The FBI raided Donald Trump`s Florida home today on the 48th anniversary of the day that Republican President Richard Nixon announced that he was resigning the presidency. Donald Trump released a written statement saying "My beautiful home Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida is currently under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents." August 8th was already an important date in presidential history even before Donald Trump`s home was raided today on August 8th. On this night in presidential history August 8th, 1974 President Nixon announced that he is resigning as president of the United States.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And this is one of those days that we couldn`t see coming. Of course, I know you were working on a completely different show than what you presented tonight, except for senator Schumer who you had all along, which was great.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Yeah.
O`DONNELL: But this is such a different night. This is the night this state in history of course when President Richard Nixon was forced to resign the office of the presidency because of the evidence of crimes that had been at that point discovered by investigators.
And it`s such a different political world in which tonight the top Republican in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, threatens the attorney general of the United States.
MADDOW: Threatens the attorney general.
O`DONNELL: Because of this way, Kevin McCarthy says I`ve seen enough and the department of justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization. Attorney General Garland, preserve documents and clear your calendar, meaning how subpoenas will be coming his way. They will what? Try to impeach him?
Such is the difference between the Republican Party now and the Republican Party that did not rise to protect Richard Nixon, when evidence of crimes were revealed.
MADDOW: Yeah, it`s fascinating. A couple of things the way the politics and the Justice Department do or don`t mix here.
Number one -- if any Justice Department set of leaders was ever going to be prepared for the fact that whatever they did was going to be the subject of bad faith House Republican subpoenas, I`m sure that the Justice Department knew this was going to be coming and based on everything we know about Merrick Garland that they`re conducting themselves in a way that they prepared from this in the very beginning in terms of dotting other I`s and crossing other T`s.
I will also say, though, it was telling me, I don`t know if you saw the beginning of my interview with Senator Schumer. It`s great what`s going on, and I like to get your reaction about what`s going on and he said no. Let me get your reaction about Kevin McCarthy. No.
That tells you how serious this is. That a Senate majority leader, Senator Schumer, he`s a discipline guy in general but he would not weigh in on this whatsoever. It tells you what a big deal this is, that this is not a matter for punditry is far as he is he is concerned. You can await more before he says anything.
This is a -- this is a really delicate, important serious side difficult thing for our country and nobody knows how it`s going to play out but everybody needs to be on the best behavior.
O`DONNELL: I think Senator Schumer in the next 24 hours is going to hold to that original response but what he gave you but I don`t know anything about this investigation. It would be preliminary for meat to say anything about it. I don`t think he`s going to go the next 24 hours without saying something about what Kevin McCarthy said, which is a different thing.
When you raise the Kevin McCarthy question with the senator, I was a bit surprised that he continued to draw the line there, because you are presenting to him and absolutely outrageous statement by a politician in the House of Representatives.
His job includes responding to those things, not towards the Justice Department did. That was a different question.
MADDOW: I know but I tried and he wouldn`t do that either.
O`DONNELL: I watched it. I was -- I thought Senator Schumer could say something about that and I think this is going to move so fast now. I, for one feel that this investigation of Donald Trump by the Justice Department is moving faster than I thought it was.
I wouldn`t have guessed. If somebody said to me there was going to be a big investigative development with the Justice Department, Donald Trump on Monday. What do you think it`s going to be? I wouldn`t have come close to a raid. The FBI`s going to raid his home and spend most of the day there like they did not Rudy Giuliani`s place and Michael Cohen`s, you know? That`s not where I thought they were.
MADDOW: No. I mean, just think about all the other things that are going on with him right now. The reason that he may be in New York and may not have been a Florida or New Jersey when this happened that we believe he`s preparing to give his sworn deposition in New York attorney general`s investigation, which absolutely poses a threat of potentially becoming a criminal investigation or shutting down his family business on serious fraud charges.
Plus, the target letters are already going out to multiple people, more than a dozen people in the Fulton County, Georgia, criminal investigation, plus this doesn`t even touch the other two of the federal grand jury`s that we know are looking at January 6 adjacent potential crimes, for which the January 6 investigations keeps doing these public hearings and giving the public all this information, and creating all this public pressure including criminal liability around all that.
