House Judiciary Committee debates. TRANSCRIPT: 12/12/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: David Cicilline, Sheila Jackson Lee

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Thank you for joining us tonight. 

This is a roll call vote underway right now.  We`re watching this historic impeachment proceeding under way in Congress. 

If you`ve been watching today and into tonight, you know that in technical terms, this is what they call a markup, which means the judiciary committee is there to change or fine tune the articles of impeachment against President Trump before a final vote.  In reality, what today`s proceedings have been is an opportunity for Democrats to make the case for impeaching President Trump, and it`s been an opportunity for Republicans to criticize Democrats for that and to try to derail the proceedings however they can. 

This committee started work at 9:00 this morning.  We expect that a final vote on the impeachment articles could come as soon as this hour, but we really don`t know just when it`ll happen.  Tonight, Republicans are continuing to offer up what are basically sort of stunt amendments, which everybody knows will be voted down party lines, which is exactly what`s happening right now. 

They have reached the second article of impeachment, the article that says the president committed obstruction.  They are now voting on Republican amendment number five.  Republican amendment number five will fail just like all the others have but that`s the process we`re going through right now. 

We`re hearing they may be able -- they may be about to take a vote on the actual articles of impeachment some time soon, in which case, we will jump right back in.  But this is history right now in the making. 

Let`s get right back in now.  Let`s watch. 

(HOUSE JUDICIARY HEARING)

MADDOW:  This is break that we had been advised might be coming around this time.  Now, this is not the end of the proceedings.  You heard Jerry Nadler there saying going into recess. 

Again, this has been a marathon session.  This has been 12 hours already.  They are breaking right now.  We expect them not to be breaking for the night but to be reconvening within this hour. 

And this, of course, is, you know, this is history.  We are living through this.  Tomorrow is one of those days where you`re going to want to buy the physical newspaper in case you`re a sentimental old sap about the news like I am and in case like me you`re also a bit of a hoarder.  Tomorrow is the day to have the physical paper.  I mean, tomorrow`s page one headlines in papers across the country, it`s going to be a keeper. 

All day long today, again, starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, all day long in this judiciary committee that you see here has been debating the two articles of impeachment that the committee has proposed against President Trump.  The first one is abuse of power.  The second one is obstruction. 

Now, as I mentioned, the vote on these articles is expected sometime tonight before they all collapse from exhaustion.  It could be within this hour.  They have gone through this series of procedural motions that there isn`t like a table of contents in advance that tells us exactly how many more of these procedural things they have to get to before they get to the final vote, so it`s hard for us to predict. 

We want to sort of break the law a bit about our reporting process, we have been in contact with some members of Congress and many congressional staffers over the course of the day today trying to get just for our own planning purposes some sense of what the timing is going to be, when breaks are going to happen, when they`re going to wrap, what they`re goal is, what other members of Congress might want to be leaving Congress to go do and might see themselves a having a self-imposed deadline for those thing.  And I will tell you, over the course of the day, as we`ve been having those conversations, we`ve been getting directly contradictory evidence all day long from different members. 

And not even just from Republicans and Democrats telling us different things, in some cases, it`s members and staffers from the same party that just have different information or who are gaming it out differently.  It`s very, very unpredictable.  But again, this is recess we`ve sort of had word might be coming close to the top of this hour. 

Now, I don`t know how much of this you`ve been able to watch today.  If you`ve seen any of it, you`ll recognize or I`ll describe what`s happening.  All day long Republicans have been offering amendments to the two impeachment articles.  Again, the first one is abuse of power, the second is obstruction. 

In terms of what these amendments are, some of them I could summarize for you in watching the proceedings today.  Some of them, not to be mean, but some of the articles the Republicans proposed weren`t all that coherent, so it`d be hard to say exactly what those were about.  But regardless whether those were coherent arguments or not, all of the Republican amendments have been designed basically to try to derail the impeachment process, or at least to slow it down. 

The Republicans are in the minority on this committee.  The Democrats are in control.  Chairman Jerry Nadler is in control.  Republicans have due process rights here, but they`re not going to win any of these votes as long as what they`re votes are about is trying to undo the process of bringing these impeachment articles against the president. 

And so, all of the Republican amendments thus far have all suffered the same fate.  That`s what we`ve seen the same basic sort of shampoo routine all day long.  You know, speeches, then more speeches, then more speeches, then occasionally a little excitement but there`s an interpretation and that precipitates some arguing and a Republican member of the committee would propose a coherent or not particularly coherent amendment to the impeachment articles and that would occasion more fighting and arguing, and then there`d be a voice vote in which the Republican amendment would inevitably fail to pass, and then a Republican would demand the voice vote wasn`t good enough and then the Republican member of Congress wanted a roll call vote. 

