tv The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell MSNBC January 25, 2021 10:00pm-11:00pm PST
with the new senate majority leader, chuck schumer, while i was asking him about his strategy for dealing with the fact that he was in a big stand off with republican leader, mitch mcconnell. essentially they're technically now in control, senator mcconnell issued a statement backing down basically caving in that fight. we've now got a statement from senator schumer in response. his spokesman says this, "we're glad senator mcconnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand. we look forward to organizing the senate under democratic control and start getting big, bold, things done for the american people." whew. that does it for us tonight. now it's time for "the last word with lawrence o'donnell." good evening, lawrence. >> good evening, rachel. great interview. this is a complete surrender by mitch mcconnell and i was struck by the strength of what leader schumer had to say about this point before we knew that he had won.
>> yeah. >> and i'm wondering how much of your interview mitch mcconnell saw before he surrendered because chuck schumer just kept saying, we're not going to do it, you know, we're not going to go along with it. every member of the democratic senate agrees with this 100%. you could see he had that strength of every member which he's not always going to have. there are going to be some nights when he doesn't have every member, he won't be able to say that, and when you have every member like that, the other leader hears that and realizes there's no way around this. >> yeah. >> but it was quite a dramatic standoff and it is a huge win in that building for chuck schumer. not out there in the world, not out there to people who don't care and don't know about senate procedure. but within the culture, rachel, this was the first test. and the strangest test i've ever seen a new majority leader have to deal with just getting that organizing resolution passed. and i -- >> yeah --
it means the -- >> i got to say, at this stage chuck schumer -- >> means democrats can actually take control. >> yes. >> it means the democrats having won control of the senate now actually can take control of the senate. i don't know if it was just muscle memory for mitch mcconnell or whatever trying to dictate terms as if he was still running the place, but for schumer to come out just with a straight arm and say no, you do not get to dictate terms and if you think you're going to get away with this, you have no idea what is coming next, i'm not going to tell rachel maddow, not going to tell the cable news audience but i have it under control and i know what's coming, i just think, you know, when you have the votes you have the votes. >> you know, he did tell us, you pressed him a couple times. he refused to answer the question, basically said standby. what he clearly meant was he was going to change the senate rule with 50 votes plus the vice president. he was going to do it and wipe out this 60-vote threshold that mitch mcconnell was trying to impose on this. in the process he was basically going to wipe out the filibuster as we know it.
it is described as the nuclear option, so-called. that's what chuck schumer was so vividly threatening to everyone in the senate when he was so coyly not answering your question. when i saw the strength with which he did that, it was extremely clear to me that we were days away, days away at this point, probably, you know, before the end of this week, chuck schumer would have used that so-called nuclear option and then mitch mcconnell would be utterly powerless. completely and utterly powerless. which might still happen at some point. >> i think it's likely that it will still happen. i mean, we'll see how senator mcconnell and the minority republicans behave in the minority and whether or not they actually want to have anything to do with legislating on even very popular noncontroversial things, but if they continue to behave as a caucus the way mcconnell has led them for all the years that he has been a leader then the filibuster will be dead before i turn 48 and my birthday is april fool's day.
