LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
You`ve just framed my first question for Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the committee that will be hearing these depositions tomorrow. We`ll see if Mr. Morrison shows up.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That`s one way to sort of curtain raise on your testimony, is to resign the day before you do it.
O`DONNELL: Yes. It makes it a little more dramatic.
O`DONNELL: Yes, thank you, Rachel.
O`DONNELL: Well, we`ll be joined tonight by someone who served as a juror in the impeachment trial of the president of the United States. Former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin will tell us what it was like to sit in judgment of a president of his own party, Bill Clinton. At the end of this hour, Senator Feingold will tell us how he balanced partisan pressure against his sworn duty as a juror in a presidential impeachment trial.
We begin tonight with the increasing pace of witnesses testifying to the impeachment inquiry as more witnesses get added to the deposition schedule every day. John Bolton will not testify voluntarily. That`s what his lawyer said today in response to a letter from the House impeachment investigative committees requesting John Bolton`s voluntary appearance of the deposition next Thursday, November 7th, at 9:30 a.m.
John Bolton`s lawyer, Charles Cooper, told NBC News, quote, Bolton is not willing to appear voluntarily. And then the lawyer added, I stand ready at all times to accept service of a subpoena on his behalf.
But that same attorney, Charles Cooper, represents Charles Kupperman who was subpoenaed by the impeachment inquiry, and that lawyer then brought an unprecedented lawsuit to ask a court to clarify whether his client should obey a lawful subpoena or obey the president`s demand not to testify even though his client no longer works in government. Donald Trump`s no longer his boss. He is a private citizen just like John Bolton. And the president of the United States has no legal authority to issue an order to a private citizen.
But all private citizens are subject subpoena. And so the lawsuit that John Bolton`s lawyer has already brought on behalf of one of his clients to avoid testifying to the impeachment inquiry is another unprecedented, frivolous legal maneuver thrown in the path of the impeachment inquiry. The first hearing on that lawsuit is tomorrow.
Attorney Charles Cooper`s clients are eventually going to be ordered by judges to testify to the impeachment inquiry. And so, John Bolton is eventually going to have to tell his story under oath in public after first possibly submitting to a closed door deposition. And the big reason John Bolton has for not wanting to do that, the big disincentive John Bolton has about testifying publicly is the financial incentive he has to say all of his most colorful and most condemning stories about Donald Trump for his book, his big book which he is reportedly already working on.
And the value of that book increases as long as John Bolton can hold onto his Trump secrets, which also means that the value of that book declines if John Bolton is forced to reveal some of those secrets publicly in testimony to the impeachment inquiry and long before he can publish his book. So, it seems unlikely that John Bolton will show up for his deposition next Thursday, even if he`s hit with a subpoena in the meantime.
In addition to requesting testimony from John Bolton, the impeachment inquiry has sent requests for testimony to John Eisenberg, the top lawyer for the National Security Council and Michael Ellis, one of Eisenberg`s deputies, asking them to appear for depositions Monday, Monday, November 4th.
Fiona Hill, President Trump`s former top Russia aide on the National Security Council, testified earlier this month that she met with John Eisenberg twice at John Bolton`s urging after she was worried about Rudy Giuliani`s involvement in the Trump administration`s Ukraine policy. Fiona Hill quoted John Bolton calling Rudy Giuliani, quote, a hand grenade who`s going to blow everybody up, which is exactly what Rudy Giuliani apparently has done.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman told the impeachment inquiry yesterday that he twice reported his concerns to John Eisenberg about President Trump`s dealings with Ukraine, including the president`s July 25th phone call with the president of Ukraine. Two current State Department officials, Christopher Anderson, and Catherine Croft, testified in under oath depositions to the impeachment inquiry today. Christopher Anderson served as the Ukraine expert advising former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. Christopher Anderson was followed in that job y Catherine Croft.
Mr. Anderson, according to his opening statement, told House impeachment investigators that Rudy Giuliani prevented the Trump administration from strengthening cooperation with Ukraine. Christopher Anderson described a meeting he had with John Bolton on the topic of having senior White House officials engage more with Ukraine. John Bolton identified an obstacle to better engagement with Ukraine. He cautioned that Mr. Giuliani was a key voice with the president on Ukraine which could be an obstacle to increased White House engagement.
