tv The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell MSNBC December 26, 2019 10:00pm-11:00pm PST
visiting the courses he owns. the estimated cost takes in expenses like security or flying in air force 1. that's the equivalent of 296 years worth of the presidential salary, $400,000 a year president trump so proudly does not take. meaning he's burned through that over playing golf, golfing, working, potato, potato. that does it for us tonight. we'll see you again tomorrow. now it's time for the "last word." good morning or good evening, amon. it's all mixed up for me. >> they're all bleeding into each at this point. see you, bud. hello there, everyone. i'm in for lawrence o'donnell tonight. the first poll shows a 9 point advantage for the senate convicting and removing president trump from office. we're going to have the latest impeachment news in just a moment, plus how are evangelicals are for president trump? we will talk to the author of
believe me, the evangelical road to donald trump about how significant this is and what impact it could have on republican lawmakers and voters going forward. and at the end of the hour a cec leading scholar has a warning for mitch mcconnell. but we begin this hour with trump feeling the pressure of impeachment as his senate trial remains unsettled. the president used his christmas holiday to do what else but rant about impeachment on what else twitter. blasting democrats as hypocrites and falsely claiming the process is a scam. donald trump's twitter tirade began just hours after calling for greater unity and respect in a christmas message to americans. so much for that. barely lasted a few hours. the angry tweeting continued today as donald trump lashed out at house speaker nancy pelosi over their decision to send the articles of impeachment to the
senate without any ashurns of a fair trial for majority leader mcconnell. but it's not just democrats that have the president worried. tonight there are new signs of a potentially significant crack in trump's impeachment wall. in an interview over the holiday republican senator lisa murkowski criticized mitch mcconnell for vowing to coordinate trump's impeachment trial with the white house. >> when i heard that i was disturbed. if we are tasked as the full senate to do impartial justice under the constitution and the law, then to me it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense. and so i -- i heard what leader mcconnell had said. i happen to think that has further confused the process. >> so lisa murkowski is one of a few key republican senators who
could break with her party and actually vote with democrats to at the very minimum set rules that could lay the ground work for a legitimate and fair trial. senate democrats would need only four republicans to vote with them in order to overrule mitch mcconnell and call witnesses that minority leader chuck schumer has proposed among them acting white house chief of staff mulvaney, former national security advisor john bolton just to name a few. as "the new york times" points out, only a handful of defections would force the majority leader, senator mitch mcconnell of kentucky, to switch course on the upcoming impeachment trial. in the first poll released the day after trump was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of congress revealed something incredible. americans support the senate, convicting donald trump and removing him from office by a margin of 9 points.
51% say they approve of the senate convicting and removing donald trump. 42% say they do not approve. leading off our discussion tonight is nunausea bertram, national security correspondent for politico, also an msnbc contributor. ron klain, former chief counsel to the senate judiciary committee and senior aid to vice president joe biden and president obama. he's an advisor to joe biden's 2020 presidential campaign and voice vance, former u.s. attorney. ron, let me begin with you if i may and get your take on how significant the comments are that came out from lisa murkowski during the holiday break. the timing of the message in and of itself but also what she had to say. >> you know, the amazing thing isn't that one republican has said we ought to follow the constitution and have a fair trial, it's that 53 haven't yet. and this is the obligation of the senators both democratic and republican under our constitution to be sworn in as jurors in a trial of president
trump and to administer fair and impartial justice. and senator murkowski deserves credit for being the one first to step up and say yeah, i'm going to be true to my oath, yeah i'm going to demand this is real trial and her colleagues now need to step up and follow her and make that promise, that constitutional promise of a fair trial a reality. >> let me play for you guys the sound bite for mitch mcconnell december 12th sense essentially where he talks about coordinate wg the white house. listen to this. >> everything i do during this i'm coordinating with white house counsel. there will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this. there's no chance the president's going to be removaled from office. my hope is that there won't be a single republican who votes for either of these articles of impeachment.
