RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now it is time for "The Last Word" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel, and thanks for returning that blue blazer to my closet --
O`DONNELL: -- from last night. So --
MADDOW: Sorry about the makeup on the collar.
O`DONNELL: So, if we ever --
O`DONNELL: -- if we ever get to infrastructure week --
O`DONNELL: It`s going to be really interesting because it isn`t about infrastructure. It`s all about the Trump version of this, of course. It is all about really big tax breaks to pavement companies, to companies that are in the road-building business, and it`s not really about any government spending or anything that would actually produce any infrastructure at all.
And so I`m kind of eager to get to infrastructure week. I have a funny feeling we never will. I have a funny feeling the rhythm of this isn`t going to allow us to get there.
MADDOW: It stands in for this idea that the Trump administration is eager to work on policy issues, particularly those on which there might be areas of agreement with Democrats. Like, it`s a -- it`s a little avatar that means that. And they don`t mean any of that.
And so they just pop the avatar up there whenever they want you to stop talking about whatever else is actually going on in the administration. But it`s like this little kind of puppet that they take out whenever they want to seem like there is somebody who they`re not.
O`DONNELL: Yeah. As far as I can tell so far, there`s not one sentence of agreement on what infrastructure legislation would be between Democrats and Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Yeah. Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks. Have a good weekend.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. If true, those are the important words of the night. If true, that`s the phrase that we always use when discussing stories that aren`t yet proven to be true. And that`s the language that I used here repeatedly last night at this hour when BuzzFeed reported that Michael Cohen has told special prosecutor Robert Mueller that President Trump ordered him to lie under oath to Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL (on camera): Is Michael Cohen -- if this is proven true -- guilty of lying to Congress as a crime? Is he guilty of perjury as a crime? Is the president of the United States guilty of suborning perjury if this report is true?
JILL WINE-BANKS, LAWYER: Yes, yes and yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And now 24 hours later, the breaking news of the night is that the special prosecutor`s office is disputing BuzzFeed`s reporting, but we don`t know exactly what the special prosecutor`s office is disputing within that reporting. Robert Mueller`s spokesperson issued a written statement saying, "BuzzFeed`s description of specific statements to the special counsel`s office and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen`s congressional testimony are not accurate."
BuzzFeed issued a statement standing by its reporting, and then issued a second statement, asking the special prosecutor to specify what is not accurate in their reporting. BuzzFeed`s report last night was attributed to two unnamed "federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of this matter."
Now, that certainly sounds like a description of two people working on Robert Mueller`s team. That would be one way to describe people working on Robert Mueller`s team. Two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of this matter. Identifying the sources that way might have been part of why the special counsel`s office took the rare step of commenting on reporting like this.
Normally, the special counsel`s office doesn`t say a word about investigative reporting like this. Tonight`s statement by the special counsel`s office might be Robert Mueller`s way of saying those two federal law enforcement officials don`t work for me. They`re not on my Mueller team. The special counsel`s statement disputes the "characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office regarding Michael Cohen`s congressional testimony."
Now, that seems to take direct issue with this paragraph of last night`s BuzzFeed report. "The special counsel`s office learned about Trump`s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company e-mails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office."
The timing and content of the BuzzFeed story last night put more pressure on the special counsel`s office than possibly any other news report that has come before it. Senator Chris Murphy said, "listen, if Mueller does have multiple sources confirming Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress, then we need to know this ASAP. Mueller shouldn`t end his inquiry, but it`s about time for him to show Congress his cards before it`s too late for us to act."
Now, Senator Chris Murphy is a patient person. But even his patience with Robert Mueller`s investigation was tested by last night`s BuzzFeed report that if true, would have meant the president of the United States was clearly guilty of impeachable offenses. And it could be that one of the reasons Robert Mueller decided to respond to this story is because impeachment is now a real possibility for the president.
And it wasn`t last year, because last year, the evidence like this could come forward, and because Paul Ryan and the Republicans controlled the House of Representatives. Impeachment wasn`t possible. And Robert Mueller could be certain last year that House Republicans were not going to get out ahead of his investigation and start impeachment proceedings.
Now, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats control the House of Representatives and now impeachment in the House is a real possibility. And that might be why Robert Mueller decided to pump the brakes on this story, after watching 24 full hours of momentum for impeachment building, specifically because of this story.