And then there`d be a roll call vote and the amendment once again would clearly be shown to have failed, and then they start again more speeches, right?  Rinse, repeat, rinse repeat, start again, don`t forget the conditioner. 

So it has been sort of a recursive process, right, all day long.  If you didn`t get it the first time, you definitely started to get the hang of it when they did the second time, and then the third and the fourth time and by the fifth time you could sing along.  There`s a lot about the impeachment process that is -- it`s not exactly aggravating, but it is definitely repetitive when you watch it in real time. 

But number one, it`s all important.  It is all heading towards a very specific ending.  It is all heading towards a vote on articles of impeachment against President Trump.  And number two, for all of the aggravation and the repetition, the debate and the statements by the member of this committee sometimes is pretty good. 

I mean, if you haven`t been watching all day here`s an example of what the hearing was like it was sort of at its best today, and I don`t mean to put my finger on the scale too strongly.  There`s a lot of good moments today.  Actually, there are members on the Republican side and Democratic side who, whether you agree or disagree with their arguments, there are members making arguments that are, you know, rational and interesting and thought provoking. 

But here`s just an example, one of several we could have chosen that I think shows today at its best and shows the proceedings at its best.  As long they are and as repetitive as they are, as occasionally aggravating as they are, there`s these moments. 

Here`s Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin, happens to be a constitutional law professor which on days like this helps.  Here`s Congressman Raskin doing his part today, and you will see him here engaging with the arguments from the Republican side.  He definitely puts his shoulder into it a little bit.  You can see he is feeling it, right?  But he`s not just out there picking fights and trying to obfuscate, trying to score points on his rivals across the aisle.  He`s making a clear emphatic case for why the other side that`s against impeachment is wrong and why he is going to vote yes.  Just watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD):  He didn`t care about the Russian war on the people of on Ukraine.  He didn`t care about corruption.  They invite us to believe that Donald Trump is an anti-corruption crusader who was shaking down President Zelensky about corruption, when he doesn`t raise any corruption on that call except for what he believed was going on with the Bidens. 

Except that he reduced anti-corruption funding for Ukraine, except he doesn`t raise it anywhere else that we can find.  And what do you know, you pick up "The New York Times" yesterday, President Trump had to pay $2 million to charities because he ripped off his own charity for millions of dollars.  This is the anti-corruption crusader they want us to believe in - - the guy who had to pay $25 million to students at the phony Trump University, which the attorney general of New York called a classic bait and switch operation. 

This is the guy that they want us to believe was shaking down the president of Ukraine because he had some secret anti-corruption agenda that actually wasn`t related to it the Bidens, that wasn`t related to rehabilitating the totally discredited Russian conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine and not Russia that interfered in our campaign in 2016. 

Come on, get real.  Be serious.  We know exactly what happened here, 17 witnesses.  It`s un-contradicted.  There`s no rival story.  No rival story at all. 

And our colleagues will not even tell us whether in theory they think it would be wrong for the president of the United States to shakedown foreign governments to come and get involved in our presidential campaigns in order to harm our Republican opponents.  They won`t even tell us in principle whether they think that`s wrong, because it`s too dangerous at that point. 

We know they don`t accept the facts.  We know they don`t accept the evidence.  They don`t like the fact that the depositions took place in the basement.  Where should they have been?  On the first floor, the second floor where they accept the facts if we found some other room?  Would that be all right? 

Because their people were there.  I was in that room.  There were Democrats, there were Republicans. 

The Democratic counsel got an hour.  The Republican counsel got an hour.  It was even on both sides.  Enough of these phony process objections.  Let`s get back to the facts of what happened. 

The president of the United States shook down a foreign power to come get involved in our election.  That`s wrong.  I yield back. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That`s wrong.  I yield back and you see his exasperation there at the end.  Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland. 

These marathon proceedings of the House as they pursue these impeachment proceedings, it is trying at times, I know.  Twelve hours and counting on this hearing already, and we don`t know if this is going to end on today`s calendar date or if this is going to go into the wee hours.  It could very easily roll into dawn. 

