Rep. Katie Hill casts her final vote. TRANSCRIPT: 10/31/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And I hope someone tells Donald Trump he`s still going to have file New
York tax returns every year since he derives a substantial amount of income
from New York. So he doesn`t escape filing the New York tax returns.
There will probably be some state tax benefit for him going to a state like
Florida that doesn`t have a state income tax.
But he will get to vote in a swing state. Maybe that`s the most important
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes, I don`t know. I mean, when it comes to
him getting advice on legal matters, you`ve seen what his lawyers try to
argue in court. I`m not sure anybody`s going to tell him anything.
O`DONNELL: Rachel, before you go, we`ve got some breaking news from the
“Washington examiner”. President Trump did an interview with the
“Washington Examiner” tonight. And I think we now know what the new chant
is going to be. Remember build the wall?
O`DONNELL: I think it`s going to be “read the transcript”. Donald Trump
in this interview told the “Washington Examiner” that he has all sorts of
plans for surviving this impeachment investigation, including t-shirts with
the slogan “read the transcript.”
MADDOW: He remembers that when the country read the transcript that`s when
he started getting impeached, right?
O`DONNELL: I don`t know what he knows. I don`t know. I don`t know.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, on this historic night when the House of Representatives
voted on the procedures for impeaching the president of the United States,
I am very pleased that we will be joined once again by Ezra Klein who first
discussed the subject of impeaching Donald Trump with me on this program
two years ago when the Trump presidency already had many of us considering
the impeachment of Donald Trump.
Ezra wrote the most important article of that period about impeachment,
arguing that the process should be demystified and approached without fear.
He said then: We have grown too afraid of the consequences of impeachment
and two complacent about the consequences of leaving an unfit president in
Not anymore. At the end of this hour, Ezra Klein will join us to consider
what America is about to learn about the impeachment of the president of
the United States.
But first, now, there are two, two witnesses who have testified to the
House impeachment inquiry who were listening in on President Trump`s phone
call with the president of Ukraine. The phone call that is going to get
the president of the United States impeached no matter how often he tells
people to read the transcript.
The second witness to testify about listening to the president`s phone call
gave his testimony while the House of Representatives was taking a historic
vote. A vote no member of Congress ever expect to cast, a vote on a
resolution authorizing and detailing the procedures for an impeachment
inquiry of the president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Hopefully, as we go forward with this with the
clarity of purpose, a clarity of procedure, a clarity of fact, a clarity of
truth, it`s about the truth. It`s about the Constitution. We will do so
in a way that brings people together that is healing rather than dividing,
and that is how we will honor our oath of office. I urge an aye vote and
yield back the balance of my time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It was a party line vote with 232 in favor and 196 opposed.
All Republicans opposed the resolution. Justin Amash who left the
Republican Party not long after reading the Mueller report and is now an
independent member of Congress voted in favor of the impeachment
resolution. Two Democratic congressmen who represent districts that were
won by Donald Trump voted against the resolution, but both of those
Democrats, Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey
said they will make a decision on impeaching the president only after all
of the evidence has been publicly presented.
So the likelihood tonight when all of the evidence is publicly presented,
there will be at least 232 votes in the House of Representatives to impeach
Donald John Trump and send him to trial in the United States Senate,
because the phone call cannot get better, that`s the problem. The rough
transcript of President Trump`s phone call with the president of Ukraine
remains the most damning evidence in the case against the president. That
phone call did get a bit worse on Tuesday when Lieutenant Colonel Alexander
Vindman testified that he heard the president make one more reference to
Joe Biden that does not appear in the White House rough transcript in the
section where Donald Trump was asking for Ukraine`s help in his re-election
campaign by urging Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is, of course, a nonpartisan witness. He has no
history of occupational association with Democrats or Republicans. Today`s
witness to the phone call is a career-long partisan Republican who served
on Republican congressional staffs before joining the White House staff.
Tim Morrison has been serving as senior director for European affairs at
the White House and the National Security Council.
Tim Morrison is leaving that job, and his employment future is entirely
dependent on the good graces of Republican in Washington, either as a
lobbyist with access to Republicans or with any future government position.
Tim Morrison seemed to be looking for ways to keep his options open in
future Republican employment in his testimony today when he tried to be as
generous as possible to the president saying things like, I am pleased our
process gave the president the confidence he needed to approve the release
of the security sector assistance for Ukraine.
