Repubs struggle to defend Pres Trump. TRANSCRIPT: 10/29/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And Congressman Swalwell was on this program last night. And I asked him
when the colonel testifies given he`s the first witness who listened in on
the phone call, will you be questioning him about the ellipses that appear
– will you be questioning him about the accuracy of the transcript? Turns
out, yes, they question him about the accuracy of the transcript and here
we are tonight.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes, the fact that he said he made some
suggestions in terms of improving that transcript and some of them were
taken and some of them were not, is at least according to this “The New
York Times” reporting today about his testimony, that is just –
O`DONNELL: Ned Price is going to join us in a minute, and it`s the value
of adding staff here. He has restudied the transcript of the phone call
tonight, the White House transcript as we all have. And he`s found
something in it that indicates real corroboration for what the colonel
testified to today. I want to get to that the next hour.
MADDOW: Can`t wait. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, tomorrow, the House Rules Committee will vote on a resolution
establishing the rules for public hearings in the impeachment investigation
of Donald Trump. And they are rules like we have never seen before because
these rules anticipate obstructionist tactics by the president and by the
president`s lawyers. And these rules provide very specific, very immediate
penalties that the president`s lawyers will suffer right there on the spot,
in the hearing room if they try to obstruct the impeachment investigation.
We`ll take a close look at those new rules at the end of this hour.
And we now know that the transcript is not accurate. The transcript that
the White House released about the president`s phone call with the
president of Ukraine is not accurate. Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander
Vindman told the impeachment investigating committees today, according to a
report in “The New York Times” tonight, that the White House transcript of
a July call between President Trump and Ukraine`s president omitted crucial
words and phrases and that his attempts to restore them failed, according
to three people familiar with the testimony.
Colonel Vindman testified that one of the ellipses in the rough transcript
of the phone call that eliminated yet another reference to Joe Biden in
that phone call. That ellipses was not a pa some have suggested, including
some on this program have suggested that indicated perhaps a pause in the
investigation. Colonel Vindman is saying, no, that ellipses covered up yet
another reference to Joe Biden that Donald Trump actually did deliver in
that phone call.
The transcript released by the White House shows the president saying to
the president of Ukraine, the other thing, there`s a lot of talk about
Biden`s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to
find out about that. So whatever you can do with the attorney general
would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the
prosecution, so if you can look into it – and there`s the ellipses right
there, dot, dot, dot. It sounds horrible to me.
Today, Colonel Vindman in the longest testimony yet delivered to the
investigating committees, 10 1/2 hours, told the committees that that
ellipses covers the space where Donald Trump said there are tapes of Joe
Biden saying that. “The New York Times” reporting tonight suggests that
the president might have been referring to videotape of Joe Biden in 2018
in a panel discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations, describing how
the Obama administration dealt with Ukraine and attempted to get Ukraine to
strengthen its investigation and prosecution of corruption.
Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick
Maloney of New York. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee and
he attended Colonel Vindman`s deposition today.
Also joining us, Ned Price, former CIA analyst and former senior director
and spokesperson for the National Security Council in the Obama
administration. He is an MSNBC national security contributor.
And Edward McMullin is with us. He`s a former CIA operative. He served as
a senior advisor to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and as chief policy
director for the House Republican Conference. He`s the co-founder of
Standup Republican, a former independent presidential candidate.
Congressman Maloney, let me start with you. “The New York Times” reporting
tonight that turns out the White House transcript of the president`s phone
call was – is not accurate. Is there anything more you can add to that
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): Well, you put me in a tough spot. I
can`t reveal the specifics of the testimony today. It`s obviously been a
concern of many of us that I worked in the White House, I was the White
House staff secretary, I spent three years in the West Wing. I`ve seen a
lot of these memos.
You know, the nature of that product, how it`s developed, it`s not a
transcript, it`s not an electronic recording, obviously. And so, there was
always going to be some question about the preciseness of that, but I think
I wouldn`t lose the forest in the trees if I can make the larger point,
which is that the president`s conduct is made clear by the call memorandum
and it is devastating. And that conduct has been further corroborated and
confessed to by the White House chief of staff. And all the evidence that
has come out in the public domain has further corroborated the whistle-
In other words, in other words, there is already significant, undisputed
evidence of what the president did, and it`s very damning.
