McConnell says he will not be impartial. TRANSCRIPT: 12/17/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Guests:
Chris Murphy, Tom Malinowski, Ezra Levin, Elizabeth Drew, Brigid Harrison
Transcript:

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel. 

 

And it is upon us.  It is – there`s going to be an additional hour at the

beginning of the debate which will be about the rules.  The House will vote

on the rule.  The House will then vote on the articles.

 

We know the numbers.  We know what we`ll be saying or what we`ll be

reporting on tomorrow night at this hour, but there`s something about

knowing how it`s going to turn out that feels like it`s possibly

diminishing the enormity of this.  You know, there`s this what`s going to

happen sense isn`t really present, and that I think in today`s news is part

of what feeds I think many peoples sense of how big this news is. 

 

This is gigantic –  

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Yes.

 

O`DONNELL:  – even though we do know what`s going to happen. 

 

MADDOW:  For the third time in U.S. history, the House is set to impeach a

U.S. president.  Literally we did it once in the 1800s, once in the 1900s

and now we`re going to do it for the first time in the 2000s. 

 

And it is – you know, I think that impeachment is both rare enough and I

think a live enough wire that anything can happen at any point.  I mean, I

know they`ve agreed on those six hours of debate, but none of these last

hearings that have happened on impeachment have gone anyway that we

expected them to either in terms of time or tenor.  So, tomorrow to me

feels very much like a black box.  I mean, I know Democrats think they`ve

got the votes to impeach him, but aside from that, I don`t have much of an

expectation in terms of what`s going to happen. 

 

O`DONNELL:  You know, Elizabeth Drew is going to join us later in the hour. 

She, of course, reported on the Nixon impeachment process and reminds us

there was much celebration at the end of the Nixon process that the system

worked, the system worked.  She has a very different impression about what

we`re learning this time around with the tools of impeachment.  She`s going

to explain that letter. 

 

MADDOW:  Fascinating.  Thanks, my friend.  Thanks, Lawrence.

 

O`DONNELL:  Thanks, Rachel.

 

Well, it is impeachment eve and Nancy Pelosi has the votes.  Today, more

newly elected Democratic members of the House who won their seats in

Republican districts have come out in favor of impeaching the Republican

president of the United States.  One of those freshman congressmen who

recently announced his vote will join us tonight. 

 

And at the end of the hour, we`ll be joined by a Democrat who has announced

her candidacy challenging Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey who was a Democrat

last week but has been having discussions about switching to the Republican

Party now that he`s announced he will vote against impeachment of the

president tomorrow. 

 

And Senator Chris Murphy will join us tonight.  He traveled to Ukraine as a

member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Republican Senator

Ron Johnson who President Trump quotes tonight in a very strange letter to

Nancy Pelosi, a letter that Donald Trump says he wrote for history. 

 

There are demonstrations all over the country tonight in support of the

impeachment of President Trump.  An organizer of those demonstrations will

join us with a report later in this hour.  The House Rules Committee spent

the day debating the articles of impeachment passed by the House Judiciary

Committee.  It was the kind of House committee hearing we have not seen in

what feels like a very long time. 

 

There was no yelling.  There were no attacks on members of the committee by

other members of the committee in the opposite party, and that is thanks

entirely to the good, old-fashioned, fully respectful working relationship

of Chairman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and the ranking Republican member

Tom Cole of Oklahoma.  Sometimes, old-fashioned is good, and today, it was

very good to see Tom Cole leading the Republican side of the committee with

flawless politeness and civility while completely disagreeing with Jim

McGovern and the Democrats.  Jim McGovern and Tom Cole gave a master class

today in what civility and respectful disagreement should look like in

Congress. 

 

Tonight, the Rules Committee in a party line vote sent the articles of

impeachment to the House floor tomorrow for a vote of the full House. 

 

In a letter to the Democratic members of the House tonight, House Speaker

Nancy Pelosi wrote: When the House convenes to take the impeachment vote

tomorrow morning, I urge each of you to join me on the floor.  Our

constituents look to us to be respectful of the Constitution and defenders

of our democracy and to proceed in a manner worthy of our oath of office to

support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  During this very

prayerful moment in our nation`s history, we must honor our oath to support

and defend our Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. 

