STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Breaking tonight, the House Speaker wheels the power of the impeachment after months of keeping her caucus at bay.
Plus, the White House back down and will let Congress hear out the Intel Community`s whistleblower complaint and see the Trump phone call transcript.
And how the shifting explanations could come back to haunt him and make him the third president in history to be impeached. All of this as THE 11TH HOUR on a historic Tuesday night starts right now.
Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Brian Williams. Day 978 of the Trump administration, the day when House speaker Nancy Pelosi made a historic move to initiate impeachment proceedings against the President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I`m announcing the House of Representative is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. I`m directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.
The President must be held accountable. No one is above the law.
This week, the President has admitted to asking the president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically. The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable fact of the President`s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The speaker`s decision comes after months of caution. And it could result in Trump becoming just the third president in history to be impeached. At this hour last night 147 House Democrats backed some type of impeachment action. Tonight that number has jumped to 188. That is more than three quarters of the House Democratic caucus.
Pelosi announced her moved in the wake of revelations that Trump pushed the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden during a phone call in late July. Reports alleged Trump may have linked aid to Ukraine to the government`s willingness to conduct an inquiry into the Biden`s. Trump has promised to release the transcript of his call with the Ukrainian President tomorrow, the same day the two men will hold their first face-to-face meeting here in New York.
Meanwhile, a senior administration official tells NBC News, the White House is preparing to give Congress the whistleblower`s complaint by this Thursday. The release had been blocked by Acting Director of Intelligence Joseph Maguire. "The New York Times" reports tonight the White House is trying to work out a deal that allow the whistleblower who filed the complain against Trump to speak to Congress and to allow the acting intelligence director to release a redacted version of the whistleblower`s complaint.
Tonight, the whistleblower`s attorney issued a statement saying, "We applaud the decision to release the whistleblower complaint." There was also this statement from the acting director of national intelligence, "In light of recent reporting on the whistleblower complaint, I want to make clear that I have upheld my responsibility to follow the law every step of the way. I am committed to protecting whistleblowers and ensuring every complaint is handled appropriately. I look forward to continuing to work with the administration and Congress to find a resolution regarding this important matter."
Acting DNI Maguire will testify before the Senate and House Intelligence Committees on Thursday.
Tonight House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff gave this explanation about why the White House may be shifting strategy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA, CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE CMTE.: The hearing with the director is having the effect that I had hoped that it would, and that is forcing the administration`s hand. I told the director that I`m going to call on him, not in close session but to all the American people to explain why he is the first director to with hold a complaint in violation of the statute.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Earlier today, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling for the whistleblower`s complaint to be provided to Congress.
And as all of this unfolds, "The Washington Post" reports tonight on divisions within the White House over Ukraine, "Trump`s attempt to pressure the leader of Ukraine followed a months long fight inside the administration that sidelined national security officials and empowered political loyalist, including the President`s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, to exploit the U.S. relationship with Kiev. Several officials described tense meetings on Ukraine among national security officials at the White House leading up to the President`s phone call on July 25, sessions that led some participants to fear that Trump and those close to him appeared prepared to use U.S. leverage with the new leader of Ukraine for Trump`s political gain. As the worries intensified, some senior officials worked behind the scenes to hold off a Trump meeting or call with the Ukrainian president. Out of concern that Trump would use the conversation to press Kiev for damaging information on Trump`s potential rival in the 2020 race, former vice president Joe Biden and Biden`s son, Hunter." That, again, from "The Washington Post" this evening.
Here for our leadoff discussion on a Tuesday night, Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post" and moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS. Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times," co author of the book "Impeachment in American History," Alexi McCammond, Politics Reporter for Axios and Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and the Pentagon and a former Chief Counsel to the House Intelligence Committee. Thank you for being with us.
Peter, you wrote the book on impeachment. So we`ll start with you. Obviously there`s been discussion for months now about the possibility Democrats would go in this direction. There have been calls from many Democrats. The House Speaker had been noticeably absent from those calls.
Put in context what has played out in the last 24 to 36 hours and the likelihood that this now places Democrats on a collision course with actually voting to impeach the President?
PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it`s very remarkable because we have seen the Democrats all year basically slow walk and take their time looking for, you know, crevices that they can kind of work their way in on an investigation to get some more information than Robert Mueller had for instance that didn`t end up proving what they hoped to prove. And then suddenly, boom, just like that, the rocket fuel has been added and the missiles has taken off. The speaker managed to turn around in a matter of a few days and say not only are we going to look at this, she said it was a betrayal of the constitution. Well, she didn`t just say where to look at it. In fact, she put her foot on the pedal and said that she is ready to go forward.