O`DONNELL: The paragraph about Joe Biden in that transcript as you say
contains all the evidence that you are looking for as an investigator. And
so, it`s fascinating to see that line dropped out of it because as crucial
as it is, it`s yet another reference to Joe Biden. It doesn`t seem to add
or subtract from the general content of that paragraph.
MALONEY: Well, again, I`m not going to comment on what was discussed in
testimony. In terms of “The New York Times” report, you know, if
accurately obviously it layers a bit what`s already in the rest of the call
memorandum. In other words, the conduct is the conduct. And it has been
admitted to, it has been corroborated.
I think there`s really no serious person who can dispute what occurred on
that call, and the real important question is what was intended by what the
president was saying, that has also come into focus. And it`s very
damaging to the president.
But, look, we want to most accurate record and that`s why we`re calling a
witness like Colonel Vindman a decorated army colonel, served his country
heroically in Iraq, earned a Purple Heart and this was the first witness
who was on the call. And who by the way is a legacy Ukrainian and Russian
speaker. So, this is a very valuable witness. It took great courage for
him to come forward and testify, and we are grateful in his service in
O`DONNELL: How do you characterize colonel Vindman`s credibility, his
consistency as a witness and his recall ability?
MALONEY: Well, this is clearly someone who has spent his entire
professional life serving our country. You see him sitting there in an
army colonel uniform, and you know that those badges have been earned in
combat serving his country. This is not someone who plays politics. It`s
not someone who pulls his punches. This is professional army officer, and
he`s – and he`s describing exactly what he saw.
And so I think his credibility is sky high. And I think that we are
blessed to have men like Colonel Vindman come in and give the evidence that
they know of, that they have truthfully under great risk, by the way, to
his own professional standing and to do it because he thinks it`s part of
his service to his country. It`s another extension of a lifetime of
service. And so, the guy`s got great credibility with me.
O`DONNELL: President Trump attacked the colonel on Twitter today. We`ll
get to that later this hour.
Did any Republicans in that room attack Colonel Vindman today?
MALONEY: Well, what I can tell you without getting into the specifics is
that it`s clear that the Republicans cannot engage on the substance, so
what they`re left with are silly process arguments which are now being
mooted and also character assassination on a very good chairman, Adam
Schiff, but also around the edges with allies at Fox News on these
So you`re going to have to ask my conservative colleagues why they would
try to undermine someone who earned a Purple Heart in Iraq, who spent his
life in the United States Army and has nothing but a distinguished record
in his path when he comes in, swears an oath and talks about his first-hand
knowledge of what happened in a White House call, someone who speaks the
native language of the Ukrainian president.
I mean, this is great witness with important testimony. Good luck
undermining this guy.
O`DONNELL: Ned Price, we`ve all gone back to that rough transcript
released by the White House of the president`s phone call with the
president of Ukraine looking at the ellipses and wondering what might have
been left out in the other two on the transcript. But you`ve also
restudied since this reporting has come out tonight about the inaccuracies
in that transcript.
What are you finding when you study it?
NED PRICE, FORMER CIA ANALYST: Well, as a starting point, Lawrence, I
would totally agree with Congressman Maloney we can`t lose sight of the
forest for the trees – the forest being President Trump`s national
But I will zoom in on the trees for just a moment here because I think it
does underline not the crime but the cover up. And I say that because
there`s an especially pertinent fact we learned tonight from this “The New
York Times” story taken from this story. And that`s as you and Rachel were
discussing some of the colonel`s edits to the transcript if you want to be
technical, the memorandum of conversation, were incorporated. But some
And so, that fact puts a very unflattering spotlight on the edits that were
not. And according to tonight`s “New York Times” story, there were two
specific edits. One was a reference, an invocation to Burisma, the
Ukrainian energy company by President Zelensky of Ukraine and the second
was the reference you mentioned to recordings of Joe Biden.
Now, of course, the first edit to me, the reference of Burisma, could be
completely innocuous. Of course, the White House transcribers tend to be
those serving in the Situation Room who don`t have in-depth, substantive
knowledge of Ukraine. And that is why we have people like colonel Vindman.
The second edit, the reference to recordings of Joe Biden seems to me much
more nefarious. That does not seem to be the sort of content that could
just be left out of the reconstructed transcript. And I think that brings
me to something that has always torn at me about this transcript that was
released by the White House.
