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Interview with Michael Moore. TRANSCRIPT: 12/20/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Michael Gerson, Michael Moore, Neera Tanden


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: See that? "Queens Man Impeached." "Former Jamaica Estates resident Donald Trump was impeached Wednesday by the U.S. House of Representatives. He is the third president to be impeached in the United States history - and the first from Queens."

And the president`s impeachment did not make the first page of his hometown paper. It did not even make the first 15 pages. It is tucked into the bottom of page 16 below two other articles about the New York City subway.

Hey, look, the station at Estoria Boulevard is back open, neat. Below that, "Queens Man Impeached." Subscribe to your local paper. Do it right now. You will get news that looks different from everywhere else, even when everybody has to cover the impeachment.

Local reporters know their beat, right? They know their constituents. Best new thing in the world. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday. Now it`s time for the "Last Word" where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST:  I never don`t enjoy the last thing you say, but that one was unique and special. All news is local.

MADDOW:  I believe the paper -- I will slide this under your -- under the door of your office.

VELSHI:  I appreciate that. That`s the kind of thing you frame. Rachel, have yourself a fantastic weekend.

MADDOW:  Thanks.

VELSHI:  See you next week.

As history was unfolding in the House of Representatives on Wednesday with the impeachment of that Queens man, President Donald J. Trump, Michael Moore wasn`t watching it on T.V. He felt that he had to be there. So he watched the vote unfold from the front row of the house gallery.

Michael Moore is back in New York City tonight. He`s here to talk about what that moment means to the country and how it`s going to play into Democratic efforts to defeat Donald Trump in 2020. He`s also going to weigh in on a new report talking about the improved chances of Democrats winning control of the Senate.

And later in the show, Nancy Pelosi versus Donald Trump. The year is ending as it began with another face-off between the two. This time over impeachment. And today in an interview the Speaker of the House said she is never afraid and she is rarely surprised.

We`ll discuss her impeachment strategy and look at the biggest moments from the Speaker this year. At the end of the show there will be a surprise appearance by Rachel. That`s all I`m going to tell you right now.

But we begin tonight with some blistering words that have clearly gotten under Trump`s skin. He should be removed. That`s how the evangelical magazine "Christianity Today" described Donald Trump`s behavior in a rare and scathing editorial calling for his removal from office just one day after he became the third president in history to be impeached, "That he should be removed we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the creator of the Ten Commandments."

Those were the words that Donald Trump read from a publication that represents a core part of his base. Eighty percent of white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in 2016. To this day, a similar percentage supports him.

So, of course, today Donald Trump attacked the magazine that was founded by the late Reverend Billy Graham in a series of tweets falsely claiming, "A far left magazine or very progressive as some would call it which has been doing poorly and hasn`t been involved with the Billy Graham family for many years.

Christianity today knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call and would rather have a radical left nonbeliever who wants to take your religion and your guns than Donald Trump as your president. No president has done more for the Evangelical community and it`s not even close."

Later the Trump re-election campaign announced in an e-mail to supporters that Donald Trump will launch the Evangelicals for Trump Coalition at an event in January, but what Donald Trump doesn`t know is that he just gave a group that has stuck by him reason to think twice about his behavior.

Donald Trump`s tweeting has amplified the words of a small publication that argued that his actions in coercing Ukraine`s president to smear his political rival are, "profoundly immoral."

More from the article, "We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear in a way the Mueller investigation did not that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath.

The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president`s moral deficiencies for all to see. None of the president`s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character."

The editorial concludes by posing an important question to Evangelicals who have dismissed Trump`s behavior in exchange for policy wins like getting conservative judges.

I continue, "Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump`s words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don`t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come?"

Earlier today, I spoke with Mark Galli, the editor-in-chief of "Christianity Today" who wrote the editorial.


MARK GALLI, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CHRISTIANOTY TODAY:  Here we`re going to go out in the world and tell people they should support the pro-Life cause because it`s the righteous and moral and good thing to do and at the same time it`s like we`re blinking or winking or looking the other way when our president is doing things that are not merely unconstitutional but blatantly immoral. How can we have any credibility on the issues we find so important?


VELSHI:  As the "New York Times" noted today, "The president`s reaction was a sign of how critically important the white evangelical voting bloc is to his re-election. And the response from his leading Christian supporters laced with animosity and mockery that mimicked Mr. Trump`s signature style reflected how he has reshaped the evangelical political movement in his own mold, much as he has done with the Republican Party."

