LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And my book, your book, arrives today, and I got the audiobook. Right after midnight last night, as soon as it became available, just pouring it into my phone.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: You are very kind. I`m going to reimburse you for all these things. I feel like when we work at the same building, we should not do.
O`DONNELL: I -- listening to the -- listening to your audiobook everywhere. It`s so great and it really -- the audiobook really moves like a great movie. And I know that`s you and Scott Shirat (ph), your director of this great audio book. It`s a separate experience. I`m advocating people get both.
MADDOW: Did you get to the point in the book yet where there`s the cameo appearance from Pussy Riot?
O`DONNELL: Yes, it`s pretty exciting.
MADDOW: I know.
O`DONNELL: It`s everything.
MADDOW: We had to move heaven and earth to make that happen, but we did it.
O`DONNELL: Rachel, quickly before you go.
O`DONNELL: This breaking news of your hour, the letter from the three chairman in the House to Secretary Pompeo, this battle is truly engaged.
MADDOW: Hmm. In terms of -- this is in response to Pompeo saying he doesn`t want to let these --
O`DONNELL: Yes, the three chairmen saying, you know, you absolutely have no right to block any of this testimony, and you don`t have any right to have State Department lawyers in the room during these depositions, and oh, by the way, you used those rules yourself when you were a member of the House of Representatives in that little Benghazi investigation that you were so obsessed with.
O`DONNELL: And so, this is -- this is now just as hard-hitting a battle as I`ve ever seen in situations like this.
MADDOW: Well, and, you know, it has been one thing, and I think it`s been a frustration for Democrats in the House to be trying to get testimony from witnesses who don`t want to testify and don`t want to be in the middle of this, and are Trump loyalists and are kicking and screaming being dragged in there and they don`t want to do it. That may not be the case for all the witnesses in the Trump and what happened in the Ukraine.
For the Trump administration to be pulling rabbits out of their hats trying to block witnesses who are part of an impeachment proceeding now, when those witnesses may not be the kind of Trump loyalists who will go along with whatever their games are to try to keep him out of there, I don`t think this is going to end well for them.
And the State Department thing with Pompeo himself implicated as a fact witness to the president`s call for which he is being impeached, I mean, he doesn`t -- he`s not in a strong position to be opening (ph) there.
O`DONNELL: Well, that`s exactly what the chairman is saying tonight. Their letter is to the deputy secretary of state because they`re saying Mike Pompeo can`t even be in the dialogue about this. He`s a witness. He can`t be in the dialogue.
MADDOW: It`s a fair opinion.
MADDOW: I mean, when Bill Barr realized that the call in question for which the president`s going to be impeached involved the president routinely mentioning him, repeatedly mentioning him as part of the scheme for which he`s going to be impeached, Bill Barr should have recused and taken himself out of it because he`s implicated in it. It`s the same thing with Mike Pompeo, and I think ultimately those norms will be ratified here, and I don`t think it`s going to I understand well for Barr or Pompeo. They don`t have the same kind of immunity from liability that the president does by virtue of the Oval Office.
O`DONNELL: And they might have a new Justice Department with a new attorney general appointed by a Democratic president in about 18 months --
O`DONNELL: -- looking at what they`ve been up to right now.
MADDOW: And cabinet officials have been indicted in past. And attorneys general have been indicted in the past. An attorney general named John Mitchell went to prison for having done stuff for Richard Nixon that he knew better than to do himself. These guys saying that they`ll do anything for the president isn`t necessarily going to save themselves even if it does help the president in a short run.
O`DONNELL: Rachel, get some rest. "Today Show" about 8:30 tomorrow morning.
MADDOW: Yes, yes.
O`DONNELL: OK. We`ll be watching.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
But we will begin tonight with the breaking news of the night -- about the State Department`s inspector general`s now urgent request tonight to brief House and Senate committees about documents related to the State Department and Ukraine.
The inspector general wants to brief several committees, including the Senate Intelligence Committee.
We`ll be joined by a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Kamala Harris, who is now a candidate for president of the United States. She also serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee with Republican Senator Chuck Grassley who picked sides today in the battle between Donald Trump and the whistleblower, and it will surprise you whose side Senator Grassley is on. But it is not so surprising for people who know Senator Grassley and who have worked with him in the Senate. We will consider why Donald Trump has not yet attacked Chuck Grassley for Chuck Grassley`s very strong defense today of the whistleblower.
