Trump hosted Eddie Gallagher. TRANSCRIPT: 12/27/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: This special report happens here on this network
Monday at 9 p.m. with Rachel Maddow. That joins it – that does it for us
Now, it`s time for “Last Word.” Ayman Mohyeldin is in again for Lawrence
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST: I like that. Again, Ali, it`s the last show
for you as well -
VELSHI: That`s right.
MOHYELDIN: – so go and get some rest. Enjoy your weekend my friend.
VELSHI: Thanks, man.
MOHYELDIN: You certainly earned it. Hello, everyone. I`m Ayman Mohyeldin in
for Lawrence O`Donnell.
Donald Trump is still rage tweeting about impeachment. And today, he was
again spreading conspiracy theories about Ukraine. And he still does not
seem to understand the impeachment process.
We`re going to try to clear it up for him. Hopefully, he is watching in
just a moment. Impeachment was the dramatic conclusion to what has been a
year of showdowns between Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump.
But as the year comes to a close, Democrats who doubted Pelosi in the
beginning of the year and even doubted whether or not she was the right
choice to lead the House are now singing her praises. We`re going to look
at how she trumped Trump coming up.
And at the end of the hour, a psychiatrist warns impeachment is making
Donald Trump worse, but says delaying sending the articles of impeachment
is an important step. We`re going to talk about that with a long time Trump
observer in tonight`s “Last Word”.
But we want to begin this hour with the one thing that is dominating Donald
Trump`s mind other than impeachment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, now with
the uncertainty of his senate impeachment trial looming over his holiday
vacation, Donald Trump has spent every day of the last seven days blasting
Democrats and impeachment in dozens of angry and misleading tweets.
This morning for example, Speaker Pelosi reminded Americans that, quote,
“The facts are clear and every witness told the same story, despite the
President`s attempts to cover it up. President Trump abused his power for
his own personal gain.”
Trump escalated his attacks at Speaker Pelosi and her decision to hold the
articles of impeachment until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell commits to
holding a fair senate trial. Now, falsely claiming that she presided over
a, quote, “unfair trial in the House and that there`s no factual basis for
the articles of impeachment.”
Now, let`s be clear, none of what the president is tweeting is true. The
president also used Twitter to further push the theory that democrats
colluded with Ukraine to take him down. Trump has repeatedly pushed the
idea that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, which “The Washington
Post” reported. Trump said he believed because “Putin told me.” The
president was asked about that earlier this week. Watch what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, what did President Putin say to you that
convinced you that the Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election?
PRES. DONALD TRUMP: What did he say to me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
PRES. DONALD TRUMP: About what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did President Putin say to you about –
PRES. DONALD TRUMP: You`re putting words in somebody`s mouth. Who are you
referring to? Me? I never said anything about it. I never said a thing
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOHYELDIN: Now, with the Senate trial looming, the president`s desire to
keep Senate Republicans in lockstep with him in an op-ed (ph) for “The
Daily Beast”, Margaret Carlson argues that the crack in Trump`s impeachment
wall is Mitch McConnell`s fault.
In fact, she writes, quote, “Murkowski wouldn`t have gone so far as to be
`disturbed` had McConnell not committed one of the few mistakes of his
political life in no longer simply doing everything Trump tells him to do,
but doing it the way Trump tells him to if only McConnell hadn`t blurted
out his plans.”
“He could have done everything he said he would with impunity” had he not
come out and done so public. “Now, with Murkowski questioning McConnell,
throwing his lot in with Trump, he`s lost the first post-impeachment round
to Nancy Pelosi.”
And now, two Republican groups critical of Trump are putting new pressure
on other vulnerable Republicans including Senator Susan Collins of Maine to
support impeachment. Republicans for the rule of law began airing this ad
on “Fox News” in Maine urging voters to call Senator Collins and demand a
fair trial with witnesses.
And the Lincoln project, a group that opposes Trump`s re-election, is
calling on senators to, quote, put country over partisanship and vote to
remove Trump from office.
The group`s co-founder told “The Portland Press Herald”, quote, “We will be
watching very closely what Senator Collins and everyone else does. Where
she falls on impeachment will have a significant influence on. I don`t want
to say target because I don`t like that word, but it will have an influence
on whether she is on the list of Republican senators whose seats we are
Senator Collins responded by saying this, “I take seriously the oath I will
swear to render `impartial justice` in the impeachment trial. Threats from
both the left and right will have zero influence on my decisions.”
Leading off our decision tonight is Hayes Brown, senior world news reporter
and editor at “BuzzFeed”. He is also the host of the “Impeachment Today”
podcast; David Corn, Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” and an
MSNBC political analyst. He is the coauthor of “Russian Roulette”, and
Glenn Kirschner, former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst.
