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Transcript: Special Delivery

The full episode transcript for Article II: Inside Impeachment, Special Delivery.
Image: US-politics-impeachment
The House clerk and impeachment managers bring the articles of impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump from the House to the Senate on Capitol Hill Jan. 15, 2020.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images


Article II: Inside Impeachment

Special Delivery

Archival Recording: Heads up. I'm in front please. (CAMERA CLICKS)

Nancy Pelosi: It's a very important day for us.

Steve Kornacki: From NBC News, this is Article II: Inside Impeachment. I'm Steve Kornacki. Today is Wednesday, January 15th. And today.

Pelosi: Today is the day that we named the managers, we passed the resolution to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

Kornacki: After weeks of waiting and speculation.

Pelosi: And later in the day, we march those articles of impeachment to the United States Senate.

Kornacki: The House delivered the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

Archival Recording: The House has passed H.Res.798, a resolution appointing and authorizing managers for the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump, President of the United States.

Archival Recording: The message will be received. (FOOTSTEPS)

Kornacki: Seven impeachment managers led by the House Clerk and the House Sergeant at Arms walked in procession through the Capitol rotunda to present the articles to the Secretary of the Senate. These two articles charge President Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Mitch McConnell: A few minutes ago, the Senate was notified that the House of Representatives is finally ready to proceed with their articles of impeachment. So by unanimous consent, we have just laid some of the groundwork that will structure the next several days. We've officially invited the House managers to come to the Senate tomorrow at noon to exhibit their articles of impeachment.

Kornacki: It was a historic moment to cap off a busy day for Democrats, who just hours earlier named the House managers for the first time. Today on Article II, we'll take you through how the day unfolded and what happens next, as the trial in the Senate approaches. Alex Moe is a Capitol Hill producer for NBC News. She joins us now from Washington. Alex, you had a front row seat to some pretty momentous events today. Thanks for taking a few minutes to fill us in on what happened.

Alex Moe: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Kornacki: Let's start at 10:00 a.m.

Pelosi: So today, I'm very proud to present the managers who will bring the case, which we have great confidence in, in terms of impeaching the president, and his removal.

Kornacki: Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House comes out, has a press conference, and she announces her choice for who will be the managers in the Senate trial, meaning who will prosecute the case. So she had to pick a number of her fellow Democrats. Who did she pick for this?

Moe: Yes, and that was the big question for all of these weeks is just, who she was going to pick. And there was a lotta guessing games going on here on the Hill. This morning, we found out that there were seven impeachment managers. The lead manager, Adam Schiff, the House Intel Chairman, and then also the Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler. They were the two that we really thought would definitely be managers.

And then the other five were Congressman Hakeem Jeffries from New York, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren from California, Val Demings from Florida, Jason Crow from Colorado, and Sylvia Garcia from Texas. So a lotta these folks had litigation backgrounds, law enforcement backgrounds, and they all just found out in the last 24 hours that they were gonna have this honor, if you will, to serve as impeachment managers in the Senate.

Pelosi: Descriptions of the emphasis is on litigators. The emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom. The emphasis is making a strongest possible case to protect and defend our constitution, to seek the truth for the American people.

Kornacki: So let's look a little closer, Alex, at a couple of these names. As you say, Schiff, Nadler, we're all pretty familiar with them. Not a surprise they're here. Zoe Lofgren from California. Folks probably saw her in the hearings over the last month or two. Tell us a bit more about her.

Moe: Yeah, so she's a senior member of the Judiciary Committee and one of Nancy Pelosi's close allies on the Hill. So a lotta people expected her, but something that really stands out about here is that she has been, this will be her third impeachment that she's a part of. The first impeachment, Nixon, that she was a part of, she was a Judiciary Committee staffer. And then under Clinton, she was a member of the Judiciary Committee. And now today, she's going to be a manager in the impeachment against President Trump.

Zoe Lofgren: I've worked on presidential impeachments as part of the Judiciary Committee twice before. This third time brings me no joy. President Nixon attempted to corrupt elections. His agents broke into the Democratic Party Headquarters to get a leg up on the election, and then just like President Trump, he tried to cover it up. Then he resigned. This is even worse.

Moe: So she I think is a little bit, not necessarily nervous, but it's a new role for her, even though she's, you know, been here for 13 terms in Congress.

Kornacki: And there's Hakeem Jeffries.

Hakeem Jeffries: And so we've arrived at a moment of presidential accountability, because Donald Trump has abused his power.

Kornacki: He's interesting to me at least. I'm curious what you make of his presence on this roster of managers. He's interesting to me, because a couple years ago, if you talked about Hakeem Jeffries, folks said his future was in New York City. He might run for mayor, might be the mayor of New York City, something like that. He represents parts of Brooklyn in Congress. Now folks talk about him as a potential future Speaker of the House, somebody who could go high in Democratic leadership. What do you make of the role he'll play here?

