Transcript: A Report, A Hearing and Trump's Response

The full episode transcript for Article II: Inside Impeachment, A Report, A Hearing and Trump’s Response
Image: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler in Washington on July 24, 2019.
The House is expected to vote this week on the parameters of the Judiciary Committee's impeachment investigation into President Trump, as laid out by the panel's chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP - Getty Images file

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Transcript

Article II: Inside Impeachment

A Report, A Hearing and Trump’s Response

Steve Kornacki: From NBC News this is "Article II: Inside Impeachment," I'm Steve Kornacki. Today is Monday, December 2nd, and here's what's happening. The Hill was pretty quiet over the holiday weekend but Democrats say they want to vote on articles of impeachment before Christmas and so they are kicking the process into high gear.

News Audio: What's the feeling on Capitol Hill about what this week is gonna look like?

News Audio: Well, I think it's another buckle your seatbelt week.

News Audio: Very busy news week. The impeachment push against President Trump will soon shift from investigation to prosecution.

Steve Kornacki: And there are three big things to know as this busy week begins. First, the work in the House Intelligence Committee is done and they are passing off a report on their findings to the House Judiciary Committee. Second, with that report in hand the Judiciary Committee will hold its first public hearings this week. That will start on Wednesday. And meanwhile, the White House is refusing to participate in the process. That is the third thing to pay attention to this week, the Trump administration's strategy in all of this.

News Audio: (UNINTEL) one of your lawyers to represent your point of view before the House Impeachment Inquiry?

President Trump: Because the whole thing is a hoax. Everybody knows it. And you know it's a hoax. It's an absolute disgrace what they're doing to our country.

Steve Kornacki: Today, in "Article II," we're covering all of it: the report, another round of hearings, and a President who won't bat down. Alex Moe is a Capitol Hill producer and reporter for NBC News, and she joins us now from Washington. Alex, thank you for joining us.

Alex Moe: Thanks for having me.

Steve Kornacki: So you are behind the scenes down there on Capitol Hill. You are seeing and hearing things that the rest of us would love to be seeing and hearing-- who don't get the upfront view that you do, so I thought you'd be a great person to talk to about what is gonna happen this week and-- and where this is all going. Let's start with this, the-- the first piece of action this week is gonna be tonight, Monday night. The Intelligence Committee-- is going to review a final report, the Intelligence Committee that had all these hearings the last couple of weeks that we were covering and talking about. So they're gonna be reviewing a report tonight. Who wrote this report? What-- what's gonna be in this?

Alex Moe: So Chairman Adam Schiff, who leads the Intelligence Committee, and Democrats on the committee are going to be releasing their final version of the report, and members will get to start reviewing that. And the information that's gonna be in that are from those seven public hearings that we all were able to watch, and those 15 closed door depositions-- and interviews with those, you know, fact witnesses. We're waiting to see what is actually in that report but we're not expecting it to be a lot of new information because all of those transcripts from those closed door meetings have been released to the public.

So in this report we're expecting to hear any recommendations that Chairman Adam Schiff and the Democrats want to make, why they believe impeachment or articles of impeachment against Donald Trump are necessary. So that's really the main thing we're gonna be looking at when this report becomes public is what those recommendations are from Adam Schiff and the Democrats.

Steve Kornacki: Is this a required step in the impeachment process? The-- the committee, the Intelligence Committee, that held these hearings, to formally reach a conclusion that this impeachable, to-- to recommend specific impeachment charges? Is-- is this a required step there or this is just something the committee felt it wanted to do?

Alex Moe: No, I mean, the entire House had to vote last month on this resolution that set up the impeachment process-- when Speaker Pelosi kind of formalized or moved forward the impeachment process. And-- and in that resolution that they voted on, it said that all of the committees that are investigating impeachment in President Trump, such as the intelligence committee, needed to send a report and their best information that they'd gathered to the House Judiciary Committee-- that will draft those articles. So this is a necessary step that the Intelligence Committee is taking.

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Steve Kornacki: So we-- we mentioned the report is gonna be reviewed by the Intelligence Committee tonight, Monday night, but then actually tomorrow, Tuesday, they're gonna hold a vote on it. Watching those hearings the last few weeks, Alex, it-- it-- it seemed like there as a pretty clear partisan divide on this. Republicans were all in one camp, Democrats all seem to be in the other camp. Is that what the vote on this report is gonna look like? Straight party line? And-- and for Republicans who are-- who are outvoted, ultimately on a-- on a committee like this not being in the majority, what-- what would that mean for them? How would they handle that?

Alex Moe: Yeah, totally. I think that it would be a shock to a lot of people if any Republicans did join with Democrats to vote in proving this report that Chairman Schiff is writing mostly. The minority, the Republicans, are actually going to write their own report, their kind of dissenting views, if you will. And that report will also come out and allow the public to see what the Republican side viewed and-- and thinks going forward.