According to Catherine Croft`s opening statement, she first learned of the Trump White House`s plan to hold up Ukrainian -- military assistance to Ukraine during a July 18th Office of Budget and Management meeting. She listened in on by videoconference. An OMB official told the group that White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had placed what she called an informal hold on the $391 million in aid to Ukraine. Catherine Croft testified that the reason given then for the hold on Ukraine, the hold on Ukraine aid was that the order came at the direction of the president. Catherine Croft testified under subpoena today according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry in light of an attempt by the White House and State Department to direct Catherine Croft not to appear for her scheduled deposition.
NBC News has learned more about Lieutenant Colonel Vindman`s deposition yesterday. NBC News is reporting Colonel Vindman told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that a White House meeting between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky, as well as the delivery of nearly $400 million in security and military aid was contingent on Ukrainian officials carrying out investigations into Burisma, the Bidens, the 2016 election and CrowdStrike, NBC News has learned.
Colonel Vindman said in his opening statement: I did not think it was proper to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications of the U.S. government support of Ukraine. According to NBC News, two sources familiar with the testimony say that Colonel Vindman later went further than his opening statement by drawing a direct line between the deliverables for Ukraine and the multiple investigations.
Leading off our discussion tonight are Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. He`s a member of the House Oversight Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. He attended the depositions of both Christopher Anderson and Catherine Croft today.
Also joining us, Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst.
And Evelyn Farkas is with us. She`s a former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration and a former staff member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She served on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee for seven years. She knows Catherine Croft who testified today, and Evelyn is an MSNBC national security analyst.
Congressman, first of all, today`s depositions, did they deepen your understanding of what has been happening within the administration on Ukraine and in what ways did they do that?
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Thanks for having me on, Lawrence. I think it`s fair to say that they fleshed out further kind of the evidence supporting the whistle-blower`s allegations and the scheme to basically pressure the Ukrainians to initiate bogus investigations of the president`s domestic rivals in return for aid and potentially a White House meeting as well. And so, I can`t comment on the specifics of the testimony, but these individuals, you know, made statements that were completely consistent with others narratives and their testimony as well.
O`DONNELL: And so -- what can you tell us about Tim Morrison and the report tonight he has resigned. He`s scheduled to testify tomorrow.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that`s -- I think more of a reason that I hope he will show up tomorrow because he will no longer be within the president`s employ. And he`ll be in some -- you could say he`s a private citizen at that point. And, you know, who knows? Maybe he`ll even have some documents with him. I`m not sure about that.
But the point is that I think that cutting ties with the administration makes it less likely that the president could compel him not to show or not to produce documents of his own.
O`DONNELL: And, Congressman, the -- there seems to be a more rapid pace now for scheduling these things. I mean, we watched the House of Representatives, for example, in effect negotiate to schedule Robert Mueller`s testimony for months. The negotiation took months. It was then scheduled for more than a month in advance of when it was announced.
We`re now learning today that John Bolton`s told we want you to come in seven days from now. It seems like this pace is something that we haven`t seen before.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: No, we haven`t, and it`s a parade of career public civil servants. I call them a parade of patriots, quite frankly. People who are putting their necks on the line, they hire their own attorneys so they`re coming in at their own expense. They`re basically coming forward out of conviction to tell the truth. And to tell the truth about misconduct that they witnessed.
They are incredibly commendable and just yesterday you talked about Colonel Vindman. There`s a gentleman who is currently in the National Security Council, currently in the White House, and he came forward today or yesterday to testify. Again, a very compelling witness, just like for instance Mr. Taylor, Ambassador Taylor from last week.
O`DONNELL: And, Jill Wine-Banks I want to bring you in on this legal question. The most absurd thing I`ve seen develop here legally in relation to the committee`s actions is John Bolton`s lawyer, on behalf of another client asking the court to clarify what should we do here?
We have a subpoena from Congress and yet the president is telling my client not to testify. The client is a private citizen. I can`t think of a more ridiculous thing to bring to a judge.
And nothing like that ever happened in the Watergate. There wasn`t anybody who went to a judge and said, do I obey a congressional subpoena, I`m a private citizen, or do I list to the president about what to do on this?
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: No, it never happened in Watergate and it shouldn`t be happening now because the answer is obvious. That a subpoena trumps -- no pun intended -- trumps anything else.