And that`s this strange notation that you see on the transcript that says
on the upper right-hand corner, package number short. And what should be
there is a number. The fact that there is not a number there suggests this
was never finalized. This document was never finalized in the system.
And ultimately what that means, at least what my hunch is that this cover-
up started before Colonel Vindman`s edits were incorporated. Now, it`s an
open question as to whether his edits were reviewed or rejected, or whether
the cover-up just started so quickly that the transcript was put on ice and
it wasn`t in touch from there.
O`DONNELL: Edward McMullin, your reaction tonight about the – what “The
New York Times” is reporting about the transcript not being accurate, what
we`ve heard from Congressman Maloney that within that hearing room today
Republicans didn`t have anything of substance that they were challenging
the colonel with.
EDWARD MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Yes. Well, I`d like to say that I
agree with the comments of Congressman Maloney and also of Ned. You know,
I think it`s interesting to zoom out a little bit here and keep in mind the
defense that the president and Vice President Pence and their allies have
offered for the past few weeks, which is they`re just interested in
fighting corruption in Ukraine and wherever it exists, they just want to
What they want to do is take the focus away from their interests in Vice
President Joe Biden as much as possible. And you sort of see that playing
out with the way they handled this rough transcript as well, where what`s
left out and Ned makes a very good point, some edits from Vindman weren`t
left out and some were. So why were the ones that were left out, why were
they left out?
Well, one thing I would offer, one idea about that on the Burisma point and
also on the reference to Joe Biden is that think about, you know, if those
references are there, if the number of times that the president is
mentioning Joe Biden or Burisma or other proper nouns associated with the
Bidens, if the higher that number is the more focused you can see that
President Trump had on those issues, that it wasn`t just a general interest
in corruption, that this really is about Joe Biden.
And you can also imagine how if you`re President Zelensky, the number of
times that President Trump is mentioning Biden, Biden, Biden or Burisma or
other things or the amount of times there are these direct references to
the Bidens has an effect of putting more pressure on President Zelensky,
which is also other argument that Trump and his allies have made, that
there was no pressure.
But these edits I think are important for showing there was focus of course
on Biden. We know that, most sane people. But also that Zelensky probably
did feel pressure and we know from other reporting that he, in fact, did.
O`DONNELL: And, Congressman Maloney, we know from the colonel`s opening
statement that he repeatedly went to the counsel of the National Security
Council to complain, to share his concerns, his worries about what he was
hearing both from the president`s phone call, things he heard in
conversation with Ambassador Sondland.
Was that part of the testimony that he was constantly trying to bring this
to the attention of others? Was that clear in his testimony?
MALONEY: Again, can`t talk about the testimony, but I will take note that
there was a statement released before the testimony started. So I don`t
feel similarly encumbered about what he released or what was released as a
public statement. What is clear to me, Lawrence, let me put it this way,
is that this is a person with a strong moral compass. This is person who
believes there`s right and there`s wrong. And he saw something he thought
he was wrong, and he felt he had a duty as an army officer to report it.
And he was going to do that by the book. And that is what he continued to
do today. To respond to a subpoena, you know, in a lawful manner and to
come up here and to give truthful testimony.
So I think you`ve got a guy who`s very much trying to do the right thing,
who`s done it his whole life. This is guy who served us in Iraq and paid a
terrible price for it. He`s an extremely talented person. He`s an
immigrant by the way and he`s a great American success story, and he`s been
serving his country honorably and he`s seeking to continue to do so.
And thank god for a man like Colonel Vindman because without them, I don`t
know where we`d be right now.
O`DONNELL: Ned Price, what happens to telling Colonel Vindman when he goes
back for work in the Trump White House tomorrow?
PRICE: Yes, Lawrence. What`s so remarkable is the fact he was appearing
before Congress today pursuant to a subpoena because the White House has
made quite clear it does not want its officials, nor other executive branch
officials complying with a lawful – with a lawful subpoena issued by a
coequal branch of government. And that in itself is pretty startling, the
fact that in some ways Colonel Vindman had to buck his superiors in order
to appear today.
Certainly, this is White House that is known for its vindicativeness. This
is White House that is known even on its best days to stab its colleagues
and those around them in the back. So, certainly, I don`t expect it will
be an especially welcoming environment for Colonel Vindman, unfortunately.
