McConnell says he will not be impartial. TRANSCRIPT: 12/17/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
O`DONNELL: Senator Chris Murphy, future impeachment juror, thank you very
much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
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.
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
(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)
(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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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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Shara told us she is grateful to you for your support.
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(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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Van Drew.
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
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
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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