McConnell says he will not be impartial. TRANSCRIPT: 12/17/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Chris Murphy, Tom Malinowski, Ezra Levin, Elizabeth Drew, BrigidHarrison

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel. 

And it is upon us.  It is -- there`s going to be an additional hour at the beginning of the debate which will be about the rules.  The House will vote on the rule.  The House will then vote on the articles.

We know the numbers.  We know what we`ll be saying or what we`ll be reporting on tomorrow night at this hour, but there`s something about knowing how it`s going to turn out that feels like it`s possibly diminishing the enormity of this.  You know, there`s this what`s going to happen sense isn`t really present, and that I think in today`s news is part of what feeds I think many peoples sense of how big this news is. 

This is gigantic --  

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Yes.

O`DONNELL:  -- even though we do know what`s going to happen. 

MADDOW:  For the third time in U.S. history, the House is set to impeach a U.S. president.  Literally we did it once in the 1800s, once in the 1900s and now we`re going to do it for the first time in the 2000s. 

And it is -- you know, I think that impeachment is both rare enough and I think a live enough wire that anything can happen at any point.  I mean, I know they`ve agreed on those six hours of debate, but none of these last hearings that have happened on impeachment have gone anyway that we expected them to either in terms of time or tenor.  So, tomorrow to me feels very much like a black box.  I mean, I know Democrats think they`ve got the votes to impeach him, but aside from that, I don`t have much of an expectation in terms of what`s going to happen. 

O`DONNELL:  You know, Elizabeth Drew is going to join us later in the hour.  She, of course, reported on the Nixon impeachment process and reminds us there was much celebration at the end of the Nixon process that the system worked, the system worked.  She has a very different impression about what we`re learning this time around with the tools of impeachment.  She`s going to explain that letter. 

MADDOW:  Fascinating.  Thanks, my friend.  Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Thanks, Rachel.

Well, it is impeachment eve and Nancy Pelosi has the votes.  Today, more newly elected Democratic members of the House who won their seats in Republican districts have come out in favor of impeaching the Republican president of the United States.  One of those freshman congressmen who recently announced his vote will join us tonight. 

And at the end of the hour, we`ll be joined by a Democrat who has announced her candidacy challenging Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey who was a Democrat last week but has been having discussions about switching to the Republican Party now that he`s announced he will vote against impeachment of the president tomorrow. 

And Senator Chris Murphy will join us tonight.  He traveled to Ukraine as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Republican Senator Ron Johnson who President Trump quotes tonight in a very strange letter to Nancy Pelosi, a letter that Donald Trump says he wrote for history. 

There are demonstrations all over the country tonight in support of the impeachment of President Trump.  An organizer of those demonstrations will join us with a report later in this hour.  The House Rules Committee spent the day debating the articles of impeachment passed by the House Judiciary Committee.  It was the kind of House committee hearing we have not seen in what feels like a very long time. 

There was no yelling.  There were no attacks on members of the committee by other members of the committee in the opposite party, and that is thanks entirely to the good, old-fashioned, fully respectful working relationship of Chairman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and the ranking Republican member Tom Cole of Oklahoma.  Sometimes, old-fashioned is good, and today, it was very good to see Tom Cole leading the Republican side of the committee with flawless politeness and civility while completely disagreeing with Jim McGovern and the Democrats.  Jim McGovern and Tom Cole gave a master class today in what civility and respectful disagreement should look like in Congress. 

Tonight, the Rules Committee in a party line vote sent the articles of impeachment to the House floor tomorrow for a vote of the full House. 

In a letter to the Democratic members of the House tonight, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote: When the House convenes to take the impeachment vote tomorrow morning, I urge each of you to join me on the floor.  Our constituents look to us to be respectful of the Constitution and defenders of our democracy and to proceed in a manner worthy of our oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  During this very prayerful moment in our nation`s history, we must honor our oath to support and defend our Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. 

The White House released a letter to Nancy Pelosi tonight that is signed by the president, and some of the sentences in the letter indicates that they might actually read as if the president had a hand in writing some of those sentences.  For example: You are offending Americans of faith by continually saying "I pray for the president" when you know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in a negative sense.  It is a terrible thing you are doing, but you will have to live with it not I, exclamation point. 

