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New calls for gun reform. TRANSCRIPT: 8/8/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Aitan Goelman, Jerry Nadler

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Thanks for joining us.  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 it.

HAYES:  You bet.

MADDOW:  And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 

Today`s news brings us yet further support for the contention that you can get a heck of a lot more information about our federal government now by watching what they do rather than by listening to what they say.  It is always, always, always true every single day that this administration is in place but maybe never more so than today. 

In today`s news, a new example.  Regardless of anything the president said or says from here on out we now know from watching what they do that what will go down in history books about this time in American history is that four days after the worst terrorist attack ever against Latinos in the United States and on the actual day the president was in El Paso, the site of the massacre, supposedly comforting that city that just had 22 innocent people gunned down in cold blood because the gunman said he wanted to stop a Hispanic invasion of immigrants and save the white race from a Hispanic immigration invasion. 

On the day the president did make his trip to El Paso, he did say words.  And the Trump White House said more words about what that visit meant and why the president went there and how it should make us think or feel about the president`s reaction to that crime.  Yes, there were plenty of words.  If you ignore them, though, which I strongly suggest you make a habit of doing, if you look instead at what they did, we now know what they did in response to that massacre is that the president`s campaign affirmed that in fact they`re still going to leave out their millions of dollars worth of Facebook ads that rail about an invasion of immigrants at the border just like the El Paso shooter`s diatribe said. 

That`s one thing they did in response.  Yes, we`re going to leave up those ads, that rhetoric that the campaign shooter quoted as his justification for killing those 22 people.  And in addition to that, we now know that regardless of whatever they`ve said, whatever the administration wanted us to think about what they did in the wake of that massacre, what they actually did in the wake of that massacre, what we can see now that they did is that they chose the moment when the president would be visiting El Paso in response to this anti-Hispanic, anti-immigrant terrorist attack there.  The Trump administration chose that moment to do something, to not just say something, to do something. 

They chose that moment to launch the biggest anti-immigrant raid in U.S. history, descending in force on meat processing plants in Mississippi and arresting nearly 700 men and women without warning, leaving among other things the kids of those people who they arrested in school or at day care or at home or wandering in the streets with no idea of what to do or where to go with their parents suddenly taken away.  Little kids our put up in a community center in Forest, Mississippi, when that town realized what had happened and they turned their community center into a makeshift emergency shelter for these kids from their town who suddenly had no parents. 

A local 24-hour gym turned itself into a shelter as well, when nobody knew what else to do.  And people in that community came forward to the gym to donate food for the kids so that at least while they were holed up in the 24-hour gym in town, they could have dinner.  The only reason they have that place to go is because the owner of the gym decided he would let them stay there for a while. 


GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC REPORTER:  Immigration and Customs Enforcement handcuffed hundreds of immigrant workers and loaded them onto buses as coworkers and family members watched in disbelief. 

Kids left not knowing where their parents were being taken.  This 11-year- old says her father was among those detained. 

Jordan Barns (ph) opened up his gym to children with nowhere to go. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The kids should be the main priority.  If we all put the kids first and do what we can to help them to make this less painful as possible for them. 

GUTIERREZ:  Tonight, this woman tells us her husband is among those still detained.  She says she`s been in the U.S. for 24 years. 

This church now a sanctuary for those in limbo like this 1-year-old girl.  The priest tells us her mother is in custody.  He`s taking care of the baby as the father tries to find his wife. 


MADDOW:  That`s Gabe Gutierrez reporting tonight for "NBC Nightly News". 

After these mass raids that were launched yesterday while the president was in El Paso, these mass arrests, the Trump administration eventually released a few hundred of the people they had arrested and taken away.  Which of course raises the question as to whether they had any idea who they were arresting in the first place, why they swooped in and arrested those particular people in the first place, particularly when it`s evident they had zero plan for what would happen to those people`s families, their homes, even their babies and their little kids. 

But, again, regardless of whatever they say and whatever comes out of the president`s mouth, this is the story of how our government responded to an anti-immigrant massacre committed by someone who quoted the words of the president`s re-election campaign about needing to stop an immigrant invasion.  Our government`s response to that, the Trump administration`s response to that mass killing was to leave up the president`s re-election campaign ads that decried immigrant invasion and the administration mounted their biggest show of force yet against immigrants, including literally leaving kids crying in parking lots looking for their parents because the Trump administration just wanted to make a big show of taking their parents away, whether or not they even wanted to keep them.