and so we've -- i mean, we'll see, but it -- i mean, you can see the writing on the wall. they're either going to legislate or they're going to let the minority run roughshod over them. chuck schumer is in no mood for that. >> rachel, you were in the room with him. i sense you could feel that determination. >> yeah. yes. exactly. i mean, there was no equivocation. he wasn't -- he didn't -- first of all, he didn't agree to do an interview with me because he, you know, didn't know how he felt on the matter. clearly he agreed to sit down for this interview knowing i would press him on it and knowing he had something to say. he was jumping in before i could make the case so he could make it two times harder. i do think that the democrats learned the lesson of what the republicans were able to string them along for in 2009 when they had, you know, a much bigger majority and much more running room, but they wasted all of that time and weakened all of their own legislation while mcconnell just played it out and
they're just not going to do that again. >> there is a new majority leader in town, and thank you for showing us that tonight, rachel. it was really very impressive all the way through. >> thanks, lawrence. >> thank you. well, this is the year of the senate. it's all up to the united states senate. confirmation of the biden cabinet. confirmation of dozens and dozens of biden nominated federal judges that chuck schumer was just talking about suggesting there could be even more than we expect. and the biden legislative agenda will live or die in the senate and that's why rachel traveled to washington today for that extensive interview with the new senate majority leader chuck schumer. now, we both are focusing our shows, our first shows of this first full week of the biden presidency, on the senate because it is all up to the senate. chuck schumer will be tested in ways that no senate leader has ever been tested because his
majority could not be smaller. he will have only a one-vote majority on the senate floor when vice president kamala harris casts tie-breaking votes when necessary. even sizable majorities, big ones like the 57 senate democrats that bill clinton started with, that's how he began his presidency, 57 senate democrats. that kind of senate can still get bogged down in senate procedure that is designed to slow down the legislative process and can easily and often does cripple it. chuck schumer couldn't have a smaller majority. and that's why he had to struggle with what is normally the routine vote, the organizing resolution of the united states senate which assigned committee chairmanships and committee membership, mitch mcconnell was forced to drop his demand just in the last hour to that organizing resolution of the senate which in mitch mcconnell's version would have forbidden the democrats to
change the filibuster rule in any way. that's what he had to drop. that demand. and he did drop it. meanwhile, the senate is slowly but surely confirming biden cabinet members. janet yellen was confirmed as secretary of the treasury today by a vote of 84-15. many of the republican presidential candidates voted against her, of course, including senators hawley, cruz, rand paul, mike lee, and today, the vice president of the united states had an official swearing in of the secretary of defense, lloyd austin. that's a historic picture in many ways. today, president biden was asked if he might give up on bipartisan compromise for his covid relief package and try to legislate it with only democratic votes in the senate using the budget reconciliation process. >> well, look, the decision on reconciliation will be one made by the leaders of the house and
the senate, but here's the deal. i have been doing legislative negotiations for a large part of my life. i know how the system works. and what i am not -- can't guarantee anything at all, but i can say that what i'm going to be doing, and we've already begun, is making it clear to the leadership in the house and the senate, as well as the group of 16, group, bipartisan group, as well as republican individuals who have an interest in the issues that are in my package, and saying here's what i'm doing, here's why i want to do it, here's why i think we need to do it and what kind of support can or can't you give to that. and then we go on to the way in which we deal with legislation all the time. no one wants to give up on their position until there's no other alternative. >> here's what the senate majority leader told rachel about that tonight.
>> our hope is, now, we have tools that we can use. reconciliation. we can get a lot of the covid bill done with reconciliation. and that's something we certainly will use if they try to block this immediate covid bill. we can even use reconciliation for a much broader proposal. biden's bill, back better. >> here's what leader schumer said tonight about scheduling the senate impeachment trial. >> now, there will be a two-week place where the, you know, in the next two weeks the -- both sides will prepare their papers. that's actually good for us because in that first week, this week, we're going to spend time filling the president's cabinet. very important to do. you cannot have homeland security or secretary of state or i would even say hhs vacant given the need for vaccines. and then in the second week we will begin on the covid relief bill. president biden's $1.9
billion -- trillion -- bill called the american -- what is it called? american rescue proposal. rescue plan. american rescue plan. arp. so we'll have some time to do those things. people said, how are you going to get this all done? well, we said we were going to try to do these three things at once. cabinet, impeachment, covid. and we're making good progress on those. despite mcconnell trying to blockade everything. there are different things we can do to get around him. >> leading off our discussion tonight, just the people i want to talk to in this beginning of the year of the senate. norm ornstein, congressional historian and scholar at the american enterprise institute. also with us, ezra klein, "new york times" opinion columnist, and host of the podcast, "the ezra klein show." norm, i want to begin with what it means within the senate for mitch mcconnell to cave like this tonight, just give up and no pretense, no -- there's nothing in his move that