Leading off our discussion now on this Friday night: Joy Reid, MSNBC national correspondent and the host of "AM Joy," weekends on MSNBC; Ken Dilanian, intelligence and national security reporter for NBC News; and Mimi Rocah, former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal contributor.
Ken Dilanian, I know you`ve been doing some of your own original reporting on this story on what might or might not be being disputed by Robert Mueller`s office. What can we make of that at this stage?
KEN DILANIAN, INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Well, Lawrence, it`s more of an analysis. My take on the statement, which is very specific, is that they are disputing the part of the story that asserts that the special counsel gathered texts, e-mails, and interviews with members of the Trump Organization that corroborated Michael Cohen`s statement that Trump told him to lie.
In fact, the sequence was, Mueller got that first and then went to Cohen and Cohen acknowledged that, yes, Trump told him to lie. That appears to be what Mueller is specifically disputing. He is not commenting and certainly not disputing the notion that Michael Cohen`s story is that Trump told him to lie.
And, in fact, there`s a paragraph buried in a sentencing memorandum that was filed by Cohen`s lawyers in November that specifically says he lied to Congress at the direction of client one, which is Donald Trump. Now, there are other parts of what Michael Cohen said in court that day where he discussed why he lied to Congress, where he doesn`t say it was at the direction of Donald Trump.
But it`s possible that, you know, he was under instruction not to say that at that time. We just don`t know. But what we do know is that Robert Mueller is not disputing the entirety of the BuzzFeed story. He is, however, disputing this notion that his office has reams of corroborating information.
And in fairness, that is one of the things that got everybody`s attention about this story because, you know, the House of Representatives is not going to impeach Donald Trump on the word of Michael Cohen admitted liar. But if there is other corroboration for members of the Trump Organization, that`s a different matter, and it appears that there isn`t, at least the way BuzzFeed described it.
O`DONNELL: I want to read a tweet tonight from investigative reporter, Ronan Farrow, who has been apparently working in this same territory.
He said, "I can`t speak to BuzzFeed`s sourcing, but, for what it`s worth, I declined to run with parts of the narrative they conveyed based on a source central to the story repeatedly disputing the idea that Trump directly issued orders of that kind. Note that the general thrust of Cohen lying to Congress in accordance with or to support and advance Trump`s agenda, per Cohen`s legal memo, is not in dispute. The source disputed the further, more specific idea that Trump issued and memorialized repeated direct instructions."
And Joy Reid, that part about memorialized would be, I think, a reference in the BuzzFeed article to there is supporting documentation --
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Right.
O`DONNELL: -- either from texts or e-mails to what BuzzFeed was reporting that the president basically ordered Michael Cohen to commit perjury.
REID: Right. As well as one line in the BuzzFeed story where they characterized something that Cohen allegedly said to the Mueller team. The Mueller team is very tight-lipped. They do not leak. And, you know, one could assume that maybe what they`re also trying to project and telegraph is, do not write a story in which you`re projecting that we have now -- that members of the Mueller team have leaked information to BuzzFeed, right?
I mean, when Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in the southern district of New York, he said, you know, himself, as he stood up and spoke to the judge, that he lied specifically about this Moscow Trump Tower Project. This is something that is already on the record. It`s something he`s already admitted to in the southern district of New York.
So I think I agree with Ken that, you know, I think everyone is now kind of hair on fire about the denial by the special counsel`s office, but I kind of try -- I`m reading it narrowly until we know more.
O`DONNELL: So, Mimi Rocah, we know that there are a bunch of federal officials in Michael Cohen`s life. There is the special counsel`s office, Robert Mueller, and then there is separately your old office, the U.S. attorney`s office in the southern district of New York, where he has already pleaded guilty. He has already been sentenced there. Donald Trump has been identified there in effect as an unindicted co-conspirator, referred to in the documents as individual one.
One of the blooming theories of the hour this evening is that these federal officials -- federal officials quoted in this are from the southern district of New York as opposed to Mueller`s team. Does that -- when you read the BuzzFeed article, does that read as possible to you?
MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: No. I mean, first of all, let me be clear about something. People are using this term, the southern district of New York. That to me and to almost any prosecutor, defense lawyer, anyone working in the system, means the U.S. attorney`s office, OK? I can sit here right now and tell you that there is a less than zero chance that someone in the U.S. attorney`s office --
O`DONNELL: OK, but could also refer to FBI officials in the same building?