Leading off our discussion tonight is Michael Gerson who served as head of speechwriting for George W. Bush and is a syndicated columnist for the "Washington Post." He was raised as an evangelical Christian.

Ben Rhodes, former deputy National Security adviser to President Obama. He is an MSNBC political analyst. And Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of Progressive Programming at SiriusXM radio, also an MSNBC political analyst. And Zerlina, I did not know this about you, but you grew up in a home in which your parents were pastors.


VELSHI:  Your reaction to this?

MAXWELL:  Well, the entire presidency and really political phenomenon of Donald Trump has put Christians to a test. Are they going to abide by what`s actually in their bible and the things that Donald Trump reflects are not in their bible.

Lying is immoral, cheating is immoral. And Donald Trump doesn`t just lie and cheat. He cheats at all things. You know, he cheats on his wife, he cheats at golf, he cheats in elections. And, you know, I think it goes to the basic foundation of who he is as a person and what that represents.

And it`s a moment in which Christians have to say am I going to actually abide by the teachings of the Jesus Christ and, you know, be opposed to caging children, for example. One of the main teachings of the bible is to protect the children.

And so for Christians to standby and not be the ones camped out protesting the child separation policy, it really is an indictment on really what I think is hypocrisy. They just want the judges. They want to limit women`s reproductive freedom, and that`s all that matters, and that`s a problem.

VELSHI:  Michael, talk to me about this editorial. It was well written. It was well-considered. Donald Trump calls it a left leaning progressive publication. That`s not entirely true, but Mark Galli was telling me they don`t typically get accused of being lefties, but it`s not the most conservative of evangelical publications.

MICHAEL GERSON, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST":  Yes, it`s not representative of a lot of evangelicalism in America. I think that`s fair to say. It would be associated with what have been called Cosmopolitan Evangelicals. People in Christian colleges and universities and NGOs and other things like that.

I think that most evangelicals are not reading "Christianity Today" or listening to this. They are getting their information about the world from Fox News and from talk radio rather than from Christian sources.

And so, it`s not a surprise to some extent that they`re not having Christian views. This is the main source of moral formation of a lot of evangelicals in America, and that`s a real serious problem.

VELSHI:  I want to read, Ben, an excerpt from this. It`s the last paragraph in the editorial in which it says, "It`s time to call a spade a spade, to say no matter how many hands we win in this political poker, we`re playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence.

And just when we think it`s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that`s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world`s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern."

Ben, the difference between today`s polling on what evangelical Christians, the support they have for Donald Trump and the exit polling that was shown on Election Day barely moved. It`s a little bit less than it was on Election Day in 2016. But as of today according to NPR/PBS/Marist, 75 percent of Evangelical Christians approve of Donald Trump, 22 percent disapprove.

BEN RHODES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes, I mean, clearly that support has been constant, Ali. And look, this is why it`s important even if this is not a particularly conservative publication. There`s always a chance that a message from a part of your coalition is more likely to resonate with the rest of your coalition than a message from the opposition.

I think what`s important here, though, Ali, is that Trump`s strategy is constantly to obscure issues, to attack Democrats, to make process arguments, to throw up so much sham that everybody is distracted from the kind of core and moral issues as the editorial reminds us.

And frankly, the fact that what he did was wrong. It was immoral to try to pressure a country to investigate his opponents just as so much of his behavior every day is wrong. And I think Americans, even Trump`s supporters intuitively understand that he lies, intuitively understand that he engages in behavior that is immoral. And what Trump depends upon is distracting them from that reality by attacking Democrats and by creating all these controversies.

The more you get to the kind of core issues that are in that editorial, I think that is politically very important as an argument to make against Trump that this is not about all the heat and noise, this is about the fact that we have a fundamentally unethical and immoral person in an office that is the most important office in the country.

VELSHI:  Zerlina, do you have some sense of what would have caused and by the way, in fairness to "Christianity Today" there was a "Washington Post" article that mentions other times that "Christianity Today" has called out silence among Christians in relation to Donald Trump and racism.

But what do you think is it that made this the time to do that? Because to your point if there are going to be things -- there may be things nothing that offends you about Donald Trump. Clearly there are many Americans for whom that`s true, but if you were to be offended by him, this month wouldn`t be your first month.