They have a legitimate right, and, of course, the court opinions now have been very clear that the Congress is conducting a legitimate, lawful, constitutionally mandated impeachment inquiry. And even the vote which will now happen and I`m sure will pass, but even without that, it was totally legitimate, and they should be allowed to use the subpoena power and people come in and testify, and they`re in contempt if they don`t follow the subpoena.
So, it`s very hard to get a court to issue what`s called a declaratory judgment because there`s not really an issue. There`s no real fight going on. And you have to have two opposing sides to get the courts to rule.
But I think they did a good job of phrasing it, and maybe the court will say this is ridiculous, you have to of course abide by a subpoena. And I think they will.
O`DONNELL: Evelyn, you know some of these witnesses. What is your sense of how this evidence is developing now?
EVELYN FARKAS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think it`s really interesting, Lawrence, because of course there`s been an acceleration of witnesses. We can`t even keep their names straight. I mean I can because I know all of them personally.
O`DONNELL: I have a list there, which is a very long list.
FARKAS: But the point is these are all hardworking professionals. Catherine Croft, who came forward today and testified, she knows Ukraine inside out, and that`s probably why she --
O`DONNELL: Let`s pause over this.
O`DONNELL: She`s a current federal government employee. She`s in the State Department.
O`DONNELL: She`s on the payroll, and she got her subpoena. She went. There was no confusion about what to do. She doesn`t care what Pompeo says or what Trump says.
FARKAS: But part of it is I think because she`s a civil servant she has a sense of duty. Really, Masha -- Ambassador Yovanovitch, Marie Yovanovitch, remember she was the first one to go. She was the senior one. What I`d heard from inside the department was that she wanted to stay in the government so that she could do that, so she could look out for other people. I don`t know, I haven`t corroborated it with lots of people. But my sense was from people I`ve talked to --
O`DONNELL: She wants to stay in the government as a model of what to do --
O`DONNELL: -- in testifying even when you`re working in the government.
FARKAS: You know, she`s senior, she has her pension. She can afford let`s say financially and otherwise to put her leg out there a little bit, and that`s actually then -- that emboldened a lot of others.
Bill Taylor is in the situation she is, more senior, can afford to take the risk.
For these people who are in the middle -- Catherine Croft has a great career ahead of her. For her to make a misstep without that cover would have been more dangerous.
I want to pause on Tim Morrison because I worked with him and we talked about him actually you and I. You asked me whether he would testify. He worked for a long time in Congress. He worked actually for Mac Thornberry who`s retiring, with the House Armed Services. I suspect that he left -- he was a political appointee.
I think he left the White House so he could speak more frankly, so he could testify. That`s my bet.
You know, policy-wise, a lot of Democrats want to say negative things because they don`t like the policies he worked hard to advocate, anti-arms control, et cetera, but as a colleague, I worked hard with him, and I know that he -- and my sense is he understands his constitutional obligations.
O`DONNELL: Jill, what do you make of the pace that Congressman Krishnamoorthi tells us has definitely picked up?
WINE-BANKS: I think it`s a natural reaction to the fact the evidence is mounting so fast and people are coming in and they`re getting leads from everybody who testifies. So, it`s like pieces of jigsaw that are really coming together and fitting well now. The evidence is so strong, it`s impossible for Republicans to defend on the facts.
The law is against them so you know you always say if the law is against you, argue the facts. If the facts are against you, pound the table. There`s nothing left for them to do but to do that because the evidence and the law are so strong, and every one of the people you mentioned in your opening, fit together and make an unbelievably strong case.
You can`t just take the phone call out of context. Yes, the phone call on the face of it is really damning to the president. He said I need a favor, though. There`s no question that he was asking for something of value, which is a Hatch Act violation, soliciting a bribe, it`s terrible thing to have done, it endangers our security, it endangers Ukraine`s security.
It helps only one person and that`s Putin and Russia. It all goes back to Russia. So, it`s really getting to be strong but you need it in context where you say for months before that, Rudy Giuliani was really trying to get them to make up an investigation, to make up evidence that doesn`t exist.
O`DONNELL: Congressman, we got reports yesterday indicating Republicans were trying to get the name of the whistle-blower out of the colonel yesterday in his testimony even though he testified in his opening statement he doesn`t know who the whistle-blower is.