indicates there was anything other than i guess chuck schumer was going to beat me at this, i had to give in to him. >> it was kind of odd in a way, lawrence, because this was a made-up fight. there was no reason to have it. it wasn't going to lead anywhere. however it ended, the only thing that he could have done was to keep democrats from chairing committees for a period of time. and that wouldn't have looked good over -- after a while. but what we have to keep in mind is that while this is a victory for schumer, the big battles continue to be ahead. and we know what mcconnell's strategy was with -- when barack obama was president and we know what it's going to be now and we know most of his republicans are going to do the same thing. and that is to obstruct wherever they can and to use the delaying tactics to take up as much floor time as they possibly can. so there's going to be a real challenge for schumer not just in managing the floor but in finally getting the 50 votes that he needs to change the
filibuster rule. not eliminate the filibuster. we have all kinds of ways of doing it that we can talk about. we can get a little bit into the weeds on this as we go along. but that along with that heavy agenda that lies ahead is going to be a real challenge. as you know better than anybody, the senate doesn't move very quickly even in the best of times. when you have a mitch mcconnell as the minority leader, it hardly moves at all. >> i just want to read what senator schumer said when rachel asked him what are you going to do if mitch mcconnell doesn't reach an agreement on this? and senator schumer said, we've been thinking about this, stay tuned. and rachel asked, do you have tricks up your sleeve? and, of course, he laughed and he said, stay tuned. ezra, he just kept saying, "stay tuned" which in the close-up video was a very direct threat to mitch mcconnell of the so-called nuclear option which would have blown up the minority rights to filibuster obstructionism completely.
>> perhaps. i seem to be somewhat unhappy with how this all resolved than anybody else did. senator sinema and senator manchin came out today. and they said that they would absolutely under no circumstances be the vote to abolish the filibuster. now, as norm says, there are ways you can reform it that maybe technically what they're saying is they'd be open to those. i would have been happier to see sinema and manchin come out and say with leader schumer that if mitch mcconnell and the republicans are even going to block the resolution to put the senate together this year, then, of course, they would support the budget -- i'm sorry, the nuclear option in order to get rid of the filibuster even if it was only p on the organizing motion. so i think the real question is what is in sinema and manchin's head? is that a coordinated move with schumer, give these statements and give mcconnell a fig leaf to back down. or coming out to oppose any movement to make the senate work better.
we're seeing mcconnell flexing muscle to block things even if for a little bit that shouldn't be blocked. he'll signaling how obstructionist he will be. and at least a couple democrats instead of coming out and punishing him for it, said in principle they'd leave his demand to leave the filibuster unchanged. i would say whether or not this portends a senate that works or fails, it's a little bit unclear at least at this moment. >> but, norm, those two senators could change their minds over time. depending on how obstructionist mitch mcconnell becomes. this is what the game is now. it's how often does chuck schumer have to threaten a nuclear option when he can? and ezra's right, he has to be able to actually threaten it. it sounded like he did have 50 senators ready to go to at least break through this filibuster of the organizing resolution and once that wall is cracked, that would have been a pretty big crack in that wall. >> i do think that if this had
gone on for another few days what manchin said was i want them to get together, when it became clear that mcconnell wasn't going to get together with schumer. he might have been able to do that for that one organizing resolution. what i would tell you, lawrence, is i worked on this issue as you know with senators for a very long time. and you're not going to get -- it's not just manchin and sinema. it's also dianne feinstein, for example. you're not going to get them to go for the full nuclear option of getting rid of the filibuster for legislation entirely. but one small thing that you could do that would make a huge difference is simply changing the standard from 60 senators needed to stop debate to either 40 senators needed to continue it or my preference, 45, or even just make it a present and voting standard. if you need three-fifths of the senate present and voting, republicans have to stick around all the time. they have to be there for round-the-clock session. right now the burden is entirely
on the majority. if you move it to the minority, then a clever schumer could bring up things like a simple background check. universal background check on guns. the john lewis voting rights act forced them to go round the clock explaining why they're for voter suppression or against something that 90% of americans want so there are tools there that i think can convince the recalcitrants to go along. but as ezra said, it may take a while with a little bit more obstruction to make it work. >> yeah, it's such a good point, norm, that when the standard is you need 60 votes to proceed, that means the opponents to proceeding often don't have to show up for that vote and many times don't. ezra, there's the way chuck schumer was talking about reconciliation with rachel was a very broad and new version of it that we've never seen before. he's talking about using reconciliation in legislation that wouldn't fit previous models of what that is designed for.