And at the end of the hour, we will be joined by American journalism`s highest authority on impeachment. Elizabeth Drew is now covering her third impeachment proceeding of the president of the United States. She is a Washington congresswoman for "The New Yorker" covering her first impeachment process against President Richard Nixon. Elizabeth Drew wrote the book about that process which remains the highest standard in impeachment reporting, "Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon`s Downfall".
Elizabeth Drew`s reporting has always been mandatory reading for me, and I can assure you, her op-ed speech in the "New York Times" has been treated as mandatory reading by the staff of all the house committees involved in the impeachment process and all of them members of those committees. When Elizabeth Drew talks about impeachment, I for one listen, take notes and I learn, and I will be doing that at the end of this hour when we are joined by the voice of experience on impeachment, Elizabeth Drew.
The breaking news of the hour is a letter signed by three House committee chairmen to the deputy secretary of state responding to a letter earlier in the day by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which Secretary Pompeo attempted to block testimony from current and former State Department officials.
The letter tonight says: Dear Mr. Deputy Secretary, we are responding to a letter sent earlier today by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempting to block testimony from current and former State Department officials sought by our committees for depositions as part of the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry. We are writing to you because Secretary Pompeo now appears to have an on obvious conflict of interest. He reportedly participated personally in the July 25th, 2019 call, in which the president pressed the Ukraine president to investigate the son of former Vice President Joseph Biden immediately after Ukrainian president raised his desire for United States military`s assistance to counter Russian aggression. Secretary Pompeo should not be making any decisions regarding witness testimony or document production in order to protect himself or the president.
Any effort by the secretary or the department to intimidate or prevent witnesses from testifying or withhold documents from the committees shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry, given the secretary`s own potential role and reports of other State Department officials being involved in or knowledgeable of the events under investigation. The committees may infer that he is trying to cover up illicit activity and misconduct, including by the president. This would be a blatant cover-up and clear abuse of power.
That letter to the deputy secretary of state tonight follows a report by NBC News tonight that the inspector general of the State Department has made an urgent request to brief several congressional committees tomorrow about documents related to the State Department and Ukraine, according to multiple congressional sources.
The request from the State Department`s inspector general comes on the same day that the head of the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, sent a letter to the house foreign affairs committee saying that he will not voluntarily make available five current and former department officials for depositions by the committee. One of the witness that the House Democrats want to hear from has already agreed to appear for a deposition on Thursday, Kurt Volker resigned from the State Department last week and therefore is no longer under Mike Pompeo`s control in this matter.
The Pompeo letter does highlight one point that might be part of the discussion that the State Department inspector general urgently wants to have with the congressional committees. The Pompeo letter says, quote, the invitations the committees sent to the five department officials include requests that each of them personally produce a vast amount of documents. These requests appear to duplicate the subpoena that was previously served on the secretary of state. The requested records are the property of the secretary of state and are subject to restrictions on the unauthorized disclosure of classified information and various executive branch privileges.
The Pompeo letter went on to say that the committee is asking the witnesses to, quote, produce materials that are not theirs to produce. The inspector general of the State Department is Steve Linick who was appointed to position in 2013 by President Barack Obama. The inspector general would like to meet with the staff of the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as the house oversight committee, the Senate appropriations committee.
This is an extraordinary request. It includes Democratic staff and Republican staff. This is a request the likes that I for one as a former Senate staffer have never seen or been a party to. And fortunately tonight, we are joined by guests who have much more experience than I do in State Department matters and Intelligence Committee matters. We will be joined later in the hour by a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Kamala Harris, who is now a candidate for president.
Secretary Pompeo`s letter blocking the testimony complained that State Department lawyers should be allowed to attend any depositions by Congress of State Department employees. But tonight`s letter from the three House chairmen to the deputy secretary of state says the same rule has been in place for more than a decade under both Republican and Democratic chairman on the committee on oversight and reform, and it was in place during Secretary Pompeo`s tenure on the Benghazi Select Committee.
The regulations that governed House deposition state, witnesses may be accompanied at a deposition by personal non-governmental counsel to advise them of their rights, only members committee staff designated by the chair or ranking minority member, an official reporter. The witness and the witnesses counsel are permitted to attend. Observers are counsel for other persons, including counsel for government agencies may not attend.