Steve Kornacki: So this is the Intelligence Committee then wrapping things up in terms of its role, but then this impeachment process goes to a new phase, that's the Judiciary Committee, the House Judiciary Committee. So they've got some hearings set for this week starting on Wednesday. Set-- set the scene for us here, who chairs the Judiciary Committee? How is that committee different than what we saw with the Intelligence Committee?

Alex Moe: This vote that the Intelligence Committee is gonna take to approve this report is gonna be almost like the passing of the baton. The new phase of the impeachment inquiry is going to start-- once that report goes to Judiciary. And Judiciary is headed by Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York. Nadler was here in Congress back when President Bill Clinton was impeached. So Nadler, this impeachment is not something new for him. And, you know, Chairman Nadler has been rather vocal, even before-- Speaker Pelosi got on board with impeachment. Chairman Nadler really was kind of always pushing that forward and wanting the committee to kind of look into that when the Mueller report came out.

And then the top Republican is Congressman Collins from Georgia. The Judiciary Committee is almost double in size than the Intelligence Committee so we're gonna see 41 members on this panel get to start to ask questions. It will be in the same room as the Intelligence Committee-- had all those public hearings that we saw over the past couple of weeks, not in the Judiciary Committee room, which is interesting. The hearing room is a little bit more grand. So it'll look a little different with the faces that you see on TV, but the same hearing room we've seen in the past couple weeks.

Steve Kornacki: Although there-- there is at least one common member, right, to these committees. Is this-- this is Jim Jordan from Ohio who was-- who was added to the Intelligence at the-- Committee at the last minute. He'll be participating in this, too, is that right?

Alex Moe: That's right. Jim Jordan on the Republican side and then we'll see two familiar faces on the Democratic side, Eric Swalwell, and Val Demmings will be on this panel as well as on the Intelligence Committee.

Steve Kornacki: So the Judiciary Committee has this hearing on Wednesday. What-- what are they gonna be doing there?

Alex Moe: So Wednesday we're gonna hear from some expert witnesses, if you will, some scholars, and academics. So these will not be fact based witnesses. So in the Intelligence Committee part of the impeachment inquiry, that was kind of the fact gathering sector, if you will. Now, in Judiciary, they're moving into kind of the broader, you know, why are they doing this? Why are they moving forward with impeachment? And-- and what that means as a constitutional responsibility. But we're expecting to kind of have that 30,000 foot view of why they're doing this, and why it's imperative for the country.

Steve Kornacki: I'm vaguely remembering, correct me if I'm wrong here, in the-- the Clinton impeachment back in '98, when the House Judiciary Committee-- held hearings back then, I-- I think they also had scholars-- constitutional scholars, lawyers, legal experts testify in the way you're describing. This-- this has been done in the past, is that right?

Alex Moe: That's right. Back in the Clinton impeachment they had two panels of academic experts and the ranking member, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Congressman Collins, actually pointed that out to Chairman Nadler in a letter basically saying there were 19 academic witnesses called back in the '90s for Clinton, so why are we limiting this one to only four?

Steve Kornacki: Is there any sense that-- I guess on the Democratic side we're always asking this question, you know, ultimately they're-- they're trying to change the politics-- the politics more broadly outside Congress, the-- the-- the sort of the public opinion on this. Do they have any hope? Do they have an expectation that-- that calling constitutional scholars will break through to the public at all?

Alex Moe: That's a tough on. I think, you know, we're gonna have to see. I think that they've had-- the Judiciary Committee specifically has had some of these more academic based-- hearings in the parents on the Mueller report. And a lot of people have kind of tuned out as the hearing has gone on because as you can imagine these kind of go a little bit in the weeds and sometimes, you know, go over people's heads. So I think that there's gonna be a real challenge for Democrats this week to kind of keep that interest level in the hearing going.

Steve Kornacki: You mentioned the Intelligence Committee in its hearings was talking to all of these-- you know, these fact witnesses, folks who had some sort of firsthand knowledge of what was going on inside or around the administration. When you get beyond Wednesday and the-- the scholars who are gonna be testifying in front of the-- the Judiciary Committee, what other kinds of witnesses are then going to be called? Are they gonna call people who also appear before the Intelligence Committee? Are they gonna call fact witnesses? What-- what will-- what will it feature when you get beyond-- scholars and academics?

Alex Moe: I think at this point the fact based witnesses are pretty much done, at least on the House side of this investigation that we're gonna see before they perhaps move forward with a vote on articles of impeachment. That being said, you know, we're waiting to hear if Judiciary will have any additional public hearings. For example, they could call Chairman Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee to appear before the Judiciary Committee and talk about this report that he is writing. And Republicans really want to hear from Chairman Adam Schiff because they're unhappy with the way this whole process, before the Intelligence Committee, went down, and feel like it's been unfair to the President. So we're still waiting to hear if there's going to be any additional public hearings, but I think in terms of the fact finding process, and those fact witnesses, that's pretty much concluded now that it's being passed from intel over to judiciary.