But the process Tim Morrison actually described was consistent with the
completely corrupted process that included Rudy Giuliani and was described
in testimony already by Ambassador William Taylor and Lieutenant Colonel
In his testimony today, Tim Morrison described that process in these terms.
Ambassador Sondland and President Trump`s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani,
were trying to get President Zelensky to reopen Ukrainian investigations
into Burisma. At the time, I did not know what Burisma was or what the
After the meeting with Dr. Hill, I Googled Burisma and learned it was a
Ukrainian energy company and that Hunter Biden was on its board. I also
did not understand why Ambassador Sondland would be involved in Ukraine
policy, often without the involvement of our duly appointed chief of
mission, Ambassador Bill Taylor.
In his opening statement, this is what Tim Morrison said about Donald
Trump`s phone call with the president of Ukraine. I listen today the call
as it occurred in the Situation Room. To the best of my recollection, the
MemCon accurately and completely reflects the substance of the call.
I also recall that I did not see anyone from NSC legal advisers in the room
during the call. After the call, I promptly ask the NSC legal adviser and
his deputy to review it. I had three concerns about a potential leak of
First, how it would play out in Washington`s polarized environment.
Second, how a leak would affect the bipartisan support of our Ukrainian
partners currently experienced in Congress. And third, how it would affect
the Ukrainian perceptions of the U.S.-Ukrainian relationship. I want to be
clear, I was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed.
Lieutenant Colonel Vindman also discussed his concerns after the
president`s phone call. “The Washington Post” is reporting this dramatic
account of Colonel Vindman`s closed door testimony on Tuesday. After the
call, Vindman hurried to John Eisenberg`s door bringing with him his twin
brother, Yevgeny, an ethics attorney on the National Security Council.
Michael Ellis, a deputy legal advisor to the National Security Council,
also joined the discussion, the person said.
Vindman read out loud notes he took on the president`s call. Eisenberg
then suggested the National Security Council move records of the call to a
second highly classified computer system. Vindman told lawmakers, former
Trump national security officials said it was unheard of to store
presidential calls with foreign leaders on that system but that Eisenberg
had moved at least one other transcript of a Trump phone call there.
Leading off our discussion tonight are Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin
of Maryland. He`s a member of the House Oversight Committee and the House
Judiciary Committee. He attended part of Tim Morrison`s deposition today.
Also joining us, Tess Bridgeman, former special assistant to the president,
deputy legal advisor to the National Security Council and associate White
House counsel in the Obama administration, and Ron Klain, former senior
aide to Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama and former chief
counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ron Klain is an advisor now on
Joe Biden`s presidential campaign.
Congressman Raskin, let me start with you. The president in this interview
tonight with the “Washington Examiner” is calling Tim Morrison`s testimony
fantastic. He doesn`t seem to understand that Tim Morrison has basically
corroborated the worst evidence against the president, which of course is
what he said to the president of Ukraine in that phone call.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Right. Look, he was called today as a fact
witness. And, you know, I can`t go into the details of what I saw. But if
everything that you`re quoting is true, then he indeed was a corroborating
fact witness in this case. He was not called for his legal opinions about
anything, and he`s not even a lawyer.
So what he thought about the president`s conduct is neither here nor there
from a legal or constitutional perspective. But what he was able to verify
from a factual perspective is definitely very important to us. And the
critical point here is we`ve now had around a dozen witnesses all of whom
are telling us the same story.
The president staged a shakedown operation against the Ukrainian government
in order to obtain this political information that he wanted about the
Bidens and Burisma. And in order to verify a false story about the 2016
campaign, essentially replacing what we know about the systematic and
sweeping effort by Russia to subvert our campaign with a false story about
Ukraine. Everything`s lined up there.
So, ultimately, I believe we`re going to find that the Republicans are
going to make an argument that we`re starting here now, which is that that
none of this happened. They`re going to quietly concede that. They`re
just going to say it doesn`t quite rise to the level of an impeachable
offense. And I think that`s going to be their last ditch argument.
O`DONNELL: What can you tell us, Congressman, what it was like today to be
on the house floor for the kind of vote that no member of Congress ever
expects to cast?
RASKIN: Well, it was somber. And a lot of my colleagues who oftentimes
speak with a lot of rhetorical flourish or humor were very subdued. And I
spoke also, and I found myself in a very solemn and serious mode. We are
acting in a certain sense vindicating the values of the founders of the
Constitution looking backwards. But also looking forwards we`re acting in
the service of future generations.
