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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 2/12/2021

Guest: Richard Blumenthal, Adam Schiff, Elizabeth Drew, Gabby Richards�

Summary:

New details of a shouting match between Donald Trump and Senator Kevin McCarthy while the Capitol was under attack and Trump refused to call off his supporters. Closing arguments have been scheduled on Saturday as the questioning on Trump`s impeachment in the Senate has concluded. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) answers questions regarding the new evidence about the shouting match between Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump during the insurrection at the Capitol.

Transcript:

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Senate impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump continues tomorrow morning. They`re going to decide whether or not to call witnesses. Each side gets up to two hours then to deliver closing arguments, and then the vote on whether or not to convict.

I keep saying tomorrow is an early start. I absolutely mean it. MSNBC`s special coverage starts at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow. Thank you so much for being with us tonight. "The Last Word" with Lawrence O`Donnell starts right now. Lawrence, good evening.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, I just you will be anchoring that special coverage beginning at 5:00 a.m. or maybe -- they didn`t tell you?

MADDOW: What`s that? What`s that? I can`t hear -- I`m having --

O`DONNELL: Yes. Maybe not, maybe not.

MADDOW: No.

O`DONNELL: Might not have to.

MADDOW: No.

O`DONNELL: So, Rachel, we have Adam Schiff, Andrew Weissman this hour and Senator Blumenthal who got to ask one of those questions in that trial today. And so we`re going to have the full coverage here of what went on with some really great legal minds.

MADDOW: Get to it. Get to it. Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. We have new reporting tonight on what Donald Trump angrily said to Kevin McCarthy while the invasion of the capitol was going on, while it was actually happening.

But two days after the attack on the capitol, John Breshnahan, Anna Palmer, and Jake Sherman reported that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy got into a screaming match -- that`s what they called it -- a screaming match on the phone with Donald Trump while the capitol was being invaded.

"McCarthy demanded that Trump release a statement denouncing the mob. Initially Trump would not agree to do it. Trump, also under pressure from top aides to act, finally relented and said he would send a tweet. That wasn`t good enough for McCarthy who wanted more. Trump later issued a tepid statement that criticized the protesters while still insisting he won the election."

That video didn`t actually criticize the protesters. Now, that was reported. All of that was reported just two days after the invasion of the capitol. And today -- today, we have very important additional reporting quoting what Donald Trump actually said on that phone call.

"Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are. Trump said, according to lawmakers who were briefed on the call afterward by McCarthy. A furious McCarthy told the president the rioters were breaking into his office through the windows, and asked Trump, "Who the F do you think you are talking to?" according to a Republican lawmaker familiar with the call."

Some of the Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted to impeach Donald Trump have let it be known that Kevin McCarthy told them about his phone call in detail shortly after it happened. And one of them actually took notes about what Kevin McCarthy said.

Republican Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler explained her vote for impeachment in a town hall this week by quoting what Kevin McCarthy said in that phone call. She said that she voted for impeachment because of what Donald Trump did during the insurrection.

"You have to look at what he did during the insurrection to confirm where his mind was at, Herrera-Beutler told CNN. That line right there demonstrates to me that either he didn`t care, which is impeachable, because you cannot allow an attack on your soil, or he wanted it to happen and was okay with it, which makes me so angry. I`m trying really hard not to say the F word."

What Donald Trump did during the insurrection was the focus of the most important questions asked by the senators in the impeachment trial today, the most important question of the day was so good they asked it twice. And they had to ask it twice because Donald Trump`s lawyers had no answer.

The first time the question was asked by Republican senators. The second time the very same question, word for word, was asked by Democrats just to emphasize that the president`s lawyers had no answer for the most important question of the day.

And it is truly amazing that they had absolutely no answer for a question that we all knew was coming. It`s a question we`ve all been wondering about, asking about since January 6th, and it is exactly what lead House manager Jamie Raskin told the senators they should ask. In his closing statement yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): We would pose these preliminary questions to his lawyers, which I think are on everyone`s minds right now, in which we would have asked Mr. Trump himself if he had chosen to come and testify about his actions and inactions when we invited him last week.

One, why did President Trump not tell his supporters to stop the attack on the capitol as soon as he learned of it? Why did President Trump do nothing to stop the attack for at least two hours after the attack began?

