IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Public impeachment hearings begin tomorrow. TRANSCRIPT: 11/12/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Public impeachment hearings begin tomorrow. TRANSCRIPT: 11/12/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Thanks, my friend.  Much appreciated. 

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  You bet, absolutely.

MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well. 

Here at MSNBC, we work closely with, we work alongside -- physically alongside our NBC news colleagues.  But that does not always mean we have any inside information about what exactly they`re doing on the network side and what they`re working on, and vice versa.  You know, whatever we`re working on and whatever we`re developing, they might not have, you know, total transparency. 

As such, when NBC News broadcasts it special report tomorrow morning on the impeachment proceedings against President Trump, the first public impeachment hearings in the impeachment proceedings against President Donald J. Trump and when that NBC News special report tomorrow morning is anchored by Lester Holt from "Nightly News" and NBC`s chief legal correspondent, "Today Show" host Savannah Guthrie, and Chuck Todd from "Meet the Press" -- I mean, yes, we all work in the same together.  Yes, we are all part of the same big happy family, but I can`t tell you exactly what that NBC news special coverage is going to look like. 

That said, I can pretty much guarantee you it will not have a theme song as cool or as oddly ponderous and artistic as the way NBC News played its special theme song and lead-in to the impeachment proceedings in 1973 for then-President Richard Nixon, because that was all covered with NBC News special reports, too.  But have you seen this?  This was -- they like developed a whole theme song. 

This was like the opening credits to the Watergate hearings. 


ANNOUNCER:  NBC News special report. 


ANNOUNCER:  Watergate: Senate Hearings.  Here from Washington is NBC News correspondent Garrick Utley. 

GARRICK UTLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good morning.  This is the Senate caucus room in Washington, D.C., and it`s jammed this morning, jammed with spectators, newsman, senators and their aides.  And the scene adds to the sense of drama as the Senate opens with what is likely to become the most serious investigation it has ever made, an investigation of the American political system and the presidency itself. 

The name of the investigation is Watergate because that is the name of the building where the Democratic Party offices were located, offices that were broken into last year.  But the investigation that begins today will go far beyond that incident.  The senators will also be asking questions about other acts of political sabotage in last year`s presidential campaign.  And they`ll be asking about the money, secret cash that finance the sabotage, where it came from and how it was used.  That is the Senate committee, seven members headed by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina. 


MADDOW:  That`s NBC News correspondent Garrick Utley off camera but doing like live color, live play by play of the NBC news special report on the first day of the Watergate hearings, may 17th, 1973.  Having to kind of vamp there a little bit as everybody is getting seated.  No more pictures, no more pictures, OK, they`re convening the hearing. 

And tomorrow morning, every network will do their own version of this special report, right?  As I just mentioned NBC News is going to have their whole senior crew doing their special report.  Again, 46 years and a half on from the way it looked on Watergate. 

Here in MSNBC, Brian Williams and Nicolle Wallace, they`re going to be co- anchoring MSNBC`s special coverage starting at 9:00 a.m.  All of the networks are going to be doing something like this. 

But as you can see from this vintage testimony from `73, the fact we have done this so few times in American history means it`s hard to see any of this as normal, right?  It`s hard to extrapolate what we`ve already been through to know exactly what it ought to be like when these hearings kick off tomorrow.  There`s nothing you can look at from `73 or from any other impeachments that can tell you how it`s likely to go this time. 

For example, I can tell you I don`t think they`re going to run that theme music in the opening again.  I will say, it`s cool enough I want to take it for this show.  What we need on this show is more tympani, I`ve always thought so.  Watergate. 

Anyway, but as we head into the start of the public impeachment hearings against President Trump tomorrow, I do think there`s an almost forgotten element of how this was handled in Watergate that is maybe a bit instructive for what we`re about to see tomorrow.  And that is for all the drama, for all the gravitas and momentum for that moment, that sort of nationwide, show stopping suspense as to what would happen at those Watergate hearings and how they would go, what we`d all learn. 

For all that buildup to that first day, that first public hearing in Watergate, do you want to know who they called their first witness that first day, in the eyes of every single sentient human in America were on this TV broadcast, their first witness they called on the big opening day was the office manager whose name you will not recognize today.  But even at the time nobody recognized his name then either. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Councilman, call the first witness. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Will Mr. Robert Odle please come to the witness table? 


MADDOW:  Robert Odle.  See, they didn`t choreograph this for maximum drama.  This is the first witness.  They didn`t have the first witness sitting anywhere near the witness table or the front of the room.  He`s got to make his way through the whole crowd.  Obviously, he`s also wearing his father`s suit. 