The chairman`s letter to the deputy secretary of state says the rule is intended for exactly these types of circumstances to prevent an agency head with an obvious conflict of interest and who was directly implicated in the abuses we are currently investigating from trying to prevent his own employees from coming forward to tell the truth to Congress. The three chairmen: Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee, Eliot Engel of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Elijah Cummings of the Oversight Committee tell the deputy secretary of state it is a criminal violation punishable by fine or up to five years in prison to by threats or force or by any threatening letter or communication influence, obstruct or impede or endeavor to do so the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House or any committee of either House.
And we begin our discussion of all of this with someone who would be in that meeting with the inspector general tomorrow if she still had her old job at the House Intelligence Committee. Mieke Eoyang is a former staff member of the House Intelligence Committee and is now vice president of the national security program at Third Way.
Also joining us is Evelyn Farkas. She`s a former deputy assistance of secretary of defense in the Obama administration and served on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee for seven years. She`s an MSNBC national security analyst.
And we`re joined by former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Senator McCaskill was a member of the Finance Committee, Armed Services Committee and was the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee. Senator McCaskill is now an MSNBC political analyst.
And, Senator, let me start with you. The request by the inspector general is to meet with the committee staff. Surely, committee members would be welcomed in the meeting but the fact that they are on recess means that most members are not in Washington. This is a request to meet with the Republican staff, the Democratic staff of all of these committees, House and Senate combined. It`s maybe the largest collection of committee staff that will ever be gathered in one room at one time.
What is your reading of this situation tonight with the State Department?
CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it`s really interesting. First of all, Steve Linick, let me give you some context. Steve Linick is a former DOJ prosecutor, spent a lot of time in fraud and corruption trials which are paper intensive trials. Those are the kinds of cases that are built on documents.
And so, he understands the importance of documents. The fact that he is bringing documents, that means that something is in those documents that he thinks is really important that the people who are doing this impeachment inquiry see immediately.
So, it will be very interesting to see what we find out tomorrow. But this is very unusual for an inspector general to do this. I worked with a lot of inspectors general. I did a lot of legislation, ironically with Chuck Grassley on whistleblowers and inspectors general. For an inspector general to step up like this -- because typically they want to go through protocols and procedures -- means something big is up.
O`DONNELL: Mieke Eoyang, you`d be in the room tomorrow if you still had your old job. It`s like one of those days when you wish you had it.
Let`s start with what this isn`t, OK? This is the inspector general who`s asking for this meeting. So, this would not be a follow up, in effect, to Secretary Pompeo`s letter in which secretary Pompeo is raising questions about the classification of some of these documents and the availability of some of these documents.
If that`s what the State Department was concerned about, it would have been counsel to the secretary or somebody in the secretary`s chain of command. Because it`s coming from the inspector general, what does that say to you?
MIEKE EOYANG, HOUSE INTELIGENCE COMMITTEE FORMER STAFF MEMBER: So, what that says to me is this is different than the document request that went forward from the members of the committee earlier to Pompeo where they listed out witnesses, including Kurt Volker, and said we need to talk to these people about what Secretary Pompeo heard on the call with the president, with the president of Ukraine.
Now, there are so many things that have been happening inside the State Department. It`s sort of hard to predict what exactly this inspector general is bringing forward here. Is it about the subversion of the regular policy-making process? Is this about some attempt to intimidate? Is there another whistleblower inside the State Department?
But what`s very clear is this inspector general is taking his independence very seriously, and he`s bringing forward things that we may not have heard of before into this conversation.
O`DONNELL: And, Evelyn, this inspector general to fill out his bio that Senator McCaskill began, he was appointed by President Obama, so that will provoke Trump world into thinking oh, he`s biased. He is the inspector general who supervised the report within the State Department inspector general`s office on Hillary Clinton`s email that actually was highly critical of Hillary Clinton`s use of email at the State Department, said that she in fact did not comply with the Federal Records Act, found that violation very, very clearly in his report about her email.
So, that`s the last big moment that we heard from this inspector general in 2016.