Glenn, let me begin with you – kick things off with trying to evaluate if
you can the president`s state of mind with the way he has been tweeting,
the way he has been lashing out, the way that he has been going after Nancy
Pelosi, his lack of understanding of how the impeachment process works,
even fielding that question there from the reporter about Vladimir Putin
denying something he clearly said. What do you make of his state of mind
GLENN KIRSCHNER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: You know, anger is kind of President
Trump`s thing. I mean, I don`t think we`ve ever seen him pensive or
contemplative or thoughtful or shy. But it seems like this is really
weighing on his psyche.
It does seem like Nancy Pelosi is playing him at this point. It seems like
he`s desperate not just to win an acquittal but for people to announce that
he`s innocent and he`s exonerated.
But, you know, I was reminded of when I was trying cases. The more
accomplished defense attorneys would often make an argument that kind of
resonates with what we`re experiencing now.
They would say in their closing argument, ladies and gentlemen, the verdict
form will only have two lines, guilty and not guilty. I wish it had a third
line. I wish that third line was innocent, exonerated. But because my
client is innocent, they often weren`t, but that kind of drives home the
point that even if the senate acquits him, that is far from announcing he`s
innocent, far from announcing an exoneration.
And my greatest fear is if they vote not to convict him. If they vote to
acquit him, they`re voting in favor of future foreign interference in our
election. They`re voting in favor of the president attaching personal
conditions on congressionally appropriated funds for his own political
advantage. And they`re basically voting the death of oversight. Because it
looks like if they buy into how the president has stonewalled –
KIRSCHNER: – then there is no more congressional oversight authority of
the executive branch.
MOHYELDIN: David, let`s talk a bit about the politics of this impeachment
saga. On the surface, on one hand, it appears that we are in a bit of
stalemate waiting to see what happens between Mitch McConnell and Charles
Schumer and a whole hosts of other things.
But on the other hand, we`re seeing some movement with some of the comments
that have been coming out from Republican senators, some of the ads that
have been – that have been aired so far targeting some of them. And I want
to play you this sound bite from Senator Blumenthal earlier in the evening
here on MSNBC. Watch what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): I think that Mitch McConnell eventually
will be forced by these cracks in his implacable wall as reflected in Lisa
Murkowski`s comments and by other colleagues who are saying it privately.
The question is will they say it publicly? Will they act on it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOHYELDIN: Now, according to Sen. Blumenthal, there are about 5 to 10
Republicans who have severe misgivings about the way Mitch McConnell has
handled this so far and where he has positioned himself in this process.
Let me get your take on where you see the, you know, the situation as it
stands right now. Where are we in the process?
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, I think part of
those misgivings are because McConnell went out there and he said out loud
what you`re not supposed to say out loud. They were rigging the trial. We
are the – we`re supposed to hold the trial and be jurors. But we`re going
to be working lockstep with Donald Trump`s defense.
I think that makes it look bad. So, even those senators who wanted to vote
to have a minimal trial, a quick trial with no witnesses and get this over
and done with now look like they`re doing it because they`re in Trump`s
pocket, which is indeed the case.
So, I don`t think – you know, some of them just don`t like the fact this
was said out loud. You know, the others who believe perhaps, possibly, that
it`s their constitutional responsibility to have a full and fair trial, I`m
not – I mean, I`m waiting to see, you know, who – anyone make a forceful
Murkowski said she was disturbed by Mitch McConnell getting in bed with
Donald Trump now and his legal team, his defense team. No one else has
really said a peep.
And we keep waiting, you know, collectively for Mitt Romney and Susan
Collins and others out there who keep telling us that they`re troubled,
they`re concerned. You know, they worry, they worry, they worry that
they`re going to actually take a strong stand. And it will be a hard stand
for Republican to take. And that has not yet come.
I mean, it`s like Christmas is over, you know. We still have some shopping
days left until the end of the year. But we`re still waiting for anyone to
take a really firm and hard stand in terms of having a fulsome trial. And
until we see those people speaking out loud publicly about that, I mean, I
would not bet on any single one of them to come rushing to the defense of
MOHYELDIN: I wonder if any of that, David, would be buoyed by the fact that
the approval rating or I should say the number of people who approved the
senate removing President Trump has shot up over the last week case (ph).
It`s now 51 percent approve, 42 percent disapprove. This is in a poll by
the “Politico Morning Consult” between December 19th and December 20th. So,
pretty significant that it has shot up so quickly. What do you attribute
HAYES BROWN, BUZZFEED SENIOR WORLD NEWS REPORTER AND EDITOR: I attribute
that to the fact we`re finally past the stage where – oh, the president
might be impeached. The president could be impeached. The president has
been impeached. So that, I think, has started to change the way people are
thinking about this.
It`s gone from being sort of an abstract thing where people have heard
about Ukraine. They`ve heard that something bad happened. There was a call
transcript that they`re supposed to read but most people haven`t.