What were their tactics today? Was it anything similar to that? Was it obstructionist or were they spectators today?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I felt they were a little more subdued, quite frankly. I think at this point, it`s been made clear by Chairman Schiff and also the counsel for the witnesses that they`re not going to allow for anybody to get them to intentionally or inadvertently release the names of any people that could be whistle-blowers. As you know, whistle blowers are protected under statute regulations from being exposed.
And we also know that president Trump and his allies in Congress want to expose this whistle-blower so that they can then retaliate against him or her. And if that is done, not only will it harm the whistle-blower in question, but it will create a tremendous chilling effect for anyone else who wants to come forward with evidence of wrongdoing who might be in the rank and file of our government. The American people devised the whistle- blower system for one reason alone, and that is they want the rank and file people to come forward so they can get good government.
And the reason why the Trump administration wants to create this chilling effect is precisely to get people to avoid doing that. And we can`t allow that to happen, so we`re not going to allow people to burn this whistle- blower.
O`DONNELL: Congressman, quickly before we go to the break, I`ve had two members of the committees in depositions who have said on this program that they believe Gordon Sondland is coming very close to risking perjury charges based on what they`ve seen in the direct contradictions of his testimony under oath by other witnesses.
Do you share that sense that Gordon Sondland could be in legal jeopardy?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I wouldn`t say it that way. What I would say is that at least my impression of his testimony was that he wasn`t able to recall a whole heck of a lot with regard to a lot of his encounters and conversations. And so, that kind of lack of memory, selective amnesia and perhaps evasiveness are issues. But that being said, there are a lot of other data points now that we have with regard to conversations, meetings and so forth that help to fill in the picture.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Jill Wine-Banks, Evelyn Farkas, thank you all for starting us off tonight.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Donald Trump faces impeachment but who else is in legal trouble in the impeachment inquiry? Will Trump contributor turned ambassador Gordon Sondland face perjury charges? I will ask a House Intelligence member who first suggested that possibility to us on this program last week. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump is going to be impeached by the House of Representatives and sent to trial in the United States Senate. Rudy Giuliani is under criminal investigation for his activities involving Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland might be next.
Last week on this program, Congressman Peter Welch made news when he said Trump`s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, could face perjury charges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Is Gordon Sondland in danger of perjury charges for his testimony to your committee?
REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): I think he is. When he presented himself he was kind of a rich guy who bought an ambassadorship, and he pretended that it was a good day for him, he got a job he wanted. But he was pretty naive that he didn`t know the real meeting was going on in the room next door.
But, of course, the evidence is now coming out that, in fact, he was a very active instrument to try to essentially assist Giuliani in the effort to have this rogue foreign policy. So, yes, I think Ambassador Sondland has some reason to be worried about how his testimony is going to be evaluated when reviewed by potential prosecutors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was right after Ambassador William Taylor testified in direct contradiction to Gordon Sondland`s testimony. And yesterday, it got worse for Gordon Sondland when Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman also testified in direct contradiction to Gordon Sondland`s under oath testimony.
Congressman Joaquin Castro tweeted, based on all the testimony so far, I believe Ambassador Sondland committed perjury.
Last night on this program, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney who was in the room for Colonel Vindman`s deposition yesterday said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): I think Ambassador Sondland ought to read his transcript very carefully, and he ought to see whether his recollection or whether his ability to answer in more complete ways has been enhanced, let me put it that way. I think Ambassador Sondland is at the heart of this thing, and he owes us truthful testimony, all of it. And that is in his own best interest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, a member of the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees, who has been in the room for these depositions, Democratic Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont.
Congressman, thank you very much for joining us again on this question.
And let`s just take a look at this evidence here in what could be the basis of a perjury charge against Sondland. Based on what Colonel Vindman said yesterday, here`s Colonel Vindman`s testimony in his opening statement, he said: Ambassador Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the president at which time Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short. Following this meeting there was a scheduled debriefing during which Ambassador Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens and Burisma.
I stated to Ambassador Sondland that this -- that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push. Dr. Hill then entered the room and asserted to Ambassador Sondland that his statements were inappropriate.