MAXWELL:  Right. I look back to Charlottesville as a moment at least for me. I mean, I worked in the campaign in 2016 so I was opposed to Donald Trump going back to birtherism and the racist lie about the first black president.

But in Charlottesville, that was really a moment for the country to say wait, he just said that the people that were standing among the Klan and Nazis were very fine people. That`s what he said.

And we have a moral obligation as citizens to say whether or not we`re OK with a president who believes that those people are fine people or not because white nationalism and the embrace of white nationalism by this president is an existential threat to our national security.

So it`s a moral issue, but it`s also a security issue. So I don`t know if perhaps they see his abuse of power in this instance as more serious because it actually goes to the fundamental security of the country. But it reeks of hypocrisy and it`s a little bit linked.

VELSHI:  There`s an interesting point though, Michael Gerson, and that is that there may be some people. They may not be most of America`s evangelicals or the ones that are not watching this show or reading "Christianity Today," but there are some who are looking for a directional change than what they are getting from other leaders in and the evangelical community.

GERSON:  Well, I see that around the country. I go to churches that are very conservative, Trump-oriented churches, but there are always people, often women who are skeptical of the president. I think this helps them feel less isolated. I think it can be very isolating if your opposition to Trump in these communities so that`s to the good.

I think it could appeal to some minds as well. This is a case where the -- this is the base of the president`s base. And even small movements, small erosion in that base, I think the president is deeply concerned about and should be because it would have large consequences in our politics.

VELSHI:  Ben Rhodes, another op-ed tonight published by Senator Jeff Flake, not on this particular topic but speaking to other Republicans and asking them why they`re doing what they`re doing particularly as it relates to the upcoming Senate trial, if there is one, and the rules that Democrats are asking Republicans to engage in.

Jeff Flake writes, "My simple test for all of us: What if President Barack Obama had engaged in precisely the same behavior? I know the answer to that question with certainty and so do you." What`s he talking about?

RHODES:  And so do I. Look, they were looking for something to go after Obama to try to impeach Obama the entire time they had a majority, the  Republicans in the House, and they didn`t find it. And look, Michael was a speechwriter in the White House and so was I.

And if you`re involved in political communication, what you know is the most powerful thing you can say, is something that kind of cut through the noise that everybody knows to be true. So what Jeff Flake said, everybody knows to be true, this is hypocrisy.

The Republicans would be, you know, ripping out the gates of the white house to get at Barack Obama if he had done anything remotely like what Donald Trump did. Just like that article, also kind of cuts through the noise and says something that everybody knows to be true, that Trump lies, that he looks out for his personal interests, that he`s mistreated women.

I think this kind communication that doesn`t get into the back and forth and the distractions and whatever conspiracy theories Trump or his House Republican defenders are throwing at people, but just states plainly things that people intuitively know to be true, that voters know to be true.

That`s the kind of case I think that people not just the Democratic candidate but Americans who are concerned about the direction of this country under Trump, that`s the kind of case people are going to have to make not just in written pieces but around kitchen tables in this country and in congregations over the course of the next year if we want to see a change.

VELSHI:  And Michael Gerson, in this week we have seen some Republicans who are anti-Trump starting to form a super PAC to actually work toward -- this is different. This is more than saying we don`t like Donald Trump, actually supporting efforts to not have him re-elected. I`ve spoken to some of them, and they say that may mean supporting Democrats in the upcoming re- election.

GERSON:  Yes, I think that`s where a lot of Republicans who don`t like Trump may be led. There`s not been an alternative, a viable alternative to the president within his own party. I think that that`s a terrible shame.

So I think people may have to look outside of their party in order to find the kind of change that`s necessary to get the president out of office.

VELSHI:  When you say in that party, the complaint that I heard from so many of these people who are joining this effort is that there`s no party outside of Trump anymore. He has been remarkably successful considering he had no part in the Republican Party before this, overtaking the apparatus of the party.

GERSON:  Yes, it goes back to the earlier issue. I think that these coalition partners within the Republican Party have been willing to make a compromise with an ethno-nationalism that, you know, has left very few people disagreeing, and that that is going to be a source of shame for a long time.

I think it`s going to hurt the party for generations in the view particularly of the young who look at the moral center and moral focus of the party and how that`s been lost. I think you`re going to have a huge generational problem here that Republicans are going to have to address and appeal to.