 

The White House released a letter to Nancy Pelosi tonight that is signed by

the president, and some of the sentences in the letter indicates that they

might actually read as if the president had a hand in writing some of those

sentences.  For example: You are offending Americans of faith by

continually saying “I pray for the president” when you know this statement

is not true, unless it is meant in a negative sense.  It is a terrible

thing you are doing, but you will have to live with it not I, exclamation

point. 

 

And then there`s this one.  You view democracy as your enemy, exclamation

point.  That one may have been written by the president.  The letter ends

with the president saying he`s writing the letter for history. 

 

Even Donald Trump seems to realize that his tweet collection will be

overwhelming to historians, so he wants this six-page letter to stand out

so that historians will use it in understanding the Trump impeachment.  The

letter ends with this: I write this letter to you for the purpose of

history and to put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record.  One

hundred years from now when people look back at this affair, I want them to

understand it and learn from it so that it can never happen to another

president again.  For the purpose of history. 

 

There is another line in the letter that is pure Donald Trump, but Donald

Trump doesn`t realize that that line will destroy the entire letter for

historians.  On page five of the letter, Donald Trump writes: More due

process was afforded to those accused in the Salem witch trials. 

 

Now, you can say that to Trump voters, but you cannot say that to

historians.  The Trump letter is for future historians who will know that

the Salem witch trials which delivered capital punishment to 20 women and

men for being witches actually allowed witnesses to testify about things

that they learned in their dreams.  It was perfectly acceptable in a witch

trial to testify that you dreamed that Bridget was a witch and that was

enough to get Bridget executed. 

 

So Donald Trump`s letter to future historians today will be used by them as

yet another piece of damning evidence about the mental state of the

president of the United States the night before he was impeached by the

House of Representatives. 

 

The United States Senate now knows that they will begin next year with the

impeachment trial of the president of it United States.  Today, Senate

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck

Schumer`s request yesterday to allow witnesses to testify at the Senate

trial, including former national security advisor John Bolton and current

chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. 

 

In Senator Schumer`s request, he cited the Clinton impeachment precedent in

which some witnesses were called to testify during the impeachment trial. 

Senator McConnell said, quote, the basic procedure of the framework served

the Senate and nation well.  But then, Senator McConnell reminded the

Senate there was no agreement on taking any witness testimony until the

Senate trial was already under way. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  In President Clinton`s trial, we handled the

procedural issues in two, two separate Senate resolutions that passed at

different times.  The first resolution passed unanimously before the trial. 

It sketched out basic things like scheduling, opening arguments and the

timing of a motion to dismiss. 

 

Other more detailed questions about the middle and end of the trial,

including whether any witnesses would be called were reserved for a second

resolution that was passed in the middle of the trial itself. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Rudy Giuliani seems to be trying to become a witness in the

Senate impeachment trial.  He has delivered a stunning set of admissions in

the last 24 hours.  First telling “The New Yorker,” quote, I believe that I

needed Ambassador Yovanovitch out of the way.  She was going to make the

investigations difficult for everybody.

 

Giuliani followed that up with an interview to “The New York Times” that

was reported under the headline “Giuliani provides details of what Trump

knew about ambassador`s removal.  Rudolf W. Giuliani said on Monday that he

provided President Trump with detailed information this year about how the

United States ambassador to Ukraine was and Mr. Giuliani`s view, impeding

investigation that could benefit Mr. Trump, setting in motion the

ambassador`s recall from her post.  In an interview, Mr. Giuliani, the

president`s personal lawyer, described how he passed along to Mr. Trump a

couple of times, accounts about how the ambassador, Marie L. Yovanovitch,

had frustrated efforts that could be politically helpful to Mr. Trump. 

They included investigations involving former Vice President Joseph R.

Biden, Jr. 

 

And as if that wasn`t damning enough, Rudy Giuliani went on FOX News last

night and said this. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY:  I didn`t need her out of the

way.  I forced her out because she`s corrupt.  There`s no question that she

was acting corruptly in that position and had to be removed. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  There is no question that Rudy Giuliani is lying about that

from start to finish.  He has absolutely no negative evidence about

Ambassador Yovanovitch at all. 

 

Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of

Connecticut.  He`s a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and

Appropriations Committee. 

