Keith Kellogg, was on the Ukraine call. TRANSCRIPT: 10/3/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Eric Swalwell, Greg Miller, Tom Hamburger
Transcript:

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  That is ALL IN this evening. 

 

“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” start right now with Nicolle Wallace in for

Rachel.

 

Nice to see you around these parts.  Good evening, Nicolle.

 

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST:  It`s late. 

 

HAYES:  You are – 

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

WALLACE:  Thanks, Chris.

 

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Rachel has the night

off but she will be back tomorrow.  Don`t despair. 

 

And on a day that saw Donald Trump dispense with any notion he wouldn`t

publicly seek the help of foreign governments to aid with his political

dirty work, on a day when we thought that might be the big top story, we

begin with even more breaking news on this fast-moving and growing scandal. 

 

Here is the top of the new report from “The New York Times” from reporters

Kevin Vogel and Mike Schmidt, they report this, quote: Two of President

Trump`s top envoys to Ukraine drafted a statement for the country`s new

statement for the president in August that would have committed Ukraine to

pursuing investigations sought by Mr. Trump into his political rivals. 

That`s according to three people briefed on the effort. 

 

They continue, quote: The drafting of the statement marks new evidence of

how Mr. Trump`s fixation with Ukraine began driving senior diplomats to

bend American foreign policy to the president`s political agenda in the

weeks after the July 25th call between the two leaders. 

 

So, just backing up for a minute here, July 25th is when President Trump

has his phone call with Ukraine`s new president.  And according to the

White House`s own notes on the call, the Ukrainian leader brought up

military aid that his country was expecting from the U.S., military aid

that Donald Trump had just put on hold.  And Donald Trump said to him on

that call, quote, I would like you to do us a favor, though.  He asked the

Ukrainian president to help cast doubt on Russia`s responsibility for

attacking the 2016 U.S. election.  Then he asked him for help ginning up

dirt on Trump`s potential political rival Joe Biden. 

 

The White House put the notes from that call on a super secret server meant

for highly classified code word protected material.  But now we know,

according to “The New York Times” tonight, that Trump`s top Ukraine

diplomats then set about trying to get Ukraine`s president to commit

publicly to doing Trump`s bidding. 

 

Here`s more from that “Times” report.  Quote: The statement was drafted by

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the E.U., and Kurt Volker, then the

State Department`s envoy to Ukraine.  The statement committing Ukraine to

investigate conspiracy theories about Joe Biden and about Russia not having

hacked the Democrats in 2016.  “The Times” says, quote, it is unclear if it

was delivered to the Ukrainian president but no statement was released

publicly under his name. 

 

They continue: The drafting of the statement was an effort to pacify Mr.

Trump and Rudy Giuliani and normalize relations between the two countries

as Ukraine faced continuing conflict with Russia.  Mr. Sondland and Mr.

Volker believed that Mr. Giuliani was, quote, poisoning Mr. Trump`s mind

about Ukraine and that eliciting a public commitment from Mr. Zelensky to

pursue the investigations would induce Mr. Trump to more fully support the

Ukrainian government. 

 

And as we said, all of this comes on a day when President Trump asked yet

another country, this time China, to investigate Joe Biden, erasing all

doubt about whether he could or would or will happily collude with foreign

powers in plain sight to boost his re-election prospects. 

 

With the idea that the president`s mind is being poisoned against an allied

country and that U.S. diplomats were scrambling to try to contain the

damage is a frightening prospect on its own. 

 

Joining us is one of the reporters who broke the story tonight, Mike

Schmidt is a Washington correspondent with “The New York Times.”

 

Take us through where this report fits into the rest of the fact pattern

that we have now about if you take the Rudy dossier that the State

Department inspector general turned over to Congress yesterday, you take

this effort, that conspiracy theory had filtered down. 

 

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  You have to

put all that aside.  You have to look at this in the context of the July

call.  In July, the topic of these investigations is brought up by Trump on

the call with Zelensky, the Ukrainian president.  A month later, here you

have two diplomats coming up with a statement that specifically says and

commits the Ukrainian government to investigating the things that Donald

Trump wants them to, the things that will be politically advantageous to

him. 

 

And these diplomats are trying to get the Ukrainians to say it, to put this

statement out, because if they say it publicly, it`s different than saying

it privately on a call with the president.  If they say it publicly, it

locks them in to doing that, to doing what they say they will do to

investigating the people that Trump wanted them to. 