But it`s not like it was all that unwelcoming for him before today. There
was a really remarkable aside in his prepared statement where Colonel
Vindman noted in his year plus on the NSC staff, he had never once
communicated with or met with President Trump. And this is our point
person for Ukraine.
And that is really jarring and disturbing because we know that instead of
meeting with experts, people like Colonel Vindman, President Trump has been
seeking out Rudy Giuliani and another individual whose sole qualification
is that he gave a million dollars to president Trump`s inaugural committee.
So, this is not a government and a White House specifically that relies on
expertise. And I fear that after today, this is White House that will rely
even less on colonel Vindman`s expertise. And that`s to the detriment of
our national security.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Maloney, Ambassador Sondland as Ned was just
referring to, reportedly came back to the committee to check the transcript
of his testimony. What – what is he allowed to do when he`s checking the
transcript of the testimony? Is he allowed to look at an answer where he
says, I don`t recall, or something and actually change the answer, say I
have a better recollection now?
MALONEY: He`s sure as hell better check that transcript, let me just say
that. And I think the answer to your question is, is that if he`s smart,
he and his counsel will maybe seek to come back and answer some additional
questions in light of – in light of what I think are the problems with his
testimony. So, without getting into the specifics, I can tell you this
dilettante-turned-diplomat doesn`t have half the credibility to me of
somebody in that position ought to have, and it pales in comparison to
witnesses like Yovanovitch or Taylor or now Vindman. And I think
Ambassador Sondland is very dangerous position and he should think long and
hard about he`s said and what he can say and what he should say.
O`DONNELL: One member who`s been – who has there for Ambassador
Sondland`s testimony said on this program last week he believed he was in
danger of perjury charges on the basis of Ambassador Bill Taylor`s
MALONEY: Look, I don`t – I don`t want to gloss what I just told you. I
think Ambassador Sondland ought to read his transcript carefully and he
ought to see whether his recollection or whether his ability to answer in
more complete ways has been enhanced, let me put it that way. I think – I
think Ambassador Sondland is at the heart of this thing, and he owes us
truthful testimony, all of it, and that is in his own best interest.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, Ned Price, Even McMullin,
thank you all very much for starting us off tonight. I really appreciate
And when we come back, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman testified for
10-1/2 hours today and reporters in that report reportedly spent most of
that time trying to find out the identity of the whistle-blower. That`s
O`DONNELL: In his opening statement today, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander
Vindman said: I want the committees to know I am not the whistle-blower who
brought this issue to the committees` attention. I do not know who the
whistle-blower is, and I would not feel comfortable to speculate as to the
identity of the whistle-blower.
And according to some reports, that is all Republicans wanted to talk about
with Lieutenant Colonel Vindman today. They repeatedly questioned him
about the whistle-blower and tried to get him to give them a name, even
though he said under oath that he does not know who the whistle-blower is,
in his opening statement.
Here`s Chairman Adam Schiff`s reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The president would love to punish the whistle-
blower. The president`s comments and actions have jeopardized the whistle-
blower`s safety. The president`s allies would like nothing better than to
help the president out, this whistle-blower. Our committee will not be a
part of that. We will not stand for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, someone else who was in the room
today, Congressman David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island. He
serves on the House Judiciary Committee.
Congressman, what can you tell us about the Republican attempts to get a
name for the whistle-blower today?
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Well, Lawrence, first of all, the whistle-
blower statute, of course, protects the identity of whistleblowers. This
is essential so that people can feel comfortable coming forward to report
misconduct or corruption. So, it`s required by statute the identity of the
whistle-blower remain confidential. The efforts to unmask the whistle-
blower are disgraceful.
But it`s part of the pattern to really distract from the underlying, the
substance of the evidence. That is president attempting to interfere in a
presidential election, uphold – you know, holding out military assistance
as leverage to try to get him to gin up a false investigation against one
of his political opponents.
And, you know, the president admitted that on camera. He released a
telephone transcript, a report of that that confirms it. And there`s, of
course, the whistle-blower report that details the scheme in its entirety.