 

Senator Murphy, I want to begin with President Trump`s letter tonight in

which he quotes Ron Johnson who you accompanied to Ukraine.  I just want to

read you that part of the Trump letter. 

 

It says: Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a supporter of Ukraine who met

privately with President Zelensky, has said at no time during this meeting

was there any mention of Zelensky or any Ukrainian that they were feeling

pressure to do anything in return for the military aid. 

 

That is the entirety of Senator Johnson`s entry in the Trump letter. 

 

What`s your reaction to that? 

 

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT):  Well, what President Trump neglects to mention

in that letter is that in that very meeting he cites, between myself,

Senator Johnson and President Zelensky, at the end of that meeting, I

stipulated a series of facts for President Zelensky.  I told him there were

public reports that he was being pressured by the Trump administration to

investigate the Bidens and that it was my opinion that it would not be good

for Ukraine if they were to get dragged into American politics. 

 

President Zelensky conceded the point that I made and in fact simply

responded he had no intention to get involved in American politics, that he

knew that would be bad for the U.S.-Ukraine relationship.  And I sent that

version of the events to the impeachment committee. 

 

And so it just – it is not true that Zelensky did not raise any issues in

that meeting regarding the pressure campaign.  I counseled him to not

listen to those entreaties and he did respond to me that Giuliani was not

indeed pressuring him.  In fact, we all know now for certain that Giuliani

and many others, in fact, were engaged in a very coordinated campaign to

try to get Zelensky to interfere in the election in exchange for access to

the White House and taxpayer-funded aid. 

 

O`DONNELL:  So, if I`m interpreting the scene correctly, you – you know or

you feel that President Zelensky is in no position to say or complain to

either one of you about what might be happening with the Trump

administration, so you put it out there.  You say this is what I think I

know about this.  And in effect you`re offering President Zelensky, among

other things, an opportunity to say, oh, no, senator, nothing like that`s

happening.  Don`t worry about that at all, I haven`t heard a word about

this.  No one has said anything to me about doing investigations at all. 

 

That`s what you heard from President Zelensky. 

 

MURPHY:  Well, and I`d also had a conversation the night before with

Ambassador Taylor, and Ambassador Taylor confirmed to me that in fact the

work that Giuliani was doing to try to undermine the embassy, was in fact

very troubling and was very vexing for the Ukrainians.  And, of course, I

was representing what Giuliani had publicly admitted to.  Giuliani had been

in the press all throughout the spring representing that he was putting

this pressure on the Zelensky government. 

 

And, of course, the only thing that Zelensky cared about in that meeting

was getting the aid turned back on.  We both, Senator Johnson and I,

described the beginning of that meeting in which there were no diplomatic

formalities.  Zelensky sat down at his big ornate table and immediately

went to the question of how to get the aid turned back on because he knew

soldiers were dying on the front with Russia. And so, he was going to do

whatever was necessary in order to get that aid turned back on.

 

The last thing he was going to do was bring up complaints with Donald

Trump.  But his lack of contest to the set of facts that I laid out to him

for me was plain evidence that in fact what we all knew was true, she was

getting an enormous amount of pressure. 

 

O`DONNELL:  I want to go to a couple of things that Mitch McConnell said

today.  But, first of all, the one about not being impartial where he

actually specifically used this word impartial publicly talking to

reporters and said, I`m not going to be impartial in this.  And the words

as you know I`m sure by now of the juror`s oath that all senators will

take, the last line of that oath actually uses that word impartial, and it

says, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws so

help me God. 

 

So, Mitch McConnell has publicly said I`m not going to be impartial, and

there`s going to come a day where he will be raising his hand on television

taking an oath presumably saying I will do impartial justice.  How can that

be? 

 

MURPHY:  Well, listen, this is not a criminal trial.  It is different.  And

we all have opinions going into this trial about whether or not the conduct

of the president is impeachable or grounds for removal. 

 

And so I, quite candidly have been fairly open ability my belief that the

president`s conduct likely rises to the level of impeachability.  But I

remain very open to hearing from the president exculpatory evidence that

could change my mind.  I have not heard the president provide any evidence

to the contrary, but I am going to sit as a juror in this process open to

that information from the president. 

 

It`s in fact why I want witnesses because if in fact the president didn`t

do what the house claims he did, then people like Mick Mulvaney and John

Bolton would likely testify to that fact.  So I think it`s different.  We

all have opinions, and it`s OK for us to express those opinions. 

