BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST: The breaking news tonight, Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States has been impeached by the House of Representatives. Two articles are now slated to go on to the Senate. But there`s a catch.
The President clearly angered, clearly defiant at a Michigan rally, tossing red meat out into the crowd including disgraceful comments about a revered member of the House from Michigan. The President tonight asked his rally audience to believe that it doesn`t even feel like impeachment, all evidence to the contrary.
And when it was all over tonight, there`s been a holdup, some jousting between Pelosi and McConnell over the rules for the Senate trial, and it has the potential to change everything in the short term. We have all of it for you as "The 11th Hour" gets under way on this historic Wednesday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 1,063 of the Trump administration, easily the most consequential day of this President`s term in office. Tonight`s vote in the full House of Representatives makes Donald Trump just the third American President to be impeached. The very moment House members were casting their votes Trump was on stage rallying supporters in Battle Creek, Michigan.
"The New York Times" and "Washington Post" front pages both put it succinctly with headlines that stretch across all columns reading simply "Trump impeached."
Tonight`s vote Article 1, abuse of power was 230 to 197. Two Democrats as predicted voted with the other side. Moments later, Article 2, obstruction of Congress, passed 229 to 198. Three democrats voted with the Republicans against the second article.
Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat of Hawaii, running for President as a Democrat, voted present on both articles. The lone Independent in the House, former Republican from Michigan, Justin Amash, joined Democrats voting for impeachment. These two articles will now be sent to the Senate. Trump is expected to face an impeachment trial there sometime in early January.
But as we said, there`s been a hitch in that just tonight. We`ll have more on that specifically coming up.
Remember, however, it was a phone call between the U.S. and Ukrainian presidents almost five months ago now that put us where we are tonight. Almost three months ago Speaker Pelosi made that decision to formally open an inquiry. Tonight indeed she delivered her caucus. Today clad in black she opened the more than eight-hour debate on whether the President should be removed from office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA, HOUSE SPEAKER: Today as Speaker of the House I solemnly and sadly open the debate on the impeachment of the President of the United States. If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty. It is tragic that the President`s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice.
REP. DOUG COLLINS, (R) GEORGIA: You`ve been wanting to do this ever since the gentleman was elected. Mister -- came forward and did what he saw fit for the American people bu but yet they wanted to impeach him.
REP. MIKE KELLY, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: On December 7, 1941 a horrific act happened in the United States and it`s one that President Roosevelt said this is a date that will live in infamy. Today, December the 18th, 2019 is another date that will live in infamy.
REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: What we are doing here today is not only patriotic, it is uniquely American. America is a story of ordinary people confronting abuses of power with a steadfast pursuit of justice.
REP. LOUIS GOHMERT, (R) TEXAS: The impeachment serves two purposes. Number one, stop the investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and Ukraine into the corruption of Ukraine interference into the U.S. election in 2016.
REP. JERROLD NADLER, (D) NEW YORK, JUDICIARY CMTE. CHAIRMAN: I`m deeply concerned that any member of the House would spout Russian propaganda on the floor of the House.
REP. JUSTIN AMASH, (I) MICHIGAN: I rise today in support of these articles of impeachment. I come to this floor not as a Democrat, not as a Republican, but as an American who cares deeply about the Constitution, the rule of law, and the rights of the people.
REP. STENY HOYER, (D) MARYLAND: Never in all my years of serving in this great institution that I love and the people of my district did I ever expect to encounter such an obvious wrongdoing by a President of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So you heard how some of the talking points went today. Some of them translated from the original Russian. We heard at least one Pearl Harbor reference. One other moment that drew a lot of attention was when one of the Republican House members compared the impeachment of Trump to the trial of Jesus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BARRY LOUDERMILK, (R) GEORGIA: When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this President in this process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That brought this response from author and Jesuit priest, Father James Martin, "Pilate had Jesus beaten and whipped, thrown into jail overnight, marched through the streets carrying his cross, then nailed to that cross until he died. Comparing the treatment received by the President to what Jesus suffered is absurd. Also, only one of them is sinless."
President Trump spent much of his day inside the White House, and certainly on his phone. And today`s proceedings were clearly on his mind. Just before midnight here last night he sent this, "they want to impeach me. I`m not worried. These people are crazy."