So that is how this will look in history.  I don`t know that anything said by this administration or spoken by this president will ultimately make it into this generation`s almanac of what happened in our country in our time.  But the government and the president`s campaign responding like this to this terrorist attack against Latinos and immigrants, this will make the history books. 

The administration responding with the biggest ever anti-immigrant raid to the first ever anti-Latino, anti-immigrant gun massacre in this country, this will be history.  This will go down in history as what our government did.  And, of course, whatever we are all doing right now as citizens in our own lives will also be our own personal history of what it was we were doing at this time in our country`s life, when our country was doing this.  It`s absolutely astonishing. 

It was 45 years ago today that President Richard Nixon resigned as president of the United States.  It was something no president had ever done before, and, of course, it is something that no president has done since. 


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT:  Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.  Vice President Ford will be sworn in as president at that hour in this office. 


MADDOW:  I was 45 years ago today President Nixon resigning.  And, of course, he resigned because he had lost in the courts in his effort to keep secret both from Congress and from the public the evidence that would ultimately show him obstructing justice in the Watergate scandal.  Not only his complicity in the Watergate and related crimes, but more importantly his key role in orchestrating the cover-up of those crimes and his efforts to stymie or -- or elude or divert the investigation into those crimes. 

The courts breaking the seal on that evidence against Nixon, that in turn broke the seal on what had been a fairly impenetrable defense around President Nixon in the Congress formed by members of his own Republican Party.  When the courts let the evidence against Nixon be heard, the Congress heard it just like the public did.  The Republican wall in Congress that had been defending and protecting Nixon for so long, that finally started to crumble, and at that point, Nixon knew that he wasn`t going to have a future as president.  And so, he left on his own terms, resigning 45 years ago exactly. 

Now, today coincidently on that 45-year anniversary, the prospects of impeachment proceedings against our current president, President Trump have just taken a great leap forward.  Over the past week, you may have heard the news when we crossed the numerical threshold that meant the majority of Democrats in Congress now support at least opening impeachment proceedings on President Trump. 

By one count posted by CNN tonight, there are now 120 Democrats who say they support an impeachment inquiry into the president`s behavior.  Some other accounts have it at 119, or 118 or 120 or 121.  But it`s where we`re at.  In any of those cases, it`s a majority.

But more than this numerical majority of Democrats saying they`re theoretically interested in pursuing such proceedings, the more important that has now happened is that the actual wheels of the process, of potentially impeaching Donald Trump, that -- those wheels are now rolling.  That process has now started. 

And there`s a few different things going on here.  We`re going to go through them tonight one by one.  Tonight, I have to tell you as well we`ve got two key interviews stacked up ahead with two absolutely central figures in this fight and in this story.  So, tonight`s going to be sort of an important show on this important thing that is happening right now. 

I hope you can stay with us for the whole hour tonight in large part because I really want you to see both of these interviews.  You know I don`t say things like that very often.  So when I do say it, you know I mean it. 

So we are going to get to those two very key interviews.  But you should know all these things that have suddenly stacked up and including a couple of very important things that have happened today.  The first thing to know about in terms of what`s going on here, the dam seems to have broken a bit when it comes to a central investigative issue, maybe the central investigative issue that the president appears to be most concerned about and something he`s been trying to hold back, that he`s been trying to keep secret, that he`s been trying to keep private.  But he is now losing that fight. 

One of the surprise revelations from the Mueller report and from Mueller`s testimony to Congress was that Mueller and his team didn`t do a financial investigation pertaining to the president, his business, his family.  Although Robert Mueller repeatedly asserted unequivocally that financial entanglements, particularly secret financial entanglements, are a primary means of foreign governments compromising U.S. persons, gaining leverage over Americans including people in U.S. politics.  Mueller asserted any such investigation into the president, into whether President Trump might have had those kind of compromising financial ties, that was viewed in the special counsel`s office as outside their remit.  They saw that as a counter intelligence matter and not what they were doing, and so they didn`t do it. 

If there were illegal or illicit or even just secret dealings involving foreign entities that could be traced through the president`s personal and business finances, that obviously would be of serious national security interests, serious counterintelligence interests.  It would be a very important thing to know particularly if it involves any foreign entity that involved in the election, whether or not the president had secret financial ties to that entity which might explain why they were so interested putting him in the White House and why they have -- right?  I mean, a serious potential compromise involving the president of the United States and a hostile foreign power that inexplicably tried to elect him, I mean, that would be important to know about. 