KORNACKI: Well, this is from POLITICO today. Obviously, Nancy Pelosi coming out and endorsing an impeachment inquiry, that is new. This is from a POLITICO report on it, noted, some of the attitudes from Democrats there in the House today, "lawmakers noted that she left them without a timeframe for action, frustrating Democrats who had hoped her backing would include an urgent push to bring articles of impeachment to the House floor. No, I do not see structural changes," Rep. Val Demings of Florida, just one of three lawmakers who sits on both the Judiciary and Intelligence committees" said.
Robert Costa, it was striking this particular story with Ukraine apparently the justification for Nancy Pelosi making this decision today, but no select committee, no specific committee that`s going to deal with this, apparently no House vote on authorizing an impeachment inquiry, no clear time table here. So procedurally, is there anything that changed here?
ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Steve, I was at the Capitol all day talking to House Democrats, House Republicans and members of the Senate. And they say so much on the impeachment front remains TBD. And that as much as Speaker Pelosi said today she was opening an impeachment inquiry and she`s willing to pursue those steps, the details are still going to be worked out by the House Democrats in the weeks to come.
What happened was so many House Democrats came to the speaker and said this has reached the threshold for impeachment. We need you to make a statement. We need House Democrats to make a formal statement. So politically, she was showing solidarity with them, while letting the committees in the coming days and weeks still work out the exact process.
KORNACKI: Well, in terms of that process then, Alexi, and in terms of Democrats` commitment to not just opening an inquiry, but potentially bringing articles of impeachment, have a debate on the House floor, have some kind of a vote on impeachment if it were to come to that, how much now in terms of their political thinking on this, their strategic thinking on this, how much is going to depend on what happens when that transcript is released tomorrow? Apparently what happens when the whistleblower`s complaint is heard? Maybe the whistleblower him or herself is heard from how much of that is going to dictate whether this is something that leads ultimately to Democrats having some kind of a vote here?
ALEXI MCCAMMOND, AXIOS POLITICS REPORTER: I think those are the most important things that will dictate whether or not that happens. The transcript, of course, is helpful. But Democrats themselves have said that`s simply not enough. They want the full whistleblower complaint and reports so they can have all the facts. They want to hear from the acting DNI director.
Is that clip from Representative Adam Schiff you played earlier, he said as much. He wants to talk to them to figure out what`s been going on.
And I think that hearing from the whistleblower himself or herself, both in the House and the Senate committees, which the whistleblower`s lawyer has said as much that he wants -- he or she wants to talk to both committees. I think that will really help Democrats decide the severity of the situation and really figure out their political calculus moving forward. Because right now as it stands, as you mentioned, they don`t just not have a timeline, but there is enough wiggle room for Donald Trump to continue spinning this and for Rudy Giuliani and Republicans in his corner to continue spinning this.
He tweeted as much today saying they haven`t even seen the transcript, how are they calling for impeachment? This is, of course, presidential harassment and a witch hunt. So I think those will be really critical to their next steps moving forward.
And for whatever it`s worth, Congresswoman Maxine Waters was on MSNBC earlier tonight. She didn`t have a clear timeline to give the network when she was giving the interview which she said very quickly multiple times, so who knows how quickly that will be.
KORNACKI: Well, Jeremy Bash, we mentioned you have a background. We talk about the six House committees that have been working on Trump investigations that are going to be part of the broad process that Nancy Pelosi initiated today. In terms of pursuing an investigation into this Ukraine matter, how is that going to work if there is not one clear committee that`s been deputized, that`s been designated here, that this is basically six committees being told to continue working. How will that work functionally?
JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, first, Steve, I think it`s important to take a step back and note that this is the most significant, most consequential impeachment in our history, because never before has an impeachment inquiry actually dealt with foreign interference in the United States election and never before dealt with a national security issue in which arguably the security interests of the United States have been compromised.
If you look at the other two impeachment situations in our history, they were on much more prosaic mundane issues. That`s point number one.
I think point number two is that this is a much more severe and significant issue and even the Russian situation that was exposed last year related to the 2016 campaign, because in this case, the President directly had a conversation with the foreign head of state, which wasn`t exactly clear that it happened in the Russian situation. And more over, because he is president, he actually had things that the United States government has to offer in return for that political support. And that`s apparently exactly what happened.