>> joyce let me get your thoughts on this because not only did he say that bought he's also on the record saying he's not an impartial juror, and as a legal scholar i'm curious to get your thoughts about you think the framers of our constitution would be thinking about when they hear the head of the senate, the majority leader, a coequal branch of government saying he is working with the president to make sure this is not a fair and impartial process. >> you know, if this was a criminal trial and a juror said that, somebody would be fixing to go to jail. but impeachment is a little bit different. it's a quasi political process, so that first sentence i think senator mcconnell starts out okay. there does need to be some coordination on dates, on process between the senate and white house. but then he takes a sharp left turn and goes completely off the rails when he starts talking about the promise, the commitment that the president won't be removed from office and that his goal is to make sure
there's not a single defection from the party. what that signifies is that this is process that's blatantly corrupt, it may resultane an acquittal from the president, but doesn't result in a exoneration when the process is so deficient. >> i want to get your thoughts quickly about the significance of lisa murkowski. i don't want to say, you know, breaking ranks with the republicans are going rogue, but are we likely to see a domino effect? do you think from the sources you've been hearing from or speaking to others now they've seen her go first you could get a mitt romney, you could get a susan collins and begin now with the polling showing saying that the majority of americans actually do want to see the president convicted in the senate, that may bolster their argument for this to be a fair process. >> well, certainly going to leave reporters to ask the senators about lisa murkowski's comments and thereby forcing
them to respond to them, republican senator john kennedy of louisiana was asked about this earlier today, said each senator is entitled to his or her opinion, but this stuff does have the potential to embolden say a mitt romney or a susan collins. mitt romney has already said he has not decided one way or another whether or not he's going to acquit the president, whether or not he's going to fall in line with a republican process here, saying they want to move as quickly with this trial and move on. so there could be some pressure there placed on these republican senators. that doesn't mean, of course, we're going to see defecks. that of course is good politics to these moderate senator tuesday say i'm going to be an impartial juror because that is what they were saying, when eany reporter would go up their line was for a long time i can't comment because i'm a juror and it would be unfair. mich mcconnell went a step further and has essentially
forced the republicans and his party to follow suit with the exception of course of these moderates. >> how much of this do you think is being driven by the white house? how much of it is being driven by mitch mcconnell because i get the sense and i've heard mark schwartz say this on the record the president would be open to witnesses. that's not something mcconnell has said publicly, so who do you think is in the drivers seat here and who do you think is looking out for the president's interests more so? >> look, i do take senator mcconnell at his word, his word is he's doing exactly what the white house wants, he's lock step with the white house counsel's office. as for mr. schwartz's statement we know the president and his advisers publicly bluff a game but privately try to shut the process down and the president at one point said he'd testify, he's send lawyers and then it's been shutdown, shutdown, shutdown. it's not the conduct of an innocent person, right?
it's the conduct of someone who knows they've done something wrong and want to try to curtail this process and minimize this process. so i assume based on what senator mcconnell has said that he's doing what the white house wants. and i think the public bravado is not really indicative of their private messaging to republicans on capitol hill. >> so if you were back in the senate what would you be doing right now, if you were working on capitol hill with your colleagues as a democrat what kind of messaging would you be putting out there? what would you be doing behind the scenes to try to secure those three additional republican senators? >> as joyce said it's a legal process and a political process. i think on the legal side you'd be emphasizing the constitutional traditions in the traditions of the senate. they worked with republicans to come with bipartisan senate procedures. that's the senate tradition, and then i'd be working the politicians. amazingly inside that poll 12%
of the people who voted for trump, 1 in every 8 trump voters said he should be removed. that is an amazing turn around among people or even trump supporters. so i'd be arguing the law, i'd be arguing politics to try to get those republicans to put together a fair trial. >> it's remarkable how quickly that shot up to a week before the holidays. let me go back to what you were talking about a week before an acquittal and an exoneration. walk us through the difference here and what is the argument you're making between being acquitted and being exonerated? >> so if you're acquitted by a senate where mitch mcconnell has already promised no matter what happens we won't remove you, in and of itself that process is suspect. but the real problem comes in article 2 of the impeachment which charges him with
