CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Also this Sunday, we`re doing a live podcast at the town hall in New York City. I cannot wait to talk to two incredible writers, Tony Kushner and Jeremy O. Harris. Tickets still available on our website and Ticketmaster. So, come join us.
And that is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Spectacular. The interview with Katie Hill was amazing.
HAYES: Thank you -- incredible. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thanks. I`m sorry you`re working this weekend but I also sort of want to go.
HAYES: Yes, it`s going to be fun.
MADDOW: Yes. Thanks, my friend.
All right. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here with us on this Friday night.
The White House and President Trump`s Republican supporters in Congress first said that the impeachment proceedings against President Trump were unfair because there had been no floor vote in the White House authorizing the impeachment inquiry. That was their first objection. This isn`t a real impeachment, it`s unfair, there has been no floor vote.
Then, uh-oh, the House held a floor vote authorizing the impeachment inquiry, and that took care of that objection. So they needed a new one. Then they said the impeachment inquiry against President Trump was actually unfair because the hearings to collect evidence in the inquiry were conducted behind closed doors. That was it. That was the next objection.
There are no public hearings and they stormed the closed door hearing room to make this point. But then after expressing that as their big concern in terms of the fairness of the hearings then, uh-oh, again, the House decided, well, they would hold public hearings. They would hold lots and lots of public hearings, hours and hours of them, almost too many hours for one person to watch without getting a cramp.
That meant it was time for a new objection. What the White House and the president`s Republican supporters in Congress came up with next was the objection that the president and his legal team had not been invited to participate in the impeachment proceedings. So, no floor vote? Then there`s a floor vote. No public hearings. Then there`s public hearings.
So, this is the next good try. This is not fair, this isn`t a real impeachment. The president has not been invited to participate. And then, naturally, the president was invited to participate.
Well, today, the Trump White House responded to that invitation to them to participate in the impeachment proceedings and they said actually they have no intention of participating in the proceedings anyway. At least that`s what we think this letter means.
I wanted to put the letter up there full screen just because I wanted you to know why I was distracted. The signature on this letter is so enormous and weird. It`s a little bit hard to focus on anything else in terms of the content of this letter. But basically what we believe is this a letter from the White House counsel saying, no, we`re not going to participate in your little charade, we still consider it unfair.
What that means is for a third straight time, the objections by the White House and the are president`s Republican supporters, that this is all so unfair, those objections one by one have been overtaken by events, right? If you had taken them at any -- take them at their word at any point over this impeachment saga, so far, you might have thought their objection to the impeachment was there hadn`t been a floor vote or it was behind closed doors or the president hasn`t been invited.
But when all of those things they complained about got corrected, when all those things in real term came around to what they said they wanted, the White House and Republicans in Congress still objected. They still said this is also unfair. We`ll have nothing to do with it.
Because of that -- I mean, someday someone will teach a first year law school class about how to identify bad faith in negotiations by running through exactly what the Republican objections have been on process grounds to how these impeachment proceedings have gone forward.
But now having been through all that, there being no floor vote, closed door proceedings, the president has been invited -- after going through all of that, they now have unveiled a new objection as to why president Trump cannot actually be subject to this impeachment proceeding. A new noble stand they`re taking for fairness and the American way, they have rolled it out with our friends at the Fox News Channel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The whole thing`s a joke. It is, frankly, very, very close to what Clarence Thomas once described as a modern day lynch mob. The Democrats have no interest in the facts and really on the eve of Christmas, it is really sad to see the dishonesty and the partisanship that the House Democrats are displaying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On the eve of Christmas? It is Christmastime, you guys, which is no time for an impeachment. I mean, any other time of the year this might be OK but not -- what is this 19 days before Christmas?
This is the new objection that if there`s one rule all Americans should be able to agree on or Republicans at least have the decency to adhere to it`s the rule you don`t pursue impeachment proceedings against an American president in the holiday season, not while the you`ll Yule log burns in the hearth, not while sleigh bells ring, not while people are, you know, decorating their Christmas trees. It`s just against the rules.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: On the contrast could not have been more striking tonight, at the very moment the Republicans were releasing their four articles of impeachment, the president and first lady were lighting the national Christmas tree, festive, seemingly unconcerned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In 1998, House Republicans released the four articles of impeachment they had been working on against President Clinton. They released those four articles of impeachment literally while President Clinton was in the act of lighting the national Christmas tree.