KORNACKI: We mentioned a minute ago the President`s lawyer`s name came up, Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani. Of course, it was a few months ago he had briefly scheduled a visit to Ukraine. He said back at the time he would be there in the capacity as the President`s lawyer potentially getting information he said that might be useful to his client, the President and to the country. Rudy Giuliani, there is some new reporting in "The Washington Post" tonight saying that he has been extensively involved in terms of Trump`s interest in Ukraine as a potential matter worth investigation.
Rudy Giuliani was on Fox News just a few minutes ago. Here`s some of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Insiders saying you muck this up. Your response?
RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP`S LAWYER: Man, I really did. And you know who I did it at the request of? The State Department.
I never talked to Ukrainian official until the State Department called me and asked me to do it. And then I reported every conversation back to them. And Laura, I`m a pretty good lawyer, just a country lawyer. But it`s all here, right here. The first call from the State Department. The debriefing of the State Department.
INGRAHAM: So why are they -- but why is Rudy roll it, you know, running the show on that? Why isn`t it FBI and just -- the main justice?
GIULIANI: That`s a very good question. Because the FBI`s performance entire investigation, including up to this moment is flawed.
Why am I doing it, Laura? Can`t you figure it out? I`m his defense lawyer? I`m defending him. He`s my client.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Peter Baker, this is a White House that`s not a stranger to controversy. It`s not a stranger to breaking sort of crisis style headlines, but what`s played out in the last couple of days? What are you picking up around the administration in terms of their concern level about this? Do they view this as, hey, we`ve been down this road before. We will get through this too. Or did they view this as some potentially different?
BAKER: I think the President has basically anticipated this moment is going to happen since the beginning. I think that, you know, this is the first president we`ve ever had in American history about whom there was talk about impeachment even before he was inaugurated. There was talk about his ethical issues about the Russian interference and so forth.
At every stage in the last two and a half years people have raised this issue. The only question -- the only thing is really shocking or surprising is it has taken this long. And it did happen in fast -- most as we talk about, you know, once it actually started to come together, this idea of an inquiry, we don`t know else going to go.
Why are they so willing to release this transcript tomorrow? The President is clearly doubling down. He clearly must think that this transcript, if not exonerates at the very least is ambiguous enough that he can make an argument that there is not this sort of quid pro quo we built it and painting at, that there wasn`t this sort of over winning pressure that they had been writing about. He must think that this is somehow advantageous to him, otherwise he wouldn`t be so eager to put it out.
Similarly, we don`t know yet what the whistleblower complaint says either, but he`s moving pretty quickly to do that. And taking away one of the arguments the Democrats might have had, which is that if you stone wall on some of this we can impeach him for that alone. Because remember, one of the articles of impeachment against Nixon was, not responding a request for information from Congress.
MCCAMMOND: And I`ll say from the President`s re-election strategy thinking, we have seen this in the way that he has talked at rallies during the 2018 midterms, sort of bragging about Democrats` desire then to impeach him, which they weren`t even close to it at that point and saying how could you impeach a president who is doing the best job, whatever. Sort of treated it like his joke. Today, his re-election campaign was fundraising on impeachment. Asking supporters to rush in donations before this five -- few (ph) announcement from Pelosi to create what they call the anti- impeachment task force of supporters to send to the President and give their love and support to him.
They are really using this as a way to sort of target their base supporters and really rile them up. And when I talk to Obama and Trump voters and even Romney-Clinton voters, especially in the upper midwest throughout the country, they sort of talk about this Romney-Clinton voters who, of course, voted for the Democrat in 2016, that they fear that impeachment will actually rile up the Presidents` supporters, that they don`t think it`s politically wise for Democrats to move forward on impeachment because of the implications they think it will have on the election. And they know the political power they have in voting, and having their voice heard in that way. And they still don`t think it`s wise.
These Democratic voters who, of course, had voted for Republicans before, but that`s really interesting when this is all happening in Washington. I`m thinking back to these conversations I`ve had with swing voters who on both sides of the aisle, no matter which way they have swung, really do not think impeachment is a good thing for how the election will turn out. And that`s all why President Trump thinks it could be a good thing for him.
KORNACKI: Robert Costa, I`m curious what you are hearing from Republicans on Capitol Hill. One of the dynamics of the last 2 1/2 years it seems is that Republican elected officials seem to have a sense that Donald Trump has a very strong, powerful and unique connection with their voters, with Republican voters and therefore they`ve been deferential to him, not wanting to have those voters turn on them. Is that dynamic likely to continue to prevail here, or are you picking up on any subtle changes in attitude there among Republicans on Capitol Hill?