obstructing congress, and that means very simply he's completely failed to comply with subpoenas for documents. for instance, e-mails that might shed light on internal deliberations in the white house over the ukrainian affair. he's refused to provide key witnesses including as we learned late last friday night a witness from omb who reached out to the pentagon an hour and a half after president trump had his phone call with ukrainian president zelensky to put the kibosh on any aid going to ukraine. so there are a lot of unanswered questions, and as americans we're used to having those questions answered in a fair trial process where relevant witnesses testify. if the president keeps that kind of a process from happening in the senate, then he may well end up acquitted, but it won't be an exoneration. that doesn't mean he won't claim he's been exonerated. we've seen him do that before during the mueller report, but
we need to all be on alert to understand how little this process will mean unless republicans come to the table like ron has suggested and agree to fair procedures. >> natasha, all of this is happening against the backdrop of rudy giuliani going out in public, giving these interviews, bizarre interviews, still pushing ahead with the investigation in ukraine that initially got the president in trouble in the first place. do you think at this point, and i know you've covered him extensively and you've covered the ukraine aspect of the impeachment trial extensively, is he a liability for the president with these constant interviews and statements he keeps saying that seems to make the situation worse, so much so you've got people like lindsey graham saying he needs to just put up or shut up? >> absolutely. if you speak to people close to the president, his aides in the white house, for example, they are horrified broadly by what rudy giuliani is doing. they consider him to be a big political liability for the
president. the problem is the president sees rudy giuliani as kind of like a safety blanket. he has known him for decades. he feels like he's someone who has his back no matter what, so he keeps him around. and of course rudy giuliani has been stroking trump's ego and essentially telling him, look, it wasn't the russians that interfered, it was the ukrainians, i'm going to exonerate you et cetera, et cetera and that of course makes trump feel good. the people around trump are telling him you need to distance yourself from giuliani, but it's just not happening. and he has yet to produce anything by way of evidence of course and from what he's saying because there really is none. so there's no -- there's no indication that the president is going to sever ties with him even though his closest confidants and aides privately say it needs to be done. >> thank you very much for
kicking things off for us tonight. always appreciate it, guys. and coming up judging by his ongoing twitter rants donald trump might not believe impeachment is helping him but attorney general bill barr wants impeachment to help president trump, potentially even break the law. we will look at bill barr's impeachment trick next. in a world where everything gets a sequel. it's finally time for... geico sequels! classic geico heroes, starring in six new commercials, with jaw-dropping savings. vote for your favorites at: geico.com/sequels ahhh, which way do i go?! i don't know, i'm voting for our sequels. with geico, the savings keep on going to a screen near you. not the leg! you dang woodchucks! geico sequels. vote and enter to win today! (air pump motors) not the leg! you dang woodchucks! (lamp crashes)
♪music it's the final days of the wish list sales event. sign and drive off in a new lincoln with zero down, zero due at signing, and a complimentary first month's payment. in america, the zip code you're born in can determine your future. but no matter what neighborhood you grow up in, the y creates opportunities for all. for a better us, donate to your local y today. for a better us, here, it all starts withello! hi!... how can i help? a data plan for everyone. everyone? everyone. let's send to everyone!
wifi up there? uhh. sure, why not? how'd he get out?! a camera might figure it out. that was easy! glad i could help. at xfinity, we're here to make life simple. easy. awesome. so come ask, shop, discover at your local xfinity store today. attorney general william barr plays no official role in impeachment but that hasn't stopped barr from attempting to
help president trump. in fact, the attorney general would like to see impeachment used as a tool to allow president trump to potentially break the law. in a new piece for the daily beast david writes the department of justice is arguing that impeachment prevents the courts from ruling on whether any part of trump's stone walling of congressional subpoenas is illegal. quote, if a president can avoid compliance with his legal obligations by getting impeached, then he would have a strong incentive to solicit impeachment by the house of representatives in order to gain quite literally a license to break the law without recourse. david lury joins us now and also joining us is barbara mcquade, the former u.s. attorney for the eastern district of michigan. she is an msnbc legal contributor. david, great to have you with us here. let me begin with the premise of what you are writing about. because on the one hand you have