 

But to be impartial means to be open to evidence that contradicts the set

of beliefs you have going in.  And I`m certainly open to hear from the

president.  I think it`s unlikely he`s going to be able to present any

evidence that changes my mind. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s go to that question of witnesses because if you listen

carefully at this point, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer are not that far

apart.  Chuck Schumer comes out and says I want to use the Clinton

impeachment model, which did include witnesses.  They didn`t testify on the

Senate floor, but they testified in depositions, and that information was

made available to senators.  Mitch McConnell comes out and says I think the

Clinton model is a great model. 

 

However, the Clinton model worked is we started the trial and only then the

senators made a decision about hearing from witnesses.  That doesn`t sound

like they`re too far apart on this as of tonight. 

 

MURPHY:  It doesn`t.  Except for the fact that Mitch McConnell is different

than previous Republican Senate leaders.  I wish that I had faith that

Senator McConnell was going to do what was right for the Senate. 

 

Unfortunately, I have watched Senator McConnell over and over again do what

is right simply for his party.  He does not want witnesses at this trial

because he knows that they will provide further evidence of the president`s

misdeeds of his corruption.  And it will make it harder for his members to

support the president in the end. 

 

So, I don`t see any reason why we shouldn`t press for an agreement before

we start the trial.  Because if we start the trial without any agreement on

witnesses, I can almost guarantee that Mitch McConnell is going to push for

a vote as quickly as possible to get his members off the hook for having to

hear anything that could make this case even stronger against the

president. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Senator Chris Murphy, future impeachment juror, thank you very

much for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate it. 

 

MURPHY:  Thanks.

 

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back we`ll be joined by freshman Democrat Tom

Malinowski who defeated a five-term Republican congressman in 2018.  Tom

Malinowski announced this weekend how he`s going to vote on the articles of

impeachment.  He joins us next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  The House Rules Committee voted on a party line vote about an

hour and a half ago, 9-4, to send the articles of impeachment to the House

floor tomorrow allowing a total of 7 hours of debate and specifying that no

amendments can be offered.  Freshman Democratic members of the House who

won their seats in previously Republican districts continued to announce

their support for the articles of impeachment. 

 

Here is one of those freshman House members, Congressman Tom Malinowski at

a town hall on Saturday in New Jersey telling his constituents how he will

be voting.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ):  Based on the evidence that I have seen in the

depositions, in the hearings, in the documents I have seen, I believe that

on the two counts of impeachment that had been put before us, that the vote

should be yes, I will be voting yes. 

 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

 

(BOOS)

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now on the eve of that historic vote is

freshman Democratic Congressman Tom Malinowski.  He`s a member of the

Foreign – House Foreign Affairs Committee. 

 

And, Congressman Malinowski, We heard some boos in there, some agreement. 

But obviously more than majority support in that group.  Did you get a

chance to talk to any of the people after that town hall who disagreed with

your decision? 

 

MALINOWSKI:  Well, I spoke to them during the town hall that I deliberately

called in people who I saw booing or sitting down at that point because I

wanted to make sure that they had a chance to be heard.  And, you know,

I`ve held about 32 of these town halls since I was elected last year. 

Large ones like this there were about 400 people there, smaller ones. 

 

And, you know, there`s one thing that virtually everybody I represent

agrees on, and that is that this decision on this issue has to be made

based on what`s right and wrong, not based on politics.  And I think, you

know, the only political point I would make to you based on all the

interactions I had back home is that if I didn`t vote my conscience, I

wouldn`t deserve to be re-elected. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Kevin McCarthy, leader of the House Republicans, tweeted: For

the Democrats – and this is you – for the Democrats sitting in districts

that voted to send Trump to the White House, if you vote to impeach

tomorrow, you will be voting defying the votes of your own constituents. 

 

I want to read a reply to that tweet, Congressman Malinowski, from

political reporter Ron Brownstein, who has been covering Washington for a

very long time, and certainly was around for the Clinton impeachment.  And

he wrote back to Congressman McCarthy saying, in 1998, there were 91 House

Republicans in districts that voted for Clinton in 1996.  Almost all of

them voted to – and he uses McCarthy`s words here – to defy the votes of

their constituents by impeaching Bill Clinton.  Over the next two

elections, `98 and 2000, just seven of those 91 Clinton district

Republicans were defeated. 

