The U.S. House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump for a second time and charged him with "incitement of insurrection". Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey and Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado are interviewed.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us thus hour.
So he fought in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh, reportedly his horse was shot out from under him and he, himself, was wounded but kept fighting, stayed in the war. He was reported to have personally taken at least one confederate soldier prisoner by hauling him bodily off the battlefield by his collar.
After the civil war, President Ulysses S. Grant named him to be America of secretary of war and then stuff started to go wrong. On the relatively meager salary that came with that cabinet position, William Worth Belknap, a Civil War hero, distinguished soldier, secretary of war, started throwing really, really lavish parties in Washington. And that was true with his first wife. It was also true with his second life.
He was just very obviously living this ostentatious high society life of conspicuous consumption in Washington that nobody knew he should be able to afford. Nobody knew where the money was coming from until they figured it out because it turned out where he was getting all the money from is he was taking bribes. He was taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes as secretary of war. People who wanted jobs related to the U.S. military of the 1870s, apparently one of the ways you can get one of those jobs was to grease the palm of War Secretary William Belknap and he got caught for it.
And as a cabinet secretary, he was subject to impeachment by the Congress and he got impeached for being that corrupt. They brought five articles of impeachment against him for him prostituting his office for personal profit and the vote looked like it was going to be a unanimous impeachment vote in the House on those five counts. But upon figuring out that it was going to be a unanimous impeachment vote against him, War Secretary William Belknap raced bodily to the White House. He reportedly burst into tears upon his arrival and then quickly submitted his resignation to President Ulysses S. Grant.
He appears to have thought at the time that if he just resigned quickly enough, if he just resigned before the impeachment vote was taken, then the House couldn't actually impeach him. That's what he thought.
He was wrong. Just two hours after he started crying at the White House and turned in his resignation to President Grant, the House went ahead and voted to impeach the war secretary, anyway. There were five counts. He was a unanimous vote. He was impeached even though he was already out of office by then because Grant had accepted his resignation.
Now, after he was impeached in the House, the impeachment articles against this now-former official went over to the Senate for them to put him on trial. And interestingly, the Senate, they did put him on trial but they didn't vote to convict him. A majority of the senators at the time voted to convict him, but you need a full two-thirds vote of the Senate and two-thirds of the vote they could not get.
So, William Belknap was impeached in the House. He was not convicted in the Senate. But his experience proved and provided the precedent that, yes, impeachment is a remedy to be applied by the Congress for a federal officeholder and its availability as a remedy does not evaporate once that person leaves office.
Now, as I mentioned, this disgraced war secretary was named William Belknap.
Do you know of Lauren Underwood? You may remember her if you're a longtime watcher of this show. She's a newish super charismatic congresswoman from a swing district in Illinois.
She's a nurse. She is -- incredibly winning manner did great shoe-leather door-knocking campaign to win that seat. She unseated a Republican incumbent to win her district a couple years ago, real rising star in Democratic Party politics.
We have had Lauren Underwood on the show a couple of times. As I say, she's super impressive.
One of Congresswoman Underwood's staffers is a woman named Andra Belknap. She is many generations descendant from the William Belknap who gives us the historic impeachment precedent from his corrupt time as secretary of war. Today, she wrote in "USA Today" about learning in elementary school about her ancestor and his shame.
And she had this to say about his legacy. She said, quote: His Civil War heroism has been largely forgotten by history, even forgotten by his own family. She'd know. Instead, his impeachment is what remains in the history books. William Belknap never served in public office again.
That's what impeachment does. And now, today, we know that times two will be the legacy of President Donald Trump as well. I mean, no matter what else he does, these front pages tonight on the country's news websites, look at that, "impeached again," "historic disgrace." "Trump brand toxic."
These front pages tonight on news websites and what we'll see from the print front pages in tomorrow morning's papers, he is the first-ever U.S. president to be impeached twice for high crimes and misdemeanors committed while in office and it's worth remembering at this moment that had the Republican Senate voted to convict him after he was impeached the first time around, he never would have had a chance to commit more high crimes and misdemeanors in office because if they had convicted him at his first impeachment, that would have removed him from office.
