CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
The great city of St. Louis sits right up against the Mississippi River. The city basically hugs the western bank of the Mississippi for this big, long, bend in the river.
And during the Industrial Revolution, that geography presented a fundamental logistical problem for St. Louis because in the Industrial Revolution, yes, it was still very handy for a big city to have all that frontage on the Mississippi for the purpose of, you know, conveying things by river, by water, but when it came to not going north/south on the Mississippi, when it came to going east/west across it, well, the mightiness of the Mississippi became a problem because you can`t lay railroad tracks on top of a river.
And so, in the mid-19th century, as new American railroads were spreading out from sea to shining sea, all over the United States, St. Louis found itself kind of geographically cut off from the future of commerce and the future of transit that would be defined by all those new railroad tracks.
And so, the city of St. Louis hired somebody to fix that. His name was James Buchanan Eads. E-A-D-S. He was a self-taught engineer. He had never built a bridge before in his life, but in 1867, St. Louis hired him, anyway, and he built the city a lifeline.
What Eads built St. Louis was the first steel trust bridge anywhere in the world. It carried trains, had train tracks on it and horses and people in wagons. It made it a technological marvel at the time. There was no bridge like this anywhere else on earth.
That bridge that Eads built, it took seven years to build. It cost $10 million, which you can think of in today`s dollars as basically the price to go to Mars, plus a bag of chips. But they did it.
And on the Fourth of July in 1874, on the day the United States of America turned 98 years old, the Eads Bridge opened up to bridge St. Louis across the Mississippi, to bridge St. Louis and Missouri to the rest of the country, to bridge St. Louis to the railroads. For a nickel, they would even let you walk across it.
Well, that bridge is still there today, still in use. She can still take the train across or drive across it. You can still walk across it if you want to. Although there are no more tolls so if you walk it now, you can keep your nickel.
The Eads Bridge has since been designated a national landmark, a living, working monument to the ingenuity and the effort and the expense that it took to literally bridge that divide across the Mississippi between Missouri and Illinois on the far bank.
And now that bridge, the Eads ridge, is about to become a lifeline again for a reason that feels both very, very modern and also if you`re a woman in St. Louis, if you`re a woman in Missouri, this may well also feel sort of ancient at the same time.
Over the last few weeks, the Republican-controlled government in Missouri has come very close to ending legal abortion access in the entire state of Missouri. With a new conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, Missouri is one of a whole bunch of Republican-controlled states where Republican governors have recently signed laws that effectively ban abortion. Missouri`s new abortion ban is slated to go into effect in August, if it`s not blocked by the courts by then.
But in Missouri, they`ve also got something else going on that is a little special. Even before the new ban that was just signed by the governor, over the course of the last decade, Republican lawmakers in Missouri have all but canceled access to legal abortion in their state through a series of cuts. They have -- they have passed targeted laws aimed at shutting down abortion providers and those laws have led to clinic after clinic after clinic shutting down. Sort of the death by a thousand cuts.
Missouri now has only one abortion provider left in the entire state, at Planned Parenthood in St. Louis. And now, the state government is on the cusp of shutting that last clinic down as well which, of course, has become national news because that means Missouri is closing in on its ultimate goal of becoming the first state since Roe versus Wade in 1973, the first state in America to go totally dark in terms of legal abortion.
Now, Planned Parenthood is currently fighting it out in the courts to try to stop the state government from revoking that clinic`s license. So they can keep that clinic`s doors open. We`ve been covering that all this week, in particular, because that court fight is live. It`s still up in the air right now tonight. We are still waiting for the judge`s ruling on whether the clinic is going to be allowed to keep its license which the state government is trying to take away.
If Missouri`s sole abortion provider is forced by the state to go dark, women in Missouri will have to leave the state. They will have to cross state lines in order to access a legal abortion. From St. Louis, the next closest place for Missouri women to get an abortion will be across the Mississippi at this, the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois.
Hope Clinic is across the Mississippi River. It`s about 10 miles east of St. Louis. They provide legal abortions to more than 3,000 women every year.
And even though Missouri`s last clinic still as of this moment can keep their lights on with their license hanging by a thread, the staff at Hope Clinic across the river in Illinois, they tell us they`re already feeling the effects of that fight in Missouri, from their spot all the way across the river.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTINA GOODBRAKE, HOPE CLINIC FOR WOMEN MEDICAL SECRETARY: A lot of people have been calling for Missouri asking if we`re still open, if that they have to be under eight weeks to get the procedure. Are they going to go to jail if they come over here to get the procedure? If they have to be an Illinois resident.