so that seems -- if they're going to go for that, that seems like some kind of changes in the parliamentary rules interpreting what is allowed within reconciliation which is another we of chipping away at the filibuster. >> yeah, this is very important. let's how quickly i can get through the weeds here. so budget reconciliation is a way of getting around the filibuster. it was not built for that. it was built to get budgets done. 1974 budget act. the thing that makes it difficult is you can only use a couple of them over the course of even a couple years. and there's a thing called the byrd rule which confines budget reconciliation in a couple key ways. one, can't increase the budget deficit outside the ten-year window. two, things have to be primarily about spending money or taxation. three, it can't touch social security. only some things can go through. you can do a lot of the covid relief bill in budget reconciliation. you can do none or close to none of, say, a voting rights act through reconciliation. now, they could simply vote to ignore those rules and open up
budget reconciliation dramatically as a sub, as a way of getting rid of the filibuster without saying they're doing that and that may be what they end up doing. >> norm ornstein, ezra klein, couldn't have a better team for starting us off tonight. really appreciate it. thank you very much. >> you bet, lawrence. >> thank you. coming up, on friday night katie benner joined us with her "new york times" breaking news report that donald trump tried to get the justice department to interfere with the georgia legislature to overturn the presidential election result there in december and in early january. katie benner will join us again tonight with updates to her reporting after several former federal prosecutors have now said that her reporting shows a clear case of criminal election fraud by the president. n proces. or it isn't. it's either testing an array of advanced safety systems. or it isn't.
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monday morning the justice department announced an investigation of what katie benner reported in "the new york times" friday night and further developed in two more articles on saturday and sunday. the department of justice inspector general announced today he is, "initiating an investigation into whether former or current doj official engaged in an improper attempt to have doj seek to alter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. the inspector general is making this statement consistent with doj policy to reassure the public that an appropriate agency is investigating the allegations." the allegations katie benner's reporting uncovered are that donald trump conspired with an acting assistant attorney general jeffrey clark to force the acting attorney general jeffrey rosen to sign a letter that would then be sent to the georgia legislature telling them
falsely that the justice department was investigating serious election fraud in the presidential election in georgia. jeffrey rosen refused to sign that letter and then jeffrey clark met secretly with president trump and then, "informed mr. rosen midday on sunday that the president intended to replace him with mr. clark who could then try to stop congress from certifying the electoral college results. he said that mr. rosen could stay on as his deputy attorney general leaving mr. rosen speechless. even as mr. clark's pronouncement was sinking in, stunning news broke out of georgia. state officials had recorded an hour-long call published by the "washington post" during which mr. trump pressured them to manufacture enough votes to declare him the victor." other news organizations have now confirmed katie benner's reporting.
jeffrey clark issued a written statement to "the wall street journal" saying, "it is unfortunate that those who were part of a privileged legal conversation would comment in public about such internal deliberations while also distorting any discussions. observing legal privileges which i will adhere to even if others will not prevents me from divulging specifics regarding the conversation." that is a lie. there is no legal privilege that prevents anyone involved in those conversations at the justice department from publicly revealing everything about those discussions. jeffrey clark will, in fact, be forced to reveal what he said in those conversations to the justice department inspector general who will then eventually issue a public report quoting those conversations. joining us now is katie benner, justice department reporter for "the new york times." thank you very much for joining us again tonight, katie.
