WH releases summary of call with Ukraine President. TRANSCRIPT: 9/25/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Shane Harris, Jackie Speier, Chris Murphy
Transcript:

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  And there`s a new episode available right now

with Andrew Marantz, author of an incredible new book about the hijacking

of American political conversation through social media.  You can listen

wherever you get your podcasts. 

 

That is ALL IN for this evening. 

 

“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now. 

 

Good evening, Rachel.

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thank you, my friend. 

Much appreciated.

 

HAYES:  You bet.

 

MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for joining us at this hour.  Very happy to

have you with us. 

 

On this day, this date, September 25th, in 1973, the vice president of the

United States, Spiro Agnew, wrote a really strange letter to the speaker of

the house.  This is the letter. 

 

As you can see it`s on the vice president`s letterhead.  It`s dated

September 25th, 1973.  It`s addressed to the honorable Carl Albert who at

that time was the Democratic speaker of the House. 

 

And in this letter, Vice President Spiro Agnew respectfully requested that

the House of Representatives should please impeach him, which is a weird

thing to request, right?  That is a weird thing to ask for.  But the reason

Vice President Agnew did that on this date 46 years ago was because he

thought if Congress took up impeachment proceedings against him, he could

probably survive that because, yes, the House was Democratically controlled

and yes, Agnew had been caught doing pretty bad stuff but a two-thirds vote

in the Senate to remove him, he thought for sure he could survive that. 

 

Because, you know, as controversial as he was, as big as the scandal was

that he was increasingly wrapped up in, the vice president at the time

figured he still had enough support among the diehard Republican base that

even if the worst happened when it came to impeachment, what could they do

to him?  He figured there was no chance they`d get a two-thirds vote in the

Senate to expel him from office.  So, no matter what they did, he`d still

be able to keep his job and he would still be vice president. 

 

What he was hoping for when he wrote that letter 46 years ago today is that

the House would take him up on this offer.  They would start impeachment

proceedings against him.  And that, he figured, might be his only hope of

getting the Justice Department to leave him alone.  Because at that point,

Justice Department prosecutors had been investigating Vice President Agnew

in a long running extortion and bribery scandal and they were planning on

indicting him. 

 

That day, this date 46 years ago, September 25th, 1973, the attorney

general at the time, Elliot Richardson, one of the great heroes of the

independent American rule of law, Elliot Richardson, Richard Nixon`s

attorney general, had just announced that there had been a breakdown in

talks between Agnew`s legal team and the Justice Department prosecutors who

had been after Agnew.  Because of the breakdown in negotiations, the

Justice Department, Attorney General Elliot Richardson made clear that they

were going to take the evidence that they had gathered against Agnew in

this criminal investigation and they were going to present that evidence to

a grand jury the very next day, and they were expecting that grand jury to

indict the vice president. 

 

And, boy, did Vice President Agnew not want to be indicted.  He did not

want a criminal case against himself.  That`s why he was asking for the

impeachment instead.  He thought maybe that would derail this pending

prosecution.  He hoped the Justice Department would see that as a sort of

constitutionally preferable and more simple alternative.  Maybe that would

stop this criminal investigation, this pending criminal indictment, this

expected criminal trial of him. 

 

It was a desperate gambit by Spiro Agnew asking to be impeached.  It did

not work. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good evening.  Vice President Agnew`s request that the

House of Representatives investigate allegations that he was involved in an

illegal kickback scheme was rejected today by the Democratic leadership of

the House.  Speaker Carl Albert said the Agnew matter is before the court

and that the House will take no action at this time. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  The vice president`s request to please be impeached was turned

down by the House.  And so, the criminal case that the Justice Department

proceeded against him and ultimately that`s how the very, very, very

corrupt criminal vice president, Spiro Agnew, was removed from office.  He

pled to a reduced charge in a Maryland courtroom under a binding deal with

Justice Department prosecutors that required him to resign his office. 

 

And Spiro Agnew was the most defiant, combative, unapologetic, blustery, in

your face Republican of his time.  Way more confrontational, way more of a

chest pounder than Richard Nixon ever was.  But even as he denounced the

investigation against him and he denounced the Justice Department and he

denounced the prosecutors who were leading this witch hunt against him, he

was terrified of criminal prosecution because he knew that would be the end

for him.  And indeed it was.  He was right. 

 

And it is still amazing to look back on this day in 1973 and see him

begging for impeachment as a preferable alternative to what he knew would

be his other fate if the Justice Department went through with charges

against him.  It makes you realize the power and the importance of a

Justice Department that is independent, right, and an attorney general,

right, who is known to be independent, who is known and from whom it is

expected that he will prosecute law breaking no matter who the suspected

criminal was or what his public office is. 

 

I mean, Attorney General Elliot Richardson had been appointed by Richard

Nixon.  He was a lifelong Republican.  The lead prosecutor working under

Richardson on the Spiro Agnew case, he was a lifelong Republican from a

powerful Republican family, from Agnew`s home state. 

 

His own brother was a sitting U.S. senator from the Republican Party in

Maryland who basically owed his seat in the U.S. Senate to Nixon and Agnew. 

And yet those prosecutors were not bought.  They did not see themselves as

working for the president or for the vice president.  That attorney general

and that Justice Department were willing to prosecute Vice President Spiro

Agnew because they knew he had broken the law because they followed the

evidence where it led them. 

 

They don`t make them like that anymore.  President Trump does not need to

worry about the same kind of things that may have kept Spiro Agnew awake on

this night in 1973.  We learned today in what was just a remarkable series

of revelations in this new scandal that has led the House of

Representatives to open impeachment proceedings against president Trump,

that has started a cascading series of revelations from the White House and

the Justice Department that have now left this thing off the leash. 

