CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris.
Enough news for you today?
HAYES: Busy, busy day. A lot going on.
MADDOW: I decided to take a nap most of the day. Just woke up five minutes ago. I`ve learned everything I know from the last five minutes of your show. Thank you.
HAYES: Ukraine, hmm.
MADDOW: Hmm, where is that again? Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
So, there are only two instances in American history in which a U.S. president has been impeached.
When Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868, that was the first time it had ever happened in U.S. history. It actually took them a couple of tries. They first voted on an impeachment resolution against Johnson in 1867. That failed.
They came back the next year and tried to impeach him again in 1868. That one stuck. But when those articles of impeachment that passed in the House, when those articles were conveyed over to the Senate for President Johnson to face trial, they couldn`t get a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict him and remove him from office.
And so, the effort to remove President Andrew Johnson from office failed, even though he was impeached in the House.
Basically the same dynamic at work in 1998. Just before Christmas, 1998, when the House of Representatives voted for only the second time in U.S. history to impeach the sitting U.S. president, who then was Bill Clinton. And again, in that instance, the House voted to impeach the president but then they had to convey the articles of impeachment over to the Senate and, once again, they could not persuade two-thirds of the Senate to vote to convict Bill Clinton and remove him from office. And so, again, that effort to remove him from office via the impeachment process, it failed even though Clinton was impeached in the House.
And those are our only two experiences in this country with a U.S. president being impeached. Both presidents Johnson and Clinton were convicted in the House, neither was convicted in the Senate. Neither was removed from office.
The one president who did leave office in the context of impeachment proceedings, of course, was Richard Nixon, but he left office of his own volition. He quit rather than face an impeachment vote that he was sure he would lose.
So, it is this kind of irony of our constitutional history that the one process the constitution gives Congress to remove a president from office for high crimes and misdemeanors, that process has been used twice to impeach a president. Neither of those guys got removed from office, though. The one guy who did basically get removed from office because of the threat of that process, he technically was never impeached.
So, anybody who tells you there`s a clear bright line in American history about how these things go and how the Constitution dictates these things go, it`s -- that`s sort of a civic fantasy. The way it works in real life is much more like a civic thriller. It`s got way more suspense to it. You can definitely count on a cliff hanger or two.
When the process starts, I`m not sure anybody who`s being honest can tell you how ultimately it`s going to end.
Today, when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced in an address to the nation that the House of Representatives is opening impeachment proceedings against president Donald J. Trump, she did make U.S. history. This is just something that hasn`t happened very many times in the course of our country. Because of that, I think we`re kidding ourselves if we think there`s some typical way this is supposed to go now.
There isn`t a typical impeachment process. There`s no way to say how history suggests this will unfold or how this thing would typically be handled, or what`s a departure from consistent previous precedent. There is constitutional guidance for what happens here, but there is very little historical precedent from which we can extrapolate.
And on top of that, on top of the fact that days like this have only ever happened a few other times in the history of our country, there are also specific peculiarities about this time, about this instance, but really interesting as factual matters, but they make it all the more suspenseful and all the more unpredictable in terms of how this is going to work out in the end and how this is going to unfold just from here on out.
I mean, let`s just start with the thing that was announced today by Speaker Pelosi. What exactly is the House going to do now, now that she has proclaimed that this impeachment process has started?
Despite earlier reports that today that Speaker Pelosi might be considering forming a special committee in the House, specifically for the purpose of drawing up impeachment articles against the president, at 5:00 Eastern today, when Speaker Pelosi made her announcement, she made clear that she isn`t forming any special new impeachment committee. Instead, she name- checked the chairman of these six committees, which apparently will each have their own role to play in this impeachment process going forward. -- the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, Oversight Committee, the Ways and Means Committee, the Financial Services Committee, we`re going to get some expert help over the course of this hour, including speaking with one of these committee chairs, to understand exactly what Pelosi has proclaimed here.
But as best as we can tell right now, the plan, I think, is for each of these six committees to pursue their own inquiries into potentially impeachable offenses by President Trump and then each of these committees is expected to present what they believe is their best case for articles of impeachment against President Trump on the subject matter that they have been investigating. So, all these committees will all give their potential articles of impeachment to the Judiciary Committee, to Jerry Nadler, who`s the chair of the Judiciary Committee.
If warranted, Nadler and the Judiciary Committee will then sort of formally compile these articles of impeachment that they will ask the House to vote on. And then the House will proceed toward an impeachment vote. So, that, we think, is the process, and in theory that all makes sense, right?
But how does that work in practice? What`s the timing on that? And what`s different now going forward from what`s already been happening in these committees? I mean, what is Nancy Pelosi`s specific expectation in terms of what those committees are going to do now?
And I ask that because all of those six committees right now, they`re all already pursuing various investigations of President Trump for a broad range of alleged bad behavior by him -- a lot of different things which could conceivably be construed as impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors when it comes to this president.