I mean, that has been the quietest of all the investigations surrounding Trump and it`s the one that resulted in an FBI raid in Mar-a-Lago today. I mean, all the other ones seemed more serious but this is this is quite a day.
O`DONNELL: Rachel, that recitation leaves me which of the Trump homes or offices will be raided next by whom? We are on raid watch now on the Trump properties.
MADDOW: Wow, it is amazing.
All right. Good luck, my friend. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.
Well, as we have been reporting tonight, the FBI raided Donald Trump`s Florida home today on the 48th anniversary, today`s the 48th anniversary of the day that Republican President Richard Nixon announced that he was resigning the presidency after investigations revealed evidence that President Nixon committed crimes.
In order to obtain a search warrant of Donald Trump`s home investigators had to convince a federal judge that they have probable cause that evidence of a crime could be found in the home of Donald Trump, and that the only way to obtain that evidence was through an unannounced raid.
At 6:52 p.m. this evening, Donald Trump released a written statement saying: My beautiful home Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided and occupied by large group of FBI agents.
After correctly saying, quote, nothing like this has ever happened to a president of the United States before, and quote, Donald Trump added, they even broke into my safe!
NBC News reports that the FBI notified the Secret Service the search warrant would be executed at the Trump location since it is one of the Trump homes protected at all times by the Secret Service. Secret Service facilitated access to the property will not take part in the investigation or search.
"New York Times" reports, quote, the search according to people familiar with the investigation appeared to be focused on material and Mr. Trump had brought with him to Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residents after he left the White House.
Joining us now, Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI assistant director of counterintelligence. He`s an MSNBC national security analyst. He`s been covering the story for hours now for us.
Also, with us, Andrew Weissmann, FBI general counsel and former chief of the criminal division in the Eastern District of New York. He is a professor of practice at NYU law school.
And Neal Katyal is joining us. He`s a former acting U.S. solicitor general and Justice Department official and now an MSNBC legal analyst.
And, Andrew Weissmann, as a former federal prosecutor, let me begin with you. I want to begin with the Kevin McCarthy statement. If you are in the Justice Department and in the attorney general`s inner circle, what would you be saying to the attorney general tonight after reading Kevin McCarthy statement which I will read now read and fall in which Kevin McCarthy says: I`ve seen enough. The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization. When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow facts and leave no stone unturned. Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar.
Andrew Weissmann, what would you say to the attorney general about that?
ANDREW WEISSMANN, FORMER CHIEF OF CRIMINAL DIVISION, EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: You keep your head down and keep doing the right thing. That is such a palpably false statement, the comment from Mr. McCarthy that he is seen enough. One of the things that none of us has seen is the warrant an application to the court.
And it`s very important to remember this was not a break-in. This wasn`t a raid. This wasn`t the attorney general of the United States deciding willy- nilly on his own that he was going to do the search. A court had to approve the search here based on as you point out, Lawrence, evidence. The evidence had to show that there was probable cause of a crime.
That is the way our judicial system works, and that is what happened here. I think the thing that I found the most remarkable today and I think it`s really worth people really taking a step back is that this does mean the attorney general of the United States did not trust the former president to simply produce the documents voluntarily pursuant to a subpoena. And it was necessary to go via search warrant.
Normally, you think that if you order a subpoena to any reputable person they will produce documents. When you issue and obtain a search warrant, it is because you do not trust that the person will actually produce the documents. That means if they had to have evidence of that, that led Merrick Garland to take this step. That it was bold but certainly approved by the courts.
O`DONNELL: Frank Figliuzzi, it was also approved by an FBI director, who was appointed by Donald Trump after Donald Trump fired James Comey as the FBI director, he appointed Christopher Wray as the director of the FBI. That was the director of the FBI in effect director presiding over this raid of Donald Trump`s home.
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Indeed. In fact, even in Mr. Trump`s written statement he lashes out at so-called far-left Democrats who are behind this. As you very astutely pointed out, that would not be the FBI director. And it would not be the career FBI agents who are working this case whatever it is. It would not be the career prosecutors at DOJ or at the United States attorney`s office who are working whatever this is.