 

WALLACE:  What did these diplomats want, why did they want to lock Zelensky

in? 

 

SCHMIDT:  Well, that`s the question.  What it appears from our reporting is

that they are trying to pacify Giuliani and Trump.  They think that

Giuliani has poisoned Trump on Ukraine and they believe this is getting in

the way of the entire relationship between these two countries. 

 

And in order to fix that they need to sort of get Giuliani and Trump to

back off.  So if the Ukrainians commit to this, commit to investigating it,

then maybe they`ll go away and these diplomats will be able to do their

job.  This was – we have no evidence this was tied to the aid.  This was

simply trying to get Trump to back off and allow the State Department to do

its day-to-day work that he was trying to get in the way of. 

 

WALLACE:  Is there any evidence that Mike Pompeo or anybody else who was up

the chain of command from these diplomats had any conversations about the

aid? 

 

SCHMIDT:  In our story tonight, we don`t tie any of this to Mike Pompeo. 

It`s just these two senior officials that were dedicated to dealing with

Ukraine that were the folks who, you know, had worked on this statement and

had passed it over to an intermediary for Zelensky for Zelensky to look at. 

 

The interesting thing that is the Ukrainians had the foresight to know this

was a bad idea, and they decided not to do it because they didn`t want to

get more deeply involved in the United States politics. 

 

WALLACE:  You used the word “poisoning,” and it literally jumps off the

page.  Whose assessment was it that Donald Trump`s mind had been poisoned

against the Ukrainians and who did the poisoning? 

 

SCHMIDT:  Well, Volker and Sondland, these two senior State Department

officials, knew what Giuliani was telling Trump and they knew how angry

Trump was getting with them.  Trump was convinced that Ukraine was a

corrupt country.  He didn`t want to do any dealings with them.  And they

believed this was being fed by Giuliani who had all this different

information and dossiers he was developing on what happened in Ukraine. 

 

So they were trying to get Giuliani to stop doing that to Trump, to stop

infecting his mind with these different things.  And they thought by

getting the Ukrainians to commit to it, maybe Trump would be at bay. 

 

WALLACE:  Mike Schmidt, Washington correspondent for “The New York Times,”

thanks for your reporting and thanks for joining us tonight. 

 

Even as we`re getting this new reporting on the details of President

Trump`s pressure campaign, elaborate pressure campaign on Ukraine, the

impeachment inquiry into that pressure campaign is unfolding quickly in the

House.  One of the diplomats who reportedly drafted that statement for the

Ukrainian president that we were just talking to Mike Schmidt about, Kurt

Volker, resigned last Friday night. 

 

And today, he was the first person interviewed as part of that impeachment

inquiry.  He was deposed on Capitol Hill today for 9 1/2 hours.  And he`s

reportedly not the only Trump administration official to be resigning under

the harsh glare of the impeachment proceedings around this Ukraine matter. 

Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who House investigators very much would

like to talk to because Perry went and met with the Ukrainian president at

least three times, said yesterday he would willingly cooperate with the

impeachment inquiry. 

 

But tonight, wouldn`t you know it, “Politico” reports that Rick Perry is

resigning next month.  NBC has not confirmed that reporting and we, of

course, cannot say for certain at any point why Perry is reportedly

resigning. 

 

Joining us now is someone who may want to talk to Rick Perry, California

Congressman Eric Swalwell.  He sits on the Judiciary Committee and

Intelligence Committee, and he was at today`s deposition of the former

envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. 

 

Congressman Swalwell, thanks for being with us.  We now know from “New York

Times” reporting tonight that Ambassador Volker was one of two diplomats

who took this list of Trump`s poisoned mind request to the Ukrainians. 

 

Where do you see that fitting into the fact pattern emerging? 

 

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Good evening, Nicolle. 

 

You know, what we saw today was further evidence that there was a shadow

shakedown under way.  And it actually fits right in with what the whistle-

blower complaint alleged, which was that there was this ongoing scheme to

get the Ukrainians to play ball with two asks that the president of the

United States had.  One which was to exonerate Russia for their role in the

2016 election and interfering, and two, investigate my upcoming 2020

potential opponent, Joe Biden. 

 

And that ongoing scheme went up to that phone call and beyond.  And so, you

know, if – I`m not going to comment on the reporting as it relates to Mr.

Volker today, but again that conduct by the president is leveraging U.S.

tax dollars to benefit himself in a U.S. election.  That`s what`s so

improper about it. 