So it was a pretty heavy thing, I`ve got to tell you. At the same time I
think it felt honorable that we were standing strong for our Constitution.
We were disappointed that the Republican decided to, you know, lock arms
and say they didn`t want to be part of an investigation when we were giving
them precisely what they`ve been asking for the last several weeks, which
is open hearings and the ability for the committee to release the
depositions and so on.
And it`s obvious that they haven`t figured out what to say about the fact
that the basic gravamen of the complaint seems to be proven more every
single day, so instead they rail about the process. And I think that act
is beginning to wear on people. It looks pretty thin.
And, you know, there are a couple of times over the last week or two where
they`ve turned the people`s house into animal house with their various
antics and provocations. And I don`t think it`s a very good look for our
colleagues across the aisle.
O`DONNELL: Tess Bridgeman, your old job in the White House is right in the
center of the drama on the day the president has this phone call with the
president of Ukraine because immediately afterwards, that`s apparently
where everyone is running over to the National Security Council, the
lawyer`s office and the deputy, you being the deputy. And the deputy`s
present in these scenes.
Colonel Vindman goes over there. We hear Morrison goes over there. I
don`t know if they`re bumping into each other as they go in and out of that
room. But what do you make of Morrison`s account today of rushing over to
the council`s office? What I found out about is what he – the reasons he
then says he was concerned about the phone call have nothing to do with the
TESS BRIDGEMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL FORMER DEPUTY LEGAL ADVISOR:
That`s right, Lawrence. There is something that`s quite odd about his
account of why he went to speak with the NSC legal advisor and his deputy.
He mentions being concerned about leaks, being concerned about
partisanship, being concerned about Ukraine policy, more broadly. These
are the kinds of things you might go to the communications office for, that
you might go and talk with the secretary if you`re concerned about where
the document is being handled within the White House complex.
I think what`s very telling is that everyone else who`s provided an account
of rushing into that office has said they did so because they were deeply
concerned about what they say as grave misconduct. They knew that it is
wrong for the president to use his office to try to shakedown a foreign
leader to do political favors for him. And they were deeply invested in
carrying out the bipartisan Ukraine policy that is, you know, core to why
there is such a while national cost to the president`s personal
aggrandizement here. They knew that this was standing in the way of U.S.
support for Ukraine being able to defend itself against Russia for the core
principle that you don`t take orders by force.
So I think Morrison`s account that he went to the council office for these
other peripheral reasons that don`t sound in misconduct or legality really
don`t ring true or there`s something more to what he was expecting the
legal office to do with that information.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, it reads to me like Tim Morrison is trying to
preserve his life in employment in Washington after this, and it worked.
He`s got Donald Trump tonight saying his testimony was fantastic because he
put in some sentences there to Donald Trump sound positive.
But in the substance, it is all equally condemning as colonel Vindman`s was
even the point of saying the rough transcript that the White House put out
of the phone call is accurate in substance – accurate in substance means
there could be missing pieces of it but in substance it is accurate. And
so, there`s actually no contradictions here that we can find in the public
testimony so far between Tim Morrison and Colonel Vindman.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VP BIDEN: That`s right, Lawrence. I
mean, it`s stunning, as Congressman Raskin alluded to earlier, you had all
these witnesses come before the intelligence community and essentially 8 to
12 of them basically confirmed the same story. That`s more than the number
of trick or treaters I had at my house tonight. It`s a stunning line-up of
witnesses all confirming the same story.
And, look, as to Mr. Morrison`s statement today that he wasn`t concerned
about illegality, I think it`s part your explanation he wanted to preserve
his viability in Washington but also trying to avoid pleading guilty to a
crime. If he had known, if he believed it was illegal, the effort to hide
this document would be an active obstruction of justice. And I don`t think
Mr. Morrison was willing to plead guilty to obstruction today in the House
So, he told the truth, he told basically the story everyone tells so far is
true, the story the transcript confirms is true. Donald Trump shook down a
foreign government for political assistance. He betrayed his oath of
office and betrayed our national security interests. And the evidence of
that is just overwhelming now.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Jamie Raskin, Tess Bridgeman, Ron Klain, thank you
all for starting off our discussion tonight. We really appreciate that.