Moe: That's exactly right. A lotta people on Capitol Hill think that Hakeem Jeffries has a good shot at becoming the Speaker whenever Nancy Pelosi decides that she is done with that position. And so he's very well-respected in the Caucus. We weren't sure how he felt, if he wanted to be an impeachment manager, because obviously it is a big job. But he told me today that he's looking forward to this role.

Kornacki: A lotta the names, including Hakeem Jeffries come from pretty strongly Democratic districts. These are folks who are generally not gonna have to worry about potentially losing their seat to a Republican. The one exception here though, Jason Crow of Colorado.

I mean, I remember in 2018 during the Midterms, we were looking at all these vulnerable Republicans. Crow is somebody who knocked off one of those vulnerable Republicans, won a Republican-held seat in Colorado. Bit of a surprise pick here. Why did Pelosi choose him?

Moe: Definitely the biggest surprise out of all seven, for sure. You know, Crow didn't even vote for Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker last year, so we were all very surprised. However, he does have a background as an Army Ranger and a litigator, so he brings kind of that national security aspect.

Jason Crow: Years ago, I took my first oath to the country, went to war, and fought alongside our nation's finest men and women. Some of them gave their lives for our nation. Not a day has passed that I don't reflect on those sacrifices. I learned during that time, that our nation is built on sacrifice.

Moe: He wasn't on one of those three committees, Intel and Foreign Affairs and Oversight, or even Judiciary, that did a lot of the impeachment work. He's actually on Armed Services, but someone that's gonna bring that national security background in a way that none of the other impeachment managers are able to.

Kornacki: Do we have a sense, when the Senate trial does begin, what the role for all seven of these managers will look like? Will they all be playing a prominent role in making the case? Or will one or two take the lead, and maybe we might not hear as much from some of these managers?

Moe: I think definitely you'll hear the most from Chairman Adam Schiff, who is gonna be the lead manager. We asked almost all seven of these managers today what their role will be, what aspects they'll be presenting before the Senate, and none of them knew yet. They said they're gonna get together with Chairman Schiff and Chairman Nadler soon and kind of go over strategy. So we're expecting that each of them will do something, but at this point we just don't know.

Kornacki: One question though that I thought was interesting in the run-up to this was, if Pelosi would choose the one non-Democrat in the House who had voted for impeachment, Justin Amash. Very conservative, had been a Republican until last summer, from Michigan, sort of a Libertarian-ish Republican, who voted for impeachment. Very outspoken critic of President Trump.

And there was an argument being made that, hey, if Democrats want to present the idea that this is not partisan, that this something above politics, that maybe Amash not being a Democrat might be a good face to include in this mix. Was there any consideration of him? Do you know why he wasn't picked?

Moe: So, you know, there as a few especially freshman Democratic members that were really pushing for Amash, but the Speaker's office never seemed very receptive to that. I think that they are very proud of their Democratic Caucus, and at that point didn't really see the need to have someone who isn't a Democrat present this.

So they really wanted to have a diverse group of Democrats, you know, three women, two African American legislators, a Hispanic Congresswoman. And, you know, they're spread out across the country. It's not all just from the East Coast or the West Coast. So I think, you know, they wanted to kind of show off the depth of the Democratic Caucus, if you will, and kind of put that up against what they're expecting to see and hear in the Senate.

Kornacki: So we mentioned Pelosi announced at 10 a.m. this morning her choices to be managers. She did actually have to formally get the House to approve that, to take a vote. So at noon, she put the names that she had announced into a resolution, brought that to the House for consideration. Describe what was playing out then.

Moe: Yeah, so a pretty shorter debate than normal when we're debating some kind of resolution or bill on the House floor. So only was about ten minutes, five minutes for Democrats, five minutes for Republicans. But obviously, sometimes that goes a little longer, as it did today. But we heard from a variety of speakers, including Speaker Pelosi herself, who continued to make the argument, you know, that she didn't want to go down the road of impeachment.

Pelosi: For a long time, I resisted the calls from across the country for impeachment of the president for obvious violations of the constitution that he had committed. But recognizing the divisiveness of impeachment, I held back. Frankly, I said, this president isn't worth it. But when he acted the way he did in relationship to withholding funds from Ukraine in return for a benefit to him that was personal and political, he crossed a threshold. He gave us no choice.

Moe: And then we also heard from House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, who really started to attack the managers that Pelosi had announced this morning.

Kevin McCarthy: Chairman Nadler, someone who campaigned for the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee that's responsible for impeachment beginning as far back as December 2017, before you were even in the majority, on the notion that he would be the best person to lead the charge on potential impeachment against the president. You see, you get a chairmanship by your conference voting for you. You campaign for it. You put your best ideas out there of why you should be the chairman. In 2017, that was the campaign.

Kornacki: The actual vote did go through to approve these House managers. Did that vote look like the impeachment vote back in December, essentially a party-line vote?