EVELYN FARKAS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. And, Lawrence, I think it`s interesting because whatever he`s bringing forward, I think it`s not only different but it probably pertains to the secretary of state if not the president himself. Why do I say this? Because I don`t know if this is news or not, but the Department of Defense is also doing -- I understand that there`s an I.G. investigation occurring also at DOD and they`re looking at what happened with regard to the freezing of the Ukrainian funds, how did the department respond, the background to that. That inspector general hasn`t taken it upon himself or herself to rush over urgently to the Hill.
So, again, this seems like a counter move to that Pompeo letter where Secretary Pompeo said, I`m not letting my personnel basically go and speak to the independent branch of government that has the right to talk to them. And if they go, they have to go with State Department minders, you know, to basically intimidate them into maybe not telling Congress as much as they know. So, it seems to me that this I.G. meeting is now the countermove from the State Department, from State Department experts and senior personnel.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Let`s all keep in mind the sequence today of the big events involving the State Department. There was the Pompeo letter to the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House saying we`ll not make these witnesses or documents available. Then after that and only after that came the inspector general`s urgent request. And then that other letter that I was reporting on from the three chairmen, that came much later tonight after the inspector general.
So, the inspector general was coming into this story after the Pompeo letter denying the access to the witnesses and the documents.
Let`s take a look at Mike Pompeo`s compromised position in this story involving the phone call with the president of Ukraine. Let`s listen to what he said last week when he was asked about a phone call that no one knew then Mike Pompeo actually listened in on. And we now know Mike Pompeo listened in on.
Let`s listen to how he reacted to comments -- questions about that last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: So you just gave me a report about a I.C. whistleblower complaint, none of which I`ve seen.
So, I haven`t had a chance to actually read the whistleblower complaint yet. I read the first couple of paragraphs and then got busy today. But I`ll ultimately get a chance to see it. If I understand it right, it`s from someone who had second-hand knowledge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, now you know what Mike Pompeo looks like when he`s not telling the truth.
Let`s listen to what he had to say today in Italy when he was asked about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, do you have any comment on reports you`re on the July 25th call with President Zelensky?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Senator McCaskill, the new technique for Mike Pompeo when he`s asked about this is turn and walk in the other direction.
MCCASKILL: Yes, and, you know, his boss is not going to be happy about that, because clearly, Mike Pompeo is beginning to look after Mike Pompeo instead of Donald Trump. He is thinking about his future, because if he was doing what Trump wants him to do, he should have wheeled on the camera and said it was a perfect call, I heard it.
He didn`t do that. He is being careful. He was lying by omission, by not admitting at that moment to Martha Raddatz that he was on the call. And today, he is once again stonewalling and stiffing the constitutional requirement that he cooperate and provide transparent information in an impeachment inquiry.
O`DONNELL: Mieke, take us inside that room tomorrow when the inspector general`s going to be meeting -- first of all, this meeting is as unprecedented to you as it is to me, right? You`ve never seen anything like this?
EOYANG: I`ve never seen anything like this, but, look, we`ve never had a president who was so clearly at the center of a misconduct allegation like this. We`ve never seen this before.
O`DONNELL: What can you imagine the inspector general from State is bringing that is of interest to all of these different committees? His normal relationship would be only to the Foreign Affairs Committee.
EOYANG: Right. Well, it`s very clear all of these committees are involved in the impeachment inquiry, that it was a complaint that came from an intelligence whistleblower, and the president holding up the aid to the Ukraine as a way of pressuring the Ukrainian government to dig up and manufacturing a story on his most feared rival.
So, what we could see from this inspector general is additional corroborating evidence about the process by which the aid was held up. State Department plays an important role in the distribution of foreign military aid. It could be about the ways in which Pompeo is trying to hold back these witnesses. There are any number of things where the inspector general may have the goods on the inside machinations of the Trump administration.
O`DONNELL: And, Evelyn, we`ve seen on the first -- the intelligence community`s inspector general filing that whistleblower report with the House committee. We saw that process. It was paper. It was just he very -- inspector general carefully wrote basically a cover letter to a carefully-written whistleblower report and passed the paper along.
That inspector general didn`t jump in the car and race over to the House Intelligence Committee. This is an inspector general saying I need to come in and see you right away. There`s a -- there`s no time to handle this on paper apparently.
FARKAS: Well, that`s interesting, Lawrence, because it may mean that this inspector general has more paper. And I think Senator McCaskill also alluded to this earlier. You know, the whistleblower probably saw a lot of paper and a lot of paper was fastidiously described in great detail, I should say, not to use too long words here, to the whistleblower.
