LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And I hope someone tells Donald Trump he`s still going to have file New York tax returns every year since he derives a substantial amount of income from New York. So he doesn`t escape filing the New York tax returns. There will probably be some state tax benefit for him going to a state like Florida that doesn`t have a state income tax.
But he will get to vote in a swing state. Maybe that`s the most important benefit.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes, I don`t know. I mean, when it comes to him getting advice on legal matters, you`ve seen what his lawyers try to argue in court. I`m not sure anybody`s going to tell him anything.
O`DONNELL: Rachel, before you go, we`ve got some breaking news from the "Washington examiner". President Trump did an interview with the "Washington Examiner" tonight. And I think we now know what the new chant is going to be. Remember build the wall?
O`DONNELL: I think it`s going to be "read the transcript". Donald Trump in this interview told the "Washington Examiner" that he has all sorts of plans for surviving this impeachment investigation, including t-shirts with the slogan "read the transcript."
MADDOW: He remembers that when the country read the transcript that`s when he started getting impeached, right?
O`DONNELL: I don`t know what he knows. I don`t know. I don`t know.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, on this historic night when the House of Representatives voted on the procedures for impeaching the president of the United States, I am very pleased that we will be joined once again by Ezra Klein who first discussed the subject of impeaching Donald Trump with me on this program two years ago when the Trump presidency already had many of us considering the impeachment of Donald Trump.
Ezra wrote the most important article of that period about impeachment, arguing that the process should be demystified and approached without fear. He said then: We have grown too afraid of the consequences of impeachment and two complacent about the consequences of leaving an unfit president in office.
Not anymore. At the end of this hour, Ezra Klein will join us to consider what America is about to learn about the impeachment of the president of the United States.
But first, now, there are two, two witnesses who have testified to the House impeachment inquiry who were listening in on President Trump`s phone call with the president of Ukraine. The phone call that is going to get the president of the United States impeached no matter how often he tells people to read the transcript.
The second witness to testify about listening to the president`s phone call gave his testimony while the House of Representatives was taking a historic vote. A vote no member of Congress ever expect to cast, a vote on a resolution authorizing and detailing the procedures for an impeachment inquiry of the president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Hopefully, as we go forward with this with the clarity of purpose, a clarity of procedure, a clarity of fact, a clarity of truth, it`s about the truth. It`s about the Constitution. We will do so in a way that brings people together that is healing rather than dividing, and that is how we will honor our oath of office. I urge an aye vote and yield back the balance of my time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It was a party line vote with 232 in favor and 196 opposed. All Republicans opposed the resolution. Justin Amash who left the Republican Party not long after reading the Mueller report and is now an independent member of Congress voted in favor of the impeachment resolution. Two Democratic congressmen who represent districts that were won by Donald Trump voted against the resolution, but both of those Democrats, Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey said they will make a decision on impeaching the president only after all of the evidence has been publicly presented.
So the likelihood tonight when all of the evidence is publicly presented, there will be at least 232 votes in the House of Representatives to impeach Donald John Trump and send him to trial in the United States Senate, because the phone call cannot get better, that`s the problem. The rough transcript of President Trump`s phone call with the president of Ukraine remains the most damning evidence in the case against the president. That phone call did get a bit worse on Tuesday when Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman testified that he heard the president make one more reference to Joe Biden that does not appear in the White House rough transcript in the section where Donald Trump was asking for Ukraine`s help in his re-election campaign by urging Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is, of course, a nonpartisan witness. He has no history of occupational association with Democrats or Republicans. Today`s witness to the phone call is a career-long partisan Republican who served on Republican congressional staffs before joining the White House staff. Tim Morrison has been serving as senior director for European affairs at the White House and the National Security Council.
Tim Morrison is leaving that job, and his employment future is entirely dependent on the good graces of Republican in Washington, either as a lobbyist with access to Republicans or with any future government position.
Tim Morrison seemed to be looking for ways to keep his options open in future Republican employment in his testimony today when he tried to be as generous as possible to the president saying things like, I am pleased our process gave the president the confidence he needed to approve the release of the security sector assistance for Ukraine.
But the process Tim Morrison actually described was consistent with the completely corrupted process that included Rudy Giuliani and was described in testimony already by Ambassador William Taylor and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.