And then there`s this one.  You view democracy as your enemy, exclamation point.  That one may have been written by the president.  The letter ends with the president saying he`s writing the letter for history. 

Even Donald Trump seems to realize that his tweet collection will be overwhelming to historians, so he wants this six-page letter to stand out so that historians will use it in understanding the Trump impeachment.  The letter ends with this: I write this letter to you for the purpose of history and to put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record.  One hundred years from now when people look back at this affair, I want them to understand it and learn from it so that it can never happen to another president again.  For the purpose of history. 

There is another line in the letter that is pure Donald Trump, but Donald Trump doesn`t realize that that line will destroy the entire letter for historians.  On page five of the letter, Donald Trump writes: More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem witch trials. 

Now, you can say that to Trump voters, but you cannot say that to historians.  The Trump letter is for future historians who will know that the Salem witch trials which delivered capital punishment to 20 women and men for being witches actually allowed witnesses to testify about things that they learned in their dreams.  It was perfectly acceptable in a witch trial to testify that you dreamed that Bridget was a witch and that was enough to get Bridget executed. 

So Donald Trump`s letter to future historians today will be used by them as yet another piece of damning evidence about the mental state of the president of the United States the night before he was impeached by the House of Representatives. 

The United States Senate now knows that they will begin next year with the impeachment trial of the president of it United States.  Today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer`s request yesterday to allow witnesses to testify at the Senate trial, including former national security advisor John Bolton and current chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. 

In Senator Schumer`s request, he cited the Clinton impeachment precedent in which some witnesses were called to testify during the impeachment trial.  Senator McConnell said, quote, the basic procedure of the framework served the Senate and nation well.  But then, Senator McConnell reminded the Senate there was no agreement on taking any witness testimony until the Senate trial was already under way. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  In President Clinton`s trial, we handled the procedural issues in two, two separate Senate resolutions that passed at different times.  The first resolution passed unanimously before the trial.  It sketched out basic things like scheduling, opening arguments and the timing of a motion to dismiss. 

Other more detailed questions about the middle and end of the trial, including whether any witnesses would be called were reserved for a second resolution that was passed in the middle of the trial itself. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Rudy Giuliani seems to be trying to become a witness in the Senate impeachment trial.  He has delivered a stunning set of admissions in the last 24 hours.  First telling "The New Yorker," quote, I believe that I needed Ambassador Yovanovitch out of the way.  She was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody.

Giuliani followed that up with an interview to "The New York Times" that was reported under the headline "Giuliani provides details of what Trump knew about ambassador`s removal.  Rudolf W. Giuliani said on Monday that he provided President Trump with detailed information this year about how the United States ambassador to Ukraine was and Mr. Giuliani`s view, impeding investigation that could benefit Mr. Trump, setting in motion the ambassador`s recall from her post.  In an interview, Mr. Giuliani, the president`s personal lawyer, described how he passed along to Mr. Trump a couple of times, accounts about how the ambassador, Marie L. Yovanovitch, had frustrated efforts that could be politically helpful to Mr. Trump.  They included investigations involving former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. 

And as if that wasn`t damning enough, Rudy Giuliani went on FOX News last night and said this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY:  I didn`t need her out of the way.  I forced her out because she`s corrupt.  There`s no question that she was acting corruptly in that position and had to be removed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  There is no question that Rudy Giuliani is lying about that from start to finish.  He has absolutely no negative evidence about Ambassador Yovanovitch at all. 

Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.  He`s a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and Appropriations Committee. 

Senator Murphy, I want to begin with President Trump`s letter tonight in which he quotes Ron Johnson who you accompanied to Ukraine.  I just want to read you that part of the Trump letter. 

It says: Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a supporter of Ukraine who met privately with President Zelensky, has said at no time during this meeting was there any mention of Zelensky or any Ukrainian that they were feeling pressure to do anything in return for the military aid. 

That is the entirety of Senator Johnson`s entry in the Trump letter. 