Those impeachment proceedings against President Clinton were set in motion, of course, by the crusading Republican speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, who now is back here to let us know that Republicans at least have some sense of decency. They have some sense of the rules around what makes for a fair impeachment process and what doesn`t, and, frankly, Christmastime is part of what you have to consider.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: And really on the eve of Christmas, it is really sad to see the dishonesty and the partisanship that the House Democrats are displaying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When the Republicans in 1998 released the draft articles of impeachment against President Clinton while he was lighting the national Christmas tree, it was four articles of impeachment that they released. When it came time to vote on those four articles of impeachment against President Clinton, two of them were voted down. Two of them failed. But two of them went ahead on very close votes.
There was an article on perjury where the vote was 228-206. There was also an article on obstruction that passed. That vote was 221-212. So, two of the four passed.
And under the Newt Gingrich you can`t impeach a president at Christmastime rule just proclaimed on the Fox News Channel this week, you should know when it came time for the House to actually cast their votes on those impeachment articles, when it came time not just to introduce the articles but for the House to vote on them, those votes took place on December 19th, Christmas week. They could have waited until after the Christmas holiday. But why, why, why would you do that?
They apparently really wanted to do it right before Christmas, so much so that the House was actually called in on a Saturday to take those votes. It was strange enough timing that the NBC News archive footage of the network coverage of that historic impeachment vote against President Clinton is actually filed under golf because it starts with an NBC anchor named Hannah Storm having to break in suddenly to the network`s coverage of a Saturday afternoon golf match in order to announce that President Clinton was being impeached on the 19th of December.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNAH STORM, NBC NEWS: Hello, everyone. Hannah Storm in New York. We will be returning to our coverage of the Lexus challenge after a report from NBC News. A historic day for our country and for the latest on the impeachment of President Clinton, we go to Tom Brokaw -- Tom.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Hannah.
The president has been impeached on two articles in the House of Representatives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It was December 19th, the Saturday before Christmas, 1998.
Now, this timing that the Republican Party now apparently believes was just conscionable, it`s at least now not fair to pursue these impeachment proceedings against this president given the holiday spirit, never mind what we did before, and never mind all other objections from them on supposed fairness grounds. They`ve all been addressed now, one by one. All the things they`ve complained about and said they want to change, they`ve all changed, but they nevertheless continued to object.
The main event now, the focus of what`s about to happen in this presidency, the big deal at the heart of all of this is, of course, the factual and the evidentiary record that`s been turned up in terms of President Trump`s behavior. I mean, the sideshow frankly is the supposed earnest objections to the process of this impeachment that keep getting thrown up by the White House and by the president`s defenders, and then those objections get rendered moot or rendered ridiculous one after the other.
And so, I would -- I would caution my friends in the media and those of us responsible for sort of tracking this on behalf of the media in this country that it`s not necessarily worth continuing to follow each bad faith objection after all the previous bad faith objections have been shown to be in bad faith, right? I mean, to a certain extent after somebody says this is something they really care about, it`s then revealed to something they actually can`t possibly care about. You should be cautious the next time they try to sell you that same soft soap.
I mean, you can`t pretend it`s not happening, you can`t pretend that`s not the way the Republicans are treating this. That is the record that the Trump White House and congressional Republicans will have recorded about them in the history books when it comes to their own behavior at this time in American history. But the members of Congress who will ultimately write the articles of impeachment against President Trump, a process that has just gotten under way, they have to decide how much they`re going to consider the sort of bad faith objection environment in which they`re operating and in which those articles will be received by the Republican Party and the White House. Particularly if the people who are going to be pursuing the actual writing of these articles and the structure of the impeachment proceeding against the president are still hoping and expecting that votes on the articles against President Trump might in the end be slightly bipartisan.
It turns out in term of the time line, there is no month of Christmas exclusion rule. NBC News has just reported that lawmakers this year have been advised by House leadership that they should be available to be in Washington whether for votes on articles or for other work related to the impeachment proceedings as late as the 21st and 22nd of December, this month.
In the letter that was sent to the Judiciary Committee today by the White House counsel, the one with the gigantic signature with Mr. Cipollone, the one you put on there with like a paint roller, we think what that letter means is that unlike President Nixon and unlike President Clinton, President Trump is apparently not going to send defense counsel to represent him and make arguments on his behalf and do things like cross- examine witnesses at the impeachment hearings. Both President Nixon and President Clinton did that. We don`t think that President Trump is going to do that.