In his testimony today, Tim Morrison described that process in these terms. Ambassador Sondland and President Trump`s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, were trying to get President Zelensky to reopen Ukrainian investigations into Burisma. At the time, I did not know what Burisma was or what the investigation entailed.
After the meeting with Dr. Hill, I Googled Burisma and learned it was a Ukrainian energy company and that Hunter Biden was on its board. I also did not understand why Ambassador Sondland would be involved in Ukraine policy, often without the involvement of our duly appointed chief of mission, Ambassador Bill Taylor.
In his opening statement, this is what Tim Morrison said about Donald Trump`s phone call with the president of Ukraine. I listen today the call as it occurred in the Situation Room. To the best of my recollection, the MemCon accurately and completely reflects the substance of the call.
I also recall that I did not see anyone from NSC legal advisers in the room during the call. After the call, I promptly ask the NSC legal adviser and his deputy to review it. I had three concerns about a potential leak of the MemCon.
First, how it would play out in Washington`s polarized environment. Second, how a leak would affect the bipartisan support of our Ukrainian partners currently experienced in Congress. And third, how it would affect the Ukrainian perceptions of the U.S.-Ukrainian relationship. I want to be clear, I was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed.
Lieutenant Colonel Vindman also discussed his concerns after the president`s phone call. "The Washington Post" is reporting this dramatic account of Colonel Vindman`s closed door testimony on Tuesday. After the call, Vindman hurried to John Eisenberg`s door bringing with him his twin brother, Yevgeny, an ethics attorney on the National Security Council. Michael Ellis, a deputy legal advisor to the National Security Council, also joined the discussion, the person said.
Vindman read out loud notes he took on the president`s call. Eisenberg then suggested the National Security Council move records of the call to a second highly classified computer system. Vindman told lawmakers, former Trump national security officials said it was unheard of to store presidential calls with foreign leaders on that system but that Eisenberg had moved at least one other transcript of a Trump phone call there.
Leading off our discussion tonight are Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland. He`s a member of the House Oversight Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. He attended part of Tim Morrison`s deposition today.
Also joining us, Tess Bridgeman, former special assistant to the president, deputy legal advisor to the National Security Council and associate White House counsel in the Obama administration, and Ron Klain, former senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama and former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ron Klain is an advisor now on Joe Biden`s presidential campaign.
Congressman Raskin, let me start with you. The president in this interview tonight with the "Washington Examiner" is calling Tim Morrison`s testimony fantastic. He doesn`t seem to understand that Tim Morrison has basically corroborated the worst evidence against the president, which of course is what he said to the president of Ukraine in that phone call.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Right. Look, he was called today as a fact witness. And, you know, I can`t go into the details of what I saw. But if everything that you`re quoting is true, then he indeed was a corroborating fact witness in this case. He was not called for his legal opinions about anything, and he`s not even a lawyer.
So what he thought about the president`s conduct is neither here nor there from a legal or constitutional perspective. But what he was able to verify from a factual perspective is definitely very important to us. And the critical point here is we`ve now had around a dozen witnesses all of whom are telling us the same story.
The president staged a shakedown operation against the Ukrainian government in order to obtain this political information that he wanted about the Bidens and Burisma. And in order to verify a false story about the 2016 campaign, essentially replacing what we know about the systematic and sweeping effort by Russia to subvert our campaign with a false story about Ukraine. Everything`s lined up there.
So, ultimately, I believe we`re going to find that the Republicans are going to make an argument that we`re starting here now, which is that that none of this happened. They`re going to quietly concede that. They`re just going to say it doesn`t quite rise to the level of an impeachable offense. And I think that`s going to be their last ditch argument.
O`DONNELL: What can you tell us, Congressman, what it was like today to be on the house floor for the kind of vote that no member of Congress ever expects to cast?
RASKIN: Well, it was somber. And a lot of my colleagues who oftentimes speak with a lot of rhetorical flourish or humor were very subdued. And I spoke also, and I found myself in a very solemn and serious mode. We are acting in a certain sense vindicating the values of the founders of the Constitution looking backwards. But also looking forwards we`re acting in the service of future generations.
