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

Guests: Eric Swalwell, Jim Himes, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Matt Zapotosky


Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut and Democratic Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey are interviewed. Axios reports that there's a better than 50-50 chance that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would vote to convict President Trump in an impeachment trial. The House is expected to move forward with a vote on impeachment of Donald Trump accused of incitement of insurrection. The FBI warned of a violent "war" at the US Capitol in an internal report issued a day before last week's deadly siege, but it wasn't acted on urgently enough to prevent the domestic terrorist attack.



And, of course, the invasion of the capitol was also a super-spreader event including, apparently, in the safe room where they were holding members of the House of Representatives.

We're going to be joined tonight by 75-year-old Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman who now has COVID-19 because she was in that room with those Republican members who were refusing to wear masks, blatantly refusing to do it. She's been protecting herself very, very carefully. She's going to be joining us tonight during this hour.

Also Congressman Eric Swalwell joining us. He's now appointed a House manager in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

And I've been thinking about this tonight, Rachel, we saw so much expertise in the first impeachment investigation of Donald Trump. Jamie Raskin, Eric Swalwell, others, who were not named House managers. They saw that historical ship pass them by, that historical moment. They missed that moment on the Senate floor. And now they're going to be House managers in the second trial.


O'DONNELL: And take their place in history for that.

MADDOW: Yeah, it's not -- this is the sort of thing that was so rare in U.S. history. The idea that it would happen twice in a year, let alone, twice to the same president, is just absolutely astonishing.

But I got to say, I'm so glad that you got Congresswoman Watson Coleman on tonight. Obviously, you know, learning that people got -- appear to have gotten infected because of the actions of Republican members of Congress during the lockdown, is so heartbreaking but knowing her health challenges, both her age, but also her bout with cancer, it's just enraging.

I don't know if she ends up suing the people who infected her, but it's -- I'm really glad not you're that you're going to be talking to her tonight. I'm really glad she's going to join you.

O'DONNELL: Well, I'm glad she's healthy enough to talk to us this evening. First question will be, how are you? We'll see where she is with the symptoms, but it's wonderful she's able to talk to us tonight.

MADDOW: Exactly. Exactly. Very thankful for that. Well done.

All right. Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.

Well, what a difference a year makes. "The New York Times" is reporting that President-elect Joe Biden has had a cooperative telephone conversation with Mitch McConnell about scheduling the impeachment trial of Donald Trump in the United States Senate. That's one year after Donald Trump's first impeachment trial in the United States Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has just announced the nine house impeachment managers who will function as the prosecutors of Donald Trump in that trial. The lead prosecutor will be former constitutional law professor, Congressman Jamie Raskin. The other managers will be, Congressman Eric Swalwell who will lead off our discussion tonight, Congressman Ted Lieu, Congressman Joaquin Castro, Congressman David Cicilline, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, Congresswoman Diana DeGette, Congressman Joe Neguse, and Congresswoman Madeleine Dean.

Here is Congresswoman Dean earlier today with Nicolle Wallace.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST, "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE": I just want to put you on spot and ask you if you feel safe.

REP. MADELIENE DEAN (D-PA): No, I don't. No.

WALLACE: So how do we protect you?

DEAN: I was on the secure call last night, the briefing last night about security. And I want to really lift up -- we heard from the acting chief of the Capitol Police. We heard from the assistant acting chief. We heard from the acting sergeant at arms. I want to lift them up and their members who did their duty against all odds.

They were outmanned. And you have to know, inside, we did not see that. I didn't see television for hours. We didn't realize how outmanned they were. So I want to lift them up. But do I feel safe? No.


O'DONNELL: Madeleine Dean will now take her place in congressional history with the rarest distinction a member of Congress can have, as a House impeachment manager in the Senate trial of the president of the United States. The nine House managers announced tonight bring the total number of House managers of presidential impeachment trials in the Senate in our history to 36 -- 36 house managers in the history of the House.

We have had more speakers of the House than that. We've actually had 18 more speakers of the house than we will have had House managers. That's how rare an assignment this is for a House member. When Donald Trump next goes to trial in the United States senate, it will only be the fourth impeachment trial of a president in our history. And half of those impeachment trials will be of Donald Trump.

Half of America's history of presidential impeachment trials will belong to Donald Trump. In the future, whenever kids in school look up the word, "impeachment," for the first time, there will literally be a picture of Donald Trump forever. There is stunning reporting in "The New York Times" tonight that Donald Trump has lost Mitch McConnell as his protector in chief in his second impeachment trial.