And when we come back, two witnesses that Democrats want to question in the
impeachment investigation were in federal court today trying to get those
subpoenas blocked or clarifications on whether those subpoenas will be
blocked. Neal Katyal will answer all of their legal questions for them for
free. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: It was subpoena day in federal court in Washington, D.C., in
fact in two different federal courtrooms. Two different witnesses fighting
subpoenas from the House of Representatives.
Joining us now Neal Katyal, a former acting U.S. solicitor general, who has
argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court. He`s an MSNBC legal
contributor and co-author of an upcoming new book “Impeach: The Case
Against Donald Trump”.
Neal, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Let`s start with the Don McGahn subpoena. Let`s consider what happened in
that case because the judge really had a struggle trying to understand why
Don McGahn should not be forced to comply with a House subpoena.
NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, so you had two things going on
really today, two different witnesses. But I think the most important
thing, Lawrence, to start your discussion is that`s all gravy. From the
House impeachment standpoint the evidence against Trump as you`ve been
discussing for the first ten minutes is overwhelming. It`s Trump`s own
So, you know, these witnesses are nice and McGahn and Kupperman will be
helpful to the house`s case but they`re not necessary at all. So what
Trump is trying to do here is delay them from testifying as much as he can.
And the argument he made before Judge Jackson today, his lawyer and the
Justice Department lawyers was pretty much, you know, poppycock.
Basically, you know, he came in and said the house can`t file a lawsuit at
all to get this information. Judge Jackson said asking the Justice
Department Trump lawyer, what, you`re saying the House can never go to
court? Answer by the justice department lawyer, yes.
That flies on the face of decades of precedent by the court and is just
going nowhere. So this is bad lawyering, a bad legal argument. And
ultimately, you know, I think it`s all Trump`s got at this point but it`s
not looking to good.
O`DONNELL: Neal, it`s a bad legal argument, but those are the corners –
the corners they`re getting painted into in court are corners they`ve
painted for themselves. There was no other answer, right? I mean, given
the logic of what they were arguing there was no other answer other than,
no, the House can never go to court.
KATYAL: Well, I think responsible lawyering would have been to try and
say, look, you know, some of the things this guy, the former White House
lawyer Don McGahn might testify to might be sensitive involving executive
privilege or something like that to be narrow. But what they`ve done is
throw down the gauntlet is say, no, nothing, you can`t do anything, you
can`t testify at all, you can`t do anything, I`m the president, I`m the
And, you know, that`s what we fought the revolution about. And that`s why
these arguments have been spectacularly unsuccessful. Judge Jackson is a
widely respected judge and I think in the course of hours today really
decimated the government`s argument.
O`DONNELL: Well, let`s go to other case which is procedurally much
stranger, because it`s a lawsuit, the likes of which I`m not sure we`ve
ever seen. This is Charles Kupperman. He was asking – John Bolton was
his boss in the White House, and he`s asking the court through a lawsuit to
answer to him should he comply with a house subpoena or even now that he`s
a private citizen should he follow Donald Trump`s request, which is all
that it is, a request he not testify to the House.
The assumption being that John Bolton will be added to this case because
he`s represented by the same lawyer if John Bolton gets the subpoena.
KATYAL: Yes, Lawrence, I think the best way for your viewers to understand
this lawsuit is it`s not really a lawsuit, it`s a delaying tactic. What
Kupperman is doing is coming in and trying to buy time so he doesn`t have
to answer the subpoena and testify in Congress. You know, I don`t know
what his motivations are, but that`s the effect of what he`s doing.
And he`s gotten the support from the Trump administration for that. So
much so that the Trump administration when the judge here, Judge Leon,
who`s a widely respected judge as well in D.C., Judge Leon set the argument
for December, and the lawyer for the Trump administration said, no, that`s
going to interfere with Thanksgiving, can you please make it even longer.
And what Judge Leon said was, quote, when it`s a matter of importance to
the country, you roll your sleeves up and you get the job done.
This is about delay and it`s about trying to run out the clock on
impeachment. And the problem with that is two fold. Number one, the
evidence against Trump is so overwhelming. And number two, it looks more
and more Nixonian. It looks more and more like obstruction of justice
which after all was a separate article in the Nixon impeachment.
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We
really appreciate it.
KATYAL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Republican presidential candidate Bill
Weld will react to today`s impeachment vote where not a single Republican,
not one Republican voted for it. And that is first, because previous
impeachment resolutions have been bipartisan votes.