And so, I know it`s hard to take in that kind of volume of this activity but the judiciary committee really does have a bunch of members who do know what they`re talking about and who do make good arguments and who are meaningfully contributing to this process in a way that is designed to help us, the public, understand the stakes here.  And it`s all going down as part of the historical record here tonight. 

But as these articles get their vote some time tonight and head to the full house for a vote there that looks like it`ll be next week, and as we then anticipate that the articles having at least one of them pass the house that will then be conveyed over to the Senate for the trial of the president for his potential removal from office -- as that is now happening, as we are now in the middle of that, if we are honest about it, if we are realistic about what`s really happening here and how this is all going to end, honestly perhaps the most important place this impeachment is playing out is not on Capitol Hill at all.  But it`s the fight for public opinion. 

And, yes, those speeches and these fights that are happening on Capitol Hill, that`s part of it.  But that`s also why this kind of stuff a really important to keep an eye on now, too.  Both "Reuters" and "The Washington Post" reporting in recent days on Trump and Republican ad blitzes on impeachment.  The Trump campaign and the Republican Party have been buying up all the real estate online in terms of online ads about impeachment while these proceedings have been under way on Capitol Hill. 

They have particularly monopolized the ad space on Facebook.  They`ve run millions of dollars of Facebook ads alone all against impeachment.  Democrats have largely ceded that territory to the anti-impeachment Republican and Trump campaign folks.  Democrats and pro-impeachment ads are not competing in that space at all.  Facebook ads are all anti-impeachment. 

Now, that said in terms of TV ads against Democratic members of Congress, Republican ads that have been targeting house Democrats for voting for impeachment, Democratic forces did just get a $10 million boost yesterday when billionaire presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg said he would donate $10 million to a Democratic PAC specifically to run ads supporting House Democrats who have been targeted for their support for impeachment. 

Mike Bloomberg`s approach to his presidential campaign is to spend a lot of money and run a lot of ads in support of his own candidacy.  That is strategy that has given him a big bump in the polls.  It is not a strategy that is likely to qualify him for any of the Democratic debates.  But in addition to spending on himself to get up his poll numbers and to boost his own chances in the Democratic primary, he`s also spending considerable money now to boost Democrats who are coming under fire for supporting impeachment. 

And with that, that means at least Democrats are thinking about rebutting the anti-impeachment messages that have been running on TV, even if they`re still not going there with the online ads, which Trump and the Republicans have to themselves.  That said, a Republican group in support of Trump`s impeachment, a Republican group that is critical of president Trump, a group called Republicans for the Rule of Law, they`re now running bill boards, like roadside bill boards in support of impeachment.  And they`re running them in the home districts of a bunch of Republican members of the House who might be feeling some heat at home in their swing districts about their support for the president in their impeachment fight. 

The billboard shows president Trump holding a finger up to his lips like he`s saying shh, and there`s four would-be, could-be impeachment witnesses who have been told not to testify, including the White House chief of staff and the national security adviser John Bolton.  That same group, Republicans for the Rule of Law, have been running TV ads including on the Fox News Channel supporting the impeachment effort, explaining the impeachment effort.  These ads they`ve been running on Fox have been specifically targeted to run during some of the president`s favorite TV programs there. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE E.U.:  Was there a quid pro quo?  The answer is yes. 

AD NARRATOR:  President Trump held up military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens. 

AMBASSADOR WILLIAM TAYLOR, ACTING AMBASSADOR IN UKRAINE:  Withholding security assistance in exchange for help in a domestic political campaign in the United States would be crazy. 

AD NARRATOR:  Republicans know that a quid pro quo is wrong. 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  If you can show me that Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing. 

SONDLAND:  Was there a quid pro quo?  The answer is yes. 

AD NARRATOR:  Republicans must stand up to Trump`s abuse of power. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So the battle over the impeachment of President Trump isn`t just happening at these marathon hearings, including the one that we are continuing to cover tonight.  That is very, very important part of this process.  That is what the historical record will be all about at this moment in American history. 

But beyond what`s happening on Capitol Hill, the battle for public opinion also happens on the air waves and online, and that costs money.  And it takes organization and effort.  And the Republicans in the Trump campaign were definitely there first with their torrent of anti-impeachment online advertising, trying to turn the public against the impeachment effort. 

The other side, the pro-impeachment effort now is at least showing signs of life.  They now at least are starting to compete in the ad wars.  The pro- impeachment side has also been strongly bolstered over the past week since the House released its report on impeachment, the report on the president`s conduct. 