I mean, everything from whatever is going on with the president`s tax audit. The audit of his taxes is being investigated by the Ways and Means Committee under Chairman Richie Neal. Chairman Neal says a whistleblower has come forward to suggest that there`s been some sort of improper effort by someone inside the administration to interfere with the IRS` audit of the president`s taxes. Ways and Means Committee is already looking at that.
Over at the Financial Services Committee under Chair Maxine Waters, they are reportedly looking among other things at potential bank fraud and insurance fraud by this president, by his family, by his businesses.
In the Oversight Committee under Congressman Cummings, they`re investigating a whole bunch of different alleged behaviors by the president, any number of which could be impeachable, including whether he may have endangered national security by mishandling security clearance applications, including those for his children.
In the Intelligence Committee, they are also investigating a number of different allegations against the president, including continuing questions about the president`s involvement in the Russian election interference of 2016.
At the Judiciary Committee under Chairman Nadler, they are already actively investigating the president`s alleged efforts to obstruct the law enforcement and counterintelligence investigation into the Russia scandal. I mean, those things are all under way already in all of these six committees. They all implicate potentially impeachable behavior by the president, depending on what these ongoing investigations turn up.
Well, now, today, that Speaker Pelosi has made this historical announcement that impeachment proceedings are beginning against this president, and she`s made that announcement specifically in the context and with reference to these new allegations about the president and Ukraine. The president basically admitting that he solicited foreign help for his re-election effort from the country of Ukraine.
Well, are these six committees just supposed to look at matters related to the president`s interactions with Ukraine? Or are these six committees supposed to forward to the judiciary committee evidence of any potentially impeachable conduct by the president that they have been investigating, including on the subject of all those other topics that I just mentioned, things that they`re already looking at, right? If they`re supposed to do that, like let`s say the Oversight Committee turns up behavior by the president with regard to the security clearances for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump that actually rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors in the view of that committee, if they turn that up, are they supposed to forward that to the Judiciary Committee, too, for that also to be folded into these impeachment proceedings?
I mean, as interesting as I find say, for example, the Financial Services Committee investigating whether the president committed insurance fraud when he misstated his financial assets in order to get better deals on his insurance policies, I find that very interesting. I don`t have any reason to expect that that investigation is wrapping up imminently.
So as I said, we will try to get some clarity on this as to what changes in the investigating committees in Congress now that what they`re doing is part of an investigation proceeding that has been proclaimed today by the speaker of the House and that was proclaimed with specific reference to the president going to Ukraine to try to get help from them for his re-election effort.
What did become obvious over the course of today, I think, is that the story is moving very fast. I have written and torn up a lot of drafts of this show already today.
But just today, it`s been -- well, this whole thing has been going fast. I mean, you look at it even in the biggest, widest possible lens, it`s only been a week since it first came to light that the president and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, made these overtures to Ukraine, seeking dirt on President Trump`s potential Democratic opponent in the 2020 election. We have known about that literally for only a week. We only even knew that there was some sort of whistleblower complaint about something related to Trump for a few days longer than that.
While support for starting impeachment proceedings against Trump has been at a sort of low simmer among house Democrats for quite some time, there was a sort of relatively steady increase in the number of House Democrats who supported impeachment proceedings against the president since the Mueller report was published a few months ago. In the last 48 hours, the number of Democrats supporting impeachment proceedings has gone through the roof.
Now with Nancy Pelosi`s endorsement and her announcement today, the number of House Democrats supporting impeachment proceedings against President Trump is starting to look like it won`t -- it may not necessarily end up being unanimous, but it may be close. It`s already close to 200 at this point, 218 is a majority of the House which is all you need to actually impeach someone.
So this thing is developing fast. We clearly have an incomplete understanding as of tonight as to how the Democrats are going to proceed here and on what kind of a timetable. We`re going to be speaking, as I mentioned, with one of the chairs of one of the six committees that has been named as key to this process coming up live in just a moment.
We also, of course, have an incomplete understanding of the facts and the behavior by the president that has led very quickly to this moment. "The Washington Post" was first to report a week ago that an anonymous whistleblower from inside the intelligence community had come forward and filed a complaint with the inspector general of the intelligence community.
The inspector general reviewed that complaint, found it to be both credible and urgent. That should have set in motion a process by which that complaint was forwarded to Congress. The administration, the Justice Department and reportedly the White House apparently stepped in to stop the complaint from being conveyed to Congress.
Since then, we have learned through open source reporting that the whistleblower`s complaint not only had something to do with the president`s behavior specifically, it had something to do with the president making some kind of troubling promise to a foreign leader. Since that story first broke, the president has confirmed that in fact he did raise the issue of wanting some sort of investigation into Joe Biden when he was in communication with the president of Ukraine. The president initially denied that but then later confirmed that at basically the same time, he was also withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
So the White House and the administration have come up with a million different explanations for why that military aid was being withheld from Ukraine. They denied that it was being withheld at first. Then they admitted, OK, yes, we were withholding that aid. They said it was delayed by some sort of interagency process, whatever that means. Then they told some lawmakers that the aid was being withheld so the White House could try to gauge the effectiveness of the aid in Ukraine, a claim that reportedly struck some lawmakers as, quote, odd.
