RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Brian, thank you so much. You guys have done amazing work covering this live event as it is unfolded.
I want to thank you at home for being with us all through these proceedings and all through this very, very dramatic evening.
You are not asleep. This is not a dream. This is really happening. This is your life. This is our country and our time.
It is Wednesday, the 18th of December, in the year of 2019, and President Donald Trump is impeached.
The vote in the House of Representatives tonight to impeach the president was not close. It was 230 to 197 on the first article, which is abuse of power. One Democrat voted present. On the second article, obstruction of Congress, it was a vote of 229 to 198. Again, with one vote present. These were not slim margins.
The successful vote to impeach the president tonight, of course, does not remove him from office. The decision of whether or not to remove him from office will now be made in the United States Senate where he`ll be put on trial in a proceeding overseen by the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.
We`re talking about that as if it is a forgone conclusion, as if that`s the next obvious thing on the to-do list here. It is such a rare occasion in American history that you could almost talk about it as unprecedented. There have only been only three presidents ever impeached in U.S. history. One in the 1800s, one in the 1900s, and one now in the 21st century.
As of tonight, three U.S. presidents ever impeached including President Trump. But as you know, neither of the two previous presidents who were impeached, neither Andrew Johnson in the 1800s nor Bill Clinton in the 1990s, neither of them were convicted after their Senate trial and removed from office after impeachment. No president has ever been removed from office by the impeachment process. And to be frank, nobody expects that to happen to president Trump now either.
But beyond that widely shared bottom line expectation defined as much by the Constitution and U.S. history as anything else about your current moment, beyond that widely spread expectation, frankly anything seems possible at this point, and that is in part because everything has changed so rapidly since this scandal first started. I will tell you right now in terms of what`s going to happen this evening, we are awaiting remarks from the speaker of the House. We had expected that there would be sort of a competing event tonight, that the Republican leadership of the House would also give a live press conference.
We had been wondering in terms of presenting to you this historic evening and making sure you knew what was going on, we`ve been wondering if they might actually be setup as dueling events with Democrats and Republicans speaking out at the same time, or if not, which one would go first. We now know the Republican press conference is canceled. We are awaiting remarks from the speaker, and we`ll see what she says about what`s due to happen next.
The House is adjourned until tomorrow. The House is not going to take further action tonight, but so much about what happens now is in the hands of the speaker. So hearing from her in terms of what she`s going to do now, what she`s going to announce now about how these articles are going to be handled in the Senate will be important breaking news. So we`re waiting on that.
Conscious of the fact that these proceedings have moved very quickly and have changed sort of radically in terms of outlook and political expectation since this impeachment scandal started. It started very recently. It was September 13th, late at night on a Friday night when this ball first started rolling downhill.
It was a very sharply worded, very unusual late night letter from the chairman of the intelligence committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. I remember it was late on Friday night. I was on the air live until 10:00 that night. This letter did not surface until after I was already off the air.
It was addressed to the director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and it was blunt from the outset.
Dear Director Maguire, no later than September 2nd, 2019, the Intelligence Committee should have received by you as required by law an urgent whistleblower disclosure involving a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law or executive order. The committee has not received this disclosure in violation of the law.
The chairman ripped the director of national intelligence up and down at that point in his letter for bottling up this whistle-blower complaint and not allowing anybody to see it. The chairman saying in that letter, September 13th, quote, you do not possess the authority to withhold from the committee a similar disclosure from within the intelligence committee that is intended for Congress.
Schiff then went on to dismiss all the excuses he has heard from the DNI. I want to take --- I want to step away from this for a second talking about the origins of this scandal because Speaker Pelosi and the House leadership are speaking now. We`ll get back to this in a moment. Stay with us.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: December 18th, a great day for the Constitution of the United States. A sad one for America that the president`s reckless activities necessitated us -- our having to introduce articles of impeachment.
I thank our six chairs who for a long period of time have been legislating, investigating and litigating. Today, that came to a culmination on the floor of the House in the Judiciary Committee under the leadership of Jerry Nadler of New York and the Intelligence Committee under the leadership of Adam Schiff of California brought in articles of impeachment to the floor to a conclusion where they have passed.
I thank them for their tremendous leadership. I thank Congress -- Chairwoman Maxine Waters of California, Richie Neal -- of the Financial Services Committee -- Richie Neal of Massachusetts, the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the Government Reform and Government Oversight Committee and, of course, Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee for their work over a period of time.
I just want to say before I yield into the chairmen that I could not be prouder or more inspired by the moral courage of the House Democrats. We never asked one of them for how they were going to vote. We never whipped this vote.
We saw the vote -- well, you saw the public statements that some of them. We saw the results when everyone else did. The statements on the floor about patriotism and about being very true to the vision of our Founders, and so I view this day, this vote as something that we did to honor the vision of our Founders to establish a republic, the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform to defend our democracy and that republic, and the aspirations of our children that they will always live in our democracy. And that we have tried to do everything we can to make sure that that is their reality.
We`ll hear from our chairmen, and then we`ll take three questions and I`m honored to yield with great appreciation and respect to the distinguished chair of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
The Framers reserved the power of impeachment for the gravest offenses against our Constitution, against our liberty and against our Democratic institutions. President Trump used the powers of his office for his own personal political gain to the detriment of the national security interest of the United States. That is a very definition of an impeachable offense.