But now, articles have been debated. They`ve been passed. And so, we`re
moving from where we`re just making predictions and guesses, something that
where this has actually happened. So, once we figure out what the trial
will actually look like, I think that`s going to be a determining factor.
Now, we look at the polls. And we try and glean something from them. But
it`s been really hard to try to match up what the polls say with what
politicians in D.C. have been doing.
Because if you try to make a comparison – say Nixon for example and
Clinton, the poll numbers for Nixon were in terms of impeachment and
removal, they were lower – there was a lower approval rating for that when
Nixon resigned than Trump has right now.
In the Clinton years, we hear people talk about – oh, there`s going to be
blowback against impeachment. During the Clinton years that happened
because the president was historically popular. He was at 60 odd percent
When you look at the president that`s not the case. I mean, you see some
independents starting to wonder if the whole process was even worth it. But
you don`t see Republicans in the House or Senate really sort of following
that right now.
So, I think once we come back into session, we look at the numbers, then we
look at what Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer can get to in terms of
agreement if anything, because if not, that`s when it becomes the job of
senators like Romney and Murkowski, et cetera, because once we get to a
senate trial, it`s a vote on everything.
MOHYELDIN: Glenn, let me ask you about this possible agreement between
Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, obviously, witnesses at the center of
documents, facts, all of that. If you were involved in this case, would you
want to see Rudy Giuliani among those witnesses? Because I think that from
the names that have been floated around, the four names that the Democrats
want to go after, Rudy Giuliani is not on that list.
KIRSCHNER: So, as a prosecutor, we have a hard and fast rule. We are only
allowed to call to the witness stand and sponsor the testimony of somebody
we believe to be telling the truth. So, I think your question answers
Would I put Rudy Giuliani on the stand? Not in a million years unless I had
him locked in the grand jury testimony because then he can lie, he can
spin, he can deflect. But I could use that grand jury transcript to both
impeach him, ironically it`s called impeachment when you use a prior sworn
statement against a witness to prove he`s lying. And I could actually use
that grand jury transcript to prove the truth of the matter in the grand
So, I think he is the last witness I would want to call. But I sure would
like the Mulvaneys and the Boltons for the drug deal. My first question
would be – John Bolton, whatever you saw was so obviously illegal. You
called it a drug deal. That has one connotation. What did you see? Those
are the kind of witnesses that I would want to present.
MOHYELDIN: David, again, picking up on that thread a little bit about the
topic of witnesses, is there a risk by Democrats pushing aggressively to
get certain witnesses that they may have to then deal with somebody like a
Joe Biden who said today that he is not going to respect the subpoena, not
come to testify, but then also contribute to the larger problem that we
have of people ignoring congressional subpoenas.
CORN: Yes. I think Joe Biden`s statement was ill advised. Because now,
Republicans can hide behind it perhaps and say, Joe Biden`s not showing up,
why should anybody else?
Now of course, the answer is because Joe Biden is not part of this case
because that`s just more, you know, disinformation from the Trump
But I mean, Hayes is right when he says that once we get to the trial, no
matter what happens and things can change during the trial and it`s
majority vote. So, Republicans can try to subpoena Biden, Hunter Biden and,
you know, these corrupt Ukrainian officials who claim there was wrongdoing
on the part of the Bidens even though there`s no foundation for that.
And just by being denied their witnesses can trump that up. Mitch McConnell
has no interest in this being a reasonable trial that aims at the facts of
the Trump, you know, quid pro quo, whatever you want to call it, abuse of
office. His interest is making this either go away quickly or being
somewhat of a circus or being discredited.
MOHYELDIN: He certainly doesn`t even want to exonerate – he certainly
doesn`t even want the president exonerated because as Glenn was saying, if
you have an opportunity to bring witnesses who can say this man is
innocent, and they were part of his inner circle, bring them to the stand,
have him exonerate the guy. But that`s not what Mitch McConnell wants done.
BROWN: No. You see, no desire for any exculpatory witnesses at all, which
is absolutely wild on one hand, makes total sense on the other because if
you actually allow for the ability to call witnesses in this trial, then
like I said, majority rules.
So, you won`t get the Hunter Bidens. You might have to have, you know, John
Bolton testify. Or he says no, no thank you. So, you either force Chief
Justice John Roberts to rule on it, which would get him in possible
political trouble or you help make the case that Democrats are laying out
of obstruction of congress.
If he – if you cannot even subpoena someone to appear at the trial
portion, what you`ve been saying is the exact time for the president to,
you know, defend himself to prove that he`s absolutely innocent and he just
doesn`t show up. How do you then vote not guilty on obstruction of
That`s the box that Mitch McConnell finds himself in at this point. And I`m
not sure how or if he`s going to break out except by maybe working out some
sort of deal with Chuck Schumer in the next couple of days.