 

And it seems there is some mythology around impeachment politics and the

notion that the Republicans were damaged by the Clinton impeachment.  But

in fact, they held onto their House majority very easily. 

 

MALINOWSKI:  Yes, and, you know, that`s interesting but it`s also

irrelevant to me and to most of my colleagues.  And I think this is

something that President Trump just cannot understand, that there are all

of these members of the House, including some who came from districts he

won who are making a decision based on what is right and what is wrong. 

And I think the rant that we got from him today, the six-page screed at

Nancy Pelosi reflects his utter bewilderment that he just – he doesn`t

know what to do with these people, with us who are simply saying that what

he did was wrong regardless of the politics.

 

O`DONNELL:  The – Speaker Pelosi has more than enough votes now,

especially the freshman Democrats who have more than put this over the top. 

How much pressure – how much working the vote has been happening among

Democrats on the impeachment articles? 

 

MALINOWSKI:  Virtually none that I have seen.  This is a choice that each

of us have come to individually.  As I said, I`ve held 32 town halls.  I

know my colleagues have been doing the same thing. 

 

We`ve been talking to each other.  We`ve maybe been leading by example,

those of us who were out first.  But I`ve detected no pressure whatsoever

by Speaker Pelosi or anyone in the leadership.  People are honestly being

guided by their conscience here, and I think that`s the source of our

strength going into this. 

 

O`DONNELL:  You know, I think when you say guided by their conscience, a

lot of people out there who just don`t believe it.  They think everything

is party pressure on both sides.  But I think – having worked in the

Senate myself – there are these moments where I know, and I know that we

could convince civilians of this, but there are moments where the vote

really is just left to the member and the member`s conscience. 

 

MALINOWSKI:  Well, that is absolutely true here.  And these people are

saying on the one hand, oh, you`re going to take this vote and you`re going

to lose.  And on the other hand, it`s just your party telling you to do it,

which is ridiculous.  The party would not be telling us to do it if they

thought we would lose, right? 

 

So, it`s obviously not politics.  This is the most sober moment that we

could possibly face as members of Congress.  And none of us chose to be

here.  And you know what?  I`m going to go home this weekend and next year,

and we`re going to keep talking about this, but we`re also going to talk

about all the legislation we have passed for the benefit of folks in my

district. 

 

You know, this week we are passing the U.S.-Mexico trade agreement which an

extraordinary achievement.  The first major trade agreement in modern

history that is supported by the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce.  We

passed a budget today to fund the government, to keep it open.  We passed

the defense bill last year.  All of the things that McConnell and

Republican said that we couldn`t do while impeaching the president we`re

doing. 

 

And, again, I think Trump doesn`t know how to handle that fact because –

what`s his argument now? 

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Tom Malinowski, thank you very much for joining us

on the eve of this historic vote.  Really appreciate it.

 

MALINOWSKI:  Thank you so much. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, people across the country are in the

streets tonight rallying in support of the impeachment of Donald Trump. 

Ezra Levin of Indivisible who discussed these rallies last night with

Rachel and helped organize these rallies will join us next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL: Tonight people across the country have come out to show their

support for the impeachment of Donald Trump. Thousands of people rallied

for impeachment in Times Square and there were big crowds gathered in

Philadelphia. And also crowds gathering in Seattle tonight.

 

And the people came up to support impeachment in Maine in the snow putting

pressure on Maine`s Republican Senator Susan Collins. People rallied to

support impeachment in Kansas. And they came out to support impeachment in

Louisiana.

 

And here they are supporting impeachment in North Dakota where the

temperature is all of 14 degrees and we`re joined now by phone by Ezra

Lebanese the Co-Executive Director of Indivisible. Ezra, I saw you

discussing this last night with Rachel Maddow. You told us last night that

you had organizations rallying all over the country.

 

We don`t have cameras everywhere. what are some of the other places we

should know about tonight.

 

EZRA LEVIN, CO-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR; INDIVISIBLE: Lawrence, it`s incredible.

There is a literal snowstorm that is rolling across the United States and

at the exact same time there is a storm of grassroots energy in literally

every single state in the nation from Alaska to Florida to Texas to Maine.