But we now know that Mueller and his team didn`t go there, didn`t look at it.  Having had that clarification from Mueller about what his team didn`t do, Democrats in Congress promptly said that, oh, well, if Mueller didn`t do this, they will do it.  And now, they are doing it. 

And the president of course has been pulling out all the stops to do anything and everything that he can to block that, to try to stop his financial records and his banking records and his tax records from being handed over and examined.  I mean, the president literally hired a whole new legal team just to fight to keep his finances secret, just to keep his taxes and his banking records and his financial records under wrap. 

And that team, that`s all they`re working on for the president.  They have been really racking up the billable hours.  I`m not even sure this is complete list.

But off the top of my head we know the president has sued New York state to try to keep his tax returns and financial records secret.  Just this past week, the president has sued the state of California to try to keep his tax returns secret.  The president has sued the Ways and Means Committee in the House to try to keep his tax returns secret.  The president has sued the chairman of the Oversight Committee to try to keep his tax returns and financial records secret.  He`s even sued his own accounting firm and his own bank and a whole second bank all to try to keep his tax returns and financial records secret. 

He`s sparing no expense here, right?  That is lot of lawsuits.  And again, I`m not even sure if that`s the full list.  There might be others I`m forgetting. 

But whether or not he`s going to win every single one of those cases and statistically speaking that might be difficult, it`s possible we now know that none of those lawsuits in the end may matter the way the president wants them to matter.  Because today, "The Wall Street Journal" reports even if the president won every single one of those myriad lawsuits that he`s filed trying to keep secret his taxes and his financial records, even if he won all those suits, those materials he`s trying to keep secret might have already flown the coop, they might already be out there. 

Quote: Major Wall Street banks have given congressional committees investigating President Trump thousands of pages of documents related to Russians who may have had dealings with Mr. Trump`s family or business.  Banks are also giving documents related to Mr. Trump`s business to New York state investigators. 

Quote: Wall Street firms, including Bank of America, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo have all provided documents to congressional investigators.  Deutsche Bank has turned over e- mails, loan agreements, and other documents related to the Trump business, the Trump Organization. 

Quote, although President Trump has filed several lawsuits seeking to block lawmakers and states from getting access to his bank, accounting and tax records the documents being provided by the banks could give investigators some of the same information Mr. Trump is trying to block. 

And again what this "Wall Street Journal" report is saying today is not just that congressional committees and some states are seeking these materials about the president`s finances from major banks.  What this report from "The Wall Street Journal" today says is that they sought them and they`re now getting them.  And this includes information on loans and mortgages and applications for financing and also reportedly specifically includes information on Russian business people potentially connected to the president and his businesses.  So, as I said there`s a number of things going on here.  That is one important thing that is going on here. 

Whatever is happening within the president`s financial history, whatever is happening that is evident in his banking and financial and tax records that he seems to be so freaked out about, that he seems to be willing to go to any lengths and any expense to try to keep secret, it appears that those records by and large are not staying secret.  That stuff is underway.  That horse is on its way out of the barn and mostly out.  So that`s one thing going on. 

Second, we have also just had a big leap forward in terms of testimony and evidence about the president potentially being unblocked by the courts.  As we reported here on this show last night, the Judiciary Committee has now filed a really important lawsuit to compel the testimony of the most cited key witness in Mueller`s investigation, former White House counsel Don McGahn. 

The committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, is going to be here live tonight in just a couple of minutes.  He`s one of those two interviews we`ve lined up for the show tonight.  You will want to see my interview with Chairman Nadler tonight.  Mr. Nadler and his committee clearly see this lawsuit they have just filed concerning Don McGahn`s testimony, they clearly see this as kind of their big kahuna, as the thing they have been building up to. 

They believe this effort to force McGahn to testify not only will succeed, but they think that if it does, it`ll essentially be the key that unlocks all the other witnesses they want to talk to.  And that will thereby setup all the hearings they want to hold about the president`s behavior.  So those things are both happening sort of now all of a sudden. 