As our constitutional commander-in-chief, why did he do nothing to send help to our overwhelmed and besieged law enforcement officers for at least two hours on January 16th after the attack began? On January 6th, why did President Trump not at any point that day condemn the violent insurrection and the insurrectionists?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, they knew it was coming. There it was yesterday. They knew it was coming today. Republican senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski sent this question to the desk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNKNOWN: Exactly when did President Trump learn of the breach of the capitol, and what specific actions did he take to bring the rioting to an end? And when did he take them? Please be as detailed as possible.

MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN, TRUMP LAWYER: The house managers have given us absolutely no evidence (inaudible) to that question.

(BEFIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was it. That was the answer. The senators were asking him what his client Donald Trump did, and he had no answer. And so Democratic senator Ed Markey sent exactly the same question word for word a few minutes later to the desk to highlight the absurdity of the Trump lawyer`s response.

If Republican Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski vote to convict Donald Trump, they will be voting guilty because of the answer to that question. The answer to that question could make this the most bipartisan guilty vote in a Senate impeachment trial of a president or former president in history. Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who has already voted guilty once before in the first senate trial of Donald Trump, sent this question to the desk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNKNOWN: When President Trump sent the disparaging tweet at 2:24 p.m. regarding Vice President Pence, was he aware that vice president had been removed from the Senate by the Secret Service for his safety?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Every serious Republican question today was about what Donald Trump did after the capitol was invaded. Republican Senator Bill Cassidy asked the same question Mitt Romney asked but with more precision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNKNOWN: Senator Tuberville reports that he spoke to President Trump at 2:15 p.m. He told the president that the vice president had just evacuated. I presume it was understood at this time that rioters had entered the capitol and threatened the safety of senators and the vice president. Even after hearing -- even after hearing of this at 2:24 p.m., President Trump tweeted that Mike Pence lacked courage.

He did not call for law enforcement back up until then. The tweet and lack of response suggests President Trump did not care that Vice President Pence was in danger or that law enforcement was overwhelmed. Does this show that President Trump was tolerant of the intimidation of Vice President Pence?

VAN DER VEEN: I have a problem with the facts in the question because I have no idea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I have no idea. That is what Donald Trump`s defense came down to today on the all-important question of, what was he doing during the invasion of the capitol. And his lawyer says, I have no idea. He also said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAN DER VEEN: At no point was the president informed the vice president was in any danger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The whole world was watching. The whole world knew that Mike Pence and everyone else who was in the capitol was in danger, and Donald Trump`s lawyers stood in the well of the Senate today and lied about that.

Donald Trump knew exactly where Mike Pence was in the capitol every minute that the building was under siege, and everyone in the Senate knows that Donald Trump`s lawyer lied to them about that today. Instead of facts, Donald Trump`s lawyer was armed only with hatred today.

In classic Trumpian style, he projected his own hatred on to Democrats, accusing every Democrat in the House of Representatives of acting on hatred instead of on their oaths of office when they voted to impeach Donald Trump. And so, it is in its way, a fitting final presence of Donald Trump in the United States Senate.

There will never be another piece of Trump legislation moving through the Senate. There will never be another Trump nominee being confirmed in the Senate. The senate`s final piece of Trump business will come down to the choice of guilty or not guilty. And most will choose guilty.

And so today, Donald Trump`s final claim on the attention of the United States Senate came down to an obscenely hateful man standing in the well of the Senate, lying in defense of a homicidally hateful man who`s incitement terrorized everyone working in the capitol, got one of his faithful supporters shot and killed by capitol police, injured 140 capitol police officers and got one capitol police officer beaten to death.

That`s the way it ends for Donald Trump in the United States Senate.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He`s a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and he served five terms as Connecticut`s attorney general.

Senator Blumenthal, you sent up a scholarly question on first amendment to the desk today, but when we were watching for the Republican side and who on the Republican side might be voting guilty, every one of the questions that came from one of those senators was about what Donald Trump did after the capitol was invaded because they believe that that tells you what he was thinking and what he wanted before the capitol was invaded.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Lawrence, thanks for having me, and I think you focused on the absolute crux of the moral and legal bankruptcy of this defense because as the House manager said, the facts about what Donald Trump knew and when he knew it are singularly within the control of Donald Trump and the defense.

