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Rick Gates to be sentenced Tuesday. TRANSCRIPT: 12/16/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Eric Swalwell, Ezra Levin

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  That is ALL IN for this evening. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thanks, my friend.  Much appreciate it. 

HAYES:  Thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Happy to have you with us. 

It`s a week before Christmas.  And so, everything supposed to be slowing down, if not closing up.  Right?  Everybody getting into the holiday spirit, the news going into a long winter`s nap.  Ha.  That`s if we could be so lucky. 

It is the week before Christmas, but, of course, it is all systems go.  Tonight, we are following developing stories on a few different fronts. 

On the issue of voting rights on the upcoming election, the crucial, crucial, crucial, crucial, swing state of Wisconsin is, as the president might say, going through some things right now.  In a lawsuit brought by a conservative advocacy group, a state judge has just ruled that the state of Wisconsin must immediately deactivate the voter registrations of more than 200,000 people who live in Wisconsin, 200,000.  More than 230,000. 

I mean, for context, the newly elected Democratic governor of Wisconsin, Tony Evers, he`s pointed out in reaction to this ruling that he won the governorship last year in Wisconsin by less than 30,000 votes.  This new immediate voting purge ordered by this state judge sort of engineered by this conservative legal group will deactivate, will purge, the voter registrations of more than seven times as many voters as the number that made up the margin that elected the state`s last governor.  You can`t be too careful.  Let`s get these voter rolls trimmed. 

Disproportionately, the voters that are being targeted to have their registrations deactivated are in Milwaukee and Madison, which you can imagine why.  They are both bases of the Democratic party support in the state.  They`re both home to large college campuses full of students who, again, tend to vote Democratic and so, naturally, those are the places being targeted to have voter registrations deactivated. 

And as Wisconsin is springing into action to take more than 230,000 voters off the rolls effective immediately, the great state of Georgia as of tonight is doing the same thing.  You might remember in the hard-fought Georgia governors race that got national attention, right, Democratic rising star Stacey Abrams facing off against the Republican Secretary of State in Georgia, Brian Kemp, the man who was in charge of running his own election as secretary of state, the main controversy in that governors race, the reason Stacey Abrams never formally conceded that race, is because of this massive effort by the Republican-controlled state government in Georgia, Brian Kemp first among them, to cut down the number of people who were allowed to vote in that state ahead of that election. 

Between 2012 and 2018, Republican-led government, the Republican-led government in the state of Georgia canceled over.4 million voter registrations just in that state, 1.4 million.  Well, as of tonight, the Republican-led state government now under the gubernatorial leadership of Brian Kemp because now he`s the governor, tonight, they`re trying to unregister another 313,000 people in Georgia.  People who are registered to vote, but the state government is going to unregister them.  They`re going to deactivate those voter registrations and purge those people off the voter rolls. 

Stacey Abrams was not elected governor against Brian Kemp.  She now leads an anti-voter suppression group called Fair Fight.  Fair Fight has been battling this in court to try to stop it -- but, I mean, this is part of a larger thing.  I mean, as Georgia Democrats have fought harder and harder to register more and more people to vote in that state and as Georgia has, thereby, increasingly trended purple and even toward blue, this has been the Republican response.  To just wipe people off the vote voting rolls by the hundreds of thousands every way they can. 

And so, yes, these days are upon us already.  The next election will, of course, be decided by which candidates are on the ballot and how good they are at running their campaigns and the mood of the country and all the rest of it, but in a technical sense, in a nuts and bolts sense, the next elections will, of course, be decided entirely by who votes in those elections.  Who finds it easy to vote, who finds it hard to vote, who finds themselves disallowed from voting.  So, Wisconsin and Georgia both in the middle tonight of purging between them hundreds of thousands of voters off the rolls in both states, both of those states the people who are disproportionately targeted by those voter purges are people who are likely to vote Democratic. 

Now, in terms of who the candidates are going to be in the next election, one of the other things we`re watching tonight that`s going to be really interesting over the next few days is that the Democratic presidential candidates are supposed to be having their next debate this Thursday night in Los Angeles.  I say they`re supposed to be because there`s a couple of interesting developing stories to watch there.  First of all, all the candidates who have qualified for this week`s debate, all seven of them, have now joined with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, neither of whom qualified for this week`s debate.  The seven candidates who are going to be on the stage plus Booker and Castro have now joined forces, nine candidates all together, to basically petition the Democratic party, to petition the DNC, that they should change the criteria by which Democratic candidates qualify for the debates from here on out. 

Of the seven people who were qualified for the Thursday night debate in L.A., six of the seven of them are white.  Only Andrew Yang is not.  The candidates are describing the limiting impact of the DNC`s debate rules as having a, quote, inadvertent impact on the diversity of which candidates are making the cut and ending up on the stage for the Democrats. 