VELSHI:  Michael Gerson, Ben Rhodes, Zerlina Maxwell, thank you to the three of you for getting us started tonight. Coming up next, Michael Moore on the impeachment of Donald Trump, what this week`s historic vote means for Trumpism and what it could all mean for Mitch McConnell. Could 2020 mean the end of his majority leader title? A new report out today shows better stakes for Democrats taking back the Senate. Stay with us.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It doesn`t really feel like we`re being impeached.

Well, I don`t feel like I`m being impeached. It doesn`t feel to me. It doesn`t feel like impeachment.

It doesn`t feel like impeachment.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  I just left President Trump. He`s mad as hell that they would do this to him.


VELSHI:  All right, no matter what Donald Trump says or does, no matter how the White House and his Republican allies spin it, his presidency is now forever stained with the scarlet letter of impeachment.

Now, Donald Trump knows that as is evident in his twitter outburst over impeachment. And now he wants to add a crucial defense line -- a Senate trial that will acquit him.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is holding the cards here. She`s getting under his skin by not immediately sending the impeachment articles over to the Senate until Senate Democrats agree to the rules for the impeachment trial.

And reaching that acquittal will hangover the president during the next two weeks as he consults with friends and supporters at his Florida resort. And that`s how our nation wraps up this massively consequential week.

A historic moment that academy award winning filmmaker Michael Moore didn`t want to miss. Early on Wednesday he wrote, "So, I woke up this morning in New York City and I thought dang, they`re impeaching Trump today -- just a quick train ride away. So I dropped what I was doing, I headed to Amtrak, hopped onboard. Pulling into D.C. shortly. Don`t know if I`ll get in, but here`s for hoping."

Well, he made it on time. He witnessed the impeachment vote of President Trump. There he is, bottom left of your screen, right in the front row of the House gallery.

Joining me now Michael Moore. He has a new podcast called "Rumble with Michael Moore." So you got there, you had no ticket, you didn`t tell anybody you were coming. You just twitted it out. You get to Congress, what happens?

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER:  Well, like I said I woke up and I thought, well, we`re on the East Coast --


MOORE:  -- we got trains here. I mean, I`m from Motor City. It`s horrible (ph). You know about the trains in Michigan.


MOORE:  So, it`s really easy to get from here to D.C. Let`s just go. So my sister and my producer and friend, we all got on the Amtrak. We were there and I don`t know, 2 1/2 hours and we walked over to Capitol Hill and started looking around seeing how we could get in. You know, I`ve made these movies for many years --

VELSHI:  Right. You`re standing around looking how to get into places.

MOORE:  Well, I usually find --

VELSHI:  And (inaudible) me, you did something like that.

MOORE:  You know, actually it was 30 years ago tonight that (inaudible) --

VELSHI:  Is that right?

MOORE:  in the theaters. Yes.

VELSHI:  A long time ago, you set out the idea that when you go somewhere you`re going to get in.

MOORE:  Yes, and that is generally the case. But then I thought it was really cold. So I don`t want to wait around a lot trying to figure out which door I`m going to go through.

VELSHI:  But you`re from Michigan. You`re not scared of the cold, right?

MOORE:  It was brutally cold in D.C. on that day, I`m telling you. It was like, you know -- so, I said what is the one office on Capitol Hill where I will be treated with the respect I deserve, and of course we go to the office of the member of Congress from Flint, Michigan.


MOORE:  And so we walked in and said can we get in. And he said, well, I`m going over there now, I`ll walk you in.


MOORE:  So we walked in and we sat in the part of the balcony or the gallery that`s for friends or family of members of Congress. So, we got a really great seat. And, you know, it was obviously all the cliches, a historic day, witnessing history.

But really, my sister and I, we said, god, this is kind of a flashback for us. In 1965, our mom took us to Washington, D.C. She wanted to show us how government worked. And we looked right over in the same balcony in this gallery where we sat in 1965 as little tikes with my mom watching them pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


MOORE:  It was like -- so to be -- to have two events in history --

VELSHI:  That are that consequential.

MOORE:  Yes.

VELSHI:  Did you sense it when you were sitting there? Did you get a sense -- not it`s a personal history, but of the moment? What does it mean for America because these days these things come and go and Donald Trump himself wasn`t paying attention? He was out giving a speech.

MOORE:  Oh, don`t worry. He was paying attention. This has wrecked his last couple of days if you follow him on twitter. It`s quite a storm of insanity. It -- being there -- this is, I think, you know, when you watch it on T.V. it is a completely different experience.