 

Today, we learned things that were just wild.  And as best as we can tell,

the next 24 hours is probably going to be even more wild.  But let`s just

start, let`s just start from the baseline.  Let`s start here`s where we

are. 

 

It was less than two weeks ago that we learned from the head of the

Intelligence Committee that there had been some sort of whistle-blower

complaint that had been filed according to official channels the way it was

supposed to be filed, but for some reason it wasn`t being handed over to

Congress, which is what the law says is supposed to happen.  The head of

the intelligence committee was very upset about that but we didn`t

understand a lot about the nature of that complaint. 

 

Within a few days, though, “The Washington Post” was first to report that

the whistleblower`s report was in fact about behavior by President Trump. 

Something, “The Washington Post” reported, involving the nation of Ukraine. 

Something involving the president making some sort of promise to a foreign

leader in a phone call. 

 

That whistle-blower`s complaint was reviewed by the intelligence

community`s inspector general.  That inspector general founding the

whistle-blower`s complaint to be credible and urgent and under federal

whistle-blower law, that should have set in motion a nondiscretionary

basically automatic series of events, which should have culminated in the

intelligence committees in Congress being given copies of that whistle-

blower complaint very quickly, within seven days of the determination that

the complaint was credible and urgent. 

 

It turns out what the intelligence chairman was so upset about is that the

Trump administration had stepped into the whistleblower process to block

the complaint from being handed over to Congress as required by law.  And

this part of the story has been emerging bit by bit through published

reports.  It`s not totally clear yet. 

 

We`re going to speak with a reporter in just a few minutes who may be able

to clear up some of this.  We expect we`ll get more of it clarified in

testimony early tomorrow morning.  But it appears what happened in terms of

the Trump administration intervening here, to block that whistle-blower

complaint from being handed over to Congress, it appears that what happened

is that the director of national intelligence, instead of giving the

whistle-blower`s complaint to Congress, instead he decided to take advice

on the matter from the Justice Department and possibly from the Trump White

House itself. 

 

The advice, the direction he was given was that actually this complaint

wasn`t really a credible and urgent whistleblower complaint, despite what

the inspector general said.  It wasn`t really that.  It shouldn`t be

treated as such.  The whistle-blower shouldn`t be afforded the kinds of

protections under law that a whistle-blower is supposed to get in these

circumstances. 

 

The advice he also got was that the whistle-blower complaint definitely

shouldn`t be handed over to Congress. 

 

Well, now that has evolved quickly, right, and in some unexpected ways.  I

mean, despite every other knee-jerk partisan things that happens in

Washington, now over the last two days, we`ve had both the House and the

Senate unanimously pass resolutions, unanimously.  I mean, the House it was

421-0, unanimous resolutions in both the House and the Senate calling from

this whistle-blower`s complaint to in fact be handed over to the

intelligence committees in Congress as it`s supposed to happen by law. 

 

Now, the White House has released notes from the president`s call with the

president of Ukraine that was reportedly part of the basis of the whistle-

blower`s complaint.  We`ll have more on that in a second. 

 

But in addition to releasing the White House notes from that call, the

shocking thing that was revealed today, the contents of this – the

shocking thing that was revealed today, the contents of this – the

shocking thing that was revealed today was that the contents of this

whistle-blower complaint were looked at by the inspector general of the

intelligence community, were looked at by the director of national

intelligence, and those two officials, both of whom are Trump appointees,

decided to refer the underlying conduct to the Department of Justice for

potential criminal prosecution. 

 

I mean, this is two Trump appointed officials, the acting director of

national intelligence on your left, the inspector general for the

intelligence community on your right.  Both of them making criminal

referrals to the Justice Department concerning the president`s behavior as

described in this whistle-blower complaint. 

 

And that is a remarkable epitaph enough for this presidency.  He hasn`t

even been in office three years and the justice department is again having

to look at this president for potential criminal prosecution?  I mean, that

itself is remarkable enough. 

 

But then the revelations just kept getting more astonishing.  What we

learned over the course of today is that once the Justice Department got

involved here, the low rumble you might have felt under your feet was

Elliot Richardson spinning like a Veg-O-Matic in his grave, because with

this Justice Department in this administration, under this attorney

general, it`s clear that the president has absolutely nothing to worry

about in terms of criminal prosecution or criminal investigation, even when

two Trump-appointed officials refer the president for prosecution to the

Justice Department. 

 

I mean the bottom line, according to the Justice Department today, is that

the Justice Department decided to not even open an investigation into

President Trump`s behavior here, despite the criminal referrals from two

Trump-appointed officials.  How did they arrive at that decision?  Well,

it`s not pretty. 

 

It`s reported today that prosecutors` investigation into the president`s

behavior consisted entirely of them looking at the White House notes from

the president`s call to Ukraine.  The same notes that we saw today.  The

investigation, such as it was, reportedly did not even involve the Justice

Department or the FBI speaking to anybody who was directly involved in that

call, nor did they speak to the person who issued the complaint.  They just

looked at those White House notes and said, eh, we`re not going to look at

this any further.  There`s no reason to have an investigation here. 

 

Now that we the public have seen those White House notes from the call,

though, we know that in that call the president repeatedly talked about

Attorney General William Barr, the head of the Justice Department, as the

person who the Ukrainian president should work with if he really did want

to provide dirt on the president`s likely political opponent, Joe Biden,

which was what the president was requesting from Ukraine in that call. 