 

WALLACE:  Is there anything you could say, you were in the 9 1/2 hour

deposition today. 

 

SWALWELL:  I was. 

 

WALLACE:  Fox News and ABC is reporting on a series of encrypted messages

that were shared.  Is there anything you can tell us about those messages? 

 

SWALWELL:  We have evidence that corroborates what the whistleblower said. 

We have additional witnesses that we now will want to hear from.  But we

also see that State Department officials from the beginning were concerned

about Rudy Giuliani`s role with Ukraine and that just as recently as a

couple of weeks ago, before the whistleblower complaint was made public,

that one official had identified a concern about tying security assistance

to the Ukrainians in exchange for helping Donald Trump`s political

campaign. 

 

WALLACE:  Congressman, there are so many parallels between Donald Trump`s

alleged conduct in the Russia investigation and Donald Trump`s really sort

of out in the open conduct as it pertains to asking the president of

Ukraine to dirty up the Bidens. 

 

What is there left in the whistleblower complaint that Donald Trump hasn`t

already publicly confessed to? 

 

SWALWELL:  We actually have a presidential confession to extortion.  We

have a job to give him a fair process, we`re going to do that.  We`re going

to continue to interview other witnesses. 

 

But when I was a prosecutor, Nicolle, when the suspect confessed to the

crime, that in most cases reduced the number of witnesses that you had to

talk to.  We`ll continue to talk to witnesses, receive evidence, hope that

the president and his team cooperate.  But I don`t think this has to draw

on for – you know, beyond this calendar year, because we have sufficient

evidence of what the president`s done. 

 

But that`s not to put a deadline on it, it`s just to say that we have

witnesses who are cooperating, and we`re seeking testimony from others. 

And the president himself has actually admitted to the conduct. 

 

WALLACE:  Ambassador Volker, not a household name.  This has come about so

quickly, unlike the Mueller probe where Don McGahn and others became

household names.  Can you put Volker`s role in some sort of context?  Is he

someone who was uncomfortable with Donald Trump`s demand that the Ukrainian

leader dirty up Biden?  Is he someone who believed that there was a quid

pro quo, either implicitly or explicitly?  Who is Ambassador Volker in this

scandal? 

 

SWALWELL:  Yes.  What I can say about Ambassador Volker is that he is a

career diplomat.  He`s a professional.  He knows Ukraine.  He knows the

challenges it poses.  He knows the role the United States plays in that

when the United States asks Ukraine of something, because how much they

depend on us economically, militarily, just by the credibility we give to

them, that they will take that and seriously. 

 

What is offensive to me is that you have this special envoy in place and

then you have a rogue emissary like Rudy Giuliani who the president seems

to prioritize his take on Ukraine and his relationships with Ukrainians

more than the seasoned professional who actually was there to advance U.S.

interests, and instead this was only about Donald Trump`s personal and

political interests. 

 

WALLACE:  In 9 1/2 hours, did it become clear to you whether Ambassador

Volker believes that the military aid to help the Ukrainians protect

themselves against Russia was tied to carrying out Donald Trump`s political

request about dirtying up the Bidens? 

 

SWALWELL:  I`ll leave it at this.  We have evidence now that there were

State Department officials who believed that it was tied to whether or not

Ukraine would participate and help Donald Trump in his upcoming election. 

So we have a responsibility now to further investigation that. 

 

But again, you don`t have to go much farther than Donald Trump`s own

confession and the transcript or the call readout that he provided, where

he said, I have a favor to ask, though.  Most people don`t say, hey, this

is a quid pro quo.  He came pretty damn close. 

 

WALLACE:  He sure did.  Congressman Eric Swalwell, member of the House

Intelligence Committee, appreciate you spending some time with us. 

 

SWALWELL:  My pleasure. 

 

WALLACE:  Let me bring in to our conversation, Ambassador Michael McFaul. 

He is a former ambassador to Russia under President Obama. 

 

Thank you for coming back, you and I talked at 4:00.  And you know

ambassador Volker.  At 4:00, we were just learning a little bit about this

9-1/2-hour deposition, it hadn`t wrapped up yet. 

 

But if you could respond to what the congressman just said that he didn`t

answer directly but after 9 1/2 hours of testimony, he believes there are

State Department officials who understand that the military aid was

connected in some way to that request to dirty up the Bidens? 