It`s interesting I didn`t necessarily expect that at this point in the president`s process, but when the House impeachment report about what President Trump did, when that 300 page report came out last week, one of the unexpected effects of that was that it set off a cascade of major newspapers across the country all starting to run strong editorials in favor of impeachment.  Even from editorial boards that had previously said they were against impeachment. 

And that recent torrent of major newspapers coming out and saying they`re in favor of impeaching the president here, that led to one funny moment in today`s hearing. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN):  I would like unanimous request to introduce the editorial from the "USA Today" today.  They called for impeachment of the president. 

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA):  I object.

COHEN:  From "The Los Angeles Times", from "The Philadelphia Inquirer", and from "The Boston Globe". 

COLLINS:  I object.  I want to read it. 

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  Objection is heard. 

COHEN:  I`d love for him to read them. 

NADLER:  Who else seeks recognition? 

COLLINS:  He proves I can read. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The editorials that Steve Cohen introduced into the record there that Doug Collins from Georgia said he wanted to read and Steve Cohen said, I`d love for you to read them, they`re part of a tide of major newspaper editorials that have come out all of a sudden in the last few days in favor of impeachment.  They all followed the report being issued by the House in terms of its impeachment investigation. 

"USA Today`s" editorial board saying, quote: Until recently, we believed that impeachment proceedings would be unhealthy for an already polarized nation, unhealthier than simply leaving Trump`s fate up to voters next November.  But Trump`s egregious transgressions and stonewalling have given the House little choice but to press ahead with most severe sanction at its disposal, and his thuggish effort to trade American arms for foreign dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump resembled Richard Nixon, another corrupt president who tried to cheat his way to reelection.  This isn`t partisan politics as usual.  It`s precisely the type of misconduct the framers had in mind when they wrote impeachment into the Constitution.  That was from "USA Today". 

This is from "The Washington Post" editorial board which has been critical of impeachment at times so far. 

"The Washington Post" editorial board now says this, quote: We take no pleasure in recommending the president`s impeachment and are aware of the considerable costs and risks further divide -- considerable costs and risks further dividing and inflaming our politics, turning impeachment into one more tool of partisan warfare, perhaps giving Mr. Trump unwarranted aid in his re-election effort.  But the House must make its decision based on the facts and merits, setting aside unpredictable second-order effects.  It is our view that more than enough proof exists for the House to impeach Mr. Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 

And that`s "The Washington Post" editorial board. 

Here`s "The Boston Globe".  Their editorial board calls President Trump`s behavior, that`s at the center of the impeachment inquiry, quote: the textbook definition of corruption. 

"The Globe" says, quote, the evidence that Trump is a threat is the constitutional system is more than sufficient.  Trump`s actions are just the sort of presidential behavior the Founders had in mind when they devised the recourse of impeachment.  The facts show that the president has threatened this country`s core values and the integrity of our democracy.  Congress now has a duty to future generations to impeach him. 

That`s "The Boston Globe". 

Here`s "The L.A. Times".  Quote: `The Times" editorial board was a reluctant convert to the impeachment cause.  We worried that impeaching Trump on essentially a party-line vote would be divisive.  It`s also highly likely that Trump would be -- will be acquitted by the Republican- controlled Senate.  And that rightly or wrongly he would point to that in his re-election campaign as exoneration. 

But those concerns must yield to the overwhelming evidence that Trump perverted U.S. foreign policy for his own political gain.  That sort of misconduct is outrageous and corrosive of democracy.  It can`t be ignored by the House and it merits a full trial by the Senate on whether to remove him from office. 

That`s "The L.A. Times". 

Here`s "The Philadelphia Inquirer".  Interestingly, at "The Inquirer", the editorial board there is singling out the second article against the president.  They say, quote: It is the second article, the obstruction of Congress by his unprecedented categorical and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas should have us all frightened.  In defying these orders, and through his continued ridicule of the impeachment process and the members of Congress who initiated it, President Trump has severely disrespected his office and the document he swore to protect and uphold.  Should this process end with a trial and a Senate vote to remove him from office, a prospect that seems highly unlikely, it`s not hard to imagine that he would insist that the process was invalid, and he would refuse to go. 

Such an act of tyranny is what the Constitution was created to protect against.  That`s why this impeachment process is urgent and should move forward without delay. 

That`s from "The Philadelphia Inquirer".

Again, there`s been this rash of editorials.  We got this battle in Congress, right, the Republicans and Democrats going at it hammer and tongs, going at each other`s arguments, going at it at each other at times personally.  We`ve got the ad wars that are happening online, basically uncontested ad space, by the Republicans in the Trump campaign, their anti- impeachment ad war online.  Democrats barely competing if at all in that space. 