You covered some of them but there are a dozen of incidents spread

throughout Arizona and this is yes, by all means this is in Tucson, this is

in Nebraska but this is in Ohio.

 

This is in the Cottonwood, this is in Prescott, Arizona where Barry

Goldwater won his 1964 presidential campaign. There are eight events spread

across Iowa, dozen across Maine, we have a thousand people showing up in

Louisville, Kentucky.

 

The group leader from the Indivisible group there said, hey, that`s a 1000

more canisters for the senate election next year. What we`re seeing is yes,

this is in blue states, yes, this is in city centers but it`s much bigger

than that.

 

This is in red states, this is in urban areas and rural areas. This is all

over the country and people showing up in numbers that we just have not

seen for a while saying that they want to see their representatives and

senators hold this administration accountable.

 

O`DONNELL: Ezra Levin, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really

appreciate it.

 

LEVIN: Great talking. This movement is made up of people who raised their

hand, raise your hand, show up, be part of it, go to indivisible.org and

join this.

 

O`DONNELL: Thanks Ezra, really appreciate it. And when we come back,

Elizabeth Drew will be joining us. She wrote extensively about the

impeachment investigation and processes against President Richard Nixon,

also President Clinton.

 

After the Nixon impeachment, Washington was triumphant with the sense that

the system worked. Elizabeth Drew will tell us that is not the feeling now.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL: Democratic Congressman Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey was one of

only two House Democrats who voted against starting the impeachment

inquiry. Now there are reports of an extensive effort by President Trump

and Republicans to convince Van Drew to switch to the Republican Party

after he announced that he will vote against the impeachment of Donald

Trump.

 

Later in this hour, we will meet Richard Harrison, a Democrat, now

challenging Van Drew for that House seat in next year`s election but first

with Christmas just a week away, we want to remind you about the Kind Fund,

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Shara Sweta is a 17-year old student who was sent home from high school

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

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O`DONNELL: You can help girls like Shara complete their high school

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Shara told us she is grateful to you for your support.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARA: I would like to tell that I will work very extra hard so that me too

- you can also watch me one day talking on NBC, Zodiac Times. Yes. And I`m

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I`m not an impartial juror. This is a

political process. There`s not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a

political decision. House made a partisan political decision to impeach. I

would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I`m

not impartial about this at all.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Elizabeth Drew, a political

journalist and author. She covered the impeachment investigation of

President Richard Nixon and the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton

and Jason Johnson is with us.

 

He`s the Politics Editor to root.com and Professor of Politics and Media at

Morgan state University. He is also an MSNBC political analyst and Liz Drew

and after the Nixon investigation and impeachment process that did not go

all the way to a trial, Washington was jubilant about the system worked.

 

You wrote recently in The New York Times that the lesson of the impeachment

this time around is something very different.

 

ELIZABETH DREW, COVERED WATERGATE SCANDAL: Lawrence, we may be seeing this

slow agonizing death of impeachment as a defective instrument for checking

a president between elections.

 

We are in the atmosphere that the founders feared, they couldn`t quite

envision, they were very against factions or parties and they kept warning

against having those. Well, we have them fairly well now and if you have

very strong partisanship and you have a President who is determined to do

everything to block impeachment from working, it doesn`t work.

 

It`s barely hanging in there now. We have a very narrow set articles of

impeachment. They don`t really - dispose of the ways that the President has

governed during this period and I really fear that it may be the - we may

find that impeachment doesn`t work anymore.

 

O`DONNELL: Jason Johnson, in the Clinton impeachment trial, the Senate

Republican leader, Senate Democratic leader got together very quickly, very

easily, agreed on rules for the trial. They added to those rules midstream

in the trial and now you see Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer in a public

stand off, at this point.

 

Maybe they`ll agree on something but we don`t know. The issue - the big

issue is witnesses and we have a poll now, a Washington Post poll saying 71

percent - 71 percent say that Trump should allow his aides to testify in an

impeachment trial.

 

Mitch McConnell said it`s a political process. If it`s a political process

respond to 71 percent of the public, wouldn`t it.

 

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, ROOTS.COM & MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,

yes Lawrence but if we had a senate that was reflective of the public will,

they would also pass gun control. They would also pass immigration reform.