ROCAH: Whether or not in the same building. The FBI is in a separate building. Look, I`m not as integrated in that culture. I can`t give that same statement as I would about the southern district of New York. There have been leaks from the FBI in the past. But this did not read to me like statements coming from someone who has been sitting in the room with Cohen.
In other words, it sounds to me, and I think what we`re all saying, is there is truth in this story, right? It`s not as clear-cut as it was a few hours ago. A few hours ago, we had a clear-cut crime of Trump directing him to lie, and supposed mountains of evidence external to Cohen.
Now, we have something more vague. We`re back to the gray area, which is criminal law, frankly, which is Cohen lied. He -- he has made statements, Mueller has made statements in his sentencing memorandum that in support of Cohen, that there were discussions between Cohen and the White House, that he circulated his testimony. It`s not as clear what those discussions were, who they were with. But it doesn`t exonerate Trump. It doesn`t mean something didn`t happen.
ROCAH: It`s just not as clear what it was. And I think what Mueller is saying is, whoa. You know, let`s not rush to impeachment. He`s putting the brakes on, as you say. And let`s see -- let the facts come out the way I, Mueller, am going to describe them.
And so back to your original question. It seems to me that something got lost in translation here. I don`t necessarily think this is someone who made up facts, meaning whoever the sources are, or that BuzzFeed got it wrong.
But things are very nuanced when you`re describing things in proffer sessions and sessions with cooperators when you`re looking at 302s. I mean, there are terms of art and it seems to me that somebody who has some familiarity got something lost in translation. I don`t think that would be the New York FBI.
O`DONNELL: Yeah. Ken Dilanian, BuzzFeed is asking for a clarification on the special prosecutor`s statement tonight. Any chance of that happening?
DILANIAN: No, I don`t think so. And look, I feel for BuzzFeed. I think -- I think Robert Mueller`s strategy of saying nothing about anything ever, even off the record, is very frustrating. I mean, even the Central Intelligence Agency will give reporters a steer at times if they think they`re about to get something horribly wrong.
And if Mueller had done that in this case, perhaps BuzzFeed would have been more cautious and could have avoided this whole matter, which is not good for journalism. It`s really frustrating. It feels like Robert Mueller at this point in the investigation owes the public a little bit more information than we`re getting about something so important. Lawrence, that`s my feeling about it.
O`DONNELL: So, a Democratic House member, Ted Lieu, last night tweeting when this story broke. This is how hot it felt at this hour last night. "Based on the BuzzFeed report and numerous other articles showing Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice and other possible felonies, it is time for the House Judiciary Committee to start holding hearings to establish a record of whether POTUS committed high crimes."
And Joy Reid, that`s a reality now.
O`DONNELL: And that tweet would have gone to nowhere a year ago or any time last year because Republican control of the House Judiciary Committee would have meant that tweet wasn`t worth wallpaper. But now, that kind of momentum is what Robert Mueller was watching today.
O`DONNELL: And eventually deciding he had to say something.
REID: Well, I think in a sense, rarely saying anything, and then coming out and disputing part of the story, but not definitively knocking the story down. I think the most difficult line to maintain in Washington right now is the line, "we need to wait and see what Robert Mueller does before we exercise our own independent oversight authority."
The House of Representatives has every right, and in a sense a duty, to allow the public to understand what`s happening here. They have to respect what`s going on in Robert Mueller`s investigation. Of course, they don`t want to ruin or, you know, harm the investigation. But there is no -- there`s no logical reason why hearings couldn`t be held.
And under the constitution, that is what impeachment is. It isn`t throwing Donald Trump out of office. It`s allowing hearings where the public can start to understand the narrative of what was done, potentially to our election, to elect Donald Trump and what he did while in office.
O`DONNELL: Yeah, and as we`re going to discuss later in the show, that`s the way it worked in the Nixon situation. Congress was moving at the same speed, basically, as the special prosecutor. Mimi, some fascinating elapsed times here in this case. Yesterday, BuzzFeed reports that five hours went by -- five hours of silence from the White House after they disclosed their reporting to the White House, and they`re asking for comment from the White House. The White House does not say a word.