O`DONNELL: Republicans in Congress have been complaining about the closed
door depositions being conducted in the impeachment inquiry, even though 48
Republican house members are invited to every one of those depositions.
But today when Republicans were given a chance to vote on a resolution that
established the rules of the road for public hearings, every Republican
voted against public hearings in the investigation of the president.
We have never seen a purely partisan vote on a resolution authorizing an
impeachment inquiry. In 1974, it was almost completely bipartisan in the
House of Representatives when a resolution authorizing the impeachment
investigation of President Richard Nixon passed almost unanimously in the
house 410-4. In 1998, 31 Democrats joined Republicans in voting for a
resolution authorizing the impeachment investigation of President Bill
Our next guest was there, working in the House of Representatives in 1974
as a Republican staff member in the House of Representatives, working on
the impeachment investigation of President Richard Nixon right alongside
another young House staffer named Hillary Rodham, who married Bill Clinton
the next year after the Nixon impeachment investigation.
Joining us now is former Massachusetts Republican Governor Bill Weld.
During Watergate, he was on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee. He
is now run for the Republican Presidential nomination against Donald Trump.
Governor Weld, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
BILL WELD (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: What was your reaction today to see not a single Republican vote
in the House of Representatives for this resolution for public hearings.
WELD: Well it`s quite a contrast to 1974 and the Nixon impeachment
proceedings. First of all, the vote to authorize it was overwhelming as you
point out, only four dissenting votes in the entire House of
But beyond that, both John Doar and Albert Jenner, the respective Chief
Counsel and Republican Chief Counsel of that Committee were quite clear
they wanted to run a unified staff so much so that Miss Rodham and myself
found ourselves in the same office. We were both members of the
Constitution on legal staff.
I think we shared that office with a woman from Arkansas, Terry
Kirkpatrick. We consulted frequently with John Labovitz, who is another
member of the Democratic staff. There were other Republican lawyers who
contributed to the memorandum defining what`s impeachable conduct by a
And the whole thing was right out in the open with Democrats and
Republicans who didn`t always agree on everything, but they certainly were
discussing everything back and forth. And at the end of the day, I think
there were seven Republican votes to proceed to the Senate and ten against.
That`s until the tapes came out. And when the tapes came out, it was all
over in one day.
O`DONNELL: I want to read to you from The Washington Examiner tonight some
breaking news. The President gave an interview to The Washington Examiner
tonight outlining I guess what you could call his strategy, including
getting t-shirts printed with the slogan Read The Transcript.
He says - he also says this in The Washington Examiner. At some point, I`m
going to sit down perhaps as a fireside chat on live television and I will
read the transcript of the call, because people have to hear it. When you
read it, it`s a straight call.
If you were defending the President, would you advise him to do that?
WELD: No, I certainly wouldn`t, because when you read it, it`s an
impeachable and removable offense. The President says, look we do a lot for
you. PS, I just withheld $400 million in aid that you need to fight those
Russian tanks on your Eastern Front in your hot war. And you know, we could
do a lot more for you.
And then he says, I need a favor though. That word though is a killer. It
implies that all this good stuff is not going to happen unless he gets the
favor, which is digging up dirt on Hunter Biden.
There were two things that the founders were most worried about when they
were drafting the impeachment clause. Number one was foreign interference
in our affairs and number two was corruption of the office, which is use of
the office to promote the personal gain.
In those days, bribery of a monarch was not at all uncommon and that`s
precisely what the founders were worried about. Those two things, and
they`re there in spades in the very transcript that President Trump you say
wants everyone to read.
O`DONNELL: The President we`ve heard - we`ve read on the phone with the
President of Ukraine desperately worried about Joe Biden to the point where
he`s willing to engage in what many are calling criminal conduct on that
phone call. He also apparently is very, very afraid of Bill Weld and he`s
taking every step possible to simply stop Republican primaries in states.
The breaking news tonight on Minnesota is that Minnesota is now tonight I
think pulling back from having any kind of Republican Presidential primary.
What does that do to your campaign, if Donald Trump is so afraid of you
getting any votes that he`s trying to just eliminate primaries?