If anybody knows what he was doing in the White House, in fact, there are all kinds of reports that he was so enthusiastic and delighted about this assault on the capital, it is Donald Trump and that defense counsel. But we do have some really hard evidence here, Lawrence, about the timing because that call to Senator Tuberville was at about 2:13, which is the time that Pence was taken out of the chamber, which Tuberville tells then President Trump.

And ten minutes later, Trump tweeted to further rile up the crowd and attack his vice president. And, you know, there are procedures here as you know because of your experience in government, the Secret Service tells the president of the United States when his vice president or any other major public official is in danger.

So, to say that he has no idea just defies credibility. And thanks for the compliment to my question. I thought of it as a little bit scholarly because it asked whether or not this claim of first amendment blanket immunity prohibited holding Donald Trump accountable, which it does not, and Raskin handled it very well.

But I think the crux is what happened in these hours when Trump failed to lift a finger to help anyone in the capitol and they were under mortal threat from the mob that he mobilized, incited and armed psychologically if not practically.

O`DONNELL: I have to say, senator, I was shocked when I heard the answer, the Trump lawyer answer to the Senators Collins and Murkowski question, which was the very simple question of exactly, what did Donald Trump do. When did he discover the capitol was invaded and what did he do?

And for them to have nothing was truly shocking because you know that some guilty votes were in that lawyer`s hands at that moment. He either had an answer for that or he didn`t.

BLUMENTHAL: It was shocking, but it was also deeply offensive. It was an insult to all of our intelligence. And smart people like Senators Collins and Murkowski, I`m sure, were offended by it. But it goes to a larger failing in this defense.

They are assuming that the fix is in. They are sure they have 17 senators who won`t part ways. And I think that the other really striking feature of this case is how close, how very close we came to even greater disaster, how much worse it could have been.

And you`ve described some of the injuries, really serious maiming injuries and the deaths of the heroic capitol police who perished. But, you know, there`s also the effect on our capitol and I thought of this point today as I was walking to the capitol. It`s ringed with huge fences and barbed wire.

The capitol of the greatest nation in the history of the world looks like some banana republic, ringed by troops and barbed wire. That`s what Donald Trump has left us. And it is the result of the domestic terrorism, the mob that he not only mobilized but he built by giving it this kind of grievance ammunition.

O`DONNELL: But senator, you couldn`t have that trial today in the Senate if the capitol was not ringed by troops now and barbed wire. That`s the environment Donald Trump has created. They`d be coming up the stairs for you again today if you didn`t have that out there.

And it seems as though that`s something that the Republican senators who won`t even listen to this evidence are completely ignoring, that the reason they are safe and their ability to ignore what`s going on in that trial is only because they`re being protected by the soldiers necessary to fend off Trump attackers.

BLUMENTHAL: Lawrence, that`s a really key point because, you know, I think it was Ari Melber or I don`t want to impute to him something he didn`t say, but a failed coup attempt without accountability is a dress rehearsal.

Donald Trump has left this legacy of domestic terrorism of license and legitimacy, which he gave them and then emboldened and fueled their fantasies and falsehoods. And it is alive and well, tragically, and very, very frighteningly in our land today.

And that`s the reason this trial is so important. Whatever the verdict, the airing of this evidence, the public record that`s created, the sense of how close we came to losing our democracy. His goal was to overthrow that election.

And the January 6th incitement was simply the last-ditch desperate attempt to do it, to overthrow the election so he could retain power. A demagogue who wanted to be a tyrant, and there are plenty of would-be tyrants out there who will take heart without sufficient accountability. That`s why this trial is so important.

O`DONNELL: Senator, I can confirm it was Ari Melber who said that earlier today because like you, I was watching MSNBC when he said it. Senator, thank you for watching MSNBC and thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you, Lawrence. Good to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, thank you. And when we come back after this break, former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissman who investigated Donald Trump in the Mueller investigation will join us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: -- he`s an NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst. Andrew, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And I want to begin with the breaking news of new evidence. And this is of course an extremely rare thing in your trial experience. This just about never happens when a trial is underway suddenly there`s new evidence.

But in the impeachment trials of Donald Trump, this is not an uncommon occurrence. And the new evidence tonight is this quote attributed to Donald Trump by Kevin McCarthy that`s being reported on tonight. Donald Trump saying to Kevin McCarthy on the phone during the invasion of the capitol as Trump is watching on TV, well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.