And Gordon Sondland apparently says that none of that happened. Here what we have from Gordon Sondland, in his opening statement. Under oath, he said we have regular communications with the NSC about Ukraine both before and after the July meeting and neither Ambassador Bolton, Dr. Hill, nor anyone else on the NSC staff ever expressed any concerns to me about our efforts our most importantly any concerns that we were acting improperly.
Congressman Welch, someone`s not telling the truth there.
WELCH: Well, that`s right. And I think Sondland has a lot of explaining to do.
But, you know, what`s really pointing out is that there`s two categories of witnesses here. There`s the political class and I put Sondland in that category and it`s pretty sordid. It`s about being self-serving. It`s about doing whatever the president`s bidding is. It`s about making it up as you go along. And it`s about concealing what you`re doing.
And then there are the civil servant witnesses like the people today, like Ambassador Taylor. And it`s about duty. Those folks are inspiring. They are about teamwork, about long-term service of our country -- and that`s what`s the inspiring part.
But we`ve got the sordid. And I put Sondland in that category, quite frankly. He bought an ambassadorship. He wanted to please the president. He had no long-term commitment to what the Ukraine policy has traditionally been and even one, by the way, that John Bolton supported to root out corruption in Ukraine and defend it from foreign aggression.
So, Sondland has got a lot of explaining to do, but he was clearly doing the bidding of the president.
O`DONNELL: Now, we all know it was public information that Sondland was offered the standard opportunity in these situations to review the transcript of his deposition, to see if there was anything in there that he might want to try to correct. But there are some limitations on what you`re allowed to correct in those review sessions, aren`t there?
WELCH: Well, there are. I mean, you can correct -- if it`s not stated correctly you can correct it. Or if you misspoke you can say that. But I think changing your answer, day is night, that doesn`t work so well. But we`ll see.
I mean, the bottom line here is that it`s very clear that Sondland was one of the three amigos, that he knew what the real Ukraine policy was from the president, and that was essentially to get them to agree on investigation of the Bidens. So, he knew that even as he was working in the regular ranks of the ambassadorial class on the so-called long-term policy which people like Ambassador Taylor and even John Bolton thought they were working on, corruption and thwarting Russian aggression.
O`DONNELL: And in the normal course of a situation like this, if you were going to refer that testimony for a perjury prosecution, you`d be sending it over to what is now William Barr`s Justice Department. But the committee can wait until there is a new Justice Department after the next presidential election and send it over then. That might be something that Gordon Sondland isn`t aware of.
WELCH: Well, it`s possible. And look, everybody is accountable. And everyone owes themselves to be brought to justice for whatever they may have done.
But right now, the focus obviously is on what was the president`s policy. And the big question is, can a president of the United States solicit aid for his campaign from a foreign power and in order to get that, with hold congressionally approved military aid? That`s really what the question is. So, Sondland for whatever he did, and I think he was doing the bidding of the president, was a sideshow. What really is at the heart of this is what was in that presidential call to President Zelensky of Ukraine.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Peter Welch, thank you very much for joining us again. We really appreciate it.
WELCH: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, it was a very bad day for Donald Trump in the United States Senate. He had no defenders, zero defenders in a Senate hearing, no Republican defenders, and that could be a bad sign for Donald Trump`s support in an impeachment trial in the Senate.
O`DONNELL: There`s a new question that Trump nominees must face in Senate confirmation hearings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ, (D-NJ): Do you think it`s ever appropriate for the President to use his office to solicit investigations into a domestic political opponent?
JOHN SULLIVAN, TRUMP NOMINEE FOR AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Soliciting investigations into a domestic political opponent, I don`t think that would be in accord with our values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan who got that answer correct in his confirmation hearing today, to be the next Ambassador to Russia. He`s also the person who was forced to tell the last Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, that Donald Trump decided to remove her from that post.
MENENDEZ: You were aware that there were individuals and forces outside of the State Department seeking to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch, is that correct?
SULLIVAN: I was.
MENENDEZ: And just seeking to remove her, is that correct?
SULLIVAN: I was.
MENENDEZ: And did you know Mr. Giuliani was one of those people?
SULLIVAN: I believed he was, yes.
MENENDEZ: What did you know about a shadow Ukraine policy being carried out by Rudy Giuliani?