But we have subsequently heard from a number of witnesses now who have
corroborated the essential parts of this scheme. So, the whistle-blower`s
identity is really irrelevant. It`s really to point to the misconduct of
the president. The president`s admitted it. The transcript of the phone
call corroborates it, and we`ve heard of a number of witnesses filling in
So, this is an effort to distract. You know, the Republicans will not talk
about the devastating evidence against this president of his misconduct of
obstruction, of American elections, of betraying his oath of office, of
betraying the national security interests of the United States and
undermining the rule of law, and instead they`re talking about these
process arguments just because they`re desperate not to focus on the facts
because they have no argument. It`s so shocking.
O`DONNELL: What can you tell us about the process argument that erupted in
the deposition today, Congressman Swalwell apparently in a clash with
Republican Mark Meadows that apparently forced Chairman Schiff to adjust
the way the proceeding was going on?
CICILLINE: Well, all I can tell you is – I can`t discuss the questions
that were asked or the answers that were provided by the witness – but
there has been a pattern of disruption by the Republicans throughout the
proceedings. First, they claimed they weren`t allowed to participate. Of
course, they had exactly the same amount of time as the Democrats. There
are three committees of jurisdiction. They`re welcome to come. Most of
them don`t even come to the proceedings.
And then they did that sort of – they marched in and violated the rules
and brought some electronic equipment in and ordered pizza. So, there have
been a number of tactics where they`ve tried to disrupt our efforts to
collect evidence, to hear from witnesses under oath and that continued
O`DONNELL: I notice in the resolution that you`re going to vote on, Rules
Committee going to vote on tomorrow, the full House is going to vote on
Thursday, that outlines the rules for public hearings in the impeachment
investigation and Intelligence Committee. And later when the Judiciary
Committee gets to the actual articles of impeachment consideration, there`s
a new set of rules there. And those rules seem to be designed to deal with
CICILLINE: Yes. So the resolution we will take up really sets up a set of
rules that will follow in the next phase of the impeachment inquiry. That
is the public hearing process. So, it sets out a set of procedures in the
intelligence committee as well as judiciary committee to allow for
prolonged questioning by counsel. On the judiciary committee, it will
allow the president to have counsel present to do some questioning as well.
So it really sets forth the procedure for the next phase of the impeachment
inquiry, which will be a public process where the American people will hear
from witnesses we have heard from and really begin to understand the full
gravity of the president`s misconduct and this elaborate scheme both inside
the White House and outside the White House to pressure a foreign leader to
interfere in an American presidential election, to help President Trump in
his re-election, really shocking behavior by the president.
MADDOW: But the Judiciary Committee rules that I read tonight are unlike
any I`ve seen before for the previous impeachment investigations because
the rules seem to anticipate obstructionism and bad behavior on the part of
the president`s lawyers in that room and possibly the Republicans. And
when you look at the past resolutions, they anticipated actual bipartisan
cooperation in these hearings.
CICILLINE: Well, you know, Lawrence, unfortunately, we have seen complete
obstruction by the president throughout this process. For many months, he
was successful on ordering people not to appear, not to produce documents.
That has begun to change. Thankfully, we`ve had some great patriots that
have come forward and complied with subpoenas issued by Congress and shared
very important testimony to the committees.
But, you know, we expect the president is going to engage in the behavior
he has and will continue to impede in the progress of our hearings. So
we`re trying to anticipate that and put rules in place that will allow
evidence to be considered, witnesses to testify, the committee to function
in productive way, not expecting the president is going to change his
behavior or his lawyer is going to be any different. So, we setout rules
that we think will make it efficient and transparent and allow the American
people to hear the evidence.
O`DONNELL: Congressman David Cicilline, thank you very much for joining us
tonight. Really appreciate it.
CICILLINE: My pleasure. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And we come back, there`s a new report today saying that
Republicans are very worried about what their calling a possible total
wipeout next year, in 2020, in the election. Wipeout in the House, wipeout
in the Senate, losing the Senate and of course losing the White House. And
Donald Trump today decides to attack Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman
on Twitter. Decorated combat veteran is the new Trump enemy. How`s that
going to work for the re-election of Republicans? That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Of course Donald Trump attacked Lieutenant Colonel Alexander
Vindman this morning, just as he was beginning his testimony to the House
Donald Trump launched the attack against the decorated combat veteran, who
works in the Trump White House on the National Security Council, the same
way that Donald Trump launches most of his attacks on Twitter.
Donald Trump tweeted, supposedly, according to the Corrupt Media, the
Ukraine call “concerned” today`s Never Trumper witness. Was he on the same
call that I was? Can`t be possible! Please ask him to read the Transcript
of the call. Witch hunt!