So I don`t know who he`s lashing out at except to say that his base appears to be responding in kind. Because already, we are hearing calls about the FBI is out of control and they don`t know what they are doing, and as you just pointed out there will be accountability in the next administration regarding AG Garland.
But the reality as Andrew just pointed out it bears repeating. A federal magistrate judge had to look at this and say, you mean you think there are still documents there even since January when President Trump left office and the National Archives has been negotiating with him and I got like 15 boxes back? You think a crime is going on and it`s there at that location?
That is what we are talking about here. So, for those I hear saying this could`ve been talked out, this was negotiated, what`s the problem with just asking him for documents? The time for talking must be over for a magistrate or judge to say you`ve got to get in there and get that stuff back. There`s a crime occurring.
O`DONNELL: Frank, you are using the term a crime occurring. The search warrant could involve evidence of a crime that has occurred. But a crime occurring could be the current concealment of federal documents that should not be there every day that they are there that concealment is an ongoing crime.
Is that what you mean?
FIGLIUZZI: Yes, here`s why I explain to have this take on it. I don`t believe that this level of gravity that the DOJ, the FBI and a judge would say, okay, so you`re kind of done talking and you think you`ve got everything we just want to make sure? I don`t think that would be enough to go into the former president`s home. I think there`s got to be a degree of dissatisfaction to the level that there`s probable cause to believe that they don`t have all the documents, that there`s been a willful disregard of the law, and or they are just getting on answers to the point where maybe there are still documents.
I don`t think this is retroactive, and by the way, you`ve got two great legal experts on, but I don`t think that this is about what happened months ago and now we just want to kind of walk around Mar-a-Lago. I don`t think that`s what this is about.
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, we don`t have yet, have -- we`re monitoring the Republican reaction. We don`t have calls for impeachment of the federal judge, who allow this warrant to go forwards. But, that may just be tomorrow`s news.
Lindsey Graham is now issuing a written statement saying, among other things, no one is above the law, but the law must be above politics. Lindsey Graham, siding with Donald Trump, apparently, without specifically saying there must be a full investigation of the Justice Department. But, they are well on their way, the Republicans are, with threatening everyone they can, and by the, way including the federal judge. They do have the power to impeach, if they take over the House of Representatives. They are on the road to threatening everyone involved in this.
When are we going to learn, and how do we learn what`s the subject of the search warrant was, when will we learn more through documentation about what happened today?
NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: So, Lawrence, before we get to the Republican reaction. I think it`s important for our viewers to understand just how big this news is, because it`s never happened before, to my knowledge that the home of a former president has been criminally searched.
And in my mind, and I`m interested in Andrew`s view, I think it makes it likely that the former president is a target of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. As of sorts of legally as floating around, the subpoenas, probable cause, I think the best way to think about, it very practical terms.
Imagine it`s your house or my house, and the FBI shows up, and armed, and demands to come in. And they don`t take no for an answer, and they have a signed document by a federal judge, and they go so far as to break into your safe.
At that, point things are not going well for you. And it`s not because you are a bad person or something like that, they have convinced a federal judge, that there is probable cause to believe that crime has been committed, that there are documents in your house related to that crime, and that an ordinary request, like a subpoena or something like that isn`t enough, as Andrew was saying. They need to go in and grab the documents right then, the polite requests wasn`t good enough.
So, that was the way to view the context of these Republican remarks from Graham and Kevin McCarthy. It`s shocking to me, Kevin McCarthy saying Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear documents. Of course, Attorney General Garland is going to preserve his document. He doesn`t act like the Trump administration.
And, you know, the irony here, now, all of a sudden, McCarthy cares about document preservation? When the Trump administration pioneered all these different ways of doing it, from flushing it down the toilet, to bring in the White House fireplace. It great points for creativity at that point.
But, you know, all in all, the -- I don`t think I expect a statement from the Justice Department about this. The Justice Department acts largely through its formal actions, like indictment. There are few rare exceptions like the Ferguson case. But in general, that`s what it is.