MOHYELDIN: Yes. I was going to say when you said –
CORN: I think you got to remember, Mitch McConnell doesn`t need logic on
his side. He doesn`t need a consistent position. It can change from day to
day to day the way that Donald Trump`s position on many things change from
day to day. It will be completely situational. Whatever Mitch McConnell at
that moment thinks works to the political benefit mainly of Senate
Republicans and then as well as to Donald Trump.
MOHYELDIN: Yes. We said at the top of the show that Nancy Pelosi has Trump
trumped. I think some can make the argument which is also a trump Mitch
McConnell for the time being.
Hayes Brown, David Corn, Glenn Kirschner, thank you very much for starting
things off for us tonight.
And coming up, “The New York Times” has a stunning new report on
investigation into Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher who spent part of this
week thanking Donald Trump for pardoning him.
MOHYELDIN: The guy is freaking evil. That is how one Navy SEAL described
his platoon chief, Eddie Gallagher, during the investigation into whether
Gallagher had committed war crimes in Iraq.
It is part of a stunning “New York Times” report which includes material
never shown publicly before such as recorded interviews with members of the
SEAL team who accused Gallagher. And it comes just days after Eddie
Gallagher himself was with Donald Trump and a friend or I guess his wife, I
believe, at the Florida resort.
“The Times” describes the recording as, quote, “the first opportunity
outside the courtroom to hear directly from the men of Alpha platoon, SEAL
Team 7, whose blistering testimony about their platoon chief was dismissed
by President Trump when he upended the military code of justice to protect
Chief Gallagher from the punishment.”
Now, Gallagher was accused of stabbing to death a teenage ISIS fighter who
had been wounded by an air strike and had been detained by the U.S.
military in Mosul in 2017.
A military court acquitted Gallagher in July of first degree murder and
attempted murder. He was convicted of one relatively minor charge of posing
for photos with the dead body of the teenage ISIS fighter.
The Navy demoted Gallagher following the conviction. But last month, Donald
Trump cleared him of all punishment, restoring his rank, which then allowed
him to retire with full honors and led the former secretary of the navy,
Richard Spencer to resign.
Here`s part of the new video recordings obtained by “The New York Times”
for its “Hulu” show, “The Weekly.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eddie just came over the radio and specifically said,
don`t touch him. I got him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No way he touched him. He`s all mine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wasn`t fairly (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn`t look like he`s doing very well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How close do you think you are when you saw Gallagher
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me, (Bobby), Gallagher.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOHYELDIN: “NBC News” has not spoken to any of the SEALS that were shown in
the videos or quoted in “The New York Times” story. But “The New York
Times” says that it has reached out to all of them and they declined to
Eddie Gallagher claims that the charges against him were made by SEALS who
wanted to force him out. In a statement to “The Times”, Gallagher said,
quote, “My first reaction to seeing the videos was surprise and disgust
that they would make up blatant lies about me, but I quickly realized that
they were scared that the truth would come out of how cowardly they acted
“I felt sorry for them that they thought it necessary to smear my name, but
they never realized what the consequences of their lies would be. As upset
as I was, the videos also gave me confidence because I knew that their lies
would never hold up under real questioning and the jury would see through
it. Their lies and N.C.I.S.`s refusal to ask hard questions or corroborate
their stories strengthened my resolve to go to trial and clear my name.”
Joining us now, Congressman John Garamendi, Democrat from California. He is
the Chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, which
oversees all military personnel issues. Also with us, U.S. retired colonel
of the U.S. Army, Colonel Jack Jacobs. He`s a medal of honor recipient and
an “NBC News” military analyst.
Congressman, let me first get your take on the big picture how this
situation has played out now with these new revelations of what we`re
hearing for the first time directly from some of the members that were part
of that SEAL team and just how, you know, how despicable they thought Eddie
Gallagher`s behavior was when he was on active duty there.
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): Well, this entire incident is extremely
harmful. Keep in mind, we have 1.4 million American men and women serving
somewhere around the world, many of them far from the homes, away from
their families, here during the holidays and we`re spending all of our time
talking about a very, very serious incident that took place some four years
– three years ago.
It`s tragic what`s happened here. And it beseeches harms the integrity of
the SEAL teams without doubt, the back and forth of president`s involvement
and now apparently what apparently Mr. Gallagher or Chief Gallagher is
going to campaign for the president, just raises a whole series of very bad
It`s terribly unfortunate. I`m thinking about those men and women that are
out there serving with dignity, doing the very best they can to obey the
code – the justice codes and they`re carrying on protecting this nation.
MOHYELDIN: Colonel Jacobs, what do you make of the president`s involvement
in this and the kind of lasting impact it has had on our armed forces?