What do you do in tomorrow`s presentation, the final argument, if that`s what it is tomorrow, for Jamie Raskin? What do you do with that new evidence?

ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you use it. You know, there will be some issue about whether they will actually hear from witnesses. You know, they could, I`m sure, overnight try and work out some sort of agreement about whether that, in fact is, reliable, that information.

But I think what`s really good is to even have people focusing on that because let`s just get real. This is not a case about the facts or the law because, you know, these are -- this is a clear case of what happened.

And that new evidence, while it`s really good, really just underscores what everyone has been focusing on which is, what was the president`s response on January 6th? And it`s not that the lawyers didn`t have an answer. And it`s not just that he was in dereliction of duty on that day.

It`s that it tells you exactly what his intent was prior to that because the reason he didn`t lift a finger to help Pence was because he didn`t want to. What was happening in the congressional senate chamber was exactly what he wanted to happen, what he anticipated would happen. So, that`s why he`s not doing anything about it.

And I find it really interesting that, you know, everyone is sort of focusing on Pence. And logically, there`s no real reason for it to be Pence or than the hundreds of staffers, the employees who work in the Senate and the House, the actual members of Congress.

But, you know, pence is such a great symbol of the complete depravity of the president who couldn`t be loyal to his own vice president who was in danger, a man who gave, you know, all of himself to the president. And then when he is in danger, just being completely cast aside.

So, you can understand why that`s really taken on a symbolism that is very useful for the Democrats. And what they really need to do is transform that into a sort I am Spartacus moment where you will end up with more than the one Mitt Romney.

You`ll have, you know, some Republicans willing to stand up and say what happened here is wrong and I`m not going to count and then sit. So, it`ll be interesting to see whether they can really channel that anger about this to get that effect.

O`DONNELL: Well, the other compelling evidentiary point about Mike Pence and the focus on Mike Pence is he`s the only person in the capitol building who Donald Trump specifically tweeted about after he knew that the invaders were in the capitol and that they were in such a dangerous situation that Mike Pence was being rushed off the Senate floor and then being rushed from the vice president`s office to a more secure hidden location in the capitol for this kind of situation.

So, Donald Trump knows all that and the Secret Service is telling them all that in detail. And then he actually sends out a tweet telling his supporters how badly Mike Pence has failed them, and then they start chanting hang Mike Pence.

WEISSMANN: And the McCarthy evidence is really just a flip side of that because both of those go to the same fact, which is that Donald Trump -- what is he annoyed about? What is he angry about? That Pence is going to do his constitutional duty.

So, you have the president of the United States violating his oath of office to us, every citizen. And whether you have the McCarthy statements coming in, you clearly have the president`s own tweets coming in where he is just lying and fomenting even after the violence is occurring in Congress, perpetuating this lie where there is sort of imminent danger that he knows about.

So, this, to me, is really what, you know, they really need to try and transform and just give another analogy, you know, since I`m old enough. I mean, this is, you know, like McCarthy -- the other McCarthy demagogue hearings where you finally had, you know, Joseph Welch who stood up and said at long last, have you no decency.

And I do think that there are senators who will think this is so serious and so bad that it`s really important to be -- stand up and be counted for history.

O`DONNELL: Andrew Weismann, thank you very much for joining us again tonight.

WEISSMANN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thanks. And we`re going to take a quick break here. And when we come back, the lead impeachment manager in the first Senate trial of Donald Trump, Congressman Adam Schiff will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: We have breaking news at this hour. Congresswoman Jamie Herrera- Beutler, Republican congresswoman is now publicly confirming her conversation with Kevin McCarthy in which Kevin McCarthy told her what Donald Trump said to him while the Capitol was being invaded, on an angry phone call that Kevin McCarthy had with Donald Trump where Kevin McCarthy was trying to get Donald Trump to help stop the violence at the Capitol.

She has issued a written statement explaining that she has been telling her constituents this actually for several days now, that this is why she voted to impeach the president.

She reports that Kevin McCarthy told her that Donald Trump said to him while the attackers were in the Capitol and he was watching it on TV, "well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.

Congresswoman Herrera-Beutler goes on to say in her written statement, "Since I publicly announced my decision to vote for impeachment I have shared these details in countless conversations with constituents and colleagues and multiple times through the media and other public forums.

She`s been doing this back in her district, and so it hasn`t been coming to national media attention until tonight. I told it to the "Daily News of long view " on January 17th. I`ve shared it with local county executive board members as well as other constituents who asked me to explain my vote.