When Congress began to investigate President Trump`s wrongdoing, he engaged in an unprecedented pattern of obstruction. That, too, is why the impeachment power exists.
A president who subverts both our elections and our constitutional system of checks and balances puts himself above the law, and it is Congress` duty to hold the president, any president accountable. It gives us no pleasure -- no pleasure to stand here today, but President Trump`s conduct has put our next election at risk. President Trump`s behavior puts the integrity of our constitutional order at risk. And President Trump`s continued actions put the rule of law at risk.
The Framers gave us the power of impeachment for exactly this reason. And in fulfillment of our oath and obligation to the American people, today, we took action to hold President Trump accountable for the serious and undisputed risk he poses to our free and fair elections and to the separation of powers that safeguards our liberty. A president must not be allowed to become a dictator.
I want to thank Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Schiff, my fellow investigative chairs and all of my colleagues who today defended the principles upon which our nation was established. Today, the House of Representatives did its constitutional duty. Today, we lived up to our responsibility to the American people by taking action to defend our national security, to preserve our democratic elections and to show that no one, not even the president is above the law.
And that gives me -- I`m now happy to introduce the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The president of the United States has been impeached for now only the third time in history. The president of the United States should be tried. And the question now is whether Senator McConnell will allow a fair trial in the Senate, whether the majority leader will allow a trial that involves witnesses and testimony and documents, a trial that should be fair to the president, yes, but should be fair also to the American people. The American people want to hear from people like John Bolton. The American people want to hear from people like Mick Mulvaney.
The American people want to see what`s in those documents the president has been hiding at the State Department, in the Office of Management and Budget, in the White House itself. We have done our duty here in the House. We have upheld the Constitution. We have done as the framers would have us do when a president abuses his office and obstructs a coequal branch of government.
The question now is will the Senate uphold its duty? Will the senators uphold their oath? Do the senators want to hear from the witnesses? Do they want a real trial?
We have to hope that they do. The reason we undertook this extraordinary step is because the president not only abuses his office but threatens to abuse it again, threatens to interfere again by inviting foreign interference in our election. The remedy isn`t complete as long as the president is free to invite foreign interference in our affairs.
I just want to close by thanking the speaker for guiding the Congress through this tumultuous time. There is no one, I think, could have guided the Congress with a steadier hand or with more insight and intellect than the speaker of the House. And I also want to thank my colleagues in particular, so many new members of the House who have displayed such courage, who have shown that they truly had the courage of their convictions.
PELOSI: I just want to add that one person who isn`t with us physically in this room but I know was present all day for the deliberations, our former -- our chair of the Government Reform, our Oversight Committee chair, our North Star, Elijah Cummings.
He said: When the history books are written about this tumultuous era, I want them to show I was among those in the House of Representatives who stood up to lawlessness and tyranny. He also said somewhat presciently, when we`re dancing with the angels, the question will be, what did you do to make sure we kept our integrity intact?
We did all we could, Elijah. We passed the two articles of impeachment. The president is impeached.
REPORTER: Madam Speaker, do you view the House`s role in this as complete now, or are there steps you might take to try to ensure as the chairman suggested a more fair trial in the Senate?
PELOSI: You mean, a more fair trial than they`re contemplating because we have a very fair process in the House of Representatives.
I yield to our -- let me just put it another way. We have legislation approved by the Rules Committee that will enable us to decide how we will send over the articles of impeachment. We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side, and I will hope that will be soon as we did with our legislation, our Resolution 660 to describe what the process would be.
So far, we haven`t seen anything that looks fair to us, so hopefully it will be fair. And when we see what that is --
REPORTER: So, can I follow up? So you would withhold -- you would wait to send the articles until you understand what the Senate is going to do?
PELOSI: We`ll make a decision as a group as we always have as we go along.
PELOSI: Well, again, we`ll decide what that dynamic is, but we hope that the resolution of that process will be soon in the Senate.
Cheryl, did you have one, Cheryl? Do you have a question? Yes.
REPORTER: I do have a question. What do you consider a fair trial? What are you looking for --
PELOSI: Well, let me tell you what I don`t consider, what I don`t consider a fair trial. This is what I don`t consider a fair trial. That Leader McConnell has stated he`s not an impartial juror, that he`s going to take his cues, in quotes, from the White House and he`s working in total coordination with the White House counsel`s office.
Any comments, my colleagues?
NADLER: Let me just say that, obviously, Senator McConnell by that declaration has said that he is so -- is in effect the foreman of the jury is working with the defendant`s counsel. That`s not fair, and we`ll have to see what else but that`s certainly an indication of an unfair -- of an intention to have an unfair trial.
REPORTER: You would like to see it?
PELOSI: We`d like to see a trial. Were they -- were -- look, it`s up to the senators to make their own decision working together hopefully in recognition of their witnesses that the president withheld from us, the documents that the president withheld from us. And we would hope that that information would be available in a trial to go to the next step because that`s another level in terms of a conviction, in terms of this.
But right now, the president is impeached.
PELOSI: Go ahead.