To be there in person and to really see the Republicans, I focused on them most of the time than I was there and I was like, wow, this is not -- now we`re watching them in three-dimensional in the flesh and it was -- it really looked -- as you looked at them, first of all you wondered what time tunnel did they go in to find this group of people?

Like this is not America anymore. Whatever -- they think that`s America, a bunch of old white guys, you know, all angry, all bent out of shape, all wrong -- I just want to tell you, when I was growing up, you may not have agreed with Republicans.

You would never think that they would stand and endorse the behavior of someone like Donald Trump and what he did and the laws that he broke. And how he was willing to corrupt this election again was just -- it was just - - but they`re whole M.O. as they went up to the podium, as they shouted and -- and then when they would leave and they would mock the Democrats, and they were cynical about it.

And they were, you know, laughing and they were -- it was just so weird. And then at the end when the vote happened, the howl that came from the Republican side, it was really this kind of very other worldly sound. You can kind of play it back on T.V. You`d have to turn up the volume a little bit because they`re not all miced in their chairs.

But being there, sitting right above them, the sort of after she declared that the president was impeached -- you know, it was just like, wow. And I said to my sister, I said that is the sound of the dying dinosaur.

I can imagine when the dinosaurs knew that it was over, that their time was up, they probably were letting out a hell a lot of howls of utter pain. And those guys know it was over because that -- this not -- we are not that Americans --

VELSHI:  Let me tell you what I didn`t see watching it on T.V. I didn`t see an argument that said you know what, the guy was on the wrong side of history, did the wrong thing, he shouldn`t have done what he did, there`s probably a few things he`s done wrong.

We don`t really think this is for an impeachable offense, but you know, here`s another option, here`s another road to go down. There wasn`t any of that. There wasn`t any maybe you should impeach him but Donald Trump has done something wrong.

There`s no motion for censure of Donald Trump coming from Republicans. There has been nothing. It has been a consistent defense of Donald Trump`s behavior.

MOORE:  So my question to you is, why do you think that is? Because either it means that they can`t make a defense because they know they`re wrong, obviously. What`s the old Richard Pryor line? Who are you going to believe, me or your own lying eyes?

Everybody saw Trump admit that he tried to bribe the president of Ukraine in order to get dirt on Joe Biden. That`s it. That`s the end of the story right there. So the fact that they either obviously cannot defend that or they actually don`t believe it`s wrong. And if that`s the case --

VELSHI:  It`s a whole different problem.

MOORE:  No. A problem, no. We`re in deep, deep trouble. And that`s why I saw a sign there of protesters outside that said, impeach them all. And it`s like, yes, this is really bigger than Trump now because I expect that behavior from Trump what he did.

And let me tell you on that secret server in the White House where they were hiding that Ukraine call, there are a dozen other things that his loyal staffers have placed there in these last three years, and god I wish we had a subpoena to see what else is on that server than just the Ukraine call.

But I`m telling you that the fact they enabled this and that they supported it and they didn`t stand up for this country, they all have to go now. They all have to go. I never would have said that before.

VELSHI:  Hold that thought. I`ve got to squeeze in a break. We got to pay for this thing. But when we come back, I want to talk to Michael about the Democratic prospects of taking back control of the Senate.

And later as I told you, we got a surprise appearance from Rachel and in fact Lawrence on tonight`s "Last Word."



VELSHI:  The Republicans have controlled the United States Senate since 2014 and all of that could change in 2020 according to The Cook, political report, it appears that there will be at least 5 GOP-held seats in play with the chance the Democrats could add one or two more. Now that puts Democrats in a position to win the majority even if they lose Alabama and or Michigan.

I`m going to ask Michael about Michigan in a second. States with Republican held Senate seats that are potentially in play include Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Georgia, Kansas, Maine and North Carolina.

Back with me Michael Moore. So Michael, it`s interesting that that to the point you were making earlier. Republicans were not prepared to stand up and some Republicans were saying this is enough, whether it`s Christianity Today or it`s Jeff Flake writing his editorial or these Republicans who are forming a super pack to see that Donald Trump is not elected.

There are some Republicans somewhere who are saying, this is not who we are and this is not what the future of Republican - the Republican Party needs look like.