So it was a pretty heavy thing, I`ve got to tell you. At the same time I think it felt honorable that we were standing strong for our Constitution. We were disappointed that the Republican decided to, you know, lock arms and say they didn`t want to be part of an investigation when we were giving them precisely what they`ve been asking for the last several weeks, which is open hearings and the ability for the committee to release the depositions and so on.
And it`s obvious that they haven`t figured out what to say about the fact that the basic gravamen of the complaint seems to be proven more every single day, so instead they rail about the process. And I think that act is beginning to wear on people. It looks pretty thin.
And, you know, there are a couple of times over the last week or two where they`ve turned the people`s house into animal house with their various antics and provocations. And I don`t think it`s a very good look for our colleagues across the aisle.
O`DONNELL: Tess Bridgeman, your old job in the White House is right in the center of the drama on the day the president has this phone call with the president of Ukraine because immediately afterwards, that`s apparently where everyone is running over to the National Security Council, the lawyer`s office and the deputy, you being the deputy. And the deputy`s present in these scenes.
Colonel Vindman goes over there. We hear Morrison goes over there. I don`t know if they`re bumping into each other as they go in and out of that room. But what do you make of Morrison`s account today of rushing over to the council`s office? What I found out about is what he -- the reasons he then says he was concerned about the phone call have nothing to do with the counsel`s office.
TESS BRIDGEMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL FORMER DEPUTY LEGAL ADVISOR: That`s right, Lawrence. There is something that`s quite odd about his account of why he went to speak with the NSC legal advisor and his deputy. He mentions being concerned about leaks, being concerned about partisanship, being concerned about Ukraine policy, more broadly. These are the kinds of things you might go to the communications office for, that you might go and talk with the secretary if you`re concerned about where the document is being handled within the White House complex.
I think what`s very telling is that everyone else who`s provided an account of rushing into that office has said they did so because they were deeply concerned about what they say as grave misconduct. They knew that it is wrong for the president to use his office to try to shakedown a foreign leader to do political favors for him. And they were deeply invested in carrying out the bipartisan Ukraine policy that is, you know, core to why there is such a while national cost to the president`s personal aggrandizement here. They knew that this was standing in the way of U.S. support for Ukraine being able to defend itself against Russia for the core principle that you don`t take orders by force.
So I think Morrison`s account that he went to the council office for these other peripheral reasons that don`t sound in misconduct or legality really don`t ring true or there`s something more to what he was expecting the legal office to do with that information.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, it reads to me like Tim Morrison is trying to preserve his life in employment in Washington after this, and it worked. He`s got Donald Trump tonight saying his testimony was fantastic because he put in some sentences there to Donald Trump sound positive.
But in the substance, it is all equally condemning as colonel Vindman`s was even the point of saying the rough transcript that the White House put out of the phone call is accurate in substance -- accurate in substance means there could be missing pieces of it but in substance it is accurate. And so, there`s actually no contradictions here that we can find in the public testimony so far between Tim Morrison and Colonel Vindman.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VP BIDEN: That`s right, Lawrence. I mean, it`s stunning, as Congressman Raskin alluded to earlier, you had all these witnesses come before the intelligence community and essentially 8 to 12 of them basically confirmed the same story. That`s more than the number of trick or treaters I had at my house tonight. It`s a stunning line-up of witnesses all confirming the same story.
And, look, as to Mr. Morrison`s statement today that he wasn`t concerned about illegality, I think it`s part your explanation he wanted to preserve his viability in Washington but also trying to avoid pleading guilty to a crime. If he had known, if he believed it was illegal, the effort to hide this document would be an active obstruction of justice. And I don`t think Mr. Morrison was willing to plead guilty to obstruction today in the House Intelligence Committee.
So, he told the truth, he told basically the story everyone tells so far is true, the story the transcript confirms is true. Donald Trump shook down a foreign government for political assistance. He betrayed his oath of office and betrayed our national security interests. And the evidence of that is just overwhelming now.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Jamie Raskin, Tess Bridgeman, Ron Klain, thank you all for starting off our discussion tonight. We really appreciate that.