Donald Trump had -- knew what BuzzFeed was going to write for five hours. He didn`t issue or offer one word of denial. And then we have the 24 hours -- the 24 hours that Robert Mueller watched this story. Now, given the size of his team, does that elapsed time make sense to you? Because one of the first things he`s going to want to do is make sure this leak did not come from my shop. That presumably would take some portion of the day to be sure of that.
ROCAH: Absolutely. I mean, look, I think you hit the nail on the head. He could have been doing sort of their own check to make sure before they said things. And, you know, I think the fact -- it is frustrating. I understand what Ken is saying, and to Joy`s point of this selective putting out of a statement. It`s frustrating, right?
And -- but on the other hand, I think the fact that he put this out tonight should reaffirm to the American public that Robert Mueller is trying to find the truth, right? And I think what caused him to do something different this time after hopefully checking and doing their own internal investigation, is the political, you know, impetus, as you were saying. And he wants what he is doing to be about fact-finding in a certain setting, not in the political setting.
That, I think, actually may weigh in favor of parallel impeachment hearings beginning. Because Mueller`s job is not to inform us. He does, and he does it really well. And when you look at his documents, you know those are things he can prove. And I think what made him nervous was exactly what, you know, was in that tweet you read from Senator Murphy, which is, you know, that Mueller is sitting on this mountain of evidence that he`s not giving us.
And i think what Mueller is saying is, no, if I had a mountain of evidence, I would be doing something about it, I might have charged someone. But he`s also not saying that the allegations aren`t true. And so if what we -- if what the people need now and we`ve gotten to that point is we need more information than just what Mueller`s job is to give us. Then that`s a different body.
O`DONNELL: And that is what we`re going to turn to as this program goes on later tonight. Mimi Rocah, Ken Dilanian, Joy Reid, thank you for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, the lessons of Woodward and Bernstein Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting on the Watergate scandal and how their biggest mistake only made them work harder on the pursuit of the truth about President Richard Nixon, the truth that eventually forced Richard Nixon to resign the presidency.
And the president announced this evening that he is going to make an announcement tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 p.m. about the shutdown. It will be televised at 3:00 p.m. Joy Reid will be covering it live here at MSNBC. I just discovered it. I have a theory about what the president is up to and supporters of the wall are not going to like my theory, anyway. That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: Tonight is the right time to look back at a key piece of reporting by The Washington Post during their investigation of the Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon. And this piece of reporting was disputed by the Nixon White House and used by the Nixon White House to try to discredit all reporting on the Nixon scandals, because this reporting was proved to be wrong. At least in part.
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein became two of the most respected journalists in history because of their reporting on Watergate, but they once got a key fact wrong in one story, and it led to an attack from the Nixon White House.
In October 1972, they published a piece reporting that Richard Nixon`s White House chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman "was one of five high-ranking presidential associates authorized to approve payments from a secret Nixon campaign cash fund."
According to their report, the fund had been used for payments to the men who burglarized the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The report attributed its information to "federal investigators and accounts of sworn testimony before the Watergate grand jury." And the sourcing was incorrect. As Carl Bernstein later explained on NPR.
CARL BERNSTEIN, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST (voice over): We had the story right, the substance of it. What we had wrong was the attribution. It had never come before the grand jury. It was the substance that was really important, and at the same time, we had not been diligent in nailing this down, this one aspect of it.
O`DONNELL: And Bob Woodward will never forget what that felt like.
BOB WOODWARD, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST (voice over): This was one of the real dreary days of our reporting life. In fact, I don`t think I`ve had one that bad, because it was just flat-wrong.
O`DONNELL: But the rest of Woodward and Bernstein reporting was right. And in the end, Richard Nixon chose to resign the presidency rather than face certain removal from office in an impeachment trial in the United States Senate.
Joining us now, David Corn, Washington bureau chief from Mother Jones and an MSNBC political analyst. Also joining us, Elizabeth Drew, political journalist and author whose book about Watergate is entitled, "Washington Journal: The Events of 1973-1974."
Elizabeth Drew, you were there. You read every one of these accounts as they were emerging in The Washington Post and other reporters` coverage at the time. Did we have other than this Woodward and Bernstein episode that we now all look back on? Were there other such bumps in the journalistic road in covering Nixon in those days and the unfolding of that scandal?