The ad wars in terms of billboards though and television ads, those are now basically joined by both sides.  And then surprise with the report -- the impeachment report being released from the House, we`ve got major newspaper editorial boards, including those reluctant to join this call for the president`s impeachment, now coming out all in a big tide saying they`re all in favor of it and this couldn`t be a more urgent matter. 

So, the House is voting.  The House is going to be voting at some point tonight.  They`re in recess right now.  But they were going for 12 straight hours before they took this recess.  We`re expecting them back within the next -- certainly within the hour. 

But with the House planning its vote tonight, the battle for public opinion is happening in that hearing room.  It is also happening well beyond Capitol Hill.  We the voters, we the public do not have an overt role in this process.  We don`t get a vote, but you better believe that public opinion about these proceedings is going to determine what happens here and what this moment means in American history. 

Joining us now from Capitol Hill is Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island, a member of the Judiciary Committee.  And, boy, has he been working a long day already. 

Congressman, sir, thank you so much for taking time to talk to us.  I`m sure you guys are both bushed and busy. 

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI):  Yes, indeed.  Happy to be with you.

MADDOW:  What can tell you us -- what can you tell us about what`s happening right now and how you expect the rest of the evening to go? 

CICILLINE:  Well, we`re on a break now for about 30 minutes and will resume as soon as that break is over. 

We expect additional Republican amendments.  But I think, you know, you`ve heard from the Democrats during the course of this hearing that the president of the United States used the enormous power of his office, the enormous power of the U.S. presidency to drag a foreign power into an American presidential election to help him cheat in 2020, and he used taxpayer money, hundreds of millions of dollars as leverage to attempt to achieve that. 

And this is a sacred responsibility that we have to protect and defend the Constitution and to protect and defend our elections.  And this is president who tried to drag a foreign government to cheat, to bring some advantage to him.  And so, what we`ve tried to make clear is if we don`t hold this president accountable, if we say it`s OK, we should have every expectation this president will engage in this behavior again and continue to seek foreign assistance.  And we`ll send a message to every future president, whenever you face a tough reelection, just reach out to a foreign power and ask them for help and we`ll lose our democracy. 

And so, this is really about our ability to be a democracy and to allow the American people to elect their own leaders and decide their own future.  And as I said tonight, you know who gets to decide who`s going to win American presidential elections, the American people.  Not a foreign power. 

And this is about protecting the integrity of our election, protecting the national security of the United States and preventing the president of the United States from cheating in the 2020 election. 

MADDOW:  As you and your colleagues have been making these arguments over the course of the day and into tonight, I feel like I`ve had, I`ve seen real moments of eloquence.  There`s been a lot of thought-provoking stuff. 

I haven`t seen any persuasion that`s evident in the room, I haven`t seen any Republicans say they`re starting to agree with you on any of these matters.  I haven`t seen any Democrats saying actually that`s a good objection and maybe my Republican colleagues have a point there.  The aisle between the two parties seems as empty as ever.

CICILLINE:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Because of that, I wonder if this amendment process is meant to be persuasive or is it just meant to make this hearing go as long as possible in the hope that somebody drops first? 

CICILLINE:  It`s unclear what the Republicans expect to achieve, but, you know, I think the final question that the American people have to ask as they watch this is why is it ever okay to allow a foreign power to attempt to distort an American presidential election, why would it ever be okay for the president of the United States to invite that foreign interference and actually try to coerce a foreign leader so he could cheat in the 2020 election? 

And, you know, we`ve heard a lot about the economy and we`ve heard a lot about policy disagreements.  This isn`t about a policy disagreement.  That`s what elections are for. 

This is about an oath we took on the first day that we were sworn into office to protect and defend the Constitution.  And the Constitution provides a single remedy for a president who engages in this kind of misconduct.  And that remedy is impeachment. 

  And our Framers spoke about the most dangerous threat would be foreign interference and that a president would betray the national interests and use the enormous powers to advance his or her own personal interests and not the public interests.  That`s exactly what we have here and we have overwhelming evidence of that.  It`s really uncontested.

And the question I think my Republican colleagues have to answer and hopefully they`re hearing during the course of this debate is why is that OK?  Why is it OK ever to have a president reach out to a foreign leader in an effort to try to smear his chief political rival and distort the next election, and to really cheat to help win his election?  And if we allow this to happen, we will be sending a very bad message to this president who has sort of engaged in a pattern of this behavior, and we`ll send the same message to future presidents and that`s dangerous to our democracy. 