I shared it with thousands of residents on my telephone town hall on February 8th.

To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening or even to the former vice president, if you have something to add here, now would be the time.

Joining our discussion now is Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He`s chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. And he served as the lead impeachment manager in the first senate trial of Donald Trump.

And Congressman Schiff, I want to go straight to this statement by Congresswoman Herrera-Beutler. And she`s challenging people who heard Donald Trump`s side of that phone call at the White House -- and surely there were several who heard it.

She is in effect challenging Kevin McCarthy who was on that phone call to come out and either say what she`s saying isn`t true or confirm it. She is really clearly here now standing on the spot of saying, this is what Donald Trump said to Kevin McCarthy, and anyone who wants to challenge that better speak up right now.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, I give her a lot of credit for having the courage to speak up about that and also for her vote on the impeachment in the House of Representatives. But if she`s waiting for Kevin McCarthy to show any kind of courage, if this is of course the same Kevin McCarthy who made that pilgrimage to Mar-A-Lago, hat in hand to Donald Trump and yet again tying his party to that amoral president.

So, we`re not going to be able to count on Kevin McCarthy by any means to do the right thing. But there are other people who would have been witnesses to that conversation who can speak out.

And the thing that`s unique about this kind of a trial Lawrence is that the jurors are not sequestered away. They`re not precluded from hearing what people are saying publicly. They can consider that.

So, I would hope that others would come forward and would speak out. But given that they have waited as long as they have and probably those most in the know like Mark Meadows are less likely to be candid. I`m not sure how much optimism we should have on that account.

O`DONNELL: What do you do as an impeachment manager when new evidence like this comes out the night before you`ve got to go back into the Senate trial? What do you do with this tomorrow?

SCHIFF: Well, I think you can -- at a minimum, you can incorporate it into your closing arguments. And so you can refer to this. You can refer to these public reports, you know, counsel on both sides are free to do that.

I think it is another important point to bring out. And it`s so consistent with the evidence, the mountain of evidence they`ve already introduced.

And you know, at the end of the day the reason why Donald Trump`s counsel couldn`t answer so many of those questions, couldn`t answer why didn`t Donald Trump speak out when his own vice president was in danger.

The vice president who stood by his side day after day, humiliated himself, degraded himself by standing next to Trump, doing and saying everything Donald Trump wanted him to do and say until this very last day when he could not ignore the simple constitutional ceremonial duty that he had.

The reason why Trump`s lawyers couldn`t answer that question is because the truthful answer is he did nothing to protect Mike Pence because he didn`t care, because he doesn`t care. Don`t we know that about him after four years? There`s only one thing he cares about and that`s Donald Trump.

And in this case that meant all he cared about was overturning the election. And if people got hurt, then people got hurt. But all he cared about was himself.

O`DONNELL: Well, when you look at Rudy Giuliani making phone calls while this Capitol attack was going on because he saw that he has time now. This attack was giving him time to call senators to try to get them to take action to block the counting of the electoral votes.

What Donald Trump wanted that day was time. And every minute that the attack was going on was giving him more time. And so, I`m not so sure when we say he didn`t care what happened to Mike Pence. It`s entirely possible he wanted Mike Pence to be delayed as long as possible from returning to the senate chamber.

SCHIFF: Well, I think you`re absolutely right. When I say he didn`t care, he didn`t care whether Mike Pence got hurt. What he cared about was how does this affect me, Donald Trump. And if it means that well, the counting of the electoral votes is delayed and that gives Donald Trump more time to weigh in with senators like Tuberville or for Rudy Giuliani to make his calls, then so much for the better because that`s the whole point.

The reason he brought and assembled that mob on the mall that day wasn`t because he just liked the mall, wasn`t that he directed them to march to the Capitol because he just happened to like the Capitol. It was because the last act in the transfer of power was happening that day, and this was, you know, his opportunity after trying to cheat with local and state elections officials and all the lies he told, it came down to that final day.

And nothing was more important to him, not the lives of the people in the Capitol, not the life of his own vice president, not the life and lives of the Capitol police officers, nothing was more important for him than to stop -- not the steal -- but to stop the transfer of power.