And when we come back, two witnesses that Democrats want to question in the impeachment investigation were in federal court today trying to get those subpoenas blocked or clarifications on whether those subpoenas will be blocked. Neal Katyal will answer all of their legal questions for them for free. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: It was subpoena day in federal court in Washington, D.C., in fact in two different federal courtrooms. Two different witnesses fighting subpoenas from the House of Representatives.
Joining us now Neal Katyal, a former acting U.S. solicitor general, who has argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court. He`s an MSNBC legal contributor and co-author of an upcoming new book "Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump".
Neal, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Let`s start with the Don McGahn subpoena. Let`s consider what happened in that case because the judge really had a struggle trying to understand why Don McGahn should not be forced to comply with a House subpoena.
NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, so you had two things going on really today, two different witnesses. But I think the most important thing, Lawrence, to start your discussion is that`s all gravy. From the House impeachment standpoint the evidence against Trump as you`ve been discussing for the first ten minutes is overwhelming. It`s Trump`s own words.
So, you know, these witnesses are nice and McGahn and Kupperman will be helpful to the house`s case but they`re not necessary at all. So what Trump is trying to do here is delay them from testifying as much as he can. And the argument he made before Judge Jackson today, his lawyer and the Justice Department lawyers was pretty much, you know, poppycock. Basically, you know, he came in and said the house can`t file a lawsuit at all to get this information. Judge Jackson said asking the Justice Department Trump lawyer, what, you`re saying the House can never go to court? Answer by the justice department lawyer, yes.
That flies on the face of decades of precedent by the court and is just going nowhere. So this is bad lawyering, a bad legal argument. And ultimately, you know, I think it`s all Trump`s got at this point but it`s not looking to good.
O`DONNELL: Neal, it`s a bad legal argument, but those are the corners -- the corners they`re getting painted into in court are corners they`ve painted for themselves. There was no other answer, right? I mean, given the logic of what they were arguing there was no other answer other than, no, the House can never go to court.
KATYAL: Well, I think responsible lawyering would have been to try and say, look, you know, some of the things this guy, the former White House lawyer Don McGahn might testify to might be sensitive involving executive privilege or something like that to be narrow. But what they`ve done is throw down the gauntlet is say, no, nothing, you can`t do anything, you can`t testify at all, you can`t do anything, I`m the president, I`m the king.
And, you know, that`s what we fought the revolution about. And that`s why these arguments have been spectacularly unsuccessful. Judge Jackson is a widely respected judge and I think in the course of hours today really decimated the government`s argument.
O`DONNELL: Well, let`s go to other case which is procedurally much stranger, because it`s a lawsuit, the likes of which I`m not sure we`ve ever seen. This is Charles Kupperman. He was asking -- John Bolton was his boss in the White House, and he`s asking the court through a lawsuit to answer to him should he comply with a house subpoena or even now that he`s a private citizen should he follow Donald Trump`s request, which is all that it is, a request he not testify to the House.
The assumption being that John Bolton will be added to this case because he`s represented by the same lawyer if John Bolton gets the subpoena.
KATYAL: Yes, Lawrence, I think the best way for your viewers to understand this lawsuit is it`s not really a lawsuit, it`s a delaying tactic. What Kupperman is doing is coming in and trying to buy time so he doesn`t have to answer the subpoena and testify in Congress. You know, I don`t know what his motivations are, but that`s the effect of what he`s doing.
And he`s gotten the support from the Trump administration for that. So much so that the Trump administration when the judge here, Judge Leon, who`s a widely respected judge as well in D.C., Judge Leon set the argument for December, and the lawyer for the Trump administration said, no, that`s going to interfere with Thanksgiving, can you please make it even longer. And what Judge Leon said was, quote, when it`s a matter of importance to the country, you roll your sleeves up and you get the job done.
This is about delay and it`s about trying to run out the clock on impeachment. And the problem with that is two fold. Number one, the evidence against Trump is so overwhelming. And number two, it looks more and more Nixonian. It looks more and more like obstruction of justice which after all was a separate article in the Nixon impeachment.
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
KATYAL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld will react to today`s impeachment vote where not a single Republican, not one Republican voted for it. And that is first, because previous impeachment resolutions have been bipartisan votes.