 

I mean, there`s multiple repeated reference to William Barr being,

according to the president, part of this scheme, that the Justice

Department was then asked to investigate, which makes it a remarkable thing

that William Barr did not recuse himself from this, right?  And his own

Justice Department under William Barr not recused from this matter

proceeded to advise the director of national intelligence that there was

not only nothing to investigate here in terms of this being a criminal

matter, indeed this shouldn`t even be conveyed to Congress. 

 

Did he mention that the president says Bill Barr is part of this scheme?  I

mean, here`s Bill Barr`s Justice Department simultaneously telling the

director of national intelligence, no, don`t hand this on to Congress.  Oh,

yes, we`ll look at this as a potential criminal matter in terms of the

president`s behavior.  Sure we will, right?

 

But knowing full well that it is the position of the Justice Department

that the president can`t be indicted for any criminal behavior, and indeed

under this Justice Department when it comes to this president, they`re

currently arguing that the president not only can`t be indicted, he can`t

be investigated for any potential criminal behavior.  I mean, literally,

this morning in court in New York, the president`s lawyers are arguing in

one of these court cases about legal efforts to get access to the

president`s tax returns, they literally made this argument this morning in

court about the president. 

 

Quote: Your honor, he, meaning the president, he cannot be subject to

criminal process while in office.  So, Attorney General William Barr is

implicated by the president in this scheme to get a foreign government to

help him in his next election campaign.  William Barr nevertheless gets his

own department involved in the handling of this whistle-blower complaint

about the president. 

 

The advice from William Barr`s Justice Department is that this matter

should not be conveyed to congress.  And as a criminal matter, not only can

the president not be indicted for this or anything, but the president

cannot be investigated for anything. 

 

And so, yes, I`ll handle this.  Oh, it has to do with the president?  He`s

fine, I won`t even investigate.  No, you can`t hand it to Congress either. 

And, yes, I`m happy being involved in this, even though I`m implicated in

it too. 

 

Who knew that William Barr was going to be the star player here?  I mean,

it`s hard to look back on Watergate as like the golden age of the rule of

law, given that one of Nixon`s own attorneys general actually went to

prison for his role in Watergate.  But, I mean, compare Elliot Richardson

and his handling of the Spiro Agnew scandal with what William Barr was

revealed to have done today. 

 

I mean, in this era, in this scandal, and what is looking like it will be

this impeachment, Attorney General William Barr is up to his neck in this

thing.  And the extent to which he`s going to try to use the Justice

Department to get the president off the hook here looks like it`s going to

be a major part of this ongoing developing story and it`s going to be a

major part of this point in – a major point in this time in American

history. 

 

Unlike 1973, though, it`s clear that impeachment is not going to be a

refuge for this president.  The House closed in tonight on 218 members of

Congress now publicly in favor of these impeachment proceedings, 218 is the

magic number, because that is a majority of the House, 218 lawmakers

supporting these impeachment proceedings.  If 218 lawmakers vote to support

impeachment articles against the president, that is enough to impeach the

president. 

 

And as members of the House sorted of rose on this issue in those numbers

today, I think it became clear that whatever the White House thought it was

doing to defend itself or to head off this impeachment is doing quite the

opposite.  I mentioned the White House notes today that were released by

the White House, notes from the president`s call with the president of

Ukraine. 

 

I mean, it`s right there in black and white that President Trump in fact

did what Democrats are accusing him of doing and why they have brought

impeachment proceedings against him.  In the notes released by the White

House, the president overtly does ask Ukraine for help digging up dirt

against President Trump`s potential 2020 Democratic rival, Joe Biden. 

 

Quote: There`s a lot of talk about Biden`s son.  That Biden stopped the

prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever

you can do with the attorney general, meaning with Bill Barr, that would be

great. 

 

I mean, at this point, I feel like I need to apologize.  I hereby

apologize.  Last night on this show I said somewhat cavalierly that while

we were expecting the White House to release notes of this phone call

today, there was no reason to expect that the Trump White House would allow

for the release of any notes from this call that implicated the president

and the behavior the Democrats – the behavior that Democrats want to

impeach him for. 

 

I apologize, I was wrong about that.  They really did release the plain

text of these notes on this call that absolutely show the president doing

exactly what he is about to get impeached for.  They just unequivocally lay

it out. 

 

There he is, asking a foreign country for help against his expected

opponent in his re-election campaign.  They just released it.  Done.  No

need for an investigation, right?  The White House themselves admits that

the president has done the thing that he`s going to get impeached for

doing. 

 

What is maybe worse, I guess definitely weirder about this phone call about

which we now have these White House notes is that in addition to asking

this foreign country for help against Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 election,

the president also asked them for something else.  So, the context here

obviously, this is Ukraine. 

 

Ukraine is a country that is fighting for its life against Russia.  Russia

recently invaded Ukraine and took part of their country and is occupying a

whole big heavily populated swath of Ukraine, even to this day.  Ukraine

has a big, long border with Russia.  Russia is also being incredibly

aggressive with them, literally to the point of invading and taking parts

of their country. 

 

Ukraine is very, very vulnerable to the far superior Russian military,

which has already been used against them with thousands of people dead in

this war in Ukraine.  Part of the way that Ukraine is holding on and not

being totally overrun is because of the international support for them

against Russia, including crucially military support from the U.S.

government.  And so, here`s this part of the phone call today which you`ve

heard a million people quote all day today.  It appears to represent what

basically seems to be the quid pro quo request from the president making

Ukrainian military aid contingent on him getting something for himself from

Ukraine. 

 

So, you`ve heard this quoted a million times today.  But this is also the

part that I think it`s important to note takes President Trump beyond him

just trying to get dirt on Joe Biden. 

 

The Ukrainian president says according to the notes from this call, quote:

I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of

defense.  We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps,

specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United

States for defense purposes.  Javelins are anti-tank missiles that are an

incredibly important part of Ukraine`s defense against the Russian

military. 