Now, I say we don`t think that`s what they`re going to do because just textually, the letter today from White House counsel Pat Cipollone doesn`t make anything all that clear one way or the other. I have seen my share of lawyer letters in the day and as lawyer letters go, this is kind of a weird one. I mean, here`s how it starts:
Dear Chairman Nadler, as you know your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless. That`s the first line of the letter. House Democrats have wasted enough of America`s time with this charade. You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings.
That`s not what lawyer letters typically look like, let alone lawyer letters from the White House. But I guess we interpret that to mean that the president won`t be sending any defense counsel to the hearings. Maybe?
This is another sort of hallmark of this time. This is another one of those letters from Mr. Cipollone, the White House counsel that is coming in from some withering criticism from the rest of the lawyers in the world.
An esteemed conservative lawyer named George Conway III who is married to White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway saying this tonight online, quote, it is an utter embarrassment any member of the bar, let alone White House counsel would write, sign or send this letter. But that`s kind of what the White House counsel`s office is like now.
The chairman of the judiciary committee responded, in any case, as if that letter from the White House was an indication that President Trump isn`t going to mount a defense in the impeachment, that he`s not going to send even legal counsel to defend him in impeachment proceedings. Chairman Nadler responded with this tonight to the White House.
Quote: We gave President Trump a fair opportunity to question witness and present his own to address the overwhelming evidence before us. After listening to him complain about the impeachment process, we had hoped he might accept our invitation. If the president has no good response to the allegations, then he would not want to appear before the committee. Having declined this opportunity, he cannot claim that the process is unfair. The president`s failure will not prevent us from carrying out our solemn constitutional duty.
So they`re going ahead with or without the president or any lawyers that might represent the president in these proceedings. It sound like it will probably be without. They`re just going to move forward.
But even as the Judiciary Committee moves ahead, remember that one of the interesting things about the way the process is being conducted this time is that the Intelligence Committee which conducted the investigation into what the president did, the main part of that investigation -- that committee said even though they`ve prepared their own report on impeachment and handed over to the Judiciary Committee and said you should get started on this effectively, they admitted the investigation isn`t over, that they still expect to receive more evidence.
And tonight, there`s some really interesting movement on that, too. I`m not sure this has received a lot of attention tonight but I find this absolutely fascinating. When the impeachment report was released by the Intelligence Committee earlier this week, all 300 pages of it, section one was titled the president`s misconduct. Section 2 was titled the president`s obstruction of the impeachment inquiry.
The whole thing is about the president`s behavior. The day the report came out you might remember us running down how the sort of subheadings of the report. They alone give you a really concise, tidy kind of dramatic 78- word plot run-down of what the president`s going to be impeached for.
The president`s request for a political favor. The president removed anti- corruption champion, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. The president`s hand- picked agents began the scheme. The president froze vital military assistance.
The president conditioned a White House meeting on investigations. The president pressed President Zelensky to do a political favor. The president`s representatives ratcheted up pressure on the Ukrainian president.
The president`s security assistance hold became public. The president`s scheme unraveled. The president`s chief of staff confirmed aid was conditioned on investigations.
Right? That`s the children`s book version of what President Trump did and what he`s being impeached for. It`s just the subheadings of the report. It`s a very simple but dramatic plot with a new denouement at the end where they all confess.
But you see there, you see the theme there, right? Just looking at it as a visual object, you see the theme in that tiny plot summary. The same two words start every single one of those subheadings, right? It`s all stuff done by the president or directed by the president.
Section one of the report is about the president. Section 2 of the report is about the president. All the subheadings of the report are about the president.
There`s a laser focus of the whole report on the president specifically -- the president`s behavior, the president directing this scheme, the president perceiving benefit in this scheme.
And because of that, there`s one specific part of the impeachment report that stands out from all the rest of it. I`ve been thinking about it all week since the report came out, trying to figure out how important this is going to be in the end, and how important this is going to be for what comes next. And it`s a sentence that doesn`t start with the behavior of the president.