O`DONNELL: Republicans in Congress have been complaining about the closed door depositions being conducted in the impeachment inquiry, even though 48 Republican house members are invited to every one of those depositions. But today when Republicans were given a chance to vote on a resolution that established the rules of the road for public hearings, every Republican voted against public hearings in the investigation of the president.
We have never seen a purely partisan vote on a resolution authorizing an impeachment inquiry. In 1974, it was almost completely bipartisan in the House of Representatives when a resolution authorizing the impeachment investigation of President Richard Nixon passed almost unanimously in the house 410-4. In 1998, 31 Democrats joined Republicans in voting for a resolution authorizing the impeachment investigation of President Bill Clinton, 258-176.
Our next guest was there, working in the House of Representatives in 1974 as a Republican staff member in the House of Representatives, working on the impeachment investigation of President Richard Nixon right alongside another young House staffer named Hillary Rodham, who married Bill Clinton the next year after the Nixon impeachment investigation.
Joining us now is former Massachusetts Republican Governor Bill Weld. During Watergate, he was on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee. He is now run for the Republican Presidential nomination against Donald Trump.
Governor Weld, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
BILL WELD (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: What was your reaction today to see not a single Republican vote in the House of Representatives for this resolution for public hearings.
WELD: Well it`s quite a contrast to 1974 and the Nixon impeachment proceedings. First of all, the vote to authorize it was overwhelming as you point out, only four dissenting votes in the entire House of Representatives.
But beyond that, both John Doar and Albert Jenner, the respective Chief Counsel and Republican Chief Counsel of that Committee were quite clear they wanted to run a unified staff so much so that Miss Rodham and myself found ourselves in the same office. We were both members of the Constitution on legal staff.
I think we shared that office with a woman from Arkansas, Terry Kirkpatrick. We consulted frequently with John Labovitz, who is another member of the Democratic staff. There were other Republican lawyers who contributed to the memorandum defining what`s impeachable conduct by a President.
And the whole thing was right out in the open with Democrats and Republicans who didn`t always agree on everything, but they certainly were discussing everything back and forth. And at the end of the day, I think there were seven Republican votes to proceed to the Senate and ten against. That`s until the tapes came out. And when the tapes came out, it was all over in one day.
O`DONNELL: I want to read to you from The Washington Examiner tonight some breaking news. The President gave an interview to The Washington Examiner tonight outlining I guess what you could call his strategy, including getting t-shirts printed with the slogan Read The Transcript.
He says - he also says this in The Washington Examiner. At some point, I`m going to sit down perhaps as a fireside chat on live television and I will read the transcript of the call, because people have to hear it. When you read it, it`s a straight call.
If you were defending the President, would you advise him to do that?
WELD: No, I certainly wouldn`t, because when you read it, it`s an impeachable and removable offense. The President says, look we do a lot for you. PS, I just withheld $400 million in aid that you need to fight those Russian tanks on your Eastern Front in your hot war. And you know, we could do a lot more for you.
And then he says, I need a favor though. That word though is a killer. It implies that all this good stuff is not going to happen unless he gets the favor, which is digging up dirt on Hunter Biden.
There were two things that the founders were most worried about when they were drafting the impeachment clause. Number one was foreign interference in our affairs and number two was corruption of the office, which is use of the office to promote the personal gain.
In those days, bribery of a monarch was not at all uncommon and that`s precisely what the founders were worried about. Those two things, and they`re there in spades in the very transcript that President Trump you say wants everyone to read.
O`DONNELL: The President we`ve heard - we`ve read on the phone with the President of Ukraine desperately worried about Joe Biden to the point where he`s willing to engage in what many are calling criminal conduct on that phone call. He also apparently is very, very afraid of Bill Weld and he`s taking every step possible to simply stop Republican primaries in states.
The breaking news tonight on Minnesota is that Minnesota is now tonight I think pulling back from having any kind of Republican Presidential primary. What does that do to your campaign, if Donald Trump is so afraid of you getting any votes that he`s trying to just eliminate primaries?
WELD: Well it is amazing, Lawrence. They actually tried earlier in the year to eliminate the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire. Needless to say, and the Republican State Committee, which is appointed by Trump in every state, it`s the Trump Organization, said yes let`s get rid of this first-in-the-nation primary.