So there`s this choice they made to bring up their very, very young man to be the first witness in the Watergate hearings.  Nobody has ever heard of him.  They were not trying to wow the country coming out of the gate with some big explosive witness or some big, very well-known witness right at the top of the hearings. 

They knew everybody in the country was watching.  The anticipation could not have been more dramatic, and they bring on this 29-year-old kid who had been the office manager for the Nixon re-election campaign.  And what they had him do for most of his testimony is they literally had him take out of a pointer, you see him holding the microphone there and holding a pointer, and he walks through the organizational chart of how the Nixon re-election campaign was organized.  Who was running it, who was running security, who was deputy to who, where did everybody sit? 

The morning after that first hearing, the front page of "The New York Times" had Robert Odle Jr., there he is, age 29, on the front page of "The New York Times" pointing at the org chart for the Nixon re-election campaign.  It might not have been the blockbuster beginning that the country had been hoping for.

But looking back at that now and especially knowing how things unfolded over Watergate, it kind of looks like that might have been a good way to start on day one.  It just made sense in terms of setting the stage for what the whole country was going to learn.  As those hearings would ultimately stretch on and on, through the late spring and into the summer, those hearings almost lay the groundwork for the president`s resignation the following year. 

But they brought on the office manager for the campaign at the very start of the Watergate hearings.  And the effect of that was to introduce someone to the country who was totally normal and who was not involved of any of the criminal behavior at the heart of this scandal.  Someone who wasn`t even necessarily a witness to the core and most serious wrongdoing that Congress was investigating in Watergate.  I mean, by starting with him, by starting with this guy, Bob Odle, the Watergate committee essentially calibrated our moral vision for what we were about to learn. 

They started us off with a normal law-abiding person who hadn`t done anything wrong, somebody who is behaving in a normal, rational law-abiding manner.  In so doing, through his eyes, we could see how abnormal the president`s behavior was and how abnormal was the behavior of the president`s henchman, how wrong and weird and inappropriate it all was when these crimes started to happen, and when the criminal conspiracy kicked in to try to cover up those crimes. 

I mean, as much as President Nixon at the time and his defenders might have wanted to characterize his actions as normal politics, everybody does it, nothing to see here.  Through the eyes of a normal person trying to do his job, caught up in the middle of this, you could actually see through him, that first witness actually this wasn`t normal at all, this was totally weird and wrong. 


ROBERT ODLE:  One of the things that happened, and I very honestly don`t know if it happened before or after the phone call, is I saw Mr. Liddy as I testified at the trial. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did he call you?

ODLE:  No, sir, nobody called anybody.  I saw him in the hall. 


ODLE:  And he asked me where the paper shredder was. 


ODLE:  The paper shredder.  The paper shredder was a very famous big paper shredder. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Was there a big paper shredder -- was there more than one? 

ODLE:  Yes, sir. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And he asked where the big paper shredder is? 

ODLE:  Right. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you ask him why he wanted to know? 

ODLE:  No, sir, I didn`t.  I said it`s in there. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did he have anything with him? 

ODLE:  Not at that time.  He later came out and said how do you work it, and I said you press the button.  And then later on, I saw him with a pile of papers perhaps a foot high. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And what was he doing with it? 

ODLE:  He was on his way in the shredding room. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you see him shredding the paper?

ODLE:  No, but I assume that he was going to shred them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you shred papers of that sort and that quantity regularly? 

ODLE:  No, sir, I don`t. 


ODLE:  Well --


MADDOW:  Well, well.  Is it normal to be shredding a foot tall pile of paper at the president`s re-election campaign headquarters just after we learn there`s been a mysterious break in into one of our opponent`s offices.  Well, I mean, it was not normal for me, sir.  Normal?

That was the first witness in the televised public Watergate hearings which ultimately led to President Richard Nixon`s resignation.  The office manager in the re-election campaign, right, who is just, earnest just trying to do his job, not caught up in Nixon`s crimes until that he saw some of the residue of the crimes and that criminal behavior around him in this office he was managing.  And he was able to describe on that first day of hearings the sort of creeping revelation that something was wrong. 

He was able to describe that through the eyes of somebody who hadn`t really expected anything to be wrong and who himself was not in on any of the crimes.  Do you see how that`s sort of like a moral calibration, right, rather than starting with a villain, rather than starting with somebody who`s got an axe to grind?  Starting with somebody that happens to be there, whoa, what`s going on here? 