It`s from page 9 of the report, right up front at the beginning. Quote: Our investigation determined that this telephone call between President Trump and the leader of Ukraine was neither the start nor the end of President Trump`s efforts to bend U.S. foreign policy for his personal gain. Rather, it was a dramatic crescendo within a month`s long campaign driven by President Trump in which senior U.S. officials, including the vice president, the secretary of state, the chief of staff, the secretary of energy and others were either knowledgeable of or active participants in an effort to extract from a foreign nation the personal political benefits sought by the president.
The impeachment report is really all about President Trump specifically. It really all redounds to him. But the investigators do go out of their way to say, yes, he was running this operation but this little Benetton rainbow squad of very senior government officials, they were, what`s the phase, either, quote, knowledgeable of or active participates in this scheme. The White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the secretary of energy who just suddenly quit his job when his name emerged in this scandal, Rick Perry, and the vice president, Mike Pence.
Impeachment investigators going out of their way to say they either knew about it or they were part and parcel of this scheme.
Well, now, tonight, here`s something. You might remember that there was just one person from Vice President Mike Pence`s office who testified in the impeachment hearings so far. Her name was Jennifer Williams. She`s a career foreign service person. She was an advisor to the vice president, specifically on Russia and Europe.
And at the start of her public testimony, you might remember there`s a little low-key drama with her lawyer. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Ms. Williams, I want to ask you about a phone call between Vice President Pence and President Zelensky of Ukraine on September 18th. Were you on that call?
JENNIFER WILLIAMS, ADVISOR TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: I was.
SCHIFF: And did you take notes of the call?
WILLIAMS: Yes, sir.
SCHIFF: Is there something about that call that you think may be relevant to our investigation?
JENNIFER WILLIAMS` ATTORNEY: Mr. Chairman, as we previously discussed with the committee, the office of the vice president has taken the position --
SCHIFF: Sir, could you move the microphone a little closer to you?
JENNIFER WILLIAMS` ATTORNEY: As we previously discussed with both majority and minority staff of the committee, the office of the vice president has taken the position that the September 18th call is classified.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Jennifer Williams on camera there as her lawyer sort of not and then talking into the microphone, they went back and forth on this issue for a little while. Eventually what they arrived at as an agreement basically in that public hearing was that Jennifer Williams wouldn`t answer questions about that call in the public hearing because Vice President Pence had decided that call was classified.
But she did agree on advice of her counsel that she would give a written statement, a classified written statement to the committee about that call. House Intelligence Committee can handle classified information, right? That sort of what intelligence committee is there for. The agreement with Williams was that in this public hearing, that`s classified, I can`t talk about it, but I`m happy to answer written questions about it in writing in a classified annex to my testimony. I will submit that.
So, we saw that little agreement unfold during her testimony. Jennifer Williams has apparently since submitted that written submission, that classified submission about that part of her testimony. And apparently, it`s very interesting.
The only reason I haven`t seen it, the only reason I say that is because the intelligence committee has tonight sent a letter asking -- sort of advising Vice President Mike Pence that he needs to declassify this matter so the public can see what she just testified to in that written submission. Oh, really?
Check this out. In this letter sent to Vice President Pence tonight, the Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says this. Quote: In accordance with relevant regulations and procedures for handling classified information, Jennifer Williams, your special advisor for Europe and Russia, provided a classified supplemental submission to the committee November 26th. In an unclassified cover letter to that submission her counsel explained that, quote, in preparation for the November 19th hearing in which she testified in public, Ms. Williams reviewed certain materials that caused her to recall additional information about the September 18th call between Vice President Pence and the leader of Ukraine, information that she wished to disclose to the committee for the sake of completeness.
The letter says, quote: Pursuant to the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry, I write now to request that the Office of Vice President declassify any classified material contained in that supplemental written submission. The committee believes that the information in Ms. Williams supplementing submission is relevant to the impeachment inquiry and should not be classified. The committee reminds you that executive order 13526 states that in no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified or fail to be declassified for the purpose of concealing any violations of law or preventing embarrassment of any person or entity.
The Office of the Vice President`s decision to classify certain portions of the September 18th call, including the additional information that Jennifer Williams remembered after her deposition and indicated she wished to convey to the committee as part of her impeachment inquiry, that cannot be justified on national security or any other legitimate grounds we can discern. So, no response yet from Vice President Mike Pence`s office to that, at least that we know of.