Well the voters in New Hampshire are not stupid and they know that a lot of their clout comes from having the first-in-the-nation primary every four years. So that went over like a lead balloon. But that was such an extreme gambit. That`s a motion that failed for one of a second.
My read is that they know that the President, how shall I put this, does not have a solid knowledge base about any of the issues that would have to be aired in a fully contested primary, and so they don`t want there to be a primary or an election, and the president has said the same thing. And he jokes about his third term and his fifth term, and wasn`t it great what Xi Jinping did in China, how he doesn`t have to have elections anymore. So this is what the President really thinks.
O`DONNELL: Republican Presidential candidate Bill Weld, thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
WELD: Thank you Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, the impeachment inquiry will be televised. The question is, when. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Katie Hill has become the victim of a bitter divorce proceeding with her husband, who she says publicly released naked pictures of her and accused her of having inappropriate relationship with a Congressional staff member, which she denies and with a campaign staff member.
As a candidate, Katie Hill publicly revealed she is bisexual, so sexual exclusivity was understood by her voters to not necessarily be part of the framework of her marriage. But Katie Hill decided that the distraction had become too much for her to effectively continue her work in the House of Representatives.
And today, she said this after casting her final vote as a freshman member of the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATIE HILL, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Yet a man who brags about his sexual predation, who`s had dozens of women come forward to accuse him of sexual assault, who pushes policies that are uniquely harmful to women and who has filled the courts with judges who proudly rule to deprive women of the most fundamental rights to control their own bodies sits in the highest office of the land.
And so today, as my last vote, I voted on impeachment proceedings, not just because of corruption, obstruction of justice, or gross misconduct, but because of the deepest abuse of power, including the abuse of power over women.
Today, as my final act, I voted to move forward with the impeachment of Donald Trump on behalf of the women of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The impeachment will be televised. And after this break, Joyce Manson and Ron Klain will bring their considerable experience to our discussion about what we will see in the televised impeachment proceedings against Donald John Trump in the House of Representatives. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I`ve answered it once, I answered it twice. I`m going to answer it one time, these rules are fair than anything that have gone before in terms of an impeachment proceeding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here`s how Jim McGovern, the Chairman of the House Rules Committee, explained the impeachment inquiry rules today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA): This resolution provides better protections for the President than what President Nixon and Clinton received. And just like under Nixon and Clinton, and the Judiciary Committee, the President`s Counsel can submit additional testimony or evidence for the Committee to consider.
The President and his counsel can attend all hearings and raise objections. They can question any witness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Joyce Vance former US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and MSNBC legal analyst, and Ron Klain is back with us. Joyce, what`s your reading of the rules of these public hearings?
JOYCE VANCE FORMER US ATTORNEY FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA AND MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they are very fair, Lawrence. This is a set of rules that gives the President and his lawyers a lot of visibility into the investigative part of these proceedings.
As you pointed out earlier, the House finds itself in the unusual position of not having had a Special Counsel, not having had investigators to assemble an investigation, so they`re having to do that themselves. And typically in these proceedings, targets or subjects of an investigation don`t get to see what`s going on.
Here the President will. I expect we will still hear more complaints from the Republicans about process though.
O`DONNELL: Yet Ron Klain, if I had let the tape keep running, Jim McGovern eventually says after he`s outlined every other detail about these rules, of course there isn`t any version of the rules that the Republicans wouldn`t complain about.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There`s no question about that Lawrence. They said 40 billion words about the process here, four words they can`t say is Trump didn`t do it. So they`re going to continue to gripe and complain about the process.
When the hearings were private, they wanted them public. Now that they`ll be public, they want them private. They`ll want witnesses deposed, not deposed, whatever. It`s just going to go back and forth. And they have no defense of what the President did. He had basically admitted to it on television, so they`re going to complain and complain about the process.
O`DONNELL: The rules provide for staff attorneys to ask questions for in periods of 45 minutes so they`ll have long blocks where they can do uninterrupted questioning. We saw a version of that in the House Judiciary Committee, when Barry Berke questioned Corey Lewandowski. Let`s take a look at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARRY BERKE, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MAJORITY COUNSEL: Did you lie, sir, in television interviews denying that you`ve been asked to give answers to the Special Counsel.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don`t believe so.
