of them
are now speaking very clearly and forcefully about impeachment, especially
Senator Elizabeth Warren, who became the first senator to support the
impeachment of President Trump in a speech on the Senate floor actually
recorded in the Congressional Record. That was yesterday.
When we come back from this break, Adam Jentleson, former Deputy Chief of
Staff to Harry Reid and Jennifer Palmieri, former Hillary Clinton
Communications Director will be here to discuss the role of impeachment
politics in the Democratic presidential campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is no
political inconvenience exception to the United States Constitution. If
any other human being in this country had done what’s documented in the
Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Our discussion turns to politics now as we’re joined by
Jennifer Palmieri, a former White House Communications Director for
President Obama and former Communications Director for Hillary Clinton’s
presidential campaign. Also with us, Adam Jentleson, former Deputy Chief
of Staff to Senator Harry Reid. He is now the Director of Public Affairs
for Democracy Forward.
Jennifer, it’s been fascinating for me to watch the caution that
professional Democrats have used with the word impeachment over the last
year and there seems to be less than less caution and more and more
JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT
OBAMA: Certainly with the 2020 class. And we’ve talked about this before,
I think that the Congress, this is a very serious moment and the Congress
has to follow their constitutional responsibilities. I agree with Senator
Warren. There’s not a politically inconvenient excuse clause to get you
out of that.
I do think – I do still wonder about Speaker Pelosi, I’m not sure that she
is – I think she’s playing chess. I don’t think she’s playing checkers.
I think that we’ve discussed this before.
I think that the presidential candidates leaning to the left of her as it
were on impeachment. It’s fine for her purposes, she can continue to say,
you know, give him more and more rope and say, you know, he’s self-
impeaching himself. He keeps – he is like, he wants this. He wants this
fight. And then if the fight it does get joined, she’s like done what she
could just show that it’s him playing politics and not the House.
O’DONNELL: Yes, so this is so good, because you teach me how to watch her.
So I’m now re-watching her in my head, what she said today, because I
looked at that today. And I thought, “Well, wait, Nancy Pelosi, has not
wanted impeachment. She hasn’t wanted people talking about impeachment.”
And here she is going kind of on and on about it for her ending with that
phrase, self-impeachment. And I don’t know what it means.
But you’re making me understand what she means. She means Donald Trump is
making this inevitable. And she’s trying to sound like the reasonable one,
which she does sound like.
PALMIERI: Right. Right. He thinks it’s in his political interest to do
that. So that if the democrats do end up doing this. She has laid down a
predicate to get what she can, that this is not in the Democrats’ political
interests, they’re forced into it, because they’re the ones that are
upholding the Constitution.
O’DONNELL: I would be so much better at this if I just called you every
night around seven. Adam – Adam, but still, there’s a lot of discussion
about the smart politics of this and the smart politics of impeachment.
And there’s been a lot of fears that it could be very bad for the Democrats
politically. Is there a way of sorting that out? I haven’t been able to
figure out what is the smart politics of this.
ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO SENATOR HARRY REID: Yes, I
mean, I think it’s hard to tell. I think at some point, you just have to
do the right thing and with the power that you have, you know, I mean,
we’ve had two recent impeachment of Presidents in recent decades, one
worked out well politically for the party that impeached and one didn’t.
And you might draw from that the lesson that the public thinks impeachment
is a good thing when they think the President deserves it. And don’t when
they think the President doesn’t.
In this case, the crimes at stake are so major that I think there’s a good
bet the public will think that he does deserve it. But you also just have
to start putting one foot in front of the other and using the power that
you have to do the right thing.
O’DONNELL: Yes, I mean, there’s this old saying that, you know, when in
doubt, go with the principle of the thing. And this this could be one of
those. I have to say, though, that the thing we’ve never – the dynamic
we’d never seen here before, in our lifetimes is this is this impeachment
talk about a first term President. Nixon was in his second term, Bill
Clinton was his second term.