But, I mean, vice president pence and his role in this scheme for which President Trump is now being impeached, it remains one of the still dangling threads here. He apparently is the one who went in person to Europe to go meet Zelensky after the Trump-Zelensky phone call to reiterate to Zelensky he wasn`t getting his military aid. He was briefed according to his own advisers on the call that happened between President Trump and President Zelensky in which Trump made clear that Zelensky wasn`t going to get his military aid unless Zelensky coughed up investigations of Joe Biden and his son and other types of politically motivated investigations that President Trump thought would help him get re-elected.
Vice President Pence has said he`d be perfectly happy having his records of all his interactions with Ukraine released to the public. Well, here`s a test of that because his advisor testified in writing on a matter he says is classified. It`s about his communications with Ukraine. She says, I remembered something that I need to provide to the committee about this, provided it to them in writing because of that classification designation from his office.
The committee says they`ve now reviewed that. They want it declassified. There`s no reason on national security grounds to classify it. It should be declassified because it is relevant to impeachment. And the committee still investigating the impeachment scandal in this letter is warning Vice President Pence explicitly tonight, by the way, remember you can`t declare something to be classified just to keep it from being exposed as a crime or exposed as something that really embarrasses you. Embarrassment and criminal behavior are not good excuses for classification.
That`s just tonight. So, you know, tick tock. The next impeachment hearing is Monday morning 9:00 a.m., even though it is frankly the Christmas season, still happening despite that. Bad faith objections or not, classification threats or not, tick tock. Here we go.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Is it fair to say that all three causes for impeachment explicitly contemplated by the founders -- abuse of power, betrayal of our national security and corruption of our elections -- are present in this president`s conduct? Yes or no, Professor Feldman?
NOAH FELDMAN, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: Yes.
RASKIN: And, Professor Gerhardt?
MICHAEL GERHARDT, CONSTITUTIONAL AW PROFESSOR: Yes, sir.
RASKIN: And Professor Karlan?
PAMELA KARLAN, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: Yes.
RASKIN: You all agree. OK.
And do -- are any of you aware of any other president who has essentially triggered are three concerns that animated the Founders?
GERHARDT: No as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Three constitutional law professors under questioning by Congressman Jamie Raskin who was himself a highfalutin constitutional law professor before being elected to Congress, all agreeing that, nope, they have never seen anything like this before.
I need to tell you here just in the last couple of minutes since we`ve been on the air is a letter we`ve just gotten ahold of. It is a letter from the Intelligence Committee and Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees which are the three committees that conducted the impeachment investigation. It`s a letter to the Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler.
Dear Chairman Nadler: Pursuant to Section 2 Paragraph 6 of House Resolution 660, enclosed is the Intelligence Committee`s Trump-Ukraine impeachment inquiry report. Together with its appendices and the views submitted by the committee`s minority.
Additionally, as authorized by section 3 of House Resolution 660, we are today transmitting that the Judiciary Committee additional records and other materials relating to the impeachment inquiry. These records and materials are being transmitted by the committees on flash drives containing materials of records already released publicly. Other records cited in the report and certain sensitive materials.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter, signed the three chairs again of the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees.
Again, this is the official transmittal of the impeachment report, which we got a public version of earlier this week, all 300 pages of it. It is being officially conveyed to the Judiciary Committee tonight, but apparently it`s not just the report alone. What of those certain sensitive materials?
Joining us now is Congressman Jamie Raskin.
Sir, thank you so much for making time tonight. I really appreciate you being here.
RASKIN: Rachel, it`s good to be with you.
MADDOW: I have to ask because this letter has just crossed my desk. Tonight, the impeachment investigation report prepared by the Intelligence Committee has been conveyed to your committee along with other materials, other record -- materials of records already released publicly, other records cited in the report and certain sensitive materials, which is a vague and alluring description to a person in the news business.
Can you tell us anything more about what exactly your committee has just received?
RASKIN: No. I haven`t seen any of it. But the whole committee and the committee staff will be working through the weekend, and I`m sure that digesting these materials will be part of our work product this weekend.
MADDOW: In terms of the way your work process is going forward, Speaker Pelosi made this formal public statement that she`s directing committee chairs to draw up articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. What can you tell us about the process? How much of this burden is going to be borne by your committee, by the judiciary committee? What`s the status in your committee in terms of how you`re going to handle the writing of those articles? How are you going to approach this?
RASKIN: Well, the Judiciary Committee is going to be the writer and the preparer of the articles of impeachment. It`s taken a lot of advice and information from these other committees that have been involved. You mentioned Foreign Affairs, Oversight and, of course, Intelligence, which took the lead in the fact investigation of the Ukraine episode.