REPORTER: That you`d never send the articles? Is that possible that you would never send the articles of --
PELOSI: We`re not having that discussion. We have done what we have set out to do. The House has acted on a very sad day to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, to do so in a manner that was fair even though the other side was mischaracterizing it. Nonetheless, it was fair and appropriate and urgent, and urgent.
REPORTER: Speaker Pelosi --
PELOSI: So, we all agree. We`ll make our decision as to whether to send it when we see what they`ll do on the Senate side, but that`s a decision that we will make --
PELOSI: You`re starting to act like another country. Don`t shout, OK? Who`s not going to shout a question?
REPORTER: -- who guaranteed impeachment articles will be at some point sent to the Senate? Will you guarantee that?
PELOSI: That would have been our intention, but we`ll see what happens over there.
REPORTER: So you may not send --
PELOSI: That is not -- that is not -- you`re asking me, are we all going to go out and play in the snow? The Senate has not been part of our conversation. That has not been part of our conversation. Excuse me, what?
REPORTER: We need clarification since you have raised the prospect of not sending the articles over --
PELOSI: No, I never raised the prospect.
REPORTER: It seems --
PELOSI: You asked the question. I never raised the prospect. I said we`re not sending it tonight because it`s difficult to determine who the managers would be until we see the arena in which we will be participating.
That`s what I said. I never raised the prospect.
REPORTER: Any timetable? Any timetable?
PELOSI: Well, we`ll see what they -- when they come forward. It`s up to the Senate to say what their rules will be. My colleagues didn`t want to say anything about this because it is -- you know, this is a serious matter. Even though the majority leader in the United States Senate says it`s OK for the foreman of the jury to be in cahoots with the lawyers of the accused. That doesn`t sound right to us.
But let`s see when they understand that we have acted, and now they`ll understand what their responsibilities are, and we`ll see what that is. But I never raised that possibility.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you very much.
PELOSI: Any other comments, anyone?
Let me again thank our chairmen, all six of them and our darling Elijah. They did a remarkable job and I think you probably hopefully will be inspired by the moral courage of our caucus. Especially as the distinguished chairmen recognized our freshman members who came here, revealed -- reviewed the facts, understood the Constitution, made their decision again to honor their oath of office. I`m very proud of them.
MADDOW: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wrapping an interesting press conference with the chairs of the committees that she had given responsibility for doing the investigation that ultimately has led to the impeachment of President Trump tonight on two articles, on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
What we just saw there in the press conference was Speaker Pelosi making brief remarks to herself. She then handed the floor to Chairman Jerry Nadler of the Judiciary Committee. He made brief remarks. He was then followed by the Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff who made his own remarks specifically directed towards what happens next in the U.S. Senate, raising the question about the fairness of the expected trial in that Senate.
We`re actually hoping to get Adam Schiff here with us tonight during the course of this hour, so I`d love to talk to him more about this. But aside from one other poignant moment where Speaker Pelosi took the floor again to recognize the deceased chairman of the Oversight Committee, the very well- respected and beloved chairman of the Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, who died during the course of this Congress, she shouted out Elijah Cummings saying, we did our best, the president is impeached, the House has acted. That`s a very poignant moment.
But beyond that, there was a substantive discussion as to what`s going to happen next. As you know impeaching the president means that he`s impeached. He`s third one ever. It was Johnson in the 1800s, it was in Clinton in the 1900s, and now, it was Donald J. Trump in the 2000s.
He -- no president has ever been removed from office through the impeachment process before. It`s very hard to do so. It needs a two thirds vote in the Senate. The Senate conducts it as a trial. It`s overseen by the Supreme Court chief justice. It`s very rarely use, very difficult process. It`s never been used to remove a president.
But there is some drama as this now heads to the Senate in part because there has been no agreement in the United States Senate as to how this trial of President Trump is going to be conducted. There have been provocative comments including some reference tonight by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, provocative comments from the Senate majority leader, the lead Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, about his desire to not even be seen as an impartial person as a member of this jury.
But the question of whether the House might have some leverage in terms of trying to get the Senate to pick rules that are agreed to on bipartisan terms is now a very live question. In the impeachment Senate trial of Bill Clinton, the top Democrat and the top Republican worked together. They came up with rules in that Senate trial for President Clinton that were agreed to by a bipartisan unanimous 100-0 vote. It doesn`t seem like anything like that is going to happen.
But the prospect was being discussed there in that sort of heated back and forth with a number of different reporters that the House, Nancy Pelosi, may hold onto these articles of impeachment. And now thought they have passed the House and the president is impeached, she`s not committing when she`s going to hand those articles of impeachment over to the Senate, saying she wants to see what is agreed to in the Senate as to their rules and as to their planned procedures for putting President Trump on trial, saying at one point she doesn`t want to choose the impeachment managers, the members of Congress who will act essentially as prosecutors in that trial until she knows the arena in which they`ll be participating, until they`ve got a description and commitment from the Senate as to how that trial will be conducted. She`s essentially implying that will affect her choice of managers, and she`s not going to send those impeachment articles over and pick her managers to run the prosecution of the president until she knows what the Senate is going to do.
Every impeachment is different. We`ve had so few in our nation`s history but this is late plot twist and a very, very interesting one. Even as the House sort of wraps up its work, the question how this goes to the Senate now is hot and live and something we don`t know how it`s going to work out.