What`s your reaction to that? 

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT):  Well, what President Trump neglects to mention in that letter is that in that very meeting he cites, between myself, Senator Johnson and President Zelensky, at the end of that meeting, I stipulated a series of facts for President Zelensky.  I told him there were public reports that he was being pressured by the Trump administration to investigate the Bidens and that it was my opinion that it would not be good for Ukraine if they were to get dragged into American politics. 

President Zelensky conceded the point that I made and in fact simply responded he had no intention to get involved in American politics, that he knew that would be bad for the U.S.-Ukraine relationship.  And I sent that version of the events to the impeachment committee. 

And so it just -- it is not true that Zelensky did not raise any issues in that meeting regarding the pressure campaign.  I counseled him to not listen to those entreaties and he did respond to me that Giuliani was not indeed pressuring him.  In fact, we all know now for certain that Giuliani and many others, in fact, were engaged in a very coordinated campaign to try to get Zelensky to interfere in the election in exchange for access to the White House and taxpayer-funded aid. 

O`DONNELL:  So, if I`m interpreting the scene correctly, you -- you know or you feel that President Zelensky is in no position to say or complain to either one of you about what might be happening with the Trump administration, so you put it out there.  You say this is what I think I know about this.  And in effect you`re offering President Zelensky, among other things, an opportunity to say, oh, no, senator, nothing like that`s happening.  Don`t worry about that at all, I haven`t heard a word about this.  No one has said anything to me about doing investigations at all. 

That`s what you heard from President Zelensky. 

MURPHY:  Well, and I`d also had a conversation the night before with Ambassador Taylor, and Ambassador Taylor confirmed to me that in fact the work that Giuliani was doing to try to undermine the embassy, was in fact very troubling and was very vexing for the Ukrainians.  And, of course, I was representing what Giuliani had publicly admitted to.  Giuliani had been in the press all throughout the spring representing that he was putting this pressure on the Zelensky government. 

And, of course, the only thing that Zelensky cared about in that meeting was getting the aid turned back on.  We both, Senator Johnson and I, described the beginning of that meeting in which there were no diplomatic formalities.  Zelensky sat down at his big ornate table and immediately went to the question of how to get the aid turned back on because he knew soldiers were dying on the front with Russia. And so, he was going to do whatever was necessary in order to get that aid turned back on.

The last thing he was going to do was bring up complaints with Donald Trump.  But his lack of contest to the set of facts that I laid out to him for me was plain evidence that in fact what we all knew was true, she was getting an enormous amount of pressure. 

O`DONNELL:  I want to go to a couple of things that Mitch McConnell said today.  But, first of all, the one about not being impartial where he actually specifically used this word impartial publicly talking to reporters and said, I`m not going to be impartial in this.  And the words as you know I`m sure by now of the juror`s oath that all senators will take, the last line of that oath actually uses that word impartial, and it says, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws so help me God. 

So, Mitch McConnell has publicly said I`m not going to be impartial, and there`s going to come a day where he will be raising his hand on television taking an oath presumably saying I will do impartial justice.  How can that be? 

MURPHY:  Well, listen, this is not a criminal trial.  It is different.  And we all have opinions going into this trial about whether or not the conduct of the president is impeachable or grounds for removal. 

And so I, quite candidly have been fairly open ability my belief that the president`s conduct likely rises to the level of impeachability.  But I remain very open to hearing from the president exculpatory evidence that could change my mind.  I have not heard the president provide any evidence to the contrary, but I am going to sit as a juror in this process open to that information from the president. 

It`s in fact why I want witnesses because if in fact the president didn`t do what the house claims he did, then people like Mick Mulvaney and John Bolton would likely testify to that fact.  So I think it`s different.  We all have opinions, and it`s OK for us to express those opinions. 

But to be impartial means to be open to evidence that contradicts the set of beliefs you have going in.  And I`m certainly open to hear from the president.  I think it`s unlikely he`s going to be able to present any evidence that changes my mind. 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s go to that question of witnesses because if you listen carefully at this point, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer are not that far apart.  Chuck Schumer comes out and says I want to use the Clinton impeachment model, which did include witnesses.  They didn`t testify on the Senate floor, but they testified in depositions, and that information was made available to senators.  Mitch McConnell comes out and says I think the Clinton model is a great model. 