There was no election that it was bumping up against. This President can
be gotten rid of within almost the same timeframe of impeachment if you
just wait it out to the election.
PALMIERI: Yes. And I do think about that a lot. But I think that this is
a time where our democratic institutions are being tested and they all
really need to – and the President breaks norms every day, and so I think
it’s incumbent upon Congress to be particularly vigilant and upholding its
role and, you know, it looks to me as if these – what’s laid out in the
report is very serious, and they should pursue with their hearings.
And if they find that if that leads them to impeachment proceedings, they
should undertake that without regard to politics, because what happens the
next time, right, when the President is literally considered above the law
and democracies die when you have somebody who is in an authoritarian
position comes to power who breaks norms and the other party and effort to
defeat that person does the same thing.
O’DONNELL: And Adam the – what about the Senate? I mean, we watch a lot
this battle for control the House which Nancy Pelosi successfully won. The
control of the Senate is a very different game in this next election.
JENTLESON: That’s right. But I think you know, and people, one of the
reasons people sort of fast forward on the politics of impeachment is they
say, okay, even if the House does impeach him, the Senate won’t vote to
remove and that probably is true.
But people who are up for reelection in the Senate in 2020, people like
Cory Gardner, people like Susan Collins, voting against impeachment or
against removal from office is not an easy vote for them.
So if Democrats are counting on an anti-Trump feeling to carry them to
victory in 2020, having the House impeach, send it over to the Senate,
forcing them to take a tough vote is a great way to bring the anti-Trump
energy to the Senate as well.
O’DONNELL: You could then conceivably, in that scenario, end up with a
majority vote against the President on the side. You need to vote so he
wouldn’t be removed. But you could end up with 51 or 52, which would be
quite a historical statement.
PALMIERI: Yes, you know, and in Watergate, public opinion hung in there
with Nixon for a very long time. The Republicans hung in there with Nixon
for a very long time. Until, you know, it was not until the summer of ‘74,
that it all started collapsing, he resigns in August.
So again, I think you shouldn’t game – people shouldn’t game it out. They
should proceed with impeachment if they think that is what is warranted and
then let the Senate do their trial. And you know, we might be surprised at
O’DONNELL: We’re going to squeeze in a break here. I’ll be calling
tomorrow night to find out what I should think. Jennifer Palmieri, Adam
Jentleson, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, every Republican serving in Congress now in the
House or the Senate, who actually was there when they voted to impeach Bill
Clinton is now using a different set of principles today in defending
President Trump every one of them. One of Kenneth Starr’s prosecutors
working in the Special Prosecutor’s office at that time is now calling them
out for their hypocrisy.
O’DONNELL: It turns out Lindsey Graham didn’t mean a word of what you’re
about to hear him say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): So the point I’m trying to make is you don’t
even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this
constitutional republic. Yet this body determines that your conduct as a
public official is clearly out of bounds in your role. Thank God you did
Because impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about
cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity
to the office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: That was Lindsey Graham, when he was a member of the House
Judiciary Committee serving as one of the prosecutors in the Senate
impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Lindsey Graham no longer
believes anything that he said then about the principles involved in that
impeachment. But some of the people on Graham’s side of that case against
Bill Clinton have remained consistent.
One of the is Paul Rosenzweig,who was one of the prosecutors working under
a special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr. Paul Rosenzweig is now one of the 800
former Federal prosecutors who have signed a letter saying that they
believe the Mueller report reveals prosecutable case of obstruction of
justice against President Trump. Paul Rosenzweig will join us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our nation is indeed at a crossroads. Will we pursue
the search for truth, or will we dodge, we innovate the truth? I am of
course referring to the investigation into serious allegations of illegal
conduct by the President of the United States that the President has
engaged in a persistent pattern and practice of obstruction of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Paul Rosenzweig. He is the
former senior counsel on the special prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s team who
prosecuted President Bill Clinton. He recently wrote that there is ample
reason to begin an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. He is
currently a senior fellow at the R Street Institute. And, Paul, what is it
like when you see people like Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, in a video
from yesteryear, when you were on the same side? You viewed the
impeachment of a President the same way and the investigation of a
President the same way? And to see them today with no – nothing but
defensive comments, or more likely nothing to say about what President
Trump has done?
PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FORMER SENIOR COUNSEL KEN STARR INVESTIGATION: Cognitive
dissonance. I mean, it’s just – it’s very difficult for me to understand
how you could have held that view 20 years ago, and yet today be unwilling
to follow the logic of your past history. It just – it’s disappointing,
you know, in many ways. I thought politics was more about principles than
apparently it is.
O’DONNELL: In the piece you wrote, I reviewed that your review of what the
obstruction evidence was against Bill Clinton, and it was – some of it was
just a conversation he had with one of the staff members right outside of
his office door, where he would say to her, “Well, I didn’t do anything
with Monica Lewinsky, right?” And he claimed that he was just refreshing
his memory with her. He wasn’t trying to tell her what to say. The Donald
Trump obstruction evidence is much clearer and solid than that, isn’t it?
ROSENZWEIG: In my judgment, yes. I mean, if you accept what Don McGahn,
the White House counsel has reported to have said, he was actually directed
first to fire Mueller, itself, possibly an obstructive act, but then
certainly obstructive when he was asked to create a false record of the
earlier conversation and falsely deny that it happened.
That’s kind of a classic instance of tampering with a witness’ memory. And
it was much blunter, if you will, much more direct than somewhat subtle
efforts of President Clinton.
O’DONNELL: You know, I wasn’t any longer working in the Senate during the
Clinton impeachment, but I had a lot of contact with Democratic senators.
And I remember when they started the process, when they knew “Oh, boy, this
impeachment case is coming to the Senate, we’re going to be jurors.” A
bunch of them expected to someday come across that passage somewhere that
will explain to them exactly what high crime and misdemeanor was.
And I can remember actually, Senator Moynihan who was in his scholarly way
trying to find that one day just saying to me, it turns out it’s whatever
we say it is, meaning there is no judicial review about it, so it’s really
kind of up to them. And what his position was and many Democrats was, they
weren’t contesting the evidence at all. They didn’t contest any of the
evidence that you presented.
They simply said, we hear you, we hear your case, we don’t believe this
rises to the level that deserves removal. And so that’s not what we get
from Republicans. Republicans are saying there’s nothing here. Lindsey
Graham is saying there’s nothing here.
ROSENZWEIG: I think that’s right. I mean, it would be more sensible and
perhaps consistent to say, I hear you. The evidence is fair. But it
doesn’t rise to a level of impeachment. We shouldn’t put the country
through that. There’s an election coming up as your last set of guests
said that will really decide the issue. So let’s leave it to them. Those
are all plausible arguments.
But to deny, as Attorney General Barr did the actual import of the facts
and to say that this does not constitute obstruction, when on a weaker set
of facts 20 years ago, people said, “Oh, that’s definitely obstruction of
justice,” is to blink reality.
O’DONNELL: So there’s no question in your mind that the obstruction case
against Bill Clinton was – which you prosecuted – was weaker than the
obstruction case against Donald Trump?
ROSENZWEIG: I thought both were strong, but if you’re kind of measuring
their meritoriousness, the pervasiveness of the President’s activities
today, and as we said, the bluntness with which he proceeded, the kind of
directive nature of it makes this, in my judgment, certainly an easier case
to prove, I’ll put it that way.
O’DONNELL: Paul Rosenzweig, thank you very much for joining us. I really
ROSENZWEIG: Thanks for having me.
O’DONNELL: Paul Rosenzweig gets “Tonight’s Last Word.” “The 11th Hour”
with Brian Williams starts right now.
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 content.>
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