COL. JACK JACOBS, UNITED STATES ARMY RETIRED COLONEL: Well, as you can
argue and probably persuasively that the decision to pardon Gallagher in
the first place was a political act mostly to appeal to the president`s
But because there was so much opprobrium both inside and outside the
military after that I thought that the president probably decided to double
down, which is why he honored Gallagher down in Florida and just to
vindicate his decision to pardon Gallagher in the first place, Ayman.
MOHYELDIN: Yes. Let me play you that sound bite that you referenced there.
This is President Trump speaking at a rally in Sunrise, Florida in November
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. DONALD TRUMP: Just this week, I stuck up for three great warriors
against the deep state. People can sit there in air-conditioned offices and
complain. But you know what? Doesn`t matter to me whatsoever. They`re out
on that field and they`re doing a job for us like nobody else anywhere in
the world can do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOHYELDIN: Congressman, you heard there Colonel Jack Jacobs say that part
of this is political. Do you believe the president has politicized a big
part of our military? I mean, you speak to military officials probably all
the time when you`re dealing with personnel, and I don`t want you to
divulge any of those conversations. But what is the sense you`re getting
about that issue?
REP. GARAMENDI: Well, certainly, the president has politicized the
military. Just take a look at the enormous number of disruptions, firings,
people moving, Mattis and others resigning. So, yes, it`s clearly
In this particular instance, the Gallagher case, I think will have very
serious repercussions beyond the United States military. It`s going to have
a major role in the way in which American military personnel are viewed in
the Middle East where this incident took place.
And now, the controversy, the statements that are being made or have been
made by these other SEAL team members, you just know that is going to be
blasted all over the Middle East media, ISIS and others who will use it.
And that`s going to be a very unfortunate and quite probably a very
dangerous situation into the future. But, yes, the president has clearly
politicized this particular issue along with many, many others before.
MOHYELDIN: Let me put up on the screen for you guys to see a poll that was
conducted by the “Military Times”. It says that half of active duty service
members are unhappy with President Trump. This was conducted among 1,630
members of the active duty force from October 23 to December 2nd.
And the question is how favorable or unfavorable is your view of the
president? You see there, 45 percent very unfavorably, 4.8 percent
unfavorably. So, that`s almost about half saying.
Colonel Jacobs, when you look at a – when you look at a poll like that
and, you know, if you`re currently a serving member or senior officer or in
your case someone no longer in the force, how concerned would you be that
the commander in chief does not have the favorability of the rank and file
COL. JACOBS: Well, it`s very concerning because if you take a look in
history it`s unusual for people who are already serving to have a political
view to express in the first place. So, it`s very polarizing and very
difficult and makes it extremely difficult for commanders to get the
support of their people in the field.
I do know after talking to quite a few people who are still serving that
commanders have had to – after this Gallagher decision, the pardon, to
reinforce concepts such as the law of land warfare to make sure that people
in uniform understand their obligations under the uniform code of military
justice to recognize that when they`re in combat their job is to kill or
capture the enemy.
But once the enemy comes under their control, they have an obligation to
treat that person humanely especially in view of the fact that somebody
who`s captured is of intelligence value. It`s – the president`s view of
this is very much different, markedly different than those views of people
who are in uniform, Ayman.
MOHYELDIN: Congressman, final word to you as well about that “Military
Times” poll when you have half of the active force having a very
unfavorable or unfavorable opinion of the commander in chief.
REP. GARAMENDI: Well, I think the incidences that have occurred, Mattis,
Spencer, and most recently the Syria – the pull out of our troops and the
abandonment of the Syrian Kurds that fought ISIS battles for us, all of
those things are very, very detrimental and the military feels that.
Just yesterday, it was reported that one of our major outposts outside of a
bill has been taken over by the Russians. Now, that`s got to really, really
hurt the men and women that secured that position, that fought for that
position, that risked their lives to hold it and then to have the president
simply pull them out and then the Russians replace them. It hurts. And
that`s probably one of the reasons you`re seeing those poll numbers where
MOHYELDIN: But at least the president is tweeting against the Russians not
to attack the innocent civilians in Idlib.
REP. GARAMENDI: Yes, well, yes. Tweet`s going to be helpful.
MOHYELDIN: Congressman John Garamendi, Colonel Jack Jacobs, thank you both
very much for joining us tonight.
And coming up, it was a year that started with this and ended with this.
And the ongoing showdown between the President and the Speaker is only
escalating. What will the House do next with the articles of impeachment
against Donald Trump? That is next.
MOHYELDIN: President Donald Trump finally met his match this year in
Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi was unafraid to stand up to the President in a
number of public high-stakes showdowns. Trump has tried in vain to coin a
nickname for Nancy Pelosi after one defeat after another in 2019. Remember
this, 2019 started with Pelosi getting the Speaker`s gavel in the middle of
a Trump-initiated government shutdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This senseless shutdown is inflicting great pain
on every part of our country.