ELIZABETH DREW, POLITICAL JOURNALIST: Nothing in that order, Lawrence. I think a little perspective is in order here. Yes, it was a mistake. It was a subject of headlines and head scratching and nothing -- a White House being investigated. They just love when some mistake is made because then they denounce all of journalism.
Well, look at the end of the story. In the end, it didn`t matter all that much. In a perfect world, no journalist`s story would ever be wrong at all. But it`s going to happen. The question is, do they clean up their act afterwards? I can`t tell you how appalled the people at the Post were and people in the Democratic committee. They were very upset about it. But in the scheme of things, it didn`t matter all that much.
O`DONNELL: David Corn, your reaction to the BuzzFeed story tonight, and its parallels to that Woodward and Bernstein mix-up, mistake, back in their big days of covering Richard Nixon?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, now we know that what they reported, Carl and Bob, you know, ended up being true. Though, as they note, they got the attribution wrong and it gave the Nixon White House and their detractors ammunition to go after them. What we don`t know yet is whether BuzzFeed got it right, but somehow screwed it -- you know, screwed up the attribution or there was some miscommunication here.
But what do know, to get to Elizabeth`s point, that the big picture remains that Donald Trump himself lied to the American public. He said he had nothing to do with Russia while he was campaigning. Yet there he was, pursuing a deal that would have enriched him to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
And that`s what Michael Cohen was trying to cover up. He says, you know -- he said publicly at his sentencing in sort of synchronization with what Trump wanted. Whether he was directed to do this specifically or not. So the big lie is out there. That`s, you know, the big story here. And it`s a pity that now we are being distracted by what might have been a mistake by BuzzFeed or might be an unclear statement by Mueller.
But I think at the end of the day, whether we have House Democrats investigating this or Mueller giving us some more information, we will get the truth of what really happened. And that will be the issue, not how it was covered.
O`DONNELL: And Elizabeth Drew, it might be Ben Bradlee who has the very best line about how people out there and editors in these situations should regard developments like this after reviewing how the mistake was made by Woodward and Bernstein.
He had a few words with them about, you know, how they needed to clean up their processes, make sure this would never happen again, and it didn`t ever happen again. But he finished that discussion by saying to them, what have you got for tomorrow? And that`s what really matters, isn`t it?
DREW: That`s right. Tomorrow is another day and another story and other stories. And I agree with -- who was just talking -- these things happen. They don`t happen -- the amazing thing is, they don`t happen very often. I want to point something else out.
In Watergate, we had no cable. We had no internet. We had none of the things that go on now. So you have that many more people reporting. In Watergate, there weren`t that many on the story. So I think exponentially, the odds on somebody getting something wrong at some point are all the greater.
But keep in mind, the big picture. David was right. The big picture is something happened here. We`ll find out what it was. But a lot of other things happened, too. Even if this story didn`t exist. There is still a very, very big story.
O`DONNELL: And we all need patience and we all need to remember the phrase, if true. Elizabeth Drew, David Corn, thank you for joining us on that part of our discussion.
And when we come back, tomorrow`s breaking news. Tomorrow`s breaking news. We`re going to cover it tonight. President Trump has announced that he is going to make an important announcement about the shutdown tomorrow from the White House at 3:00 p.m. Joy Reid will be covering that announcement live for MSNBC right here. And she will join us to discuss the big news of tomorrow. I`ll offer my wild guess about what Donald Trump just might announce tomorrow.
O`DONNELL: Just before 6:00 p.m. tonight, President Trump announced on Twitter that he will make an announcement tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 p.m. about the longest government shutdown in history, the shutdown that he promised to start and take full blame for.
He made good on half of that promise. He did start the shutdown. But then he blamed the people he promised not to blame, Congressional Democrats. But a senior administration official told "CBS News" that "Trump will present what the White House believes could be a deal to end the shutdown." The deal was largely influenced by talks between Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Trump`s son-in-law, and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, who is not the speaker of the House.
Joy Reid and David Corn are back with us. And Joy, this is the most mysterious deal I`ve ever heard of. Three Republicans get together in a room. What`s the deal? Whatever it is, it`s not a deal.
JOY REID, HOST, AM JOY: Yes.
O`DONNELL: Because if you go to Capitol Hill to make a deal, you got to have Nancy Pelosi in the room --
O`DONNELL: -- you have to have Schumer. You have to have Mitch McConnell. That`s who you need for a deal. My own theory -- I`m just going to get my theory out of the way.