But alas, they did not convict him and remove him from office so he lived to crime again and now this is the history that he has made because they held the gate open for him to do it.
Tonight's vote to impeach President Donald Trump was the largest vote ever for a presidential impeachment. There were 232 votes for his impeachment, 197 votes against. No article of impeachment against a president has ever had that many votes for it before. And there have never been anywhere near ten members of the president's own party who have voted with the opposition party to impeach a president. Like there were ten Republicans who voted yes today. So, you know, mazel tov, records falling everywhere.
Now, having been impeached, the president will face trial, again, in the Senate. After flirting last night with the possibility of actually moving meaningfully against the president, the Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell now says he will not reconvene the Senate until next week. So that means no Senate trial of President Trump will start until next week. What's next week? The inauguration of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.
So, the Senate trial will start, essentially, around the same time that Biden is starting his presidency. Can a president face an impeachment trial in the Senate even after he's left office?
Ask William Belknap, right? He thought his tearful resignation, him leaving office just ahead of the impeachment vote, would be enough to stop the impeachment proceedings against him. It was not. He set the precedent and we know that that can proceed.
There will be a fight about it, certainly. President will probably bring a lawsuit about it. He likes to bring lawsuits. It seems the historic precedent is clear.
And his own behavior tells you a little bit of something about where his head is at right now. The president now having been impeached twice appears to be a little rattled, appears to be trying to save his own skin from whatever other consequences might derive from his actions in the past week. The president with his actions tonight, he may be trying to persuade the Senate to somehow try to not go ahead with putting him on trial. He may be trying to persuade Republican senators to not vote with Democratic senators to convict him in that trial.
I mean, it was reported last night that as many as 20 Republican senators would be open to the possibility of voting to convict him. If so, that's enough to convict him.
I mean, it may also be that regardless of impeachment, president Trump is concerned about potential criminal liability for the same crime that's cited in the article of impeachment against him today, incitement to insurrection. That's a serious federal crime, in addition to being the thing for which he was impeached for.
Reporter Maggie Haberman at "The New York Times" reporting that President Trump has been told by advisers repeatedly that he has potential legal exposure over the violence by his supporters last week, which followed a speech in which he repeatedly called on them to fight for him.
We're seeing dozens and dozens, we're told there will be hundreds and hundreds of arrests and indictments of people for the violence in the capitol. What about the president inciting them to do it?
Whatever it is that the president is trying to head off, he's clearly now sort of paddling as fast as he can tonight. Reading a prepared script off a teleprompter in a new video posted by the White House, in which he says, I want to be very clear, I unequivocally condemn the violence in Washington last week.
He's trying as hard as he can to seem very clear about that now in retrospect because it's very much in his interest for everybody to forget what he actually said that day to set the crowd off and point them at the Capitol to go do what they did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They rigged an election. They rigged it like they've never rigged an election before. That's what they've done and what they're doing.
We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn't happen. You don't concede when there's theft involved.
Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore. It's a disgrace. It's a disgrace.
Even when you look at last night, they're all running around like chickens with their heads cut off with boxes and -- nobody knows what the hell is going on. There's never been anything like this.
We will not let them silence your voices. We're not going to let it happen. Not going to let it happen.
(CROWD CHANTING "FIGHT FOR TRUMP")
We're stuck with a president who lost the election by a lot and we have to live with that for four more years. We're just not going to let that happen. We want to go back and we want to get this right because we're going to have somebody in there that should not be in there and our country will be destroyed, and we're not going to stand for that and we're going to have to fight much harder. And Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us.
Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy and after this, we're going to walk down -- and I'll be there with you -- we're going to walk down -- we're going to walk down any one you want, but I think right here, we're going to walk down to the Capitol.
You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.
We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building, right over there, right there. We see the event going to take place. And I'm going to be watching because history is going to be made.