The president and Vice President Mike Pence then both claimed that the aid was being withheld because they wanted to make sure that Ukraine wasn`t too corrupt as a country, because you shouldn`t sent any money to a country that`s corrupt. Within 24 hours, that explanation from the president changed to what appeared to be a total non-sequitur from him, in which he said he was upset that Germany and France were also to give money to Ukraine alongside us. If you think about it, that`s a weird thing to be worried about, right?
Five minutes ago, your big worry was that nobody should be giving money to Ukraine because they`re corrupt. Now, you want to make sure that the French and the Germans are giving money to Ukraine too alongside us because we`re giving them money? I mean, these shifting and nonsensical explanations for why Ukraine was denied that military aid that had been approved by the Pentagon, that had been appropriated by congress, that presumably is fertile ground for Congress to investigate if they do want more information about what happened here and whatever it is that this whistleblower has laid out in his or her complaint that the administration is blocking from coming to Congress.
But honestly, one of the strange things about this moment in history, this rare day in history in which impeachment proceedings have been announced, one of the weird things about the way it`s happening now and the way it has broken open over the last few days is that Congress might not actually need to do an investigation here. I mean, they might not really need to figure out much more about whatever has gone wrong here simply because the admitted facts, the facts that are not in dispute anymore, are the basis for what you`d impeach him on, right?
I mean, it`s sort of an undisputed and admitted fact now that President Trump asked a foreign country to help him in his re-election bid by giving him dirt on Joe Biden. And the president personally intervened to withhold military aid from that country at the same time that he was making that request about Biden. In so doing, the president, according to the laws of common sense, created the impression in that foreign country that they wouldn`t get that life-saving military aid from our country unless they coughed up the help that Trump wanted for his campaign.
I mean, even if you know nothing else about this, you know that. That`s what`s known. That`s what`s the starting point. That`s what they`re conceding to.
Now, investigating all the circumstances around that would certainly turn up more interesting information, but the president`s behavior here is not in dispute. He went to a foreign country, asked them for help with his re- election effort. At the same time, he was personally intervening to deny military aid to that country, creating the impression in that country that they couldn`t get their military aid unless they helped him out with his re-election effort. That`s the starting point.
Now, are they going to investigate to flesh out more than that? Maybe. Do they need to? I don`t know. And so, the Democrats are now moving forward in a way that we don`t quite understand the contours of yet.
This historic announcement from Nancy Pelosi today has nevertheless already shaken loose a whole bunch of stuff already. When it was becoming apparent today that she was going to announce that there is now an impeachment proceeding under way into the president, the president announced that he would release the transcript of his July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian president, and that`s all fine and good. It should be noted that there`s no recording of that call. The supposed transcript of the call is just Trump White House notes on what happened in that call, so I`m not sure anybody has real high hopes for what might be in those notes from the call. If anything super incriminating did happen in that call, whether the White House would include that in the notes and then release them publicly.
Also today, the intelligence committee in the House and in the Senate, both of those committees announced today that they had been in touch with counsel for this unnamed whistleblower who had come forward with this troubling report about the president`s behavior. Both committees report that the whistleblower is seeking to make contact with the intelligence committees to presumably convey the substance of his or her complaint, even as the Trump administration has been trying to block that complaint from being handed over to Congress directly.
Well, the bipartisan leadership of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate and the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee in the House have both said in writing today that they would like to hear testimony from the whistleblower by the end of this week. By the end of this week, and it is already Tuesday.
We then got this release of documents from the whistleblower. It`s a letter to the director of national intelligence from the whistleblower`s lawyer.
Quote: Dear Acting Director Maguire: My firm represents a member of the intelligence community who has reported an urgent concern to the intelligence community`s inspector general. My client submitted a disclosure on August 12th through established procedures promulgated by law. Within the statutorily mandated period, the inspector general concluded that my client`s disclosure was both credible and urgent, as the underlying information disclosed meets the standards set forth under law.
In accordance with U.S. whistleblower law, I am providing you formal notice of our intent to contact the congressional intelligence committees directly. Accordingly, I request direction on doing so in accordance with appropriate security practices. I thank you in advance for your time and attention to this matter and I look forward to your forthcoming guidance.
So that`s dated today, a letter from the whistleblower`s lawyer to the DNI, to the director of national intelligence. The director of national intelligence has now written back in a letter that`s dated today. It starts off by saying that as far as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is concerned, this whistleblower complaint, quote, does not fall within the statutory definition of an urgent concern, meaning you`re not going to be protected by this process.
But then it gets really interesting. The DNI`s letter says, quote: Notwithstanding the inapplicability of the statute, it actually says the inapplicability of the statue, but I think he means statute. Notwithstanding the inapplicability of the statute to the present situation, we understand that your client seeks guidance on how to contact and directly share information with the congressional intelligence committees in a manner consistent with appropriate security practices.