Let`s pay the employees. Maybe he thinks it`s OK not to pay people who do
work. I don`t, and my caucus doesn`t either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOHYELDIN: Now, there were questions at the start of the year as to whether
or not Pelosi would be able to fend off a challenge to her leadership from
inside the Democratic Party. Some in Pelosi`s own party openly questioned
whether the former Speaker was the right person to lead the new Democratic
House in the era of Trump.
Freshman Congressman Dean Phillips of Minnesota recently told “The New York
Times,” quote, “I was one of them; I thought it was time for new
leadership. And I`ve got to tell you, thank goodness. Thank goodness that
we have Nancy Pelosi speaking for the House of Representatives because I do
not think there is a better, more qualified, more principled person for
These circumstances include an impeachment inquiry and a vote to approve
two articles of impeachment against President Trump. And now Pelosi is
holding those articles until at least after the winter recess and denying
Trump of a quick and complete exoneration in a Senate trial led by Mitch
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: We have legislation approved by the Rules Committee that will
enable us to decide how we will send over the articles of impeachment. We
cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side.
So far, we haven`t seen anything that looks fair to us. So hopefully it
will be fair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOHYELDIN: Now, when we come back, we`re going to take a look at Nancy
Pelosi`s impeachment strategy and how she stood up to the President this
year. Our panel joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: Our founders, when they wrote the Constitution, they suspected that
there could be a rogue President. I don`t think they suspected that we
could have a rogue President and a rogue leader in the Senate at the same
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOHYELDIN: All right. Welcome back, everyone. Joining us now is Jess
Morales Rocketto, the Political Director of the National Domestic Workers
Alliance and an immigration rights advocate; David Jolly, a former
Republican Congressman from Florida and an MSNBC Political Analyst; and
here on set, Hayes Brown is back with us again.
Let me begin with you if I can, Jess, for a moment. What is it about Nancy
Pelosi that has made her just politically smarter than everyone in the way
she has outmaneuvered them over the course of the year, in particular,
President Trump and now Mitch McConnell?
JESS MORALES ROCKETTO, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, NATIONAL DOMESTIC WORKERS
ALLIANCE & CHAIR, FAMILIES BELONG TOGETHER: I think people really
underestimate Speaker Pelosi. She plans out her battle plans like a
General. And I think we`re seeing that play out. People have underestimated
her this entire year, but frankly, her most iconic moments have been when
she goes up against Trump. When did she break the Internet, when did she
become a meme? It`s when she (inaudible) Donald Trump. And he`s a loser
pretty much every time.
MOHYELDIN: So, to that point, David, let me play you this sound bite. This
is from November 15th talking on CBS, Nancy Pelosi referring to the
President as an impostor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: He should not frivolously throw out insults. But that`s what he
does. I think part of it is his own insecurity as an impostor. I think he
knows full well that he`s in that office way over his head.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOHYELDIN: It`s incredible that, you know, soft-spoken, yet very pointed,
and she kind of goes toe-to-toe with the President.
DAVID JOLLY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And accurate in her diagnosis, Ayman.
And somebody who probably more than anybody else in the country right now
has the ability to rattle Donald Trump, to put him on his heels, not only
because she controls the levers of the power of the Congress but also
seemingly on a personal level.
When the President had such a reaction to Nancy Pelosi suggesting that she
prays for him, that somehow that personal gesture from the Speaker really
rattled the President. And what has been remarkable is that this has not
been an easy road for Nancy Pelosi.
She has had to withstand criticism from within her own party for not being
aggressive enough, coming off the heels of the Cohen confession and SDNY
where Trump was named as a criminal co-conspirator, the Mueller report
where she really didn`t want to respond to allegations of obstruction of
justice. And she famously said over the summer, look, Donald Trump will
impeach himself. And then we got to Ukraine, and she moved very swiftly and
satisfied all the competing factions within her party. A remarkable
leadership year for Nancy Pelosi.
MOHYELDIN: Yes. And we kind of outlined, Hayes, how it`d kind of evolved
from the beginning. As we said, some Democrats were very critical of her.
Even somebody like a Tim Ryan challenged her leadership position.
And as David was saying, in the beginning, she pushed back against
impeachment while some of the more left wing or progressive aspects,
including Rashida Tlaib and others, wanted impeachment, she pushed back
against that, and in the end of the year, she was proven right.
HAYES BROWN, SENIOR WORLD NEWS REPORTER AND EDITOR, BUZZFEED: Right. I
think that what a lot of her members, especially those in the left, wanted
was sort of broader condemnation of Trump on a personal level and on a
policy level in a way that Pelosi didn`t quite agree with.