We will not be intimidated into accepting the hoaxes and the lies that we've been forced to believe over the past several weeks. You will have an illegitimate president. That's what you'll have. And we can't let that happen. But it's never going to be the end of us. Never.
Let them get out. Let the weak ones get out. This is a time for strength. We can't let this stuff happen. We won't have a country if it happens.
They want to steal the election. The radical left knows exactly what they're doing. They're ruthless, and it's time that somebody did something about it. This is the most fraudulent thing anybody -- this is a criminal enterprise. This is a criminal enterprise.
Fraud breaks up everything, doesn't it? When you catch somebody in a fraud, you're allowed to go by very different rules.
This is the most corrupt election in the history, maybe of the world. You better do it before we have no country left. Today is not the end. It's just the beginning.
If we allow this group of people to illegally take over our country, because it's illegal when the votes are illegal, something's wrong here. Something's really wrong. Can't have happened.
And we fight. We fight like hell. If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore. So we're going to -- we're going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and we're going to the Capitol.
Let's walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. I want to thank you all. God bless you, and God bless America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And so they went to the capitol to fight like hell for Trump, just like he told them. If they didn't fight, they'd lose their country. They needed to fight much harder.
He said, history would be made in that capitol when they went, if he did what he told them do at that Capitol, to make the Congress not count the votes from the election, to demand it. You had to fight like hell.
So they did. And so now he's impeached for a second time now, saying, I don't condone anything that happened there, I want to make it very -- I want to make it very clear.
There are fast-evolving questions as to whether or not some members of Congress may also face repercussions for the ways in which they may have incited and even potentially assisted in the attack on the Capitol.
We're going to speak in just a moment with U.S. congresswoman and navy veteran, Mikie Sherrill. She's the member of Congress who has now demanded an investigation by Capitol Hill police and security into why some members of Congress appeared on January 5th, the day before the attack, to give access to the Capitol for what appeared to be recon tours. Reconnaissance tours around the Capitol for people who appeared to be in town for the following day's rally which, of course, turned into the murderous capitol siege.
Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill is going to be joining us live in just a moment.
As we start to realize that the next phase of this may be trying to root out and potentially expel, potentially prosecute members of Congress who were part of the insurrection effort. It's just an astonishing place to be. But for now the focus remains on the president who's now twice impeached. He has a week left in office. He's now making these public statements trying to unlight the match that he used to set that fire last week in the hopes that that's the sort of tape that will play when we think about him in this incident, instead of what actually happened that day and the days leading up to it from him.
One of the ten Republican members of Congress who voted to impeach the president today, Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Butler, in her statement about why she was going to vote to impeach as a Republican, she actually did something I think very helpful today. She put the spotlight back on something that I think hasn't received nearly enough attention.
Congresswoman Butler said this in her statement. She said, quote, the violent mob bludgeoned to death a Capitol police officer. They defaced symbols of our freedom. These terrorists roamed the Capitol, hunting the vice president and the speaker of the House. Hours went by before the president did anything meaningful to stop the attack.
And then she says this, quote: Instead, he and his lawyer were busy making calls to senators who were still in lockdown seeking their support to further delay the Electoral College certification.
This is true, and good on that Republican congresswoman for putting a spotlight on it in her statement explaining her yes vote for impeachment today because as much as the president is now pretending that he was shocked, shocked, and quite surprised, and oh my goodness, about the violent attack by his supporters on the Capitol, after he pointed them at the capitol and said, go get it, we actually know some of what the president did in the hours after the Capitol was attacked and all those people were killed. We know it in part because Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, apparently doesn't know how to dial a phone.
At 7:00 p.m. on the night of the Capitol attack, so Capitol attack started roughly around 2:00, so roughly five hours into that violent mob scene, Rudy Giuliani that night left a voicemail on a senator's cell phone. He was apparently trying to reach Senator Tommy Tuberville from Alabama but he accidentally called a different senator who then gave a copy of the recording to "The Dispatch", which is why we can hear it now because of their reporting.