"The New York Times" reports, "Senator Mitch McConnell has told associates he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party according to people familiar with his thinking. McConnell has made clear in private discussions that he believes now is the moment to move on the weakened lame duck whom he blames for Republicans losing the Senate."

"The Times" reports that President-elect Joe Biden called Mitch McConnell to discuss the possibility of setting up a dual-track Senate schedule that would allow the Senate to confirm Joe Biden's cabinet and hold a Senate impeachment trial on the same days. "The Times" reports, far from avoiding the topic of impeaching Mr. Trump, Mr. McConnell said it was a question for the Senate parliamentarian and promised Mr. Biden a quick answer.

Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden know the answer because both of them have participated in impeachment trials of judges in the Senate that were conducted for only a few hours a day so that the Senate's other work would not be interrupted by the impeachment trial, so, yes, it is possible to have a two-track schedule in the Senate with regular Senate business, for example, being conducted in the morning and then the Senate impeachment trial in the afternoon with the Senate then going back to regular business in the evening. We've seen them do that before. They can do it again.

"The Washington Post" reports that Senator McConnell has not returned Trump's calls in weeks and remains livid with him and he will not pressure his colleagues to oppose or support convicting the president. He's not going to whip the vote, said a close adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

One member of the House Republican leadership has announced she will vote to impeach Donald Trump. Wyoming's only member of the House of Representatives, Liz Cheney, issued a written statement today saying in part: This insurrection caused injury, death, and destruction in the most sacred space in our republic. Much more will become clear in coming days and weeks, but what we know now is enough. The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.

Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the president. The president could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not.

There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States, of his office and his oath to the Constitution. I will vote to impeach the president.

Three other Republican house members have now announced their vote for impeachment including Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan and Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois who issued a statement saying, there is no doubt in my mind that the president of the United States broke his oath of office and incited this insurrection. If these actions are not worthy of impeachment, then what is an impeachable offense? I will vote in favor of impeachment.

Leading off our discussion now is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He's a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. And Speaker Pelosi has just named him a House impeachment manager in the next Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

Congressman Swalwell, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

What have you learned from the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump that you will be bringing to the second?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Thank you, Lawrence.

And I'm honored the speaker has the confidence in me and the team, but watching Mr. Schiff and his leadership and the team there, it's that they warned us that everything Adam Schiff warned us that Donald Trump would be if he was not removed from office has happened and now to take that case and make it clear that he must be convicted and he must suffer the consequences of being removed if it can happen that quickly, and certainly never serve in office again.

O'DONNELL: The House is working tonight and it almost seemed like a procedural thing all the way through, which is this vote on asking the vice president to activate the 25th Amendment. Vice President Pence wrote a letter to the speaker hours ago basically taking the drama out of this vote by saying he is not going to do what this vote tonight will ask him to do, which is to use the 25th Amendment. He said he does not believe that this is the time for that. He said all the usual rhetoric about further dividing the nation, all that sort of thing.

This was predictable. We just didn't know what the words of that letter would be or whether there would be a letter.

But how important would you say today's proceedings in, first of all, asking the vice president to do this, before then voting on impeachment, how important has that been in the process that we're seeing this week?

SWALWELL: Lawrence, it demonstrates that there's an urgency here to get Donald Trump out of office to protect life. This Capitol is still under attack. We were attacked and there are plans to attack us again.

And as long as Donald Trump is summoning it, inspiring, radicalizing these terrorists, not only is life at risk but also the continuity of government and our fundamental democratic ideals. So if Vice President pence won't do it because he can do it faster than the House and the Senate, he leaves it to us, and if he won't protect this country, we have to.

O'DONNELL: There have been major arguments before the United States Supreme Court on huge issues affecting the nation that, where each side has been given 20 minutes. Some of those were relatively obscure cases at the time and then they proved to be important ruling cases of our lives. There have been other Supreme Court hearings on other issues where each side has been giving longer amounts of time, an hour sometimes, sometimes even longer than that. How much time do you think the Senate needs to devote to a trial on the issues that are described in the impeachment resolution that -- the impeachment articles that you will be voting on?