A lot to get to tonight. I want to bring into the conversation now, Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington. She`s joined us a number of times here on the show and the lead up to tonight`s vote. She`s a member of the Judiciary Committee. She gave an impassioned speech today as part of this impeachment vote.
Congresswoman Jayapal, thank you so much for making time to us. I know you must be exhausted after today.
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Thank you, Rachel. It`s great to be with you.
MADDOW: Let me just ask you how this meant in your view, how it felt to be part of it, and how you see the House as having effectuated its responsibilities here.
JAYAPAL: It was a bit of surreal day. I will tell you, it was a day of accountability. It was a day of standing up for our democracy. It was a day of Democrats laying out facts again.
But painful -- I don`t know any other way to describe what happened on the other side of the aisle, but painful, you know, to watch Republicans treating this like a game, laughing, giving no defense, essentially saying things that weren`t true even when they put certain things out there. It was really an embarrassment to this body, to our Constitution, to our Framers.
And at the end of the day, I think the bravery of particularly the members who are in tough districts on the Democratic side, you know, people who have worked in national security within the FBI and different intelligence agencies who know that this is not popular back home for some of them, and yet, they felt that they needed to vote their conscience, they needed to vote the Constitution and they did, versus Republicans who literally flat out denied that there was any truth to anything we put out no matter what that was.
And this is the same story we heard on Judiciary over and over again, that we`ve heard on Intel. But it was really painful to sit through.
MADDOW: There were, as you mentioned, a couple of very hard votes that Democrats had -- some Democrats particularly in swing districts and in Trump-leaning districts had talked openly about the question how they`d handle this, the expected political fallout. In the end, it was a very small number of Democrats who moved over. In one of the articles, it was two no votes from Democrats. On the other article, there were three no votes from Democrats.
JAYAPAL: That`s right.
MADDOW: I had expected we`d be seeing double, triple those numbers. I wonder if that was also your expectation. Did you expect there to be more Democrats who would vote no?
JAYAPAL: No. I knew about a couple of days ago, I knew that we would have a very, very small number of Democrats. And one of them as you know is becoming a Republican, Jeff Van Drew. So I don`t really count him in our count.
But I think the reason for that is because we really did focus quite significantly on the Ukraine issue. We took our time -- I mean, in spite of what the Republicans said, you know, we`ve had eight months. Had we not gone through the Mueller investigation and seen exactly what happened with obstruction of Congress during the Mueller investigation, and then the day after Bob Mueller comes and testifies as Adam Schiff has said before, you see Trump calling Zelensky, placing that call to President Zelensky and asking, coercing this, you know, investigation into his political opponent, I think had that all not happened, we wouldn`t be where we are.
And many of those front liners have said that to me and said, you know, it was tough back then but when this started unfolding, it was so much more egregious because the president is now in the White House, and he`s done it before. We`re seeing the same pattern, and now, he`s in the White House doing this, and it`s unfolding in front of us, and we have testimony from people, many of whom were appointed by the president working for the president. And so, I think that it all has been eight months of people absorbing what is happening.
And here`s the thing, you know, it`s like being a parent. When you don`t set any limits for your kid, they are going to continue to push and push and push. But in that situation, maybe you get a broken bus (ph).
In this situation, we get a president who destroys our democracy, and that really fundamentally is what these two articles were about, somebody who abuses power, the power of we the people, and insists that he is above the law, that nothing that he does is wrong, that he has no accountability to anybody, and that even in this impeachment trial, unprecedented behavior to give us not a single witness, a single document.
And to me, that is the definition of -- of destroying our democracy. That`s the definition of a monarchy or a dictatorship. It`s certainly not a democracy.
MADDOW: On this issue, too, of the president`s abuse of power and the way you`re connecting that to previous invitations of foreign influence in elections, on your floor speech today, you were impassioned and I thought sharpened it to a finely honed point when you said the president solicited foreign interference before. He is doing it now and he will do it again.
I felt like in those remarks, you were calling the question that a lot of other Democrats have been raising, which is, you know, why go fast here? Why not wait for the American people to decide this at the election? And the rejoinder from your colleagues has been, listen, part of what we have discovered here, part of what we caught the president doing was effectively cheating in the next election, and therefore, you can`t just wait for the next election to be the remedy to this conduct. Part of the reason we need to act now is to stop him from messing with the next election in a way that makes it unfair, that makes it an undemocratic process.
Now that the House has impeached him, we`re now looking at what the Senate is going to do. Everybody expects that the Senate will leave him in office. Do you think impeaching him in the House will actually put any break on him trying to enlist Ukraine or China or any other country in messing with 2020?
JAYAPAL: I think there`s two ways this can go. Depending on what the Senate does, I think, you know -- the analogy I used in my last speech during judiciary was Donald Trump is a smoking gun, that smoking gun is reloaded. And whether or not it fires is up to us.
And what I mean by that is if the Senate essentially treats this trial like a sham, treats it as if -- you know, doesn`t call witnesses and tries to end it quickly, tries to call witnesses that have nothing to do with the Ukraine matter and with these matters that we are discussing in these articles, then I think this just emboldens the president even further to do -- to continue to do what he`s doing.