really appreciate it. when we left this story at this hour on friday night, you had not yet revealed -- you had the information, but in your article you had not yet revealed how jeffrey clark met donald trump. it was through a pennsylvania politician who you've now been able to reveal. tell us about that. >> congressman scott perry, he confirmed that to a local npr -- a local public radio affiliate today that he is the person who gave the president jeffrey clark's contact information. he told the radio station he did it because the president asked him do. he put blame on the president for this. it's clear, it's unlikely the president would have spoke with mr. clark otherwise. somebody at that level in the justice department very rarely rises to the attention of the president. >> that's a republican member of congress. i also want to go to the letter. the letter that jeffrey clark presented to the acting attorney
general and deputy attorney general wanted both of them to sign, that will now become evidence in the inspector general's investigation. he'll obviously get that letter. do you have possession of that letter or are we going to see that letter published in "the new york times" soon? >> the letter will never be published. i'll just say i will not be the person publishing it. >> okay. well, the letter's out there. i think there's a lot of reporters working on what they can do with it. as you've seen the story develop since friday night, what would you say are the most important new developments in the story? >> sure. well, i think what's actually important to do is take a step back and look at the reporting in its context, the full context of what we know is happening through the month of january, the end of december. we had a president who was willing to turn to almost any port in a storm truly to try to find somebody who would stand -- voter fraud. obscure member of the justice department, this included a congressman like
congressman perry. pretty much anybody who would help him in his mission. it also included calling georgia secretary of state raffensperger and push him to, quote/unquote, manufacture, find, create, these new votes that would help him win. we saw that happen thanks to the reporting of the "washington post." also included him pushing u.s. attorney in atlanta to do more to really protect him to, quote/unquote, work harder for him which resulted in the departure of that u.s. attorney which we know from the great reporting of "the wall street journal." of course, leading, culminating to this crisis point, the justice department for the president became so desperate, he would actually replace the attorney general to get somebody to not actually overturn the election but just to create the illusion, to continue the illusion, that he could win. wouldn't even win him the election to get georgia's electoral vote, but that kind of desperation is really interesting. it's very telling. we've seen democrats already say, the context that they're going to use in their impeachment trial. interestingly, it's the kind of information that could impact the public perception of donald
trump. which also when you think about the impeachment trial is just as important as what the senators do because of how divisive the issue is. >> there will be a new chairman of the senate judiciary committee tomorrow, dick durbin, now that they've agreed on the organizing resolution. dick durbin has already promised a senate judiciary committee investigation of everything that was revealed in your reporting friday night. and over the weekend. the house judiciary committee is busy with impeachment duties at this point. but that's probably the first public venue we will have for any kind of investigation of this. do you expect that jeffrey clark will testify to that or will be taking the fifth amendment of that? hiring a lawyer to try to avoid any kind of subpoena to that? >> you know, i'm not really sure what mr. clark will do. i do feel, though, that the actions that he took, he took because he truly believed that they were the correct thing to do.
and that his actions will be guided by the fact that he does believe that what he did was correct. he's one of, i will say, not a small number of people both in the republican party and who worked in the federal government who had their own serious issues about the election but what made mr. clark interesting or unusual, he worked at the justice department. top officials in the fbi had conducted dozens of fraud investigation, and concluded the opposite. they found fraud but not enough to impact the election. even in the position he was in, in that perch, with all the information at his disposal, with colleagues he respected telling him this, he still did not believe it. >> katie benner, thank you once again for joining us. we really appreciate it. >> thank you. >> thank you. coming up, house impeachment managers delivered the article of impeachment to the senate tonight in that solemn procession across the rotunda. one of those house impeachment managers, congressman joe neguse, will join us next.