TRMS PRODUCER: Are people scared?
GOODBRAKE: They are very scared.
TRMS PRODUCER: What do you tell them?
GOODBRAKE: I tell them as of right now, Illinois is a safe place to have a safe abortion and we`re going to be open as long as we can and they`ll give us a call if they need us.
ARYN HANEBRINK, HOPE CLINIC FOR WOMEN MEDICAL SECRETARY: I`ve had girls break down in tears when I told them they can still come over here. I mean, they are traveling quite a bit, but for the most part, it`s relief. It`s usually very relieving for them. When they find out that they can still get this access here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Right now, more than half the patients that are coming through the Hope Clinic are coming from Missouri. The Hope Clinic is not a clinic in Missouri.
I mean, that`s with the last abortion provider in Missouri still up and running for now. If Republicans in the Missouri state government succeed in outlawing abortion in that state all together, the number of patients coming over the river to the Hope Clinic is likely to jump way up which, of course, would put a huge amount of pressure on the one abortion provider in southern Illinois that`s already serving a majority of women who are fleeing restrictions in Missouri which have made abortions hard enough to get there already even if one clinic still stands.
And so, the Hope Clinic in Illinois has been carefully, quietly, gearing up in case that break-glass moment comes and it may come at any time.
The Hope Clinic tells us in preparation for the expectation that Missouri will shut down its last provider, they have doubled their number of doctors and nurses. They have increased hours. They have added appointment times. They`ve even increased the number of people answering the phones, which they say have been ringing off the hook over the last few weeks.
The staff at that Hope Clinic in Illinois is already feeling that pressure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ERIN KING, HOPE CLINIC FOR WOMEN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: This is a crisis situation. This isn`t just something that could happen, might happen, people are kind of being all crazy about. This is actually a real situation and we are seeing patients all day long, every day, both calling, coming to our clinic in tears because they just can`t get the care that they need at that time.
If the last clinic in Missouri were to close tomorrow, it would be very difficult to suddenly accommodate every patient that needed us right away. Within a month or two`s time, we could, but when you`re talking about a pregnancy in a crisis situation some of these patients are in, they don`t often have that much time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, as of tonight, we`re waiting for that judge`s ruling about the last clinic standing in Missouri. It could come at any time.
And the health care workers and volunteers and doctors in the state next door, a state that happens to be Democratic controlled in Illinois, we can report tonight that they are scaling up this fairly massive effort to try to serve the women of Missouri who may very well be the first American women to be totally cut off from legal abortion for the first time since Roe. That Illinois clinic is scaling up rapidly but worried they will not have the capacity to meet demand if the Missouri governor, Missouri government, succeeds in shutting down that clinic across the river in St. Louis.
So, this is worth watching as that clinic in Illinois tries to scale up, right, in the realization that they may soon be the constitutional haven for women from that neighboring state.
That bridge from 19 -- from 1874 -- forgive me -- is about to have a whole new chapter in U.S. history if that happens.
But it`s interesting, this is why we`re doing this special report tonight. While we have been reporting on this story, and we`ve been covering the situation in Missouri and the situation with that last clinic for a while now, while we were reporting that out, we came into some information that we did not expect about what is happening in Missouri as this last clinic is trying to keep its doors open.
Specifically the information that we came into was about something new that the Missouri state government is ordering must be done to any woman who seeks an abortion at that last clinic now, as that last clinic fights to stay in operation in that state.
Now, as I mentioned, already in Missouri, there have been a whole series of laws designed to make it all but impossible to provide abortions in that state. They`re down to their last clinic for a reason. Targeted laws designed to shut down clinics, to make it impossible to work as an abortion provider in Missouri. Penalties and obstacles that the state government has put in place to try to make it too hard and too expensive and just too awkward and difficult and uncomfortable for a woman to get an abortion if she wants one, despite her constitutional right to do so.
Well, one of those provisions in Missouri is a three-day waiting period. Now, there`s no medical reason for this at all, but the Republican- controlled legislature in Missouri decided they would make you take three full days. So, you have to show up at the clinic and meet with the doctor, sign a consent form, and then for no medical reason, you then have to go home or go to a hotel if you`re far from home, and there, you have to wait for three or more days before you are allowed to then come back and actual get the procedure done.
So you want an abortion? Go sit in the penalty box for three days first. Oh, do you have is to travel a long way to get to the clinic because there`s only one in your entire state?