I think what we`re saying here and this is goes with Ms. Drew wrote.

 

This impeachment process is indicative of the fundamental failures of our

modern country and I`m not being hyperbolic when I say this. We have an

electoral college system which allows us to have senators who have great

power that is above and beyond the number of people that they represent and

they can have loyalty to a President that prevents them from having to take

responsibility for holding him accountable.

 

All of these things are connected and so what we`re going to see now is,

there will be a Senate trial. The President will probably not be removed

from office but we`ll still be stuck with the fact that we have a country

where a disproportionate amount of power is left with a certain number of

senators who represent basically two burrows in New York.

 

And if we don`t do something about that or think about this long term, is

not just going to be Trump, it`s going to be any other President we have or

any other leader that we have down the road who can`t be held accountable

for a system that no longer represents the majority will.

 

O`DONNELL: Liz Drew, you wrote about in The Times recently how fragile the

impeachment process is and it turns out it always has been. I remember

senators in the Clinton impeachment being surprised to discover how little

guidance the constitution actually left them and how little guidance the

senate`s history with subject left them and senators, as we all know are

creatures who are hoping that there is guidance and precedent to tell them

what to do next.

 

But we`ve discovered especially this time around on impeachment that there

is a very fragile set of what used to be gentlemanly understandings that

have evaporated.

 

DREW: Yes, but they worked it out and by fragile - I don`t really mean the

vagueness of the - what constitutes an impeachable offense or the lack of

guidance. Is the House supposed to work, is it supposed to begin in the

House and then go to the Senate - House for impeachment or indictment,

Senate for conviction or being thrown out of office.

 

What`s fragile about it is it really hangs on the parties being able to

work together to some degree. That`s what happened in 74. You had at least

seven Republicans on the Democratic controlled House Judiciary committee

who voted for some of the articles of impeachment.

 

 And that`s why that impeachment, it did largely, it didn`t happen because

Nixon resigned as you know before he could be impeachment or convicted

because he was going to be so he got out of there before those could

happen.

 

But the outcome was largely accepted because it came from the center of the

country and it had a large degree of bipartisanship. We can`t do that

anymore. Our politics would have to change very dramatically in a way that

I don`t see them changing anytime soon in order for impeachment to work as

an instrument, as a control or check on the President between elections

which is its point.

 

O`DONNELL: Jason, Fox poll showing 54 percent supporting impeachment,

there`s more support for it in the in the voting population than there is

among the way Congress is represented.

 

JOHNSON: Yes, and that`s part of the real issue here that you`re not going

to have a Congress that`s representing what the people want. Look, this is

the thing that I think the Democrats have always had to be aware of and you

need to really sort of think about strategically.

 

We can`t and this is what Nancy Pelosi said months ago, we cannot just hold

presidents accountable at the ballot box when that president has made it

clear that he will cheat at the ballot box.

 

And so consequently what we have right now is a situation where Democrats

need to be putting pressure on red states. It is wonderful to go to blue

states and say get rid of him but they got to go to red states and flip

some of these senators.

 

O`DONNELL: Professor Jason Johnson and Elizabeth Drew, thank you for

joining us on this important night. I really appreciate it. And when we

come back, Bridget Harrison has just decided to run against her New Jersey

- New Jersey Congressman because he announced he will vote against the

impeachment of President Trump.

 

Brigid Harrison joins us next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL: Democratic Congressman Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey has

announced, he will vote against the impeachment of President Trump.

Politico reports that Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told Van Drew on the

House floor President Trump wants him to become a Republican, Republican

efforts have continued with Politico reporting behind the scenes, Former

GOP Governor Chris Christie spoke to Van Drew about switching parties said

GOP sources.

 

Kellyanne Conway, a top white house advisor who hails from that district

also sought a meeting with the Congressman on an unrelated issue which Van

Drew`s aides suspected was a pretence for her to lobby him to switch

parties.

 

McCarthy kept reaching out to Van Drew as did other House Republicans. Van

Drew and Trump exchanged several phone calls in the past couple of weeks

brokered in part by McCarthy.

 

Trump and McCarthy argued that Van Drew would be better off in the GOP.

Today Congressman Van Drew refused to confirm that he will switch parties

but he told us to NBC news.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REPORTER: How about your constituents? Do you feel that it`s fair to them

to switch parties when many of them voted for a Democratic expecting you

would vote a certain way?