However, the Clinton model worked is we started the trial and only then the senators made a decision about hearing from witnesses.  That doesn`t sound like they`re too far apart on this as of tonight. 

MURPHY:  It doesn`t.  Except for the fact that Mitch McConnell is different than previous Republican Senate leaders.  I wish that I had faith that Senator McConnell was going to do what was right for the Senate. 

Unfortunately, I have watched Senator McConnell over and over again do what is right simply for his party.  He does not want witnesses at this trial because he knows that they will provide further evidence of the president`s misdeeds of his corruption.  And it will make it harder for his members to support the president in the end. 

So, I don`t see any reason why we shouldn`t press for an agreement before we start the trial.  Because if we start the trial without any agreement on witnesses, I can almost guarantee that Mitch McConnell is going to push for a vote as quickly as possible to get his members off the hook for having to hear anything that could make this case even stronger against the president. 

O`DONNELL:  Senator Chris Murphy, future impeachment juror, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate it. 

MURPHY:  Thanks.

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back we`ll be joined by freshman Democrat Tom Malinowski who defeated a five-term Republican congressman in 2018.  Tom Malinowski announced this weekend how he`s going to vote on the articles of impeachment.  He joins us next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  The House Rules Committee voted on a party line vote about an hour and a half ago, 9-4, to send the articles of impeachment to the House floor tomorrow allowing a total of 7 hours of debate and specifying that no amendments can be offered.  Freshman Democratic members of the House who won their seats in previously Republican districts continued to announce their support for the articles of impeachment. 

Here is one of those freshman House members, Congressman Tom Malinowski at a town hall on Saturday in New Jersey telling his constituents how he will be voting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ):  Based on the evidence that I have seen in the depositions, in the hearings, in the documents I have seen, I believe that on the two counts of impeachment that had been put before us, that the vote should be yes, I will be voting yes. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(BOOS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now on the eve of that historic vote is freshman Democratic Congressman Tom Malinowski.  He`s a member of the Foreign -- House Foreign Affairs Committee. 

And, Congressman Malinowski, We heard some boos in there, some agreement.  But obviously more than majority support in that group.  Did you get a chance to talk to any of the people after that town hall who disagreed with your decision? 

MALINOWSKI:  Well, I spoke to them during the town hall that I deliberately called in people who I saw booing or sitting down at that point because I wanted to make sure that they had a chance to be heard.  And, you know, I`ve held about 32 of these town halls since I was elected last year.  Large ones like this there were about 400 people there, smaller ones. 

And, you know, there`s one thing that virtually everybody I represent agrees on, and that is that this decision on this issue has to be made based on what`s right and wrong, not based on politics.  And I think, you know, the only political point I would make to you based on all the interactions I had back home is that if I didn`t vote my conscience, I wouldn`t deserve to be re-elected. 

O`DONNELL:  Kevin McCarthy, leader of the House Republicans, tweeted: For the Democrats -- and this is you -- for the Democrats sitting in districts that voted to send Trump to the White House, if you vote to impeach tomorrow, you will be voting defying the votes of your own constituents. 

I want to read a reply to that tweet, Congressman Malinowski, from political reporter Ron Brownstein, who has been covering Washington for a very long time, and certainly was around for the Clinton impeachment.  And he wrote back to Congressman McCarthy saying, in 1998, there were 91 House Republicans in districts that voted for Clinton in 1996.  Almost all of them voted to -- and he uses McCarthy`s words here -- to defy the votes of their constituents by impeaching Bill Clinton.  Over the next two elections, `98 and 2000, just seven of those 91 Clinton district Republicans were defeated. 

And it seems there is some mythology around impeachment politics and the notion that the Republicans were damaged by the Clinton impeachment.  But in fact, they held onto their House majority very easily. 