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just three hours ago, our next guest marched in solemn procession through the velvet ropes that lead the way through the capitol rotunda from the house of representatives to the senate. it was a group of nine members of the house of representatives who will be the prosecutors of donald trump in his second senate impeachment trial. they formally delivered the article of impeachment to the united states senate at 7:00 p.m. this evening, exactly 19 days since the invaders of the capitol walked through those same velvet ropes before they exploded into an uncontrollable mob. the lead impeachment manager, congressman jamie raskin, read the article of impeachment to the senate. >> donald john trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by inciting violence against the government of the united states.
he also willfully made statements that in context encouraged and foreseeably resulted in lawless action at the capitol such as "if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore." thus incited by president trump members of the crowd he'd addressed in an attempt to among other objectives interfere with the joint session's solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced members of congress, the vice president, and congressional personnel and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts. >> joining us now is one of the house impeachment managers in the second trump
senate impeachment trial. democratic congressman joe neguse of colorado.
congressman neguse, thank you very much for joining us tonight. you -- the -- tonight you basically were sent back to the house while the senate does other business. that gives you time to prepare the case. do you -- do you need this time because of new developments, for example, the friday night reporting by "the new york times" of donald trump interfering with the justice department, trying to get them to interfere with georgia's count of electoral votes. especially since the georgia electoral votes are a specific mention in the article of impeachment. >> well, good to be with you, lawrence. the managers are prepared to make the case. we have been working very hard over the course of the last several weeks, as you know, every one of the managers is a talented lawyer, litigator, public defender, legal prosecutor, we have wide-ranging experience. preparing to deliver the case to the united states
senate and we'll be ready to ultimately present that case on february
8th. i think it's important to take a step back, watching the procession you just played in that clip. i know you're a student of history as i am. the fact that today was such a solemn and historic day. only the fourth time in the history of our republic that the house of representatives has transmitted an article of impeachment against a president, sitting or former, to the united states senate for a trial. each of the managers feels a real heavy responsibility and obligation to do our very best to try this case and to prosecute this case, not just on behalf of the congress, ultimately on behalf of the american people. so with respect to the evidence we'll present, obviously those decisions will be made by the managers, under the leadership of lead manager raskin. not at liberty to go into detail with the specific matters you mentioned and the more recent developments over the last few days. to be sure, we'll be prepared and present a very compelling case to the united states senate. >> chuck schumer told rachel tonight he hasn't yet negotiated the particulars of the impeachment process. other than the calendar of when
it will begin. the trial process with mitch mcconnell. but they will negotiate something. he believes. will he do that in consultation with the house managers so that if you wanted to ask for witnesses, chuck schumer would incorporate that into his arrangement and deal if he can get one with mitch mcconnell? >> well, ultimately, the structure of the trial is, as you know, lawrence, given your time in the senate will be a matter for the senate to decide. we're very respectful of the senate's constitutional power in this regard with respect to the trial and the protocols and the procedures and always attentive, of course, to the fairness of the process. our managers are ready. we're prepared as a team to make the case to the senate once the trial commences. with respect to witnesses, that will be a decision that will be made by the manager, managers, as a team, as a team, as a group. i will say, as you know, what makes this case so unique in the context of other impeachments is every single united states
senator was a witness to the insurrection that took place on the 6th. every manager was a witness. i was on the house floor with my good friend and colleague, mr. raskin, as we were leading the electoral college certification during the joint session of congress when the mob stormed the capitol. the first breach of the citadel of liberty since the war of 1812. so clearly that makes this case a unique one and i think that every senator as a result will react in a very visceral way to the evidence we will present because they, of course, lived it just as we did as managers. >> congressman joe neguse who will be one of the prosecutors in the senate impeachment trial of donald trump. thank you very much for joining us tonight. we really appreciate it. >> thank you, lawrence. >> thank you. coming up, seven senators have filed a complaint with the senate ethics committee asking for an investigation of senator hawley's possible role in inciting the insurrection. one of senator hawley's political mentors, former republican senator john danforth of missouri could not be more disappointed in senator hawley. he said supporting senator
hawley's election is, quote, the biggest mistake i've ever made. former senator jack danforth joins us and will get tonight's "last word." [ gasping ] skip to cold relief fast with alka seltzer plus severe power fast fizz. dissolves quickly, instantly ready to start working. ♪ oh, what a relief it is ♪ so fast. did you know you can go to libertymutual.com to customizes your car insurance so you only pay for what you need? really? i didn't-- aah! ok. i'm on vibrate. aaah! only pay for what you need. ♪ liberty. liberty. liberty. liberty. ♪ you may have many reasons for waiting to go to your doctor right now. but if you're experiencing leg pain, swelling, or redness, don't wait to see your doctor. these could be symptoms of deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot which could travel to your lungs and lead to a pulmonary embolism. which could cause chest pain or discomfort, or difficulty breathing—and be deadly.