But, you know, we have to look both at the specific events that took place that are detailed in the excellent report prepared by the Intelligence Committee, as well as the general patterns of misconduct that are suggested by it. And our academic witnesses, the law professors who appeared on Wednesday all emphasized that obstruction of justice has been an integral part of the modern presidential impeachments in both the Nixon and Clinton cases because people who commit misconduct and demonstrate consciousness of their guilt do everything they can to cover-up. And that cover-up becomes an integral part of the offense itself.
And we have clearly seen that in the Trump case because the cover-up continues to this very day when, you know, the president continues to try to blockade witnesses, withhold evidence and do everything he can to interfere with the progress of the impeachment investigation.
MADDOW: We know that there`s going to be a hearing on Monday morning, bright and early, 9:00 Eastern Time. We understand that the judiciary committee is going to take testimony from among other people the staff counsel to the Intelligence Committee, Dan Goldman, we believe who was such an integral part of the questioning of witnesses and seems to have been an integral part of putting together this report.
One of the things I`m trying to keep my head straight about is the fact the investigation is ongoing. We just tonight saw a very provocative inquiry directed to the vice president`s office, for example, about a matter that the Intelligence Committee would like declassified so that it can be factored into their findings of fact here.
How much additional factual information do you expect that the committees will be extracting and going through in public that we the public will be able to see as you guys move toward trying to put pen to paper and come up with the articles as they will be voted on?
RASKIN: Well, both Chairman Nadler of Judiciary and Chairman Schiff of Intelligence have declared the quantum of evidence that`s already on the public record overwhelming. And it`s not just overwhelming but it`s un- contradicted. There`s basically no rival factual hypothesis out there, basically what you`ve got from President Trump is the claim his conduct was perfect and the phone call was perfect, and everything he did was perfect. But they have no other explanation or no other theory of what happened.
So, that doesn`t mean we`re not interested in collecting more evidence that would corroborate or contradict any of the evidence that we have. So, we`re going to continue to receive whatever else is out there. And the problem dealing with Donald Trump, it`s not like Bill Clinton who did one thing, and that really was a closed finite episode. And you could kind of blow the whistle and then investigate it.
With Donald Trump, this is moving target. He`s a one` man crime wave and it doesn`t end, and he`s completely defiant and unrepentant. And so, we do have to keep track over the other things that are taking place. I mean, Rudy Giuliani is still gallivanting around Europe still today, I think for certainly over the last several days, continuing to propound the discredit Ukraine 2016 conspiracy theory which is that it was Ukraine not Russia which engaged in the systematic and sweeping campaign to undermine our election.
So, is he acting as an agent of the president right now or not? Who knows? But in any event, their attempt to cover up and obfuscate continues on a daily basis.
MADDOW: Congressman Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, member of the Judiciary Committee and Oversight -- sir, thank you so much for taking the time. I know you`re going to have not just a busy weekend but a busy few weeks ahead of you. Thanks for being with us.
RASKIN: And thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead tonight this Friday night. Stay with us.
MADDDOW: In 1776, our country was founded. 1777, just a few months after the Declaration of Independence, a group of sailors and marines on a ship fighting in the war for independence, they had a problem with their commanding officer. They served on a frigate called the USS Warren under the command of this guy, Esek Hopkins.
And apparently, he was not awesome. He was so bad the men serving under him on that frigate sent a petition to the Continental Congress laying out their grievances with their commanding officer. And it is hard to read 18th century sailor penmanship.
But in their petition they said this guy had done everything from swearing to torturing people. The sailor serving under his command wrote to the Continental Congress to say that Esek Hopkins was unfit to lead them and they wanted him removed. This was a huge risk for them because their commander was not just any old guy. He was kind of the guy.
Esek Hopkins was the first commander in chief of the Continental Navy. Nevertheless, there was an investigation into his behavior. The Continental Congress did vote to remove Hopkins from his command.
Hopkins then retaliated, filed a retaliatory lawsuit that put two of the men who had raised the alarm about him in jail. And the Continental Congress realized the sort of pickle they were in here and they decided they would essentially come to the rescue of those men who were jailed after raising the alarm about this commander. They authorized payment for the sailor`s legal defense, helped provide the evidence those sailors needed to help get acquitted and get out of jail.