I mean, Rudy Giuliani is in Ukraine right now. I think, Rachel, and you have been phenomenal on this, pointing out some of the things that other people don`t pick up on. I think there`s going to be a lot more that is going to come out even as the Senate trial is continuing. So, that is one road where there is not brake -- there are no brakes put on the president, there`s a stain of impeachment from the House, but the Senate essentially allows him once again to destroy our democracy.
The other is that we have -- that is a close vote, that there`s a good trial and there`s some shame brought to him, some level of senators saying we are not going to let him continue to do some of the things he`s doing, and somehow they work on that. I mean, I`m an optimist so I`m hoping for the third option which we actually are able to remove him. That is what should happen, and I hope that we can do that.
But if not, I think a lot depends on the Senate and what kind of a trial are they going to provide, not to you or me, but to the American people. Because at the end of the day, again, we are -- we do not infer power upon our president -- confer power upon our president through the bloodlines of monarchs. We do it through the votes of we, the people.
And if the president is engaging in destroying the election, inviting foreign allies or coercing foreign allies to interfere in those elections, he`s taking away your vote, the vote of all your listeners, my vote, and it`s essentially not a democracy. And I think the gravity of that situation in 2020, but also for every future president, for the future of our democracy and the future of our Constitution, this is gravely serious moment. And that`s why it was so painful to watch the Republicans today as they treated this like a game, as they stood up for a man and not for the country, as they stood up for the party but refused to stand up for the Constitution.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington state, thank you so much for making time to us on what has been a long and very dramatic day. Thanks for being here. I really appreciate it.
JAYAPAL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I actually want to show you something that`s come out in the last couple of minutes. Sometimes on historic nights, even though it is the night before the morning paper is going to come out, major newspapers are sometimes able to turn around their front page so you can see it the night before.
"The New York Times" has done that tonight. This will be the front page of the print edition of "The New York Times" tomorrow. Trump impeached, becomes third president to face trial in Senate after fierce arguments. House approves that charge that he abused power.
We also I believe just got the -- yes, we also just got the front page from "USA Today". Impeached, no one is above the law. No -- the Democrats say no one is above the law, this is constitutional duty. The Republicans say no crimes committed. The process was unfair. The president says nothing happened, that this is an assault on America. And the people, the U.S. divided, profoundly split on the country`s future.
Look, a couple of the front page headlines we`re going to be seeing tomorrow. You can expect that your local paper, wherever you live in the country, is going to have some version of those headlines.
Joining us now is Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.
Michael, thank you so much for being here on yet another day during the Trump presidency, when people are going to be saving tomorrow`s paper because of today`s historical events.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think you`re right.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about a couple of things evolving just tonight to ask you whether or not there`s anything from history that helps us either understand precedent here or can maybe understand -- maybe help us extrapolate in terms of what`s going to happen next. There`s two interesting things evolving.
One of them is just that what Pramila Jayapal just spelled out, which is that she said she believes more evidence is going to come out about this scandal as the proceedings here move from the House, which has now completed the impeachment process and this starts to become the Senate trial, although there`s drama there, too. She thinks more evidence will come out.
There`s obviously a little bit of precedent for that in terms of Richard Nixon and the impeachment proceeding he faced in Watergate. But, I mean, we`re seeing the president`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who worked on this scheme with him in Ukraine. He`s been in Ukraine for the past week and has come back to the White House reporting more information specifically about Joe Biden, which means it`s directly germane to what he was impeached for.
Just tonight, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting the new ambassador to Ukraine who was installed after they took out the old one as part of this scheme, he was just suddenly recalled from that post as well. They fired him too. It feels like we`re in the middle of this scandal while this impeachment has happened.
Does that ring any historic bells for you?
BESCHLOSS: It really doesn`t because, you know, the only time -- in modern times, we`ve had for instance a Senate trial was the experience of Bill Clinton, and that was a trial that lasted for about five weeks and you were talking for instance about House managers a little bit earlier. What they did that year this was January of 1999, they got 13 people from the Judiciary Committee, all Republicans, to come in and manage the process, the trial in the Senate.
And there were no live witnesses, for instance. They thought that reduced the dignity of the Senate, so they did that on videotape.
So you could look at the Clinton experience, but at the same time, you know, those are Senate rules that can be changed. If you go to the Constitution, it`s really very vague about what a Senate trial should be except for the fact there should be one, and if the chief justice should be there presiding.
MADDOW: OK, and on that point of how the Senate is going to conduct this, we also just saw unfold in that press conference right after the vote tonight, Michael, the speaker and the intelligence chairman and committee chairman are taking questions from reporters. And what arises very quickly is the revelation that there`s actually no commitment yet from the House, from the speaker that she is going to deliver those articles of impeachment to the Senate so they can use them as the basis of the Senate trial to potentially remove President Trump from office. A long back and forth in which she would not talk about when that is going to happen.
MADDOW: Then she was pressed to commit it eventually would happen. She said she`s not raising that prospect that she won`t deliver the articles to the Senate. That was raised by reporters. She was disavowing that as her own idea but refused to commit to send them over.
The question that she`s raising is whether or not basically the Senate deserves to get those articles delivered to them --
MADDOW: -- saying she doesn`t want to choose the impeachment managers before she knows what the Senate is going to do. A lot of questions being raised by her and her leadership whether the Senate is even planning on doing anything remotely resembling a fair trial.