REID: Get it out there.
O`DONNELL: The only thing that he`s empowered to announce tomorrow is some form of surrender, is to say, because of this, that, and the other thing, we`re going to reopen the government. And Mitch McConnell has promised that there will be a vote in the United States Senate on the wall the day after we reopen the government, you know, next Tuesday. And Mitch McConnell will, you know, bring that up for a vote and it won`t get the 60 votes and that`s the end of that.
REID: And I think what makes your theory sound and what you`re saying essentially is this will end the exact same way when the Democrats attempted to do a shutdown that lasted a couple of days over DACA. They ended very quickly. They didn`t like the public relations look. And they ended it for a promise from Mitch McConnell that he would bring up a document that he never did.
So the only thing Mitch McConnell is empowered to deliver at this point without Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, is to put the, what, nine bills that this -- that the House has passed, that already had unanimous consent from the Senate back on the Senate floor and pass them. That`s all Mitch McConnell can do by himself. I`m not sure what Jared is doing there but I guess he does everything.
But Mitch McConnell can do that. And probably yes to your point, will promise Donald Trump that the next thing he`ll do after those nine votes and after the government is reopened -- because I`m sure his members are screaming.
They`re having to fly home, going through TSA. They`re going home to states like Colorado and Oregon and all over this country where they`re being screamed at. They want the government back open. That`s all Mitch can do is give in.
O`DONNELL: David Corn, big announcement, live, 3:00 p.m. tomorrow. That`s -- the woman`s march will still be going on at that time, do we think?
REID: We think it will be the end of it.
O`DONNELL: So he didn`t time it as a direct conflict with the women`s march. He`s staying out of the way of that for the most part. What can possibly go wrong or go well?
DAVID CORN: Your theory may come to pass. I think we could come up with alternative reality theories. For instance, who remembers that big immigration speech that Trump gave a week ago? I mean it seems like seven months ago and you can`t remember a single thing he said.
It`s quite possible he may forget about this announcement by 3:00 p.m. tomorrow. Or it`s quite possible that he may just want to say something nasty about Nancy Pelosi. He cares more about revenge and spite, I think, than making a deal.
So I mean -- I think anything is game here. And the real question is, for your theory to come true, Lawrence, it means that Trump is willing to stand up to Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh because they will crucify him for anything like that. And he caved in once to them. Is he ready now to not cave into them? Who knows?
O`DONNELL: Joy, do you think there is any chance that in tomorrow`s announcement by the president from the White House, he will find time to explain why he would not authorize a government aircraft to carry the speaker of the House to a war zone to visit American troops and commanders, but he would authorize a government aircraft to fly his wife to Florida for a long weekend?
REID: For her vacation, yes. I mean probably not. He probably won`t get to that. Maybe that will be Jared`s portion of the afternoon because he does need to have something to do, because he is getting to go, you know.
And not only that, but Donald Trump and his administration outed not one, but two, you know, visits to Afghanistan, both the commercial and the military flights, which actually is a threat to the security of those involved in those delegations. So he doesn`t really have any respect or regard for the security of the speaker of the House or those involved in it.
The other thing he could do is deliver his State of the Union Address because obviously, the speaker of the House said he ain`t doing it in the House chambers. So he could take advantage of the hour and do that.
O`DONNELL: Joy --
CORN: I would also make one prediction.
O`DONNELL: Go ahead, David.
CORN: He will claim that he won and this was the best shutdown ever.
O`DONNELL: Yes, exactly. Joy, I would love to be with you tomorrow for the live coverage.
O`DONNELL: I`m going to be in a matinee over there.
O`DONNELL: On Broadway, 2:00 p.m. Kerry Washington`s play "American Sun" which you`re going to see before it closes, right?
REID: I`m going to see before it closes.
O`DONNELL: Everyone`s going to see it.
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, David Corn, thank you both for joining us.
And when we come back, the question of impeachment. The question of impeachment was already looming large in Washington this week. Before last night`s "BuzzFeed" story came out and raised it even more loudly.
We`re going to consider where the question of impeachment stands tonight. Should the House of Representatives wait until Robert Mueller has finished his investigation, or should they do it the way they did it during the Nixon presidency and have the House impeachment investigation take place at the same time as the special prosecutor`s investigation?