So, all the candidates on stage, plus Booker and Castro, they`re asking the party now for changes, late changes, to the qualifying process for the next debates, basically, to make it a little easier for candidates to get up there by more means than they can get there now. 

So far, the Democratic Party shows no signs of giving into these demands, but, I mean, think about how this plays if all of their candidates are asking for the same thing, that`s eventually going to become an awkward problem for the party.  You can`t have all of the candidates in the party against the party on a procedural issue like this. 

Even sooner than that resolves, though, there`s this issue of whether there is actually going to be a Thursday night debate this week, and that is completely determined at this point by whether or not there`s going to be a picket line between the candidates and the debate venue at Loyola Marymount University.  People who work at Loyola Marymount in a big, tough, labor dispute that as of right now is going to put a picket line around the entrance to the debate venue and Democrats do not cross picket lines.  Every one of the candidates scheduled to be on stage on Thursday night has said that he or she will not cross a picket line in order to get into that venue, but as far as we know, a picket line`s going to be there,

So far, the DNC`s response appears to be to hope that this issue will resolve and quickly, but if it doesn`t, I don`t know what plan "B" is.  And I say this as a developing story, this is definitely worth watching over the course of this week because this is not something where, like, a shade of gray is going to work.  Where there`s, like, some compromise solution. 

I mean, this is a cut and dry thing.  If there is a picket line, there will be no candidates at the debate.  Only if there is not a picket line can there be a debate.  That`s it. 

It`s black or white.  It has to go one way or the other and it has to go fast.  I mean, Thursday night, that`s, you know, three nights from now. 

And, meanwhile, between now and then, the president of the United States is going to be impeached for only the third time in U.S. history.  The president`s favorite way to absorb information appears to be watching television.  Nothing wrong with that.  And most of what he appears to watch on television is the Fox News Channel. 

Over the past couple of days, it appears to have rattled a number of the president`s favorite hosts on the Fox News channel, and, therefore, appears to have rattled the president, himself, that in Fox News` own later poll on impeachment, fully 50 percent of the country says they believe that President Trump should be impeached and removed from office. 

This is among registered voters nationwide.  This poll was taken last week.  Again, it`s a Fox News poll. 

Fifty percent of registered voters in the country say they want Trump impeached and removed from office.  Only 41 percent say they do not want him impeached.  And that is the top-line result which you might imagine would cause enough agita at the White House and the Fox News Channel. 

But you look at the results below that headline, the detailed results, they`re even worse.  I mean, the rise in the overall proportion of people in this country who want Trump impeached and removed from office appears to be driven by independents turning against the president on this issue, and this is bad at any time.  It`s particularly bad heading into an election year. 

In late October, this same Fox News poll showed 38 percent of independents wanting President Trump impeached and removed from office.  Now the proportion of independents who says that has risen from 38 percent in October to 45 percent now.  And that increase in support for impeaching and removing the president from office among independents, that is driving up the numbers overall in terms of national support for impeaching him and throwing him out. 

In this new Fox News poll, a majority or a plurality of registered voters very clearly say that President Trump abused his power, abused power.  That is, 53 percent-38 percent, yes, he abused power. 

Also, yes, he obstructed Congress.  That`s 48 to 34.  Also, yes, he committed bribery.  That`s 45 to 37. 

Fox News poll asked, is it generally wrong for President Trump to ask leaders of foreign countries to investigate political rivals?  Registered voters by a margin of 60 to 24 percent say, yes, that is generally wrong. 

Well, what about the Republicans` argument and the White House argument that everybody does it, that presidents do this kind of thing all the time?  Well, Fox News asked registered voters nationwide, do presidents typically ask foreign leaders to investigate political rivals?  And the answer, according to this new Fox News poll, is no.  According to 58 percent of registered voters, only 22 percent say yes, that`s normal, presidents do that all the time. 

I mean, every element of this impeachment poll from Fox News cuts against the president.  Is the Trump administration cooperating enough with the impeachment inquiry?  The answer from registered voters is no, 52 to 36 percent. 

Are congressional Democrats running the impeachment inquiry fairly?  The answer from registered voters, according to this new Fox News poll is yes, Democrats are running this impeachment inquiry fairly by a plurality of 45 to 42. 

How about the president`s Republican defenders in Congress?  Fox News poll asks, this is an interesting question, asked if the president`s Republican defenders in Congress are defending him just because they want to protect politically or are they defending him because they truly believe that what he did is not impeachable?  By a 16-point margin, voters nationwide say Republican lawmakers just want to protect politically.  Just want to protect Trump politically, by a 16-point margin. 

By 16-point margin, registered voters looking at the behavior of Republicans and Trump-supporting members of Congress through this impeachment say it`s not because they don`t think he should be impeached, just because they`re protecting him, anyway.  That`s bad.  Not only for the president, that`s particularly bad for the president`s Republican supporters in Congress who all have their own political fates to worry about. 