Is it difficult for you to take triple the time off work, double the drive, double the childcare to make this trip twice? Good. Good. That`s the idea. That`s part of the way we want to make you pay.
So, the waiting period already is a medically unnecessary obstacle designed to make it impossible for some women to access abortion in Missouri and to punish all the rest of them. That was in effect in Missouri already.
But now, here`s something new. The Republican-led state government in Missouri has decided that as long as they`ve got the state down to one last clinic and as long as they`ve got the clinic on the ropes as they try to yank its license and shut it down, the state government in Missouri has decided that maybe this is an opportunity for them to do something else to women that they`ve never tried before.
This is what`s brand-new. Are you ready? What we have discovered is that as of Thursday last week, as of a week ago today, we can now report that every woman seeking a legal abortion in the state of Missouri is being subjected to a mandatory, medically unnecessary pelvic examination by order of the state government.
Just going to say that one more time: As of last week, every woman seeking a legal abortion in Missouri is being told by the state that she must have a mandatory, medically unnecessary vaginal examination by order of the state of Missouri.
Now, doctors at this Missouri clinic, they do perform pelvic exams right before they do an abortion, which is standard medical practice which is fine. But now as of this week, what the state has started doing, what the state government is now doing, is that they`ve told the doctors at that one remaining clinic that they must do a second medically unnecessary invasive pelvic exam on every woman before she was -- before she is allowed to start the punitive three-day waiting period that is required of all women who need an abortion in Missouri.
I mean, at that point, you`re literally just going in to sign a consent form and meet with the doctor before they have to send you home to wait for three days. Only now, before they let you go from that first appointment, you must, by order of the state, take off your clothes and submit to an intrusive vaginal inspection that you do not need and your doctor does not want to give you.
This is the latest thing the state of Missouri is doing as of this week as they`re trying to force the last clinic in the state out of business.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAWANNA SHANNON, ST. LOUIS PLANNED PARENTHOOD DIRECTOR OF SURGICAL SERVICES: I`ll tell you this, what the women are mostly upset about these last few days is having to get a pelvic exam that they don`t need. Thursday was the first day last visit, first day that we had to start doing mandatory pelvic exams. We`re not satisfied with the fact that we do the pelvic exam when it`s medically necessary.
They want us to do the pelvic exam three, four, five, six b seven, days before they get the procedure. They want us to do pelvic exams on medication abortions. None of that is medically necessary. My doctors have spoken to that over and over again and will continue to speak to that, how that`s not medically necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: One doctor who works at that clinic tweeted this on Monday of this week.
Quote: Today, I was forced by the state of Missouri to perform an unnecessary pelvic exam on a patient terminating her pregnancy for a fetal anomaly. She is heartbroken over her situation and I was forced to do an invasive, uncomfortable, exam. It broke me as a physician to do this to her.
So, they`re basically daring the doctors at this clinic, oh, you don`t want to do that to your patients? Oh, you don`t want to do this? You don`t think this is good medical practice?
Well, that`s the new cost of staying open. You sure you want to keep fighting to stay open?
We sent one of our show`s producers, Kelsey Desiderio, to Missouri this week, just as this new rule from the state was being implemented.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHANNON: These women Thursday and on Monday were traumatized at the fact that they had to get undressed to get a pelvic exam to get an ultrasound.
TRMS PRODUCER: How do you explain that to a patient who is so traumatized?
SHANNON: Well, basically, we let them know that we do not agree and the state of Missouri is requiring us to do this to them and they have every right to contact who they feel they need to contact to voice their opinions, but we make it very clear this is not our doing. We do not want to violate your rights. We don`t want to make you do an unnecessary invasive procedure that we couldn`t do at this moment, and most women are quite disturbed at that.
But they`re pretty remarkable because they`re actually apologizing to my doctors, said, I`m sorry you have to do this to me. And that`s shameful.
DR. COLLEEN MCNICHOLAS. ST. LOUIS PLANNED PARENTHOOD REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SERVICES: And really, it is just so inappropriate to subject somebody to a pelvic exam which includes putting your fingers and other instruments in the vagina when really that gives no medical information. It doesn`t do anything to help the patient or myself choose what is the best approach for their abortion care.
And I can say that of the physicians who`ve had to do that in the last few days, they have just been devastated -- first, to have to explain to patients that this is the requirement. To explain that they don`t feel that there`s any medical relevance to the exam, and then to ultimately end up with but if you want to continue with care, we have to do it. You know, for patients who`ve had a history of trauma, for example, I mean, it`s just retraumatizing them all over again.