Colonel Vindman did read the transcript of the call and he testified today
under oath that the transcript is wrong, the transcript is inaccurate.
Colonel Vindman testified that more of Donald Trump`s incriminating
language about Joe Biden was eliminated from that transcript.
And Donald Trump`s attack on Colonel Vindman and the completely predictable
Fox News attacks on Colonel Vindman, even some Republicans after that had
to step forward and say enough, stop attacking the Colonel.
Many Republicans in the House and Senate know how damaging Donald Trump is,
not just to Republican hopes of holding on to the White House, but to any
hopes that Republicans have in the House and Senate elections.
Axios is reporting tonight that, a growing number of Republicans are
privately warning of increasing fears of a total wipeout in 2020: House,
Senate and White House. The Republican Senate majority, once considered
relatively safe, suddenly looks in serious jeopardy.
Democrats are raising more money, and polling better, than Republican
incumbents in battleground after battleground. President Trump trails every
major Democratic candidate nationally and in swing states - and his
favorable ratings remain well under 50%.
Republican strategists and campaign staffers said that with the
polarization of the Trump era, key House and Senate races will depend even
more than usual on the Presidential race, as the defense of Donald Trump
becomes more hopeless, more desperate, and more ugly for Republicans.
What does that mean for Donald Trump`s impeachment trial in the United
States Senate? Could there be a majority vote in the United States Senate
to remove Donald Trump from office. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Most Republicans are not cooperating in Donald Trump`s attempts
to attack all the witnesses against Donald Trump in the impeachment
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Questioning the patriotism, questioning the
dedication to country, of people like Mr. Vindman, Lieutenant-Colonel
Vindman, who will be coming today and others who have testified?
I think that we need to show that we are better than that as a nation,
their patriotism, their love of country, we`re talking about decorated
veterans who have served this nation, who have put their lives on the line
and it is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this nation,
and we should not be involved in that process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Jennifer Rubin an opinion writer
at the Washington Post an MSNBC contributor and Evan McMullin is back with
us. And Jennifer, of course the Congresswoman Cheney did not have the
courage to mention Donald Trump`s personal attack on Colonel Vindman.
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER AT THE WASHINGTON POST AND AN MSNBC
CONTRIBUTOR: No she didn`t. And we were these people, by the way, when
Donald Trump was attacking the FBI, when they were attacking Robert
Donald Trump has done this all along. It`s just because the optics got to
be so horrendous that they felt like they had to step forward. But this is
why they`re in a heap of trouble. Used to be that Republicans way back when
were the party of national security, were the party that appreciated law
enforcement, and now they`re simply throwing rocks at these patriots, and I
don`t know how this is going to go over well with Middle America.
O`DONNELL: Evan McMullin, you know many of these Republicans well, House
Republicans. Is this the line, have we found the line that most of them
will not cross, an attack on Colonel Vindman?
EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: You know Lawrence, I`m not sure there
is a line, so I`m not going to say this is it. But look I`ll tell you, when
you see Liz Cheney come out like that, she`s the Chair of the House
Republican Conference, she leads messaging for House Republicans.
And I can tell you from experience that, when someone in her position comes
out to sort of correct something that some Republican member or some
Republican advocate or media person has said, it`s because they`re worried
about how that`s going to play with constituents, whatever it was that was
And I think what we`re seeing here, I would love to say that Congresswoman
Cheney and actually I might give her a little bit of credit on this that
maybe she does respect Colonel Vindman and just as importantly the millions
of Americans who have served like he has, maybe there`s some respect there.
But I think actually what the predominant concern there is that they
understand, as Jen just mentioned, that attacking a combat veteran is not
going to go over well politically for them in all the districts that
they`re going to be competing for, even to hold their minority number now,
let alone gain a majority, which seems like an impossibility in the House
at this point right now.
But that`s what it is, they are worried about how this attack, these
attacks on honorable veterans -they`re worried about that effect across
America. But I do not think that that`s going to stop the President`s
allies in the House and others from attacking honorable public servants,
even those who have served in uniform.
O`DONNELL: And Jennifer, one thing worth entering in the historical record
here is that they are all lying, every single one of them. None of those
Republicans actually respect Donald Trump as a human being in any way, none
of them actually think he`s capable of executing the duties of President.