the case of don mcgahn the former white house counsel told subpoena -- sorry, he was told subpoena. told to give his testimony in the impeachment hearings. he didn't do so, and now it's being played out in the courts. but interestingly the department of justice and the white house are saying the courts should not decide that. why is that a bad thing? >> well, it's very interesting i would say that mitch mcconnell is arguing that the house should have not only gone to court to get mcgahn's testimony but the testimony of a host of other people. >> john bolton, you know, mike pompeo. >> et cetera. and now the department of justice is arguing the courts should not decide these cases at all and should bar the courthouse door to congress. and the interesting thing about this is if the courts refused to decide these cases the congress would only have one option and that's to arrest the witnesses themselves and imprissen them until they agreed to speak. that's called inherent contempt
and people have rightly argued that's an extreme, you know, an extraordinary thing for the congress to even contemplate doing, and they haven't yet stated they are comtemplating doing it. and yet if william barr's argument is accepted, that will not only be a possible option, it will be the only option. and not just in connection with this dispute, but future disputes of the same sort. >> barbara, let me get your thoughts on this. is it unusual the way william barr is behaving in the impeachment process in the sense as we were saying he doesn't have an official role, but i think some legal experts, some outside observers would say he's acting almost and he's making the department of justice almost acts like a law firm on behalf of the president with some of these arguments he's making. >> i think one of the most disappointing things about this administration i've seen as a 19-year veteran of the department of justice is the role of attorney general william barr has taken upon himself to
serve more as a defense attorney for donald trump than as the attorney general for the united states of america and the people. yes, i mean this argument as david points out is really absurd. it says that the court should not get involved in this dispute because it's too political. well, if president trump can stonewall congress and there's recourse in the courts, then the president really is above the law, and there is no check on his powers. so that just can't be the case. you know, i remember when i first met president obama as u.s. attorney. with all the u.s. attorneys in the white house and he said to us to always remember that we did not serve him even though he appointed us, we serve the people and the constitution. and if ever those interests diverge to remember where our loyalties lie. i think william barr has forgotten where his loyaltiy is supposed to lie. >> is it uncommon -- let's just play devil's advocate for a moment here and take the argument that william barr is trying to make it as i
understand it which these are two coequal branches of government. it's a fight between congress and the executive branch. the courts have no role in trying to decide between because they are the third coequal branch of government. but history has shown courts have decided on disputes in the past between executive and legislative branch of our government. >> indeed -- >> sorry, one second. go ahead, barbara. >> some classic examples are the paula jones case with bill clinton, of course. there's the nixon case involving the watergate tapes. so courts do try to stay out of political questions, and there is something called the negotiation and accommodation process where the branches try to work things out themselves. but when a mr. president completely stonewalls congress there really is no recourse other than for the courts to step in. this is their role, and it's important they fulfill that role so we can have they tripart hide form of government. >> and this is what the house judiciary committee told a
federal appeals court. they write the house has impeached president trump and it has reinforced the committee's need for the pex expeditious move for appeal. >> well, the reason that the mcgahn case was important is not solely because of mcgahn and his testimony, it's because it's a case in which one of the president's arguments, in fact, his only argument for withholding the testimony of bolton and mick mulvaney from congress is to be decided. the president has argued that his close advisers, white house advisers in the legal term is absolutely immune from being
called to testify. >> under executive privilege he's claiming. >> well, it's an argument that goes beyond executive privilege because executive privilege applies to particular statements. this is an argument that the congress cannot call then for testimony at all. >> wow. >> and if the mcgahn case is decided by the appeals court and the supreme court in the same way it was decided by the district court, that is that court rejected the argument entirely. >> yeah. >> then there will be no substantial argument for withholding the testimony of the president's advisers. and i agree with barbara 100%. the courts decision since 1803 called marbury versus madison has played a critical role in our structure. they're the ones that decide what the law means. and as barbara correctly said, courts don't like to get involved. courts don't want to be involved, but when a president
declares as you said the white house counsel and trump himself have declared they would not cooperate at all, period, full stop there is no other alternative but the courts to stop. >> there could be a precedenting case as you said. thank you very much for joining us this evening. fascinating stuff. coming up are evangelicals becoming divided by donald trump? we're going to look at the fall out after a powerful editorial said it is time to call a spade a spade and remove donald trump from the white house. with advil liqui-gels, you have fast-acting power over pain, so the whole world looks different. the unbeatable strength and speed of advil liqui-gels. what pain? what's going on? oh, darn! let me help. here we go. lift and push and push! there... it's up there. oh, boy.