So, the politics of the impeachment inquiry are "A", on the move and "B," trending badly both for the president and for Republicans in Congress.  And while it technically should not matter who conducts a nationwide poll like this, as long as it`s a scientifically sound poll, if we`re being realistic about it, the fact that this is a Fox News poll and is, therefore, being covered all over Fox News, which the president watches 24 hours a day, that has a particular sting and particular effect for president and his staunchest defenders. 

But the other thing that is at work here, I think this is the most interesting thing about this impeachment even when you compare it to other impeachments of the last century, right, even when you compare it to the Watergate impeachment effort and the Bill Clinton impeachment effort, the thing I find fascinating here that I really think is -- it sort of stands alone, is that this impeachment crisis as the House moves to vote on articles of impeachment against the president this week, it is not a dead letter.  It`s not over. 

The impeachment scandal, what we know about it, continues to evolve and continues to break open bit by bit.  For example, you remember Michael Cohen, right?  It was this time last year that Michael Cohen was sentenced to prison for among other things making illegal payments totaling over a quarter million dollars to benefit the Trump campaign for president by effectively paying two women to make them stop asserting they had had affairs with then-candidate Donald Trump. 

Just about a year ago in the course of that criminal case when Michael Cohen was learning how much time he was going to get in federal prison that we also got headlines like these -- prosecutors say Trump directed illegal payments during campaign.  Quote: federal prosecutors said on Friday that President Trump directed illegal payments to ward off a potential sex scandal that threatened his chances of winning the White House in 2016.

Before actually reporting for his first day in federal prison, Michael Cohen would go on to explain to Congress exactly how President Trump directed him to make those illegal payments and the fact that Trump wrote personal checks to Michael Cohen to try to disguise the source of the money and pay it all off. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I am providing the committee today with several documents, and these include a copy of the check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account after he became president to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and to prevent damage to his campaign.  I am going to jail, in part, because of my decision to help Mr. Trump hide that payment from the American people before they voted a few days later. 

As exhibit 5A to my testimony shows, I am providing the copy of a $35,000 check that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank account on August 1st of 2017, when he was president of the United States, pursuant to the cover-up which was the basis of my guilty plea. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Regardless of what you think about the president and these alleged affairs, or whether you can bring yourself to think about them at all, personally, I just kind of block about it.  Can`t even get there even if I tried.  Just oop, oop, I`m asleep.  Nope.  Asleep.  Kind of a canary in a little bird cage.  Put a little blanket over me. 

Regardless of what or whether you think about these affairs, the money that he paid to cover up the allegations of those affairs, those were felonies.  The money that he paid to cover up the allegation of affairs were felony illegal payments. 

And Michael Cohen went to jail for them.  And federal prosecutors say it was the president who directed Michael Cohen to make those illegal payments.  But he`s the president and so while he`s president, he can`t be prosecuted.  And so, only Michael Cohen has gone to jail for that. 

Funny, though, last May, President Trump had to revise the financial disclosure that he`s legally required to make as president.  He revised it to include for the first time an after-the-fact admission that, yes, he did pay Michael Cohen for the hush money payments to the porn star and the Playboy model.  It`s illegal for a federal official, including a president, to lie on a financial disclosure form.  He had not included his illegal campaign finance payments on his initial disclosure, but he went back and revised that and included it in a new footnote filed just before Michael Cohen went off to prison. 

Well, that`s the history here.  The -- it`s amazing, none of that factors into the impeachment at all.  That`s just sliding, right?  But "The New York Times" reports as of this weekend that this time, what the president is not listing on his financial disclosure form is the free, very expensive gift, he has received from Rudy Giuliani.  Free gift of legal services. 

In the scheme in Ukraine for which president Trump is being impeached this week, Rudy Giuliani says he was acting as the president`s personal lawyer for months.  Trying to cook up this proverbial drug deal where the government of Ukraine would announce investigations into President Trump`s most feared political rival for next year`s election, former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Now, Mr. Giuliani, believe it or not, is a very highly compensated lawyer in real life.  He does have the right to work for his friend, President Trump, for free, but that`s a gift if he`s doing so.  Under government ethics laws, that`s a gift that needs to be ascribed a real monetary value and it needs to be disclosed on the president`s ethics -- his financial filings. 

And it`s not a subtle thing.  I mean, the rules explicitly say federal officials must disclose, quote, gifts of legal defenses, either in kind or by payment of the fees.  In this case, it`s in kind, but the president has made no such disclosure as to all this free legal work that Rudy Giuliani`s been doing for him.  Again, this is not an optional thing.  It`s a crime to be a federal official who lies on your federal financial disclosure. 