 

Again, he says we are almost ready to buy more javelins from the United

States for defense purposes, period.  Then, President Trump responds.  I

would like you to do us a favor, though. 

 

The word “though” doing a lot of work here, right?  You`d like to buy some

anti-tank missiles to defend yourself from the Russian military that`s

invaded and occupying your country?  You`d like to buy those missiles,

would you?  Well, I would like a favor, though. 

 

Quote: I would like you to do us a favor, though, because our country has

been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.  I would like you to

find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine.  They say

CrowdStrike, and then there`s an ellipses.  We don`t know exactly what that

means from this White House notes.

 

The president sort of therefore, thereafter devolves into like refrigerator

word poetry, not good English, free association, which is the way he

sometimes speaks.  After the word CrowdStrike, he says, I guess you have

one of your wealthy people, another ellipses.  The server they say Ukraine

has it.  There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. 

 

The president says, quote: I would like to have the attorney general,

William Barr, call you and your people and I would like you to get to the

bottom of it.  As you saw yesterday, this is the day after Robert Mueller

testified in Congress about the Mueller report, that whole nonsense ended

with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent

performance.  But they say a lot of it started with Ukraine.  Whatever you

can do, it`s very important that you do it, if that`s possible. 

 

That`s President Trump`s response to Ukraine asking to buy anti-tank

missiles to protect themselves from the Russian military.  And while the

president`s words don`t always hang together as English, what he appears to

be talking about there is a conspiracy theory regarding the Russian attack

on our election in 2016, right? 

 

Remember that in the summer of 2016, before the election, Democratic Party

was hacked, all its documents and emails were stolen.  The Democratic Party

hired a cybersecurity firm to come in and assess what happened.  That firm

was called CrowdStrike. 

 

The report from CrowdStrike on that attack was the first public assertion

that the attack on the Democratic Party appeared to have originated from

Russia, from the Russian government.  What the president appears to be

suggesting here in this call to Ukraine is that somehow the hacked

Democratic Party servers ended up in Ukraine and CrowdStrike has some

Ukrainian connections, which is why he wants the Ukrainian president to get

involved with this. 

 

I mean, the whole point of this particular conspiracy theory is that Russia

didn`t really carry out the hack of the Democratic Party.  Russia didn`t

really mess with our election in 2016.  This is a conspiracy theory that

has been pushed by Russia, by Russian bots, by far right sources, by one of

the president`s key political advisers.  We`ll get to that in a second. 

 

But the theory goes that this attribution that Russia is the entity that

attacked the Democratic Party, the theory goes that that attribution of

responsibility for the attack to Russia is something that was ginned up by

this company CrowdStrike just as a way to make Russia look bad because

CrowdStrike has some connection to Ukraine.  We`re not sure what it is. 

 

Ukraine hates Russia.  Russia didn`t really do it, they`re being falsely

blamed and maybe Ukraine can get to the bottom of it.  I know that sounds

nuts and I know it seems like, oh, Maddow, maybe it`s hard for you to be

parsing that out of these incoherent sentences from the notes from the

president`s call. 

 

Honestly, the reason we can spell out more clearly what this is about

because this is in real life the legal defense being mounted by the

president`s long-time political advisor Roger Stone.  The way that Roger

Stone is trying to defend himself on multiple felony counts in court is

that by claiming that this company, CrowdStrike, is secretly Ukrainian and

Russia didn`t really attack the election, and Russian didn`t really hack

the Democratic Party`s emails, it`s all false claim by CrowdStrike because

they have some sort of Ukrainian connection.  The Ukrainians wanted to

blame the Russians to make Russia look bad.  Russia is actually innocent. 

The Democratic Party hacked itself. 

 

That is how Roger Stone is trying to beat his felony charges in court. 

Just this past week, the judge in his case threw out an effort to suppress

all the fruits of the search warrants in his case because of Roger Stone`s

claim that all those search warrants were based on false allegations

against Russia and Russia is innocent and CrowdStrike`s lost servers in

Ukraine might explain all of it. 

 

I mean, this is an off the deep ending claim.  It really is not working for

Roger Stone in court and it`s not working in the court of public opinion

either.  Russia really did attack our election.  CrowdStrike did find that

Russia attacked the DNC servers. 

 

But after CrowdStrike founding that, then all U.S. intelligence and law

enforcement agencies found that too.  The attribution that Russia was

responsible for the attack was the basis for a 12-person indictment against

Russian military intelligence officers from Robert Mueller.  I mean, in the

real world, there was no question that Russia attacked the 2016 election to

benefit Donald Trump. 

 

But in the world that just unfolded to us today in the middle of this

impeachment scandal, President Trump not only admits to doing what the

presidents are now going to impeach him for, he not only concedes that he

went to the government of Ukraine to try to get dirt on Joe Biden ahead of

the 2020 election.  We also learned that he is trying to enlist Ukraine to

help him in this effort to exonerate Russia for their attack on us in 2016,

to get what Russia did wiped off the ledger somehow. 

 

Why are they going back to this?  I mean, I understand that President Trump

might want to try to cheat in 2020 using another country to try to win re-

election.  I get like why he might be doing what he did toward 2020.  But

he already won back in 2016.  Why go back and try to make it seem like

Russia didn`t help him win? 

 

There`s a few rationales that you might game out.  I mean, I guess they

could be trying to help Roger Stone`s defense.  The president could also

just be trying to recreate a new revisionist history where his election in

2016 doesn`t have an asterisk on it because of Russian interference to help

him win. 