Tomorrow, the impeachment hearings against President Trump, only the fourth impeachment proceedings against a sitting president in the United States.  Tomorrow they will not start with the campaign office manager, but they are going to start with two witnesses.  The current top diplomat for the U.S. government in Ukraine.  You may remember he was sent on short notice after America`s previous ambassador for that country got recalled from her post which is apparently part of the scheme for which President Trump is now impeached.  They needed her out of there so she wouldn`t stand in their way for what they were trying to get the Ukraine government to do. 

We`re going to hear from that recalled ambassador on Friday of this week.  But tomorrow, we`ll hear from the veteran diplomat who was called in on short notice to take her place after she was fired and his name was Ambassador Bill Taylor.  And we`ll also hear tomorrow from the top career official at the State Department who has responsible for Ukraine, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent. 

And as far as we understand it, these two witnesses are going to be seated at the same time, so presumably next to each other at this witness hearing.  It will held in a large committee hearing room at the Longworth House Office Building, which is really ornate, really large room.  It sometimes can be mistaken for the House chamber.  It`s a big room you can fit a lot of people in, and it`s very fancy. 

The proceedings will start tomorrow morning.  Doors will open at 9:45 for people to take their seats, and for the press to get into their positions.  And then 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, the hearings will be gaveled into order.  There will be opening statements from California Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff who chairs the intelligence committee and after him there`ll be an opening statement from Devon Nunes, who`s the top Republican on that committee. 

And after their opening statements, both of the witnesses, Bill Taylor and George Kent, will be sworn in.  There`ll be time for them to give opening remarks as well although we don`t know if either of them will do so.  And then the question will start.

Technically, the first 45 minutes of questioning on each side belongs to the top Democrat and top Republican on the committee, again Adam Schiff and Devin Nunes.  But at least Schiff, if not both of them are expected to give up most of that time, to cede most of that opening 45 minutes for each side to lawyers who have been hired by the committee in part with an eye towards this process.  So, Adam Schiff and Devin Nunes can take back any of that time they want.  They can do any of that questioning themselves, but we`re expecting in all likelihood it`ll start after those opening statements, 45 minutes by the lawyer on the Democratic side and 45 minutes by the lawyer on the Republican side. 

For those of us who are going to be watching this at home trying to follow along, that`s probably a blessing.  It means there`ll at least be continuity at the start.  They`ll be continuity of purpose in questioning that is not continuously interrupted by needing to flip to a new questioner every few minutes, right?  That`s how it`ll start, two 45-minute chunks from Democrats and Republicans.

And after that, we`ll get into that disorienting rhythm where each member on the committee, all the remaining 20 members of the committee, 13 Democrats and nine Republicans including the chair and ranking member on each side, all the remaining members will each get five minutes to do their questioning.  Thereafter it`ll ping-pong back and forth between the Democratic and Republican members. 

And so, we shall see how all that goes.  I can`t wait, like I don`t know how I`m going to sleep tonight in part because this is historic thing.  There aren`t very many Americans since the history -- since the origins of our country who have lived through an impeachment.  Just hasn`t happened very many times in our history as a country. 

To be here for it, let alone to have the privilege to cover it as a news story is humbling and exciting thing. 

We also learned late tonight just before getting on the air tonight a little bit more about the overall schedule for these hearings after tomorrow.  This first one tomorrow, George Kent and William Taylor are the witnesses.  We`ve known for several days now that the second hearing will be Friday of this week with that ambassador recalled from Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. 

But just tonight, Chairman Schiff announced the next several days of impeachment hearings which will be next week Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  But they`re divided into morning and afternoon sessions. 

Tuesday in the morning, the public hearing will include testimony from Jennifer Williams.  She`s the only official from the vice president`s office who`s been called to testify thus far.  She`ll testify Tuesday morning alongside Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. 

He`s the active duty military office who serves as the top Ukraine official on the National Security Council at the White House.  He`s the lieutenant colonel in the Army who`s been vilified and attacked by Republican members of Congress and particularly by the conservative media.  He`s going to testify in public in these impeachment proceedings a week from today in that morning session with Jennifer Williams. 

And then on Tuesday morning -- excuse me, Tuesday afternoon next week, there`ll be a second session with two more witnesses.  Kurt Volker recently resigned as the U.S. government special envoy to Ukraine.  He resigned that job right after he was first summoned to testify with the impeachment. 

He`s going to testify publicly Tuesday afternoon alongside Tim Morrison, who`s an acolyte of John Bolton, recently fired as national security advisor.  Morrison is another senior national security official who has responsibility for Russia. 