The state continues to put us into a position where we are really choosing between what we know is medically and ethically appropriate, and I would put avoiding unnecessary pelvic exams squarely in that box. Or making the choice to then say, well, we can`t provide abortion care at all.
And so, obviously, now that`s an impossible choice for us, right? We either have to ask patients to subject themselves to a state-sanctioned, essentially, sexual assault, or they can`t have an abortion here in Missouri.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A doctor calling state-sanctioned, essentially, sexual assault. State-sanctioned sexual assault as the new price that the state of Missouri is extracting from Missouri women if they try to get an abortion.
Now, why would the state government do that? What is the benefit to the state of doing that?
I mean, I suppose it`s possible that the state government in Missouri just seems, sees value in absolute terms of punishing women like this. Maybe the governor sees value in making women have unwarranted vaginal examinations on his orders. It`s hard to get your head around. It`s hard to even talk about.
But, of course, the secondary benefit to the state government in Missouri is that this is intolerable for these doctors, in addition to being intolerable for their patients. I mean, the doctors having to do this, you heard the woman from the clinic there describe how the patients are apologizing to the doctors for the state making the doctors do this to them. I mean, this is intolerable for these doctors, for them to be forced to do unnecessary, invasive vaginal exams on their patients who don`t want them, who don`t need them, and that the doctors don`t want to do.
So maybe the state is hoping that these doctors faced with this impossible imperative, maybe the state is hoping the benefit to the state here is that they`re hoping that the doctors will give up and stop providing abortions all together, which, of course, would leave Missouri with no providers since they`re down to that one last clinic. Well, that is not what`s happening.
For now, at least, the doctors in Missouri are reluctantly and against their will complying with this new rule, though they are clearly distraught over it. As you heard them explain, it runs counter to what they see as their ethics and duty as doctors, but they are doing it, as of this week, so that abortion doesn`t go away entirely in the state of Missouri. They`re also fighting it by talking about it, by telling their patients and also by now telling us, telling the press, what is happening, what the state of Missouri is making them do.
Now, this is not the first time a Republican-controlled state government has hit on the idea of forcing women to have unnecessary vaginal inspections on orders of the state as a sort of punishment for seeking an abortion. Virginia Republicans tried to pass a mandatory vaginal ultrasound law back in 2012. You may remember that.
Even though the legislature had already passed that, and the Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, had already said he would sign it, there was massive national outrage once the country figured out that`s what they were trying to force on Virginia women. There was massive national outrage. There was backlash in the state. It almost ultimately forced the governor to back down and they stripped out that mandatory vaginal ultrasound requirement from the Virginia law.
That`s how Bob McDonnell first got famous. Remember? Ultrasound Bob. Before he ultimately left office under the cloud of a giant corruption and bribery scandal.
But when it came to that forced vaginal ultrasound attempt by Virginia Republicans in 2012, public pressure really did work to stop it. They were on track to do that and they were turned back.
It remains to be seen if anything like that will happen in Missouri this year. I mean, back in Virginia in 2012, that was elected officials. That was the legislature and the governor who were behind the effort to force doctors to perform invasive, unnecessary, procedures on women.
In Missouri, we are just learning this is happening now. We are reporting this nationally for the first time because they`ve been doing this sort of under the radar. They`ve been doing this by surprise. This was the governor`s appointed state health director in Missouri who ordered this change. This has not happened through the legislature.
It`s been through this much less visible process, right? Newly selective enforcement of state regulations. It`s also happening in the context of the state using those regulations to try to shut down the last clinic providing abortions in the whole state. That is a substantially different kind of battle to be fighting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCNICHOLAS: States like Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, we have been fighting these fights for a really long time, and I will say the thing that has changed, at least for us in the last year, is really this weaponization of the regulation and the licensing process. It`s not just passing abortion bans. It`s not just the work of the legislature. It really has become a tool of political appointees in the departments of health to really try and push and shut down clinics through a different mechanism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Folks who are trying to keep open the one last clinic in the state of Missouri that can provide abortions, while that is hanging on by a thread, they are now, as of this week, trying to figure out how to fight back against not just antiabortion lawmakers, who are elected in their state, who are trying to ban abortion by legislation, they are now trying to figure out how to fight back against a new effort imposed by the state, a new enforcement of state regulations, that makes Missouri women pay with their bodies -- pay with vaginal exams that they don`t need and that their doctors don`t want to give them. That`s how they have to pay with their bodies if they want to access a procedure that they have a constitutional right to access.