 

REP. JEFF VAN DREW (D-NJ): My constituency, the majority of them are

Republicans but the biggest majority of them are people who really both for

people because of their individuality and because of how hard they work.

 

And that`s what I`ve always done so I have an election coming up and if

they disagree with what I`ve done, then they will go out and that`s

something I would very willingly accept, that`s their right.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Democratic candidate running for the Van Drew

seat. Brigid Harrison is a Professor of Political Science and Law at

Montclair State University. Thank you very much for joining us.

 

BRIGID HARRSION (D), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE, NEW JERSEY: Thank you for

having me.

 

O`DONNELL: Did - was it this announcement that he is voting against the

articles of impeachment that have provoked your candidacy?

 

HARRISON: Actually Lawrence, it was his vote against impeachment procedure

so Congressman Van Drew–

 

O`DONNELL: Which is now a couple of months ago.

 

HARRISON: Exactly but Congressman Van Drew just said that the lion`s share

of his constituents are Republicans. In fact that`s false. The lion`s share

of his constituents are independent voters or unaffiliated voters and those

are the voters throughout the country who want a fair process.

 

They wanted information so that they could make an informed decision in the

2020 campaign and Congressman Van Drew said you know what? You don`t

deserve that information. I`m going to stick my finger in the wind and see

how the wind is blowing and basically built to further my own political

career rather than looking out for the best interest of our country and his

constituency.

 

O`DONNELL: He has a primary either way. If he runs as a Republican, there`s

already three Republican running for that seat against what they thought

was a Democratic incumbent. If he tries to hold on and run as a Democrat,

he`s got you in a primary and so he`s - he`s in a race no matter how he–

 

HARRISON: He`s having a tough week. Let`s put it that way and the

Republicans you know, the top of the story, we`re talking about the

national political influences, particularly President Trump and Chris

Christie, they`re essentially trying to bully Jeff Van Drew into the

Republican Party and kick out all the loyal Republicans that are trying to

run for the seat.

 

Boots on the ground, a lot of those local Republicans don`t want him.

 

O`DONNELL: What other issues, once you get past the impeachment argument

with him, what other issues will you be running on?

 

HARRISON: Well, I mean there are some serious differences between myself

and Congressman Van Drew. He has never supported common sense gun proposals

- gun control proposals. He also has been on the wrong side of history on

LGBTQ rights and importantly though he claims to be pro-choice, he in fact

in the New Jersey state Senate some legislation that would have changed our

law to make parental notification the law in New Jersey.

 

O`DONNELL: If you could talk to your Congressman.

 

HARRISON: Yes.

 

O`DONNELL: Congressman Van Drew.

 

HARRISON: Yes.

 

O`DONNELL: About this impeachment vote tomorrow, what would you tell him?

 

HARRISON: I would tell him to listen to the evidence. He was the person who

was out on Fox news, proclaiming that this was like a third world democracy

before all the testimony had been heard and I mean, that`s a person who has

a political motive.

 

It`s not someone who`s taking his responsibility to the constitution and

our country seriously and shame on him for that. I mean, and then to go and

trade change parties, I mean, he`s a traitor not just to the nation but

he`s a traitor to his party.

 

O`DONNELL: How would you say members of the House should approach this vote

tomorrow when they`re in districts like the Van Drew district that would

have significant Republican support?

 

HARRISON: Listen, Lawrence, in my view, this is a decision that is not

about an individual`s political career. This is about the future of

democracy. I teach political science. In fact, I wrote the book, American

Democracy Now.

 

Congressman Van Drew doesn`t understand that the fundamental thing, it`s

not about politics, it`s about people and the people you saw protest out

there, that they want impeachment. But more importantly, they want to know

what their President did and whether he abused power.

 

And I think that they need to approach this in a very serious and somber

way, reflecting the historic moment that it is. But I think that right now

we have the evidence to support impeachment.

 

O`DONNELL: Brigid Harrison, candidate for Congress in the second

congressional district in New Jersey. Thank you very much for joining us.

 

HARRISON: My pleasure.

 

O`DONNELL: I really appreciate it. That is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH

HOUR” with New Jersey`s own Brian Williams starts now.

 

 

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

BE UPDATED.

END

 

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