SWALWELL: So, Lawrence, you know, I'll defer to the senators, the jurors who will set the rules for this trial, but I will just say that the senators, I think just like the managers, want to make sure the Trump trial is fair and conducted in an impartial way, but they were also, themselves, victims. Just like on the House side, they ran for their lives as the terrorists the president radicalized invaded the Capitol.

And so they understand what the president said. They heard him. They understand the big lie that the president propagated that these attackers could overturn the election. And they understand that by doing this, the president endangered life and sought to really reduce democracy. And so, again, I'll leave it to them, but I think we have a strong case to make to the Senate.

O'DONNELL: Talk about Jamie Raskin who will be the lead prosecutor in the Senate trial and why the speaker chose him.

SWALWELL: He's our in-resident constitutional expert. We're so fortunate to have Professor Raskin. I always tell our colleagues who are lawyers, every year lawyers have to receive continuing legal education credits that we should all receive, continuing legal education credits, any time we're in the room and listen to Jamie Raskin. He understands the Constitution inside and out. He's able to work collaboratively with Republicans which is why I think we have a unity impeachment coming forward tomorrow night, and I look forward to working with him and the team to take this case to the Senate.

O'DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, soon to be prosecuting Donald Trump in the United States Senate -- thank you very much for making the time to join us tonight. We really appreciate it.

SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: The weakest mind in the modern history of congressional leadership belongs to Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives. That is the same Kevin McCarthy who said in a private discussion with Paul Ryan and other Republicans during the 2016 presidential campaign that he believed that Vladimir Putin was directly paying Donald Trump. Kevin McCarthy is one of those leaders who has no idea what he thinks until the people he's supposed to lead tell him what he thinks.

"The New York Times" reports, Kevin McCarthy, quote, has asked other Republicans whether he ought to call on Mr. Trump to resign in the aftermath of last week's riot at the Capitol, according to three Republican officials briefed on the conversations. In the days since the attack, Mr. McCarthy has veered from asking Republican colleagues if he should call on Mr. Trump to resign, to privately floating impeachment to his current posture opposed to impeachment but opened to a censure.

He even approached Representatives Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, about a censure vote, saying he could deliver a large number of Republican votes for a formal rebuke if Democrats backed off impeachment.

Republican Brian Fitzpatrick has drafted a resolution in the House, quote, censuring and condemning president Donald J. Trump for trying to unlawfully overturn the 2020 presidential election and violating his oath of office on January 6th, 2021.

Joining our discussion now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman Himes, one thing I'm struck by in the Republican-written resolution of censure of the president is that almost all the language in it is identical to the article of impeachment. It's -- they are saying that the same behavior, which they don't dispute, is only worthy of censure, not impeachment.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Yeah, and that's not surprising to me. I mean, it's important that people understand why they're doing this, right? Impeachment carries with it, first of all, a lot more examination of the president's behavior. If there is a trial in the Senate, and today for the first time, you know, with reportedly Mitch McConnell breaking with the president, that all of a sudden becomes a possibility.

If there is a trial in the Senate, of course, there is evidence and so we may find out who the president was talking to the day before the insurrection. We may find out who he was talking to during. And that is profoundly scary prospect for Republicans who just wish that Democrats, and you hear this, I'll tell you, it makes my head explode, who just wished that Democrats, having nearly been killed a week ago, would come together with unity and goodwill to forget what happened last Wednesday.

And remember, Lawrence, as well that an impeachment unlike a censure, if we follow through on it, we can impose the penalty of Donald Trump never being able to run for any office again. And that is an important, important thing.

O'DONNELL: We are watching a few votes develop today over the course of several hours. We're now up to I think four Republicans in the House saying they will vote for impeachment. Where do you -- do you have any sense of what that number's going to be when the roll call is actually called?

HIMES: I don't, Lawrence, because it's one of those moments in this building right now where things are changing fast, and as you know, there aren't a lot of moments like that. But when Liz Cheney, and Liz Cheney is not just the conference chair, the number-three Republican, Liz Cheney, of course, is the daughter of a former vice president. I mean, there aren't a whole lot of bigger names in the Republican Party.

When Liz Cheney comes out with a statement that is actually more blistering than a lot of Democrats, when Mitch McConnell lets it be known that he would, you know, that he's happy with impeachment, what you're seeing is you're seeing the ground open and you're seeing the traditional Republicans like -- like Mitch McConnell and Liz Cheney on one side and Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan and the cultists on the other. The interesting thing is Kevin McCarthy who you just talked about finds himself on the other side of that gulf.