Has anything like that ever happened between two houses of Congress in any previous impeachment?
BESCHLOSS: Not like this and, of course, we only have two to go on -- Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. So, there`s not exactly a long history as you said earlier to draw on. But what we may be seeing is a process by which she`s trying to use what leverage she has to get as serious a trial as possible, and that may be what we`re witnessing tonight.
MADDOW: Michael, in terms of what does happen next year one of the sort of petty parallels is that it`s the 18th of December right now.
MADDOW: It was the 19th of December when we were at this point with bill Clinton. Weirdly, it was so surreal in 19 --
BESCHLOSS: Twenty-one years ago.
MADDOW: Twenty-one years ago. It was so surreal during the Clinton impeachment that this was all happening, you know, while White House Christmas celebrations were underway, and while the country was focused on the upcoming holiday. We`re going through that exact same parallel in terms of the timing, I mean, one day apart, 21 years apart.
I have to ask you if that strikes you in terms of what we should expect and how does -- what kind of public impact this all might have?
BESCHLOSS: Well, it does seem odd. In the Clinton case, the United States was also bombing Iraq, which is something at the moment we do not have, thank God. But I think it does give you a little bit of an idea what kind of schedule we will be seeing assuming the Senate trial does go ahead. Whether it`s five weeks as in the Clinton time, I think that`s open to real question, don`t you?
MADDOW: Absolutely. Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian -- Michael, I can`t thank you enough for being here tonight. Thank you.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I want to tell you in terms of what`s going on over the course of the rest of this hour. We do actually expect that we`re going to be able to speak live with the Intelligence Committee chairman who more than any other member of Congress helmed this impeachment process that has tonight led to two articles of impeachment passing against President Trump.
Congressman Schiff, as far as we know, is a House leadership meeting tonight. They`ve got some hard decisions to make tonight as we`ve been describing in terms of how and when and under what circumstances they are going to convey the articles of impeachment over to the Senate for trial and how and when, and under what circumstances, under what sort of criteria the speaker is going to choose the impeachment managers, members of Congress that will effectively be prosecutors in that trial.
We believe that Congressman Schiff is in that leadership meeting, presumably talking about those matters right now. We think we`re going to get him before the end of this hour. You`ll definitely want to see that.
I want to bring into the conversation now, though, someone who`s very, very important for the next stage of this process whenever it starts and under whatever circumstances. He`s Chris Coons, Democratic senator from Delaware, member of the Judiciary Committee and a senator who maintain -- takes care and has always taken care to maintain good relations with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
Senator, thank you so much for making time for us tonight.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Thank you, Rachel. Great to be with on you on this historic evening.
MADDOW: It is a historic evening. I know that you were able to watch a lot of this today to see it unfold. I felt like we`ve seen a lot of short speech and bombastic speeches from members on both sides. And I felt heading into it I know what they`re going to say.
I found it completely compelling. I found it substantive. I found it, you know, disappointing at times, and juvenile at times. But overall, I found it to be an incredibly moving thing to watch, which I didn`t expect at all.
I guess I wanted to get your perspective both as a senator but just as a citizen watching this unfold tonight.
COONS: Rachel, it is striking to be here, to be in the Capitol as history is unfolding in front of us. I do want to start by commending Chairman Schiff and Chairman Nadler and Speaker Pelosi. I think they have -- after the remarkable events that led to the whistle-blower`s complaint -- launched an impeachment inquiry that was disciplined and thorough, that delivered documents and witnesses, that ultimately built a compelling case against President Trump.
President Trump absolutely stonewalled their efforts, directed his closest advisers and cabinet officials not to testify, not to respond to subpoenas, and that`s what produced the second article tonight, the obstruction of Congress. But the core charge that President Trump abused the power of his office to dangle badly needed military aid before an ally that`s in real trouble from Russian military aggression, in order to dig up dirt on his most likely political opponent in the 2020 presidential election, that largely remains unresponded to in the House. And now that it shifts to the Senate, what I think the American people deserve, our history deserves, the world deserves is a fair and a real and an open trial in the Senate of these grave charges against President Trump.
MADDOW: Do you actually think you might get that? I mean, the immediate precedent here is telling and important because there isn`t much other precedent to go on. There`s only been two other impeachment trials in the Senate ever in U.S. history.
But the immediate precedent of the Senate trial of President Clinton involved some of the same people who are in the Senate today, and they were all part of that process, that -- was it sort of remarkable and civic- minded salient thing. The Democrats and Republicans, leadership agreed on a set of rules that earned not only bipartisan but unanimous support from all 100 members of the Senate. They were all onboard with the way the Senate trial was conducted for President Clinton. It feels like we`re a million miles away from that sort of an outcome in terms of how Senator McConnell is handling this in the Senate.
But that`s me looking at it from outside. I don`t know if closer to the process, you can see anymore reason for hope.
COONS: Well, we certainly have a fairly divided and partisan Senate at the moment. We spent virtually the entire day in roll call votes on judicial confirmations rather than doing more substantive work. As you know the House has sent over bill after bill that would deal with all sorts of important issues whether it`s climate change, or the opioid crisis, gun violence in schools or prescription drug prices.