The President`s social media feed erupted again early this morning with dozens of tweets and retweets including some in his favored all caps, "I DID NOTHING WRONG." and shouting now, "atrocious lies by the radical left, do nothing Democrats. This is an assault on America and an assault on the Republican Party."
And we mentioned Trump was on stage tonight at his rally in Battle Creek, Michigan as he was being impeached. The event was angry and raw and included a disgraceful retelling of the death of John Dingell.
John Dingell represented Michigan in the House of Representatives from 1955 to 2015. Just under 60 years in all. That`s a record for Congress. As any president would, Trump approved military honors for Dingell`s funeral, who as a World War II veteran is buried at Arlington. Trump talked about it in terms of a favor he did for Dingell`s widow, now congresswoman Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you have this Dingell. Dingell. You know Dingell? From Michigan. You know Dingell? Over here, over Michigan? Debbie Dingell. That`s a real beauty.
So she calls me up like eight months ago. Her husband was ill a long time. But I didn`t give him the B treatment. I didn`t give him the C or the D. I could have. Nobody would have, you know. I gave the a-plus treatment.
Take down the flags. Why are you taking them down? For ex- Congressman Dingell. Oh, OK. Do this, do that. Do that. Rotunda. Everything. I gave him everything. That`s OK. I don`t want anything -- I don`t need anything for anything.
She calls me up. It`s the nicest thing that ever happened. Thank you so much. John would be so thrilled. He`s looking down. He`d be so thrilled. Thank you so much, sir. I said, that`s OK, don`t worry about it. And he`s looking up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: As for what comes next, "The Washington Post" and POLITICO report some Democrats including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer are considering a proposal to delay sending articles of impeachment over to the other chamber into the Senate.
The "Post" writes that they see a delay as a way to force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to "conduct a trial on more favorable terms for Democrats. And if no agreement is reached, some have argued the trial could be delayed indefinitely, denying Trump an expected acquittal."
Tonight, the Speaker was asked when she planned to send the articles to the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARRETT HAKKE, NBC NEWS: You would wait to send the articles until you understand what the Senate`s going to do?
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA, HOUSE SPEAKER: We`ll make a decision as a group, as we always have, as we go along. We`ll decide what that dynamic is. But we hope that the resolution of that process will be soon in the Senate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who guaranteed impeachment articles will be at some point sent to the Senate?
PELOSI: I`m not --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you guarantee that?
PELOSI: That would have been our intention, but we`ll see what happens over there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Senate Majority Leader McConnell says he`ll be meeting with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to discuss the President`s trial before the Senate leaves for the holiday recess. And not long ago McConnell posted that he`ll be speaking on the Senate floor about what he called the "House Democrats` precedent-breaking impeachment of the President of the United States."
Meanwhile, some new polls providing a late live window into the opinions on impeachment and this President. New NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll finds the nation split on impeachment and removal from office. Forty-eight percent say they support it, 48 percent do not.
Then there`s a new survey from the MilitaryTimes. They find Trump`s standing among those in the armed forces has declined since he took office. His military approval rating now stands at 42 percent down from 46 percent in 2016.
A big day and here for our lead-off discussion on this history-making Wednesday night, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times," also importantly happens to be co-author of "Impeachment: An American History." Annie Karni, White House Reporter with "The New York Times," and Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at CIA and the Pentagon, notably former Chief Counsel to the House Intel Committee.
Peter, I`d like to begin with you. This puts you in old sage category, as you know. This now becomes the second impeachment you have covered. So you`re going to get questions like this. You write history during your own time. You write the first draft of history on a deadline basis for a living each day. Give us some history on what we have just witnessed this afternoon and this evening.
PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brian, you and I are in that category together here.
WILLIAMS: Yes, I know.
BAKER: But listen, but it is history of course. It`s only the third time any president has been impeached and faces a Senate trial. And we`ve now seen this twice in 21 years. Almost 21 years to the day after the Clinton impeachment. And it is an extraordinary thing.
I think that -- it was funny to be in the chamber today. You didn`t feel the same crackle of electricity that we did in 1998 because a lot of things were happening back then. A speaker he resigned right there on the floor, a surprise. We were bombing Iraq. There was a sense that maybe President Clinton would be pressured by his own party at that point perhaps to even resign.