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great to me, and they did, they came out in massive numbers. with evangelical christians we won so big. and by the way the evangelical christians, i have such tremendous support it's unbelievable. evangelicals, i love you. >> that was in 2016, but now some prominent writers at evangelical publications are publicly splitting with president trump. it started last thursday when christianity today published a scathing editorial on the president to be removed from office. writing, quote, whether mr. trump should be removed from office by the senate or by popular vote next election that is matter of judgment. it is time to call a spade a spade, to say no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game we are playing with stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence. and just when we think it's time to push all of our chips to the center of the table, that's when the whole game will come crashing down. it will crash on evangelical
religion and on the world's understanding of the gospel. and it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern. a rival publication the christian post published a rebuttal accusing christianity today of, quote where disdaintle elitist posture towards their fellow christians that may do further long-term damage. now that prompted one of their top politics editors to resign this week. he wrote the christian post has, quote, chosen to represent a narrow and shrinking slice of christianity. that might be a good business decision short-term at least, but it's bad for democracy and bad for the gospel. he added, quote, christians sully the name of christ in their alliance with trump. cue the damage control.
on christmas eve the president and first lady attended an evangelical service at southern baptist church they have previously attended where they were married and where their son baron was baptized. and next week the president is holding a coalition in miami. he's pushed their agenda on issues such as abortion, conservative judges and others. are these one-off defections or will it lead to more evangelicals breaking with trump? we're going to ask a history professor about that and much more. gold!
quote, about half at best and likely less than half of all evangelicals. and in a political consult poll taken just as the white house was voting to impeach, excuse me rather as the house was voting to impeach president trump 40% approve of removing trump from office. joining us is the author of "believe me the evangelical road to donald trump" which comes out in paper back next month and also joining us john harwood. summarize for us where you think the evangelical community stands today three years into the trump presidency? i know it's not a monolithic community, but when you get a sense what's happening over the last couple of days what is the bigger discussion taking place in the community? >> i think evangelicals have for a long time now from the 1970s
to the 198s have only one way of doing politic. it's a politics driven by power, appoint supreme court justice that are pro-life. it shouldn't surprise us 80% voted for donald trump since he took pro-evangelical stance on these issues. i think the editorial is really revealing. it shows the diversity of american evangelicals. i don't think it's necessarily going to make a big dent in term of the support donald trump is going to receive in 2020. and i think, you know, if at this point, you know, donald trump has separated children from their parents, if he has had the "access hollywood" case, you know, the lies and the -- all kinds of, you know, mistreatment of political
enemies, i don't think an editorial in christianity today is going to change much. >> let me play this sound bite reacting to some of the rebuttals that have come out against christianity today. listen to what he had to say. >> it's an odd conspiratorial thinking they sound like breitbart in that. we never sounded like that before. it seems like when you read that editorial they're talking about this sort of elitism instead of populism. i wish they'd just be gospelism. it's very sort of marxist way of thinking about class warfare. >> that was gnat nazworth, he actually resigned his position i believe at the christian post after they put out their rebuttal to christianity today. i'm curious to get your thoughts
the way he described this ongoing warfare, this kind of class warfare in the way which that publication where he used to work sees the evangelical mind-set in this country. >> it's worth noting first none of the responses to his op-ed really addressed the merits of the case, right. they don't address whether or not what trump did in ukraine is an impeachable offense. most of the attacks are on two fronts. one is trump has delivered for us on all of these moral issues especially abortion, israel, religious liberty. and the second approach has been to claim that christianity today represents educated evangelicals who kind of look down their nose at ordinary uneducated working class evangelicals. and i would argue that evangelicals for a long time and
i'm not alone in this have had a long history of anti-intellectualism. many historians and culture critics have talked about this so-called scandal of the evangelical mind. so someone like mark is trying to put together a thoughtful deeply driven by ethics, christian ethics to say why are we supporting a man of such gross immorality to use his term, and the only thing that many of the noneducated evangelicals, the ones that gravitate to trump offer on what he's done on all these social and moral issues which is again how evangelicals have been trained over the past 40 years to think about politics. the moral majority doesn't get enough attention in our history book. they have done an amazing job at teaching their flock, my flock, i consider myself an evangelical
as well to think about politics in just one way. >> john howard as we said at the beginning of this segment 80% of white evangelicals support this president. but the question is does he have a paths to re-election and pushing away the pressures of impeachment and politic of impeachment if he does not have a solidified evangelical base in his midst? >> no, he is absolutely dependent on that. white evangelicals are at the beating heart of president trump's base. but as the previous discussion has showed us it's not about the gospels, it's not about religious faith. trump is not a person of faith. it's not about the moral character of the president. this is transactional relationship as the fox news commentator said the other day, it's not complicated for evangelicals, trump is the enemy of their enemies and he's willing to fight them, therefore
they embrace him. secondly he appoints pro-life judges, people who were against abortion rights. that is the basis of the relationship, and the added display of culture war here suggests that this is about evan yellicals in the cultural dimension, not in the religious dimension. we're talking about a group that is disproportionately in small towns and rural areas, less educated than people who are not evangelical christians. they're reacting to changes in their communities caused by immigration over time, the share of white christians in the american population has shrunk from 80% to around 40% over the last 50 years or so. so all of those things are causing those evangelicals to look at donald trump as their war, and he absolutely needs them to be warriors for him if he's going to win re-election.