But one of the other things you should know about, what they`ve just done with this lawsuit is that for all the huffing and puffing and barrels of ink spilled and pointless punditry panel conversations about whether or not Trump will be the next president to face impeachment, right, all the breath expended on whether or not the Democrats will try to impeach Trump, that question has now pretty much been answered.  It`s like we spent so much time asking the question no one noticed when the answer finally came.  But that question is now answered in the plain language of this lawsuit about Don McGahn`s testimony.  Even more so than the language we saw from the Judiciary Committee and their lawsuits a couple of weeks ago when Nadler and committee asked a judge to release to them the rest of the Mueller report for the purposes of their potential impeachment investigation. 

I mean, that was a pretty good sign.  But even more explicitly than that, Chairman Nadler and his committee now say they are looking at potential articles of impeachment against the president.  They have started impeachment proceedings against the president.  It`s happening.  It`s on. 

Quoting from the lawsuit: The Judiciary Committee is now determining whether to recommend articles of impeachment against the president based on the obstructive conduct described by the special counsel.  It cannot fulfill this most solemn constitutional responsibility without hearing testimony from a crucial witness to these events, namely former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn. 

Just in case that`s not clear enough from the introduction to the lawsuit.  They get it -- they put an even finer point on it.  Here, quote, the judiciary committee is conducting an investigation to understand the scope and extent of misconduct by President Trump.  And that investigation includes consideration of whether the committee should exercise its Article I powers to recommend articles of impeachment. 

In asking the court explicitly to intervene, to compel Don McGahn to testify, the committee puts an even finer on it.  Quote: Each day McGahn refuses to testify, the Judiciary Committee is deprived of its ability to carry out the significant Article I task to recommend whether the president be impeached and potentially removed from office. 

So, we`ve got them getting the financial records despite everything Trump is doing to help them not get the financial record.  We`ve got them going to court to compel the testimony of all the witnesses they want to hear from about the president`s potentially impeachable behavior. 

And, you know, we`ve had all of these months of all this blah, blah, blah, do you support impeaching President Trump or not, should the Democrats try it, is it risky if Mitch McConnell is not, blah, blah -- after all the blah, blah, blah for what is it a year?  It`s happening now, it`s under way.  There is an impeachment investigation of President Donald J. Trump under way right now based on large part on the findings of Robert Mueller`s report. 

And you might have expected this was coming given a majority of Democrats in the House say they support such an inquiry and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee which would conduct such an inquiry has said all along he`s happy to follow the facts wherever they lead.  But, I mean, stick a pin in it, it is now happening.  It is now under way. 

And in addition to all of that coming together this week, there now today is one final piece of this which is totally unexpected but pulls in exactly the same direction.  And that story is next. 


MADDOW:  The House of Representatives is now moving forward with an impeachment investigation of President Trump.  That fact confirmed in court filings yesterday and now confirmed explicitly by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler tonight.  We`re going to be speaking live with Chairman Nadler about that in just a moment. 

Separate and apart from those proceedings, though, there`s a set of separate potent allegations that have just been made against the president which could open up a whole new can of worms for this administration.  These allegations come by two private lawsuits that have been just brought by senior FBI officials who incidentally were key figures in the investigation into Russian interference in the election, two senior FBI figures who were key to that investigation, who were subsequently vilified and hounded and publicly attacked by the president until they were ultimately fired by the FBI while the president both demanded for it -- by the president both demanded it and cheered for it.  Those two officials have now brought lawsuits against the administration in part to get their job back, to establish what ought to be obvious which you shouldn`t be able to be fired like that for those reasons in that way. 

But also they`re making serious allegations about the president`s behavior in each of their cases.  Andrew McCabe, he`s former acting director of the FBI, he became acting director after the president fired James Comey.  Peter Strzok was the senior counter intelligence agent at the FBI.  Now, within two days of one another, this week, they have both brought lawsuits saying they want redress, they want reinstatement.  In Peter Strzok`s case, he wants a jury trial to air out what happened to him and when and why and what he thinks it means. 

What McCabe and Strzok are each alleging in these lawsuits is a similarly described pattern of behavior by the president that they`re not saying this, but it is my analysis that that sort of behavior by the president could very well find its way into its own article or articles of impeachment if in fact the House draws up such articles and if these are substantiated by these cases brought by McCabe and Strzok in court. 

Listen to this from Peter Strzok`s complaint.  Quote: The decision to fire Special Agent Strzok was the result of unrelenting pressure from President Trump and his political allies in Congress and the media.  The campaign to fire Strzok included constant tweets and other disparaging tweets by the president as well as direct appeals from the president to then Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Chris Wray to fire Strzok. 