MADDOW:  Congressman, one of the interesting things and sort of novel things in terms of the history of impeachment, is that the investigation into what the president did and who else was involved and what all it is entailed in this scheme is ongoing.  And we got sort of a dramatic reminder of that last night when the Intelligence Committee released to you guys in the Judiciary Committee some classified information about the vice president, Mike Pence, and his communications with the Ukrainian government, the intelligence committee had asked the vice president to declassify it so we the public could see it, too.  The vice president`s office said they wouldn`t. 

But that`s new information about essentially the extent of what went on between the Trump administration and Ukraine that you guys presumably will be able to see with protections for classified information.  I don`t know if we`ll ever get to see it.

But is there still a sort of fact finding process under way even as your committee decides it`s seen enough to advance these two articles? 

CICILLINE:  Well, the doc that you`re speaking about I saw this afternoon.  But, yes, I mean, this is frankly a crime in progress.  I mean, the president is continuing to attempt to cheat in the 2020 election.  His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who led this scheme on the president`s behalf was back in Ukraine. 

So that`s one of the reasons this is so urgent, that it continues to compromise the national security interests of the United States.  It continues to compromise the integrity of our elections, and that`s the urgency of acting.  We can`t wait until the next election. 

My Republican colleagues said today oh, there`s an election around the corner, why can`t we wait?  It`s precisely because an election around the corner we need to move expeditiously, because the president`s conduct is attempting to cheat and rig that election in his favor by dragging foreign powers.  So, the idea of waiting for the election as a remedy when that`s the very conduct at issue here doesn`t make any sense. 

So it does underscore the importance of moving expeditiously, obviously thoroughly and carefully, but there`s overwhelming evidence that`s been collected.  It`s a 300-page intelligence report.  The testimony of 17 witnesses under oath, a number of text messages and e-mails between Trump officials, over a hundred hours of sworn testimony, and as I said overwhelming evidence that the president of the United States used the enormous power of his office in an attempt to cheat in the 2020 election, to corrupt our elections by dragging a foreign power into an American presidential election and using hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money as leverage. 

And the other really important point is Ukraine is really the tip of the spear.  This is an country in active war with the Russians.  Russia took part of their party . They`re still killing people in Eastern Ukraine and as a new emerging democracy, American military aid is their lifeline. 

And so, the only person who benefits from that hold on that military aid was to weaken Ukraine which is to the advantage of Vladimir Putin and the Russians, and to get Donald Trump some help in his re-election campaign.  So, this is -- this is gravely serious and it requires action by the Judiciary Committees so we can do everything we can do protect our democracy. 

MADDOW:  Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island, member of the Judiciary Committee -- sir, over your shoulder on my screen, I can see your colleagues starting to take their seats again as this recess comes to a close.  I`m going to let you.  Sir, thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

CICILLINE:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ve got much more to get to on this historic night.  They`re on a brief break right now on the Judiciary Committee.  We believe they`re convening on the other side of this heading toward what will be a vote we believe tonight on these two articles of impeachment against president Trump.  This is history in the making. 

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We are continuing to cover this ongoing markup.  It`s called a markup because technically what`s going on right now in the Judiciary Committee is that the members have the opportunity to amend, to change the articles of impeachment before they take a final vote on them. 

We did not necessarily expect this was going to be 12-plus hours and this was going to be going into the late night and potentially heading overnight and toward dawn.  But they could go as long as they want.  And at the top of this hour they took a recess.  They announced it would be about 30 minutes. 

You can see some of the members are back in the room.  We don`t know exactly when they`ll reconvene after this recess, but you can see some members are there. 

So, we will jump in as soon as they pick back up.

But I want to bring in to our conversation now, Chuck Rosenberg, former senior official at the Justice Department and the FBI, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. 

Chuck, I don`t know how much of this you`ve been able to watch over the course of the day.  It has been a marathon proceeding.  But you`re sort of Justice Department, former prosecutor hat on watching this and thinking about the gravity of these proceedings, what do you think we ought to be watching for? 

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Here`s what I`d like to see, obviously a historic event and important event.  People should be paying attention. 

But to my way of thinking, Rachel, debates aren`t just talking about, they`re also about listening.  And there doesn`t seem to be a lot of that going on. 