Which is why the president had to humiliatingly revise his last financial disclosure to reflect the fact that, yes, he did make the illegal hush money payments that his lawyer went to prison for.  I mean, he`s going to have to make that kind of revision with this Giuliani stuff, too. 

But, again, it`s not optional.  This is a legal thing.  And the line between the political scandal and the sort of public humiliation and the crime in this presidency, and specifically around this impeachment scandal, is getting very, very woolly. 

I mean, Mr. Giuliani, himself, is reportedly the target of a federal criminal investigation, which has resulted thus far in subpoenas to lots of entities and individuals who have done business with Mr. Giuliani and his consulting firm.  One of the two handsome prom dates who accompanied Mr. Giuliani on his adventures in Ukraine tomorrow is due back in federal court in New York where prosecutors are asking for Lev Parnas` bail conditions to be revoked.  Currently out on house arrest with an ankle monitor on while he awaits the start of his trial. 

Prosecutors are asking the judge in his case to revoke those bail conditions and instead put him in jail, to await his trial, because among other things they say he didn`t tell them about the million dollars that was wired to him from Russia in the month before he was arrested this past September while he was in the middle of working on this scheme with president -- this scheme for President Trump with Mr. Giuliani.  Lev Parnas will be in federal court in New York tomorrow finding out if he`s able to stay at liberty until his trial starts.  Mr. Parnas has already expressed an interest in providing information to the impeachment investigation.  According to the Intelligence Committee, he`s already turned over documents and correspondence to them and is continuing to do so on a rolling basis. 

While that bail proceeding is under way for Lev Parnas in federal court in New York tomorrow, we`re also expecting in a different federal court tomorrow the sentencing of the president`s deputy campaign chair, Rick Gates.  Gates` sentencing has been delayed at least six times already as he`s been cooperating with prosecutors in multiple cases related to President Trump, including the trial that resulted in the conviction of Trump`s campaign chair Paul Manafort and the trial that resulted in the conviction of the president`s longtime political adviser Roger Stone. 

Rick Gates will be sentenced tomorrow at long last, because of his extensive Cooperation and his willingness to testify at trial in at least I think three federal cases, prosecutors are asking for Rick Gates to get probation and no prison time, but they`re also asking for the court to require him to continue to assist prosecutors as needed even after his sentence is imposed. 

On top of that, today, Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn had a disastrous day of his own in federal court.  Flynn was initially due to be sentenced on Wednesday of this week.  Would have been sort of an amazing split screen, right?  While President Trump is being impeached in the House on Wednesday, Mike Flynn would simultaneously be -- would be sentenced potentially to federal prison as Trump`s first national security adviser for lying to investigators about his secret contacts with the Russian government. 

That would have been an amazing split screen but that planned Wednesday sentencing for Flynn was delayed when Flynn`s as seen on TV new defense counsel insisted that Flynn`s sentencing needed to wait and wait some more and wait some more because she promised a lot of incredibly exculpatory information was just about to come out about Mike Flynn that would show that he was totally innocent and he was set up by a rogue FBI and Robert Mueller is the real crime lord and all these other theories that sounded amazing on Fox News on a weeknight but didn`t make any sense given that Mike Flynn has pled guilty to felony charges. 

The judge in Flynn`s case today rejected all of those legal arguments without exception and without hesitation.  He didn`t use exclamation points but they were implied.  The bottom line of the ruling today against Flynn was blunt. 

Quote: Regardless of Mr. Flynn`s new theories, he has pled guilty twice to the crime.  And he fails to demonstrate that the disclosure of the requested information from the government would have impacted his decision to plead guilty.

Quote: upon careful consideration of the party`s submissions, the applicable law and the entire record therein, the court denies Mr. Flynn`s motions.  All of them. 

In addition to rejecting every single one of Flynn`s motions and every single one of Flynn`s requests for more information from the government and prosecutors, the judge counts 50 separate requests for information to try to put off his sentencing even more.  In addition to rejecting all of those, every single one of them, the judge goes out of his way to note that in the filings that Flynn`s lawyer made on his behalf in this case, his lawyer appears to have committed plagiarism.  The judge didn`t have to point this out.  He just made sure to. 

But the court first considers Mr. Flynn`s requests and the party`s arguments, then analyzes Mr. Flynn`s request for classified information and concludes that Mr. Flynn has failed to establish a single Brady violation by the government.  Before turning to the specific requests, though, the court will address the ethical concerns with Mr. Flynn`s brief.

And the judge goes on to explain that the ethical concerns with Flynn`s brief is that his lawyer copied stuff from a Supreme Court ruling, which is the kind of thing a judge might notice.  I mean, copy stuff from Wikipedia, right?  Maybe the judge won`t have -- Supreme Court ruling, the judge might -- 

And so, now, Mike Flynn has had his scheduling sentenced again.  It`s not going to be Wednesday while the president is going to be impeached.  His sentencing is going to be next month toward the end of January. 