BERKE: So you deny that you ever lied in public statements about whether you were--
LEWANDOWSKI: What I`m saying is, when under oath, I`ve always told the truth, whether it`s before Special Counsel, whether it was before the House Judiciary Committee, whether it was before the House Intelligence Committee on two separate occasions, or before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Every time I`ve raised my right hand to God, I`ve sworn and told the truth.
BERKE: That`s not my question to you, sir, we`ll get to that. 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?
LEWANDOWSKI: I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance, it was the thing to behold and unfortunately it came after about ten hours of very inept questioning by members of the Committee. It seems like they`ve learned their lesson.
VANCE: I think they have learned their lesson. And the important takeaway here is that this is not a happy moment in our country, this is a sad event, a serious event. We need to get to the truth. That`s not a political statement, neither party owns the truth, but the country needs to understand what happened so we can move forward.
And the best way to do that is to have traditional questioning to have someone who will help to complete the narrative and have witnesses tell their stories about what happened. Now we`ll finally get that.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, having worked on the Committee yourself, Senate Judiciary Committee, is it a struggle with members in situations like this because they all have their moment in front of the microphone and the constituents can see them back home in the big moment to get them to give up that time. They will all still have a chance, but none of them are going to be better than the staff counsel on the Committee.
KLAIN: I think that`s right, Lawrence, and look I think many of these people are skilled questioners and talented attorneys. But having a professional have a concerted period of time, 45 minutes, to really walk through the narrative step by step, as Joyce said, is going to create a powerful moment.
When you see these witnesses, we didn`t see this in the Clinton impeachment, we`re going to see fact witnesses like Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, like Ambassador Taylor, come before the Committee, be expertly questioned, tell their story and then have those clips everywhere on the Internet, on social media. This is going to be a really new experience and I think a very powerful experience for the country.
O`DONNELL: And Joyce, to be clear, the Republican minority on the Committee has exactly the same right, their counsel can ask questions for 45 minutes uninterrupted. But it seems like Republican members of the Committee might have a larger interest in getting their 5 minutes, especially if they`re still doing nothing but stunts for the camera.
VANCE: So far we haven`t heard any sort of substantive rebuttal from Republicans to the allegations that are emerging about the President`s conduct in Ukraine, and that`s a real problem for them. What do they do with their 45 minutes? If they can`t attack the witnesses on substance, all they`re left with is posturing during their five-minute rejoinder. So they will be in a tough position, but it`s one of their own making.
O`DONNELL: And Ron, the President`s lawyers will also have the right to question witnesses.
KLAIN: They will and - but as Joyce said, I mean if your defense isn`t he didn`t do it, I`m not really sure what questions they`re going to ask. They will try some of the smears like were made perhaps against Lieutenant Colonel Vindman the other night on Fox. They may try to just assail the process altogether.
But my guess is they`ll just make a bunch of speeches appealing to Trump, appealing to Trump`s voters, appealing of Trump`s base, I think it`ll be a very fact-finding exercise on one side and a very political exercise on the other side.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, Joyce Vance, thank you both for joining our discussion. Really appreciate it.
KLAIN: Thanks Lawrence, thank you.
O`DONNELL: Well, Ezra Klein will get tonight`s Last Word on this historic day as the impeachment of Donald Trump is finally underway.
O`DONNELL: This morning at 8:08 am on Fox and Friends, Kellyanne Conway shared a dirty little secret about Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats impeachment resolution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Guess what, dirty little secret, they don`t have the votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And three hours later, Kellyanne Conway`s little secret was once again revealed, which is that she doesn`t know anything about anything. And so, under Nancy Pelosi`s leadership tonight, the Democrats are finally formally engaged in the impeachment process against Donald Trump and unified in that process.
Joining us now is Ezra Klein, Editor-at-Large at VOX and host of the new podcast Impeachment Explained. And Ezra, it`s our two year anniversary as two years ago that we first - just you and I first discussed this subject together here on this program after you`d written a long and thoughtful piece about impeachment and how it fits both in our psyche and our politics. We are finally here. Your reaction to what happened in the House today.