She didn`t think the politics were there to say that, oh, he is racist,
therefore he must be impeached. She didn`t think that that could be
followed along with. She didn`t think Mueller report could be followed
along with after the whole tangles of the Russia case. She didn`t think
that the obstruction-of-justice charge would be easy to prove coming off
the Mueller report. But here, she saw something where she could jump
And she knew when several moderate Democrats, freshmen, signed on to a
“Washington Post” op-ed saying, no, we need an impeachment inquiry that
this was the moment to strike. Because Pelosi, unlike Trump - Trump views
power just as a hammer whereas Pelosi can use both the hammer and a
scalpel. She knows how to beat her caucus into submission, while also very
narrowly and very delicately poking at things and slicing away at support
for positions that go against her.
MOHYELDIN: Yes. I`m just thinking off the top of my head at least three or
four iconic images of her this year, perhaps most notably during that
impeachment at the end of the session when she kind of gestures to her
caucus not to clap.
Jess, let me ask you this, though. Does she run the risk? She does control
the pacing of this impeachment process insofar as that she decides when to
hand over or transmit those documents to the Senate to kick things off
officially. Does she run the risk of overplaying her hand and holding onto
them too long?
ROCKETTO: People have really questioned her timely kind of throughout this
process. She didn`t get to impeachments fast enough. The vote was too vast.
Now, she`s holding on to things too long. So, honestly, I think so far
she`s done a really good job at making sure that this is an issue that is
being handled as fairly as possible. No one could ever accuse her of
rushing to impeachment.
And so - I`m inclined to trust her through this - you know, this fair
trial, making sure that the Senate actually calls witnesses, which is what
the American people deserve. I`m ready to follow Nancy Pelosi`s lead. So
far, she`s come out on top.
MOHYELDIN: David, to that same point, though, although she has opposed the
President on so many issues and certainly she is going up against him on
impeachment, she`s still getting things done by passing various legislation
that the President wanted, like the USMCA renegotiation and others.
JOLLY: Yes. But in this era of new media, you`d never know it. They reached
agreement on USMCA and they all seemed to blame each other for its passage
rather than celebrate the moment coming together. And look, House Democrats
would make the case that they`ve sent hundreds or thousands of bills over
to the Senate that have died in McConnell`s graveyard, as he famously
suggested. That honestly was true when Republicans controlled both chambers
as well. The Senate doesn`t act as fast as the House.
Ayman, elections are about contrasts. And what the House Democrats under
Nancy Pelosi`s leadership has done is created a contrast for 2020. They are
a party looking to protect health care, get gun violence off the streets,
to reunite families of immigrants who come here perhaps without
documentation, to be the party of Dreamers, and it will stand in contrast
to an agenda that Donald Trump saw rejected in the mid-terms.
And that`s probably the greatest affirmation of Nancy Pelosi and the
Democratic caucus right now is the sweeping mid-term affirmation of her
leadership over that of Donald Trump and the Republicans.
MOHYELDIN: Trying to do something that may be a little bit difficult,
Hayes, but looking into 2020, Nancy Pelosi transmits those articles of
impeachment over to the Senate, that is now out of her hands. What does she
turn her sights onto next?
BROWN: That`s a great question, because like we`ve been saying, the Senate
isn`t really moving to act very quickly on any of these issues that
Democrats are taking up. They could be working to pass, I don`t know, a new
tax legislation. They could be working to pass any number of things. But
unless you`re getting the President or Mitch McConnell onboard, it`s going
to be passed and die.
So I think that after articles of impeachment go through, after this trial,
I think that we`re in a real like wandering stage for D.C., as we`re in
this no-man`s-land between the President has either been removed and we
have a President Pence or he`s been acquitted and we have a newly
emboldened Trump ahead of the election. Everyone will be waiting basically
to see which way the election goes and what the President does at this
time. I don`t know what Pelosi will do. I`m sure Pelosi does at this point
though that I`m going to be very fascinated to find out.
MOHYELDIN: Yes. Jess and David, I`m going to pose the same question to you.
Jess, you`re up first. Where do you think Nancy Pelosi turns her sights to
ROCKETTO: I think that she`s been really clear about immigration. I
wouldn`t be surprised if DREAM comes up again. I also think that she`s made
very clear that voting rights is kind of the number one priority. I think
they`re going to do whatever they can ahead of the elections to make sure
that they`re trying to do anything in the House.
But what we`re seeing from Pelosi is she is really putting out a set of
bills that are very clear Democratic agenda ahead of the elections that I
think voters will be looking for.
MOHYELDIN: Yes. Very important, the voter registration.
David, final question to you as well. Where do you think she will be
turning her attentions to in 2020?
JOLLY: Health care. It`ll be health care, immigration, taxes and education.
But this impeachment issue is going to go on a bit longer because the two
inflection points that she will need before she can hand over the
impeachment articles are either a retraction from Mitch McConnell about his
impartiality when he said he will not be impartial, or two, she could hold
them into the spring until the court finally disposes of the President`s
challenge on executive immunity that he won`t let anybody testify.