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yesterday, the "kansas city star" published a detailed story on how josh hawley went from the student council in middle school to the united states senate. in that story we learned that he signed a classmate's eighth grade yearbook, "josh hawley, president 2024." a professor who advised joshua hawley in college said he now feels bamboozled, that was his word, and distressed was his other word, by senator hawley's attempt to block the counting of electoral college votes in the united states senate. and cheering on the crowd that was gathering outside the capitol as they were mustering for an insurrection less than an
hour after senator hawley showed his solidarity with their rage and their mission in this raised-fist photograph that has already become the most widely seen photograph of the junior senator from missouri. no one is more disappointed than jack danforth who served 18 years in the senate as a republican representing missouri before becoming george w. bush's ambassador to the united nations. senator danforth wholeheartedly endorsed josh hawley in his campaign for missouri attorney general in 2016 and 2 years later in his campaign for the united states senate. senator danforth said then, "he is not just some glad-handing politician. josh hawley is exceptional in many different ways." after seeing the invasion of the
capitol, jack danforth told the "kansas city star" that supporting josh hawley was, "the biggest mistake i've ever made." senator danforth said, "i thought he was special and i did my best to encourage people to support him both for attorney general and later the u.s. senate and it was the biggest mistake i've ever made in my life. but for him the approval of the electoral college votes would have been simply a formality. he made it into something that it was a specific way to express the view that the election was stolen. he was responsible." last week seven democratic senators co-signed a complaint to the senate ethics committee requesting an investigation of senator hawley and senator cruz for their roles in inciting the insurrection at the capitol. in my research today i have not been able to find a previous
case of a senator requesting an ethics investigation of another senator. joining us now is former republican senator john danforth of missouri. he served as a member of the senate from december 1976 to january -- through the end of 1995. senator danforth, thank you very much for joining us tonight and for the audience i have to do a full disclosure. you served on the senate finance committee as a republican member when i was the staff director of the committee. we did a fair amount of bipartisan business together. was always a pleasure and honor to be able to work with you in that capacity. i'm very glad you could join us tonight. tell us about what you were feeling when you were watching the invasion of the capitol including the senate chamber where you used to work. >> well, i guess just about the same thing that you were feeling, lawrence.
it was really devastating. i mean, i spent so much time in that place and one of the scenes with the rioters going down a hallway, they walked right bymy old capitol office and banged on the door. so that was -- that was certainly dramatic. then seeing the desecration of the senate chamber is something i never would have imagined. >> mitch mcconnell specifically asked the republicans, republican members of the senate, not to join in what they knew was going to be some kind of challenge to the electoral college, a vote count, that someone in the house, at least some people in the house, would raise. it turned out to be a significant number in the house. and in order for this to go smoothly, they just needed no republican senator, no senator, to join the house because without a senator joining, you couldn't have any debate about this. we would just steamroll right past it. and every republican senator
stayed in line with that until josh hawley was the first one to say, i am going to join and agree with the house on this. what was your feeling when that news broke? >> that he had created an event and that the event was not going to turn out well. i was very disappointed. i think the key to this, lawrence, is that while he says that all he was doing was exercising his right to speak, that was not really the case. he was creating an event. he was doing by his action, he was creating a time and a place that would be the focal point for what turned out to be the darkest day in american history, at least one of the darkest days in american history. so while he said, well, this is
my only chance to speak and i have to speak out and i've got to represent my constituents, it really was not true. a senator can speak at any time on any issue. and in fact, when the actual proceeding occurred on the floor of the senate, and pennsylvania came around and he was the sole objector to pennsylvania, he didn't say a word. he not only didn't debate, he remained in his seat. so the idea that people are now criticizing him for exercising his right to speak is absolutely wrong. he created a situation and without him, the situation would not have happened. >> he's now saying he was not trying to overturn the results of the election. but on january 4th, two days before, he was interviewed on fox news. let's listen to what he said two days before. >> are you trying to say that as of january 20th, that president trump will be president?