O`DONNELL: It seems that there may be a significant majority vote this time for guilty. When you listen to the questions that were asked by the Republican senators who may be open to voting guilty, all of those questions were focused on the invasion, what happened after the invasion began, what did Donald Trump do.

And so this may be, this time around at least, a majority vote of guilty. What would that mean in the record of this trial?

SCHIFF: Well, Lawrence, I think you`re absolutely right. There are a couple things really important to the senators. One is the incitement of this attack itself. But the other was the president`s failure in his duty to defend the constitution which meant defending what was going on in the Capitol that day.

And if a majority of the senators were to vote to convict, even if it`s not enough to disqualify him -- and I hope and pray that they get the two- thirds that they need because that`s what`s really required to protect the country.

But nonetheless, that a majority of senators found that this president should be disqualified, is guilty of inciting insurrection -- it`s a pretty powerful statement. But I want more than a statement. I want conviction. I want protection of the country going forward because, you know, as we warned a year ago, if the Senate doesn`t fulfill its oath, doesn`t protect the country, we have to expect that if he runs again, he will seek to cheat and incite again.

Chairman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining us on this important night. We really appreciate it.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up Yamiche Alcindor and Elizabeth Drew will join us to consider the breaking news tonight about what Donald Trump said during the invasion of the Capitol.

That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: We have more on the breaking news at this hour from Republican Congresswoman Jamie Herrera-Beutler of the state of Washington who is revealing what Donald Trump said to Kevin McCarthy in an angry phone call during the invasion of the Capitol.

In a written statement tonight, Congresswoman Herrera-Beutler says, "When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6th and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that breached the Capitol.

McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That`s when, according to McCarthy, the president said, well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."

Joining our discussion now, Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for PBS News Hour and an MSNBC political analyst; and Elizabeth Drew, political journalist and author. She has covered Watergate -- did cover Watergate for "The New Yorker".

And Elizabeth Drew, let me start with you because you have covered as a journalist every impeachment proceeding against a president in the 20th and 21st century. You`re the only one in this forum tonight who has done that.

What do you make of this late-breaking evidence tonight because it`s one of those things that happens in these kinds of proceedings with this quote that suddenly appears of Donald Trump saying to Kevin McCarthy during the invasion, "Well Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are?"

ELIZABETH DREW, POLITICAL JOURNALIST: Well, this is one of those things that does happen, Lawrence, as you say because too many people know too many things, they have too many pieces of it and things just keep popping up which is why I don`t believe in or deal in predictions.

It`s an open-ended situation. And so, here we have this. But I think we have to keep our eye on the ball here because people say well, it could have been worse. More people could have been killed. Of course, that would have been awful.

But what we have is the fundamental nightmare where the president in power says I`m not going to yield the power. I don`t really -- (INAUDIBLE) -- and then he lost the election. He did. You know, he did.

And so I`m not going to yield power and furthermore I`m going to get a mob and from the executive and send them off to attack the big D legislative branch. This is -- I`m not going to yield power. These are daggers to the heart of our constitutional system.

And I find it extremely alarming three, It can distract us, I think.

O`DONNELL: And Yamiche we have reporting tonight that the Pence team is disputing the idea advanced by the Trump lawyers today that, of course, Donald Trump was always aware -- was always concerned about Mike Pence and good relationship with Mike Pence. They say that not only did Donald Trump not make any contact with Mike Pence during the invasion while his life was being threatened, but he didn`t call him, didn`t speak to him for five days after January 6th.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: What does all of this really tell us? It tells us that President Trump in his conversation with Kevin McCarthy and his conversation with Vice President Pence that he was solely focused on holding on to power.

The reason why he was impeached the first time and the reason he`s impeached this time. He was really thinking about only his own political future. And sources that I have talked to describe that phone call to me a few weeks ago saying that Kevin McCarthy was very, very angry at the President and hear all these quotes.

But what source told me was that Kevin McCarthy was pleading with the president to say you need to condemn this now. You need to call off this mob. You`re the only person who can do this. They`re wearing your symbols. They`re quoting the things that you told them to quote. They came from the rally that you told them to go to and to then march at the Capitol.

And by the way while all of this was happening President Trump was at the White House with me in a safe, secure location watching all of this play out on TV.

So, this tells us that the president really was not just kind of saying the things that he was saying for political reasons or trying to kind of be lofty about what he might be doing next. He was doing this because he was the first U.S. President in American history to not want to give away power when it was clear that he had been voted out of office.