And Wednesday morning next week, Ambassador Gordon Sondland will testify.  There`s been questions as to whether or not he`d be summoned for a public hearing given the reported problems for some of his closed door testimony.  Another one of his witnesses contradicted things he said in his testimony.  That led among other things to Sondland submitting a revision to his testimony where he said he suddenly recalled things he previously hadn`t recalled when he`d been asked about them under oath.  But he`ll be Wednesday morning on his own.

And then Wednesday afternoon, it`ll be Defense Department official Laura Cooper who will testify as well as David Hale who I believe is the number three official in the State Department. 

And Thursday of next week, yet another public impeachment hearing.  And again, as far as we know this one will feature a solo witness, Dr. Fiona Hill, whose deposition transcript honestly read like a spy thriller.  She before Tim Morrison was the top Russia official on the National Security Council.  She`s also just a veteran national security official in Washington who served multiple presidents. 

So all told, in terms of what we understand of this schedule, that means we`re looking at seven different public impeachment hearings that are now scheduled just between tomorrow and the end of next week.  Again, some of them will be broken down into two sessions per day.  But when things kick off tomorrow, I do think we`re going to see a little bit of a -- at least a conceptual parallel between how the Watergate hearings started back in `73 and how these hearings are starting tomorrow. 

Not because, you know, either of the witnesses we`re going to hear from tomorrow is the office manager, right?  Neither of these witnesses is Robert Odle Jr. and his, you know, dad suit and sitting in the back of the room and making his way down and holding the pointer, and no, I don`t usually shred stuff.   It`s not going to be -- I don`t think we`re going to recognize Mr. Odle in the characters that we see tomorrow as these witnesses.

But with both George Kent and Bill Taylor, the guys you are going to hear from tomorrow, you do have this sort of same dynamic at work that you had that the start of the Watergate hearings, which is that these public impeachment hearings are going to start with people who can attest to what normal is.  It`s going to start with people who know how things are done normally in the U.S. government and in U.S. foreign policy, who knows -- they know how normal policy disputes arise and are resolved.  And they know what U.S. policy is towards Ukraine and how it`s carried out. 

They`re both super high level subject matter experts in this area of the world in which they were both working for the State Department, which means they know how things are supposed to go.  They know how the U.S. government is supposed to work.  And they understand Ukraine.  They know the importance of those normal ways of doing things being abandoned.  They know the importance of our relationship with this country, Ukraine, being perverted for some self-serving, improper and possibly illegal purpose by the president and people who directed to act on his behalf. 

So they get not only what went wrong but what the stakes were of it, right?  These are two officials we`re going to hear from tomorrow who understood how things were supposed to be and who are almost uniquely qualified to recognize what was going wrong and what the cost of that would be, how much this scheme that the president was carrying out was going to screw up something that`s actually very important for our country. 

And we know they`re able to attest to that because of their biographies but also because of their deposition transcripts, from their closed door testimony.  Those transcripts have already been released.  I mean, here`s Bill Taylor staking his claim on that right at the start of his testimony, right in his opening statement, making clear what the stakes are here in terms of what the president messed with about what`s supposed to be normal here and how we`re supposed to be behaving towards this crucial ally and why it matters someone might have messed that up for their own purposes. 

Taylor says, quote: At the outset, I would like to convey several key points.  First, Ukraine is a strategic partner of the United States, important for the security of country as well as Europe.  Ukraine is right at this moment while we sit in this room and for the last five years under armed attack from Russia.  The security assistance we provide is crucial to Ukraine`s defense against Russian aggression.  And more importantly, it sends a signal to Ukrainians and the Russians that we are Ukraine`s reliable strategic partner. 

And finally, as the committees are now aware I said on September 9th in a text message to Ambassador Gordon Sondland that the United States withholding security assistance with Ukraine in exchange for help with a domestic political campaign in the United States, that would be crazy.  He says, quote, I believe that then and I still believe that. 

That is Bill Taylor testifying about what`s normal in terms of our relationship toward Ukraine and why it matters and why it would be crazy to throw that away, to screw that up, to upend that entirely for some domestic political gain that we`re trying to illegally extort out of that country for our own purposes. 

George Kent, sort of same deal.  I think George Kent is there tomorrow to calibrate, again, what is normal and how things are supposed to happen so we can see how radical and damaging the president`s behavior was when he came in and started messing around for his own purposes with this country with whom we have a very important relationship for a very important reason. 

Here is from George Kent`s testimony that we`ve already seen.  Quote: On August 15th, Catherine Croft came into my office and asked me -- she said she was trying to find out some information on behalf of special representative Kurt Volker.  She said, you, George, you know about our relations with Ukraine, particularly in law enforcement.  Have we ever asked the Ukrainians to investigate anybody? 