You didn`t see that today. The suspense wasn`t there. But the import is, this doesn`t happen all the time, and it is important in terms of the future not just of this presidency but of our country and our system. And a lot of questions as to what this will lead to. Assuming he does go to trial in the Senate, assuming he`s acquitted as it seems likely to be. Then it goes to the voters in November of next year, and they`ll be the ultimate appeals court. They`ll decide whether this was a legitimate impeachment today or not, whether the President is fit to be in office or not.
And we`ll see it in a way we`ve never seen with any other impeachment because of course both Clinton and Nixon were in their second terms and did not run again. So this is a big day both for President Trump and again, I think for the country.
WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, let me ask the lawyer in you about what`s already being dubbed impeach and hold. This is an interesting strategy where the House after hearing nothing but the Senate predicting acquittal is going to at least temporarily hold back the articles they have just passed unless and until as they put it they get favorable terms. They understand the rules of the game in the trial going forward.
JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, Brian, the Constitution does not prescribe or set forth a specific process for transmitting these two articles of impeachment over to the Senate. And I think Speaker Pelosi is smart to say we have to precisely understand how Senator McConnell and the Senate will conduct this trial.
Will it be fair? Will witnesses who everybody wants to hear from be called? Will they be compelled to appear? Will documents come to the Senate? Or will this be a sham trial and essentially Donald Trump`s allies will just railroad through an acquittal?
And I think the Speaker is saying tonight, hey, we have to understand exactly how this is going to proceed before we send this over for that process.
WILLIAMS: The other way of putting that, Jeremy, rather perversely is it would keep the President from getting what he wants, and that is a fast acquittal or an acquittal at all. If it goes on forever, Democrats just keep referring to him as an impeached president.
BASH: And Brian, he is going to be impeached no matter what happens in the Senate. But I think your point is well taken. I think the Speaker and others who worry about the Constitution don`t want to see the entire import of this moment simply go up in a puff of smoke by Mitch McConnell if he just simply says there`s nothing to do here, the President`s off scot-free, let`s move on.
WILLIAMS: Now, Annie Karni, it has been noted already that more members of the House voted to impeach Trump than Clinton. Do you think that will be a meaningful thing to him?
ANNIE KARNI, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I think what he cares about is the Republicans sticking together. I think he`ll make hay out of Tulsi Gabbard voting present, showing that some Democrats didn`t vote with the rest of their party. But yes, he`s a numbers guy. He pretends he doesn`t care about polls. He cares about polls. He cares about records. So he will not like -- he cares about stains on his legacy.
So being not only the third president impeached but by a larger margin, that kind of number gets under his skin certainly. And Nancy Pelosi holding this up and pulling a Trump on Trump saying -- she really used his language today. She said, we`ll see what happens. It`s certainly going to disconcert him further.
WILLIAMS: Peter, McConnell along with Graham and others has been openly bragging he`s not going to be an impartial juror for this. I don`t imagine McConnell will like the feeling as a old cagey tactician of being at all handled by the Speaker of the House prior to this kind of what`s supposed to be the on-passing of the articles of impeachment.
BAKER: Yes, exactly. Twenty-one years ago today Henry Hyde, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee led a delegation of House Republicans immediately from the House chamber over to the Senate chamber, across the Capitol on the same day as the vote to deliver the articles of impeachment to the Senate. You didn`t see that happen today and you may not see it happen tomorrow or even in a couple of days.
And the difference is of course both Houses in that era were Republican. Both Houses during the other trial of Andrew Johnson were Republicans. This is the first time we`ve seen a Congress of one party in the House and the other party in the Senate facing an impeachment trial. That means we`re in fresh territory. We`ve never seen this before.
We`ll see how Nancy Pelosi handles it and what kind of precedent it sets, whether she`s able to leverage something with Senator McConnell. Remember, very few people have leverage over Senator McConnell. You know, Senator Schumer might want to in the Senate but he doesn`t have the votes.
So, you know, the few people who do at this point might be Nancy Pelosi in the House in terms of the delivery of these articles and a handful of Republicans in the Senate perhaps like Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski who might insist on a, you know, a more fulsome version of a trial rather than looking like they`re simply slamming it to a quick conclusion. Those are people who would influence Senator McConnell`s choices as well.
WILLIAMS: Boy, what a great point.
BASH: Hey, Brian?
WILLIAMS: Yes, Jeremy?