So, you know, I think the next 24 hours are going to be fascinating because this is, you know, things are changing pretty fast here.

O'DONNELL: It turns out that it is possible to get a Senate trial going before January 19th. Mitch McConnell had said you can only do that with unanimous consent. Chuck Schumer has pointed to an obscure rule that they inserted in 2004 in the Senate saying that in an emergency situation, both the majority leader and the minority leader agreeing together is all you need to break any previous unanimous consent agreement and get the Senate back to work on an emergency. This fits those conditions. The question now is just will Mitch McConnell go along with that and what we're reading from "The New York Times" is even that is now a possibility.

HIMES: Yeah. Lawrence, we shouldn't get carried away. Even though it would appear that Mitch McConnell has for the first time in the four years of the Trump administration found some conscience with respect to Donald Trump, let's not forget that Mitch McConnell is at the end of the day about the retention of power or the retrieval of power for himself and the Republican Party. So as much as we may applaud his recently discovered conscience, remember, I think Mitch McConnell would love nothing more for the Biden administration, at a moment in time when the Biden administration needs to confirm hundreds of people through the United States Senate, in which Democrats are saying let's actually pass good governance, pass bills that will actually deliver aid to the American people, when the Democrats are saying we're going to finally address the coronavirus issue, Mitch McConnell would love nothing more than to have the Senate distracted in a way that would put that at risk.

So let's, you know, keep a somewhat jaundiced eye on the constructiveness of Mitch McConnell here.

O'DONNELL: That is the only way to look at Mitch McConnell. Congressman Jim Himes, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

HIMES: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Coming up, the invasion of the Capitol was also a super-spreader event. Three House Democrats have tested positive for the coronavirus after some Republicans refused to wear masks while they were all in the same safe room. One of those Democrats who now has COVID-19 is 75-year-old Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, and she joins us next.


O'DONNELL: You're 75 years old, you had cancer, you've been carefully isolating and social distancing to protect yourself from COVID-19, then you have to go into work for something very important and suddenly there's an emergency at work and you are rushed into a crowded room for safety with so many of your co-workers, the social distancing is impossible, and that lasts for several hours.

And some of your co-workers are not only not wearing masks, they refuse to wear masks when they are offered to them because they are the stupidest members of Congress in modern history.

Our next guest, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, wrote an op-ed for "The Washington Post" entitled, "I'm 75, I had cancer, I got COVID-19 because my GOP colleagues dismiss facts."

Congresswoman Watson Coleman writes: I am angry that after I spent months carefully isolating myself, a single chaotic day likely got me sick. I am angry that several of our nation's leaders were unwilling to deal with the small annoyance of a mask for a few hours. I am angry that the attack on the Capitol and my subsequent illness have the same cause.

My Republican colleagues' inability to accept facts.

In her op-ed piece, Congresswoman Watson Coleman did not name the Republican members of Congress who refused masks because she said in the article, their names don't matter.

They do to me. We're going to show you a video of Republican house members in that safe room refusing masks and laughing about it, and they are Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor, Congressman Markwayne Mullin, Congressman Andy Biggs, Congressman Scott Perry, Congressman Michael Cloud, and Congressman Doug Lamalfa.

Each of them is a rank imbecile and danger to themselves and others as they prove in this video.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Democrat from New Jersey. She's a member of the Homeland Security Committee.

Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. First of all, how are you feeling?

REP. BONNIE WATSON COLEMAN (D-NJ): Thank you, Lawrence. I thank you for having me. I feel pretty good. I feel like I have a cold. And so --


WATSON COLEMAN: -- you know -- I'm feeling quite blessed that that's all I'm feeling right now.

O'DONNELL: And do you have the House doctor monitoring your condition?

WATSON COLEMAN: Well, I'm in my home in New Jersey and I have spoken to the House doctor on more than one occasion. He checks in with me, yeah.

And then I have doctors that are in New Jersey here that are checking in on me as well.

O'DONNELL: Are you getting any treatment for this or just -- how you treating it, the situation?

WATSON COLEMAN: I had an infusion of monoclonal antibodies last night and then on December the 29th, I had my first vaccine shot, and I'm supposed to get another one in another week or so. So I had some immunity, something to fight with, and then I had the monoclonal antibodies infusion last night.

So, hopefully, as the doctor told me, the combination of both will help to minimize any serious symptoms of the virus.