COSTA: Steve, when you`re at the Capitol and walk to the House of Representatives and you talk to House Republicans, you hear a lot of fervent enthusiasm and support for President Trump. And you heard it today. People coming to his side, they`re ready to go to the barricades politically for him as this impeachment effort continues in the House.
But when you stroll just a few yards over to the U.S. Senate, it`s a different atmosphere. Senate Republicans had their weekly lunch today and hovering outside that room. You really got the sense that Senate Republicans are waiting to see how this plays out. They`re not in lock step with President Trump on the same way so many House Republicans are.
And you have people like Chairman Burr at the Intelligence Committee who want to see the facts, who aren`t as political in terms of their support of President Trump as members of the House. So there is a real difference in the dynamics between the two chambers.
KORNACKI: Jeremy Bash, we mentioned at this time tomorrow we-- it seems likely we will have the transcript of the President`s conversation, phone conversation with the Ukrainian president. We may also have some version of that whistleblower`s complaint for the public to digest. What should people be looking for as both of those things come to light?
BASH: Well, I think we already know that in the transcript or the verbatim account of the phone call with the Ukrainian president, the President did request that Ukraine involve itself in the 2020 election. I think that`s beyond dispute. I don`t think that there going to be a lot of new surprises in the transcript. I do think we need to see the entirety of the acts that the whistleblower was concerned about. We need to see the issues surfaced before we can have a fulsome understanding of exactly what`s at stake here.
And then of course I think we need to understand the whole history of the with holding of aid to Ukraine, because in fact, that is the way the President operated in an effort to withdraw essentially the benefit of a relationship with the United States until Ukraine helped him politically.
KORNACKI: OK, let`s take a quick break. Everybody is going to stay with us, though.
And coming up, the uncharted political waters we now find ourselves in. We are some 400 days away from November 2020. A President facing impeachment is also going to be facing reelection. And his personal attorney has involved himself in foreign affairs.
And later, we just spoke about it with Jeremy, will ask a former FBI agent what he is looking for in this upcoming transcript. THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on this consequential Tuesday night.
KORNACKI: More reporting tonight from "The Washington Post" on the pressure inside the White House. According to "The Post," "U.S. officials described an atmosphere of intense pressure inside the national security council and other departments since the existence of the whistleblower complaint became known. One official speaking, like others, on the condition of anonymity described the climate as verging on "bloodletting."
"The Post" goes on to report, "the person who appears to have been more directly involved at nearly every stage of the entanglement with Ukraine is Giuliani. "Rudy, he did all of this," one U.S. said. "This expletive show that we`re in, it`s him injecting himself into the process."
Still with us, Robert Costa, Peter Baker, Alexi McCammond and Jeremy Bash.
Jeremy, let me start just with you. This "Post" story paints a picture of all sorts of infighting in this administration. National security from professionals baffled by what they were seeing. And the emergence according to "The Post" at least of Rudy Giuliani, the President`s personal lawyer as one of the driving forces, perhaps the driving force in this. What do you make of that?
BASH: Well, I also have a question about the clip you played earlier in which on Fox News Giuliani said I did this all at the direction and behest of the State Department. We need to ask and understand whether that`s accurate. Somebody is lying, either he did this because the State Department directed him to or he did it subverting the State Department.
And I think the fact that his -- that the personal lawyer for the President did this indicates this was done to benefit personally the President. This was not done to benefit the United States. And when a President receives a personal benefit in exchange for a public act, that`s called bribery.
KORNACKI: Robert Costa, you`re familiar with Rudy`s role in this administration with this President, you`re as familiar as anybody. Talk about how it`s come to be that Rudy Giuliani went from a role as a surrogate in the campaign, speaker at the Republican convention, there was talk, I remember, of him potentially being attorney general or secretary of state to this role that apparently encompasses some far reaching work when it came to Ukraine?
COSTA: When you talk to Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and people close to President Trump, you really understand, these are two men who are generational peers. They speak roughly to each other privately. They feel like they can be very candid about their political aims and agenda, their views of foreign policy. And so in this tight inner circle of President Trump and outside our President, Rudy Giuliani is always there hovering not only as a personal lawyer, but as someone who understands the President instinctively. And so the President turns to him for project after project, whether it`s the Russia probe or dealing with Ukraine on foreign policy. It has alarmed national security officials who wonder why does this former New York mayor and personal attorney have so much influence, but influence he does have.
KORNACKI: OK. I want to put this up, too. We have been seeing and talking as this impeachment issue has been out there for months about polling on this subject. That polling is generally been in the context of the Mueller investigation, of the Russia probe. We have seen more opposition than support.