And I told her, well, Catherine, there are two ways of look at that question.  If there was a crime committed in the United States and there`s some nexus for us to take action, we have two mechanisms for that.  We have a mutual legal assistance treaty and we have the legal attaches of the embassy.  That`s a way a law enforcement investigation should engage the Ukrainians.

But then he says the other option, maybe what you`re asking is the political option.  And if you`re asking if we have ever gone to the Ukrainians and asked them to investigate or prosecute individuals for political reasons, the answer is I hope we haven`t, and we shouldn`t because that goes against everything we`re trying to promote in post-Soviet states in the last 28 years, which is the promotion of the rule of law. 

Kent says: And that was as I said August 15th.  The 16th, the next day, I had a conversation with Bill Taylor in which he amplified the same theme.  Taylor indicated that Special Representative Volker had been engaging an assistant to the Ukrainian president.  That President Trump and his private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, were interested in the initiation of investigations.  And I told Bill Taylor that is wrong, we should not be doing that as a matter of U.S. policy. 

The questioner then says what did he say, what did Taylor say? 

Kent answers, he said he agreed with me.  Quote: So after having these two conversations, I wrote a note to the file saying I had concerns there was an effort to initiate politically motivated prosecutions that were injurious to the rule of law, both in Ukraine and the United States.  Injurious to the rule of law there and here. 

And now, those two officials who had that conversation, who agreed that this was wrong, this is not the way this is done, there is a legal and proper way to engage with Ukraine on real investigations and real law enforcement matters if there is some real concern here under U.S. law. 

But that`s not what`s happening here.  Doing this for political reasons to try to affect political outcomes in the United States is wrong under U.S. law.  It`s also wrong and hurtful to this key ally of ours who at this moment is fighting a war with Russia, and we`re undermining them in that war with everything we are doing here. 

I mean, these are the two guys who maybe more than anybody get that.  And they will start the public impeachment proceedings against president Trump tomorrow.  And it is not going to be, you know, Bob Odle standing there with a pointer pointing at an org chart for the Nixon campaign.  At least I don`t think they`re going to do anything like that.

But it is going to be starting from the perspective of people who know how things are supposed to go and what the legal and proper channels are supposed to flow through, what those channels are.  And I think that starts us off basically with a moral calibration, so we can sort of calibrate our moral vision so that the country through these impeachment hearings will be able to see how wrong it was and how injurious it was when President Trump came in and started acting for himself here instead of for the interests of the United States of America. 

And to that end, I will tell you one other thing you should know before that testimony tomorrow.  I`m not sure how much pickup this has had today if any.  But I mentioned that Bill Taylor is serving as the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine right now.  So he`s based at the embassy in Kiev.  He`s obviously had to leave Ukraine and come back to the U.S. in order to give this public testimony tomorrow.

But before he did so, Bill Taylor just published an op-ed in a weekly newspaper in Ukraine, and that op-ed that he wrote is running right now in that weekly paper ahead of his impeachment testimony tomorrow.  And in this op-ed, Bill Taylor says nothing about impeachment explicitly, nothing about president Trump, but he sets the scale -- he zeros it again, right?  He calibrates our vision again back to what is normal and how the U.S. government is supposed to behave towards Ukraine and why. 

He`s very emphatic about it.  This is what he says in this brand new op-ed.  He says, quote, the United States stands side by side with the people and government of Ukraine ready to help Ukraine achieve its goals, halting Russia`s aggression against Ukraine and cementing Ukraine`s place in the Euro-Atlantic community.  The United States is firmly committed to Ukraine`s success.  Your success is our success. 

We will not allow Russia to dismantle the international order that was painstakingly built after World War II.  The concepts of sovereignty, territorial integrity, peaceful resolution of disputes will benefit all nations.  Russia`s war against Ukraine shreds the international norms that kept peace and enabled prosperity for decades.  The United States continues to provide weapons and training and equipment to Ukraine`s armed forces, and we continue to impose sanctions on Russia for its illegal actions in Ukraine. 

This is Bill Taylor writing in Ukraine today, setting the sort of benchmark what used to be the noncontroversial, nonpartisan U.S. policy toward Ukraine and what U.S. support for that country was and why. 

And then he closes with this.  Quote: As everyone who promotes democracy knows, strengthening and protecting democratic values is constant process requiring persistence and steady work by both officials and ordinary citizens. 

He says, quote: As in all democracies including the United States, work remains in Ukraine especially to strengthen rule of law and to hold accountable those who try to subvert Ukraine`s structures to serve their personal aims rather than the nation`s interests. 