The concerted public campaign to disparage and ultimately fire Special Agent Strzok was enabled by the defendant`s deliberate and unlawful disclosure to the media of texts intended to be private from an FBI system of records in violation of the Privacy Act.  The FBI fired Special Agent Strzok because of his protected political speech and violation of rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution. 

The Trump administration has consistently tolerated and even encouraged partisan political speech by federal employees as long as this speech praises President Trump and attacks his political adversaries.  For example, President Trump rejected the recommendation of the Office of Special Counsel that advisor Kellyanne Conway be removed from her job for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act, by attacking former Vice President Biden and publicly advocating for and against various Senate candidates. 

Although Mrs. Conway may be the highest profile Trump administration employee to enjoy the right to violate the Hatch Act with impunity, she is far from the only one.  While Special Agent Strzok and others who express negative opinions of President Trump have been subject to administrative punishments of various degrees of severity, no actions have been taken against FBI agents who expressed harsh criticism of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, or those in the field office of the FBI who leaked negative information about Secretary Clinton to the Trump campaign in the weeks before the election.

  This viewpoint discrimination is part of a broader campaign against the very principle of free speech underlying the First Amendment initiated and led by a president who has repeatedly attacked the press as the enemy of the people, urged censorship of opinions which he deems insufficient flattering, and the withdrawal of security clearance of clinics, including Special Agent Strzok who present no risk to national security. 

That`s the lawsuit just brought against the Trump administration by Peter Strzok who you may remember was the go-to counter Russian intelligence agent at the top of the FBI who played a key role in the Russia FBI investigation.  He was run out on a rail and had his career and reputation destroyed by the Trump administration.  It remains one of the largest scandals of the whole Trump presidency, the scandal that`s hiding in plain sight that the president reached down into law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and one by one by one singled out and peeled off and destroyed basically all the leaders and key agents who played key roles in recognizing what Russia was doing to try to get Trump elected and who tried to investigate Trump`s own knowledge of or role in that plot. 

In addition to Peter Strzok who suffered that fate at the FBI, so did Andrew McCabe who was deputy director and acting director of the agency.  Today, he filed his own lawsuit.  His suit if anything is even more pointed about the president. 

Plaintiff McCabe is the former deputy director of the FBI and career civil servant.  He believes the U.S. government remains a government of laws and not of men.  And he`s brought this case to remedy defendant`s unlawful retaliation of his refusal to pledge allegiance to a single man. 

Impeachment proceedings for all intents and purposes have begun.  The evidence about the president`s conduct is being freed up and made available despite the president`s best efforts to keep that stuff secret.  And now, separate and apart from that in a totally separate sphere, the acting FBI director and the top counter Russian intelligence officer who played a role in the Russia investigation within two days of each other, they have both gone to court signaling that they are going to get the story told of what happened to them, of how the president came after them and why. 

It`s all happening all at once.  All systems go. 

Joining us now is Aitan Goelman, who`s an attorney for Peter Strzok throughout this ordeal and in this new case. 

Mr. Goelman, I know you`re not super eager to do media at any time.  And I really appreciate you making time to be here tonight.  Thanks for joining us. 


MADDOW:  So, your client Mr. Strzok served in the FBI for more than 20 years.  Can you talk to us at all about the decision-making process and what it was like when he decided he would sue that institution that he called home for so many years? 

GOELMAN:  It wasn`t easy for him.  I mean, he`s devoted his entire adult life to protecting this country from its foreign enemies and he has an incredible amount of affection for the institution.  So this runs counter to some of his instincts, but he`s doing this for the other men and women who serve this country faithfully in the FBI and who should not have their constitutional rights lightly overwritten by somebody who is determined to turn the entire executive branch into his personal weapon to use against his political adversaries, real and imagine (ph). 

MADDOW:  Does the president have the right to reach down into law enforcement agencies including the FBI and pluck out individual officials or agents who he believes are biased, who he believes have political views that will affect their work? 

GOELMAN:  Well, there`s an act passed by Congress that governs what kind of political speech federal employees can and cannot exercise.  And Pete`s political speech in this case falls squarely within the permissible kind.  But even if, you know, the president could do something like firing members of the executive branch, there`s a process for that in each agency.  The FBI has its own process. 