Because your client`s complaint involves confidential and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the intelligence community, the president, we are consulting with other executive branch stakeholders before transmitting to you the guidance sought. We understand the time- sensitive nature of your request and expect that we will be able to provide actionable guidance soon.
In other words, this letter tonight from the director of national intelligence, from the general counsel in his office, says basically, we`re listening to the White House when it comes to the proper handling of this whistleblower complaint about the White House, which is not the way it`s supposed to go. You`re not supposed to go to the subject of the complaint to ask them for guidance in dealing with the complaint about them.
But with the director of national intelligence and the inspector general of the intelligence community both set to testify in open session before the intelligence community on Thursday morning on these matters, and with the speaker of the house having announced a formal impeachment proceeding against President Trump on this subject today, that has a way of calling on -- I don`t know -- I don`t feel like I`m qualified to say conscience in this matter. Maybe it calls on people`s better angels, maybe it calls on people`s worries about their own place in history on a day like today.
But here is how this letter ends from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Quote: Please know that the DNI`s highest priority is ensuring that the women and men of the intelligence community have everything they need to carry out their mission in support of our nation`s security. This includes supporting the rights of whistleblowers to provide information to Congress. I commend your client`s willingness to come forward to the inspector general and the director of national intelligence is committed to protecting your client from retaliation for that disclosure.
I also want to take this opportunity to state that we have every reason to believe that your client, our intelligence community colleague, has acted in good faith and fully complied with the law. Furthermore, we understand that your client has respected the confidential and privileged nature of the information while awaiting the guidance that your letter references.
Then it closes. Again, we will report back to you soon.
It`s quite a difference in tone there from what the president has been saying on Twitter and in other venues, questioning the patriotism of this whistleblower and suggesting that this is a person who`s just out to hurt the United States and is an enemy of this country. That said, unless the director of national intelligence is personally offering to be the bodyguard and defense lawyer for this whistleblower, this sort of personal assurance that I`ll make sure you`re not retaliated against, even though I`m declaring you to be outside the protection of the whistleblower law here, it may ring a little hollow to the whistleblower, him or herself. But you can see the change in tone there from the director of national intelligence. You can see maybe what counts as nervousness there, I don`t know.
You can see in any case that this question is being called. You can see now that this is not just spinning out as some other Trump -- norm-breaking Trump scandal that never goes anywhere. You can see now that this is the place where at least someone is finally trying to draw a line.
Tonight, as we were getting ready to go on the air, "Politico" and "The New York Times" broke the news that the White House is no longer just planning on releasing White House notes on the president`s call with the president of Ukraine, which is what they had said earlier today. Now they are reportedly preparing to release the whistleblower`s complaint to Congress, at least some iteration of it.
Joining us now is one of the reporters who broke that story, Washington correspondent for "The New York Times", Michael Schmidt.
Mr. Schmidt, thank you for being here. It`s nice to see you. Thanks for coming in.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, I know that since I printed out this version of your article and highlighted it and made plans to ask you about it, you have updated your story with more detail. What`s the latest?
SCHMIDT: The latest is that the White House realizes they`re in an untenable position and they have to disclose this stuff because stonewalling looks worse than what they think is in the complaint.
The other thing is that the president himself thinks that the Democrats have overplayed their hand here. And if this is disclosed, then it will take some of the heat off of him.
MADDOW: What do we expect them or what are they working on potentially releasing? Obviously, the president had said earlier in the day today that he wanted the transcript of the call, which means notes on the call released. That led to a lot of Democrats saying, no, we need to see the whistleblower complaint because we think it`s not just about the call, it`s about other matters and also because we want to see what the whistleblower believed about that call.
Now, the whistleblower`s complaint or some redacted iteration of it is going to be potentially released?
SCHMIDT: And the whistleblower himself would be able to go up to the committees that are now considering impeachment and speak with them. And if you think about it, and you think about -- you were pointing out before about sort of how these scandals get momentum or don`t get momentum, they`re at sort of the beginning here and trying to get momentum. And if they could get a fresh stream of evidence at the beginning, maybe they would be more successful than they have been in the past. We`ve seen them really struggle to get off the ground on a lot of different fronts.
MADDOW: What kind of risk is the whistleblower at? How much does room to maneuver does the whistleblower himself or herself have in terms of conveying this information to Congress? Obviously, that letter from the whistleblower`s counsel is interesting. We want to convey information directly to the committees and let you know we`re doing it. We want to do it in accordance with the law.
How much room to maneuver does this person have?
SCHMIDT: Well, there are some guidelines here where the director of national intelligence sort of has to OK the movement of this classified information to Congress. It just can`t be done without the sign-off there. That`s a technical thing.
I think a broader perspective, this whistleblower is exposed in a lot of different ways. The president could fire this whistleblower. The president is the head of the executive branch. That`s the whole issue at the center of this.