BASH: Can I just add one idea that I think is worth considering here about the Pelosi strategy is perhaps she should say, look, we will transmit these over if I get 10 or 20 Republican members to join me. And that in some ways I think puts the pressure back on Republicans. Because if they want the trial because they perhaps see that it`s potential for acquittal, then Republicans are going to have to join in. And if they don`t, she`s not going to have the Democrats blamed for holding these articles of impeachment.
WILLIAMS: A terrific point and thank you for making it.
Annie Karni, let`s talk about John Dingell. It is very hard to talk about his life in a truncated fashion. Suffice to say if you were an automaker in the state of Michigan part of the middle-class life and the good economy you enjoyed you could thank John Dingell for. Sixty years in the House.
Had a hand in Medicare, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, endangered species, Civil Rights Act. A revered name throughout most of the state during his time in power. Debbie Dingell, his wife, succeeded him in the House. This is what she wrote on Twitter back to the President after he told that story tonight. "Mr. President, let`s set politics aside. My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I`m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder."
Annie, what is it we`ve witnessed? Are our politics this many days from Christmas about to get more cruel?
KARNI: Well we saw a really personal attack and -- from the President at the rally tonight basically said he lowered the flags for John Dingell and he couldn`t believe that Debbie Dingell would vote for impeachment given that he had done such a great honor for her husband and that maybe he was, you know, looking up rather than looking down. This fell flat in an audience in Michigan.
And it was clear that the President is not always so aware of the politics of the places where he`s going and the audience he`s speaking in front of to think that this was a good joke for this audience. It wasn`t. But when this President, you know, doesn`t shy away from a personal fight even when it`s unseemly, I can see this going in the direction that it did with attacking John McCain even after his death. That went multiple rounds where Trump just kept doubling and tripling down. So I don`t think that if history -- if Trump`s behavior in the past is any sign of what he`ll do next, I don`t think Debbie Dingell`s tweet will be the end of a fight with the Dingells. This is just the kind of personal slap fight that he loves to keep going in.
WILLIAMS: Yes, perhaps it just seemed like a disgraceful low point tonight on this night of all nights. Peter Baker, Annie Karni, Jeremy Bash, after a long day our thanks for coming here and helping us out.
Coming up for us, the President`s fate now moves over to the Senate chamber in some form or fashion. There may tonight, as we`ve been saying, be a holdup in getting the case over there. We`ll talk some more about this.
And later, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who writes about impeachment and political courage is here to help with perspective on what it is we have just witnessed as "The 11th Hour" is just getting started on an historic Wednesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA, INTELLIGENCE CMTE. CHAIRMAN: What is at risk here is the very idea of America. That idea holds that we are a nation of laws, not of men. We are a nation that believes in the rule of law. When we say we uphold the Constitution, we are not talking about a piece of parchment. We`re talking about a beautiful architecture in which ambition is set against ambition, in which no branch of government can dominate another.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Today`s historic House proceedings wrapped up with powerful words about an America that believes in the rule of law. We heard it over and over again. Throughout the over eight hours of debate there were calls for upholding our laws.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: To impeach a president for a phone call for which no crime is charged, never mind a high crime, and asserting his constitutional prerogatives as president is a clear abuse of power by the Congress.
HOYER: John Locke millennia ago said this, wherever law ends, tyranny begins.
REP. DON BACON, (R) NEBRASKA: No law was broken. No high crimes or misdemeanors. No impeachable offenses.
REP. VAL DEMINGS, (D) FLORIDA: I know the President said that he can get away with anything he wants to. I come today to tell you that no, he cannot. No one is above the law. And he shall be held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: For more on the legal questions we are left with after just hearing that assortment of opinions, Barbara McQuade is back with us, the veteran federal prosecutor and former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Barbara, you just heard the man say no laws were broken, no high crimes and misdemeanors. Who`s right here? How serious are the charges in these two articles of impeachment?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, if you listen to the constitutional scholars who testified before Congress a couple of weeks ago, they say it`s very serious. If you look at the kinds of harms that the framers of the Constitution were most concerned about, President Trump hits all of them. They were concerned about foreign influence. They were concerned about subverting elections. And they were concerned about a president who put personal interest ahead of public interest.