>> all right, john harwood, and john fea, thank you both for joining us this evening. and an important note about the trump tax cuts. we didn't want it to get lost in all the impeachment news. we're going to tell you about that next. through the at&t network, edge-to-edge intelligence gives you the power to see every corner of your growing business. from finding out what's selling best... to managing your fleet...
rate from 35% to 21%. but according to a new report 379 of america's fortune 500 companies actually paid only a federal corporate income tax rate of 11.3%. and 91 of america's largest corporations like amazon and chevron paid no federal income taxes at all, zero, zilch. this is all recording to a anew report from the institute of taxation entitled corporate tax avoidance in the first year of the trump tax law. back with us to discuss this is john harwood and joining us on the phone a pulitzer prizewinner for "the new york times." walk us through how the tax law, the trump tax law made it possible for at least 91 companies or 91 corporations not to be able to pay a single penny in federal income tax? >> well, the law did a number of things. it cut their tax rate by 40%. you and i didn't get anything close to 40% reduction in our
tax rate. it also allowed company tuesday immediately expense, that is write off the costs, not everybody. restaurants got lost in the mix. but overall you got to quickly write down the costs of new investments and for capital intensive companies like oil and manufacturing buying new equipment every year, it creates a much lower tax burden for them in the future. and we no longer tax american corporations on the profits they earn overseas am. and because the way the law was done it has encouraged companies to build more overseas rather than less if they can find a tax haven to have tax-free profits overseas. >> has the president been able to sell his economic success or his economic stimulus based on his tax law to the average voter when they're not as we just
pointed out, corporations are not paying their fair share, they're not paying any federal income tax and somehow he touts the economy is doing well? >> well, the strength of the company helps him somewhat, but we saw in the 2018 elections that was not a powerful weapon for republicans to prevent democrats from taking over the house. and the reason is everyone has seen and they see it more now in 2019 than they did in 2018, donald trump and his aides made four basic assertions for the tax bill. one we had lame 2% growth he was going to make the growth rate go up to 3% or more. it wasn't going to increase the deficit, it's going to put a lot of money in the hands of the middle class and wasn't going to provide a tax cut for the rich. everyone of those things has turned out to be nonsense. the growth rate is now back after a brief period of stimulus in 2018, the growth rate is now
back at the 2% long-term level that he inherited from president obama, the deficit's gone up and we've seen that corporations have substantially reduced their tax bill. that doesn't mean lowering the corporate tax rate may not have been a good idea. we had a high nominal rate compare today the rest of the world but, of course, they didn't close loop holes sufficient to pay for that finance. that's why the deficit has gone up so much. >> the argument that republicans, and in particular trump, made was that if we reduce the tax burden on these companies, they'll come back and invest in america, hire more worker, manufacture more. that, in turn, produces more results for the economy. have you seen anything to support that or substantiate that? >> it's not in the data either. a lot of the money companies save was used to buy back stock, which increases the value of the remaining shares and stock options for executives.
and ayman, i don't think we should talk about this as a tax cut because we're borrowing the money to pay for the shortfall. this is simply a future tax increase with interest in the meantime. it's not a tax cut. it's a tax increase that's been disguised to make you think it's a tax cut. >> all right. david cay johnston, thank you for joining us with that fascinating stuff. conversation of a new op-ed published in mcconnell's home state. and the author of that new op-ed will get tonight's last word. ♪music (children laugh and scream) (dog barking) ♪music it's the final days of the wish list sales event.