So, the whistleblower knew exactly what he or she was writing about. But it seems it`s possible that this State Department I.G. has documents that he is afraid maybe will get destroyed or spirited away or something of that nature and that`s why this is urgent because remember in another context -- I mean, we`re having all these fights going on in the courts. I can`t even keep track of them. Rachel keeps really good track of them. You do.
But one of these fights has to do with the State Department holding on to - - and the government -- holding on to critical information pertaining to this impeachment. So, he may be worried that Secretary Pompeo or someone else might somehow demand that he turn over important documents.
O`DONNELL: And, Senator McCaskill, I`ve been sitting here the last couple of weeks thinking when did Donald Trump first hear the words inspector general? You know it`s something he did not know existed in the government until he had been in there for a while. And here it is. It is coming down to the inspectors general.
MCCASKILL: Yes. In fact, at the beginning of his administration, there was a little kerfuffle about some of the people in transition trying to get rid of all the inspectors general to get their people in and guess who raised his said and said, no, no, you can`t do that -- none other than Chuck Grassley.
O`DONNELL: Yes, because he`s been strong on whistleblower issues.
O`DONNELL: Yes. We`re actually gong to talk about that later in this hour.
Senator Claire McCaskill, Evelyn Farkas, Mieke Eoyang, thank you all for starting us off on this important night. Really appreciate it. Thank you.
FARKAS: You bet.
O`DONNELL: With each passing day of the Trump impeachment investigation, more questions need to be asked of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr. What did they know, and when did they know it?
One of senators hoping to ask some of those questions is Senator Kamala Harris who`s a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. She asked Attorney General Barr in the Judiciary Committee one of most important questions he`s ever been asked under oath. Senator Harris joins us next.
O`DONNELL: Last week, Senator Kamala Harris of California sent a letter to the State Department inspector general, Steve Linick, demanding that he investigate whether State Department officials worked with Rudy Giuliani, quote, in violation of restrictions on engaging in partisan political activity.
NBC News is reporting that Inspector General Steve Linick made an urgent request tonight to brief several House Senate Committees tomorrow about documents related to the State Department and Ukraine.
And joining us now is Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris of California. She`s a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee.
And, Senator Harris, I have to ask you, is it possible that your letter to the inspector general is what triggered some kind of inquiry by him that has him rushing to Congress tomorrow for a closed door briefing?
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m sure it`s possible, Lawrence. But, you know, I mean, as Claire McCaskill said earlier, the inspectors general who have been carryovers from a previous administration I think know that fundamentally their duty is to ensure the integrity of the agencies that they serve.
And on this issue, the State Department and Mike Pompeo at the very head of it really have a lot of questions to answer about what they did to facilitate Rudy Giuliani`s engagement with Ukrainian officials and what resources and taxpayer dollars were used to facilitate basically the request of political favors from are a foreign head of government by Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Mike Pompeo`s letter today to the chairman in the House refusing to comply with their request to depose State Department witnesses complained --
O`DONNELL: -- of bullying in their tactics because in their notices of the request for these depositions, they reminded the secretary of state what the law is and what they would interpret as obstruction of their activities.
Tonight in response to Pompeo`s refusal, those chairmen now have sent a letter to the deputy secretary of state reminding him that it is, as they put it, it is a criminal violation punishable by fine of up to five years in prison to buy threats or force or by any threatening letter or communication influence, obstruct, or impede or endeavor to do so --
O`DONNELL: -- the due process exercise of their governmental powers.
Is it --
O`DONNELL: Is it proper for them to be citing these criminal statutes when communicating with the State Department about obtaining information?
HARRIS: Well, listen essentially what we`re talking about is a concern about the suppression of evidence. In an inquiry that is a legitimate and important inquiry about how the resources of this Secretary of State and the State Department have been used, and have they been used for the political benefit of this President and not in the best interest of America`s national security.
While we`re talking about who is reminding who? I think Congressman Mike Pompeo needs to remind Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of what he argued when he had Hillary Clinton before the Committee on Benghazi. Because it reeks of hypocrisy and of one standard in one situation and one that doesn`t suit him, and all of a sudden he goes quiet and shuts down the process.