 

But I would remiss – I`d be remiss if I did not also note that there is

one other party that benefits if Trump is able to get this done.  And

that`s Russia.  I mean, Russia still denies having anything to do with the

2016 election interference.  Part of the reason they still deny it and

can`t admit to it, they can`t even brag about it as much as I`m sure they`d

love to is because their 2016 election interference led to a whole bunch of

quite serious sanctions against them that are really bad for their economy

and they really, really want lifted. 

 

There`s no way they can get those sanctions lifted as long as the U.S.

government still officially blames Russia for having interfered in Trump`s

election.  And Trump apparently is trying to enlist Ukraine in trying to

disprove that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.  And that is just

what we learned today. 

 

Tomorrow, the director of national intelligence will be testifying in open

session on live TV at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.  He is right in the middle of some

of the most intriguing stuff here that we don`t yet understand about what

has gone wrong. 

 

“The Washington Post” today reported that that official, the acting

director of national intelligence threatened to resign if he were blocked

from telling Congress what he knows tomorrow.  The DNI is now contesting

that report and saying he didn`t threaten to resign. 

 

“The Washington Post” stands by its reporting.  It`s just incredible drama

still unfolding in all corners. 

 

We`ve got “Washington Post” reporter Shane Harris joining us.  We`ve got

“New York Times” reporter Michael Schmidt joining us.  We`ve got a member

of the intelligence committee who was able to view the whistle-blower`s

complaint in a special secure facility today who`s going to be joining us. 

 

We`ve got Senator Chris Murphy who`s going to be joining us who`s just back

from a trip to Ukraine where he talked to the Ukrainian government about

all of this. 

 

Lots to get to.  We`ll be right back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  As I mentioned at the top of the show, today has been a wild day

of news.  Yesterday, the impeachment proceedings against the president were

launched.  Today has been an incredible day of revelations.  I think

tomorrow may be even more wild. 

 

One of the big, big, big hard turns in the news today, though, came at 2:44

p.m. this afternoon when “The Washington Post” broke this story.  Acting

director of national intelligence threatened to resign if he couldn`t speak

freely before Congress on whistle-blower complaint. 

 

Joining us now is one of the reporters who broke that story.  Shane Harris

is an intelligence and national security reporter with “The Post.”  He`s

been bylined on scoop after scoop on this story and includes today`s

reporting on the DNI. 

 

Shane, thanks very much for being here.  It`s nice to have you here. 

 

SHANE HARRIS, INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON

POST:  Good to be here.  Thanks, Rachel. 

 

MADDOW:  So, this has been an interesting day since you first broke this

news.  You and your colleagues at “The Post”, the director of national

intelligence, the Acting Director Joseph Maguire then came out and denied

that he threatened to resign.  I know you at “The Post” are standing by

this reporting. 

 

How can you help us understand the ebb and flow of this today? 

 

HARRIS:  Well, Joe Maguire has really been stuck in the middle of this

fight between Congress and the White House since the beginning.  I mean, he

did not expect nor wanting to become the acting director of national

intelligence.  And this whistle-blower issue sort of landed in his lap when

he took that office.  We know that Democrats in particular have been

castigating him for his decision not to transmit that whistle-blower

complaint to Congress.  I think his position and the position of his

supporters is that, look, the White House and the Justice Department are

the ones saying this isn`t in your lane, Joe Maguire, so don`t give it to

Congress. 

 

And I think he clearly feels caught in the middle.  Our understanding is

that when the time came that he was going to be called up to “The Hill”, if

the White House was going to insist that he just basically sit there and

not answer any questions and stonewall Congress, that he was prepared to

step down from his position rather than do that. 

 

MADDOW:  In terms of how Director Maguire handled this, it`s been hard from

a layman`s perspective and just an outside perspective, so much stuff with

intelligence is just hard to follow from the outside.  It`s been hard for

me to discern whether or not it was proper for Director Maguire to take

advice from the justice department or even potentially from the White House

as to what he should do with this complaint.  I mean within the four

corners of the whistle-blower law, it looks like once he got this

designation from the inspector general that this was a credible and urgent

complaint, it sort of looked to me that he didn`t have the discretion to go

anywhere else other than to Congress with that complaint, even if he did

want to add his own comments to it. 

 

Do you have any sense of how Director Maguire viewed his own

responsibilities in that regard? 

 

HARRIS:  Well, how he particularly reviewed them in his own mind, I don`t

think I know, and we really don`t know right now.  I expect that he`ll have

an opportunity to talk about that tomorrow, however.  This will be his

first chance. 

 

But, you know, Director Maguire is not a lawyer.  He is advised by lawyers. 

You`re right that the plain reading of the statute here, the whistle-blower

protection act says the DNI shall transmit that complaint to have Congress. 

It doesn`t really contemplate an instance, I think, in which the subject of

the complaint is the president of the United States. 

 

So, naturally, in a case like that, one lawyer might assume that it might

be good to get the guidance of the Justice Department.  I think a big

question for Joe Maguire will be where did you come down on this?  Did you

agree with the lawyer, did you not?  Did you think this was the reading of

the statute and I`m going to do what it says? 

 

But, clearly, he is caught be twixt and between here, the Congress, the

executive branch, the White House, and the Justice Department leaning on

him and the DNI`s office.  It`s obviously an extraordinary case given the

president is the subject.  It will be fascinating to see if he`s willing to

share that tomorrow, why he did what he did.  We know he wants to stand up

for his integrity.

 

I`ll be looking to see whether or not he actually gives us a window into

his decision-making, though. 

 

MADDOW:  On that last point, that was the last thing I was going to ask

you, Shane.  As a reporter knowing what you know about this story with the

very intriguing reporting from you and your colleagues today about this

threat to resign by Director Maguire if he was forced to stonewall Congress

and forced to deny them information he believes they should have, what do

you think that we should be watching for when we see that testimony? 