Bill Taylor, America`s top diplomat in Ukraine writing that op-ed in a Ukrainian newspaper before flying back to this country to give testimony in the public impeachment proceedings against President Trump tomorrow.  Work remains to strengthen the rule of law and to hold accountable those who try to subvert these structures to serve their personal aims rather than the nation`s interests.  Work remains. 

This is an exciting eve.  We`ve got Michael Beschloss here tonight to talk about what history tells us we should be watching for in the morning.  Chuck Rosenberg is here with us tonight.  We got a lot to get to. 

Stay with us. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So you were employed on January 21st, 1969, and continued to be employed until March 14th of this year, is that correct? 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president? 

BUTTERFIELD:  I was aware of listening devices, yes, sir. 


MADDOW:  Nixon aide Alexander Butterfield`s shocking admission July 1973 that there were listening devices inside the Oval Office.  That came a full two months into the Senate Watergate hearings.  They started in May.  That didn`t happy until July. 

That, of course, is the development that would ultimately lead to President Richard Nixon`s resignation the following year.  It was two months in.  The Watergate hearings didn`t start off with that kind of fireworks. 

On day one of the Watergate hearings, they started off with the Nixon campaign office manager.  "The Washington Post" reported, quote, if you like to watch grass grow you would have loved the opening yesterday of the Senate Collect Committee`s hearings on Watergate. 

Well, tomorrow, the House Intelligence committee will kick off its first day of public impeach hearings with testimony from the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine and top U.S. official at the State Department with responsibility for that part of the world.  Both of them saw up close the impact of President Trump trying to pressure Ukraine into investigating his domestic political opponents and hanging up U.S. aid to that country to add to the pressure that they must do so. 

Joining us now is NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss. 

Michael, it`s great to have you here.  Thank you so much for joining us tonight. 


MADDOW:  Let me ask you first to correct me or put me in better context if you think I`ve laid that out poorly in the way the way Watergate hearings started. 

BESCHLOSS:  No, I think you`re absolutely right.  And what they were trying to do in the Watergate hearings was sort of courtroom procedure.  You start off with the manager and he describes how the Nixon campaign was organized and you sort of work your way up.  John Dean who was star witness didn`t testify until something like about five weeks later. 

And the other thing is unlike tomorrow, before the Watergate Senate hearings began, people may have had suspicions that Richard Nixon was at the center of the cover-up, but they could not know that for sure.  Nor could they know as you were saying a moment ago the fact that Richard Nixon was taping most of his private conversations, which would completely alter the outcome of the case. 

MADDOW:  Michael, one of the things that I learned tonight looking at that old news footage of the way the first day the hearings were covered in Watergate was that at least according to the White House, Richard Nixon didn`t watch, that he didn`t have a TV setup in the part of the White House he was spending his time at the time the hearings were on.  The White House made clear, went out of their way to say he was working on much more important things and wasn`t going to spend time engaged in this Watergate circus.


MADDOW:  I wonder if looking back on that, if historians feel the Nixon administration was out of sync or not paying close enough attention to recognize the impact that those hearings were having on the country and on perceptions of Nixon himself. 

BESCHLOSS:  I think that`s right, although Nixon probably watched a little bit more than people were claiming.  He was trying to suggest that he was not being affected.  And even in support of that theory, it was mentioned that Charles de Gaulle did not have a telephone in his office in Paris, so Nixon was sort of emulating de Gaulle and keeping his distance from the television. 

But that`s exactly right.  Nixon had no idea these hearings would move public opinion as much as it did.  But as you were suggesting, you know, it took a while, because the Senate Watergate hearings which were not impeachment hearings, those were an investigation.  Those began 15 months before Nixon finally resigned. 

But we`re talking about now is a period that`s about to be much more sped up. 

MADDOW:  Michael, to that point, one of things you`ve raised in the past in terms of trying to find some guidance in history here, is that an unusual thing about these impeachment proceedings is they`re happening before the president`s re-election effort rather than happening in a second-term, which we saw with both Clinton and Nixon. 

Now, part of the reason for that is situation specific.  I mean, what the House believes they found here was an effort by President Trump to cheat in the forthcoming election, to engage a foreign power to illegally intervene to benefit him and his campaign.  And so, that put some urgency on trying to hold him accountable for that before that election takes place. 

I wonder how you`re thinking about that though in how that dynamic play differently in the Trump impeachment that it hasn`t in those others, given that the re-election campaign looms.

BESCHLOSS:  Yes, well, I think it`s going to be more super heated, more divided atmosphere even than it was at the beginning of Watergate, which became even more so. 