So there is that, Lawrence. But the bottom line is that I`m very happy and excited that the IG has kicked in and is doing the job that he was designed to do as Inspector General. And I think the inquiry is proceeding as it should in that regard, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo really has a lot of questions to answer, and frankly, I think that we all see that he is on the verge of object justice if he is going to suppress evidence that may very well be evidence of a crime.
O`DONNELL: William Barr Attorney General has more questions answered too.
O`DONNELL: Secretary Pompeo was in Italy tonight a week after, it turns out, Attorney General Barr was secretly in Italy which we`ve now discovered, and he was there once again apparently trying to help the President`s reelection campaign by trying to investigate an undermine the origins of what became the Mueller investigation.
You asked Attorney General Barr, whether he has ever been asked to do investigations by Presidents or anyone in the White House? Let`s take a look at the way he handled that question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: Has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no, please, sir.
WILLIAM BARR: U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The President or anybody else.
HARRIS: It seems you would remember something like that and would be able to tell us.
BARR: I`m trying to grapple with the word "Suggests." I mean, there have been discussions of matters out there that they have not asked me to open an investigation.
HARRIS: Perhaps they`ve suggested?
BARR: I wouldn`t say suggest.
BARR: I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So for William Barr, it all turns on the definition of the word "Suggest."
HARRIS: Well, clearly for William Barr, it also turns to the fact that he doesn`t want to answer direct question with a direct answer. And you know just again, it`s just not only in hindsight at that very moment I think it became clear that he was not being forthright with the American people and the Congress of the United States of America.
O`DONNELL: I want to ask you about member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, a Senator you know well, you worked with. He issued a written statement today entering - taking his own position in the battle between Donald Trump and the whistleblower, and guess whose side he`s on.
He wrote the person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection law and ought to be heard out and protected. He said no one should be making judgments or pronouncements without hearing from the whistleblower first and carefully following up on the facts.
Uninformed speculation wielded by politicians is counterproductive. He said the distinction being drawn between first and secondhand knowledge weren`t legal ones. Were you surprised that Senator Grassley took that position against Donald Trump on the whistleblower?
HARRIS: You know I have not always agreed with Senator Grassley, but he has been a champion in my time in the Senate. I`ve watched him in defense of whistleblowers and whistleblower statutes. And I think, that with all credit to him that he, unlike so many others, has been willing on this matter to put country before party, and has been willing to have the courage to stand up for what is right as supposed to defending or cuddling this President`s bad behaviors.
O`DONNELL: He was directly clearly attacking disagreeing with the President there and the current Chairmen of Judiciary Lindsey Graham.
HARRIS: No, listen, when if you`ve met Chuck Grassley, you will know. When he puts his mind on something he sticks to it and on this I happen to agree with him that, listen we have to protect whistleblowers because this - in the design of our democracy as one of the most important methods by which there is transparency and disclosure of bad behaviors and government.
Therefore, it is an opportunity for us then as the American public to know what is happening in a way we can correct and hold accountable bad behaviors an abuses of government and abuses of taxpayer resources. Good for Chuck Grassley on this one and I hope that more of my colleagues will recognize that this is really a matter about the integrity of our system of government and our democracy and should not be a partisan issue.
We should all stand together saying that we have in common a desire to know that there is integrity in these systems, and in particular when it relates to our nation`s security.
O`DONNELL: Senator Harris, please stay with us, because when we come back after this break, I want to ask you about new reporting in "The New York Times" tonight that President Trump wanted to shoot immigrants at the southern border, and when he was told that was against the law, he said he wanted to shoot them in the legs, and he was told that was against the law. He said he wanted to build a moat at the border, fill it with alligators. It is the wildest, craziest stuff we`ve heard from Donald Trump about the border.
It`s all reporting in "The New York Times." I`m going to ask you about that right after this break. Please stay with us.
HARRIS: Okay. Sure.
O`DONNELL: Tonight "The New York Times" is reporting new details about ideas President Trump has for the southern border. According to an excerpt from the new book "Border Wars" written by two "New York Times" Correspondents. Privately, the President had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate.
He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks the President backed off when his staff told him that was illegal, but later in a meeting, aides recalled he said that they should shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That`s not allowed, either, they told him.
Senator Kamala Harris of California is back with us, Senator, your reaction to this new reporting about Trump ideas for the border?