Trump hits the Trifecta. And so if you look through that lens it`s very serious crimes. Some are arguing that this is not criminal per se and therefore not impeachable. But again, as the scholars said, the frames "high crimes and misdemeanors" did not mean violations of criminal statutes. What it meant was abuse of power.
And as Justin Amash, the now Independent congressman from Michigan, said today during his statement, it is the case that the Constitution was written before we even had statutes on the books. And so they certainly couldn`t have meant looking to the United States code when they were talking about crimes and misdemeanors. I think there`s a compelling case.
WILLIAMS: That`s the part I want to back up over again. We kept hearing there`s no crime here. So, you think that`s a red line that ideally in life is supposed to go directly to a law on the books. You`re saying that some of the language in the Constitution that allows what we witnessed today doesn`t tie specifically to laws?
MCQUADE: That`s right. And it`s really quite clear if you look at some of the constitutional scholarship, what was written in the federalist papers, what they were concerned with is a President who abuses the power of his office. And so it may be very different from the kinds of crimes that you or I could be charged with. But a president who abuses his office, this is the one remedy that Congress has as a check to remove him from office if he demonstrates that he is unfit to serve.
WILLIAMS: And because of a lack of wording on the following topic is it possible the House can impeach and we can just put into suspended animation the idea that the senate will get the case and try the case? Can they be two separate thoughts indefinitely?
MCQUADE: There is nothing in the Constitution that talks about the timing of things. Certainly there`s a right to a speedy trial. That applies in criminal cases. I suppose one could make an argument by analogy that there is at least some similar concept here, that you can`t keep it hanging over the President`s head, say, for the entire duration of his presidency. But Nancy Pelosi does hold some cards here.
The Senate can`t vote and have a trial and decide whether to convict or acquit until they have the case. And they don`t have the case until she presents it to them. And so in some ways she can delay it at least for some time. I think at some point if the delay is too excessive the public will clamor for that trial to get a decision one way or the other. But she does have some leverage I think to perhaps force the hand of some witnesses to come testify, and we`ll see how quickly the Supreme Court can act. But if she could stall long enough, we might actually get a decision from the Supreme Court forcing some of those witnesses and documents to be produced.
WILLIAMS: You leave us on an interesting note. Barbara McQuade, thank you as always for coming on and helping to explain all of this.
And coming up for us, the impeached President says Democrats have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame. More on the potential meaning of this day when we come back.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back. And after a heated day of debate on Capitol Hill, Donald Trump became only the third President in our history to be impeached by the House of Representatives. The President was impeached on both articles against him, abuse of power, obstruction of Congress. Immediately after today`s vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER, CALIFORNIA: December 18th, a great day for the constitution of the United States. A sad one for America, that the President`s reckless activities necessitated us -- our having to introduce articles of impeachment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: With us for more tonight, Nancy Cook, White House Reporter for POLITICO, Mara Gay, a member of The New York Times Editorial Board, and Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter for The Associated Press. Thank you all for being here after a long day. And Nancy, I`d like to begin with you. Walk us through the President`s day, what we know of it.
NANCY COOK, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, he, you know, was really glued to the TV watching the House vote, watching all the procedure on the House floor. And it was interesting because White House aides kept insisting that he was working and taking meetings, but I think that we saw from his own twitter feed that he was really, really invested in what was going on in the House. He didn`t have any public meetings scheduled until 4:30 when he left for the campaign rally.
So he really spent the bulk of the day sort of catching up and following up what was going on with the House, calling up Republican lawmakers such as Senator Lindsey Graham just to catch up and say what was going on -- see what was going on. And then at 4:30 just before he was about to get on Marine One to go to the rally in Michigan, he huddled with a bunch of White House aides in the Oval Office and there were big posters there that people could see. And then eventually he did end up at a campaign rally in Michigan where he gave a sort of long rambling speech partly about impeachment, partly about space force, the economy, any number of things. And he did seem most comfortable throughout the whole day when he was at the campaign rally and sort of talking with supporters. But otherwise I would say he was pretty agitated today.
WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, let`s read your headline. I`m sitting here looking at our conversation realizing what the graphic says at the bottom of our screen all the while, and it just takes you back. "A.P. Analysis: Impeachment forever changes Trump`s legacy." We`ll come back out to our discussion and just show the sentence at the bottom of the screen about the impeachment of the President. Trump impeached for abuse of power, obstruction of Congress. Go ahead and walk us through your lead story tonight.
JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right. I mean, and we shouldn`t overlook that. We`re so often caught up in the minutia and the drama, the moment to moment drama of this. Taking a step back and saying, let`s just remind you, this is the third President ever to be impeached. And we`ve heard for months now the President and those around him make the argument that this could even be good for him politically.
Just last week, his senior campaign staff held a briefing for reporters near their campaign headquarters in Virginia and explained that their fund- raising since the impeachment inquiry started, fund-raising`s gone up, attendance at the rallies have gone up. But according to their internal polls, which of course have to be taken with something of a grain of salt, they find that independents in the battleground states disapprove largely of impeachment. So they`re selling this as a win.
But we can tell from the President`s behavior, and we certainly saw it today on twitter, at the rally where he went on for just over two hours, personally seething at this. He knows that this is now, as I wrote tonight, the first line of his obituary. And that doesn`t mean that he can do his best to trivialize it. We have seen that time and time again. He has stonewalled this investigation. He has not cooperated. He has not treated it with the gravity that the Clinton White House or the Nixon White House did.
But it is still something that is going to define him, even if he were to win re-election next year, which is something we should of course not count out. That`s something that could still happen. But this is now -- as, in fact, I think one of your later guests Jon Meacham put it, I mean, this is now part of, when I spoke to him today, this is now part of his entry in the history books. He has been impeached and nothing can ever change that.
WILLIAMS: Mara Gay, a couple things to note with you. Number one, the Michigan history of your family and how we`ve seen the memory of John Dingell soiled tonight, something we never thought we`d see. But also a mixed metaphor alert. What happens when the impeachment aura runs into the Trump wall and seeps into the nation`s bloodstream? I guess that`s an unknowable at this early date.
MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It is a momentous day. It does cut through all the noise. And it has me thinking about a few things. One is that I think for a majority of Americans who didn`t vote for this President and who really have serious concerns about him now, it was extremely important to see Members of Congress, to see duly elected officials stand up for the country, for the constitution, for democracy. And there is a sense of relief I think that a lot of people feel that somebody is fighting for the country that they used to know. And I think without that there was a huge risk that a lot of voters, Democrats and others, would just be despondent. And I think that`s a real risk for Democrats leading into this election.
I also think that just as public servants, I mean, I was watching and listening to the debate on the House floor tonight, and it was pretty demoralizing to listen to Members of Congress defend the indefensible, and it really -- I just -- there is a duty that they have beyond politics. And to see that not come through is, we have a two-party system. We need two parties to make this work. So I don`t know where we go from there. I know there`s a big open-ended question mark.
WILLIAMS: Well, there`s 100 members of the Senate. There is this other chamber. We`ll take a quick break here in our conversation.
Coming up, impeachment may have been the word of the day, but there was another four-letter word said repeatedly on the House floor today. We`ll play it for you when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE WOMACK (R), ARKANSAS: This effort is rooted only in the governing party`s hatred of a man elected President of the United States.
REP. PAUL GOSAR (R), ARIZONA: It was an intense hatred by the Democrats of President Donald Trump. Why do they hate the man so much?
REP. GLENN GROTHMAN (R), WISCONSIN: President Trump is keeping his campaign promises, and you hate him for that.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP`S FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Individuals that hate this President more than they love this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blinded by their hatred of President Trump.
REP. MIKE KELLY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: So blinded by your hate that you can`t see straight.
REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH: They hate this President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: We heard that word a lot today. We know how Nancy Pelosi feels about that word.
Back with us, Nancy Cook, Mara Gay, and Jonathan Lemire. And Mara, I`d like to begin this segment with you. In the face of that, a talking point that happens to be the word hate, do you feel on balance the Democrats did well with what they were dealt today rhetorically? And here`s the underside of the question. Is there any chance they overplay their hand at the Democratic debate on stage, national audience tomorrow night?
GAY: Well, two separate and important questions.