WELD: Well it is amazing, Lawrence. They actually tried earlier in the year
to eliminate the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire. Needless to
say, and the Republican State Committee, which is appointed by Trump in
every state, it`s the Trump Organization, said yes let`s get rid of this
Well the voters in New Hampshire are not stupid and they know that a lot of
their clout comes from having the first-in-the-nation primary every four
years. So that went over like a lead balloon. But that was such an extreme
gambit. That`s a motion that failed for one of a second.
My read is that they know that the President, how shall I put this, does
not have a solid knowledge base about any of the issues that would have to
be aired in a fully contested primary, and so they don`t want there to be a
primary or an election, and the president has said the same thing. And he
jokes about his third term and his fifth term, and wasn`t it great what Xi
Jinping did in China, how he doesn`t have to have elections anymore. So
this is what the President really thinks.
O`DONNELL: Republican Presidential candidate Bill Weld, thank you very much
for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
WELD: Thank you Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, the impeachment inquiry will be
televised. The question is, when. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Katie Hill has become the victim of a bitter
divorce proceeding with her husband, who she says publicly released naked
pictures of her and accused her of having inappropriate relationship with a
Congressional staff member, which she denies and with a campaign staff
As a candidate, Katie Hill publicly revealed she is bisexual, so sexual
exclusivity was understood by her voters to not necessarily be part of the
framework of her marriage. But Katie Hill decided that the distraction had
become too much for her to effectively continue her work in the House of
And today, she said this after casting her final vote as a freshman member
of the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATIE HILL, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Yet a man who brags about his
sexual predation, who`s had dozens of women come forward to accuse him of
sexual assault, who pushes policies that are uniquely harmful to women and
who has filled the courts with judges who proudly rule to deprive women of
the most fundamental rights to control their own bodies sits in the highest
office of the land.
And so today, as my last vote, I voted on impeachment proceedings, not just
because of corruption, obstruction of justice, or gross misconduct, but
because of the deepest abuse of power, including the abuse of power over
Today, as my final act, I voted to move forward with the impeachment of
Donald Trump on behalf of the women of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The impeachment will be televised. And after this break, Joyce
Manson and Ron Klain will bring their considerable experience to our
discussion about what we will see in the televised impeachment proceedings
against Donald John Trump in the House of Representatives. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I`ve answered it once, I answered it twice. I`m
going to answer it one time, these rules are fair than anything that have
gone before in terms of an impeachment proceeding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here`s how Jim McGovern, the Chairman of the House Rules
Committee, explained the impeachment inquiry rules today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA): This resolution provides better protections for
the President than what President Nixon and Clinton received. And just like
under Nixon and Clinton, and the Judiciary Committee, the President`s
Counsel can submit additional testimony or evidence for the Committee to
The President and his counsel can attend all hearings and raise objections.
They can question any witness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Joyce Vance former US Attorney for the Northern
District of Alabama and MSNBC legal analyst, and Ron Klain is back with us.
Joyce, what`s your reading of the rules of these public hearings?
JOYCE VANCE FORMER US ATTORNEY FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA AND
MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they are very fair, Lawrence. This is a set of
rules that gives the President and his lawyers a lot of visibility into the
investigative part of these proceedings.
As you pointed out earlier, the House finds itself in the unusual position
of not having had a Special Counsel, not having had investigators to
assemble an investigation, so they`re having to do that themselves. And
typically in these proceedings, targets or subjects of an investigation
don`t get to see what`s going on.
Here the President will. I expect we will still hear more complaints from
the Republicans about process though.
O`DONNELL: Yet Ron Klain, if I had let the tape keep running, Jim McGovern
eventually says after he`s outlined every other detail about these rules,
of course there isn`t any version of the rules that the Republicans
wouldn`t complain about.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There`s no
question about that Lawrence. They said 40 billion words about the process
here, four words they can`t say is Trump didn`t do it. So they`re going to
continue to gripe and complain about the process.
When the hearings were private, they wanted them public. Now that they`ll
be public, they want them private. They`ll want witnesses deposed, not
deposed, whatever. It`s just going to go back and forth. And they have no
defense of what the President did. He had basically admitted to it on
television, so they`re going to complain and complain about the process.
O`DONNELL: The rules provide for staff attorneys to ask questions for in
periods of 45 minutes so they`ll have long blocks where they can do
uninterrupted questioning. We saw a version of that in the House Judiciary
Committee, when Barry Berke questioned Corey Lewandowski. Let`s take a look
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARRY BERKE, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MAJORITY COUNSEL: Did you lie, sir,
in television interviews denying that you`ve been asked to give answers to
the Special Counsel.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don`t believe so.