>> well, that depends on what happens on wednesday. this is why we have the debate. >> no, it doesn't. the states -- >> what is your reaction, senator? >> well, this is exactly what he did. he said that the presidency was going to be decided on january 6th. that what normally a formality, namely, the certification of the electoral college votes would be more than a formality. it would be a decisive event. so pay attention to january 6th because this is where it will all be determined. that was really the decisive point. >> senator danforth, could you please stand by? we have to squeeze in one more commercial break. i want to ask you about josh hawley writing an article on the front page of the "new york
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back with us, former republican senator john danforth from missouri, the state represented by senator hawley. senator hawley wrote a piece of the "new york post" on sunday, claiming that he is being muzzled, saying it is time to take a stand against the muzzling of america. he's not being given first amendment rights and the right to speak in this country. what was your reaction to that and why couldn't he get it published in missouri? >> it is absolutely baloney. that's why wasn't published in missouri. it is totally ridiculous. his basic line is that it is us against them in america. that we're not just polarized. it is really a war going on but there is a conspiracy, that the
conspiracy involves big corporations, liberals, and they're all ganging up and town and all he wants to do is stand up and speak. when he had the opportunity to speak, he remained seated. he didn't speak at all. so it is a diversion and a baloney and it is, please feel sorry for me and we're all being picked on and i'll be the champion of you against them. >> the seven senators, all democrats, who signed this letter to the ethics committee, for the most part include people like finance committee chairman ron widen and sherrod brown of ohio, and others who are people who are capable of crossing the aisle and reaching bipartisan agreements. if you were there, would that be a letter you would have cosigned on to?
>> i don't know, lawrence, if it was an ethics committee matter. but as far as i know, it is unique to have members of the senate write a letter to the ethics committee, complaining about another member of the senate. i mean, this just doesn't happen. and that would have probably given me pause. because it is really not done. but it did happen in this case because something absolutely terrible occurred in our country. and that is there was an uprising that took place against the capitol building. it was ginned up. it was created artificially by making this event that should have been a nonevent. and hawley was right in the middle of it. >> what is this like for you personally? i know you're a graduate of yale law school and you met josh hawley when he was a student at yale law school. you met him there at a dinner.
you've known him quite a long time and you've had a lot of time to make the judgments about him that you made including the judgment that he was going to be a good united states senator. what is it like for you personally to see this version of him and take, make these objections? >> well, as you put it, i said it is the biggest mistake i ever made. not that i haven't made big mistakes before but this was certainly the most consequential. when i knew him, i thought he was brilliant. i thought he was very, very gifted. i thought he would bring the same sort of intellectual weight that my friend and your boss pat moynahan brought to the senate, although moynihan was a progressive and josh was a conservative. i even wrote him a letter to say, look, you have a chance to be like moynahan in that you
would add something to the senate. real intellectual weight to the senate. i never imagined this us against them conspiracy theory, creating this mess would have occurred. i never would have dreamed of that. >> former senator jack danforth, really an honor to have you join us tonight. really appreciate it. >> thanks. senator jack danforth gets tonight's last word. "the 11th hour" with brian williams starts now. good evening once again as we start a new week. this was day six of the biden administration and thus begins his first full week in office. this day also brought the formal start to the second impeachment trial of one donald trump. this evening, nine democrats in the house appointed as trial managers. the people who will prosecute the case, formally delivered the single article of impeachment