Now, we are the first to report this, but in Missouri, this policy of forced vaginal probing by order of the state health department, by order of the governor, it`s already being implemented. For the women who had appointments at the last clinic late last week or early this week, they have already paid this latest penalty for any woman who dares try to get an abortion in that state, but now the doctors at that clinic are letting it be known that this is what the state is forcing them to do to their patients as they fight to keep the doors open at all.
We`ve got more ahead on this tonight. We`ve got a second chapter of this story for you tomorrow night.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHANNON: I`ll tell you this, what the women are mostly upset about these last few days is having to get a pelvic exam that they don`t need. I`m hoping abortion do not become illegal in the state. If Missouri goes dark, we will still find a way to service our patient in whatever capacity that we can service them in.
It would be a very sad day if Missouri goes dark. But I hope it doesn`t. I hope that whoever is reading the case and looking at the case sees the bigger picture. It`s not about whether you agree with a woman right to get an abortion. It`s a right -- it`s the point that you agree that she`s human.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Our special report tonight from the state of Missouri, where the Republican-controlled state government there has become a point of national focus as they try to not only ban abortion in that state, but they try aggressively to close down the state`s last remaining clinic where abortions are provided.
Well, while we await a judge`s ruling on whether that clinic is going to be allowed to stay open, we are reporting tonight that the state government as of this week has started forcing doctors in the state to perform medically unnecessary pelvic exams, vaginal examinations, on any woman who wants an abortion in Missouri. Just in the last week, you are newly subject to what amounts to a punitive, intrusive vaginal examination as the price of wanting an abortion in that state.
Joining us now is Katherine Spillar. She`s executive director of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Kathy, thank you for being here tonight. I`m really glad you were able to be here.
KATHERINE SPILLAR, FEMINIST MAJORITY FOUNDATION EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: No, thank you.
MADDOW: Let me just -- obviously, we`re reporting this for the first time. This has not been publicly discussed I think in part because it`s brand- new, also because the Missouri state government appears to have done this very quietly through new selective enforcement of state regulations rather than passing this as a special law.
What do you make of what they`re trying to do in Missouri?
SPILLAR: Well, it almost, frankly, feels like political extortion by politicians who are opposed to abortion, trying to literally dictate the type of medical practice that health care providers who are providing a very common, safe, and simple procedure, are now mandated to follow. We`ve seen this kind of regulatory harassment in a couple of other states as well that have been very hostile to abortion providers. And the clinics have fortunately in those other states been able to fight back.
And I hope that this restriction will be challenged. It clearly is an overreach by politicians through the regulatory process to literally dictate the health care procedures and practices of what is a very solid clinic, a very safe and common procedure.
MADDOW: I am neither a doctor nor a lawyer, and I don`t even try to play one on TV in either case, but it strikes me that the specific regulatory overreach, as you put it here, is -- is disturbing on a level that it wouldn`t be if it was in any other kind of thing that they were mandating here, because what they`re forcing these doctors to do is an invasive exam, literally a physically intrusive exam, an internal exam of these women that is not related to their medical care at all. They`re setting this as a new barrier to care.
And, obviously, this Missouri clinic is locked in litigation right now with the state as the state is trying to shut them down. The state`s ban that was just passed by the legislature and signed by the governor will be reviewed by the federal courts because it obviously contradicts Roe versus Wade.
Do you think that there should be a new course of legal action basically to try to block this part of it specifically? Do you think this just gets factored in to all those other fights?
SPILLAR: Well, I do think there should be a challenge to this. You know, we`ve got to challenge these overreaches by political appointments as in this Missouri case. So I think it needs to be challenged as overreach, and frankly, I -- it appears that they`re playing from the same playbook as some of the antiabortion extremists.
Operation Rescue out of Wichita, Kansas, has done this kind of regulatory harassment, working with health officials in other states or with attorneys general, in an effort to get clinics prosecuted or shut down or required to take unnecessary measures that increases the cost of the health care to women.
So I think we`ve got to be alert to this strategy which now is so obvious in Missouri. And I got to tell you -- I mean, this is an effort by antiabortion politicians to punish women, and if anything has happened in the last year or two, especially in the wake of these bans that have been passed, and Missouri`s one of them, is that it`s very now clear to people that this is an effort to punish and shame women.
But I got to tell you, I think they`re overreaching. I think they are overplaying their hand, and it`s going to come back and get them.