The only real drama now left in the Flynn case is whether there`s going to be some sort of ethics finding against his lawyer.  But also the question of whether prosecutors might actually revise their earlier request to the judge that he go easy on Flynn.  That prosecutors had initially said that Flynn should get lots of credit for his earlier cooperation, and now he`d been a great witness for them, really help them out. 

Now that Flynn has switched his legal defense to somebody he found on Fox News, now that he`s no longer cooperating and, in fact, is trying to use this case to undermine all of the prosecutors` cases against all of the other Russia-related defendants, it is possible that prosecutors could now go back to the judge and say, hey, judge, if you`re thinking about throwing the book at him, we will no longer mind if you do that. 

And this concludes today`s cautionary tale about hiring your defense counsel from Trumpland. 

So, there`s lots going on, all at once.  The Judiciary Committee produced its final report on the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, president of the United States.  It was released overnight just as we told you on Friday it would be.  It is an intimidating document because it is 658 pages long.

But here`s the secret -- I will tell you -- the new bit of this report is not 658 pages long.  There`s only about 150 pages that is new.  The rest of it is just a complete record of everything else that has happened in the case and in the investigation thus far.  It`s mostly stuff that we`ve seen published other places. 

But in its 150 pages, it`s new stuff, final report on what happened in this impeachment investigation, the Judiciary Committee concludes that the president doesn`t need to have committed a violation of the law, an actual crime, in order to be impeached.  But the committee concludes that in this case, nevertheless, you should know that the president did commit violations of law, specifically, bribery and honest services fraud. 

And, again, he doesn`t need to have committed actual crimes, violations of federal statute in order to be impeached, but they`re saying, yes, he did, anyway.  We`ll talk about that with a member of the Judiciary Committee coming up in just a moment. 

Tomorrow, the rules committee is scheduled to set the terms on which the impeachment vote will happen on the House floor on Wednesday.  Tomorrow night, we`re expecting demonstrations around the country, more than 500 rallies in support of the impeachment of President Trump, all under the theme, nobody is above the law.  Over 550 rallies planned in all 50 states.  Over 150,000 people RSVP`d online to take part in those demonstrations all over the country tomorrow night. 

So here we go.  I know it`s the week before Christmas, but we apparently are going to have to run through the tape on this one. 

Stay hydrated.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA):  There are no crimes here, that is the defense my colleagues across the aisle are putting forward.  How about the highest crime that one who holds public office could commit, a crime against our Constitution?  Now, the Constitution does not require President Trump have committed statutory crimes.  After all, we in Congress are not criminal prosecutors.  We do not prosecute crimes, we protect the Constitution. 

But since my colleagues keep bringing up what potential crimes a criminal prosecutor could charge the president with, let`s go through some of them because President Trump`s conduct overlaps with criminal acts.  Let`s start with criminal bribery. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Congressman Eric Swalwell at last week`s marathon Judiciary Committee hearing on the articles of impeachment against President Trump, let`s start with criminal bribery.  That was last week and then lo and behold, overnight, when the 658-page impeachment report was published right there in black and white, the president is accused of, quote, multiple federal crimes, including criminal bribery and also honest services fraud. 

Quote: Although President Trump`s actions need not rise to the level of criminal violation to justify impeachment, his conduct here was criminal.

Joining us now here on set is the eerily prescient, Congressman Eric Swalwell. 

Sir, it`s good to have you here. 

SWALWELL:  Yes, same here, thanks for having me back. 

MADDOW:  I mean, as you noted in that little bit of sound that I just played and in the report, it`s clear and there`s no equivocation about the fact that the president doesn`t have to have committed a crime in order to be impeached.  Why is it, therefore, important to spell out that, in your view, and in the committee`s view, he did commit crimes? 

SWALWELL:  Well, his conduct, you know, as it relates to abuse of power also matches up with, you know, multiple criminal statutes, and our job as I pointed out, we`re to protect the Constitution.  Criminal prosecutors one day may look at what the president has done and we also think it`s kind of a circular argument for Republicans to say, well, he hasn`t been charged with a crime so you can`t impeach him when the president won`t allow his own Department of Justice to charge him with a crime.

But if you want to go through the crimes, we believe that in his abusing, you know, his office by asking a foreign government to help him cheat for his own personal benefit in the election, he committed a crime of bribery, but also the crime of honest services fraud which is basically bribery on the phone. 

MADDOW:  Wire fraud is the component part of that. 

SWALWELL:  Right, right. 

MADDOW:  I was interested -- I don`t spend a lot of time talking about polling on the show because I feel like you can pick a poll -- it does seem to have gotten under the president`s skin and, perhaps, under the skin of some of the folks who he most relies on at the Fox News Channel, that there was a Fox News poll that came out this weekend that showed 50 percent of the country in favor of impeaching and removing him from office.  As opposed to 41 percent who were not in favor of that. 