She could make the case, look, we`re not going to transmit these until the
issue of Mulvaney and others testify and is settled by the courts, and we
know that they will have the opportunity in the Senate to testify to the
MOHYELDIN: Yes. I think a lot of people would agree that she is certainly
holding all the cards in Washington D.C. right now.
Jess Morales Rocketto, David Jolly, Hayes Brown, thank you all very much
for joining us this evening.
MOHYELDIN: And coming up, how a psychiatrist views Donald Trump`s reaction
to being impeached.
MOHYELDIN: Donald Trump is the third President in U.S. history to be
impeached, but he is the only one to be impeached after having hundreds of
psychiatrists sign an urgent letter to the House Judiciary Committee to
take into consideration Donald Trump`s mental health. That letter will be
resubmitted to Congress before the Senate trial.
However, this is not unprecedented for Donald Trump, who in the first year
of his Presidency was the subject of a book written by dozens of
psychiatrists and mental health professionals called “The Dangerous Case of
Now, the editor of that book is Dr. Bandy Lee, a forensic psychiatrist at
the Yale School of Medicine, who also spearheaded the letter to Congress.
In a new post impeachment article, Dr. Lee writes this. “With the
impeachment hearings, the President`s behavior has grown even more erratic
with frantic tweeting, rallies that are increasingly disconnected from
reality, and a very disturbing letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The
House Speaker has done well to call out an invalid Senate trial and to
delay it until it is fair. Now, in psychological terms, it is a technique
called limit-setting. When there are no other means of logistically
limiting harmful actions, statements and deeds need to call out
inappropriate behavior in ways that are commensurate with overall facts.”
When we come back, we`ll be joined by long-time Trump observer, David Cay
MOHYELDIN: Donald Trump has spent his time since being impeached tweeting
about being impeached, like this one on Christmas night. “Why should crazy
Nancy Pelosi, just because she has a slight majority in the House, be
allowed to impeach the President of the United States?”
Joining us now is Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist and
Editor and Co-Founder of DCReport.org, David Cay Johnston. It was the site
from that post that we just read, that had it earlier today.
David, I know you are not a psychiatrist, but as a long-time observer of
President Trump and his mental state, what is your sense of how upset Trump
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST &
DCREPORT.ORG EDITOR AND CO-FOUNDER: Oh, Donald is very, very upset. He is
quite scared about what`s happening to him. And he`s not in control
because, remember, this is someone who never had a board of directors.
And the mental health professionals who wrote this book two years ago quite
precisely and accurately predicted his behavior, and they`ve now shifted a
lot of their concern to public mental health, to warning people about how a
lot of people are buying into Donald Trump`s delusions.
And that`s a real problem for the rest of the society, but it`s one of the
things Donald keeps stoking because it helps him maintain some semblance of
that he`s in unlimited - position of unlimited power, which he`s not.
MOHYELDIN: There is an interesting trajectory of how the tweets have gone
from negative to worse over the course of the past couple of years. I
believe we have a full screen of the “USA TODAY” analysis of more than
8,200 of President Trump`s tweets. And it essentially shows that he goes -
from 2017, 14.9 percent of the words Trump used in his tweets were
negative. That number in December of 2019 has skyrocketed up to 16 percent.
The good words have certainly gone down as well from 24 percent to 19
What do you think his Twitter feed reveals about this man?
JOHNSTON: Well, it`s showing that overtime, because Donald does not have
the skills for the job, he`s in way, way over his head, that he is becoming
more and more desperate. And he is aware that the criticism of him has been
growing, that there`s been things he`s done that have come under reasonable
attack. He doesn`t know what to do about them.
Remember, this is a man so delusional he claims to be the world`s greatest
expert on 22 different subjects, and yet every time he talks about them, he
reveals that he doesn`t know more about them than your average high school
graduate who just got his diploma last summer.
MOHYELDIN: Yes, he keeps saying he knows more about windmills and knows
more about technology than anybody else. What do you think 2020 is going to
have in store for this President, both as he goes back on the campaign
trail, he goes back into his cocoon of being in those rallies and just goes
off the rails?
JOHNSTON: Well, you`re going to see him become more and more lashing out at
people, discrediting people, because after all, Donald is the only smart
person in the world; the rest of us, unless we agree with him, are all
I will be very surprised if he agrees to debate; and if the Democrats
should nominate a woman, very, very surprised if he does that; and would
expect the Democrats, in that case, to mount an argument of “what`s the
matter, Donald, you`re afraid of a girl?” something like that.
MOHYELDIN: All right. David Cay Johnston, thank you very much for joining
us tonight. I would appreciate your insights.
That`s tonight`s “Last Word.” I`m Ayman Mohyeldin. “The 11th Hour” starts
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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