Again, this was the president's lawyer five hours after the Capitol was breached. This is before even the capitol police had given the all-clear in the Capitol building, 7:00 p.m. that same night, the night of the attack.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP LAWYER: Senator Tuberville? Or I should say Coach Tuberville. This is Rudy Giuliani, president's lawyer. I'm calling you because I want to discuss with you how they're trying to rush this hearing and how we need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down. I know they're reconvening at 8:00 tonight, but it -- the only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states.
So if you could object to every state and along with the congressmen get a hearing for every state, I know we would delay you a lot.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you could object to every state, you know, people lay dead at this point, right? Big swaths of the capitol lay wrecked and ransacked. Dozens of police officers were being hospitalized.
Here's the president's lawyer calling as the president's lawyer, not as, like, Rudy Giuliani concerned citizen, but, like, I'm calling as the president's lawyer, telling Republican senators even that night in the downdraft of the violence, hey, you need to block every state, you need to object to every state's electoral votes being counted, we need you to do what the rioters were demanding.
We need you to do what they were demanding. We need you to stop the votes being counted for Biden. Do it tonight. This isn't done.
They're not done. They're not done. It's not like the attack on the capitol and all these people dead and everything that they have seen wrought by their words and incitement, it's not like this has made them, like, cowed and rueful. No. They're trying to save their own skin now from the repercussions of what they did. From the consequences and accountability for what they did.
I mean, here's the president. Oh, I was against this whole thing, had nothing to do with me, I'm better now, look, I'll be good, I'm totally against this kind of thing.
Even after the attack on the Capitol, he's got his lawyer calling senators saying, stop the count, stop the count, let's do what the rioters want, don't let Biden be certified as the winner of the election.
And the president's lawyer did it. The president is reportedly going to use Rudy Giuliani as his defense counsel when the Senate impeachment trial starts, whenever that is. So you can imagine what the content will be of the president's defense in his impeachment trial. Perhaps, they'll try to have the venue shifted to a nearby landscaping company so they can better showcase the QAnon shaman affidavits about the big stolen election, right?
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is not saying how he will vote, himself, on whether or not to convict the president in the Senate trial. If enough Republicans do vote to convict the president, even in a Senate trial that starts once he's already gone from office, the effect of convicting the president would obviously not be to remove him from office. He would already be gone by that point.
But it would lay the groundwork for him being banned for life from holding public office. They could hold a subsequent vote that would only need 51 votes to pass that would ban the president for life from holding public office. There's precedent for that for previous impeachments.
They could also deny him things like a presidential pension and the other perks of post-presidential life, if they want to. And those are things President Trump is probably quite interested in having. He's a perks kind of guy.
So, Senator McConnell now holding out the possibility that he, and by extension other Republicans, might vote to convict the president when his Senate trial starts next week. You know, maybe that will have the effect of keeping the president on his best behavior for the next week and into the inauguration. Maybe he'll keep just making prepared statements written by other people that say things he plainly doesn't mean, right? Also he can try to keep his perks and keep the fantasy alive of running again.
But honestly, nobody thinks the president's best behavior is sustainable. Even for a week, even if he tries. And so what do we expect for the inauguration? What do we expect for the week leading up to the inauguration now and in the days after? It's 20,000 National Guard troops protecting the Capitol right now as we speak. May go up to 30,000.
We saw them laying down today. Resting there because they can. Stunning, stunning to see. This isn't wartime except to the extent that the president and his private army are waging war on the U.S. government.
"Politico" reports tonight that National Guard units have been told to prepare for Trump supporters using bombs, using IEDs, in an attack either leading up to or at or shortly after the inaugural.
The Secret Service today in a bulletin obtained by "The Daily Beast" and then by "Politico", Secret Service is warning that the next potential armed attack by Trump supporters may be this weekend in Washington. That's in addition to the warnings they have given nationwide about armed Trump mob attacks on all state capitols this weekend.
We got a week with him still there, now a twice impeached disgrace, and then a trial of him to start the next presidency.
What a catastrophe this has been from day one and now right through this bloody, bloody end. What a catastrophe.