And I heard a story the other day which I thought was fascinating.  It goes all the way back to the Constitutional Convention when a delegate from North Carolina named William Davie was arguing for the inclusion of impeachment clause in the Constitution itself as it was being drafted.  And a fellow, a delegate from Pennsylvania named Gouverneur Morris, a wonderful name, was adamantly opposed, but he listened.  And he listened and he heard Davey`s argument, heard Ben Franklin argue for the inclusion of an impeachment clause, and eventually he stood up and he said three remarkable words -- I was wrong.  We need this.  I listened and it made sense. 

To my way of thinking as a prosecutor, the facts are overwhelming, they`re compelling.  Whether or not it`s impeachable is a political judgment.  But, gosh, I wish people would listen to one another. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  I was talking with Congressman Cicilline just a moment ago about -- I posited to him that persuasion doesn`t seem to be either -- I think it probably is the goal but there`s no evidence of it in terms of anybody coming any closer to anybody else`s side.  And I don`t know if they`re only arguing for the cameras and for people at home or if they do have any hope speaking to one another, but it does seem like this is going to be a party line vote.  It`s been party line votes all day long, 23-17, 23-17, on all these amendments. 

And the amendments aren`t particularly substantive.  The amendments seemed designed to stop the process or derail the process rather than contribute to it. 

ROSENBERG:  And perhaps that`s why the Founders put a requirement into the Constitution not for impeachment but for removal, conviction in the Senate, you need a super majority, you need two thirds.  Getting to the basic idea, this has to be bipartisan at least in the sense that some members of numbers, some number of senators have to cross over.  And for them to do that, they have to be open to the facts. 

You know, you mentioned that I have been a federal prosecutor.  I was.  It was a great privilege in my life.  I almost believe now -- not almost, I do believe that a jury drawn from the community who came in and promised just listen to the facts and applied the instructions as given by a judge would convict.  Now, obviously, this is not a conviction that we`re seeking but simply a vote on whether or not Donald Trump should be removed. 

But I`m not sure the senators could do the same job that regular jurors could do, and that`s disappointing.

MADDOW:  Do you believe -- because after all when does this move to a Senate trial, it will be House impeachment managers who play the role as prosecutors for the jury of the Senate.  Do you believe given what you`ve seen from the potential cast of house impeachment managers that they are capable of conducting the trial of the president in the Senate in a way that does credit to the gravity of this, whether or not you can anticipate anything how senators will vote and they`ll be able to divide from their party affiliation? 

ROSENBERG:  I think so with the following caveat, the House managers, the prosecutors, the purpose of the trial in the Senate must abide by the Senate rules, whatever they turn out to be.  And so, if the Senate rules unnecessarily or improperly constrain them or if the Senate perhaps doesn`t even want to hear from witnesses or if the Senate perhaps doesn`t want to see the introduction of documents or text messages, then I think it`s going to be a really tough road for those House managers to walk. 

When we try cases in federal court, there are federal rules of criminal procedure and federal rules of evidence, and everybody knows those rules who`s in that courtroom.  And those are the rules that govern our trials.  The rules here, right, can change.  The rules here can be overwritten with a majority vote, and it`s a difficult path I think for House managers, prosecutors, if you will, to walk. 

MADDOW:  In terms of what`s going to happen here and how this is going to proceed tonight.  Again, we don`t know what time the vote will be on these two articles.  When they made their decision to focus pretty tightly on the president`s behavior around the Ukraine scandal, abuse of power for the first article, second article, contempt or excuse me, obstruction of Congress -- do you feel like they left stuff on the table that could have been just as easily to frame in the articles of impeachment?  Obviously, they felt like this is the stuff they had dead to rights, there`s little factual contest on any of the things that form the bases of those two article. 

Do you feel there`s anything else that`s been derived from the impeachment investigation that could have just as easily, with just sort of a clean cut blend itself to the article? 

ROSENBERG:  Maybe not just as easily but I think there`s a really big piece that was left out and that was volume two of the Mueller report, the obstruction of justice section.  I think I said this on your show, but if not here goes.  I have charged, tried and convicted people of obstruction and related conduct on much less evidence than the Mueller team had accumulated. 

And so, if you want to tell a story, let`s say, in a criminal case, you want to develop a pattern because patterns show intent, right?  One false tax return would not ever be a criminal case.  Two false tax returns probably wouldn`t be a criminal case.  But if you were filing false tax returns for years, a pattern of illicit conduct, that becomes a criminal case because from patterns we can divine intent. 