MADDOW:  NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss -- Michael, it is always good to see you.  This is -- 

BESCHLOSS:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  -- a sort of rivetingly historic time.  I know we`ll be talking to you a lot in the next few days.  Thank you, sir.

BESCHLOSS:  Fascinating.  Thank you so much.

MADDOW:  All right.  Much more to get to.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  I don`t know what it`s like to be a president on the eve of the public impeachment hearings against you.  I don`t know how it feels.  I don`t know what would be a best case scenario for a president in such circumstances.

But I know it`s probably closer to a worst-case scenario to have spent the eve of your public impeachment hearings watching your deputy campaign chairman testifying against you in a criminal trial, testifying for the prosecution, testifying that you the president appeared to have lied under oath to the special counsel.  It is probably also approaching a worst case scenario for day one of your public impeachment hearings to start just as jury deliberation simultaneously start in the ongoing criminal trial against your longest standing political advisor. 

That is how the president is getting ready for his impeachment today, and the overlap gets even more uncomfortable than that.  That story`s next. 

Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  It is amazing that it is happening at the same time that impeachment hearings are starting against the president.  But there were on their own terms very headline-grabbing moments from the courtroom today in the trial of President Trump`s long time political advisor, Roger Stone, whose testimony today in court from Trump`s deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates. 

And according to Gate`s testimony, the Trump campaign was told months before WikiLeaks ever posted any stolen Democratic documents months before they were told months before they were told that WikiLeaks was going to start doing that during the campaign. 

Rick Gates also testified today he witnessed a phone call between Trump and Roger Stone about a forthcoming document dump from WikiLeaks.  And that sure makes it seem that the president may have lied in his written testimony to Robert Mueller when he told Mueller in writing that he never talked to Roger Stone about that subject. 

So those headlines from the testimony are bad, right, particularly as the public impeachment proceedings are about to start tomorrow.  But the testimony itself is just -- even beyond those headlines, it`s just deadly.  I just want to read you this.  We just got in the transcript from today`s trial.  Check this out. 

Prosecutor, quote, do you recall, sir, on June 14th, 2016, the Democratic National Committee announced that it had been racked by the Russian government.  Rick Gates, yes, I do.  Question, and did you have conversations with senior leadership of the Trump campaign regarding the DNC`s announcement?  Answer, we did. 

Question, what was the campaign`s attitude toward the DNC`s announcement that it had been hacked by the Russian government?  Answer, we believe it information were to come out based on what we were told that information might be about, there were a number of us that felt it would give our campaign a leg up.  Mr. Stone indicated that he wanted to reach out to Jared Kushner and political director Jim Murphy to debrief them on the developments of the DNC announcement. 

Question, on July -- were there any brainstorming sessions done at that point?  Answer, oh, yes.  Prior to July, there were brainstorming sessions on the idea of if the information was leaked, what would the campaigns say and respond? 

And then once WikiLeaks did release the hacked material, question, what was the campaign`s attitude towards the release?  Answer, the fact the information had come out, the campaign was in a state of happiness. 

When the Trump campaign heard that specifically the Russian government had hacked the Democratic Party, they thought that was great for them.  They thought they could definitely use that to their advantage.  They then held brainstorming sessions about how they`d plan to use this stuff that had been hacked and stolen by the Russian government. 

And when the material hacked by the Russian government was indeed actually released, which they say they had months of warning about, the campaign was -- what`s the phrase? -- in a state of happiness. 

Public impeachment hearings start tomorrow over the president`s efforts to use a foreign government to help him win the next election.  Today`s courtroom drama in the Roger Stone case, a timely reminder about the first time he did exactly that. 

Joining us now is Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney from the Eastern District of Virginia, former senior official at the Justice Department and FBI. 

Chuck, it`s great to see you.  Thanks for being here. 

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  My pleasure.  Thank you for having me.

MADDOW:  I am allergic to Roger Stone, so I find it hard to talk about him as a character, because he still wants to be viewed this character.  But it does seem to me that what he`s ended being important about this trial is that we learned a lot about the Trump campaign and indeed the president and their interactions around the Russian documents that were stolen and the Russian efforts to interfere in the election. 

ROSENBERG:  Of course.  I mean, of course, they`re in a state of happiness.  This is big deal.  The Russians hacked into the DNC and DCCC computers and stole stuff, that would be helpful to the president -- well, then candidate Trump and the campaign.  Of course, they`re happy about that. 