MALINOWSKI:  Yes, and, you know, that`s interesting but it`s also irrelevant to me and to most of my colleagues.  And I think this is something that President Trump just cannot understand, that there are all of these members of the House, including some who came from districts he won who are making a decision based on what is right and what is wrong.  And I think the rant that we got from him today, the six-page screed at Nancy Pelosi reflects his utter bewilderment that he just -- he doesn`t know what to do with these people, with us who are simply saying that what he did was wrong regardless of the politics.

O`DONNELL:  The -- Speaker Pelosi has more than enough votes now, especially the freshman Democrats who have more than put this over the top.  How much pressure -- how much working the vote has been happening among Democrats on the impeachment articles? 

MALINOWSKI:  Virtually none that I have seen.  This is a choice that each of us have come to individually.  As I said, I`ve held 32 town halls.  I know my colleagues have been doing the same thing. 

We`ve been talking to each other.  We`ve maybe been leading by example, those of us who were out first.  But I`ve detected no pressure whatsoever by Speaker Pelosi or anyone in the leadership.  People are honestly being guided by their conscience here, and I think that`s the source of our strength going into this. 

O`DONNELL:  You know, I think when you say guided by their conscience, a lot of people out there who just don`t believe it.  They think everything is party pressure on both sides.  But I think -- having worked in the Senate myself -- there are these moments where I know, and I know that we could convince civilians of this, but there are moments where the vote really is just left to the member and the member`s conscience. 

MALINOWSKI:  Well, that is absolutely true here.  And these people are saying on the one hand, oh, you`re going to take this vote and you`re going to lose.  And on the other hand, it`s just your party telling you to do it, which is ridiculous.  The party would not be telling us to do it if they thought we would lose, right? 

So, it`s obviously not politics.  This is the most sober moment that we could possibly face as members of Congress.  And none of us chose to be here.  And you know what?  I`m going to go home this weekend and next year, and we`re going to keep talking about this, but we`re also going to talk about all the legislation we have passed for the benefit of folks in my district. 

You know, this week we are passing the U.S.-Mexico trade agreement which an extraordinary achievement.  The first major trade agreement in modern history that is supported by the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce.  We passed a budget today to fund the government, to keep it open.  We passed the defense bill last year.  All of the things that McConnell and Republican said that we couldn`t do while impeaching the president we`re doing. 

And, again, I think Trump doesn`t know how to handle that fact because -- what`s his argument now? 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Tom Malinowski, thank you very much for joining us on the eve of this historic vote.  Really appreciate it.

MALINOWSKI:  Thank you so much. 

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, people across the country are in the streets tonight rallying in support of the impeachment of Donald Trump.  Ezra Levin of Indivisible who discussed these rallies last night with Rachel and helped organize these rallies will join us next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Tonight people across the country have come out to show their support for the impeachment of Donald Trump. Thousands of people rallied for impeachment in Times Square and there were big crowds gathered in Philadelphia. And also crowds gathering in Seattle tonight.

And the people came up to support impeachment in Maine in the snow putting pressure on Maine`s Republican Senator Susan Collins. People rallied to support impeachment in Kansas. And they came out to support impeachment in Louisiana.

And here they are supporting impeachment in North Dakota where the temperature is all of 14 degrees and we`re joined now by phone by Ezra Lebanese the Co-Executive Director of Indivisible. Ezra, I saw you discussing this last night with Rachel Maddow. You told us last night that you had organizations rallying all over the country.

We don`t have cameras everywhere. what are some of the other places we should know about tonight.

EZRA LEVIN, CO-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR; INDIVISIBLE: Lawrence, it`s incredible. There is a literal snowstorm that is rolling across the United States and at the exact same time there is a storm of grassroots energy in literally every single state in the nation from Alaska to Florida to Texas to Maine. You covered some of them but there are a dozen of incidents spread throughout Arizona and this is yes, by all means this is in Tucson, this is in Nebraska but this is in Ohio.

This is in the Cottonwood, this is in Prescott, Arizona where Barry Goldwater won his 1964 presidential campaign. There are eight events spread across Iowa, dozen across Maine, we have a thousand people showing up in Louisville, Kentucky.