SULLIVAN: My knowledge in the spring and summer of this year about any involvement of Mr. Giuliani was in connection with a campaign against our Ambassador to Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Mr. Sullivan said he did not know until the whistleblower`s complaint became public that Donald Trump was soliciting information from Ukraine in his re-election campaign by asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. In a very bad sign for Donald Trump, not one Republican Senator in that hearing today tried to defend Donald Trump`s removal of the Ambassador to Ukraine at Rudy Giuliani`s urging.
Not one Trump defender in that room, a room full of Senators who are going to be jurors in the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump in the United States Senate. John Heilemann will join our discussion next as we move even closer to the impeachment of President Trump.
O`DONNELL: Good news, you`re going to be seeing a lot more of Barry Burke. Barry Burke is of course the Council to the House Judiciary Committee who destroyed Cory Lewandowski in 30 uninterrupted minutes of questioning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARRY BURKE, ATTORNEY GENERAL: My question to you, sir, is on national television did you lie about your relationship with the Special Counsel and whether they sought your interview.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, DONALD TRUMP`S 2016 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don`t know.
BURKE: Why did you lie on a national television sir about the President giving a message to the Attorney General about the Special Counsel`s investigation?
LEWANDOWSKI: I don`t recall that particular day and my mind-set at the time so I couldn`t answer that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Barry Burke will get 45 minutes of uninterrupted questioning during impeachment hearings in the House Judiciary Committee, the Republican Counsel to the Committee will get equal time according to a resolution passed in the House Rules Committee today that will be voted on the full House tomorrow establishing the rules and procedures of the Impeachment Inquiry Committees.
Joining our discussion now is John Heilemann, Co-Host and Executive Producer of show time`s "The Circus" and he is also an MSNBC Analyst. And John we saw two things today. That sailing through the Rules Committee, this new set of procedures empowering Barry Burke individually, but the concept of Counsel asking the questions in the Committee hearings and then we saw over on the Senate side kind of a bad sign for Donald Trump with that controversy being dragged into a confirmation hearing about recalling the Ambassador to Ukraine, not one Republican defender of the President there.
JOHN HEILEMANN, "THE CIRCUS" CO-HOST EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Yes, both bad signs for the President, Lawrence, and I`d say the first one the headline on what`s happening on the impeachment front with the House Democrats is they are serious this time.
And I think, you know, it`s easy to say they would be serious. It`s an impeachment hearing that we`re heading into, it`s impeachment that`s on the table, it`s historic et cetera. But you and I both know we`ve seen a lot of moves by House Democrats for Congress going back to our youth as distance as that is where the desire for camera time by Congress people overrides good sense of what would produce the most damning evidence and the most persuasive politics.
And in this case it looks like these House Democrats are serious enough that they`re willing to say, hey, we`re going to let some lawyers do some lawyering here and step back from our needing to get our camera time and try to make the most devastating argument you could make. And on the Senate side as you point out there`s a lot of signs right now that Senate Republicans are coming to grips with the seriousness of this situation and recognizing that there are going to be some real political risks that are entailed if they`re going to stick by Donald Trump given the weight of the evidence now accumulated.
O`DONNELL: Yes, it seems the Democrats learned from the certain amount of flailing around they did with the Mueller report and how to deal with the Mueller report, delays that they got dragged into in trying to deal with the Mueller report and then how some of those hearings went, and surely Nancy Pelosi was watching those hearings just like the rest of us and knowing there`s a better way.
HEILEMANN: Well, and specifically you think about that Lewandowski hearing. You played the sound appropriately that showed this lawyer who we`re now going to see a lot of in this impeachment process destroying Lewandowski. What`s forgotten but not for Nancy Pelosi forgotten is how bad that hearing was for the rest of the day because of the fact that the House Democrats who were questioning him did such a bad job at it.
So the way that hearing that day was most of the day Lewandowski not exactly running rings around the Democrats but sort of mocking them and being able to filibuster and turn the thing into sort of a kind of piece of performance art until the very end when things got serious.
And again, I think one of the things that Nancy Pelosi did over the course of the time when she refrained from launching impeachment was kept her powder dry and another was to really get a good gauge of public opinion and other was to wait for the right moment. But the last one was to see who the strong players are on the Democratic team and what the kind of process is this likely to be most effective. And I think she knows exactly what she`s doing going into this particular very high stakes game.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Appreciate it.
HEILEMANN: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back we`ll be joined by a Senator who has taken that oath to be a juror in the impeachment trial of a President.