And we can`t underscore that enough what Elizabeth is saying there and I will say one thing Lawrence, having been at the Senate Chamber and watching this trial in person today, it`s very clear that senators have already made up their minds.

You can see on the Republican side there was laughing going on when the President`s lawyers were showing tapes of Democrats kind of saying this is funny. And on the Democratic side, you see stone-faced senators who are saying this is the -- this is our very democracy at play here. We need to protect it. But you can just tell that on the Republican side the people have mainly just said, you know what, I`m not going to do this. I`m not going to make the political decision to try to get myself voted out of office by convicting President Trump.

O`DONNELL: Yamiche Alcindor and Elizabeth Drew, thank you both for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

Thank you.

And coming up, more than 550 congressional staffers now are publicly speaking out and signing a petition to senators to convict Donald Trump, find him guilty in his impeachment trial. This is an unprecedented maneuver by congressional staffers. We`ve never seen anything like it before.

Gabby Richards, one of those congressional staffers, will join us next.

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DE. STACEY PLASKETT (D-VI) The consequences of his conduct were devastating on every level. Police officers were left overwhelmed, unprotected. Congress had to be evacuated, our staff barricaded in this building, calling their families to say goodbye.

Some of us like Mr. Raskin had children here. And these people in this building some of whom were on the FBI`s watch list, took photos, stole laptops, destroyed precious statues, including one of John Lewis. This was devastating.

And the world watched us, and the world is still watching us to see what we will do this day.

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O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Gabby Richards, communications director for Representative Mary Gay Scanlon. She is speaking in her personal capacity. Gabby is the co-author of a letter calling on senators to convict Donald Trump. More than 500 congressional staff members have now signed on to this letter.

Gabby, thank you for joining us again. The first time you were here, it was about 300 -- the numbers are going up during the trial, apparently.

It`s so fascinating to me because staffers have never done anything like this at all, and to see more coming out during the trial insisting on the guilty verdict, were you surprised that you got that surge with the trial going on?

GABBY RICHARDS, CONGRESSIONAL STAFFER: Not at all. I think that this past week was incredibly moving and emotional and traumatizing again for staff, for members, for the country.

You know, everyone got a front row seat once again to the trauma and the vitriol and the violence that was incited on our workplace by the president.

And, you know, it was in the midst of Congresswoman Plaskett and Congressman Cicciline`s remarks yesterday that my colleague Dan and I who was on the show last time we decided to reopen the letter for signatures, and within a matter of five minutes, over a hundred staffers added their names, and that has now grown to over 200 additional names.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more of what Congressman Cicilline had to say.

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REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): There were lots of other people in the Capitol working on January 6 as well. Personal Aides to floor employees, cleaning staff, food service workers, we can`t forget all the people that were in harm`s way that day.

These people experienced trauma, some cowered hiding in places just feet away from where this rabid crowd had assembled. Many were just kids, 20- somethings, who came here to work because they believed in their country and they believed in working to make it better.

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O`DONNELL: We saw the video of the Pelosi staff trying to decide where they could possibly be safe within that office complex, which luckily, they found and were able to remain. But that same decision was being made all over the Capitol and in all of the Senate office buildings and the House office bldgs. Where can I hide. Where can I hide.

What was it like for people who not only had to find place to hide but didn`t know how long they would have to be there or when they could come out?

RICHARDS: Not knowing how long you were going to have to be never. Not knowing when you could come out. Not knowing if you were going to come out.

I was speaking with several colleagues this week and obviously in the weeks leading up to the trial. The one conversation this week in particular that has stuck with me is a colleague of mine who works in the senate whose mom shared with her that it wasn`t until watching the video this week that she said, you know, I never felt as though you were unsafe at work until today.

And I think that that kind of rings true across the board. And that is why, you know, this letter and why our experience needs to be taken seriously, it`s why the voices of staff needs to be taken seriously and into consideration as our senators tonight, quite literally, are deciding how they`re going to vote on whether or not to convict Donald Trump for his responsibility in inciting an attack on our Capitol because you either stand with the republic or against it. And that`s the decision that they have to make.

O`DONNELL: Gabby Richards, the members of congress could not -- the elected members of congress could not get through a single day`s work without their all these support staff in those buildings.

Thank you for lifting up these voices.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Gabby Richards gets tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.

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