There`s this tonight, this is from Ipsos and Reuters. This is a poll that was conducted yesterday and today. In other words, this poll was conducted after this Ukraine story came to light.
And you can see here, these numbers are fairly consistent with what we`ve been seeing on the broader question of impeachment. Should Trump be impeached? Thirty-nine percent, yes, 47 percent plurality opposition to impeachment in that poll. We should note, however, they did ask in this poll, had folks heard about this Trump/Biden Ukraine story. Forty-four percent said they had heard little or nothing about it so far.
So obviously, early in the story Peter, a chance with that many people not being too familiar with those numbers to change. But from a Democratic standpoint, it seems Nancy Pelosi, one of her reservations to date was how stubborn those polls had been. If this is a preview of what`s to happen, if the number stay where they`ve been, does that affect how Democrats react going forward?
BAKER: Yes, of course. Look, Jeremy said earlier that this is different than any other impeachment before because the issues are different and he`s right about that. But there are some parallels in previous impeachment, one of which is that 1998 when the Republican House impeached Democratic Bill Clinton, they did not have the public behind them. The numbers were like this. They didn`t have a majority support.
In fact, Clinton`s numbers much higher than Trumps are today. They were in the 60s and eventually even few days after the impeachment they went up to 70, 73, I think. That`s the difference. Trump has never had that kind of support.
But, they didn`t have the support. I was in touch with Newt Gingrich tonight, he of course was the Republican speaker back then. He thinks that -- and that probably he will say this, but he says Nancy Pelosi risks having the same thing happen to her that happened to him which is they end up with an unpopular impeachment and the back lashing on the party that does it and it could help the President.
KORNACKI: Alexi, how confident do you perceive Democrats to be Democratic leaders? You saw, obviously Pelosi make that move today. But we`ve also seen a number of Democrats in the last two days from marginal districts, swing districts, Democrats who have to worry potentially any given election about losing to a Republican. We have seen a number of them come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry. Is there a confidence level among Democrats that numbers like we just showed are going to change?
MCCAMMOND: I don`t know if there`s confidence that those numbers are going to change. But I think what we have seen between numbers who have came out today, which I think you mentioned earlier is more than 30 between yesterday and today.
And the seven House Democrats who wrote that op-ed in "The Post" that came out last night. All of those folks are from marginal districts, the ones who wrote the article last night and even a lot of the Texas House Democrats that came out today. They`re from very marginal sort of vulnerable districts. They know what`s at risk. But a lot of them have this national security foreign policy background that I think, and I`m not an expert or advising them in anyway.
But I think that actually gives Democrats a chance to change the messaging on this whole impeachment discussion that they otherwise sort of lost in the ways they have been hemming and hawing and dragging their feet for months on the end until today. It gives them an opportunity to refocus the conversation about what is at stake here and why they are moving forward on this. To narrowly define it as a national security issue, to say that their national security background allows them to put country over party and that they don`t think the President is doing that. And Republicans who are standing in line with him are not doing that either. They can change that conversation and make it something maybe bigger than just, you know, blue and red politics or, you know, pro Trump or anti-Trump politics and use it as a way to change their conversation and really educate people on what they see is the larger issue here not just saying Trump is the issue.
BAKER: And that is actually the other history lesson we get from past impeachments, with Watergate, with Nixon, in fact. The public wasn`t really for impeachment until the end, until the evidence came out, the "smoking gun" tape as it was called when they heard Nixon`s voice and saw a transcript of Nixon saying that the CIA should be used to block the FBI investigation. That`s what turn things around. So the Democrats have to be able to find something that would change the public impression about this is not just more the same but something that genuinely changes their minds.
KORNACKI: Right. And again, we mentioned it`s an initial readout. That whistleblower`s complaint may be public this week, that transcript. We`ll see what they say. We`ll see if the numbers change.
Robert Costa, Peter Baker, Alexi McCammond, Jeremy Bash, thanks to all of you.
And coming up, a transcript, a complaint and an I.G. report, how these three documents could change the nation`s political history. That is next when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
KORNACKI: More will be yet another eventful day in an all ready eventful week, this as the President`s promised to release the complete fully declassified and unredacted transcript of his phone call with the Ukrainian President. And as we`ve mentioned, a senior administration official tells NBC News that the White House expects to hand over the whistleblower`s complaint to Congress by Thursday, that is the same day that acting DNI Joseph Maguire testifies before the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.