GAY: I don`t think that they overplayed their hand today. I think they walked into that chamber and they were not smiling, they were not laughing, they were not having a good time. They came to do their duty --
GAY: -- and it was something that they were pushed to do by a President that gave them no choice. And that was the way they approached it. I think tomorrow night we`re going see something potentially very different because the Democratic voters want something different. You`ve got a huge and very forceful left --
GAY: -- right now. And so that`s -- it might look different. I mean, I think Donald Trump tomorrow night on twitter, as he kind of quarterbacks that debate, is going to maybe have more to play with. Tonight not so much.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Nancy, are we going to see a battle of strategies between the combined forces of Pelosi and Schumer because this hand-off is really among Democrats, they`re trying to extract rules of the road and witnesses from the Republican side, and Mitch McConnell, the master at this allegedly?
COOK: Absolutely. I think that, you know, the Democrats see the impeachment of President Trump, as Mara was saying, as something that they really, you know, needed to show to the electorate ahead of 2020 that they were taking action on this and investigating him. And I do think that they`re going to take it seriously about trying to shape the Senate trial as much as they can and exert as much leverage as they can.
Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell really wants the Senate trial over as quickly as possible. Several senators are up for re-election in 2020. And so I think we`re going to see some really interesting tension on that over the next few days and then into January.
WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, more than that, the President has been led to believe it`s going to be a straight up acquittal. He hears his friends Lindsey Graham and McConnell bragging about acquittal, bragging they`re not going to be impartial jurors, quite the opposite. So he`s been led to expect that. Why would the President go out tonight at that rally and brag about having bossed Schumer around back when Trump was a donor and Schumer was the recipient? What`s the up side? I know you don`t speak for him.
LEMIRE: No, I tend not to. I mean, I think it`s just an attempt to exert some sort of power, control, try to paint the opposition as sort of a cheap politician, where I`m, you know, I`m a businessman who can`t be bought, I don`t deal with the swamp. And we, of course, he doesn`t do the swamp. Now he`s the third President who`s been impeached.
But as far as the Republicans in the Senate, though, it`s interesting because you are right, McConnell and Graham have basically said we`re not going to be impartial jurors, we`re just going to acquit him. In fact Lindsey Graham on a Sunday talk show tried to talk the President out of what the President wants, which is a longer showy trial with witnesses and so on because he doesn`t just want an acquittal, he wants a full-fledged exoneration. He wants the trial to be sort of -- to be a show that explains like hey, it`s not just that like I`m found not guilty, it`s I didn`t do anything wrong. And that`s what the President has wanted while people -- Mitch McConnell and others in his party in the Senate have said look, don`t mess with this.
We`ve got this under control. Yes, we`re going to have to do some negotiations now with the Democrats but this can be something that can be wrapped up in a couple of weeks, you`ll get the outcome you want, you`ll move on. And I will say that we`ve reported in the last day or so the President and his aides are even musing -- remember during the transition after he won, he engaged in the thank you tour?
LEMIRE: A similar model here. A sort of not guilty tour if you will, where he might do some barnstorming during the trial and then afterwards to celebrate the fact that he survived impeachment.
WILLIAMS: Aircraft buffs will instantly notice the smaller 757 tonight being used as Air Force One, smaller than its 747 cousin for the trip out to Michigan and back. Also another way of saying these are live pictures. The President has arrived back at Andrews. Short hello ride to the South Lawn on a windy night in Washington.
With our thanks to our panelists tonight, to Nancy Cook, Mara Gay and Jonathan Lemire, all of whom had longer than average days on the job today. We appreciate it.
Coming up, it is hard to underestimate the gravity of the moment we`re looking at here, what this day means for all of us and the legacy of our 45th President. Luckily for us we have a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian standing by.
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REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: But today, this day, we didn`t ask for this. This is a sad day. It is not a day of joy. When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something. Our children and their children will ask us what did you do? What did you say? For some, this vote may be hard. But we have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.
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WILLIAMS: John Lewis, icon of the Civil Rights Movement. Let`s talk about where we`ve been today, what we`ve seen, what we`ve heard today, with Pulitzer Prize winner Presidential Historian and Author Jon Meacham. Happens to be coauthor, along with Peter Baker and others of this new book called "Impeachment: An American History", along with Jon`s many other titles. Also happened to have written an introduction for the House Intel Committee`s report on its investigation into Donald Trump and Ukraine, what`s going to be increasingly an important document in the life of this country.
Jon, what does it say that in our lifetime we`ve witnessed two of the three impeachments in American history? Does that that mean anything?
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, almost three, right?