Obviously, we`re looking all to find out what might be in the text of the

whistle-blower`s complaint.  But what else do you think we should watch for

from him? 

 

HARRIS:  I think you should look for signs of tension between him and the

administration.  This is someone who is a navy admiral.  He had served as

the director of the National Counterterrorism Center.  Again, I don`t think

ever expected to see himself in a position like this, even as acting, a

senior in the administration. 

 

Look for the places where he`s asked to talk about his interactions with

the Justice Department, with the White House, particularly with the White

House counsel as well, who we understand played a big role in this.  I

think that`s where you`re going to look for signs of tension.  And where he

disagreed or frankly where he agreed and was prepared to go along with what

the administration wanted to do. 

 

MADDOW:  Shane Harris, intelligence and national security reporter with

“The Washington Post,” thank you for helping us understand your reporting

tonight.  Shane, I appreciate it. 

 

HARRIS:  Thanks, Rachel.  Good to see you. 

 

MADDOW:  All right.  We have a deluge of news ahead.  Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  We have some breaking news.  There`s all this anticipation

building around what is in the whistle-blower complaint.  We know about the

phone call between Donald Trump and the President of Ukraine.  But as that

transcript notes from that call were released today, surprise, we got word

that the complaint itself, which is based in part on that call, was itself

conveyed to members of Congress who were allowed to read it today in a

secure facility even though I believe they were not able to take copies of

it themselves to see. 

 

Well, tonight, “The New York Times” is out with this new scoop.  According

to “The Times” tonight, the whistle-blower raised alarms not just about

that phone call but also how the White House handled records of the

conversation or, put another way, quote, the unusual manner in which White

House officials handled internal records describing the call. 

 

We also learned in this new scoop from “The Times” that the whistle-blower

identified multiple White House officials as witnesses to potential

presidential misconduct who could corroborate the whistle-blower`s

complaint.  The time says that the intelligence committee`s inspector

general actually interviewed witnesses before deeming the whistleblower

complaint urgent and credible, and before concluding that the president may

have violated campaign finance law when he went to Ukraine to ask them for

help. 

 

And that, quote, Mr. Trump`s potential misconduct might expose him to

serious national security and counterintelligence risks. 

 

That scoop tonight at “The New York Times”, from reporting team of Charlie

Savage, Michael Schmidt and Julian Barnes.  Michael Schmidt is able to join

us here on set tonight, for which I am very grateful. 

 

Michael, thank you for coming back. 

 

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Thanks for having me. 

 

MADDOW:  I didn`t expect to have you back a second night in a row. 

 

SCHMIDT:  Two nights in a row. 

 

MADDOW:  So the whistle-blower complaint, as far as we understand this,

tell me if I`m getting this wrong.  As far as we understand, the whistle-

blower complaint is based in part on the president`s conversation with

President Zelensky of Ukraine which we saw White House notes today.  It`s

also based in part on how the White House handled those notes or how it

handled other information around that call or how it handled other

unrelated incidents? 

 

SCHMIDT:  So, there`s a standard protocol for discussions between the

president and a foreign leader.  It usually goes in as a secret document. 

It`s in a classified system.  But those people in government who need to

know what was discussed, you know, folks who deal with that particular

country have a chance to read it. 

 

One of the issues that is part of this complaint is how the conversation

was dealt with.  It was not dealt with in that typical manner.  So, why was

it not dealt with that way?  Why were the alarms raised?  Why was it

different? 

 

And now we start to see a bit of a fuller picture here.  We were very

concentrated obviously on the transcript, but the complaint is broader than

that and that is one part of it. 

 

MADDOW:  So the complaint is a written document that has been shown in

unredacted form to members of the intelligence committee and to

congressional leadership? 

 

SCHMIDT:  Correct, and it`s a classified document. 

 

MADDOW:  It is.  Is there any expectation that it will go through a

declassification process so that it can be shown at least in part to the

public? 

 

SCHMIDT:  I assume so.  And I think that`s something that the White House

realized they`re going to have to do here.  As we see, they have changed

their body posture over the past few days.  They`ve tried to disclose these

things.

 

I`m not sure that disclosure has done the things that they wanted it to do. 

The president thought that putting this out would help him because he

thought Democrats had overplayed their hands.  Not sure that that`s been

the case today. 

 

But I think this is a document we will probably see, given all the scrutiny

that it`s been given. 

 

MADDOW:  It has been interesting to see members of Congress come out of the

SCIF, come out of the facility in which they can look at this and they`re

all being very careful at least in public not to describe the classified

document.  But a lot of them are expressing concerns that like the White

House notes from that call with President Zelensky, what they say they are

seeing in the complaint is worse than they expected and more detailed than

they expected. 

 

One of the details that you and your colleagues report is that the

whistleblower provided the names of White House officials who could

corroborate this complaint? 

 

SCHMIDT:  Correct.  The whistleblower gave the names of several folks who

would back up his account, who would be able to corroborate it.  And in an

instance like this when you`re a whistleblower, you want those people to be

there.  You`re really out on a ledge by yourself and you want for this to

be substantiated, and for the investigators to be able to go in and to find

the same things, to be able to establish that this indeed happened even if

maybe you`re not a Trump supporter like apparently this whistleblower was. 

 

MADDOW:  Saying the Trump supporter reference is a notation made by the

inspector general in terms of assessing the credibility of the

whistleblower, noting that this person arguably may have had some political

interests, but nevertheless was found to be credible by the inspector

general. 