But interesting, on the question of bribery, a plurality of registered voters across the country also believe that the president committed criminal bribery.  I feel like given the case that you guys made for that in the report, the fact that public opinion seems to be with you on that, the fact it seems to have sunk in that that really is what the president did, I`m sort of surprised it didn`t end up in the articles, itself.  Was that a fierce debate? 

SWALWELL:  It was actually purposeful.  We believe there`s no higher crime against the Constitution than abusing the office that we entrusted you with as president, the highest office in the land, an office where you have great power, you know, to seek foreign interference, where you can jeopardize national security and election integrity, and we think he did all of that.  So we wanted, you know, to make sure that we captured all of that with those three words, you know, abuse of power. 

People understand what it means for their boss, you know, their pastor, their teacher, anyone who holds power in a community, you know what it means when someone abuses it.  So that captures the president`s conduct best. 

MADDOW:  You and every other member of the House on Wednesday is going to have the responsibility of voting on these articles.  Can you give us any sense as people are going to watch this from the outside what it will be like and what you expect from the process? 

SWALWELL:  Expect, you know, a protracted debate.  I mean, this is an opportunity for members to go to the floor and explain, you know, why this offends their oath to the Constitution and why we have a duty, again, to protect national security and the upcoming elections. 

But you`re also going to hear a lot about the urgency here, that these articles, you said they`re not a dead letter.  I`ve said, you know, they`re written in the active voice.  They`re not written in the passive voice.  They`re not looking back at something that happened in the past.  This is ongoing. 

The president`s lawyer just got back from Ukraine and is briefing the president this week.  And so, we have all the reason to be concerned that if we do nothing, you know, we could lose everything. 

MADDOW:  Congressman Eric Swalwell, member of the intelligence committee and the judiciary committee -- you have a big week ahead of you, sir.  Thanks for coming in. 

SWALWELL:  Yes, thanks, Rachel.  You too. 

MADDOW:  Thanks. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  The protesters sometimes dress up like fish with big cardboard hats in the shape of fish heads and see little scales taped all down the body there.  Some of them have retrofitted their musical instruments to make the instruments look like fish, too.  This, por ejemplo, is a fish accordion.  Sometimes they`re just adorable little old women with fish signs strung around their necks. 

But these aren`t just any fish that these demonstrators have adopted as their symbol and put on all their signs.  Specifically, they are sardines and it`s kind of funny to think that a tiny humble little fish that`s usually sold in a can would end up becoming the mascot of a political movement, but that is exactly what is happening in Italy right now, and I`m all for it.  I`m at least all for the sardine imagery. 

Where it comes from is that over these past few weeks protesters, part of this movement, have been cramming into piazzas all over the country, into public spaces.  They`ve been filling up public plazas everywhere.  The idea is that they`re turning out such large crowds they`re literally packed together like sardines. 

And they are there to demonstrate against that country`s far right leader Matteo Salvini.  Salvini is ascendant in Italian politics right now.  He`s trying to consolidate his power by having his party pick off seat specifically in traditionally left-leaning regions in the country.  And Salvini`s ascendance and that flanking move by him has inspired a 32-year- old Italian who almost accidentally became the leader of what would soon be called the Sardine movement. 

This 32-year-old guy started holding counter-protests, calling for counterprotests with his friends, calling for counterprotests and flash mobs in cities and regions where Salvini was looking to make inroads with his far right party.  After Salvini boasted that he could fill Italy`s squares with his own supporter, the Sardine Movement responded by hosting demonstrations that were double the size of anything that Salvini could turn out. 

Now, here in this country, the Trump era has also generated all sorts of organizing and political mobilization in opposition to him and his movement.  Couple of weeks before President Trump`s inauguration, we first noticed small protests cropping up at the offices of Republican members of Congress.  And that started to build. 

We quickly realized that it wasn`t just Republican members of Congress, it was Democratic members of Congress, too, and these people turning up at these district events were following a guidebook drawn up by a group, a new group, called Indivisible, which argued about how people could effectively pressure their members of Congress to block the Trump agenda.  Even if you live in a liberal area, even if you have a Democratic member of Congress, but particularly if you`ve got a Republican member of Congress, here`s what you can do that will have a practical effect on the behavior of your member. 

Soon there were thousands of Indivisible groups all over the country protesting certain policy positions, targeting members of Congress everywhere, every time they went home.  They held retirement parties outside some lawmakers` offices ahead of the 2018 election.  Here they are standing outside in the rain outside the office of former Congressman Darrell Issa, serenading him telling this year you`re going to retire.  And it worked, Darrell Issa retired as did dozens of other Republicans in congress.  The first real hint of what would be that blue-wave election in 2018 that saw the House flipped to Democratic control. 