MEACHAM: Actually. So, if you look at the last 60 years or so and watching Congressman Lewis, you can`t help but go back to Sunday, March 7th, 1965, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge when he and Hosea Williams were leading peaceful marchers across that bridge for the right to vote, the fundamental vote that had been guaranteed allegedly in the 15th Amendment, but had been systematically denied by my home region.
And if you think about it, in an interesting way, you know, we have a debate going on now about where we founded in 1619 or 1776, you know, where do you begin this. In a lot of ways, the country that came together today to vote and watch the impeachment of the 45th President was really born in 1965. The palady (ph) that we are trying to govern is one that has only existed for about 55 years. It`s a pluralistic, multiethnic one.
The 1965 Immigration Act, which doesn`t get a lot of attention, is hugely important. The Voting Rights Act, essential. And the reaction we`re seeing on the right and the center-right, to the changes in the country which, in many ways, is manifested in this reflexive support of a singular person, the President, which you saw on the floor of the House today and I fear we`re going to see in the Senate going forward. You see that as a reaction to the kinds of changes that Congressman Lewis embodies.
And because of that chaos, because of the challenge to the norms that really started in the mid `60s, I don`t think it`s surprising that we`ve had these three impeachments. Impeachments tend to happen at moments when there`s some existential question about who we are. With Andrew Johnson and 100 years before, it was the verdict of the civil war. With President Nixon, it infolded during Vietnam, the cold war. A lot of people thought the country was not going to survive 1968, as you`ll remember.
President Clinton, that was the rise of this reflexive partisanship, the attack on him, and now we have a demagogic President who has managed and marshaled and exacerbated the perennial American forces of xenophobia, nativism, racism, extremism, all at a time of political tribalism. So, I just like the image of a perfect storm, because it`s overused, but in this case, the cliche may be right and that`s the reason it`s a cliche.
WILLIAMS: We could not have planned it more dramatically to watch the 45th President and now third impeached making the short walk from Air Force One over to Marine One, two of the aircraft that come with the job, about to fly to the House that comes with the job, the White House. And the next time you`re on, Jon, we`re going to talk about the life and legacy of the Speaker of the House and how that might have been cemented just today.
Jon Meacham, in the meantime, our thanks for coming on, especially at the end of a day like today.
And coming up for us, what our impeached President said about impeachment before he, himself, was impeached.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight at the end of this very long day, at his rally in Michigan earlier this evening, the President did the only thing he could do. He noted in his own distinct way, of course, his now permanent status in our history books at the third President out of 45 to be impeached.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m the first person to ever get impeached and there`s no crime, like, I feel guilty. You know what they call it impeachment-lite. It`s impeachment-lite. That`s why, you know, with Richard Nixon, I just see it as a very dark era, very dark, very -- oh, you don`t even like to think. I don`t know about you, but I`m having a good time, it`s crazy.
So, I`m not worried. I`m not worried. Because it`s always good when you don`t do anything wrong, you get impeached, that may be a record that will last forever.
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WILLIAMS: He has talked about impeachment before, a lot. Back in `08, he talked about it in relation to the impressive new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi of California.
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TRUMP: Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker? Well, you know, when she first got in and was named Speaker, I met her and I`m very impressed by her, I think she`s a very impressive person. I like her a lot. But I was surprised that she didn`t do more in terms of Bush and going after Bush. It was almost -- it just seemed like she was going to really look to impeach Bush and get him out of office, which, personally, I think would have been a wonderful thing.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Impeaching him?
TRUMP: Absolute -- for the war. For the war.
BLITZER: Because of the conduct --
TRUMP: Well, he lied. He got us into the war with lies. And, I mean, look at the trouble Bill Clinton got into with something that was totally unimportant and they tried to impeach him, which was nonsense, and yet Bush got us into this horrible war with lies, by lying, by saying they had weapons of mass destruction, by saying all sorts of things that turned out not to be true.
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WILLIAMS: So, let`s fast forward to 2014, Donald Trump talked about what would happen if President Obama were to be impeached.
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TRUMP: He would be a mess. He would be thinking about nothing but. It would be a horror show for him. It would be an absolute embarrassment. It would go down on his record permanently.
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WILLIAMS: And with impeachment now and for all time apart of this President`s permanent record and his eventually obituary, that is how we wrap up our Wednesday night broadcast. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END