MADDOW: Today, the outgoing president became the first president in history to be impeached twice. Now, we are getting the first reaction to that from the incoming president-elect. This statement just released from President-elect Joe Biden.
It says: Last week, we saw an unprecedented assault on our democracy. It was unlike anything we have witnessed in the 244-year history of our nation, a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, itself, on the people's representatives, on police officers who every day risk their lives to protect them, and on fellow citizens who serve as public servants in that Citadel of liberty. This criminal attack, he says, was planned and coordinated. It was carried out by political extremists and domestic terrorists who were incited to this violence by President Trump. It was an armed insurrection against the U.S. -- against the United States. And those responsible must be held accountable.
Today, the members of the House exercised the power granted to them under our Constitution and voted to impeach and hold the president accountable. It was a bipartisan vote cast by members who followed the Constitution and their conscience. The process continues now to the Senate.
He says, quote, this nation also remains in the grip of a deadly virus and a reeling economy. I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation.
The process continues to the Senate. Joe Biden then goes on to essentially call on the Senate to do their duty in terms of Trump's Senate trial while also pushing forward on the confirmations to set up the new government and the vaccine program and what Biden calls the urgent work to be done that will affect millions of American lives. It's a tall order. Even in the best of times. And these are not the best of times.
Joining us now is Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Sir, thanks for your time tonight. It's nice of you to be here.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Thank you very much for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Senator, you called on Senator McConnell to bring the Senate back into session immediately in order to start a Senate trial immediately. Senator McConnell saying today that he's not going to do that.
What should we expect in terms of what's going to happen now with the president's impeachment and the Senate trial?
BLUMENTHAL: What I believe should happen is that there should be the beginning of a trial right after the inaugural. We can do both. That is, meet the urgent needs of the country to conquer the pandemic and revive the economy, but at the same time do our constitutional duty to make sure there is accountability. That's the core principle of impeachment.
And not only Belknap but also federal judges have been held accountable after they sought to either run out the clock or evade accountability by resigning. And there should be no question about the legacy of Donald Trump. The trial must go forward.
And we can divide our time between the urgent needs that the Biden administration will help to meet and also our constitutional duty.
MADDOW: Senator, should we be on the lookout for sort of procedural shenanigans, by which I don't mean little tricks of the rules. By which I mean the Republicans soon to be minority in the Senate, Senator McConnell and his caucus, somehow trying to use the impeachment trial process in a way that is meant to hamstring the Biden administration or that is meant to otherwise sort of turn things to their advantage?
I think a lot of people after all these years watching Mitch McConnell at work don't really believe that he's truly undecided about whether or not he's going to vote to convict. They're worried that he might try to be -- might be trying to put out the cards up his sleeve here.
BLUMENTHAL: We should be concerned about those kinds of procedural shenanigans, given Mitch McConnell's history because all he cares about is retaining his power and majority, which he now lacks, but that will be his agenda. He sought to make Obama a one-term president and he obstructed a Democratic majority then. He's likely to do it again.
But on impeachment, there is a limit to how much procedural shenanigans there can be. Particularly since this trial is really pretty open and shut. What you played from the president's speech at the ellipse, the tweets that he issued before that rally of domestic terrorists and armed mob and what he said afterward, no apology, no regret, no remorse.
Certainly, it's evidence of guilty intent and his active incitement of an attempt to overthrow a lawful election. It's not just the five people who are dead or the injuries which make it so serious but the attempt to stop the vote from going forward. Rudy Giuliani's call was part of that effort, a conspiracy involving many more. So there are others who likely fear criminal prosecutions and they may be engaged in procedural shenanigans but the trial is simple, straightforward, can go forward in a very short time, giving him due process but a prompt conclusion.
MADDOW: Senator Richard Blumenthal of the great state of Connecticut, on the Judiciary Committee, so he knows of what he speaks on these things. Sir, thanks for being here on such a big night, a historic night.
BLUMETHAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. As I mentioned at the top of the show another lawmaker who we're going to be speaking to tonight is Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill. She says that some of her colleagues, Republican members of Congress, may have helped visitors get into the capitol the day before the attack for which she describes as essentially reconnaissance missions, casing the joint before it was breached and attacked the following day.
Congresswoman Sherrill joins us live on that matter, next.
And relieve it with this. But preparation h soothing relief is the 21st century way to do all MADDOW: In all the open questions that remain after Wednesday's violent attack on the Capitol, this violent attack on Congress, there's one unnerving allegation that continues to be raised by members of Congress, themselves. It's the idea that the attackers last week seemed prepared. That they not just had a plan or an idea of what they wanted to do but, perhaps, that they had some kind of inside assistance to help them coordinate the attack and to help them choose and find their targets once they were inside the Capitol building.
The inside of the U.S. Capitol complex is a big, labyrinth-like confusing multilayered thing. I have been inside the Capitol building a few dozen times. I have never not been lost on any single one of those trips.
Congresswoman Val Demings said today even members of Congress get lost inside the capitol all the time. How is it, then, in an environment like that, according to lawmakers who were there for the attack that a large number of the rioters appeared to know where they were going once they broke inside?
Well, interesting development on that point. Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill is a two-term member of Congress from New Jersey. She's a veteran. She's a former helicopter pilot in the United States Navy.
And now, the congresswoman says she saw something the day before the riots that disturbed her at the time and it could end up being important in trying to answer that upsetting question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): Not only do I intend to see that the president is removed and never runs for office again and doesn't have access to classified material, I also intend to see that those members of Congress who abetted him, those members of Congress that had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on January 5th, reconnaissance for the next day. I'm going to see that they're held accountable and if necessary ensure that they don't serve in Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: January 5th, a reconnaissance for the next day. So let's just pause here for a second. What Congresswoman Sherrill is saying there is the day before the attack, January 5th, she saw other members of Congress giving groups of people access to the U.S. Capitol.
This is at a time when all U.S. capitol tours are closed. There aren't any of those. There haven't been since March because of COVID.
But somehow, the day before the attack, Republican members of Congress are letting lots of people in to access the Capitol to show them around, help them orient themselves to the place.
She did not say who the groups were or which members of Congress gave them this access, but she did call it a reconnaissance for the attack the next day.
Today, Congresswoman Sherrill elaborated on that allegation in a letter she sent to the House and sergeant at arms, as well as the head of the Capitol police. It's signed by more than 30 members of Congress who are backing up what the congresswoman says she saw the day before the riots.
They write, quote: Many of the members who signed this letter as well as various members of our staff witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups in the Capitol complex on Tuesday, January 5th, the day before the insurrection attempt.
Lawmakers say these tours immediately aroused suspicion because they were a noticeable and concerning departure from the COVID restrictions around Capitol tours. It was so concerning that they immediately that day, the 5th, reported those tours, reported their concerns about them, to the sergeant at arms. Again, the day before the attack.
And just like Congresswoman Sherrill said in that video, the signatories on this letter are drawing a bright line between the groups given access of the Capitol by members of Congress on Tuesday and the people who attacked the building the next day.
They say, quote, the visitors encountered by some of the members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day. Given the events of January 6th, the ties between these groups inside the Capitol complex and the attacks on the Capitol need to be investigated.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, Democrat of New Jersey.
Congresswoman Sherrill, thank you so much for being here. I know a lot of people want to talk to you about this. I really appreciate you making time to be here.
SHERRILL: Well, thanks so much for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me just ask if I summarized things well. Correct me if anything I said was wrong, and just sort of describe -- describe for us, if you can, what you and your colleagues or staff saw the day before the attack that raised these alarm bells for you.
SHERRILL: Sure. No, I think you provided quite a good summary of those events.
And I'll tell you, I'm a former Navy helicopter pilot. I served for almost ten years. And so, at every duty station, whether it was in Norfolk or in Manama, Bahrain, and at every overseas place I was, and I would enter as a military member, we would receive a security brief.