 

SCHMIDT:  Correct.  Obviously in any investigation you could have certain

feelings about different people involved in it, but also be truthful.  And

as you`ve seen the president and on Fox News, folks seize on the fact that

this person was not a Trump supporter, and it was enough to make it into

this document. 

 

But as you said and as we noted, the inspector general found the allegation

to be certainly enough to pass it along. 

 

MADDOW:  And this intriguing detail that the inspector general actually as

part of his investigation talked to some of these other White House

officials who were described by the whistle-blower as potentially

corroborating witnesses, did the I.G. do that himself?  Does he have a team

of investigators who can go out and do that? 

 

SCHMIDT:  Well, I`m not sure who – you know, if it was the I.G. or the

investigators, but this is a full-blown investigative office.  They are in

charge of looking into these types of allegations not just, you know, at

let`s say the NSA or Pentagon, throughout the entire intelligence

community. 

 

Remember, this is the institution that had to look at Hillary Clinton`s

emails several, several years ago. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes.

 

Michael Schmidt, one of the – part of “The New York Times” reporting team

that has broken another scoop on this story.  Mike, thank you for coming. 

It`s really good to have you.  Thanks.

 

I want to bring into the conversation now, Congresswoman Jackie Speier,

Democrat from California.  She is a member of the House Intelligence

Committee and also Oversight Committee.  As such she would have been

afforded the opportunity to see this complaint. 

 

Congresswoman, thank you so much for being here.  I appreciate you making

the time. 

 

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA):  Thank you for having me on, Rachel. 

 

MADDOW:  Were you able to view the whistle-blower complaint today?  I know

that it was made available to members of your committee. 

 

SPEIER:  Yes, I did review it in its totality. 

 

MADDOW:  And I know that – I am not going to push you at all to make you

talk about classified things that you cannot talk about. 

 

But I want to ask your own personal reaction to looking at that document,

your sense of its importance and your reaction to it. 

 

SPEIER:  Rachel, I can describe that complaint as nothing short of

explosive.  It is so much more than the summary of the telephone call that

has been presented by the White House as evidence, and I`m not even in a

position to say that that was at all involved in the complaint until it is

actually declassified.  But I can tell you that I was stunned by the

breadth of the complaint and the details with which the whistle-blower

expressed his concerns. 

 

Now, the inspector general did find that it was both credible and urgent

and in the 15 months since he has been appointed by President Trump, he has

never found a whistle-blower complaint to reach the stage of being urgent. 

But he has, in fact, transferred all of these whistle-blower complaints to

the committee as have previous inspector generals as well. 

 

So, he was handling this by the book, and it was the director of national

intelligence that turned the tables on him. 

 

MADDOW:  In terms of that urgent designation that you just described there,

that`s striking that this inspector general hasn`t found other complaints

to deserve that specific designation.  Can you help us understand what that

means?  Does that mean that if this complaint is not addressed, there is an

urgent risk of national security harm to the United States?  Is that – is

that what that means?  Or does it have some other technical meaning in this

context? 

 

SPEIER:  No, you`re absolutely right.  The term is defined in the statute,

but it does speak to the impact on national security and the risk to the

United States.  So it met that classification. 

 

MADDOW:  You`ll hear from the acting director of national intelligence

tomorrow at your committee.  We`re all very much looking forward to that

live testimony at 9:00 a.m.

 

From what you have seen and from what you understand about how to

relationship between that publicly available phone call, the notes from the

phone call we saw today, the complaint that you`ve seen, what you`ve heard

already from the inspector general, the expected testimony from the DNI, do

you expect that we the public are ever going to know the contours of what

really happened here and what this whistleblower was trying to raise these

red flags about?  Or is this something that is always going to be mostly

classified and we`re going to have to guess at it? 

 

SPEIER:  No, I don`t think it will be mostly classified because, in fact,

most of which the whistle-blower described, he believed was unclassified. 

So I think a good portion of it will be made available to the rest of the

members of Congress and to the public at large. 

 

It`s really important, though, to ask the director of national

intelligence, when you have a statute that requires you after seven days

upon receiving from the inspector general a credible and urgent whistle-

blower complaint, why he didn`t automatically send it to the House

Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee?  Somehow word

got to the White House or to the attorney general, and I guess one of the

questions we need to ask tomorrow is, why did he contact them or was he

contacted by the White House because they had somehow gotten wind of this? 

 

MADDOW:  Hmm.  That seems like the sort of thing that should be sort of

clarifiable at that testimony. 

 

Congresswoman Jackie Speier, from the great state of California, member of

the House Intelligence Committee, looking forward to the testimony

tomorrow.  Thanks for helping us understand it in advance tonight. 

 

SPEIER:  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  All right.  Joining us is Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.  He

sits on the Foreign Relations Committee. 

 

I specifically want to speak with Senator Murphy tonight because he met

with the Ukrainian president and visited with Ukrainian government

officials in Ukraine and has some unique insight here. 

 

Senator, thank you so much for making time to be with us tonight. 

 

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT):  Thanks a lot. 

 

MADDOW:  Tell us where you`re at right now on this story, given your sort

of unique subject matter expertise in this area and what has unfolded over

the course of this last 48 hours.  What do you make of this moment that we

are in? 

 

MURPHY:  Well, way back in spring, I started to hear these concerns raised

to me by my Ukrainian contacts that the Trump administration through Rudy

Giuliani and perhaps others were engaged in a pretty substantial pressure

campaign to get the new president to turn his administration into a vehicle

for the president`s political advancement in an attempt to try to destroy

the president`s political opponents. 