They`re all lying about that for their own reelection protection with the
Trump base, and they`re all lying about any critical judgment they offer
about witnesses against Donald Trump, all of whom all of these Republicans
know are more respectable and honest and capable people than Donald Trump.
RUBIN: Well there`s probably a few of them that are so dim that they
actually believe Trump.
But you`re right, the vast majority of them are doing this out of a deep
sense of cynicism and fear. But listen, we were just saying Lawrence,
they`re now going down with the ship, the House, the Senate, the White
Rather than attack patriots, maybe what they should do is disentangle
themselves from a very unpopular President who has been caught confessing
to impeachable acts. This is how illogical they are behaving, because they
are so afraid of I don`t know a mean tweet or perhaps a primary challenge
that they have adopted a strategy that is entirely counterproductive for
them and is probably making things a lot worse.
O`DONNELL: And Evan, quickly before we go to a break here, in the Senate
trial, if there`s a majority vote to remove Donald Trump from office, it
only takes a few Republicans to switch over to get to a majority vote, that
would be a devastating historical judgment about Donald Trump entering the
record. It takes 67 to remove him, but if they can get Mitt Romney and two,
three other Republicans, that would be quite a significant historical
statement against Donald Trump.
MCMULLIN: It certainly would be, Lawrence, and I think that`s what we`re
going to get. I think it will be a majority to convict in the Senate. As
you point out, it`s not enough for removal, but let`s not be - it will
wound him politically. I think that`ll do enormous damage to him in
competitive districts and other Republicans of course in states.
But I think we need to be sober about what comes next. And let me tell you
what I think comes next is that the President emerges from this process
saying I`m politically wounded, but I`ve survived the impeachment and the
Senate conviction trial or Senate trial, I`ve survived and I haven`t been
convicted. And now all I have to have to worry about is the voters,
American people voting me out of office, and guess what, I know how to deal
with that, and I and my foreign backers will simply escalate our attacks on
American democracy, because they`ll have even greater incentive to do so
than they did in 2016.
That`s where I think we`re headed. But yes, it would be good and it`s
probably likely that there will be a majority voting in favor of conviction
in the Senate, though it will fall short of removal and of actual
O`DONNELL: Evan McMullin and Jennifer Rubin, thank you both for joining our
discussion, really appreciate that. Thank you.
And when we come back, House Democrats released the text of the resolution
they will be voting on, on Thursday. They provide new rules about how the
impeachment inquiry will be conducted, especially in the Judiciary
Committee, and those new rules should give the Chairman real power over
Republican obstructionism. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: In 1974, James St. Clair became the first lawyer in history to
defend a President in an impeachment investigation on television.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES ST. CLAIR, FORMER CHIEF LEGAL COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: The
main issue that has to do with Watergate and in substance, it seemed clear
to me and I argued that there was no evidence the President knew anything
about in advance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: James St. Clair lost that argument when President Nixon was
forced to turn over audio tapes that showed him directing and participating
in obstruction of justice in the Oval Office. James St. Clair returned to
his Boston law firm with the admiration of the entire legal community
He continued his distinguished career as a trial attorney and lecturer at
Harvard Law School. James St. Clair was defending a guilty client, but he
did it with respect for the seriousness of the impeachment process, respect
for the rules, and respect for the court decisions that forced his client
to release the damning evidence against himself that ended the Nixon
Rudy Giuliani is no James St. Clair. Donald Trump`s lawyers are the worst
lawyers who have ever defended a President of the United States. Their
legal arguments are cartoons of legal arguments. Nothing embarrasses them.
When they`re frivolous arguments get crushed by judges, they just make more
The resolution the House of Representatives will pass this week outlining
the impeachment investigation procedures in the various committees will
give Donald Trump`s lawyers special rights in the Judiciary Committee
hearings, including the right to cross-examine witnesses.
But those rules also give the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee unique
power, power that was never thought necessary in an impeachment proceeding
before this one. If the Trump lawyers bring their obstructionist game into
the Judiciary Committee hearings, they will pay a price immediately right
there in the room. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: The Committee shall report to the House of Representatives such
resolutions, articles of impeachment or other recommendations as it deems
proper. That sentence appears in the 1974 House resolution authorizing the
House Judiciary Committee to conduct an impeachment investigation into
That same sentence appears virtually word-for-word 24 years later in the
1998 House resolution authorizing the impeachment investigation of
President Bill Clinton. And that sentence appears virtually word-for-word
as the last sentence in the House resolution on impeachment that will be
brought to the House floor for a vote on Thursday.