O'DONNELL: Congresswoman, I'm very impressed with your restraint in your op-ed piece when you're describing the situation that you found yourself in that day with your colleagues refusing masks being offered to them in that room and laughing about it, while you were in that room.

Does it -- when you look back on it, do your feelings about this, are they softening or are they intensifying as time goes by?

WATSON COLEMAN: I'm very angry. I'm very angry because they displayed a disregard and a disrespect for anybody's safety. They have to know what the scientists have been saying. It's not anything that's new and novel, and the arrogance and the stupidity combined with their sort of undying loyalty to a president who has led us in this direction, just really sickens me to my stomach.

And the people that elected them need to hold them accountable when they go home. While they're in DC and while they're on the Capitol campus, then they need to be obeying the rules, or they need to pay serious consequences for not.

O'DONNELL: One of the things that the video of them reveals is that, they actually are as stupid as they present themselves to be publicly. I mean, I thought it was possible that they could publicly have a certain kind of bravado about masks, but in a dangerous situation they would wear masks. They were in a very dangerous situation at close quarters, and their private stupidity is perfectly consistent with their public stupidity.

WATSON COLEMAN: You know, absolutely. And there really isn't any logical explanation for the logic that we saw in what they were doing. But it is not new to us because they've been acting that way all along. And there's a certain amount of arrogance that goes along with their stupidity that makes it even sickening.

And Lisa Blunt Rochester is one of the nicest members, nicest people you'll ever want to encounter. And she was reaching out to them out of love and mutual respect, offering them masks. And they just kind of waved her off. But, you know, that kind of arrogance, thank god, Lawrence, is coming to an end. It's ending with this president leaving office, and it's ending with members of the Republican Caucus in the House recognizing that this president did impeachable offenses.

And let us hope that at least some of those members who've been so arrogant and defiant, to the Speaker, to the House, to their members, let's hope that they either have their come to Jesus, or that they are voted out of office.

O'DONNELL: You make the point in your article that the -- that their refusal to accept facts, plain and simple facts, defines everything about them including their vote against certifying the electoral college vote, which all of those people who refuse the masks in that room did.

WATSON COLEMAN: Yes. And, you know, after the dangerous experience we all had in the Capitol, after there was an absolute attempt to overthrow the governor government action of that day, after what was an attempted coup, they still insisted upon voting against these two states, in particular, the electoral votes. It made no sense. It wasn't going to change the outcome. They knew that, everyone knew that the votes had been counted and recounted, and audited, and certified, and stamped, and everything else that they needed to be.

And so, they have a hard lesson to learn. My mother used to say, you know, a hard head causes you to have a soft bottom. So, they're going to get their comeuppance, and they're going to have to follow the orders and the rules. And they're going to have to play by a different set of rules, or they're going to find themselves marginalized.

O'DONNELL: Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, thank you very much for joining us. And I know I speak for millions of people watching right now, to just to tell you how glad we are to see you at home and feeling as energetic as you apparently do at this hour tonight, and as strong as you do. Thank you very much for joining.

WATSON COLEMAN: Well, Lawrence, thank you. Let me just say that I've been there. There are so many people praying for me that I just feel like I'm covered. And so, I'm grateful and thank you for giving me this opportunity to share this evening.

O'DONNELL: So great to see you tonight, really appreciate it. Thank you very much.


O'DONNELL: Up next, by this time, tomorrow night, Donald Trump will probably have taken his place in history as the one and the only President of the United States to be impeached twice. Eugene Robinson and David Jolly will join our discussion, next.


O'DONNELL: We are monitoring the floor of the House of Representatives where they are about to vote on a resolution asking Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th amendment against Donald Trump and remove the powers of the presidency from Donald Trump. Mike Pence has sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying he will not do that. This vote will be called very soon in the House of Representatives.

We have breaking news at this hour from Axios. Axios is reporting that there's a better than 50/50 chance that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would vote to convict President Trump in an impeachment trial. Sources tell Axios, the McConnell news is changing by the hour on this impeachment story.

We're joined now by Eugene Robinson, Associate Editor and Pulitzer Prize winning Columnist for the Washington Post and former Republican Congressman David Jolly, who left the Republican Party in 2018. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

Eugene, it is moving fast. Axios reporting on these sorts of things has been reasonably reliable. This is Mike Allen reporting this for Axios. He is very good sources. I personally don't like that kind of -- that race track stuff with 50/50 odds.