EZRA KLEIN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, VOX: Well first, I was so concerned you would forget our anniversary, so thank you, it means a lot to me.
I thought two things about today. So first thing I thought is that the implicit theory of Presidential accountability being put forward by the Republicans, which is it there should be none under any circumstances, when a Republican is in office is actually pretty constitutionally scary.
What got put forward today was not impeachment but impeachment inquiry. I think he would have to be blind to what is going on to not at least want to look into it. And so, the fact that Republicans given an opportunity to vote for a public hearing process, where they would get their lead on the relevant Committee, we get 45 minutes to question witnesses, it`s I think pretty scary and I think it forever shreds the idea that any of these people are constitutional conservatives.
And the other thing is that, to what you just had from Kellyanne Conway, the worst bet to ever make in Washington is that Nancy Pelosi has not counted the votes.
O`DONNELL: Yes, it`s the - there`s nothing clearer than that. And it`s one of those great little moments because it just shows that the entire Kellyanne Conway is just an act, the whole thing is just this invention there`s nothing in it ever. What do you expect to see as we go forward, we have not heard any substantive defense of the President? The President is tonight telling The Washington Examiner that his entire defense is what the prosecution thinks is the entire prosecution, which is the rough transcript of the call.
President Trump`s saying he wants to have a fireside chat on TV where he reads the transcript of his phone call with the President of Ukraine, and that is exactly the thing that the Democrats say condemns the President.
KLEIN: I don`t know, man.
What do you want me to say to that? The thing that is the scariest piece of all this to me is not that Trump did it, it`s somewhere in there, I think it is actually plausible that Trump believes he did nothing wrong, that he believes that he is so conflated his own interests without of the country that he believes it would have been perfectly fine, in fact it would have been the right thing for him to do as President to try to use the power of his office to extort another country into investigating a domestic political rival, because he saw a conspiracy theory on Fox and Friends, or whatever it was that he initially saw.
And I think it`s actually a real problem. It`s one thing to have cynical players in the White House who are in a Machiavellian way knowingly betraying the country and their own interest. That`s bad. In some ways, it`s almost worst to have the bull in the china shop that doesn`t even realize what they`re doing is wrong.
That`s genuinely dangerous, because in this as in so many things going back to the piece that you and I talked about years ago now, one of the other problems here lurking behind all this is Donald Trump is not fit for the job that he holds and that sometimes comes out through corruption, sometimes comes out through incompetence, and sometimes comes out through recklessness and bad judgment, like the setting that maybe he`ll read this call record at a fireside chat because you think it`s perfect when it`s actually the thing that has launched an impeachment proceeding against you.
And that is among the many, many things here that are scary about Donald Trump. That`s another one.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and at the time when you were right two years ago, the worry that we all had was that Donald Trump could find himself in a nuclear exchange with North Korea at that point. Things were going so badly and his behavior was publicly so erratic about that.
And one of the things you argued for was just relaxing a little bit about impeachment, everyone in public office when they talk about it, I think it`s mandatory for them I guess to say that it`s very sad and it`s very sad that it has come to this.
And no one thinks it`s going to be very sad, if you have to get rid of the CEO of Boeing because their planes crash. They think it`s what you do. And you were making an argument that we should look at this a little bit more the way corporate America looks at changing CEOs, when they have to.
KLEIN: Or the way the founders looked at it, James Madison said the President should be impeached for removing meritorious officers wontedly. It was talked about often at the beginning of the country that impeachment was a way to deal with an out-of-control executive.
It was not considered an unbelievable scar the country would never recover from. And as you say, with the Boeing example, the idea that the most powerful person in the country would be the one with the most job security, that there`d be nothing to do in between elections, if they were out of control is wild and it`s all the more wild given that the only reason Donald Trump sits in that chair at all is it for years and years and years, he appeared on our television screens firing people for apparently not doing a good job in dumb games.
We should be able to fire somebody for doing a terrible job and abusing power and putting the country`s leverage at risk in order to further their own political prospects.
O`DONNELL: It could not be more appropriate that Ezra Klein gets tonight`s Last Word. Ezra, thank you very much for joining us, I really appreciate it.
KLEIN: 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