So, you know, I think we have to be patient here, but if I were Donald Trump`s lawyer right now, thank God I`m not, I would be advising my client be telling my family, I am looking at jail time, and we should make plans accordingly.
O`DONNELL: Well, speaking of jail time, Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton`s national security adviser was convicted, and pled guilty in the end to what was, then for him, he pleaded to a misdemeanor charge of the unauthorized removal and retention of classified material from the Archives.
As I recall, he deliberately went in there in search are very few documents, one or two, that he felt were problematic for, him that he stopped inside his clothing and took out of the building. He got a fine of $50,000. He was sentenced to serve two years of probation, 100 hours of community service, and lost his law license in the process.
So, Andrew Weissmann, that`s the closest thing we have to any kind of precedent, near any of this. But when are we going to learn from the Justice Department, or from filings involving the search warrant, whether it was about. It`s one thing for the Justice Department to have this policy, which we all have about not commenting on investigation.
But how about the first time in history that a president or former president`s home has been subject to this kind of FBI search, including breaking into -- forced opening of the president`s, or former president`s safe? It seems that the Justice Department and the attorney have to at least consider saying something to the country about what happened today.
WEISSMANN: Look, I hear you but I do think there`s going to be an enormous amount of pressure within the Justice Department to adhere to Justice Department rules, and view those rules and adherence to them as their salvation, that if you`re trying to show that the Justice Department is apolitical, and they`re playing this by the book, that they are not going to speak about somebody who is under investigation. And that`s because the tradition in this country, that if you`re under investigation but have not been charged, that you are entitled to not have the Justice Department runner slandering you.
That`s why people reacted so vociferously to what Jim Comey did in July and October, when he spoke about his own personal views of Hillary Clinton. People, and I was one, of them thought it was outrageous and violated all the rules of the Justice Department, Neil, and Frank and I have lived by.
So, while we all have this desire to know what`s going on. There is a principled stake, and this is where you hope that Republicans understand that this is a question about the rule of law, that this is a proceeding that is done pursuant -- where people go to court, to get a court order, this is not somebody breaking into a safe or conducting a raid, it is conducting a search pursuant to a court authorized search warrant.
And the way that we could ultimately find out information about this is a number of ways. One, obviously, there could be charges. There`s no question in my mind that Donald Trump is clearly the target of this investigation, it`s not like they`re going to Mar-a-Lago because they`re interested in Rudy Giuliani or Sidney Powell or somebody else. This is clearly focusing on him.
And eventually, there could be charges, but there could also be a situation as we`ve seen with John Eastman, the lawyer who came up for this cockamamie scheme for the vice president to not count votes, where John Eastman filed a motion, challenging the search, and repeatedly trying to get his property back, and that gave the public and us the punditry a lot of information about what was going on.
So there could be litigation prior to the charge that we give us more of a sense of what exactly that department has and the y decided to proceed this way. And my final point would be, if the attorney general decided to proceed by a search warrant, not by subpoena, there has to be strong reason that he believed that there would be obstruction. That there would be -- those documents would not be produced, or they would disappear. This is not a state step that you take lightly.
I`ve been on the other side of this when we were deciding -- you know, smaller stakes, deciding whether to do a search with Paul Manafort, or did issue a subpoena. These are hard decisions, but the critical factor in making that decision as whether you can trust the person who received the subpoena to produce the documents. And clearly, there`s no question that Merrick Garland was given enough reason to think that wouldn`t happen.
O`DONNELL: I want to consider one other element of this decision, on the timing of this today, scheduling this for today.
And, Frank, that`s the question of, as this investigation is ripening, and as the attorney general is facing the decision point of letting the FBI go ahead and go into the former president`s home, the attorney general is going to know that the people like me are going to be out here saying what is this about, and when can the attorney general tell us but this is about?
Would you want to wait for this point in your investigation, so that you can have as short of a timeframe is possible between tonight`s event, and some possible charges down the road, so that this pending suspense here about what is this criminal investigation of Donald Trump, that that pending period can be as short as possible?