You know, you were talking about Virginia and what happen there with the transvaginal ultrasound requirement and how it was beat back by not only public opinion but what happened in the next election there? The Republicans lost the governorship. They lost the entire top thee of the statewide offices.
And then in 2017, they almost lost control of the House and the Senate, and that`s because women are now furious. We`re fighting back. And we`re taking this to the voting booth. And I think they`ve overplayed their hand and they`re going to suffer losses, politically, if they keep this course going.
MADDOW: Kathy Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority Foundation, also executive editor of "Miss" magazine -- Kathy, thank you for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.
SPILLAR: Thank you.
MADDOW: As I mentioned, this was our special report tonight in terms of what`s happening in the Missouri state government. Over the course of the past week, the state government has started forcing the last doctors at the last clinic that provides abortion in that state to provide unnecessary vaginal exams to women as a cost of trying to seek an abortion at that clinic. We`re reporting that for the first time tonight. We`ve got a second chapter in our special report coming tomorrow night.
There`s one other piece of news on this subject though that you should know. One of the things that`s been discussed on the 2020 campaign trail over the past few days is the question of the Hyde Amendment, which is a longstanding federal restriction on any federal money, including money spent on Medicaid and Medicare being used to pay for abortion services for any women who use those as sources of their health care.
Well, tonight, Vice President Joe Biden suddenly reversed himself on his position on the Hyde Amendment. This has been discussed intensely over the past few days. Biden said tonight that while he used to support the Hyde amendment, he no longer does.
His campaign had affirmed his support for the Hyde Amendment just this week, just a couple days ago, but tonight, Biden, himself, has said he changed his mind. He specifically cited Republican governors working to close down clinics that offer free or subsidized care. He said that`s why he is changing his mind now.
I had said last night that I had thought that the vice president`s position on the Hyde Amendment would not survive the Democratic primary. I`m not sure I expected that it wouldn`t survive 24 hours. But there you go.
Lots more to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, we got some interesting new reporting on what top congressional Democrats are saying about impeachment behind the scenes in private leadership meetings. The chair of the House Judiciary Committee where impeachment proceedings would start, Jerry Nadler, he has avoided coming out publicly in any sort of unqualified the support of starting an impeachment inquiry. But privately, it`s apparently a different matter.
"Politico" now reporting that in leadership meetings for the second time, Nadler this week has pushed Pelosi to allow him to open impeachment proceedings. He`s now arguing that doing so would give him more leverage to obtain witness testimony and documents that he`s otherwise unable to get right now for his committee`s investigations.
Why those discussions play out in Congress, on the campaign trail, this whole issue is becoming less and less controversial with each passing day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a constitutional responsibility here and that`s to start this impeachment proceeding.
BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should begin impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.
JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think this president should be impeached.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that the Judiciary Committee should begin impeachment inquiries.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that the president deserves to be impeached.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I feel like we have a moral obligation now to investigate this president. Impeachment proceedings will give us more legal leverage.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to begin impeachment proceedings and we need a new commander-in-chief.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, as you and I and everyone have been watching all of the Democratic candidates talk like that about the necessity of opening an impeachment inquiry and now, I have said a few different times on the show here that the Democratic presidential candidates are approaching unanimity on this issue. I am wrong about that in a way that I hope is very interesting. And that is our story next.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we go down the road tomorrow and impeach President Trump, we`re actually giving him a favor. That`s what he wants, to be able to say he was railroaded. And then to have the impeachment from the House go to the Senate where I guarantee you Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are not going to convict Donald Trump. They`re going to acquit Donald Trump and then he`s going to run for president saying he was acquitted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now here on set is Michael Bennet, senator from Colorado, candidate in the presidential primary this year.
Sir, it`s great to see you. Thanks for coming in.
BENNET: Nice to see you. Thanks for letting me come by.
MADDOW: I wanted you to come by when I found out you were in town in part because you have proven me wrong. I have been saying Democratic candidates are approaching unanimity on wanting to open impeachment inquiries. But you don`t.
BENNET: Well, I`m not sure that -- I couldn`t hear myself on there.
BENNET: But I --
MADDOW: I could quote you.
BENNET: I don`t think that`s right, actually. I was asked the other day, following what Bernie said, what I thought about what Bernie said. I agreed completely with what Bernie just said on your program which I heard. What you were quoting, which I think it`s critical for us to begin proceedings and the House decides to call them impeachment proceedings, it`s fine with me.