BERKE: So you deny that you ever lied in public statements about whether
LEWANDOWSKI: What I`m saying is, when under oath, I`ve always told the
truth, whether it`s before Special Counsel, whether it was before the House
Judiciary Committee, whether it was before the House Intelligence Committee
on two separate occasions, or before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Every time I`ve raised my right hand to God, I`ve sworn and told the truth.
BERKE: That`s not my question to you, sir, we`ll get to that. My question
to you sir is on national television, did you lie about your relationship
with the Special Counsel and whether they sought your interview?
LEWANDOWSKI: I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance, it was the thing to behold and unfortunately it
came after about ten hours of very inept questioning by members of the
Committee. It seems like they`ve learned their lesson.
VANCE: I think they have learned their lesson. And the important takeaway
here is that this is not a happy moment in our country, this is a sad
event, a serious event. We need to get to the truth. That`s not a political
statement, neither party owns the truth, but the country needs to
understand what happened so we can move forward.
And the best way to do that is to have traditional questioning to have
someone who will help to complete the narrative and have witnesses tell
their stories about what happened. Now we`ll finally get that.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, having worked on the Committee yourself, Senate
Judiciary Committee, is it a struggle with members in situations like this
because they all have their moment in front of the microphone and the
constituents can see them back home in the big moment to get them to give
up that time. They will all still have a chance, but none of them are going
to be better than the staff counsel on the Committee.
KLAIN: I think that`s right, Lawrence, and look I think many of these
people are skilled questioners and talented attorneys. But having a
professional have a concerted period of time, 45 minutes, to really walk
through the narrative step by step, as Joyce said, is going to create a
When you see these witnesses, we didn`t see this in the Clinton
impeachment, we`re going to see fact witnesses like Lieutenant Colonel
Vindman, like Ambassador Taylor, come before the Committee, be expertly
questioned, tell their story and then have those clips everywhere on the
Internet, on social media. This is going to be a really new experience and
I think a very powerful experience for the country.
O`DONNELL: And Joyce, to be clear, the Republican minority on the Committee
has exactly the same right, their counsel can ask questions for 45 minutes
uninterrupted. But it seems like Republican members of the Committee might
have a larger interest in getting their 5 minutes, especially if they`re
still doing nothing but stunts for the camera.
VANCE: So far we haven`t heard any sort of substantive rebuttal from
Republicans to the allegations that are emerging about the President`s
conduct in Ukraine, and that`s a real problem for them. What do they do
with their 45 minutes? If they can`t attack the witnesses on substance, all
they`re left with is posturing during their five-minute rejoinder. So they
will be in a tough position, but it`s one of their own making.
O`DONNELL: And Ron, the President`s lawyers will also have the right to
KLAIN: They will and - but as Joyce said, I mean if your defense isn`t he
didn`t do it, I`m not really sure what questions they`re going to ask. They
will try some of the smears like were made perhaps against Lieutenant
Colonel Vindman the other night on Fox. They may try to just assail the
But my guess is they`ll just make a bunch of speeches appealing to Trump,
appealing to Trump`s voters, appealing of Trump`s base, I think it`ll be a
very fact-finding exercise on one side and a very political exercise on the
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, Joyce Vance, thank you both for joining our
discussion. Really appreciate it.
KLAIN: Thanks Lawrence, thank you.
O`DONNELL: Well, Ezra Klein will get tonight`s Last Word on this historic
day as the impeachment of Donald Trump is finally underway.
O`DONNELL: This morning at 8:08 am on Fox and Friends, Kellyanne Conway
shared a dirty little secret about Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Guess what, dirty little
secret, they don`t have the votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And three hours later, Kellyanne Conway`s little secret was once
again revealed, which is that she doesn`t know anything about anything. And
so, under Nancy Pelosi`s leadership tonight, the Democrats are finally
formally engaged in the impeachment process against Donald Trump and
unified in that process.
Joining us now is Ezra Klein, Editor-at-Large at VOX and host of the new
podcast Impeachment Explained. And Ezra, it`s our two year anniversary as
two years ago that we first - just you and I first discussed this subject
together here on this program after you`d written a long and thoughtful
piece about impeachment and how it fits both in our psyche and our
politics. We are finally here. Your reaction to what happened in the House
EZRA KLEIN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, VOX: Well first, I was so concerned you would
forget our anniversary, so thank you, it means a lot to me.