MADDOW:  In term of the president`s, I mean, I`m reluctant to say liability here, but the testimony from Rick Gates today suggests when the president told Mueller in his written answers, I didn`t have a conversation with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks, I don`t know if anybody in the campaign ever talked to Roger Stone or anybody else about WikiLeaks, let alone the advance knowledge of the timing of those releases, Gates is saying, I witnessed a conversation between Trump and Stone where that`s exactly what they talked about. 

ROSENBERG:  Right.  In the president`s written responses, his lawyer put in an important caveat.  Let me give you two statements to illustrate the point.  I have never been a guest on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.  Demonstrably false.  You`re a witness. 


ROSENBERG:  We could use the tape to prove that I lied. 

I don`t recall being a guest on the Rachel Maddow.  Prove that false.  That`s much tougher. 

And in the witness responses everything is caveated.  I think that`s a verb.  Everything includes the disclaimer, I don`t recall, to the best of my recollection. 

So I don`t doubt that the president had those conversations, but you`re going to have a hard time proving it because he caveated it with the "I don`t recall". 

MADDOW:  In terms of the odd, sort of, news gods, sort of joke of coincidence of the jury deliberations likely starting tomorrow in the Stone trial just as the impeachment hearings are being convened for President Trump and the Ukraine matter, I have to ask you about this parallel that a lot of us in the news business are drawing, between the Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 election to benefit President Trump and what we now know in part of the Stone trial, about the way the Trump campaign welcome that. 

The parallel we`re drawing between that and what the president was trying to elicit from Ukraine for 2020, do you look at those things and see them as parallel if not equivalent? 

ROSENBERG:  I look at them as parallel but not perfectly so.  For instance, the Russian effort started in 2014.  We know that.  That`s in the Mueller report. 

That`s when the Russians tried to get four of their operatives into the United States.  Two of them eventually came on false visas.  And so, that was even before we knew who the candidates would be. 

In this case, it was the president soliciting help, right?  One is Russia gifting it to the Trump campaign, and they appear to be willingly, happily accepting it.  But this one is little bit different, right?  In broad strokes, it`s parallel, but the president is going out and soliciting help for his campaign, using publicly appropriated military aid for Ukraine. 

MADDOW:  Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, former senior FBI and senior Justice Department official, a person I will say talking to you ability these matters and the way in which you present this information is one of my benchmarks and one of the reasons I`m very excited that it`s going to be trained prosecutors conducting the testimony -- conducting the questioning tomorrow. 



We shall tell you that Chuck is the host of an awesome MSNBC podcast which is called "The Oath."  This week on "The Oath", Chuck sits down with the former ambassador with Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, who honestly is a force of nature. 

Chuck, I really appreciate you here, my friend.  Thanks a lot.

ROSENBERG:  Thanks for having me.

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ll be right back. 


MADDOW:  This is my favorite kind of breaking news.  At the very top of the show tonight, I was caviling about how NBC covered the first day of the Watergate hearings in 1973, specifically this title sequence that was the lead-in to the live NBC News special report for the first day of the Watergate hearings in `73.  And I caviled about this for obvious reasons. 


ANNOUNCER:  NBC News special report. 


ANNOUNCER:  Watergate: Senate hearings. 


MADDOW:  I was like we are definitely taking that special report theme song from 1973.  THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW needs more tympani. 

Well, because you are all the best viewers in the world, I am now informed and absolutely convinced that is Berlioz symphony, that is from Symphonie fantastique composed in 1830.

And here`s the amazing thing, because you are the best viewers in the world, I almost can`t believe NBC was this on the nose with its music choice that day.  But it wasn`t just Symphonie fantastique, the music NBC used as the lead-in to the impeachment hearings in May 1973 was specifically from the fourth movement of that symphony which had a title.  The title was "March to the Scaffold."

Thank you to RACHEL MADDOW SHOW viewers for knowing your French composers - -


MADDOW:  Tomorrow starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, Brian Williams and Nicolle Wallace will anchor MSNBC`s live special coverage of the Trump impeachment hearings. 

If you can`t get a TV but you can get to an Internet-connected device, you should know that the hearings will also be live-streamed at 

Today, obviously, is a historic day.  The president himself the subject of those impeachment hearings, what will he be up to on his big day?  Well, he`ll be welcoming the authoritarian leader of Turkey, President Erdogan, to an Oval Office meeting, followed by a joint press conference. 

You recall that the last time President Trump talked with Erdogan, he immediately abandoned our Kurdish allies.  The last time Erdogan visited the United States, you might remember his security team beat up a bunch of American protesters here in the United States.  So, basically anything could happen tomorrow.  Get a good night`s sleep. 

We`ll see you again tomorrow night. 

Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" where Ari Melber is in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Ari.

                                                                                                                  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END