FIGLIUZZI: I see where you`re going with this, and it goes towards how soon we might expect charges of the going to be probable.
First, I want to caution people. The majority of people in these cases, in these kinds of cases, if we`re indeed correct that this is about a National Archives case. They don`t get charged, but the majority of people turn over their documents, the majority of people just turn over the documents. So this is not the majority of people.
But yes, I think there should`ve been at least some calculation, not overriding or driving the decision at all, but rather some discussion of are we really ready to go? Do you have it? Because you have to have it for the judge, for the search warrant, which means that if you find that there`s still documents, there and we`ve been lied to, for this and will finish their, we have to be prepared to charge.
I think that`s already gone through the mind of Attorney General Garland. Am I going to treasure`s case?
Shame on any prosecutor he says, I just want to do the search warrant, but I really don`t have any intention of charging it. No, I think that`s been thought through, so let`s see what they find. I think it may not be a long time.
But, if we think the attorney general is driven by pressure, public sentiment, the media, I think he`s established he`s not. And it will happen with when the facts dictate.
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, before we go to break, let me ask you for one more perspective on this. And that is the judge, the federal judge sitting, and considering this search warrant, when it is presented through this federal judge. What is going through the judge`s mind? Knowing that this judge is going to be a participant in history.
KATYAL: Yeah, I think the judge is going to try and do their job, and the job requires them to meet certain legal standards, and obviously because it`s a search of the former president`s home, the judge is going to take that as seriously as she has anything in our entire life. I don`t care who that judges. So, these standards are time honored, injury and frank of applied them time and again. And here, the judge concluded that a warrant had to be issued.
I guess I disagree just a little bit with frank on just how serious the crime is. I handled extremely classified information in two different administrations, and I can tell you, every single time -- almost every weekend get some briefing about just how seriously enough to take these documents. You can`t bring anything home, or anything like that, even remotely.
So if we`re talking about sensitive compartmental information, which certainly some of the reporting suggests that the evidence in Mar-a-Lago, the documents in Mar-a-Lago were, and you know, if that did happen, and he took sensitive, compartmented information, that is a really serious offense. So that`s point one.
And point two is, the raid that occurred today or the search warrant in the investigation may have produced documents not just about -- about classified information, but also about Trump`s role in January 6th. That`s a time-honored law enforcement tradition that, you`re going to someone`s home, pursuant to a search warrant, and if you are lawfully there, and you are lawfully executed a search warrant and you see other evidence in plain view, about other crimes, that`s fair game. You get to use that evidence.
So, if you`re Trump tonight, you`re not just worried about the classified, you`re worried about everything else in your home.
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, Andrew Weissmann, Frank Figliuzzi, thank you all very much for leading off our coverage on this very important night. You joined us on short notice tonight. We really appreciate it. Thank you all very much. Thank you.
And Mary Trump will join us next, to consider what it`s like for her uncle when he tries to fall asleep tonight after his home has been raided by what he called a large group of FBI agents.
O`DONNELL: -- quote, "They even broke into my safe (exclamation point)."
Joining us now is Mary Trump the niece of Donald Trump. She is the host of the podcast, "The Mary Trump Show" and author of "The Reckoning Our Nation`s Trauma and Finding a way to Heal".
Mary, the line about "They even broke into my safe" with the exclamation point. For me, that is the element in the Donald Trump statement tonight that says the most. He seems shocked by that. This is inconceivable to him.
Although this kind of thing couldn`t have happened without his lawyers having plenty of hints that this kind of thing was going to come if you continue to resist this investigation or not, cooperate in whatever way he was not cooperating.
MARY TRUMP, AUTHOR: Sure. And I agree Lawrence, that was the tell right there that even though of course, Donald was informed ahead of time. And first of all I just want to say if the FBI has a search warrant they`re not really breaking in. They`re just doing their job and getting the information they`re entitled to because it`s been withheld from them.
But this is just another example in a very long line of examples of Donald`s narcissism and sense of entitlement. He may have been told it was coming but he could not possibly believe it was coming because it never has.
So I think that`s where that panic is coming from and of course he`s also pivoting where he also always pivots, to undermining the legitimacy of any investigation into his potential wrongdoing.