O`DONNELL: Impeach. That is "The Atlantic`s" next cover story which won`t be on the newsstands until February 12, but was rushed into publication online earlier this week by "The Atlantic`s" editor by Jeffrey Goldberg, because "the Trump-caused government shutdown unmatched in length and consequence and the debate over whether the 45th president of the United States is secretly operating on behalf of Russia."
In the piece, Yoni Appelbaum makes the case that impeachment proceedings should begin now in the House Judiciary Committee and not wait for the conclusion of Robert Mueller`s investigation. The article points out that`s exactly how it worked in the case of President Richard Nixon, who was being investigated by a special prosecutor at the same time that the House Judiciary Committee was conducting its own impeachment investigation, which eventually led to the committee passing three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon.
The evidence to impeach Richard Nixon was developed as a result of the committee`s investigation. The Judiciary Committee and the special prosecutor investigating President Nixon both subpoenaed the White House tapes that ultimately led to President Nixon`s resignation when the Supreme Court ordered the president to turn over to the committee and the special prosecutor the tapes that turned out to include the so-called smoking gun of Richard Nixon`s own voice participating in the Watergate conspiracy in the oval office.
The article in "The Atlantic" makes the argument Congress can`t outsource its responsibilities to federal prosecutors, the process of impeachment itself is likely to shift public opinion. If Trump`s support among Republican voters erodes, his support in the Senate may do the same.
The only way for the House to find out what Trump has actually done and whether his conduct warrants removal is to start asking. This is the essay on impeachment that is going to be read by most Democratic Senators and certainly, by all Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee and many Republicans. And it will be read by the staff of every Senator and every member of Congress, Democrat and Republican.
This is the important impeachment article of the year so far. The president of the United States is an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal federal case, where his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, confessed his guilt and claimed under oath that he committed those crimes at the direction of Donald Trump.
Since that conspiracy was exposed in federal court in Manhattan and since the election of a Democratic House of Representatives, the question seems to have shifted from will there be an impeachment investigation in the House to when will there be an impeachment investigation in the House.
To consider these questions from the important historical perspective of the Nixon impeachment proceedings, we will be joined by two people who were there during the Nixon investigation.
Former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman who was one of the members of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate investigation, one of the members who recommended impeaching the president. And Elizabeth Drew who was covering it all for "The New Yorker" at that time and then wrote the authoritative book on what drove Richard Nixon out of office.
They will both join us after this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the president and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home. Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: President Richard Nixon quit the fight because he was told by Republicans in Congress that the articles of impeachment against him that passed the House Judiciary Committee would definitely pass the House of Representatives. And he would then be convicted in an impeachment trial in the United States Senate and removed from office.
Joining us now, two people who were there, Elizabeth Holtzman, former U.S. Congresswoman and a member of that House Judiciary Committee that voted to impeach President Nixon. She is the author of "The Case for Impeaching Trump." Also with us, author Elizabeth Drew. She`s back with us. She covered Watergate for "The New Yorker" at that time.
And Congresswoman Holtzman, you were just reminding me of the sequence of things and how it`s different today from what we saw there that your impeachment hearings were able to use what came out of Senate general investigative hearings, just the Senate-ran hearings about the Watergate scandal that did not have a particular mission in mind other than fact- finding. They found those facts, you used them.
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN, FORMER REPRESENTATIVE, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, WATERGATE: That`s correct. And not only did they find the facts, but they educated the public, which was vital. Because what we have now is the only basic hearings that have been held, have been behind closed doors, the Senate Intelligence Committee, House Intelligence Committee, a lot of other witnesses have been in secret. The public hasn`t really seen their demeanor.
We have Mueller`s hearings, Mueller`s proceedings, all you do is see someone standing up in court pleading guilty, but that`s not the same as public testimony, which is what the Senate Watergate committee did. And then, that educated the public.
The Saturday night massacre, the American people said no, the president can`t pick his prosecutor. And at that point, the House Judiciary Committee came into focus on impeachment, not until then.
O`DONNELL: And now you also just told me during the break, that you members of the House Judiciary Committee, many of you were agitating to get started on impeachment proceedings and the Democratic leadership of the House was doing what?
HOLTZMAN: Saying no.
O`DONNELL: Just like today?
HOLTZMAN: Just like today, because in a way you can understand it. For us, the only impeachment that we knew of was Andrew Johnson. That was a failure. And they were very worried that the same thing was going to happen again.