MOORE: Well, they know they better do that or they`ll be the new wigs. You know parties have dissolved and disintegrated not a lot but in our history, there`s a couple of them that have come and gone and the Republican Party is really at a point now of imploding and it could go - the election and I`m not making any predictions but the elections in less than a year from now could be so overwhelmingly - overwhelmingly the American people coming to the polls and saying enough is enough and throwing so many Republicans out in a way that that you would only see in a country that has a parliamentary system.

Like there was a time in Canada--

VELSHI: Right.

MOORE: - a number of years ago where like a whole part of the country threw out every - it was the Tories or the liberals or conservatives or whatever but same thing happened in during the Tony Blair days.


MOORE: Where Scotland - there was one election where Scotland and Wales threw them all - threw all the Tories out so this could happen.

I think smart Republicans know this that they have may have crossed the line too far at this point. I think they have. I don`t think they get another chance. I think that we have to remove as many of them as we can and I think the seats that they think are safe are not as safe as they think.

People who are part of the largest party in America, the non-voters party, they`ve been watching this whole thing and I think just enough of them, if just two or three percent of them came out, it`s over 100 million people that are the non-voters.

VELSHI: Right.

MOORE: If they just came out, they will - they will put the wood to these guys like that - like they can`t even imagine it right now that this will be over for them and this will be - the map you showed of the senate.


MOORE: All of that is possible. You`ve - you`ve got the - the Senator--

VELSHI: Martha McSally in Arizona.

MOORE: Stop right there.


MOORE: All right, she lost. Last November, she is - those who already voted on her, they don`t want her and who is she running against, the husband of Gabby Giffords, the hero astronaut--

VELSHI: Mark Kelly.

MOORE: Mark Kelly so boom, right there. There`s no reason we should lose that.

VELSHI: Cory Gardner in Colorado. Susan Collins in Maine.

MOORE: Well, sorry, sorry, you had - what nobody will forget what you did regarding Kavanaugh - Justice Kavanaugh so you`re wrong, you`re wrong, we got two seats open in Georgia.

VELSHI: Right.

MOORE: Let`s just win one of them. You know, North Carolina as you said Colorado should already be - they know this math. I don`t - they don`t need to listen to me to tell them, that they`re goose is probably cooked and remember, when the Democrat is elected next November, we only need three of those seats to flip, just three of them.

VELSHI: You got a podcast, Rumble with Michael Moore on tonight, you got Robert De Niro, is it about the Irishmen?

MOORE: No, no, it`s about the Donald and Murdock and he lets loose in a way that is so refreshing as you can only imagine. There`s 68 minutes of Robert De Niro and me in conversation.

VELSHI: I can only imagine.

MOORE: So it`s my first week for my podcast. This is the first time I`ve done this.

VELSHI: Oh, is that right? This is the beginning?

MOORE: Yes, I`ve never done this, this is just the beginning. Right now--

VELSHI: Oh, I can imagine--

MOORE: --And you`ve got to come on.

VELSHI: I absolutely will.

MOORE: You`ve got to come on to this podcast and--

VELSHI: Thank you my friend. Good to see you as always.

MOORE: Talk economics with me.

VELSHI: We would love that. Michael Moore, I appreciate it. Good to see you my friend. Good luck on the podcast.

MOORE: Thank you.

VELSHI: We`ll be enjoying it. Coming up Speaker Nancy Pelosi, conducting a master class in political strategy as the year draws to a close. We`ll discuss that when we come back.

MOORE: She`s a genius.


VELSHI: I`m never afraid and I am rarely surprised. It`s not my words. That`s what Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Politico today when asked whether she was afraid to send Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the articles of impeachment against President Trump.

Republicans are desperate to portray Pelosi as afraid or erratic or in over. Her head because they are afraid of her after one stinging defeat after another in 2019. Remember, the year started with Pelosi taking the speaker`s gavel in the middle of a government shutdown.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This senseless shutdown is inflicting great pain in every part of our country. This is directly related to our security. The Trump shutdown is undermining that. We`re not paying people to keep us safe. Let`s pay the employees.

Maybe he thinks it`s OK not to pay people who do work. I don`t and my caucus doesn`t either.


VELSHI: Speaking Pelosi used her power to take away the President`s media attention. She refused him an invitation to Congress to deliver the State of the Union.


PELOSI: He can make it from the Oval Office.


VELSHI: After 35 days, President Trump surrendered to Pelosi and reopened the government without winning any of his central campaign promises. Trump ultimately got his State of the Union invitation.

In case it seems like so many moons ago and you don`t remember it, you will remember this. At that speech, Pelosi delivered the clap that was seen around the world.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good.