And that security brief which we would be told to look for things that were out of place. Look for things that were odd. And look at them with an eye toward security. And so, if somebody was loitering around my helicopter on the tarmac, that would be questionable to me, for example.
And so, I arrived in the Capitol the week of the 6th and I was very secure -- I was very concerned about the violent crowds, the violent extremist groups that were coming to the Capitol for the mob on the 6th, called there by the president. And I told my staff not to come in that day, to work remotely. Not to be anywhere near the Hill.
And I was really shocked when I got into the House office building and saw these groups inside.
And what was so shocking is as you brought -- you know, as you mentioned, visitors aren't allowed in the Capitol complex. You know, since March, since the start of COVID, that has been shut down. All tours are shut down. That was true in the last Congress and was reiterated on January 3rd in the new Congress that there would be no tours allowed, even tours given by members.
And so, the only reason you'd have a visitor is on official business. So to see these groups around the Capitol complex was really striking.
And given what we know the next day of what happened, it's really shocking that those ties were made, and it was so odd to see them that my chief of staff called the sergeant at arms to say, what is going on?
And he reiterated the only way these people could have gotten into the Capitol complex was with a member or that member's staff. And we now know that those violent groups that attacked the Capitol complex had inside knowledge of the Capitol grounds.
MADDOW: Do you know which members of Congress or which congressional staff members allowed these groups into the Capitol and were showing them around? I know that you haven't talked publicly about that, but do you -- do you know that information? Have you conveyed that information to, for example, the House sergeant at arms?
SHERRILL: So, Rachel, as you showed, we have asked and other members, over 30 other members have asked for an investigation. That investigation has started and is now ongoing.
So I'm not talking about exactly the people that I saw, but I will be conveying that to them. However, make no mistake: the only way that these people, these groups, could have gotten into the complex is if another member of Congress or their staff walked them in. And that was reiterated by the sergeant at arms on January 5th.
MADDOW: It is so disturbing to think about members of Congress facilitating the breaching of the Capitol building, facilitating an attack not just on the Capitol building but on Congress. The attack was obviously timed to coincide with the joint session of Congress. Every member of House, every member of the Senate, there at once doing the people's business, carrying out a constitutional responsibility.
That attack was meant to menace the 400-some-odd of you who hold this job. It's very disturbing to think that one of your colleagues could have facilitated it and helped the mob do what they did.
If that possibility is borne out by the investigation that you're asking for, what's the right remedy, what's the right punishment for that?
SHERRILL: Rachel, I was in the chamber as the violent mobs were attacking. I was flat on the ground as other members were calling loved ones because they thought that might be the last phone call they made. To imagine colleagues of mine could have aided and abetted this is incredibly offensive and there's simply no way they can be allowed to continue to serve in Congress.
To attack other members of Congress, to incite an attack on other members of Congress, and to do so as we're doing our constitutional duty to certify the election, something that every member of Congress should have really held sacred, an oath they took to the Constitution to perform that, they will have to be kicked out of Congress if that is found to be true.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, Democrat of New Jersey, U.S. Navy veteran -- thank you for your service both in Congress and in the military, and thanks for your time this evening.
SHERRILL: It's always an honor to serve. And thanks so much for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not a fear-based decision. I am not choosing a side. I'm choosing truth. It's the only way to defeat fear.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D-CO): Just over a year ago I stood right there where you're standing today as we took the solemn step of impeaching the president of the United States for pressuring a foreign leader to take unlawful actions to help him in his re-election. And now just one week ago almost to the hour, I laid right there on the floor of the gallery above us. I heard gunshots in the speaker's lobby. I heard the mob pounding on the door.
This man is dangerous. He has defied the Constitution. He's incited sedition, and he must be removed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: For some members of Congress, explaining their votes today to impeach the president, those Democrats and Republicans, for some of them, including Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado who you heard there, today was one role of her part in the impeachment of this president. Congresswoman Diana DeGette's work here is really just starting. She's going to be an impeachment floor manager in the U.S. Senate. She will be arguing the case for convicting this president at his Senate trial, whenever that may be.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Diana DeGette of the great state of Colorado.