And when a whistleblower comes forward, who knows what happens. Sometimes, they can become heroes. Sometimes, they can see their credibility undermined. Sometimes, they can be attacked, doxed, anything. And there`s great risk there.
SCHMIDT: There`s a real personality in the type of person who`s a whistleblower.
MADDOW: Well, the -- but the whistleblower law if this complaint were being treated within the four corners of the whistleblower law, that would protect this whistleblower from being fired in retaliation from coming forward for something like it, wouldn`t it?
SCHMIDT: I guess it would. But I guess with Donald Trump, I just feel to consider al -- have feel like I have to consider all the possibilities here.
MADDOW: Because of that, though, if there`s an expectation that the president would defy even the whistleblower law to do something like that, I guess what I start thinking about is if the director of national intelligence says, no, I don`t give you the authority to bring this classified information to Congress and the whistleblower says, this is so important, this is so important that I knowingly put my job on the line, put my career on the line, stuck my neck out there to report it, and I`m going to defy those orders and show up and tell you anyway. I mean, clearly they would be risking criminal prosecution for exposing this information but --
SCHMIDT: But the public would certainly -- a certain portion of the public would rally around that whistleblower.
SCHMIDT: And it would become a political issue in many ways.
MADDOW: Mike, how much -- how settled is this at this point? Obviously, this is happening very quickly. We expect the inspector general and the DNI to be sitting next to each other at an open session in the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning and a closed session with the Senate Intelligence on Thursday afternoon. We saw a rapid evolution in terms of what the White House is willing to disclose or at least talk about disclosing today.
How settled is this?
SCHMIDT: That they`re going to put this information out?
SCHMIDT: Look, like anything in the Trump administration, I don`t think it`s settled until it`s done. When it`s done, it can change after the fact. So, yes, sure, he wants it to be out there. That`s what they want to do right now. But he could wake up tomorrow morning and realize that this transcript may look bad in other ways and, you know, Giuliani says maybe we shouldn`t do it and they don`t do it.
So it`s very fluid, but very similar to a lot of other things we`ve seen with them. You kind of have to sit back and cover it through the minutes.
MADDOW: Last question for you. I was struck, as you might have noted, by the tone of this letter from the director of national intelligence to the counsel of the whistleblower, essentially praising the whistleblower and acknowledging that person, our intelligence community colleague. So different from the tone the president has already taken attacking this person, describing them as a partisan, questioning their patriotism, questioning whether they`re even an American and all this stuff.
Is there a fight here between the president and the acting director of national intelligence who he just recently appointed?
SCHMIDT: Not that we know of, but it is true. There is a difference of body posture on this issue.
SCHMIDT: Even if you -- as you read between the lines there. And I think that they have seen the reaction to this. The reaction has been stronger than anything else that we`ve seen, certainly more significant than the Mueller report. More significant than pick your other thing that the president has done.
And my guess is that that woke up some folks in the city or at least in the administration to the severity of this issue.
MADDOW: Michael Schmidt, Washington correspondent for "The New York Times" -- playing an important role in breaking this continuing to break story.
Thanks for being here. It`s really good to have you here.
All right. I want to bring into the conversation now one of the chairs of one of the six committees that was mentioned today by speaker Pelosi when she made this announcement. When she announced a formal impeachment inquiry into the president today, she listed off the six committees that have been investigating the president already. She said those half dozen committees will continue investigating him, but now under the umbrella of an impeachment inquiry.
I have a lot of questions about how this is going to work and what we should expect to see next.
I`m very pleased to say that joining us now live is Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who is the chair of the Financial Services Committee.
Chairwoman Waters, thank you so much for making time to be with us tonight.
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): You`re welcome. Delighted to be with you.
MADDOW: So, this has been a very fast-moving day. I want to start just by getting your top line reaction to the events of this day and to this announcement by the speaker.
WATERS: Well, I`m absolutely supportive of the way in which the speaker has provided the leadership to get into this formal impeachment inquiry. I`ve known for some time that the president of the United States had been in violation of what is expected of a president, and I could count any number of reasons why I think he should have been impeached.
And it seemed as if this latest revelation by the whistleblower has caused others to join me in saying that there should be an impeachment inquiry. This has kind of -- he went over the line. It`s like a thousand nicks, and he`s finally stepped into a situation with the whistleblower where people are tending to believe that there`s a lot to this.
And so, the speaker has moved very decisively. She now knows that she has the support of most of the caucus, and she has formalized the impeachment inquiry. And I support that.
MADDOW: In terms of that formalization of the inquiry, I wonder if you could share with us some of how this is going to work. Obviously, your committee is key here. Your committee has already been investigating a number of allegations about the president related to the remit of your committee, financial services.
When the speaker said today that your committee and five others are going to pursue these matters and then essentially forward potential articles of impeachment to the Judiciary Committee for them to collate and make a decision on, do you expect that that means that everything that you`ve been investigating the president for already will be wound up in this impeachment proceeding --
MADDOW: -- or are you specifically focusing on this Ukraine issue?