And Mitch McConnell, the majority leader is proud of being the leader that presides over a legislative graveyard, where we`re not taking up and considering those bills. His responsibility now is to negotiate with leader Schumer a set of rules and approach towards the witnesses and the documents that would be part of any trial. That gives us a real shot at a fair and a reasonable trial.
As you referenced, even during the bitter and divided period in which President Clinton was impeached, there was a vote, ultimately a vote of 100-1 adopting the rules and approach that was worked out between the majority and minority leaders.
So there is precedent for that as Michael Beschloss just said a few minutes ago, the Constitution entrusted to the Senate the trial of a president who`s been impeached by the House but doesn`t provide the rules for it. So what we look for, I think, is the expectations that the average American citizen has about what a trial looks like based on our experiences with trials in our courts.
There are fact witnesses that are directly relevant to the charge. There are documents directly relevant to the charge, and here it is the president`s own obstruction, his direction to his folks to refuse to deliver those documents or that testimony that is the second article of impeachment. I`ll remind you, President Clinton and President Nixon directed their own close advisers and cabinet officials to testify, to cooperate with impeachment inquiries. And that`s a piece of what makes this so unprecedented.
I also, Rachel, just have to share one thing with you. I got a remarkable thing today in the mail. I got this little package with a beautiful White House seal on heavy stationary. It`s a 7 -- excuse me, I think a 6-page letter on White House stationary letterhead.
If this is the president`s response, if this is his defense, I`ve got to tell you, it is unhinged. It is something that belongs not on White House stationary and letterhead but really on the ravings of a conspiracy blog or on Russian state television.
It is meandering, it is unfocused. It doesn`t respond to the charges rather than to denounce the whole thing as a hoax and an attack on the Constitution. But at the very end of this long and rambling letter that President Trump has apparently sent to all of us in the Senate today, he references the fact he`s worried about history. And he hopes a hundred years from now, future Americans will review this history and not repeat the same mistake.
This is the first inkling we have of what kind of a defense President Trump might offer in the Senate. We don`t know who will represent him, whether it`ll be Rudy Giuliani, some of the House folks who spoke today in the Republican caucus or whether it will be a disciplined and seasoned legal team such as representative in his defense in the Mueller probe.
So I think we`re in for a bit of a wild couple of weeks ahead, Rachel. I hope that leader McConnell and some of my Republican colleagues look to history and look to the responsibility of the Senate. And in particular I`m hoping that there are a few Republicans who are willing to press Leader McConnell because we`ll end up getting whatever rules, 51 Republicans will vote for.
If four Republicans will look at themselves and look at their role and press Leader McConnell for an honest and open and real trial, then I think there`s a chance we will get what history deserves. In the absence of that, I think we`ll have a very brief political theater. And I think it`ll be a grave disservice to the American people and to great work that`s been done in the House to really develop the record here and to send us a set of two impeachment articles tonight that are very well-founded in the evidence presented in the House.
MADDOW: Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware -- sir, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for making time to be here in this historic night.
COONS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I will say to the point Senator Coons was just making there, we are expecting -- this just popped in the last couple of minutes, Leader McConnell has posted a statement online saying he will speak on the Senate floor tomorrow morning at 9:30. He says, quote: I will speak about the House Democrats` precedent-breaking impeachment of the president of the United States.
So he`s foreshadowing what he`s going to say there, the precedent for a modern impeachment, the Clinton impeachment is that the House -- that the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate agree together on rules for the conduct of the trial that they mutually agree upon and there`s unanimous agreement from all senators, that those are the rules on which they will proceed. Senator McConnell already signaling he considers this impeachment to have broken all precedents and therefore he will undoubtedly argue tomorrow at 9:30 that he therefore doesn`t have to follow previous impeachment precedent, and he will just set the rules himself.
But we will wait and see. He may feel constrained to a certain degree by public opinion on this. The last ABC/"Washington Post" on this issue show that 71 percent of Americans think that the president should have his top aides testify on a Senate impeachment trial. There should be witnesses. That 71 percent includes a large majority of Republicans who believe that.
That may constrain Leader McConnell at least in a political science equation it would. We`ll see if it does in real life as soon as tomorrow morning.
We`re going to take a quick break here. When we come back we`re going to be talking with Congressman Adam Schiff who`s been a leader of this impeachment effort that tonight has resulted in two successful articles of impeachment passing the House. President Donald Trump is impeached as of tonight.
We`ll be back with Congressman Schiff right after this.
MADDOW: President Trump was impeached tonight on two articles. The first was abuse of power. The vote there was 230-197.
Article two was obstruction of Congress. The vote to impeach was one less and one more in each direction, 229-198. Only a couple of Democrats peeled off from what was otherwise a party line vote in the House.
I will also show you we just got in what we believe is going to be "The Washington Post" front page tomorrow, very simply: Trump impeached, president is third in U.S. history to face Senate trial.
The -- down the right hand column, you`ll see a very interesting headline in terms of what`s about to happen next and the way the news is unfolding tonight -- unclear path to a virtually certain Senate acquittal. More on that in a moment.
We also I think have the front page for "Politico" -- again, very simple -- Impeached, House delivers historic rebuke.
Joining us now is the man who more than anybody else in Congress led at least the public and investigatory elements of this impeachment. Adam Schiff is the chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for making time to be with us tonight. I really appreciate you being here.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Thank you. Good to be with you.