In this case, Pete Strzok actually engaged in that process, and we went through it, and there`s a woman who is the assistant director in charge of Office of Professional Responsibility who`s known throughout the bureau actually as kind of a hard ass.  And she made the decision that Pete shouldn`t be fired.  That he should be -- be demoted from the senior executive service.  They should have a two-month suspension. 

And that`s something that Pete accepted.  He was willing to take that demotion. 

And then after we`d already had a decision from the assistant director, after we already had a signed agreement, then the deputy director stepped in last minute and overruled that decision and reversed it and said Pete had to be fired, something I don`t know of ever happening before.  And certainly not unrelated to the, you know, dozens of hate tweets that President Trump directed at Pete`s way. 

MADDOW:  One of the other serious allegations in your lawsuit is that the texts which Mr. Strzok expressed his political opinions about President Trump but also criticizing people like Bernie Sanders and Eric Holder and other people in politics, those texts were improperly and perhaps illegally made public. 

Do you know who in the Justice Department or who in the FBI chose to release those materials to the press either unofficially or with what was ultimately essentially an overt publication of those materials? 

GOELMAN:  We don`t know, but we intend to find out.  It`s clear that those texts were unlawfully leaked, violated the Privacy Act.  The media got them before even the jurisdictional committees of Congress got them, and there`s no exception under the Privacy Act allowing for that kind of record to be leaked to the media. 

MADDOW:  One brief last question for you.  Is there any connection between your client`s lawsuit, Peter Strzok`s lawsuit and the lawsuit that makes some parallel claims, it has the same defendants listed from former Deputy Director McCabe.  It was filed within a couple of days, and I think myself and a lot of people are reading a lot of similarities in terms of what`s alleged by misbehavior by the administration in the two cases. 

GOELMAN:  There are definitely similarities but there`s definitely no connection until today.  I didn`t know that Andy McCabe was filing this lawsuit. 

MADDOW:  OK.  Aitan Goelman, attorney for Pete Strzok, thank you so much for joining us tonight.  Please keep us apprised.  We`re going to be watching routinely. 

GOELMAN:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thanks.  All right.  Much more ahead tonight.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  It is one of the tastier euphemisms in politics, I think just because it`s so shameless.  They call it the district work period, which is hilarious.  Really, in August, you must go do lots of work in your district.  Really, that`s your work period? 

What the district work period really is the gone fishing sign for Congress.  They hung out that sign and left town on July 29th expecting to be gone for the end of July, the entire month of August and a good chunk of September.  Nice if you can get it, right? 

Congress does get lots of breaks throughout the year.  But this district work period, their summer vacation is their longest break.  That said, though, Congress might be coming back sooner than expected, in part to address potential gun reform after this week`s mass shootings. 

And it seems like that same committee that could soon be handling gun reform may also be talking about something equally dramatic in the very near term and the chairman of that committee joins us next. 



ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR:  You`re saying this is exactly the same as what we all call formal impeachment proceedings by another name? 

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  This is formal impeachment proceedings.  We are investigating all the evidence.  We gather the evidence and we will at the conclusion of this hopefully by the end of the year, vote to -- vote articles of impeachment to the House floor or we won`t.  That`s a decision we`ll have to make.  But that --


MADDOW:  This is formal impeachment proceedings, according to the man who gets to say whether or not that is so -- the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York -- who joins us here now live on set. 

Mr. Chairman, it`s nice to see you.  Thanks for coming in.

NADLER:  Good to see you. 

MADDOW:  So, you said earlier this evening this should be seen as what we colloquially describe as impeachment proceedings.  Why has there been fuzziness or confusion as to whether or not that inquiry is under way? 

NADLER:  I don`t know.  We`ve made that clear.  I don`t think we should get hung up on semantics.  We`ve made it clear that the committee is holding an investigation.  We`re looking into the various charges of malfeasance, obstruction of justice, abuse of power by the president.  And we will -- we are considering what to do about it including possible voting of articles of impeachment. 

MADDOW:  When you said that you expect there will be a vote before the end of the year on whether or not to approve articles of impeachment? 

NADLER:  Well, if we decide to do articles of impeachment, we`ll have a vote.  If not, we won`t have a vote. 

MADDOW:  Why is the end of the year your time frame then? 