 

And so, I think what we`ve seen in this transcript this morning is really

just the tip of the iceberg.  And though I haven`t seen this whistleblower

complaint, I guess that it may provide some really alarming context to how

comprehensive this effort was to try to enlist the Ukrainian president in

the president`s 2020 reelection campaign.  And so when I went to Ukraine, I

raised this with the president, with President Zelensky.  I told him that

it really was not in Ukraine`s interest to get involved in the 2020

election.  He assured me they had no interest in doing so. 

 

But it now seems as if the entire U.S./Ukraine relationship over the past

several months has been viewed by the president as simply a mechanism to

try to advance his political interests, and that`s likely why this becomes

an urgent national security concern, because the focus of our relationship

with the Ukraine prior to Zelensky`s ascension to the presidency was around

sending a message to Russia that their aggression in the region would be

met with a firm response from the United States, by turning it into just a

mechanism to try to help the president`s reelection, that is of grave

consequence to U.S. national security. 

 

MADDOW:  Now, the president tried to drag you into this by essentially

claiming your contacts with the Ukrainian government, your discussions with

President Zelensky themselves should be seen as improper, which is sort of

weird what about-ism, he accused you of having threatened the government of

Ukraine.  I have to ask your response to that. 

 

MURPHY:  Yes.  I mean, that`s an interesting Jedi mind trick by the

president, to suggest that I am engaged in corruption because I`m telling

the Ukrainian government to not accede to the president`s corrupt request

for them to interfere in the 2020 election. 

 

I`m very clear about what I said to the president of Ukraine.  I told him

that if he`s talking to the United States, he should be talking to the

State Department.  He should not be engaged in conversations with the

president`s reelection campaign.  And if he were to do that, he would

damage his credibility globally and in the United States, that is not –

undue interference. 

 

That is a recommendation that the government of Ukraine stay out of U.S.

politics, which is really good advice for any foreign government.  So I

stand by that belief and would say it again if I had the chance to talk to

the Ukrainian president. 

 

MADDOW:  You mentioned at the top of our discussion tonight that you feel

like this may be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what was going on

here between the Trump administration and this, what appears to be a

corrupt effort to enlist this foreign government in helping the president

get reelected. 

 

I know that you were very reluctant to come out and say that you believe

the president ought to be impeached on this and on any other matter.  But

you recently came out and said despite that earlier reticence, you real I

do believe impeachment proceedings are warranted here.  Given that and

given what you know about the circumstance, I wonder what you think about

how the House should approach this.  Should they just approach this

discrete issue of the president asking a foreign government for help with

his reelection campaign, and just say it`s basically done and move forward

and impeaching him on that? 

 

Or do you think this should be sort of a toe hold to investigate these

issues more broadly, to try to bring all of this stuff to light, especially

if you think there is a lot more here? 

 

MURPHY:  Well, I think we have an interest in expediency.  The president

only has slightly more than a year left on his term, and so I would like to

see a process in the House that works as quickly as possible.  And I do

believe that if the president is shown to have used his office in order to

try to get a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election, that in

and of itself is impeachable. 

 

And so, I leave it to the House generally to decide the scope of this

inquiry, but I don`t know that you have to go much beyond the events that

have been uncovered in the last several days.  And I frankly think that

there`s a lot of questions that need to be asked just about the extent of

this corruption. 

 

Remember, Mike Pompeo said this weekend, you know, he can`t tell you if

members of the State Department itself were not involved in this pressure

campaign.  There are reports today that our envoy for the U.S. –

Ukraine/Russia dispute, Kurt Volker, may have been involved. 

 

So, I think there is plenty of investigation to do here.  This may be

enough for the House to take on in and of itself. 

 

MADDOW:  If those other officials were involved, do you think that

impeachment proceedings should be brought against them? 

 

MURPHY:  Well, listen, you can`t be serving in the United States government

if your chief concern is trying to trade the reputation of the United

States to reelect the president.  And so, if there are any State Department

officials who have facilitated this campaign of corruption, then they need

to resign, or they need to face consequence. 

 

Kurt Volker is a widely respected diplomat, somebody who did lots of work

for years with John McCain.  He has been charged with trying to press the

Russians to step back from their invasion of Ukraine.  If, in fact, he has

been spending his time on other endeavors, such as the ones that Rudy

Giuliani has been endeavored in, he can`t continue in that position. 

 

MADDOW:  Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut – sir, thank you for your

time this evening.  Much appreciated. 

 

MURPHY:  Thanks. 

 

MADDOW:  We`ll be right back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  As I mentioned, this has been a wild day.  Tomorrow is probably

going to be more wild.  I can tell you tomorrow is already a huge day in

the news.  Nine a.m. Eastern Time, the acting director of national

intelligence, Joe Maguire, will testify in open session before the House

Intelligence Committee.  Open session, that means it will be on TV, which

means you have to call in sick probably.  Ahem. 

 

Then at 11:00 a.m., he is going to testify before the Senate Intelligence

Committee.  That will not be on TV, that will be a closed session.  So

we`ll be watching for any characterization that`s come out of that closed

door session. 

 

Also tomorrow, the general inspector for the intelligence committee,

Michael Atkinson, the one who fielded this complaint, and we learned

tonight from “The New York Times”, apparently interviewed witnesses in the

White House that could corroborate the whistle-blower`s complaint.  He is

also going to be testifying before the Senate Intelligence committee behind

closed doors after the acting DNI is in there first. 

 

So, this story developed in ways that were not hard to follow – I mean you

can follow every piece of it.  They were just sort of hard to believe as

each new piece of it fell into place today.  I think tomorrow may be

another day like that. 

 

Get a good night`s sleep.  That does it for us tonight.  We`ll see you

tomorrow. 

 

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.

 

Good evening, Lawrence.

 

                                                                                                               

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