I thought two things about today. So first thing I thought is that the
implicit theory of Presidential accountability being put forward by the
Republicans, which is it there should be none under any circumstances, when
a Republican is in office is actually pretty constitutionally scary.
What got put forward today was not impeachment but impeachment inquiry. I
think he would have to be blind to what is going on to not at least want to
look into it. And so, the fact that Republicans given an opportunity to
vote for a public hearing process, where they would get their lead on the
relevant Committee, we get 45 minutes to question witnesses, it`s I think
pretty scary and I think it forever shreds the idea that any of these
people are constitutional conservatives.
And the other thing is that, to what you just had from Kellyanne Conway,
the worst bet to ever make in Washington is that Nancy Pelosi has not
counted the votes.
O`DONNELL: Yes, it`s the - there`s nothing clearer than that. And it`s one
of those great little moments because it just shows that the entire
Kellyanne Conway is just an act, the whole thing is just this invention
there`s nothing in it ever. What do you expect to see as we go forward, we
have not heard any substantive defense of the President? The President is
tonight telling The Washington Examiner that his entire defense is what the
prosecution thinks is the entire prosecution, which is the rough transcript
of the call.
President Trump`s saying he wants to have a fireside chat on TV where he
reads the transcript of his phone call with the President of Ukraine, and
that is exactly the thing that the Democrats say condemns the President.
KLEIN: I don`t know, man.
What do you want me to say to that? The thing that is the scariest piece of
all this to me is not that Trump did it, it`s somewhere in there, I think
it is actually plausible that Trump believes he did nothing wrong, that he
believes that he is so conflated his own interests without of the country
that he believes it would have been perfectly fine, in fact it would have
been the right thing for him to do as President to try to use the power of
his office to extort another country into investigating a domestic
political rival, because he saw a conspiracy theory on Fox and Friends, or
whatever it was that he initially saw.
And I think it`s actually a real problem. It`s one thing to have cynical
players in the White House who are in a Machiavellian way knowingly
betraying the country and their own interest. That`s bad. In some ways,
it`s almost worst to have the bull in the china shop that doesn`t even
realize what they`re doing is wrong.
That`s genuinely dangerous, because in this as in so many things going back
to the piece that you and I talked about years ago now, one of the other
problems here lurking behind all this is Donald Trump is not fit for the
job that he holds and that sometimes comes out through corruption,
sometimes comes out through incompetence, and sometimes comes out through
recklessness and bad judgment, like the setting that maybe he`ll read this
call record at a fireside chat because you think it`s perfect when it`s
actually the thing that has launched an impeachment proceeding against you.
And that is among the many, many things here that are scary about Donald
Trump. That`s another one.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and at the time when you were right two years ago, the
worry that we all had was that Donald Trump could find himself in a nuclear
exchange with North Korea at that point. Things were going so badly and his
behavior was publicly so erratic about that.
And one of the things you argued for was just relaxing a little bit about
impeachment, everyone in public office when they talk about it, I think
it`s mandatory for them I guess to say that it`s very sad and it`s very sad
that it has come to this.
And no one thinks it`s going to be very sad, if you have to get rid of the
CEO of Boeing because their planes crash. They think it`s what you do. And
you were making an argument that we should look at this a little bit more
the way corporate America looks at changing CEOs, when they have to.
KLEIN: Or the way the founders looked at it, James Madison said the
President should be impeached for removing meritorious officers wontedly.
It was talked about often at the beginning of the country that impeachment
was a way to deal with an out-of-control executive.
It was not considered an unbelievable scar the country would never recover
from. And as you say, with the Boeing example, the idea that the most
powerful person in the country would be the one with the most job security,
that there`d be nothing to do in between elections, if they were out of
control is wild and it`s all the more wild given that the only reason
Donald Trump sits in that chair at all is it for years and years and years,
he appeared on our television screens firing people for apparently not
doing a good job in dumb games.
We should be able to fire somebody for doing a terrible job and abusing
power and putting the country`s leverage at risk in order to further their
own political prospects.
O`DONNELL: It could not be more appropriate that Ezra Klein gets tonight`s
Last Word. Ezra, thank you very much for joining us, I really appreciate
KLEIN: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the