MADDOW: I know that it`s been a long day. It`s been a long few months for you as you`ve led this process. How do you feel tonight?
SCHIFF: You know, I think we all feel the weight of history. It is an enormous burden to take on the impeachment of a president. But if ever an impeachment was justified, this was it.
The president so graphically, so flagrantly abused the powers of his office, compromised the nation`s security, betrayed an ally, jeopardized the integrity of our election. I mean, how could we not act? And what`s more, the president has continued to threaten to do more of the same.
As to the president`s obstruction of Congress, there has never been a more clear-cut case of obstruction. Certainly, what Nixon did didn`t approach the full-scale blanket nature of this president`s obstruction of the Congress. So, he left us no choice.
At the same time, it doesn`t make it anymore pleasant. It doesn`t make it any easier. And I think we`re all feeling the weight of that responsibility tonight.
MADDOW: Once the articles passed and the president was impeached tonight, you joined other leaders from the House Democratic Caucus and spoke at a press conference in which you made very pointed remarks about what happens next in the Senate and raised very pointed questions about whether or not the Senate will in fact conduct a fair trial of the president.
Let me just ask you about the nuts and bolts in that. There was a lot of back and forth involving the speaker as to when and whether the House will actually convey these two articles of impeachment over to the Senate to start that process of that trial.
Can you give us any update on that and whether or not your colleagues in the House believe that you essentially have leverage over the Senate to try to force them to announce more bipartisan, more -- in your worm -- in your words -- fair rules?
SCHIFF: Rachel, I think at this point really on the immediate aftermath of this historic vote to impeach the president, we`re not thinking much beyond this evening except to this degree -- and that is the American people want to hear the evidence. They want to hear from these witnesses that the president has refused to allow to testify. And the American people know there`s a whole mountain of documents, many of which are going to be deeply incriminating that they want to see.
And the question is, will Mitch McConnell do what has been done in prior impeachments and the last that went to trial that is the Clinton impeachment? Will he negotiate with Chuck Schumer? Or will he, as he has indicated, sadly, merely do the president`s bidding?
We ought to provide for these witnesses.
I think the senators should be forced to go on record. Do they want to see the evidence or don`t they? Do they want the American people to be able to get a sense of the full scope of the president`s misconduct or don`t they? And they should have to justify that.
But, look, I hope that they will get to yes on a trial that allows the American people to see the full body of the evidence.
MADDOW: Is it your understanding that Speaker Pelosi will choose the impeachment managers, will choose the members of Congress, including potentially yourself, who will do the work in the Senate of running that trial and essentially conducting that prosecution? Will she make that choice soon? Will that be happening while you`re still in town as of tomorrow morning, or do you expect that that`s something that might happen in the more distant future?
Again, as she suggested, tonight, perhaps after the Senate has announced what the rules of the trial will be?
SCHIFF: I don`t know what the speaker`s timing is. You know, I can certainly affirm because we have discussed this facet, and that is there`s no shortage of interest among House members to serve as a manager both because the members of our caucus feel so strongly about making this case, about the danger that this president presents. But we also would have a lot of people that would have experience in trying cases and making arguments.
I know the speaker is committed to making sure it`s a diverse delegation of House managers. So, there`s lots to consider, no shortage of interests.
But there`s also, I think, time to figure this out. And I would hope, as the speaker works on the decision about who ought to comprise that team, that we get some guidance from the Senate about whether they`re really going to allow a credible trial.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about part of this that is -- remains under your purview even now as the impeachment effort has produced these two articles against the president, and that is that you seem to still be pulling on some threads here, including some potentially provocative and consequential ones. I`m thinking specifically about a letter that you sent to the vice president`s office this week in which you raised questions as to what the vice president knew about the president`s behavior, the president`s scheme in Ukraine, and thereby essentially his potential involvement in any cover- up of that behavior by the president.
Are you actively looking at Vice President Mike Pence and his role in this scandal? And should we expect further revelations either related to the vice president or related to the other core parts of these allegations that have resulted in this impeachment tonight?
SCHIFF: Well, we have acquired a piece of evidence, classified submission by Jennifer Williams, something that she alluded to in her open testimony that in going back and looking through her records, she found other information that was pertinent to that phone call that we asked her about and made that submission. There is nothing that should be classified in that submission but yet, the vice president`s office has said they`re going to assert classification, or it`s classified.
It is not proper to classify something because it would be embarrassing or incriminating, and that summation does shed light on the vice president`s knowledge, and we think the American people should see it. Certainly, any senators in the trial should have access to it.
But it just goes to show that there is a body of evidence, documentary and otherwise that administration figures from the president on down to include the vice president do not want the American people to see or know. And the question is, will they succeed? Will the cover-up succeed, or will the Senate insist on what we were not able to obtain in the House? And that is a White House that will comply with lawful process.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee -- sir, this has been quite an odyssey for you, including becoming the type of figure and the type of target for -- public opprobrium from the president and his supporters in a way that`s never really afflicted you previously in your career. I know this has just been an incredible time in your own life, in your own career.
Thanks for being with us on so many of these nights as history has been made, and thanks for being with us tonight as the impeachment articles passed.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. That`s going to do it for us for at least for right now. But stay with us.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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