HARRIS: I`m beyond words, to be honest with you, Lawrence. It is outrageous. You know, we have - we have a person occupying the White House right now that is not only lawless, not only probably the most unpatriotic President we`ve ever had. We have someone who is mean and mean-spirited and is confused about what is the real measure of strength and power.
Because if he were clear about it, he would understand that the true measure of strength and power is not based on who you beat down, it is based on who you lift up. But what you are telling me is that there is a report that basically has the President of the United States advocating what will be torture, mayhem of human beings.
When there is so many other tools available to address what we need to do to deal with immigration, which, by the way, is a passing comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway toward citizenship. I`m beyond words to describe how outrageous I think most Americans would feel about what he advocated.
And by the way, just like what we saw as the bipartisan reaction when people became aware of a policy that was about putting babies in cages and separating children from their parents in the name of border security, I believe that the American people will recognize that advocating for moats filled with snakes and alligators, that the American people would be outraged regardless of their party affiliation just knowing that`s not reflective of the values of who we say we are. And it`s just not reflective of what should be a modern President in America who values human rights.
O`DONNELL: There is another passage in the reporting of these "New York Times" reporters about the customs and border protection Chief when the President said to him that he wanted him to stop letting migrants cross the border at all anywhere with no exceptions. If you get into trouble for it, Mr. Trump told him, I`ll pardon you. Now, does that qualify as a possible article of impeachment?
HARRIS: Well, listen, I mean, what he is basically saying is if you commit a crime, I got your back. So let`s start with the fact that we have the President of the United States encouraging someone to break the law again, further evidence of the fact that Donald Trump is lawless and as I`ve said before.
Look, Maya Angelou told us that you should listen to people when they tell you who they are the first time. Donald Trump told us who he was when he was campaigning for office, when he said if I shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, I can get away with it. He told us then who he is, and all of this is evidence of the fact that we knew a long time ago.
And so let the impeachment proceedings begin, and I have full faith in the ability of the United States Congress, certainly in the House of Representatives, to do the right thing.
O`DONNELL: Senator Kamala Harris, candidate for President of the United States, thank you very much for joining us tonight on this important news night.
HARRIS: Thank you, Lawrence. Thank you. Take care.
O`DONNELL: When we come back, what should the Democrats do on impeachment? One article of impeachment quickly or multiple articles of impeachment? That is the biggest decision they are facing, both strategically and substantively in the House of Representatives. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: The big question facing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats is how many articles of impeachment? Should they deliver one clear article of impeachment based on the rough transcript of the President`s phone call showing him soliciting help in his reelection campaign from Ukraine? That`s what unified the Democrats in favor of impeachment.
It is for the Democrats at this point an open and shut case, and very few Republicans are actually specifically defending what the President said on that phone call. That phone call has dramatically pushed up support for the impeachment investigation to solid majority support at 55 percent. But we`ve never seen the Congress pursue only one article of impeachment.
The House Judiciary Committee voted on multiple articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. And the votes on those articles of impeachment were different. The vote totals were different on each count. Some articles attracted more votes than others. So strategically, you might want to include three or four articles of impeachment so that a Republican Senator could vote against three articles of impeachment before voting for one article of impeachment the article of impeachment about that phone call, for example.
It only takes one successful article of impeachment to remove a President. Elizabeth Drew is now reporting on the third impeachment process of her distinguished career as a journalist in Washington. In today`s "New York Times," she writes, House Democratic leaders following frustrated efforts to hold President Trump to account, understandably want to strike quickly to impeach him on the grounds of one extremely serious issue, his pressuring the President of Ukraine to get the goods on his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
But they`re risking making their target too narrow and moving too fast in so doing they could end up inquisitively destroying approval on other Presidential acts that amount to a long train of abuses of power and going too quickly could shut off the oxygen that might fuel Republican acceptance that it`s time to break with Mr. Trump perhaps, enough of them to end his presidency. Elizabeth Drew joins us next.
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REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): We should get this done before the end of the year for two reasons. One, so we can talk about all of our positive agenda what we are doing on jobs, on infrastructure, and gun violence. And second, I want our nominee to be the face of the party in 2020. I frankly don`t want House Democrats to be the face. I want them to run on a positive agenda. So I think we should wrap this up this year and then move on.