Tonight, the Chairman of House Intel Adam Schiff said he is also looking forward to hearing from the actual whistleblower.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We`re going to insist that the whistleblower be protected that they come to Congress, that they have the full authority to discuss the substance of their complaint and that we see the complete and unadulterated complaint. We have all too much experience, Chris, with the administration through their willing participants like Bill Barr misrepresenting official documents. The White House should even have this complaint. The President says everybody has seen it. That in itself is a huge problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And here to talk about all of it, Annie Karni, White House Reporter for the New York Times and Clint Watts, a former FBI Special Agent, a distinguished research fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and author of "Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News".
Clint, let me start with you. You understand this world that we`re all in some cases discovering for the first time. But when we talk about the transcript of the President`s phone call that apparently is due to be released tomorrow and also this whistleblower complaint, what can we actually expect here? When a transcript is put together, how many people are listening in on the call? What types of people are there? How faithful is that transcript normally going to be? And how thorough would a whistleblower complaint be if folks are just taking a look at it from the outside?
CLINT WATTS, FMR. FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Yes, I can`t imagine it being very thorough. And I think the other thing is I don`t expect it to be a direct transcription of everything that was said on the call. I would be shocked if that`s what actually came out tomorrow. Instead I think what is normal is note taking. It`s very normal for them to have one or more note takers during a call whenever you are talking to a foreign leader. They would then write those things down.
They also keep some things sensitive, right? So if there`s a personal conversation that might go on or something that`s maybe rapport building, they`re not probably going to write all those things down. So it really makes me question what we will actually see. My feeling is whatever the White House releases, they probably don`t feel is going to be damaging to their cause and so I don`t expect that to be there.
I think the complaint is far more important, what`s kind of gotten lost in all of these is based on my reading of everything I`ve seen so far in the public, I don`t see why this would only be about one phone call. Based on the reports out of the Washington Post tonight, several other accounts that I`ve read through the weekend, it seems there were multiple points in which this case was building over time for the whistleblower complaint. And maybe the phone call was the last straw or maybe the first straw that started to put this puzzle together. So when we get to the point where we`re starting to talk about the complaint, starting to talk about the actual whistleblower shut (ph) Congress, I think is when we get more to the bottom of what this all is really about.
KORNACKI: Annie Karni, two things have dramatically changed in the last 12 hours. The first we`ve been talking about for most of the show so far, the House Speaker coming out in favor all of a sudden of an impeachment inquiry, all sorts of other Democratic members who`d previously have been quiet on the subject coming out and calling for the same thing. The other thing that`s changed though is the White House just this afternoon and this evening saying the President himself saying on Twitter, OK, here comes the transcript and my phone conversation tomorrow and then also apparently this whistleblower complaint. What is behind that change on the White House`s part in terms of potentially releasing both of these things?
ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It`s a dramatic shift. If you recall on the Sunday shows they sent out their two top cabinet officials, Secretary of State Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to make the rounds saying that it would be a bad precedent to release this transcript, that only under the most extreme circumstances. That was a Pompeo quote (INAUDIBLE) that ever happen.
And now the President is saying fine, take a look. What happened here was that, inside the White House, there is some divide over this but they`re basically -- the President came to the conclusion that this was a politically untenable position for him to stay in to say we`re not giving anything here, that the appearance of stone walling was potentially more damaging to him than anything that the whistleblower might have actually said and anything that might be in this transcript. The call, again, I agree that, you know, they are making a very aggressive push that there is nothing that we will see in this transcript or partial transcript that will be released tomorrow that will be damaging to the President. That they seem to be sort of -- it`s a gamble. It`s clearly not -- it`s their first choice of strategy given what we saw them saying on Sunday, but it`s their best choice as to where they are now.
KORNACKI: All right. Annie and Clint are staying with us.
And coming up, a closer look at the risks that whistleblowers face and the role they play in a democracy when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
KORNACKI: Tonight our guest Annie Karni of the New York Times has new reporting on how these phone calls between the President and world leaders work. She writes, "While Mr. Trump is on a call, his national security adviser is typically either in the room with him or listening in from his West Wing office. Typically, the adviser is joined by the senior director for the head of the state`s region, as well as intelligence officials working from the White House situation room who connect the call and help to produce a rough transcript almost immediately after its conclusion. The Secretary of State can listen in if he requests, according to one former administration official. Vice President Mike Pence will also frequently join Mr. Trump on a call with a foreign leader, often at the request of Mr. Trump, according to an aide".
And back with us, Annie Karni and Clint Watts. Annie, this is very interesting reporting. What you`re reporting together here is the picture of a phone call that really in the administration inside the White House is an event. All of these high ranking people who are taking part or who are listening in or who are privy to it in some way and yet your reporting also suggests that the President himself doesn`t typically prepare that much for the events.