In so doing, the Continental Congress put together what is now believed to be the first whistle-blower protection legislation. In July of 1778, it read in part, quote: It is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other the inhabitants thereof to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states which may come to their knowledge.
The concept of protecting whistleblowers who are alerting the proper authorities about misconduct by those who hold a position of honor in the United States, that concept is almost -- almost exactly as old as America. And now 241 years into it, it`s getting a little bumpy.
More on that next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This summer in August, the head of the Ways and Means Committee in the House, Richie Neal, Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, unleashed a sort of confetti cannon of legal filings, in his push to try to get to see President Trump`s tax returns. Under federal law, if you`re the chairman of Ways and Means Committee, you`re entitled to see anybody`s tax returns, including the president`s.
Well, in that mountain of paper that was filed with the courts in this fight of whether or not Richie Neal is allowed to see President Trump`s tax returns as it says under law he can, there was one exhibit filed, exhibit Q-Q that has turned into an enduring source of news and mystery.
That exhibit QQ says this, quote, on July 29, 2019, the committee, the Ways and Means Committee, received an unsolicited -- unsolicited is underlined - - an unsolicited communication from a federal employee setting forth credible allegations of evidence of possible misconduct, specifically potential inappropriate efforts to influence the mandatory audit program of a president`s income tax returns. Chairman Neal said this new information from the whistle-blower that came forward to his committee raised, quote, serious and urgent concerns.
This is not about the whistle-blower with the whole Ukraine thing that led to the president being impeached. This is different whistle-blower, whole different concept, whole different story. And in plain English, what the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, without the committee asking for it, it was unsolicited. Whistle-blower came forward from inside the government with evidence of possible misconduct related to President Trump`s tax returns being audited by the IRS, potential misconduct around that. Oh, really?
According to "The Washington Post", the whistle-blower`s key allegation was that, quote, at least one Treasury Department political appointee attempted to improperly interfere with the audit of the president`s or vice president`s tax returns. The Ways and Means Committee confirmed to us that their staff has interviewed the whistle-blower. Last month, we learned that staff from the Senate Finance Committee interviewed the whistle- blower, too.
So this whistle-blower complaint is sort of bopping along these two separate parallel tracks, with the Finance Committee in the Senate and with the Ways and Means Committee in the House. But we just got a super troubling follow-up from CNN as we`ve been trying to follow this story wondering when we`re all going to learn what this is and what`s going to become of this whistle-blower`s claims. CNN recently reported a few days ago after the whistler spoke and staff in the Senate the whistle-blower is now, quote, declining to voluntarily appear for a transcribed interview with the Senate Finance Committee.
Why is that? It the whistle-blower made this decision, quote, after an official informed the whistleblower that it could be a violation of law, a violation of IRS code to provide the committee with any information related to an individual taxpayer.
Somebody told the whistle-blower, hey, you know, if what you`re planning on telling the committee is something about one taxpayer`s tax return, that`s illegal, you could go to jail. Someone may have advised the whistle-blower of that but it`s not exactly true. It`s not supposed to be true. There are special protections for whistle-blowers under the IRS code. Whistle- blowers are allowed to come forward to the committees and give information to these committees under the cloak of whistle-blower protections.
Now, one remedy here would be to have the head of the Finance Committee in the Senate, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, issue a subpoena rather than just telling the whistle-blower it`s a voluntary interview or nothing. Don`t hold your breath on that one.
What about Richie Neal of the House Ways and Means Committee? He has also seen the whistleblower complaint. We know that because he notified the court about it. I mean, Chuck Grassley might choose to sit on this whistle-blower complaint because maybe he doesn`t want to know. But Chairman Neal could also issue a subpoena as well to get that testimony.
We reached out to the House Ways and Means Committee for comment as to whether or not they`re considering this. We haven`t heard anything back, but I do have questions including questions about whether or not this whistle-blower just like the other one might be getting intimidated or being threatened here for doing what he or she is actually legally protected to do.
And I know just the person to ask about that.
Hold that thought.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney from the great state of Michigan.
Barb, thank you so much for being here tonight.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Oh, you bet, Rachel. Glad to be here with you.
MADDOW: So, there`s this whistle-blower who alleges there`s improper interference of a political appointee in the audit of President Trump or Vice President Pence`s tax returns, right? We learned that this summer. We`ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop on this for several months.