Steve Kornacki: Alex-- hold that thought, we'll be right back. Also, another-- element that we'll be missing, it looks like, from this hearing on Wednesday at least, before the Judiciary Committee, that is somebody officially representing the President, officially representing the White House. Jerry Nadler, the committee chair head invited the President, his lawyers, to be part of the hearing this week. Over the weekend the White House lawyer communicated to Nadler and the committee that that won't be happening saying here, quote, in the letter, "an academic discussion cannot retroactively fix an irretrievably broken process." Tell us a little bit about what was going on behind the scenes there. Was there-- was there a realistic chance that the White House was ever going to be part of these proceedings? What are they hoping to achieve by not being part of them?

Alex Moe: So I think that it was pretty widely expected that the White House would not be participating at least in Wednesday's hearing. And this letter from the White House lawyer, Pat Cipollone, only was about this coming Wednesday's hearing. They actually have another deadline of Friday to respond to the Judiciary Committee if someone from the White House wants to participate in any future impeachment proceedings that might take place, which we're still waiting to hear about. But, you know, really the White House and Republicans have continued to argue that this process has not been fair to the President, and they didn't rule out participating in the future. But they really called into question the methods and-- and why Democrats are taking this approach. And not to mention, you know, on Wednesday-- the Wednesday hearing is taking place while President Trump is in London for the NATO summit, and so that's something else that Republicans are arguing, you know, was kind of set up against the President.

Why did Democrats schedule this hearing on a day when the President was long scheduled to be out of the country? But that being said, Democrats have been moving at a pretty rapid pace since they voted on this resolution to move forward with impeachment. So if they wanna wrap this up by the end of the year, which there's no timeline, you know, officially set, they need to keep moving with these hearings.

Steve Kornacki: The President himself also addressed the topic of impeachment this morning very briefly. He was on the south lawn of the White House.

President Trump: I think it's gonna be a tremendous boon for the Republicans. Republicans have never, ever been so committed as they are right now, and so united. So it's really a great thing in some ways, but in other ways it's a disgrace. It's a disgrace--

Steve Kornacki: You hear a confident Donald Trump there saying this a tremendous boon for Republicans, this entire impeachment process. I'm curious, what-- what is your sense folks around Trump's orbit, how do they-- how do they feel the politics of this are going for them several weeks in? We-- we looked at the public polling on this. I-- I think the average this morning says 48% of Americans say they want Trump impeached and removed. 46% say they're against it. That's the average of the polling out there. How-- how is that playing in the White House?

Alex Moe: Well, I think Republicans, you know, on Capitol Hill, he has a lot of defenders, especially as you had mentioned earlier, Jim Jordan-- who was put on the Intelligence Committee just to kind of help defend the President. And so you have a lot of Republicans up here who feel as if this process is unfair, and rigged against the President. And-- and they're very, very confident that the public is going to see through what Democrats are doing, and that Democrats have just wanted to impeach the President from the beginning because they were unhappy with the 2016 election results.

And so, you know, I think that the White House, you can see by President Trump, he continues to tweet about this and calling it unfair, and-- a sham, and so I think that, you know, Republicans feel as if-- if they keep attacking the process that will only help them.

Steve Kornacki: And finally, Alex-- again, we mentioned you're-- you're on the ground there. You are watching this-- much more close up than-- than we are. We're looking ahead to this week, the Intelligence Committee report, the vote on that, the opening of the Judiciary hearings. I'm curious though what you are looking at, what you are looking for. What stands out to you in the coming days that's key, even if it's, you know-- something that's-- that's not resolved right now.

Alex Moe: Yeah, so I think that there was a lot of anticipation the week before Thanksgiving. You know, there were back, to back, to back hearings before the Intelligence Committee, and now we're entering kind of this new phase with the report going to the Judiciary Committee and, you know, moving onto are they going to draft articles of impeachment. Something that I think is interesting as well is that while all of this impeachment process is going on the Congress is also dealing with government funding, and are they gonna fund the government? How's the President going to react to that? And how impeachment is going to impact that. So I think that we're all up on the Hill kind of watching to see when will impeachment wrap up, and how is that going to impact government funding, and if there's gonna be a shut down.

Steve Kornacki: Alright, Alex Moe is a Capitol Hill producer and reporter for NBC News. Alex, thank you for joining us.

Alex Moe: Thanks so much, Steve.

Steve Kornacki: We're in a new phase of the inquiry and that means you probably have a new batch of questions for the team behind "Article II." You can leave us a voicemail with your question about the impeachment process. Give us a call at 646-397-5166. I'll give you that number again. It is 646-397-5166. And don't forget to tell us your name and where you're calling from. We're gonna try to answer your questions in an upcoming episode. "Article II: Inside Impeachment" is produced by Isabel Angel, Max Jacobs, Claire Tighe, Aaron Dalton, Preeti Varathan, Allison Bailey, Adam Noboa, and Barbara Raab. Our executive producer is Ellen Frankman, Steve Licktieg is the executive producer of audio. I'm Steve Kornacki, we'll be back on Wednesday.