WATERS: Well, no, here`s what I understand. I understand that all of the chairs of the six committees will be involved in basically coming up with what should be articles of impeachment based on the work that we have been doing. Some will have more to say about what those articles should be based on the work that they have been doing, some will say less. And we will agree basically what those articles should be based on our experiences that we`ve had with our investigations and that will be what the Judiciary Committee will be working with.
MADDOW: Can you tell us anything about the expected timeline there, either in terms of when you and your fellow chairs are expected to meet to talk together about these matters or when this overall is something that we should expect to come to fruition?
WATERS: Well, it`s going to move very quickly. We met today and we will be meeting perhaps tomorrow, programs the next day. But it`s going to move quickly.
MADDOW: When do you expect the Judiciary Committee might be considering potential articles of impeachment?
WATERS: I don`t have that information, but I do expect that the Judiciary Committee is prepared to move very quickly.
MADDOW: Madam Chair, one last question for you. In terms of the investigations that you have been pursuing thus far, and I know some of that has brought you into court. You`ve been involved in litigation to try to shake loose documents that your committee has been seeking.
Do you feel that you have the support you need to -- and the resources that you need to get answers to the questions that you have been pursuing? Do you feel that you have the support and the resources that you need to follow this new process that you`re describing with regard to this new impeachment proceeding?
WATERS: Well, let me just say that we have been seeking documents relative to Deutsche Bank and his involvement with the president of the United States, but we`ve also been seeking documents from several other banks. We are getting information in. The information that we`re seeking that directly speaks to the relationship between Deutsche Bank and Trump, we don`t have yet. It is still under litigation.
Now, remember -- if you remember, we sought subpoenas, we got subpoenas, we got support for that. That has been absolutely opposed by the Trump lawyers, and so now we`re still in court. And we have to follow the court processes.
No, I don`t have all of the information that I need in order to move forward with specific language that would go into the impeachment inquiry.
MADDOW: Given what you`re describing about how fast this is moving, this specific new proceeding announced today by the speaker. As far as I remember from looking at the congressional calendar, a new recess for Congress I think is supposed to start on Friday of this week.
Do you know if there`s any consideration to potentially cancelling that recess in order to keep this proceeding going rather than taking a break so soon after it starts?
WATERS: I know that a discussion has started on that. I don`t know that it will happen, that we will not be in recess. But I know that that is under discussion.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the chair of the Financial Services Committee in the House -- Madam Chair, thank you so much for taking time to be with us tonight.
WATERS: You`re so welcome. Thank you.
MADDOW: I appreciate it.
All right. In terms of very next steps, I said at the top this is a still developing story. It`s been such a remarkable news day to see this story just break open from the first inklings that the Democrats might be taking this big step to some understanding of what the contours of that step might be, to see this blossoming number of Democrats in the House start to proclaim themselves as in favor of these types of impeachment proceedings and then to see these developments as this announcement from Speaker Pelosi has led to so many new marginal advancements in terms of what we`re allowed to know and what is supposedly being released to Congress and the public.
The story continues to develop even since we`ve been on the air tonight. NBC News is now reporting that the White House does intend to give Congress the whistleblower complaint, at least a version of the whistleblower`s complaint by Thursday. The complaint will reportedly go through a classification review and then Congress will get it.
I mean, bottom line here, we haven`t known about this whistleblower`s existence or about this complaint for very long. The complaint was reportedly filed on August 12th. It`s a member of the intelligence community who was reportedly disturbed by something he or she observed when it came to President Trump and his contact with foreign leaders. That whistleblower conveyed that information by the process that he or she was supposed to under law in a way that should protect him or her from retaliation up to and including losing his or her job or being prosecuted.
The White House then apparently intervened to stop that complaint from being conveyed to Congress. That has led to these two twin stories. The stymieing of the congressional oversight process, including what is supposed to be a sacrosanct legal whistleblower regime and whatever it is that so upset that whistleblower in the first place.
If the whistleblower`s complaint is conveyed to Congress because of this announcement from Nancy Pelosi today, both of those matters will make serious progress both in terms of the obstruction and in terms of the content here. It`s amazing what a little focus will do to what had previously seemed like a real impasse on a story this big.
All right. Lots to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`re continuing to follow the fallout over the president`s handling of Ukraine, this allegation that he leaned on Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political opponent in advance of his re-election effort.
The story keeps unfolding not in dribs and drabs over the course of today but sort of in buckets, because there is on top of everything else a presidential campaign going on in the middle of all of this, and not just the president`s campaign.
There was a chorus of reaction from 2020 Democratic candidates after Nancy Pelosi today formally launched this impeachment investigation against President Trump. It was also a good illustration of just how fast this thing is moving.