VELSHI: Trump did bare much better during closed door meetings with Pelosi.


PELOSI: Sometimes when we`re talking to him, he agrees and I said one time, who`s in charge here because you agree and then all the sudden something changes. What goes on there? Who`s in charge?


VELSHI: One of the most incredible standoffs between Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump happened in a meeting when Speaker Pelosi literally stood up to the President after his decision to pull out of northern Syria.

The moment was captured by a White House photographer. Here`s how Lawrence described this iconic photo on the day Donald Trump tweeted it to the world.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: It tells the story of the Trump presidency better than any other photograph. Nancy Pelosi immediately placed that photograph on her Twitter page and she will never replace it with a better photograph.

It is the perfect portrait of the child`s President. The Trump face is full of the confusion and fear of a 4-year old boy being rebuked by an adult in the room full of adults who know he shouldn`t be there.

50 years from now schoolchildren studying American history will come up on this photograph and they will instantly know who was in charge in that room. The adult standing and pointing at the pained face across the table.


VELSHI: And then there is Speaker Pelosi as the expert explainer of Donald Trump`s actions just this week. Here`s how Nancy Pelosi responded to Trump`s attacks on the late democratic congressman John Dingell.


PELOSI: What the President misunderstands is that cruelty is not wit. Just because he gets a laugh for saying the cruel things that he says doesn`t mean he`s funny. It`s not funny at all. It`s very sad.


VELSHI: When we come back, I`ll be rejoined by Neera Tanden and Zerlina Maxwell to discuss Nancy Pelosi`s impeachment strategy and how she stood up to President Trump, this year. That`s next.



PELOSI: The Russians were the beneficiaries of any withholding of assistance or encouragement to the Ukraine. Again Putin benefits. If Russians benefited, Putin did, when President placed some doubt about our commitment to NATO right from the start of his administration. All roads lead to Putin.


VELSHI: Joining us now Neera Tanden, former senior adviser to President Obama and Hillary Clinton. She worked in the White House during the Clinton impeachment and is now the CEO of the Center for American Progress.

Zerlina Maxwell is back with us. Thank you to both of you for being with us. Neera, we are - you know, a year ago, it was January of 2019 where we discussed the fact that Nancy Pelosi is going to be a big thorn in Donald Trump`s side and she has proved to be that the whole time.

Now as Donald Trump is waiting to be exonerated or found not guilty by the Senate, she`s not offering him that option.

NEERA TANDEN, CEO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes, I think throughout this year Speaker Pelosi has demonstrated that she basically had Trump`s number. He`s a as she has said, a weak and insecure man who is surrounded by a Republican Party that is essentially toady to him.

And she and she is equal if not better and so I think, she`s holding her cards very well. She held her caucus together incredibly well, very few defections on the impeachment vote, an important - important vote that will tarnish Donald Trump for the rest of his days.

VELSHI: Zerlina, the other day, the letter - that letter that Donald Trump sent to Nancy Pelosi, so much of it told you so much about Donald Trump but so much of it spoke to his relationship with Nancy Pelosi. It felt like he wrote it.

It was clear that the White House counsel was not involved in that letter. There was - there was an anger and resentment in it and weirdness but that`s to be given. What impact is Nancy Pelosi having on Donald Trump?

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC ANALYST: I think she triggers him a little bit, right? I think she triggers some of that insecurity that he feels which is why he performs his masculinity in such a specific way. He tries to be the strong man, the tough man, the bully and she reveals to all be a con and I think that really gets under his skin.

I also think that you know, women in this particular moment since the Women`s march have essentially stood up and said this particular man said you could grab a woman by the you know what, you can do whatever anything you want to a woman. It was really that line that got to me the most and that sort of has - I`ve channeled a certain amount of rage since then.

But I`m not the only one and I think that what Nancy Pelosi strength represents is a moment where women are standing up to the male bullies whether they be you know, on the street cat calling you, in your workplace or in the White House and I think that Nancy Pelosi is a good example to women of how to stand up for yourself and for your country.

VELSHI: Neera, what happens now because Nancy Pelosi doesn`t take chances. She knew she`d have the votes for the drafting of the articles of impeachment or the investigating - impeachment investigation and then the impeachment vote.