NADLER:  Well, that`s just approximate.  It`s an assumption as to when -- as to how long these court fights will take and hearings with various witnesses.  We`ll spend I assume September and October on hearings with witnesses that we don`t have to get through compulsory process in court.  Hopefully, the court proceedings will get us the witnesses like McGahn and others after the end of October.  And if that is correct, then that`s an approximate time frame. 

MADDOW:  And this lawsuit that you filed this week to try to compel Don McGahn`s testimony, to try to make him respect your subpoena, I have been describing this -- and I realize I`m describing this on the basis of other people like me describing this way, and I should check it out with you -- but the way that I look at this is that this is about getting McGahn`s testimony but it seems to me through this lawsuit, you were essentially trying to unlock what has been blocking other witnesses from testifying. 

NADLER:  That`s exactly right, that`s exactly right.  The legal issues in McGahn are exactly the same legal issues for Hope Hicks, Annie Donaldson, and all the other witnesses.  So when hopefully we win the McGahn lawsuit all the others will follow. 

The White House is asserting absolute immunity for presidential appointees which is an absurd claim and that`s essentially what they`re asserting, and we have to break this.  If the courts, God forbid, were to up hold such a claim, then never mind the impeachment, there`d be no congressional oversight of the executive at all because you could simply say anyone who deals with the president, anyone in the administration doesn`t have to testify at all.  And that would destroy the separation of powers.  It would essentially make the president unaccountable to Congress and therefore to the people and make him a king, which is exactly what the framers of the Constitution did not want to do. 

MADDOW:  Do you know what the -- what you are hoping for in terms of the time frame on a resolution of this McGahn case?  If this is so key to getting his testimony, if his testimony is key to your inquiry and on its own terms but also in terms of unlocking other witnesses so that you could hear from --

NADLER:  We don`t know the time frame.  We`ve ask that be expedited and one thing -- and we said in our papers, in an impeachment proceeding, which we said this is in our legal papers, you`re entitled to the highest degree of expedition because obviously of time considerations that aren`t present in normal oversight.  Hopefully, we get a decision from the lower court, I don`t know, a number of weeks, and from the court of appeals in a couple of months and hopefully it doesn`t go beyond that. 

MADDOW:  Within a couple of months, it`s already August, so it`d be September, October, if you`re looking at hopefully trying to be voting by the end of the year, if you decide to proceed with articles, that`s a quick time frame. 

NADLER:  Yes, it`s a quick time frame.  But again, I`m not saying the end of the year, could be sooner, could be later.  We have to do what we have to do.  By the way, we`re not limited nor will we be limited by McGahn and the other people I mentioned are very key to consideration of an impeachment for obstruction of justice and abuse of power, all of the things in the Mueller report. 

But we have other grounds we have to look into, too, and we`ll be holding hearings.  The violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, and just the fact of withholding or opposing congressional subpoenas, that was article 3 of the Nixon impeachment.  And here, he`s gone way further, even to the extent of saying we`ll oppose all subpoenas, which is another way of saying we don`t recognize the separation of powers and we are going to aggrandize power to the executive branch, which is core impeachable, and there are others, too.  So, we`ll be looking at all of these things. 

MADDOW:  Have you made decisions in your committee or have you as chairman made decisions as to what those various grounds are?  I mean, you just described several.  Has that been the process? 

NADLER:  No.  People obviously are suggesting various different grounds and we`ll have to prioritize which we look into and investigate and make decisions as the next few months go on. 

MADDOW:  And how does that process work in your community?  How do you run your committee from making important decisions like that?

NADLER:  Well, the members of the committee and staff will talk to each other. 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh.

In terms of this being a point of discussion and consternation on having a lot of political impact, apart from the substance of these potential articles of impeachment that you may be looking at, there`s been so much discussion as to whether or not this is politically wise for Democrats and whether there`s political appetite for it.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been broadly described as being against this as a step, and she`s described herself that way, broadly speaking. 

Can you tell us about your discussions with the speaker on this and whether she supports what you`re doing?

NADLER:  All I think I should say is that every court filing we`re making, every assertion that we need this information for impeachment consideration, et cetera were signed off on by the speaker.  The House counsel is bringing these lawsuits.  The House counsel reports to the speaker not to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.  I mean, we asked the House counsel what to do, but I can`t tell them what to do. 