For example, just last week, candidate Andrew Yang, former tech executive and entrepreneur in the 2020 primary, Andrew Yang just a week ago said he was for impeachment but he called it impractical to try to do it without the votes in the Senate to successfully remove the president from office.
Now after a week of fresh reporting on this president and his involvement in the Ukraine scandal, Mr. Yang as of today has a fresh take. Quote: Given the president`s latest actions, I think impeachment is the right path forward. Asking foreign leaders for political help in return for aid and then suppressing your own agency`s inquiry is egregious. There have to be limits and Congress is right to act.
I have spoken to a lot of the 2020 presidential candidates. I have never before had a conversation with Andrew Yang, but I`m very happy that he is here in studio tonight.
Mr. Yang, thank you so much for being here.
ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, it`s great to be here. I wish that we had a busy news day to talk about.
MADDOW: I know. Unfortunately, we can just chitchat for 20 minutes or so because there`s nothing happening.
MADDOW: I will -- actually, let me just say this out loud, even though I said this to you off camera. Because we haven`t spoken before, I would love to do a long format interview with you where you`re here for most of the show, mostly because I have lots of questions to ask you. In this case, you got squoze a little bit by this breaking news, but I promise you`ll come back for a longer discussion.
YANG: Thank you. And, obviously, I mean, it is a historic occasion. So, I just feel fortunate to have this conversation with you.
Well, let me get your reaction to what`s happened today. Obviously, this - - what happened over the last few days and today shifted you a little bit on this question of the president`s liability and whether he should be pursued with an impeachment proceeding.
How have you evolved on this issue? What do you think about this latest news?
YANG: You know, I`m -- I`m in lock-step with Nancy Pelosi. Where I think she was reluctant earlier to pursue impeachment because she thought it would run aground in the Senate, and then there would end up being this -- this motivating or galvanizing force for Donald Trump supporters, how he`s being persecuted unfairly. And then after you impeach him if it doesn`t work, then it`s hard to impeach him again.
And so, I think these were some of the things that were going through Nancy Pelosi`s head. They were going through my head. But then this past week when we saw just how far he`s willing to go even now after we had already investigated his collusion with foreign powers, I feel like Nancy Pelosi felt she had no choice but to move forward and I agree with her.
MADDOW: In terms of -- I have been thinking of this as collusion 2, Electric Boogaloo, that this is the president turning around -- I mean, literally, the day after Mueller testified, to say that he`s willing to try -- he didn`t get nailed for it, for what happened with Russia, he`s willing to try it with Ukraine.
I guess the part of the strategic calculation the Democrats have to make here is whether or not this is something that they should investigate, spell out everything that happened behind it, get to the bottom of everything, or should they just consider this the president has admitted to, publicly admitted behavior. Is that enough to just move forward with impeachment proceedings regardless of what else happened around this?
YANG: Well, I think this is a great catalyst, but I believe one of the benefits of impeachment is that we can unearth new details about any of the myriad avenues of investigation that maybe individually might not have led to impeachment.
YANG: But I think this is in many ways an opportunity for us to see just what`s been going on after you turn over the rocks.
MADDOW: In terms of the president`s behavior here, your initial reaction about this. That if he`s not removed from office by this process, that it might politically bolster him, might make him more effective in the 2020 campaign, might make him be able to turn sort of a persecution complex into more support from his base -- do you just feel more relaxed about those concerns or do you feel like they can`t be operative given the seriousness of what -- the thing he`s accused of?
YANG: I think it`s the latter, where at some point, you have to exercise your constitutional authority and utilize the checks and balances system to say, look, this is a country that has the rule of law and that you can`t have your president colluding with foreign powers and putting pressure on them in return for aid against political rivals.
At some point, you have to do the right thing, even if the political calculation isn`t necessarily in your favor.
MADDOW: Uh-huh. In terms of the Democratic field -- obviously, you`ve had a slow and steady rise in the polls. You got -- in a national poll, you came in at 8 percent today.
YANG: Yes, I like that one.
MADDOW: Yes. So, I was going to say, it`s the highest standing that you`ve had in a national poll, put -- leaving in the dust a lot of your fellow candidates who have held elective office before when you haven`t.
Obviously, you have to be really happy with where your campaign is right now. And I feel like it`s been sort of an important stylistic difference in the campaign that some candidates have talked about Donald Trump as being a really singularly bad thing for the country, somebody who sort of hit the country like a lightning strike. Whereas other candidates have talked about the country as being sort of sick enough to elect Donald Trump in the first place and that he should be seen as a symptom rather than a singularly bad thing.
Where do you come down on that?
YANG: I`m very much in the camp that Donald Trump is a symptom but he`s not the cause of all of our root problems.
YANG: If you dig in, you see that 78 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. We automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs in the swing states, and now, 30 percent of America`s stores and malls are closing because of Amazon. And being a retail clerk is the most common job in most of the country.
Even if we were to get rid of Donald Trump in 2020, and I frankly expect him to be there and to beat him at the ballot box, then we have to do the hard work of reversing many of the problems that got him elected in 2016.