The House Judiciary Committee will adopt new rules to comply with that
resolution that grant the President and the President`s lawyers special
rights during the Judiciary Committee hearings on impeachment, including
the right to object to questions asked of any witness and the right to
question any witness.
But the final provision in the new rules of the House Judiciary Committee
for impeachment hearings says that if the President blocks witnesses from
testifying and refuses to produce documents, “The Chair shall have the
discretion to impose appropriate remedies including by denying specific
requests by the President or his counsel under these procedures to call or
Joining us now is Julian Epstein, former Democratic Chief Counsel to the
House Judiciary Committee for the - he was there during the Clinton
impeachment hearings, and EJ Dionne opinion writer for The Washington Post
and a visiting professor at Harvard University.
And EJ, they didn`t need rules like this for James St. Claire, they didn`t
need rules like this for President Clinton`s lawyers because they presumed
reasonable behavior in these hearings. But that`s not the case with Rudy
Giuliani and the Trump lawyers.
EJ DIONNE, OPINION WRITER FOR THE WASHINGTON POST AND VISITING PROFESSOR AT
HARVARD UNIVERSITY: No, it`s not. And I think that this rule is very clear,
the President will be given every right to intervene, but he won`t be given
that right if he decides that he will deny the Committee and by extension
the public itself legitimate information.
There are some other things they`ve done in these rules I think that are
interesting. One is the committees that are being excluded from this
process, they include the Oversight Committee and the Foreign Affairs
Committee. They`re not part of this at all and guess what, there are a
couple of members of the Oversight Committee who are among the Republican
Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows are kept out of the process this way. Lee
Zeldin of the Foreign Affairs Committee, another flamethrower, is kept out
of the process this way. I think that`s another way in which they`re trying
to keep this from becoming a circus.
And lastly, it really appears that they`ve learned from the Mueller hearing
and that the five-minute rule, everybody asks a question for five minutes
and you move on, really doesn`t give you a great hearing. So that in the
Intelligence Committee, and by the way, Adam Schiff is the king of the hill
in this process, the way this rule is written, because all of the early
hearings go through him.
In the Intelligence Committee, there`ll be a block of 90 minutes to be
divided 45 minutes each for the Chairman and the Ranking Member, and they
can delegate that to a Committee staff member. So you can have a consistent
line of inquiry and not have it all caught up the way it has - was so often
in the Mueller hearing.
O`DONNELL: And Julian Epstein, that`s the good news about the House
Judiciary Committee too. We`re going to be seeing a lot more of Barry
Berke, the counsel who asked questions in that Committee before, because
this rule allows the Committee Counsel to be asking the questions for 45
minutes at a time.
But I want to get your reaction to what control you think this rule gives
Chairman Nadler in the House Judiciary Committee?
JULIAN EPSTEIN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC CHIEF COUNSEL AT THE HOUSE JUDICIARY
COMMITTEE: Well lots of control, but you expect that on the Committee
Chair. And let me just say, in 1998, we gave - the Republicans gave the
White House exactly the procedural guarantees that the Democrats are now
giving to the Trump White House. It`s almost word-for-word in terms of
And after those were voted on, those were voted on by voice vote in the
Committee. Here you actually have a House rule that`s in place, which is
much stronger than you had in 1998. After those rules were put in place,
Tom Mooney who was the chief counsel of the Judiciary Committee and myself
had to meet with Chuck Ruff who was the White House Counsel to discuss the
implementation of those rules.
And during that meeting, while there was intense disagreement during the
1998 impeachment, but all during the meeting when we had to negotiate the -
how those rules would be carried through, there was complete cooperation by
the White House. The Clinton White House cooperated every step along the
way, even though there was intense disagreement on the overall impeachment.
And that`s totally contrary today, Republicans have completely painted
themselves in a corner by relying on the process argument that Nancy Pelosi
has now taken away from them.
O`DONNELL: Julian Epstein, we`re going to need your expertise on this as
this process moves on. Thank you for joining us. EJ Dionne, thank you for
That is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams starts
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the