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all right. time for tonight's last word. mitch mcconnell has said he will not be an impartial juror in the impeachment of donald trump, even going as far to say he is working in total coordination with the white house counsel. the majority leader is about to violate not one, but two oaths of office, the courier journal says. kent greenfield writes mcconnell's loyalty to trump should not overwhelm his loyalty to the constitution. all senators should take their obligation of faithful impartiality seriously, especially mcconnell. history is watching, and it will be a harsh judge. joining us now is kent greenfield, author of that op-ed and professor at boston college. great to talk to you again. let me follow up on our conversation earlier.
i want to get your thoughts, what is the core argument you're making? what are the two oaths of office that mitch mcconnell is going to violate? >> only three oaths are mentioned in the constitution at all. first is the presidential oath and the other two now pertain to senator mcconnell in article vi, all federal and state officials are bound by an oath to protect and defend the constitution, but there's a third oath that is very rare, rarely taken, rarely needed. when the senators try an impeachment, the constitution says they will be bound by oath. what that means is that they have to take it seriously. they have to be impartial. the words of the oath that every senator will be held to when the trial begins is that they will swear to be impartial. now, senator mcconnell and senator lindsey graham and others already said they had no
intention to be impartial. and that, i think, is a violation of not only their article i oath but article vi oath as well. >> the founding fathers perhaps never envisioned this. otherwise they would probably tried to have an iron clad position where the senate leader would not working, as mitch mcconnell said, step by step in this. >> the senate was always intended to be the grown-ups in the room. they get elected every six years, and they're supposed to be somewhat insulated from the political realities of the day so they can be the more distinguished, more thoughtful politicians and public servants. in this case, back in the day when the constitution was written, political parties, as we now know them, did not exist. the thought was that congress would be the power that would weigh against the presidency. and so they would be the checking. they would provide a checking
function of the presidency, especially in those rare circumstances in which the president has abused his power. and when the president has abused the power of the office and the only legal remedy is impeachment. so when senator mcconnell says this is a political act, a political procedure, that's flat wrong from a constitutional perspective. it's legal and the remedy is impeachment. under the constitution, every senator is required to be impartial. and he has already said he's going to violate that oath. >> mitch mcconnell enjoys a certain degree of popularity in your home state of kentucky. i'm curious to get the reaction to how your op-ed has landed both in kentucky and, you know, among your legal peers. >> i've gotten a lot of positive responses today, many more than i anticipated i would get. i got texts from folks in my
hometown of kentucky, who were applauding what i was saying. i'm hardened by this. i think kentuckyians take it seriously. and my hope is that this op-ed will encourage mitch mcconnell to be the impartial judge and juror he is required to be in the constitution. >> will it come down to kentuckyians picking up the phone and saying to mitch mcconnell, hey, we need you to be fair or is there legal recourse that can ensure impartiality? >> some thought that the chief justice may weigh in on this. the chief justice is required in the constitution to preside over impeachment of the president. i don't think that will happen. i think the remedies are political and senator mcconnell is up for re-election. if he violates his oath of office and, in fact, two oaths of office, the primary remedy is the voters of kentucky to voting you out. >> when you look at somebody
like senator lisa murkowski, does that put pressure on mitch mcconnell to come forward or is he buoyed by the fact it's one out of 50 republicans? >> who knows? the procedures of the senate during the impeachment trial are determined first by the chief justice. but second any ruling by the chief justice can be ruled by the entire body. the impeachment takes two-thirds but a debate or disagreement about the rules is 51. so, you don't need very many republican senators to peel off from their side in order to make a rules change that would be impactful to the process. >> ken greenfield, we can only hope that mitch mcconnell has read your op-ed over the holiday break. thank you for joining us. that's tonight's last word. i'm ayman mohyeldin. "the 11th hour" starts now. tonight impeachment tensions increase.
the president keeps up his attacks on the house speaker, nancy pelosi, as critics hang in the balance. >> plus, a rebuke of senate leader mitch mcconnell and a republican who refused to back the president in 2016. could the president pardon roger stone and michael flynn in an election year? all of that as "the 11th hour" gets under way on this thursday night. good evening once again from our nbc news quarters in new york. i'm steve kornacki in for brian williams. as the president spends the holiday week at his mar-a-lago resort in palm beach, the vote making him the third u.s. president to be impeached.