KARNI: Yes. The process is not that different from what it has been under previous administrations. The National Security Council runs this process before every foreign leader call that the President does, they give him basically a short briefing book. When is the last time you talked to this leader? What is the purpose of this call? What have they given us? What do we want to give them? And he gets an in person briefing too.
I talked to four current and former administration officials who said, you know, he doesn`t actually read that briefing book. They keep doing it anyway. These calls like end up sounding more like the way he used to sound on business calls from the 26th floor of Trump Tower. It`s just Trump being Trump. We all have some sense of what that`s like at this point.
But the process is an NSC process that is -- hasn`t really changed. What has changed is after a few of these calls were leaked to the big (INAUDIBLE) of the administration, his call with the Mexican leader and the Australian prime minister leaked and were pretty embarrassing to him. The effort to really shrink the circle of people who have access to this transcript that`s released afterwards or who listen in on the call, they`ve try to limit the number of people on these calls to really just tap to your people. So, for instance, this transcript of the call will be sent over to the State Department and the Defense Department as an eyes only document for the Secretary of State or the Defense Secretary, not something they get to keep or copy and pass around to their deputies, but something they can read and send back to the White House. That`s to avoid leaks.
KORNACKI: Yes. And so, Clint, all of those precautions the White House is taking to try to avoid leaks, to try to limit the number of people who might have access to this in some way, and yet it would appear based on the existence of this whistleblower`s complaint and the apparent -- I say apparent because we don`t know yet -- but the apparent contents of that complaint, that word of it still got out when it came to the President and his conversation with the Ukrainian President.
WATTS: Yes, that`s right. And I think the part that we have to look at is this isn`t just tied to the phone call, right? This is also Rudy Giuliani taking actions which is hard to tell if it`s part of the state or separate or aside from the state, engaging people in Ukraine. That means that people throughout the system in the Ukraine are actually being contacted and they also get to speak. And then when we look at aid being withheld., that is going to send a shock wave through the system. That effects Defense Department operations, State Department operations, Intel operations, all the defense and state contractors that probably support or are funded via those funds that are going to Ukraine.
So once that starts to happen, all those machines start to grind to a halt. And they`re starting to ask questions. And I think that`s the part that`s really not being discussed enough in this context is the entire gears around our policy in Ukraine came to a halt based on these interactions leading up to this phone call. And so there was no way at any point that this would, you know, completely stay underground in some surface. Notes about this call, discussions about this call, we`re going to get out because people are going to want to know why we`ve stopped moving forward with our policy in Ukraine.
KORNACKI: All right, Clint Watts and Annie Karni, thanks to both of you for being with us and for staying up. It has been a frantic day of news. We really appreciate you helping us break it down and understanding it a little bit better.
Coming up, the United States has gone down this path three times in 243 years. Up next, we`ve got some experts with a road map going forward. THE 11TH HOUR back after this.
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REP. NEWT. GINGRICH (R), GEORGIA, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Next week is a vote of conscience. We will not use the whip organization on the Republican side. This is something that each member should approach as an American based on their oath to uphold the constitution as their oath of office. And I would hope that`s the way it would be dealt with next week. So I hope it wouldn`t be Democrats and Republicans, it would be Americans.
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KORNACKI: That was Newt Gingrich, then the House Speaker in October 1998 just one week before the House voted to launch an impeachment inquiry against then President Bill Clinton. NBC News reports tonight that Congress is considering canceling its upcoming two-week recess it set to begin this Friday in order to move forward on the impeachment inquiry.
Here for more on how the process will work, Charlie Savage, New York Times National Security and Legal Reporter and MSNBC Contributor. His story tonight is titled, How an Impeachment Process Inquiry Works, and Jill Wine- Banks, Attorney, former Assistant Watergate Special Counsel and MSNBC Legal Analyst. Well Charlie, I`ll start with you. We played 1998 right there. And that`s how Republicans got things kicked off in the impeachment of Bill Clinton. The entire House voted to launch an impeachment inquiry and to set the Judiciary Committee up to hold the hearings. That was October 1998. The hearings began in November 1998.
It appears right now there`s no plan for the full House to vote on an impeachment inquiry now and there may not even be a specific committee set up to deal with this question. What is your sense of where the process and where the framework stands right now?