Moe: Yes, basically. The resolution was agreed to 228 to 193, and just one Democrat, Minnesota Congressman Peterson, voted against the resolution. He also voted against both articles back in December. The only person that was really different this time was Congressman Jeff Van Drew, who if you remember was a Democrat in December and voted against the articles, but then switched parties and is now a Republican. So pretty much what we expected today on the floor. Justin Amash, as you said, the Independent, he voted with Democrats in approving this resolution.

Kornacki: And also, Alex, is it right, the resolution that was passed here naming these managers, they also had to include money in this to pay for a trial?

Moe: Exactly. So the resolution does three things. They voted to send the manager names. They voted to send the actual articles over to the Senate. And it also stipulates that money for the Senate trial will be paid by amounts that are available to the House Judiciary Committee.

Kornacki: All right, we're gonna take a quick break, Alex, but we've got some more to get to, so hang tight. Be right back. So again Alex, there was a lot of sort of official business for the House to deal with today, just in terms of getting these managers appointed, getting that approved, getting these articles over to the Senate. There was also though focus on what Democrats are saying is some substantial new evidence around the president and his actions with Ukraine, something Nancy Pelosi talked about this morning.

Pelosi: They released new evidence pursuant to a House subpoena, Lev Parnas, you know who that is, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, that further proves the president was an essential player in the scheme to pressure Ukraine for his own benefit in the 2020 election.

Kornacki: These documents that are at the heart of what Pelosi's talking about there, Alex, what are we learning there?

Moe: Yeah, you know, and a lot of the committees said before when they were voting on impeachment, that they weren't gonna stop investigating the president and trying to get more documents. And this is what showed, what came of it. House Intelligence Chairman, Adam Schiff, transmitted some new documents over to House Judiciary yesterday that included a lot of documents from Lev Parnas, a Rudy Giuliani associate.

So one of the documents that was interesting was a new letter from Rudy Giuliani requesting a meeting that he said Trump had knowledge and consent about with the President Elect of Ukraine. And then there were also some text messages.

One of them indicated that Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador of Ukraine at the time, might have been under surveillance by a Republican congressional candidate. So these are just a couple of the new items that came out in this, you know, document dump, if you will, the night before transmitting these articles over to the Senate.

Kornacki: Yeah, so all of these documents too, they're giving rise to some questions from our listeners. We're always asking listeners, get in touch with us if you've got a question. So here's one from Matt from the Netherlands. This is exciting to me. I found our we're international today. We've got Matt from the Netherlands who wants to know, he says this, quote "Under the current rules in the Senate, will impeachment managers be allowed to present new evidence like the contents of Lev Parnas's device?" What do you know about that, Alex?

Moe: So I think this is one of the reasons why Chairman Schiff transmitted this information last night to the Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler, so that he could include all this information in the documents and evidence that they're sending over to the Senate for them to take up for their trial.

Kornacki: So there was another piece of business to conclude the day for the House. They had what was known as the engrossment ceremony at the end of the day, and then formally transmitting the articles to the Senate. Now that they've been sent, now that we know who the managers are, what's the next thing that's gonna happen?

Moe: It goes to the Senate thankfully. As a House person, I'm happy that it goes over there. But soon what will happen is the Chief Justice will swear in all of the senators, and then they're gonna take a little bit of a pause for the long weekend.

And then next week, probably starting on Tuesday as Leader McConnell indicated, the trial will really get underway in earnest, opening statements. And then eventually, we'll get to the question and answer period with senators. And then we'll go from there and see if they're able to call witnesses or what they do next.

Kornacki: For folks listening, who aren't familiar with what we see sort on the inside here at NBC, Alex, you are keeping all of us, everybody on air, everybody off air, everybody here inside NBC News constantly updated with the latest on Capitol Hill, what's happened, what it means. You are very fluent in legislative language that I think confuses the heck out of just about everybody else here. So you've been following this closely. You have a very good sense of how things work on Capitol Hill. I am curious, when the House passed impeachment before Christmas, did you think it wouldn't be until the middle of January that the articles were actually transmitted?

Moe: I think that took a lot of us by surprise. However, they really did pass it right at the end when they were going to break. And, you know, the Senate has to be in session for them to transmit the articles over. But I think that it took a little longer to wrap up than I had anticipated going over. But I think, you know, Speaker Pelosi really felt like, you know, she was making her point, and really hoping that McConnell and Republicans in the Senate would listen.

Kornacki: Alex Moe, a Capitol Hill producer for NBC News. Thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

Moe: Thanks so much.

Kornacki: Meanwhile, at the White House today, President Trump signed phase one of a trade deal with China. During the announcement though, he couldn't help but mention what was happening across town at the Capitol.

President Trump: And, by the way, some of the congressmen may have a vote, and it's on the impeachment hoax. So if you want, you go out and vote. I'd rather have, frankly, it's not gonna matter, 'cause it's going very well. But I'd rather have you voting than sitting here listening to me introduce you, okay?

Kornacki: We'll be watching how the White House strategy on impeachment unfolds over the next few days. 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 Lickteig is the executive producer of audio. I'm Steve Kornacki. We'll be back on Friday.