The group leader from the Indivisible group there said, hey, that`s a 1000 more canisters for the senate election next year. What we`re seeing is yes, this is in blue states, yes, this is in city centers but it`s much bigger than that.

This is in red states, this is in urban areas and rural areas. This is all over the country and people showing up in numbers that we just have not seen for a while saying that they want to see their representatives and senators hold this administration accountable.

O`DONNELL: Ezra Levin, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

LEVIN: Great talking. This movement is made up of people who raised their hand, raise your hand, show up, be part of it, go to indivisible.org and join this.

O`DONNELL: Thanks Ezra, really appreciate it. And when we come back, Elizabeth Drew will be joining us. She wrote extensively about the impeachment investigation and processes against President Richard Nixon, also President Clinton.

After the Nixon impeachment, Washington was triumphant with the sense that the system worked. Elizabeth Drew will tell us that is not the feeling now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Democratic Congressman Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey was one of only two House Democrats who voted against starting the impeachment inquiry. Now there are reports of an extensive effort by President Trump and Republicans to convince Van Drew to switch to the Republican Party after he announced that he will vote against the impeachment of Donald Trump.

Later in this hour, we will meet Richard Harrison, a Democrat, now challenging Van Drew for that House seat in next year`s election but first with Christmas just a week away, we want to remind you about the Kind Fund, Kids in Need of Desks as a partnership created by MSNBC with UNICEF to provide desks for schools in Africa and scholarships for girls to attend high school in Malawi where the girls` high school graduation rate is half the graduation rate for boys.

Shara Sweta is a 17-year old student who was sent home from high school because her parents could not afford her tuition. Shara was able to go back to school thanks to your generous contributions to the Kind Fund. Shara told us why finishing school is so important to her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARA SWETA, STUDENT IN MALAWI: I want to be a (inaudible) and I want to be a journalist, very famous journalist. Yes and I want to (inaudible) needy so that them to continue (inaudible) and have (inaudible). I want that everyone should know that this is Shara Shweta. She`s very educated and (inaudible). Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: You can help girls like Shara complete their high school education at lastworddesks.MSNBC.com. You can specify that your contributions is for desks or for girls scholarships and you can make a contribution as a gift to anyone on your holiday gift list and UNICEF will send them an announcement over your gift.

Shara told us she is grateful to you for your support.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARA: I would like to tell that I will work very extra hard so that me too - you can also watch me one day talking on NBC, Zodiac Times. Yes. And I`m promising that to you, you will watch me again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I`m not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There`s not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision. House made a partisan political decision to impeach. I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I`m not impartial about this at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Elizabeth Drew, a political journalist and author. She covered the impeachment investigation of President Richard Nixon and the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton and Jason Johnson is with us.

He`s the Politics Editor to root.com and Professor of Politics and Media at Morgan state University. He is also an MSNBC political analyst and Liz Drew and after the Nixon investigation and impeachment process that did not go all the way to a trial, Washington was jubilant about the system worked.

You wrote recently in The New York Times that the lesson of the impeachment this time around is something very different.

ELIZABETH DREW, COVERED WATERGATE SCANDAL: Lawrence, we may be seeing this slow agonizing death of impeachment as a defective instrument for checking a president between elections.

We are in the atmosphere that the founders feared, they couldn`t quite envision, they were very against factions or parties and they kept warning against having those. Well, we have them fairly well now and if you have very strong partisanship and you have a President who is determined to do everything to block impeachment from working, it doesn`t work.

It`s barely hanging in there now. We have a very narrow set articles of impeachment. They don`t really - dispose of the ways that the President has governed during this period and I really fear that it may be the - we may find that impeachment doesn`t work anymore.

O`DONNELL: Jason Johnson, in the Clinton impeachment trial, the Senate Republican leader, Senate Democratic leader got together very quickly, very easily, agreed on rules for the trial. They added to those rules midstream in the trial and now you see Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer in a public stand off, at this point.

Maybe they`ll agree on something but we don`t know. The issue - the big issue is witnesses and we have a poll now, a Washington Post poll saying 71 percent - 71 percent say that Trump should allow his aides to testify in an impeachment trial.