So, the speaker is going -- the speaker wants to vindicate the Constitution and she`s been very direct in that, and so do we.  I mean, political consideration aside, we must protect the Constitution.  This is probably one of the worst crises we face in the constitutional loss since after the Civil War, in terms of aggrandizing of power to the executive, in terms of denial of congressional power and separation of powers, in terms of the president asserting powers he doesn`t have and using them. 

We have to have limited government.  We have to have constitutional government and we -- and only Congress can do this.  So, we have to do this and the speaker understands that, and we will have to pursue it, regardless of the political consequences, although, obviously, we have to take politics into account. 

MADDOW:  It still sort of flummoxes me that the analysis that the president getting impeached would be good for the president.  But that`s --

NADLER:  I don`t think so.  I don`t think so. 


NADLER:  If -- again, you -- if we do our job properly, if we get the evidence, if we have very convincing evidence and convincing hearings and people understand what`s at stake, I don`t think there will be negative consequences for protecting the Constitution. 

MADDOW:  If you can stay with us, Mr. Chairman, I was just making fun of you for your colleagues for the long summer vacation, but I understand there`s a possibility it might be ending early.  I like to talk to you about that when we come back.

We`ll be right back with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler. 

Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  We`re back now live with House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler who at this point is the man of the hour. 

Sir, thank you for sticking with us. 

In addition to this impeachment discussion that we`ve been having, we have heard some reports that your committee may cut short the planned recess that you`re in right now in order to talk about potential gun reform legislation. 

Can you tell us anything about that? 

NADLER:  Well, remember, our committee voted back in February and the House passed back I think in February or March very substantial universal background check legislation for guns and something called the Charleston loophole, plugging up some loopholes in the background check laws, and it`s been over 160 days that it`s been sitting in the Senate and Mitch McConnell has not committed a vote.  We hope they will.

But what we did back in February was we took what we thought were the very easy bills, and we sent them over to the Senate.  We ought to add now bills we always thought we would do such as we wanted to give them the easy stuff first, but we`re very actively considering calling the committee back into session before -- during the district work period to consider bills on banning high capacity magazines, banning assault rifles, certain provisions to make sure that people convicted of hate crimes or domestic violence can`t get guns and various suggestions have been made by our members and others.

So, I think we -- more likely than not we`ll have -- we`ll have a committee meeting to vote some of these bills before the end -- before Labor Day. 

MADDOW:  Obviously, gun policy has been stuck --

NADLER:  Before the end of district work period. 

MADDOW:  Has been stuck for so long in the Republicans not wanting to do anything about it in this current moment of crisis in the country.  Republicans, particularly in the Senate, have suggested that they really want White House buy in on something and that would allow Republicans to vote for something.  Are there any bipartisan discussions even within your committee on some of these -- some of these lower hanging fruit measures related to guns? 

NADLER:  Well, there has been -- remember the Republicans, the president and Mitch McConnell I think, the president certainly said after Parkland that he was -- he was for universal background checks.

MADDOW:  Uh-huh.

NADLER:  And the NRA said, no, no, wait a minute, you`re not.  He said, OK, I`m not.

And now, I think we`re doing the same thing again.  But the pressure is really building up.  You know, for years, people were afraid of gun control legislation.  If you went against the NRA, expect in key -- very solid Democratic districts, you were toast. 

And yet, we had a couple people -- we had a number of people elected last year by campaigning specifically for gun control, Lucy McBath in our committee, various other people campaigned for gun control, for strong legislation, for bans on high capacity magazines and so forth.  And if you poll these things, background checks polls at 90 percent, the assault weapons ban polls at 70 percent.  So, I think that is breaking. 

There is a limit, you know, the president talks about mental health and other things.  The fact of the matter is, no other industrial country in the world has gun deaths more than two, 300 a year.  We have 39,000 a year.  You can`t tell me we`re several thousand times more mentally ill than Great Britain or France or Germany or Japan.  That`s a slander on the American people. 

There is one difference and that`s easy availability of guns without checking and I think people are finally with mass shooting after mass shooting after mass shooting, people are finally beginning to say enough already and I think even Republicans at some point have to cave in. 

MADDOW:  House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler, thank you for your time tonight.  This is an unexpectedly busy time, given that it`s supposed to be your work period.  Thank you for being here.  Appreciate it.

NADLER:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Oops, that does it for us tonight.  We`ll see you again tomorrow. 


Good evening, Lawrence.  I`m sorry, I`m in your real estate.                                                                                                                 THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END