We also saw protests when Republicans tried to jam through a health care bill that would have gutted Medicaid which would rob many disabled Americans of benefits.  Dozens of protesters, many of them in wheelchairs, turned up outside of Senator Mitch McConnell`s office and in hearings, one point actually getting out of their wheelchairs laying on the floor in the floor of McConnell`s office.  They held firm despite being arrested by Capitol Hill police, people being wheeled away.  Others being carried away. 

It worked.  They blocked that bill.  Perhaps the biggest form of mobilization that we have seen in the Trump era was the women`s march the day after President Trump`s inauguration.  It dwarfed the inauguration crowd size, hundreds of thousands of people taken to the streets.  Not just in Washington, D.C., but coast to coast. 

One sign of a good government, or a good leader, is that you don`t have to think about politics very much.  Your dear leader may not cross your mind in a country that`s well run.  That obviously is not the case right now. 

One of the hallmarks of this era is that politics and the leadership in this country is very much in your face, in your brain, all the time.  Not only the behavior and the actions and the words of our president, but the actions of our government constantly provoking outrage and support and outrage and support and outrage and support in a way that is exhausting for all involved.  That`s led to all sorts of different reactions.  Some people check out, some people decide to run for office. 

But for a lot of people, it has meant getting out there in the street and that has been a hallmark of the Trump era already.  And we may be about to see that for the first time in a large scale tomorrow when it comes to this impeachment scandal, and that story is next. 

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Tomorrow night in Boise, Idaho, they`re planning a honk and wave.  In Kahului, Hawaii, it`s going to be what they call a family-friendly gathering.  In San Antonio, Texas, people are going to be rallying in downtown San Antonio.  In Minot, North Dakota, they will be marching. 

So far, almost 600 different events are planned nationwide.  Rallies and marches on the eve of the House`s full vote on impeachment.  That vote will happen on Wednesday.  These events are going to happen tomorrow night, Tuesday night. 

The website, impeach.org, a project of a big coalition of different liberal advocacy groups, is helping protesters coordinate these rallies all under the banner, nobody is above the law.  And they`ll happen everywhere but some of the more sort of pointed events in terms of their potential impact will happen in specific congressional districts where you can imagine the drama this creates for that individual member of Congress. 

Take, for example, the event scheduled in the district of Minnesota Democratic Congressman Collin Peterson.  Peterson says he hasn`t yet decided whether he`s going to vote yes on the articles of impeachment.  He represents a district that`s projected to be a tossup in the 2020 election.  His constituents plan to let him know what they want him to do when the house meets to vote on impeachment articles on Wednesday. 

The impeachment process by design doesn`t have a public component.  It`s up to our representatives in Congress to do just that, to represent their constituents.  In that room as they consider ostensibly indicting the president which they`re going to do in the House on Wednesday and potentially removing him which is what they`re going to consider in the Senate.  While Congress does its work, people across the country are planning to put a very interesting form of pressure on their lawmakers tomorrow night to remind them who they represent and what they want. 

Joining us now is Ezra Levin.  He`s co-executive director of Indivisible, one of the groups involved in tomorrow`s rallies. 

Ezra, it`s good to see you.  Thanks for being here.

EZRA LEVIN, CO-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INDIVISIBLE:  Great to be here. 

MADDOW:  So over the last couple years, we`ve talked a few different times about strategy. 

LEVIN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  And one of the things that`s been so interesting to me about Indivisible is your perspective along with your co-organizers at Indivisible as former congressional staffers saying, listen, we know what moves members of Congress. 

LEVIN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  And here`s specific ways to call your member of Congress, here`s reasons to go to events, here`s the types of events that are going to move them. 

LEVIN:  Right. 

MADDOW:  How does a mass demonstration, how do marches and rallies of the type that are planned for tomorrow night, how do they work strategically? 

LEVIN:  Yes.  So, I say this as a former congressional staffer, Congress as a whole has an approval rating on par of toenail fungus and cockroaches.  And that`s an old poll.  It`s probably lower now.

But here`s the great thing about Congress.  Every single member wakes up every morning thinking, how am I going to get re-elected? 

The answer to that question is, you`ve got to convince your constituents that you`re one of the good folks in Congress, that you`re actually looking out for them.  You`re not part of that problem caucus in Congress.  You`re one of the ones who`s actually representing constituents, which means members of Congress go home every single week trying to craft their local image, to make clear that they are one of the good members of Congress.

And that`s what gives constituents power.  That`s what we`ve exercised over the last three years because if you get a handful of people together and show up at a congressional district office, show up at a town hall, show up in a public space and say, hey, member of Congress, I think you should be representing me.  I think you should hold this president accountable, that influences how they`re perceived by your neighbors, by the community at large, and that can affect how your member of Congress actually behaves.  I`ve seen it being a congressional staffer. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the way these events go, part of the reason I went through this list of events that are planned, is that it does some like in every different district, in every town where these are happening, there`s almost 600 of them planned now, they`re all a little different, that everybody locally is planning their own type of event that they hope will have its own type of impact.  Is that clear?