O`DONNELL: 1,305 people have served as United States Senators in our history. Only 154 of them have been jurors in impeachment trials of the President of the United States. Joining us now is one of those 154, Former Democratic Senator from Wisconsin Russ Feingold who was sworn in as a juror in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Senator Feingold, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D-WI): Lawrence, it`s a pleasure. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Tell us about that moment when you had to take that additional oath beyond your oath of office as a Senator, that oath that ends with I will do impartial justice according to the constitution and laws so help me God.
FEINGOLD: That`s exactly what it says, and it really was an incredible experience because I`d just done a different oath earlier in the week as you may remember start a second term as a United States Senator. But this is a second oath it is required by the constitution. It`s the only other oath required than the oath that members of Congress take and of course what the President takes.
And it`s a different oath. We had a separate signing ceremony where we had to go up and each and sign the book and do this oath for impartial justice and as you said, so help me God. To me it was a somber moment. In many ways the facts were sort of absurd, the process was bizarre. But at that moment when the Chief Justice came in and when the trial started, I think most of us took it very seriously that this was something that had to be done according to the founders will.
And what the founders wanted was for this process to be difficult but serious, in a dire situation such as the one we`re in right now. And I hope all Senators will take it exactly that way.
O`DONNELL: How much partisan pressure did you feel from your own party? How much partisan pressure did you feel in the room that the Republicans were feeling in that Senate Chamber?
FEINGOLD: Well, to be honest with you there was far too much partisan pressure on both sides. Even though Senators were diligent and listened carefully to the information that was being presented on the floor of the Senate in the caucuses that were held, there was tremendous pressure to just go along with the President or go against the President.
And I thought that was, frankly, inappropriate. And I became the only Democratic Senator to actually vote to hear the evidence, to actually see the depositions before I made a final decision on whether or not to convict the President. And I think that`s exactly what should be done here.
Both sides should realize that hearing the case, hearing the evidence is the only appropriate way to live up to the requirement that somebody does impartial justice. This is not a regular bill. This is not what we used to see out there vote around with all the different issues trying to score points. This is really something that goes way beyond this that involves very integrity of our country and frankly in this case the National Security of our country.
O`DONNELL: Senator, let me take you back to that moment because - just to explain to the audience the very first thing one of the very first procedural things that happened in the Senate Chamber was that there was a motion introduced to dismiss the case, and you were the only Democrat who voted in favor of hearing the case at that point.
FEINGOLD: That`s right. There were actually two weeks of very interesting argument, oral argument introductory statements by the House Managers of Republicans coming in to prosecute the case against President Clinton and then there was the defense of President Clinton.
But at the conclusion of that Senator Burr you know of course in many ways the most distinguished Senator in the body. He did move to dismiss the case even though there were a number of depositions including, the deposition of Monica Lewinsky that were potentially available to be taken and heard.
And I thought that we had to look at the information, look at the evidence and of course the Republicans also wanted that. And so we did it and I think in the end it made the process better I ultimately concluded that they had not met their burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that President Clinton had obstructed justice and so I voted not to convict him, and I believe about ten Republicans also did not vote to convict him.
The process will be far better if we do that, and I think everybody should be on guard if Senator McConnell tries to quickly dismiss the case maybe even earlier than was attempted in the Clinton case. The American people deserve a full trial if this occurs and frankly the founders of our country basically required that a trial be held and that a vote be held on whether the President should be convicted or not and removed from office.
O`DONNELL: That`s a really important clarification about when the dismissal motion came. It came at the end of the presentation of the evidence in the case as happens in a trial, it`s all the evidence has gone in and the defense counsel stands up and asks for a directed verdict, which is kind of the equivalent of what they`re asking for here.
O`DONNELL: Not on that first day and that is a huge distinction that we have to watch in this next Senate trial. Former Senator Russ Feingold, thank you very much for joining us tonight, and please come back.
FEINGOLD: You bet. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, the White House has to be operating at its very best, at its very sharpest during an impeachment investigation and an impeachment trial. And of course, of course Mick Mulvaney has the Trump White House operating at its worst along with of course Donald Trump operating at his worst. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: NBC News is reporting that Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney first learned about the U.S. military raid against Al- Baghdadi after the operation was already under way. Mulvaney was at his home in South Carolina on Saturday when the President tweeted "Something very big has just happened!"