MADDOW: It is --
BENNET: What I think what`s important by the time this all ends, the American people have better concluded that Donald Trump was guilty of what we`re impeaching him for, and that`s critical because either we need McConnell to do the right thing in the Senate at the end of the day, which I think he`s very unlikely to do, or we need to win this election. What we can`t do is impeach Donald Trump and create a view in America that he`s not guilty of what he`s being impeached for. That`s my only point.
MADDOW: And that happens how?
BENNET: I think that happens by having hearings.
BENNET: Which is actually what I said on CNN. I think we should have the hearings. I`ve said that I think he committed impeachable offenses. I`ve read the Mueller report. It`s pretty clear to me that he obstructed justice. And that`s really important.
But we need to do it in a way either where he`s removed or he`s beaten at the polls. The alternative, which is he`s in an aggrieved victim somehow here then wins re-election, is totally unacceptable to me.
MADDOW: Although somewhat out of control, out of the control of House Democrats who have to make the decision now as to what to call their inquiry, whether to make it an impeachment inquiry or not.
BENNET: Well, that to me, as I understand it, what that comes down to is what the subpoena power is of a committee that`s not called an impeachment committee and one that`s not -- I`m not in the House, so I don`t know.
BENNET: All I`m saying is that this has to -- we need to -- we -- as people that are committed to the rule of law, and by the way, this isn`t because I`m trying to protect Donald Trump. This is because I think it`s important for us to protect the democracy by not having him re-elected again. We need to make sure the American people are coming along with this discussion.
It`s not enough for Democrats just to talk to Democrats when you`re talking about something like impeachment. We need the country to be following it just as they did with Watergate.
You know, the other night, I watched -- you know, there`s a compilation on YouTube of the Watergate hearing.
BENNET: Which, first of all, will make you cry because there`s a bunch of people doing their jobs without respect of political party. But it took a while for the American people to change their mind about whether Richard Nixon should be impeached or not, took a while for the public sentiment to catch up to where the politicians were. And I think that`s important for our democracy.
MADDOW: And the way the public was brought along was by the public nature and the revelatory nature of those hearings.
BENNET: Exactly, and that the revelatory nature of those hearings are the incredible thing. I mean, here was Congress not just doing their job but discovering the tapes. Nobody had found the tapes until Congress had the hearing that that guy, Butterfield, or whatever his name was said the tapes were there, and who knows what we`re going to find out about this president by conducting these hearings.
MADDOW: When you talk about, though, the public -- I`ve seen you talk about how the fact that, you know, the public hasn`t read the Mueller report, most people in the public don`t know what`s in the Mueller report, even though you`ve read it and increasing numbers I think of politicians are starting to read it now, how do you bring people along? Do you have confidence that the way that we run Congress now and the way we might run the Judiciary Committee during this kind of proceeding would tell a compelling narrative that people would learn from?
BENNET: I think that`s a very good question. I think a lot of the times people turn on the Congress and they see a bunch of people grandstanding and trying to get headlines and maybe trying to come on your show. This has to be -- this can`t be that.
BENNET: This can`t be some game of gotcha. It`s no reason for it to be that.
This should be a dignified set of hearings that makes the American people - - gives an opportunity for the American people to be reminded why the rule of law is so important. What it means to be a co-equal branch of government. Why we have separation of powers. Why it`s not acceptable to have a president who doesn`t believe in the rule of law, or freedom of the press, or the independence of a judiciary.
What an amazing opportunity to be able to reconnect with those enduring values that Trump has smashed with a hammer.
MADDOW: Do you think that it is hard to decide on a day-to-day basis as you`re running for president and all your other colleagues in the Senate, all these other people --
BENNET: I know, half the people are gone all day.
MADDOW: It`s a -- it`s a busy little work project that we`ve got going on here.
Do you think that it is a hard on a day-to-day basis to figure out how to talk about the president versus how to talk about the country? I mean, is it a zero-sum game? Do you have to run against Trump now in the primary? Do you put it off until the general election? Is it hard to make those decisions about how to run?
BENNET: I think you have to decide what you think is at stake. For me, this isn`t just about getting rid of Donald Trump, which we have to do. It`s essential to do that. It`s about the ten years that the Freedom Caucus and Mitch McConnell have tyrannized this country.
The reason we got nothing done on climate really is because of Mitch McConnell. The reason we have nothing done on guns is Mitch McConnell. The reason why, you know, he`s been able to be so successful on judges, it`s Mitch McConnell.
I mean, Donald Trump is, like, this is a three-ring circus every day. He`s spinning the plates. He loves to do it. The stuff`s dropping all around him.