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O`DONNELL: It was Congressman Ro Khanna. And when I hear statements like that, I always wonder what does Elizabeth Drew think? No one in journalism knows more about impeachments of Presidents than Elizabeth Drew and no one has covered impeachments more wisely than Elizabeth Drew and in today`s "New York Times" she made the case for multiple articles of impeachment against President Trump.
And joining us now is Elizabeth Drew, Journalist and Author of the book "Washington Journal Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon`s downfall". Elizabeth, thank you very much for joining us tonight and I`m going to have you make your case in a moment about the multiple articles. But I just want to want to start with something with you, and that is the feel of where we are?
You lived through 1973, 1974 in Washington and felt the waves of the Nixon investigation and when it started to feel more important, the same thing with the investigation of President Bill Clinton ultimately leading to his impeachment in the House of Representatives and trial in the Senate. What does it feel like now? Where do you think we are?
ELIZABETH DREW, POLITICAL JOURNALIST: I think we`re in two leafs Lawrence. There are so many things that are flying around at the same time. With Nixon it was pretty clear what is issues were, are? With Clinton it was all too clear. I mean, people talk about that that wasn`t a popular impeachment or he did well afterwards because it really wasn`t well grounded. There weren`t reasons to throw him out of the presidency.
So it wasn`t serious enough. Impeachment is very serious, and we`ve gotten too used to the term. But in Watergate we didn`t have cable, we didn`t have internet. If it was kind of Walden Pond compared to now. Each day, you know, each hour something is breaking. It`s almost so confusing that we have focus. It`s important to focus on what`s really going on here.
O`DONNELL: You know, I`ve been listening to the debate of should there be one article of impeachment well written, quickly pursued, should there be multiple? I started off very strongly in the multiple articles school. I can definitely see the case for the one clear simple article that everyone understands. I get that case. I don`t think it`s an easy choice. Is it an easy choice for you?
DREW: No, it`s not an easy choice, but I think it`s very important and serious one. It`s not a question of the number, Lawrence. It`s a question of what you cover. And I totally understand the Democrats pouncing on the call to the President of Ukraine because it`s such an obvious problem and impeachable. We`ve been so frustrated and we could do this and we could get it through and we could impeach him, hurrah.
The problem is that then you`re just saying what about all the other infringements of the constitutional behavior and abuses of power that Trump has committed? His enriching himself at the expense of the taxpayer and the government, his lying so much that we don`t have accountable government, he his threatening - of the intelligence agencies revoking their clearance because they criticized him.
He is threatening Amazon, raising its postage rates because they own "The Washington Post." Are we going to say that`s all okay? Are we saying that for the future? These are not things we should pay attention to? I find that a very troubling proposition. That`s really why I come out. I think it would be two anyway.
One would be Ukraine and one would be obstruction because there`s been an across the board attempt to obstruction of any legitimate inquiry into the administration. But I think we need one that`s very much like article 2 for Nixon. You don`t go into great detail, but it`s under the rubric of abuse of power.
Trump has committed at least as many abuses of power as Nixon did, and I just don`t think we should say well, that`s okay for the future. That would be very troubling. It would set a terrible precedent. So under there you would have some things I listed and other matters as well. I think otherwise - also, if it`s too thin, I think the House people are mainly going on the assumption which I don`t buy that those Republican Senators would vote to really convict Trump out of office.
I`m not sure that`s true. I`ve never thought that`s true and I increasingly don`t question whether that`s true. You get to the Senate, do you say, well, there`s this one thing that we think he should be removed from office over, I don`t know. I think that`s a hard argument to make.
O`DONNELL: And you`re not seeing the kind of defensive posture from Mitch McConnell that if you were Donald Trump you would want to see right now?
DREW: No. Except for Lindsey Graham you`re not seeing much defense of him at all in the Senate. I say in the piece I talked to a Democrat with a lot of Republican friendships. People don`t think that happens, but he said they`re nervous as hell, that was his term. That`s because, a, they don`t know what`s coming. Bricks are falling every day. They`re tired of defending him and tired of defending the indefensible.
They know that it was an unacceptable thing to do to bully the President of Ukraine over getting his militaries assistance as they had voted for. That`s another one he keeps taking appropriations from Congress and moving the money around. Are you going to say that`s all right?
O`DONNELL: Elizabeth Drew always a pleasure and honor to have you with us. Thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate it.
DREW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Elizabeth Drew gets tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END