O'DONNELL: That's not the kind of description that makes sense to me in the Senate. It could mean anything. But we've already seen McConnell definitely make the choice of letting it be known, knowing it would seep out to the New York Times that he is glad this impeachment is happening.

ROBINSON: Yes, I think that's what McConnell is doing today. He is letting it known and letting it be known that he is done with Donald Trump. And he is appalled at what happened last week and how the President incited it.

And I don't know if he would actually vote for impeachment, but the fact that he has put this out there, and it doesn't get out from a gun unless he wants it out.

In conjunction with Liz Cheney's statement about how she's going to vote for impeachment, and I would wager a lot of money that there was communication between the two, certainly between the two camps, and between the principles, is a signal. And it's giving cover to Republicans to vote for impeachment and to vote to convict, if they wish to do so.

But I'm not going to, you know, make bold predictions about the fever, the Trump fever haven't been broken yet in the Republican Party. You know, I believe that when I see it actually happen. It's -- for one thing, I think, frankly, there are a lot of these Republican House members and some senators who are physically afraid of what will happen to them, at the hands of their constituents if they vote for impeachment or if they vote to convict. I mean, that's what Donald Trump has done to the Republican Party.

And they let it happen, they benefited from it. And now they're at its mercy.

O'DONNELL: David Jolly, your reaction to what we're learning tonight in the reporting of, by the New York Times, especially about Mitch McConnell.


O'DONNELL: Having a basically a cooperative telephone call with Joe Biden about the procedures for an impeachment trial in the Senate, as well as the additional reporting that McConnell himself might, might Axios is saying, vote to convict Donald Trump in a Senate trial.

JOLLY: Yes. Lawrence, I think it's important to contextualize what we're seeing among Republicans right now, and I mean that on a couple layers. First, to contextualize it around the fact that had Donald Trump not incited an insurrection against the United States, against the Capitol against the Senate and the House members. He still would have full control over the party. So, the notion that this is the breaking point is significant, because these are people that, for four years, have allowed Donald Trump to get to this moment.

And then secondly, I think the verdict is still out. We don't know if this is a real crack within the Republican Party, because the people we are seeing come out, McConnell included, are not really surprising to be the first ones out, right? Katko, Kinzinger, McConnell, Cheney, those aren't the real surprises. That's not the bedrock Trump base. And so, it may be that the fissure stops there and the real Trump Republican Party holds this week.

But on McConnell, we can't take away the power of a leadership shift, a real leadership shift. If McConnell were to shift, it gives permission to every other Republican senator to consider that vote again. And assuming all Democrats vote to convict, perhaps stop matching, but you only need 16 or 17 Republicans then. And all of a sudden, this is a conviction that might actually be in play.

O'DONNELL: Yes. Eugene, depending on when they have this vote, that it'd be 99 senators, because David Perdue is no longer senator.


O'DONNELL: Or a hundred if they get the Democrats sworn in from Georgia, depending if that would be after the Biden inauguration. And so, the thing that makes the most sense to me in the McConnell reporting is that, reporting in the New York Times where McConnell sees this as the moment to get rid of Trump. Because after all, trying to run an actual political party with Trump involved in it is impossible, and to get the Trump madness out of the party would restore it to a form that Mitch McConnell would recognize.

If this isn't the moment to get rid of him, there will never be another moment.

ROBINSON: Right. And look, it would be enormously if it just Mitch McConnell and to many ambitious Republican 2024 presidential hopefuls, like Hawley and Cruz and many others in the Senate, to get rid of Donald Trump, to get rid of his influence. But, you know, let's see if they actually do it.

Let's see if they repudiate the big law, first of all, that there were irregularities, there was massive voter fraud in this election. Let's hear all of them repudiate that. And then, I'll believe that they're on the path.

O'DONNELL: Eugene Robinson, David Jolly, thank you very much for joining our discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, we have important new reporting from the Washington Post about exactly what the FBI knew and when did they know it before the attack on the Capitol. The reporter with that exclusive report for the Washington Post showing that the FBI had a report the day before the attack indicating that there would be a war, will join us next.


O'DONNELL: Our next guest is reporting in the Washington Post that the day before the attack on the Capitol, an FBI office in Virginia issued a warning about plans for a war at the Capitol, a war.