Mitch McConnell said it`s a political process. If it`s a political process respond to 71 percent of the public, wouldn`t it.

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, ROOTS.COM & MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes Lawrence but if we had a senate that was reflective of the public will, they would also pass gun control. They would also pass immigration reform. I think what we`re saying here and this is goes with Ms. Drew wrote.

This impeachment process is indicative of the fundamental failures of our modern country and I`m not being hyperbolic when I say this. We have an electoral college system which allows us to have senators who have great power that is above and beyond the number of people that they represent and they can have loyalty to a President that prevents them from having to take responsibility for holding him accountable.

All of these things are connected and so what we`re going to see now is, there will be a Senate trial. The President will probably not be removed from office but we`ll still be stuck with the fact that we have a country where a disproportionate amount of power is left with a certain number of senators who represent basically two burrows in New York.

And if we don`t do something about that or think about this long term, is not just going to be Trump, it`s going to be any other President we have or any other leader that we have down the road who can`t be held accountable for a system that no longer represents the majority will.

O`DONNELL: Liz Drew, you wrote about in The Times recently how fragile the impeachment process is and it turns out it always has been. I remember senators in the Clinton impeachment being surprised to discover how little guidance the constitution actually left them and how little guidance the senate`s history with subject left them and senators, as we all know are creatures who are hoping that there is guidance and precedent to tell them what to do next.

But we`ve discovered especially this time around on impeachment that there is a very fragile set of what used to be gentlemanly understandings that have evaporated.

DREW: Yes, but they worked it out and by fragile - I don`t really mean the vagueness of the - what constitutes an impeachable offense or the lack of guidance. Is the House supposed to work, is it supposed to begin in the House and then go to the Senate - House for impeachment or indictment, Senate for conviction or being thrown out of office.

What`s fragile about it is it really hangs on the parties being able to work together to some degree. That`s what happened in 74. You had at least seven Republicans on the Democratic controlled House Judiciary committee who voted for some of the articles of impeachment.

 And that`s why that impeachment, it did largely, it didn`t happen because Nixon resigned as you know before he could be impeachment or convicted because he was going to be so he got out of there before those could happen.

But the outcome was largely accepted because it came from the center of the country and it had a large degree of bipartisanship. We can`t do that anymore. Our politics would have to change very dramatically in a way that I don`t see them changing anytime soon in order for impeachment to work as an instrument, as a control or check on the President between elections which is its point.

O`DONNELL: Jason, Fox poll showing 54 percent supporting impeachment, there`s more support for it in the in the voting population than there is among the way Congress is represented.

JOHNSON: Yes, and that`s part of the real issue here that you`re not going to have a Congress that`s representing what the people want. Look, this is the thing that I think the Democrats have always had to be aware of and you need to really sort of think about strategically.

We can`t and this is what Nancy Pelosi said months ago, we cannot just hold presidents accountable at the ballot box when that president has made it clear that he will cheat at the ballot box.

And so consequently what we have right now is a situation where Democrats need to be putting pressure on red states. It is wonderful to go to blue states and say get rid of him but they got to go to red states and flip some of these senators.

O`DONNELL: Professor Jason Johnson and Elizabeth Drew, thank you for joining us on this important night. I really appreciate it. And when we come back, Bridget Harrison has just decided to run against her New Jersey - New Jersey Congressman because he announced he will vote against the impeachment of President Trump.

Brigid Harrison joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Democratic Congressman Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey has announced, he will vote against the impeachment of President Trump. Politico reports that Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told Van Drew on the House floor President Trump wants him to become a Republican, Republican efforts have continued with Politico reporting behind the scenes, Former GOP Governor Chris Christie spoke to Van Drew about switching parties said GOP sources.

Kellyanne Conway, a top white house advisor who hails from that district also sought a meeting with the Congressman on an unrelated issue which Van Drew`s aides suspected was a pretence for her to lobby him to switch parties.

McCarthy kept reaching out to Van Drew as did other House Republicans. Van Drew and Trump exchanged several phone calls in the past couple of weeks brokered in part by McCarthy.