Today, most people remember the Clinton impeachment. That was a failure. American people didn`t support that. That was a partisan effort. So the leadership says, that didn`t work for the Republicans, why should we do it now?
But the point that I want to make is that when we started the impeachment hearings, the American people forced the Congress to act. They said enough, President Nixon can`t fire the special counsel prosecutor, this is a country with a rule of law, you got to do something. And then there were no polls.
We didn`t take a nose count in the House Judiciary Committee. We didn`t have any idea what the House would do. We certainly didn`t know what the Senate was going to go. And we didn`t even know what impeachment was.
We had to start from scratch. But we did it the right way. We had the facts, solid evidence, and the American people supported.
O`DONNELL: And Elizabeth Drew, you were covering all of this from the special prosecutor`s investigation which is also going on while the Senate public hearings. That`s where we discovered there was a tape system in the White House.
We discovered all of the great drama, really, publicly in those Senate hearings. And then you also covered the impeachment hearings that Elizabeth Drew -- Elizabeth Holtzman was part of and that you voted on.
Was there any big -- was there any sense in Washington at the time that this should be slowed down, everyone should wait for the special prosecutor to finish doing the special prosecutor`s work?
ELIZABETH DREW, COVERED WATERGATE SCANDAL: No. But I think you had an entirely different special prosecutor`s mission at that point. Right now, what you have is a set of very serious and important questions and only the special prosecutor can get the answer to. And that is, did the Russians try to affect our election?
I think the verdict is in on that, yes. The other one is, did the president cooperate with, conspire with, collude with, whatever, he and his campaign with them? you can`t get that anyplace else. And so I do think that the special prosecutor`s role this time is much larger than it was then.
Lawrence, can I sort of just add one thing before we all get dug in on this fact? As you mentioned, the House Judiciary Committee voted three articles of impeachment. It was understood -- before that piece of tape was found, it was well understood that these were going to be carried by the House and that the president`s support in the Senate had collapsed. The only thing that that piece of tape did was speed it up, but he was going to get impeached and convicted anyway
O`DONNELL: And Elizabeth Holtzman, talk about how the Saturday night massacre changed everything in Washington when President Nixon fired the special prosecutor. And it looked like everything had been derailed?
HOLTZMAN: Well, the thing that was really important was because they were public hearings, the Senate had public hearings and John Dean had testified at those hearings and said "I told the president there was a cancer on the presidency. I told the president that hush money was being paid to the burglars. I told the president that pardons were being offered to the burglars."
And the president said basically I know where the money can be gotten and he didn`t have any objection to the pardons. And then the president said, "Well, no, I never said that." When the special prosecutor -- so you had the president, on one hand, Dean on the other hand.
And so when the special prosecutor was trying to get the tapes, everybody in the country understood what the significance of the tapes was. They were going to prove whether Dean was telling the truth or the president was telling the truth.
Here, we don`t have that kind of educational background and that`s what`s vital. And I do think the special counsel prosecutor, while he plays an important role, doesn`t preclude Congress from acting now. We don`t have to wait for the special prosecutor. Congress needs to start looking immediately into whether the president has engaged in various kinds of misdeeds, including with Michael Cohen.
O`DONNELL: Elizabeth Holtzman and Elizabeth Drew, thank you both for joining us very much tonight. Really appreciate it.
Tonight`s last word is next.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s and this week`s last word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SETH MEYERS, HOST, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS: Yes, you did say there was no collusion. And you didn`t say it once or twice, you said it a bunch of times.
RUDY GUILIANI, SPECIAL COUNSEL: Russian collusion. Here`s what they found, zero, nada, nothing. If anything, it`s proof there was no collusion. Nobody talked about Russians. Nobody knew about Russians.
There was no collusion with the Russians. No collusion with the Russians. There was no collusion. There was no Russian collusion.
No Russian collusion, case over. Was there collusion? Come on, nobody believes there was collusion
MEYERS: Think about how much their argument has changed. It went from there were no contacts with Russians, to there was no collusion with Russians, to we tried to collude but nothing came of it, to collusion is not a crime, to there was collusion but it didn`t involve Trump. If this keeps going, Rudy is going to be telling Trump, it`s not jail, it`s a gated community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Seth Meyers gets tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.