And Mulvaney was then briefed on the raid later that evening. Here is what the White House Chief of Staff is supposed to be doing in those situations. There`s White House Chief of Staff Bill Daly standing, right there, in the situation room with President Obama.
"POLITICO" is reporting that Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman testified on Tuesday that he was excluded from debriefing President Trump on Ukraine because a former aide to Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, who had joined the White House Staff, had convinced the President that he was the National Security Council`s Ukraine Adviser instead of Colonel Vindman.
"Vindman testified that he was told this directly by his boss at the time, NSC Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs Fiona Hill. Hill told Vindman that she and National Security Adviser John Bolton thought it best to exclude Vindman from the debriefing to avoid an uncomfortable situation", he said.
Joining our discussion now is Chris Whipple. He literally wrought book on how a White House is supposed to be run. It is called "The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff define every presidency," except Mick Mulvaney, apparently.
Chris, at this point Trump has had some - has had the worst relationships with White House Chiefs of Staff ever. This is a fascinating level, what we saw this weekend where let him go home and not even tell him what`s happening.
CHRIS WHIPPLE, AUTHOR, "THE GATEKEEPERS": Let me just begin by conceding what you`ve been trying to tell me for a long time, Lawrence, which is the subtitle of my book, "How the White House Chiefs define every presidency" is no longer operative as Ron Ziegler used to say.
Only Donald Trump defines his presidency. In the process what we`ve seen over the last week is that he`s defined the Chief of Staff out of existence. Mick Mulvaney was - had no authority to begin with, never tried to assert the authority that he should have. But now he`s the invisible man in South Carolina during one of the critical National Security operations of the Presidency.
So we truly have a situation where there are no guardrails, no grown-ups, and the inmate is running the asylum.
O`DONNELL: To the point that there`s someone walking around in the building who Donald Trump thinks is the Ukraine expert and is not the Ukraine expert.
WHIPPLE: That`s an incredible story in the "POLITICO" story today. So here it`s classic Trump. He`s essentially got a choice. He can be briefed by the guy with the chest full of medals, Harvard educated, fluent in Russian and Ukrainian, the expert on Ukraine. Or he can be briefed by this guy from Nunes`s office wearing a tinfoil hat who pursues these ridiculous conspiracy theories.
Guess who he chooses. Naturally he goes with the tinfoil hat guy. And this speaks to this astonishing obsession of Trump with the 2016 election. And I think, look, we`ve had delusional Presidents before. Richard Nixon was convinced there was something in a safe in the Brookings Institution and told Haldeman to go blow the safe. It was a figment of his imagination. But it`s nothing compared to this fixation of Donald Trump`s.
O`DONNELL: And by the way, they just didn`t do it.
WHIPPLE: They didn`t do it.
O`DONNELL: They did break into Watergate but they did not break into Brookings.
WHIPPLE: That was one that Haldeman decided not to do.
WHIPPLE: But it pales in comparison to this obsession that Trump has with 2016. I agree with Tom Bossert, his erstwhile ally, maybe still ally, who said this is Trump`s white whale. This could be the thing that really brings him down. And if it does, no Chief of Staff will be around to talk him out of it.
O`DONNELL: How much time does Mick Mulvaney have with this title, which apparently is all he has, is the title?
WHIPPLE: Again, the title is symptomatic of the fact that there is no functioning White House Chief of Staff right now. And therefore, I don`t think Trump is in any hurry to replace him. He clearly has no interest in a Chief of Staff. He`s unchained, unbound, and we`re all seeing the results of letting Trump be Trump.
O`DONNELL: And the Mulvaney holding on to the OMB job at the same time, wasn`t that Mulvaney`s way of saying I know this Chief of Staff thing cannot possibly work?
WHIPPLE: I can`t imagine what the motivation was, but it`s clearly - you know, it clearly, this is just the most dysfunctional White House we`ve ever seen, more dysfunctional by the day, and it`s unclear who`s in charge of what? Is Jared Kushner the White House Chief of Staff? Is Ivanka? Is anybody really performing that function? I don`t think so.
O`DONNELL: Chris Whipple, let`s figure out a new subtitle after the show tonight. We`ll stick around on the desk and work on it. That is 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