O`DONNELL: How is your uncle going to sleep tonight?
TRUMP: Well, you know probably as well as he always does which is to say, not well, because, you know, there have been so many things dogging him the last many years.
He was in New York today because he needs to sit for a deposition in another case. So it`s all coming sort of fast and furious and has been for quite some time.
O`DONNELL: We also learned more today, this is something that we were going to discuss at great length tonight through Peter Baker and Susan Glasser`s reporting in their new book about Donald Trump`s relationship to the military while he was in the White House.
But there is this very telling moment about how he thought his relationship with the military should work. This is a passage about that.
"The president`s loud complaints to John Kelly one day was typical, `You f- ing generals, why can`t you be like the German generals?`
`Which generals,` Kelly asked.
`The German generals at World War II` Trump responded. `You do know that they tried to kill Hitler three times and almost pulled it off,` Kelly said.
But of course Trump did not know that. `No, no, no they were totally loyal to him,` the president replied."
And so Mary, there is the typical Donald Trump ignorance built into that having no idea that General Loebell (ph) himself was a participant himself in an attempt to assassinate Hitler, as were others. So there`s the ignorance. And then there`s this affection, admiration for the way Hitler did it.
TRUMP: Yes, well that`s something we have known about for a long time. And it just, I think, should remind us that first of all, Donald has always been contemptuous of service members but has also put on a pedestal generals and admirals and what have you.
So as soon as he felt that he was in charge of them, they existed solely to be of use to him. That`s what people are for, to be loyal to him and to do his bidding.
So that probably came as a bit of a shock, so between that and his ignorance of history you point to and his clear affection for the autocrat for the authoritarian, which again is not news, you know.
TRUMP: We`ve laid that at the feet of the Republican Party. They knew all of this about him as well, and instead of doing everything in their power to make sure that he did not receive the nomination in 2016, they went all in. So they are completely responsible for the fact that we are in the mess we are in now. And I don`t think we should let that slide.
O`DONNELL: But my sense of your uncle and his audacity levels is that, a man I don`t know, is that he makes a judgment, this kind of animalistic judgment about just how bold is the other person, and that he can out-bold the other person and bold that person into submission.
And here I`m thinking about Merrick Garland. And I suspect that Merrick Garland`s public aspect, his public demeanor, this kind of bookish man, legal scholar type, looks like a professor -- to Donald Trump this is a very boring, timid human being.
And Donald Trump makes the assessment, this guy is not bold enough to come after me. And so Donald Trump can be surprised today that Merrick Garland sent the FBI right into Donald Trump`s home.
TRUMP: Absolutely. I mean Merrick Garland is the epitome of the kind of man that Donald is contemptuous of, right. So it never occurred to him that Garland would have the intestinal fortitude to -- well not go after him -- to do his job quite honestly and hold Donald accountable.
So it also serves as a reminder that Donald Trump is a private citizen, and this may be the very first time in his life that he is not protected. He`s not protected by the office anymore. He`s is not protected by the banks anymore. He`s not protected by his father anymore.
So finally, at long last, he is in a position where he too can be served a -- sorry, not a subpoena -- a search warrant by the FBI, thanks to Merrick Garland.
O`DONNELL: You`ve watched him get away with things that have offended you your entire life, things just within family exchanges that had nothing to do with anything legal. Then you`ve also watched him through his businesses and through his political career. How do you feel tonight with this news that his home was raided by the FBI?
TRUMP: I don`t want to get ahead of anything, Lawrence. As you know and many of your guests have said, there is a lot we don`t know. But I feel that it is vindicating that finally Donald has been -- not held accountable so much -- but is treated like somebody who is not above the law.
That`s a long time coming and again, I think it`s a little too early for (INAUDIBLE) further. But at least know that the playing field is a little more level than it was before tonight.
O`DONNELL: Mary Trump, thank you very much as always for joining us especially on this historic night. We really appreciate it.
TRUMP: Thank you Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And we`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: August 8th was already an important date in presidential history even before Donald Trump`s home was raided today on August 8th. On this night in presidential history August 8th, 1974 this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body.