Now she is an interesting place because Mitch McConnell is going on TV and he`s telling everyone who will listen that I`m going to do what I did with judges. I`m going to do with Obama not getting his appointments through. I am going to hold firm. We`re not going to hold a trial. I`m not going to be - I`m not interested in witnesses and I`m not interested in testimony. Donald Trump is going to be exonerated by the Senate.

TANDEN: Yes, so I think this is the issue which is Mitch McConnell, he does this with every fight just to be clear. He did this on the ACA. He did this on taxes. He does it on judges. He declares finality and I think the importance of what Speaker Pelosi is doing is through this next few weeks, the number one concern the American people have is a fair trial and she is putting pressure and she is making clear to the country that Mitch McConnell who is, let me remind you, much less popular than leader Pelosi.

In fact essentially, the least popular politician in America, he is declaring an unfair trial and I think through her withholding the articles of impeachment, she`s basically made clear that she`s not accepting the finality of Mitch McConnell`s tactics.

She`s giving more room to negotiate the Senate Democrats. Now I mean, I think it`s really up to Americans to say that it`s vital that we have that fair process but she is given - she`s given that people who want a fair process more room to maneuver.

VELSHI: Zerlina, Tim Ryan, Rep. Tim Ryan who`s running for President, he wanted the speakership at one point. He challenged Nancy Pelosi. He led a bit of a revolt about her, against her. He was on with Ari Melber yesterday. Let`s listen to what he had to say.


REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): She has been so skillful over the last few weeks and months, she is the absolute top of her game. I think her skillfulness level is that quite frankly of Lyndon Johnson or Franklin Roosevelt in their prime. To watch this impeachment happen and her completely take away the idea that we were obsessed with the impeachment because we passed the trade deal, we passed an appropriations bill.

Both of those were bipartisan. Kudos to her because she`s done a phenomenal job.


VELSHI: That`s meaningful because Tim Ryan is part of a group of people who think Nancy Pelosi`s been around too long, needed to move on and that was a face - a challenge she faced as soon as she took her speakership.

MAXWELL: Yes, at the time it was funny because you know Tim Ryan, he had Seth Mouton sort of come out and say, we`re going to challenge Pelosi, we need a new generation of leadership and in some ways, that`s true but not in this case.

In this case, you needed somebody who is a tactician who knew about strategy, who can whip those votes and who was strategic in the long term. If you look back at how she started this process, she looked like she did not want to impeachment this President. She looked like she was the last person in America who wanted to impeachment him and she waited until they had 218 votes in her caucus and then she pulled the trigger.

That`s what she did and in hindsight, it looks like it was a perfectly you know, smooth strategy but at the time she got so much criticism so I`m glad Tim Ryan is at least able to admit that.

VELSHI: Zerlina, thank you Zerlina Maxwell and Neera Tanden, thank you to both of you. Tonight`s last word is from Rachel and Lawrence.


VELSHI: All right, if you gather with the family on Christmas Eve and you`re couple of spiked eggnogs into the night, we encourage you to keep the TV tuned to MSNBC. We`re going to have brand new shows for you all night long and during THE LAST WORD holiday special, you`re going to learn about Lawrence`s paper two minutes of every workday, the handoff from Rachel.


MADDOW: Now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Good evening Rachel.

O`DONNELL: Good evening Rachel.

O`DONNELL: Good evening Rachel. It`s been a real frenzy of a day of news. We`ve never seen anything like.

MADDOW: We`ve never seen anything like it. I`m already you with it.

O`DONNELL: You have like almost half the morning to yourself tomorrow, the way this is going.

MADDOW: Am I dead. Are those angels singing? There is a new TV show on the CW called Bat Women and I have a voice role.

O`DONNELL: What is your character`s name?

MADDOW: Vesper Fairchild.

O`DONNELL: Vesper Fairchild, that`s my new Starbucks name. Vesper Fairchild.

MADDOW: He is old. He has gout. He has been very unhappy in jail, not to mention lonely. Lawyers for the President`s campaign chair Paul Manafort have cited his health, his age, his conditions of confinement.

O`DONNELL: You threw me there. I thought I was being introduced when I heard you say, he`s old - and once you said he`s in jail, OK, it`s someone else.

MADDOW: I know nothing about your gout status and I don`t think you`re that old.


VELSHI: All right, you got to watch on Tuesday to see the rest. Christmas Eve at 10:00 PM Eastern, THE LAST WORD Holiday Special. That`s going to do it for tonight`s show. Thank you for watching. "The 11th Hour with Brian Williams" begins right now.