The ringmaster in all this is McConnell. And I don`t think we can go through this with another ten years of Mitch McConnell preventing the public sentiment in this country from being heard in Congress. And so how we beat Donald Trump is really important to me.
MADDOW: Sounds like you might think it`s more important to take Democratic control of the Senate than even to take the White House.
BENNET: I think both are vital. I think both are vital and we can`t take our eye off the Senate. Some people say, well, it`s a really tough map.
It is a tough map, but we need a majority of Democrats in the Senate and we need to win the White House and I think, people say you`re so naive when you say this, but I believe it, I think we need a broad coalition of Democrats, Republicans, independents, to reassert America`s view of what our government should be doing, a set of priorities that actually reflect what the American people need or the kids in my old school district. I used to be superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, care about.
They`re totally unrepresented in Washington and they will not be represented in Washington unless we figure out a way to close over the Freedom Caucus. We just can`t -- we won`t succeed. And Mitch McConnell -- I don`t think there`s any way by doing that other than having a set of policies that are broadly popular and broadly understood by the American people and bring not just Democrats along but other people as well.
MADDOW: Senator Michael Bennet of the great state of Colorado, thank you for coming.
BENNET: Thank you. It`s a great state. Come visit.
MADDOW: See you soon.
BENNET: Thank you.
MADDOW: I`ll be there tomorrow, actually.
BENNET: Will you really? Good.
MADDOW: Sort of --
BENNET: Stop by, say hello.
MADDOW: Getting frustrated.
All right. Up next, the curious case of Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn today even got more curiouser. That story is just ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So something is going on right now in the criminal case involving Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn. I`m not sure exactly what is going on with Flynn but for starters, Mike Flynn fired his lawyers today. These are the lawyers who have represented him the whole near and a half he`s been cooperating with prosecutors. He`s at the very tail end of his case and about to be sentenced.
But, boom, today, his lawyers were gone. I don`t know if these things are connected but today, also, by order of the judge in his case, we got a release of the audio recording of a voicemail that President Trump`s lawyer left for Mike Flynn`s lawyer right before Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI and started cooperating with prosecutors. This voice mail was about how the president`s lawyer needed to know what Flynn had to say to prosecutors that would implicate the president.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN DOWD, TRUMP`S LAWYER: Hey, Rob, this is John again. Maybe, I`m sympathetic; I understand your situation, but let me see if I can`t state it in starker terms. If you have -- and it wouldn`t surprise me if you`ve gone on to make a deal with and work with the government, I understand that you can`t join the joint defense, so that`s one thing.
If, on the other hand, there`s information that implicates the president, then we`ve got a national security issue or maybe a national security issue. I don`t know. Some issue, we`ve got to -- we`ve got to deal with, not only for the president but for the country.
So you know, then -- then you know, we need some kind off heads up. And if it`s the former, then you know, remember what we`ve always said about the president in his feelings toward Flynn, and that still remains.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, we had seen the transcript of this before. Now getting the audio of it it`s much more clear what the pressing question is here. What is it that Mike Flynn had to tell the government about the president and why would it potentially have national security implications as John Dowd says? If there`s information that implicates the president then we`ve got a national security issue or maybe a national security issue. I don`t know, some issue we`ve got to deal with not only for the president but for the country.
Why this upset call from the president`s lawyer to try to get a heads up on what Flynn might be about to tell the prosecutors about the president? Why does he need to know and why is that something that might have national security implications, implications for the country? I don`t know.
But this came out today and today Michael Flynn fired his lawyers. There`s a status update scheduled for his case next week. We`re expecting a sentencing date to be set for him soon. So, this all seems like a very weird time to fire your lawyers.
It also seems like the firing today may have been a little bit shambolic. The judge actually initially rejected Flynn`s effort to fire his lawyers today because they didn`t even file the paperwork properly. Presumably that would get sorted out.
But something is causing them all the hassle at this point. Something is going on here. We don`t yet know what it is.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: We started this show tonight with the first part of a special report on what`s happening right now in the state of Missouri. The Republican government there as we reported tonight has begun over the course of the last week requiring women who want to get an abortion in that state to first undergo a new invasive, medically unnecessary pelvic exam -- an internal vaginal examination that is not medically required but that is being politically required by the government of the state as of the past week as the state tries to shut down the last clinic in Missouri.
Well, tomorrow, we`re going to bring you part two of that story, the way it took a turn that I did not see coming before we started reporting this out. I cannot wait to tell you about that. That is tomorrow night.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again then.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END