LEVIN:  That is exactly right.  This is not a command and control operation.  And a little news, it broke 600 events right before I came on. 

MADDOW:  OK.

LEVIN:  So, the number is growing.  If you are in a town and you go to indivisible.org or impeach.org, put in your zip code, and you don`t find one, you stick up your hand and say, hey, I have a dozen people.  I`ll set up my own impeachment event. 

If you Google image search Indivisible logo, you`ll find the national Indivisible logo, and that`s all well and good, but you`ll find literally hundreds of other Indivisible logos from all over the country because this is fundamentally a movement that is led at the local level.  And the reason why it`s had the impact that it has had, the reason why it`s still going three years on, people got together to fight the Trump agenda but they stay together because they built these communities of folks who are supporting each other and empowering each other to influence this state of national politics.

MADDOW:  What is your take on the sort of punditocracy discussion about whether or not impeachment is going to help or hurt the president`s re- election chances if, in fact, the Senate doesn`t remove him? 

LEVIN:  Look, there`s an impeachment event in Red Oak, Iowa.  That`s between Des Moines and Omaha.  That happens to be in Iowa, where Joni Ernst is running for reelection next year.  It`s in a state where Donald Trump`s approval ratings are underwater by 13 points.  Joni Ernst is going to have to vote on whether to shield this unpopular president in Iowa, or vote to acquit.  And that is a tough choice that she`s going to now have to make.

It`s a similar choice that`s going to have to be made by Republicans in states like Maine, and Colorado, Arizona, and Georgia, and North Carolina, places where Trump is going to have to win and these Republican senators are going to have to win.  I think whether or not this is good politics, this is the right thing to do because it`s the constitutional responsibility of Congress to hold a president accountable, because it`s also, I think, a good thing to do for anybody looking to win in the eyes of their constituents. 

MADDOW:  Ezra Levin, co-executive director of Indivisible, keep us posted.  Good to have you here.  Thanks.

LEVIN:  Thanks so much.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Here`s something unexpected that happened today.  You can file this under "elections really do have consequences". 

When Democrats took the House last year, one of the first things they did was they held a hearing on gun violence.  Just the first time in eight years there had been any congressional hearing on gun violence.  You think about the number of gun massacres we`ve had in the past eight years, it`s just astonishing. 

But with Pelosi as speaker and the Democrats newly in control, they started with those hearings.  And soon, the Democratic-controlled House would pass the first reform legislation in a generation.  And then, of course, that legislation moved over to the Senate and never saw the light of day.  With Republicans in control of the Senate, it has looked like the new Democratic house majority`s attempts to address gun violence would produce symbolic victories only.  It had looked that way. 

But then today something unexpected.  There`s budget negotiations going on.  Both parties in the House and the Senate.  Those budget negotiators have reportedly agreed to restart federal government research on gun violence for the first time in over 20 years. 

Thanks to pressure from the gun lobby, the U.S. government has been effectively banned from even looking at it, from doing any research at all into gun violence.  They`ve been banned from doing it since 1996.  It`s hard to craft solutions to the problem of gun violence if you are prohibited by law from even researching the problem itself. 

But as of tonight, the federal government`s budget for next year now includes $25 million for the CDC and the NIH to start doing that research again for the first time since the mid-`90s, something Democrats in Congress have been trying to get done for 20 years. 

Even in the heat of the impeachment inquiry, the machinery of government does sometimes slowly, quietly roll on.  Elections do have consequences, even if it takes a long time to get there`s. 

We`ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Very busy day tomorrow.  At 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, the Rules Committee is going to meet to set the rules for the floor vote on the impeachment of President Trump on the full House on Wednesday. 

Also tomorrow morning, simultaneously, the president`s deputy campaign chair, Rick Gates, is going to be sentenced in federal court on felony charges.  Simultaneously in a New York federal court, a judge tomorrow will review the bail terms for this guy who was helping push the scheme with Rudy Giuliani for which the president is now being impeached this week.  Like I said, busy day. 

But also tomorrow right here live in studio, my guest for the interview is going to be Lisa Page.  Lisa Page was a top lawyer at the FBI, worked on the Clinton email investigation and the Russia investigation.  She`s been, of course, the subject of vicious, relentless attacks from the president personally and from his supporters. 

Lisa Page left the FBI last year.  She has said very little publicly since then, but now, she is ready to talk.  She`s going to be here exclusively tomorrow.  This will be her first television interview since she left the FBI.  I have a lot to ask her. 

Lisa page, here, exclusively, tomorrow night. 

That does it for us tonight.  We`ll see you again then. 

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Good evening, Lawrence.

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