But as president, I must put the interests of America first. Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as president at that hour in this office.
WALTER CRONKITE, FORMER CBS NEWS ANCHOR: President Nixon announced tonight a little over an hour ago that he is resigning as president of the United States. Made a reference to -- directly to Watergate and that he may have made some mistakes in judgment but they were all in what he thought were the interests of the United States and its people. That was his only reference at all to possible culpability. He did appeal for conciliation in his 16-minute speech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And joining us now is NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss. His latest book is "Presidents of War". Also back with us is Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general and an MSNBC legal analyst.
And Michael, those of us who were around all remember where we were when we watched that moment on television. And just for the television record, the speech was at 9 p.m. That Walter Cronkite coverage was right now. That Walter Cronkite coverage was in this very hour on that August 8th night.
And I was sure today Michael, you are thinking that previous August 8th when we were watching this news unfold tonight?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: You and me both my friend. That`s for sure. And you know, this is the definition of karma tonight.
Two things. A month before Nixon resigned in the summer of 1974 on this night, Nixon and Bibi Rebozo his best friend got on a helicopter at Nixon`s house in Key Biscayne, Florida and they flew to guess what? Mar-a-Lago which had been offered to the federal government as a presidential estate. So Nixon wanted to walk around, see if he liked it or not. So a little bit spooky.
More important than that when Nixon resigned this evening 1974 as both of you know, he began making arrangements to ship all sorts of secret and possibly incriminating documents to San Clementi and was getting away with it.
Finally the new President Gerald Ford made a deal with Nixon that his famous tapes and papers would be put in a vault in southern California. The National Archives would have one key. Nixon would have the other. And after a couple of years if Nixon wanted to, he could use his key and destroy every single document that might be embarrassing or incriminating.
Congress went crazy about this -- shows you how different it was in those days -- passed something called the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which said that presidents cannot take out documents like that. If there`s a document saying where the nuclear codes are, he can`t take it, or where CIA agents are, he can`t give that to a friendly foreign government and make some money.
Donald Trump seems not to have read that. It`s a real law, probably that`s what those FBI agents were doing at Mar-a-Lago today.
O`DONNELL: And Michael, so Donald Trump may have Richard Nixon to thank for some of what happened today.
BESCHLOSS: Absolutely. But his point, the one point Donald Trump does make early in his written statement is -- his quote is, let me get it exactly. He says here, "Nothing like this has ever happened to a president of the United States before. It seems Donald Trump has one piece of history right there.
BESCHLOSS: Right. And the other half of the sentence that he leaves out is, no president has violated the law probably like this ever before in presidential history. Compared to Donald Trump and January 6th and all the lawbreaking, the evidence that we have of it over four years and beyond, Nixon actually looks like an angelic cherub which I thought was never going to be possible.
O`DONNELL: Neal, I want to get back to the point of the provocation if I can use that word. The provocation for the search warrant. You`re in the Justice Department, there`s a new president in office and you discover, there are some issues with the archives, there`s some issues with the document situation, maybe the president who left held on to too much.
The normal approach I assume would be some sort of expectant approach that expects cooperation and that would be kind of an old-fashioned gentlemanly approach of that point.
Take us down that road from the first approach to a president out of office to where you get to a search warrant with the attorney general saying we have to go in there against his will and seize what we have to seize.
NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, 100 percent. So first you have a high level group of prosecutors that are looking into all of the facts and circumstances. They have to determine first, Lawrence, do they believe a federal crime has been committed.
Then they have to determine what documents that Trump has might be relevant to that question of whether a federal crime has been committed.
And then third, they have to decide that it`s not enough and this is what Andrew Weissmann was talking about before, it`s not enough to have an ordinary request for these documents, a legal subpoena. You`ve got to say, well if we do that ordinary request, the documents are going to be turned that they were destroyed. He`s going to lie, he`s going to obfuscate, they`ll go down the toilet, they`ll go in the fireplace, you know. God knows where else Trump will put them, but all of these things will have happen.