CHARLIE SAVAGE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s a great observation. It is very different from 1998, and from 1974 as well when the full House voted to start the impeachment inquiry into Richard Nixon. And that is something that`s ambiguous about what Nancy Pelosi has done here. It`s more of a political act than a legal act because she is unilaterally saying, OK, now we`re doing an impeachment inquiry but she`s not putting it to the House for a vote. And recall for the last month or two the House Judiciary Committee under Chairman Jerry Nadler has already been saying that they`ve been doing an impeachment inquiry, an investigation and court papers and the like, and Republicans have been saying it doesn`t count if the House doesn`t vote for it. And so we`re a little bit in uncharted waters here.
At the end of the day, the constitution does not say there has to be a resolution. It doesn`t say there has to be a committee investigation at all. It can do whatever it wants. And at the end of the day, an article of impeachment may or may not come to the House floor and it takes a simple majority vote to send it to the Senate for trial.
KORNACKI: Jill Wine-Banks, I`m curious what you make of -- obviously it is significant obviously, it`s extremely significant that the Speaker of the House after all of this speculation, all of her reluctance to do so in the past has come out and said she supports an impeachment inquiry. So obviously it`s huge news on that front. But in terms of the likelihood that there will ultimately be articles of impeachment that are introduced, that are debated and that are voted on, how far, how close do you think Democrats are from that right now?
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I think it`s getting extremely close. It may actually already be there. The support of the speaker is very important to that process. And as has already been pointed out, it`s not legally required. There`s nothing clear about a requirement in any event of whether there has to be a House vote on the floor to start the impeachment, that the declaration is enough. And I think, although it has happened in the past, this is the kind of message that the courts will hear and that they will act and say that there is now a judicial proceeding under way and it is clear that the House is entitled to have, for example, the grand jury testimony and it will also expedite any ruling on whether or not the fake claim, as I would call it, of executive privilege exists.
The courts will rule that McGahn has to testify. They will rule that Corey Lewandowski doesn`t have a privilege. And that will get this rolling. In terms of Americans getting the facts, hearing the evidence, there`s nothing more persuasive than that. Hearing it is really important. We don`t know yet what that transcript, if it is released -- I`m opposed to a transcript. I`ve seen what Richard Nixon did in terms of releasing transcripts. They were totally inaccurate. We need to hear the actual tape.
And I will admit of course having questioned Rose Mary Woods about the 18.5 minute gap in the tape, the tapes themselves can be doctored and they can be erased. So we need to have as many witnesses who heard the conversation testify so that we`re sure what the facts are and that we`re you falling into a trap of somebody having said something that won`t be supported by all of the witnesses.
KORNACKI: All right. Our guests are going to stay with us, and we`re right back after this.
KORNACKI: Still with us, Charlie Savage and Jill Wine-Banks. We`ve been talking about where impeachment might go from here. Charlie, we talked about the House. Democrats control the House. If Democrats were to stay united, obviously they would have the votes to impeach the President in the House. That would kick things over to the Senate. You need a 2/3 super majority there.
The Senate would conduct the trial. The Senate obviously run by Republicans, run by Mitch McConnell. Interestingly you say in your article, I`d like you to explain this, the Senate it`s not clear would have to conduct a trial?
SAVAGE: Well, clearly the writers of the constitution envisioned that the next step would be the Senate would conduct a trial, but there`s no enforcement mechanism. There`s no court that can order them to do it if they refuse to. And it raises the question of what happens if Mitch McConnell garlands this. Remember in 2016 he refused to even hold a hearing or a vote on President Trump`s judicial Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. What if he does that here? Or what if they simply gavel the thing closed without hearing any evidence right away?
You know, it could be done. It`s not clear what would stop it if they have the will, the power to do that without holding a real trial. As a matter of real politic, it`s very unlikely that this result would be that Trump is removed from office. There`s no sign the Republicans are breaking ranks. Anywhere near at all, really. Anywhere near the numbers that would be necessary to get to that 2/3 majority. And so that raises the question Democrats have been having, which is, is it worth doing this, is it a moral necessity to establish a precedent to deter future Presidents from behaving like Trump or would it possibly just strengthen him if they come at the king and miss.
KORNACKI: Jill, we are very short on time unfortunately, but in 30 seconds I`m just curious. What do you think is most important for folks to look for next here?
WINE-BANKS: I think that they have to look forward to the facts. And I think that the Supreme Court justice, our chief justice is in charge of whether or not the trial is conducted fairly, if it gets to the Senate. And we have to look to him for some guidance on this.
KORNACKI: OK. Jill Wine-Banks, Charlie Savage, thank you both for staying up with us in a shedding a little light here. I appreciate that very much.
And that is our broadcast for tonight. Thank you for being with us, and good night from NBC News headquarters in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END