So, that pattern of obstructive conduct that you see outlined in volume two of the Mueller report I think illustrates the president`s intent if you couple that, and again I`m biased because those types of things seem obvious to me and maybe not so obvious to others.  It doesn`t make it right, by the way.  It`s because I`ve seen this stuff. 

But if you couple the obstructive conduct outlined in the Mueller report with the obstructive conduct being alleged right now in the articles of impeachment, I think you have much more of a pattern, which gives you much more of an insight into the president`s intent. 

MADDOW:  That is such an interesting point and it`s something that I have been actually sort of hung up on since the articles came out, because at the end of each article of impeachment, there`s a reference to this fitting a pattern of the president`s behavior. 

I want to bring into the conversation now a member of the committee and again, they are reconvening shortly, so I`m going to rush right to her. 

Sheila Jackson Lee is a congresswoman from Texas, a member of the Judiciary Committee.  She`s managed to sneak away for us -- sneak away just a second before this recess ends. 

Congresswoman, thank you so much for making time. 

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX):  Thank you for having me. 

MADDOW:  Can you tell us a little bit what you expect is going to happen as you reconvene and how you think the rest of the evening is going to go? 

LEE:  Well, you know, Rachel, this is a teaching moment.  The Republicans are speaking to one constituent and that is President Trump.  What we`re trying to do is again explain to the American people this very somber process, articles of impeachment and the ultimate impeachment vote of the president of the United States based upon his own actions of using public dollars and public setting to secure opposition on a rival from a foreign entity.

Our friends on the other side, of course, are speaking about the accolades of President Trump`s record, why we are going after President Trump, when frankly we`re talking about corruption and betrayal and the interference with America`s elections.  You know, we were speaking earlier today, and we spoke about those words, do us -- do us a favor.  And I believe some members were using me or left out the word "us" and the president tweeted and suggested that we were lying. 

And, frankly, I want to make sure we educate the American people we have a mountain of evidence, 300 pages, 17 witnesses to say that we`re not.  And frankly, the president asked Mr. Zelensky for a favor right after this very vulnerable new president asked for defense aid. 

So that`s what we`re doing tonight.  We`re continuing as long as the Republicans want to offer amendments to undermine the articles, to delete words, to offer amendments to take out the language that was the same language in the 1998 proceedings.  We`re going to continue to educate the American people and ultimately vote our conscience on articles of impeachment. 

MADDOW:  Depending on the number of amendments they continue to offer and how this proceeding goes and how late it goes, do you expect there will be a vote on the articles tonight no matter how deeply into the evening and potentially into the overnight hours this stretches to? 

LEE:  Well, I don`t know if we made a final decision, but I will tell you that we`re going to go into the night, as long as they have amendments, we`re going to stay here. 

Our point is we`re not speaking to one constituent, one person as they are, and I tell you, they really are.  We really are speaking to the American people. 

And what I said in my speech yesterday, I said the waitress gets up early in the morning to get the breakfast, you have the steel worker, we`re speaking to Americans who work every day for them to understand this is about the Constitution.  And George Washington said he was not going to abandon the Constitution.  That`s what we`re doing. 

So we`re going to go as late as necessary with these amendments, and we`ll decide whether that vote will be taken tonight.  We are not leaving Washington until that vote is taken. 

MADDOW:  Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, member of the Judiciary Committee, I know it looks like things are getting back to order in the hearing room.  Thank you so much for taking time to be with us. 

LEE:  Thank you for having me.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

I will just say, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee is a veteran member of Congress, a veteran member of that committee and it`s just one of the members of Congress and they exist on both sides of the aisle who just exudes gravitas and seriousness of which she approaches her job.  And it`s heartening as a civic matter to have people like that in the midst of these proceedings. 

Just ask control room if they`ve reconvened formally.  We`re going to jump back into this.  This is Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, a retiring member of Congress and a Republican from Wisconsin. 

REP. JIM SENSENBRENNER (R-WI):  There was no treason or bribery alleged here.  And it goes onto what has been alleged in these two articles whether they are really high crimes and misdemeanors. 

(HOUSE JUDICIARY DEBATE)

REP. STEVE CHABOT (R-OH):  And I think the Democrats have been looking for an excuse to impeach this president for a long time now.  In fact, when they took over the House, one of their members --

MADDOW:  Pardon of the interruption here.  I`m going to step out here at the top of the hour, but our coverage of the impeachment proceedings continue now on MSNBC.  Stay with us.

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