Congresswoman DeGette, it's a real pressure to have you here tonight. Thank you so much.
DEGETTE: Good to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, your remarks today on the floor I thought were remarkable. I thought there were a lot of remarkable speeches on the floor and today is history in so many ways.
How are you preparing and how are you feeling about the prospect of making the case for this president's conviction at his Senate trial?
DEGETTE: Well, we met -- the impeachment managers met today for the first time after the vote and started planning our case that we're going to make in the Senate. I have tried cases for about 15 years, Rachel, and I will tell you that this is a pretty, pretty clear case.
You have the president telling everybody to come to Washington. Then you have him getting them all together for a big rally. And then you have him telling them to March to the House and to stop the legal counting of the ballots. And so this is what the impeachment managers, this is the case that we'll be presenting, a case for what the president did.
Obviously, ten Republicans and all the Democrats thought it was a high crime and misdemeanor. I can't think of a more clear case. So, we're plotting now how we're going to present our case in the Senate in the clearest way possible.
We -- I mean, Donald Trump's the first president to have been impeached twice, but that's not enough. He needs to be convicted.
MADDOW: The president, it was interesting, didn't seem to mount -- the White House didn't seem to mount any sort of defense today against his impeachment in the House. We assume that with at least a week to prepare for his Senate trial they will prepare some sort of defense for him.
Does it affect your approach or will it affect the way the trial is structured that he almost certainly will be out of office by the time the trial starts, right? I know there's been some legal arguments for that. It seems to me there's clear precedent for impeachments happening for office holders who have already left office.
Does that affect things in terms of how you're going to do this?
DEGETTE: I mean, not at this point. We still have to present our case to the Senate and we still have to get two-thirds vote in the Senate for impeachment. And so it's really up to the speaker right now when she decides to send the article of impeachment over to the Senate. But we still need to prepare our case. We need to be prepared to try to present it to the Senate, and we will do that.
We'll be ready whether we go over there on tomorrow or whether we go over there next week or whatever they decide.
MADDOW: There's been some intriguing reporting, I think in some cases deliberately intriguing reporting, that the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is an undecided vote as to whether he will vote to convict or not. There's also been some reporting in the "New York Times" that as many as 20 Republican senators are at least open to the prospect of a conviction.
I felt like what happened in the first impeachment trial for President Trump was that the impeachment managers from the House essentially knew they weren't going to get probably any Republican votes. They ended up getting one from Senator Romney. But they sort of knew that conviction wasn't a real possibility.
You and your fellow House impeachment managers are going to be heading over there with conviction being a real possibility. Are there ex parte negotiations that happened between the House and Senate, between the two parties, when it seems like a conviction might really happen?
DEGETTE: Well, I think -- I mean, there may be ex parte communications. But I think you're right. This was so egregious, and it was all on TV in real time. You had the president telling everybody march up to the Hill, stop this counting. You had the people saying, we're coming up here to stop the counting, and by the way we want to find Speaker Pelosi. We want to hang Vice President Pence.
So, the facts are so appalling and so clear. I think that's why 27 senators are saying they really may consider convicting. We need 17 votes to convict them.
And so after the two Democrats from Georgia are sworn in. And so we are going up there with the intention of obtaining a conviction, which would make Donald Trump not just the first president to be impeached twice, which he is, but the first president to be convicted.
MADDOW: Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette who will serve as impeachment manager in the president's trial in the Senate -- Congresswoman, good luck to you and your colleagues. You know this is a difficult job, difficult time for the country. Thanks for your service. Thanks for being here.
DEGETTE: Important though, Rachel. Thank you very much.
We'll be right back.
MADDOW: You are an American who lived through a president being impeached twice in one term. At the beginning of your civic consciousness, did you ever think it was possible? No. We can do it, America. We're capable of anything if you just elect people that ill-suited to the job. Whoo.
That's going to do it for us on this historic night. See you again tomorrow.
Now, it's time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.END
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