Prior to this reporting in the Washington Post, the FBI claimed that it had no indication at all that a violent riot was planned. Washington Post reviewed an internal FBI document that warned "an online threat discuss specific calls for violence to include stating, be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in. Get violent, stop calling this a march or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our president or we die. Nothing else will achieve this goal."

With only eight days left to strengthen security at the Capitol for the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Congressman Conor Lamb revealed some of the threats that Capitol security planners now have to anticipate.


REP. CONOR LAMB (D), PENNSYLVANIA: And they're talking about 4,000 armed patriots to surround the Capitol and prevent any democrat from going in. And they have published rules of engagement, meaning when you shoot and when you don't. So, this is an organized group that has a plan. They are committed to doing what they're doing, because I think in their minds, you know, they are patriots and they're talking about 1776. And so, this is now a contest of wills.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Matt Zapotosky, a National Security Reporter at the Washington Post. Matt, your reporting found this FBI memo written in a field office in Virginia day before the attack on the Capitol, identifying planning for what they called war. Did that memo get to Washington?

MATT ZAPOTOSKY, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It did. That memo was briefed to the Washington Field Office, which is responsible for FBI business here in the city of Washington, DC. The FBI said at a briefing today, information was also shared with the local joint terrorism task force. It should have filtered through some other law enforcement. The FBI announced today it's true.

What they did about it, though, aside from talking to each other about it remains very unclear. Clearly, Capitol Police did not even ready for the threat that they faced on Wednesday despite the FBI having this information and briefing it out in some respects. It definitely made it at Washington.

O'DONNELL: In everything that I've been reading about the security experts approach to this at the FBI and elsewhere is, there's a certain amount of sense that the people involved in these kinds of chats are wildly exaggerate their intentions. They're just trying to say the most dramatic thing they can say. And they usually end up doing nothing, and that there was a certain kind of weariness that might have set in, in the way they analyze this stuff.

ZAPOTOSKY: I think that's a great observation and an accurate one. You know, some of the FBI officials who talked to us in describing this thing that, well, you know, there's a lot of chatter online and how do you separate what's real from what's just someone boosting. This warning itself sort of oddly mentioned free speech concerns, and we don't want to do anything to encroach on free speech, even though the threats as you just put up on the screen clearly sort of crossed the line into being threats.

But that's a challenge the FBI has, how do they separate fake from real when it comes to online chatter, and then what do they do about it. I mean, there's clearly a lesson to be learned here that maybe they need to take it a little more seriously. And there's some internal soul searching in the FBI about do they take the online chatter of Trump supporters and domestic, you know, white supremacist extremists less seriously than they take other online chatter. Those are questions that I think they're wrestling with that.

O'DONNELL: Is it your sense that this is a 9/11 event for this kind of security concern that -- there were a lot of things on 9/10 that were taken less seriously than they were taken on the afternoon of 9/11. Is that what we have here?

ZAPOTOSKY: Well, I hate to make that comparison. I know many people have made that comparison. I think what I would say is, look, this is an important data point. And what it does, most 1significantly, in my mind is raised questions about why the FBI on Friday said we had no indication that something like this would happen. At the time that seemed a little specious on its face because there was so much online chatter that reporters point to, but now we see that the FBI also saw that online chatter recognized it wrote an internal bulletin about it, but then apparently wasn't sufficiently prepared for that.

O'DONNELL: Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post, thank you very much for your reporting. Thank you for joining us tonight.

ZAPOTOSKY: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: The voting is continuing at this hour in the House of Representatives. We're watching that. We'll be right back.


O'DONNELL: Here's some of what Congressman Jamie Raskin had to say on the House floor tonight. He will be the lead prosecutor for the House managers in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D), MARYLAND: This president is not meeting the most minimal duties of office. He is not meeting the oath that he swore to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. He is not protecting and defending the democracy itself, the process of electing the president. He's not respecting the peaceful transfer of power. He is not taking care that the laws are faithfully executed. He is not protecting the republic against mob insurrection.


O'DONNELL: Congressman Raskin's duty as the lead prosecutor in a presidential impeachment trial come in the worst month of his life. On New Year's Eve, his 25-year-old son, Tommy Raskin, died. Tommy Raskin, like his father Jamie, was a graduate of the Harvard Law School. He had a full future in front of him that is now gone.

Joe Biden has talked about finding purpose to get through times like this. Jamie Raskin's purpose is now protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States.

That's tonight's LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.


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