That`s the substantive three questions ought to be answered. Then procedurally, you have to say darn it, we`re going to go to the attorney general of the United States to authorize this search for the first time in the history of the United States.
I better have every i dotted, every t crossed, you know, up and down 50 different ways and yet Lawrence, they did that.
KATYAL: And there`s one other thing I would be thinking about which is, do I want to authorize this search not knowing what is in the safe? Not knowing what`s at Mar-a-Lago? Because you don`t want to like authorize a search, have it on the cameras and then have the agents find nothing and turn up empty handed which leads me to think there might be someone on the inside at Mar-a-=Lago who`s working with the FBI who`s saying, hey check the safe or hey, check the fireplace or whatever.
And just to pick up on something Michael said before, this is such a historic day because you have two different branches of government here.
You have the executive branch through the attorney general, but you also have the judicial branch signing off on that warrant and saying with respect to all three of those substantive questions, a crime has been committed. These documents in Mar-a-Lago in Trump`s house are relevant to it and a search warrant and a raid is the way to get them because we can`t trust the subpoena.
That to me is a really, really big deal.
O`DONNELL: And Michael, I want to go back to the history here and to that empty space in Donald Trump`s mind where history is supposed to be because we saw a couple of demonstrations of it today in this news about Donald Trump`s belief in the fidelity of Hitler`s generals to Adolf Hitler during World War II.
John Kelly on the spot in the quote that I just read in the last segment, points out to Donald Trump, well you do know that the generals tried to assassinate Hitler three times? And of course, Donald Trump did not know that.
And every president since 1978, since these laws have been in place have known all the things that Donald Trump apparently didn`t know or that have led to today`s search warrant.
BESCHLOSS: Absolutely. A new president in case he doesn`t always told by his counsel even before he becomes president, the Presidential Records Act is a serious act, it`s enforceable. You can go to prison if you violate it. You can lose the potential to run for office again and serve which may happen to Donald Trump again. He may never be president again as a result of this.
But the thing is that it`s passed not only to preserve documents for historians, it`s to protect all of us Americans and our families. If Donald Trump is selling or sharing documents to tell about the nuclear codes, or how the White House is secured against potential assassins or what the FBI is doing about Mafia figures and he shares it with the wrong people, that means all of us are in danger.
Those aren`t his documents, those are our documents. He has no right to do that to us.
O`DONNELL: And Neal, it`s just in the last 24 hours that we have actually seen photographs that have been revealed of toilets where Donald Trump has ripped up his own notes with his handwriting and thrown them into toilets.
One toilet in Europe, another toilet here. He`s throwing them in toilets presumably because he knows he`s not supposed to be throwing the stuff away and ripping it up. And so he doesn`t want what he`s ripped up illegally to be found?
KATYAL: That`s exactly right. The Presidential Records Act that Michael is talking about is designed to safeguard exactly against that because these are not Donald Trump`s documents. these are the American people`s documents. They need to be preserved and what Trump is doing here -- flushing them down the toilet, burning them in the fireplace, all sorts of things like that are so inconsistent with what American democracy is all about.
The American people have a right to those documents. He is burning them. And you know, I don`t think he`s burning them just because, you know, he`s thinking I don`t like them or something like that. It`s because he has got something to hide. He`s got something to hide.
O`DONNELL: And Michael, Donald Trump said tonight, nothing like this has ever happened in history before. And I have a feeling we`ll be hearing that sentence from him again more than once this year with the investigation going on in Georgia and the other investigations.
BESCHLOSS: Yes. It`s like Lee Harvey Oswald saying well, 99 percent of the people in John Kennedy`s motorcade were left alone.
O`DONNELL: Michael Beschloss, thank you very much for joining us on this historic night. We could not do this -- complete this hour without your perspective. Neal Katyal thank you as always for your invaluable legal guidance to the story.
Thank you both very much for joining us.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back with our breaking news coverage of the FBI`s raid on Donald Trump`s home.
Stephanie Ruhle will be covering it in "THE 11TH HOUR" which starts now.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again. I`m Stephanie Ruhle.
The major breaking news tonight involving a shocking escalation in one of the several investigations surrounding former President Trump.