Trump and McCarthy argued that Van Drew would be better off in the GOP. Today Congressman Van Drew refused to confirm that he will switch parties but he told us to NBC news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: How about your constituents? Do you feel that it`s fair to them to switch parties when many of them voted for a Democratic expecting you would vote a certain way?

REP. JEFF VAN DREW (D-NJ): My constituency, the majority of them are Republicans but the biggest majority of them are people who really both for people because of their individuality and because of how hard they work.

And that`s what I`ve always done so I have an election coming up and if they disagree with what I`ve done, then they will go out and that`s something I would very willingly accept, that`s their right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Democratic candidate running for the Van Drew seat. Brigid Harrison is a Professor of Political Science and Law at Montclair State University. Thank you very much for joining us.

BRIGID HARRSION (D), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE, NEW JERSEY: Thank you for having me.

O`DONNELL: Did - was it this announcement that he is voting against the articles of impeachment that have provoked your candidacy?

HARRISON: Actually Lawrence, it was his vote against impeachment procedure so Congressman Van Drew--

O`DONNELL: Which is now a couple of months ago.

HARRISON: Exactly but Congressman Van Drew just said that the lion`s share of his constituents are Republicans. In fact that`s false. The lion`s share of his constituents are independent voters or unaffiliated voters and those are the voters throughout the country who want a fair process.

They wanted information so that they could make an informed decision in the 2020 campaign and Congressman Van Drew said you know what? You don`t deserve that information. I`m going to stick my finger in the wind and see how the wind is blowing and basically built to further my own political career rather than looking out for the best interest of our country and his constituency.

O`DONNELL: He has a primary either way. If he runs as a Republican, there`s already three Republican running for that seat against what they thought was a Democratic incumbent. If he tries to hold on and run as a Democrat, he`s got you in a primary and so he`s - he`s in a race no matter how he--

HARRISON: He`s having a tough week. Let`s put it that way and the Republicans you know, the top of the story, we`re talking about the national political influences, particularly President Trump and Chris Christie, they`re essentially trying to bully Jeff Van Drew into the Republican Party and kick out all the loyal Republicans that are trying to run for the seat.

Boots on the ground, a lot of those local Republicans don`t want him.

O`DONNELL: What other issues, once you get past the impeachment argument with him, what other issues will you be running on?

HARRISON: Well, I mean there are some serious differences between myself and Congressman Van Drew. He has never supported common sense gun proposals - gun control proposals. He also has been on the wrong side of history on LGBTQ rights and importantly though he claims to be pro-choice, he in fact in the New Jersey state Senate some legislation that would have changed our law to make parental notification the law in New Jersey.

O`DONNELL: If you could talk to your Congressman.

HARRISON: Yes.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Van Drew.

HARRISON: Yes.

O`DONNELL: About this impeachment vote tomorrow, what would you tell him?

HARRISON: I would tell him to listen to the evidence. He was the person who was out on Fox news, proclaiming that this was like a third world democracy before all the testimony had been heard and I mean, that`s a person who has a political motive.

It`s not someone who`s taking his responsibility to the constitution and our country seriously and shame on him for that. I mean, and then to go and trade change parties, I mean, he`s a traitor not just to the nation but he`s a traitor to his party.

O`DONNELL: How would you say members of the House should approach this vote tomorrow when they`re in districts like the Van Drew district that would have significant Republican support?

HARRISON: Listen, Lawrence, in my view, this is a decision that is not about an individual`s political career. This is about the future of democracy. I teach political science. In fact, I wrote the book, American Democracy Now.

Congressman Van Drew doesn`t understand that the fundamental thing, it`s not about politics, it`s about people and the people you saw protest out there, that they want impeachment. But more importantly, they want to know what their President did and whether he abused power.

And I think that they need to approach this in a very serious and somber way, reflecting the historic moment that it is. But I think that right now we have the evidence to support impeachment.

O`DONNELL: Brigid Harrison, candidate for Congress in the second congressional district in New Jersey. Thank you very much for joining us.

HARRISON: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: I really appreciate it. That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with New Jersey`s own Brian Williams starts now.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END