MADDOW: If you had the choice between running against Donald Trump or running against Mike Pence because Donald Trump just got removed --
YANG: Oh, no (ph), you just said that, President Pence.
MADDOW: President Pence. I mean, I doubt that Donald Trump is going to get removed by the impeachment process, but today has been a weird day.
If you, Andrew Yang, had the choice of running against Donald Trump, president, or Mike Pence, president, who do you think you`d have an easier time beating?
YANG: I would be thrilled to be running against Mike Pence because that means that Donald Trump has been out of office for some period of time. That would require 20 Republican senators to have a change of heart, which as you suggest, you know, I don`t see happening. But if that were to happen, I`d be there celebrating alongside many other Americans.
MADDOW: Andrew Yang, thank you for being here on this very, very busy day. I look forward to having another opportunity to talk to you in this exact same place and I look forward to seeing you at the debate next month.
YANG: Thanks. I`ll see you soon, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot. Really appreciate it. Thanks.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, on the one hand, Democrats launched impeachment proceedings against President Trump today, a historic day. And as we have been covering, this story is still evolving right now as I speak.
The basics are these: a whistleblower who works on the U.S. intelligence community came forward with information about something related to President Trump, we don`t know, because we don`t know who the whistleblower is, and we haven`t seen the complaint.
But the whistleblower went through legal channels in a way that should have protected him or her from retaliation or from prosecution, and that should have resulted in their complaint, that information being conveyed to the Congress. That didn`t happen, because the White House, with an assist from the Justice Department, nevertheless despite the law, tried to block this whistleblower`s complaint from being conveyed to Congress.
Well, tonight with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proclaiming that impeachment proceedings are now underway against the president on this matter, that seems to be shaking loose.
We have news that the whistleblower has tried to make contact with the intelligence committees him or herself, that the intelligence committees both want to hear testimony from that whistleblower by the end of the week. We have information from open source reporting tonight, from "Politico", "New York Times," NBC News and others, that the White House is starting to cave on whether or not at least some version of the whistleblower`s complaint will finally be conveyed to Congress.
There is also word from the president himself that some White House notes on a call between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine may be released tomorrow. Whether or not people are going to trust White House notes on that call or whether or not that`s going to be seen as a primary document remains to be seen, but all of this stuff is shaking loose, and this story continues to develop. And while all of that has been happening today, a whole bunch of other stuff has happened with regard to presidential scandals and indictments adjacent to and related to the president in the Russia scandal.
Today, for example, a judge in the eastern district of Virginia vacated the conviction, basically tossed out the conviction of Mike Flynn`s former business partner, a man named Bijan Kian. Bijan Kian was convicted in July by a jury, convicted on charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent when he and Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn took on the project for Turkey. Well, despite the jury`s ruling today, the judge in this case today threw out the indictment, citing insufficient evidence. And so, the Bijan Kian conviction today has been essentially wiped off the books. Fascinating.
We also learned today that the U.S. Justice Department has dropped what was reported to be an ongoing investigation of Tony Podesta and Vim Weber after two years of running that investigation. These were essentially lobbyist and PR guys who were potentially going to be charged along the same lines as Greg Craig for having participated in a scheme in Ukraine involving the president`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Paul Manafort is in jail. Greg Craig was tried before a jury. His was the first jury trial to end in an acquittal from anything derived from the Mueller investigation. Now in the wake of Greg Craig being acquitted before a jury, Podesta and Weber say the Justice Department has also told them that they are not going to be charged at all.
We also tonight have some indication, although we haven`t been able to confirm it with any court filings or documents yet, but we`re getting reports from conservative media tonight that Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn might have told the House Intelligence Committee that he`s taking the Fifth. He`s invoking his Fifth Amendment rights and refusing to testify to the House Intelligence Committee despite them demanding that he do so.
It is remarkable for any witness to take the Fifth before Congress. It`s remarkable in its own right. It is particularly remarkable when that same witness is right now awaiting sentencing on federal felony charges before a federal judge.
And tonight, we have also been covering over the last few days this remarkable sort of under the radar story in which President Trump himself has been ordered by a New York judge to testify, to give testimony in a trial. It`s a personal injury case involving President Trump`s bodyguard who was involved in a physical altercations outside Trump Tower in 2015 during the presidential campaign. President Trump is named as a defendant in that case.
As of last night, as we reported here, President Trump has been ordered to testify in that trial. The president had been ordered to give videotaped testimony. Well, today, there was a court hearing in that case. The judge decided to delay that trial until the first week in October. As of right now, though, President Trump`s testimony looks like it is still expected, even if it is not expected literally tomorrow, which is what could have happened had the judge not made that delay today.
So, all this happening on the same day that the House proclaims impeachment proceedings. I have a feeling I`m not going to sleep tonight.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I`m officially standing in Lawrence O`Donnell`s real estate. I apologize.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it is time for Lawrence`s show, "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Mr. O`Donnell.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END