But now, it`s being reported this whistle-blower has been told by some official that if he or she gives that information to the relevant committees in Congress, they could end up in jail that could be an illegal thing to do. That strikes me as off. It strikes me as -- I thought whistle-blowers were supposed to be able to safely give things to Congress.
MCQUADE: Yes, in fact, there`s a statute that covers the handling and disclosure of tax return information. It`s the same statute we`ve talked about before that investigators use, it`s 26 USC 6103. Prosecutors use the I order first, subparagraph "I" of that statute.
But there`s another provision within that same statute that talks about whistle-blowers, that`s part "F", and it says that whistleblowers may go before Congress and may disclose taxpayer information if they`re talking about misconduct, maladministration or taxpayer abuse. And so, as long as they`re talking about those things, they are supposed to have protection and be able to share that information with Congress.
MADDOW: If some U.S. government official or congressional official has advised the whistle-blower falsely and told this person that they`re going to go to jail if they testify about those things, despite that clause in the code, isn`t that itself a significant problem in terms of the way this is being handled?
MCQUADE: Yes. Now, if there`s some basis for it we`re not aware of it, perhaps it`s sound advice. But if inside it`s an effort to intimidate or prevent that person from sharing information that could be politically damaging to the administration, that would be obstruction of Congress, and that`s a crime.
MADDOW: What about the prospect of a subpoena? The reporting we had a few days ago is that the whistle-blower has decided not to do a voluntary interview with the Senate Finance Committee because of this basic implicit threat to do so might be a crime. If the whistle-blower was subpoenaed other from that committee or Richie Neal in the Ways and Means Committee in the House, would that make a difference in terms of the whistle-blower threat or in terms of the protections?
MCQUADE: I think it would give some comfort to the whistle-blower that he has some legal basis. He`s being compelled to testify. But it still creates the tension if there`s some legal prohibition from sharing this information because it doesn`t fit with that definition what a whistle- blower may bring forward, then what I would advise him to do if I were his lawyer to go to court and have a court rule, you know, it`s a face-off. On the one hand you`re not supposed to disclose this information and on the other you have a subpoena from Congress that compels to testify, I would turn it over to a judge and get a ruling on whether I should come forward, you know, just a friendly ruling to sort of bless it.
MADDOW: In terms of the decisions that are being made by the chairman here, Richie Neal, Congressman Neal from the Ways and Means Committee is obviously involved in his own court fight to try to get access from the president`s tax returns. He`s legally entitled to do so, and that`s caught up in the courts.
Is there any reason given that ongoing proceeding that he might not want subpoena the whistle-blower because that might interfere in those -- in his legal prospects there?
MCQUADE: I don`t know. You know, they`ve had an opportunity to talk to the whistle-blower informally and what they wanted to do was just get a transcript, a sworn statement from the whistle-blower, so maybe there is something about what they know. So far, that litigation seems to be going well. They had a hearing in November where there was a motion to dismiss by the IRS and the judge expressed skepticism. So perhaps it appears to the ways and means committee things are going on track and they don`t want to do anything to disrupt it at this point.
But I`d love to hear what the whistle-blower has to say. There`s an audit process of the president`s tax returns. And if there`s an allegation someone is improperly interfering in that process, but it sure adds to the mystery what it is President Trump is so keen to hide in his tax returns.
MADDOW: Exactly, exactly, exactly.
Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney, it`s great to have you here tonight, Barb. Thanks a lot.
MCQUADE: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. More news ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I want you to have a good weekend, but I want you to know your going have to be up early on Monday, 9:00 a.m. Monday, the Judiciary Committee holds its next public impeachment hearing. That`d be kind of a doozy.
Half an hour later, 9:30 a.m. Monday morning, there are oral arguments in federal court in the emoluments lawsuit.
Also on Monday, we`d be waiting for prosecutors to drop their sentencing memo that`s doing a criminal case against Rick Gates who was the campaign chairman for Trump. They`re going to recommend how much prison time he should get.
Also on Monday, the inspector general of the Justice Department should release its review of the decision to open up the Russia investigation in 2016.
That`s all happening on Monday, plus a bunch of other stuff. Tomorrow is going to be a day off. Sunday is going to be a day off. Hopefully, Monday is going to be nuts.
See you then. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday. But it`ll be crazy.
It`s now time for "THE LAST WORD." Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence.
Good evening, Ali.
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