 

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA:  Well, that`s because

there`s another ambassador, an acting ambassador, another – not a

household name, Nicolle, his name is Bill Taylor.  He`s a former ambassador

to Ukraine that went out there and is serving as acting ambassador, and

now, reporting says that this is crazy to link those two things in a

conversation with Mr. Volker and our E.U. ambassador. 

 

And I just want to underscore another piece that connects some of these

dots.  If you go back and look who was on the delegation, the presidential

delegation to the inauguration to President Zelensky, it was led by

Secretary Perry.  But Kurt Volker was also on that trip.  And the E.U.

ambassador, Ambassador Sondland, was also on that trip. 

 

Those are the two ambassadors, Volker and Sondland, that are now writing

this statement to try to pressure Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden. 

And I think that – I want to just underscore, it is highly unusual for the

E.U. ambassador, he is a political appointee, he`s there because he gave

money to President Trump, to be involved in matters dealing with Ukraine. 

 

And the other thing I just want to say about Mr. Volker, he is a seasoned

diplomat.  You`re right about that.  But he was an unpaid official working

on this and was not the special envoy to all of the Ukraine.  He`s supposed

to be working to end the war in the Donbass. 

 

I`m sure he got tangled in this.  I know Kurt well.  He probably doesn`t

like to be tangled in this.  But their writing that statement to put

pressure on President Zelensky I think is inappropriate behavior for State

Department officials. 

 

WALLACE:  And would you surmise that being someone who knows what

diplomatic norms are and are not, that he spent 9-1/2-hours and he became

the first witness in the impeachment inquiry because he sees this as you

do, or do you think he`s in there sort of fighting for his own legal and

political equities? 

 

MCFAUL:  So, I obviously don`t know.  I want to say I`m speculating. 

 

But I think Ambassador Volker signed up to this job to try to end the war

in Donbass.  I`ve seen him many times while doing that job.  He was

valiantly trying to do that. 

 

In the middle of all that, President Trump, with his other special envoy,

Rudy Giuliani, decides that the only thing they care about with Ukraine is,

one, investigating Hunter Biden and the corruption, quote unquote, of the

vice president, and to underscore, there has been zero evidence to

substantiate that allegation.  And two, he wants to get Putin off the hook

and blame the Ukrainians for the interference in 2016. 

 

And my guess is, and I`m just guessing here, Ambassador Volker is trying to

create a relationship between President Zelensky and President Trump, and

he thinks, well, if I can just get Zelensky to say this statement on the

record, maybe they can repair that relationship. 

 

And, you know, I think it was the wrong thing to do but I can understand

why you might be dragged into that muck if you`re trying to do your job

vis-a-vis ending the war in Ukraine. 

 

WALLACE:  Let me ask you to take a step back and from a diplomatic lens and

U.S. foreign policy hat on, how weird is it that they had to cajole this

whole situation, when the actual policy question at hand is protecting an

American ally from Russia? 

 

MCFAUL:  You know, I`m so glad you asked that, because again, based on the

reporting, and I`m just reading the reporting like you, but they`re going

out of their way to get the president of Ukraine to make a statement to

appease the president of the United States who wants to investigate his

political opponent, right?  Why isn`t there somebody that walks into the

oval office and says, Mr. President, this is wrong, Mr. President, we have

national security interests in defending the sovereignty of Ukraine.  We

are seeking to deter Russia from what they`re doing in Ukraine. 

 

Why didn`t the national security adviser do that?  Why didn`t Secretary

Pompeo do it?  He`s claimed on the record now he was on the call because he

really knew the policy well.  Why isn`t he the one telling the president,

you can`t do this, this is a cockamamie scheme, there are no facts here,

Mr. Giuliani is not an expert on Ukraine, he doesn`t know who Mr. Shokin

is, he doesn`t know who Mr. Lutsenko is, you got to clean this up and

conduct the policy to advance the interests of the president of the United

States?

 

That, after all, is the oath of office that the president took.  And why

somebody wouldn`t just tell him that, seriously, we have to know why

everybody is so afraid of this guy that they won`t tell him you can`t do

that? 

 

WALLACE:  Well, it reminds me of the explanation that former acting

director of the FBI, Andy McCabe, gives for opening the full investigation

into whether Donald Trump was wittingly or unwittingly advancing Russia`s

national security interests, because once again, the kind of almost

reflexive U.S. foreign policy to aid an American ally, to help them protect

themselves against Russia, is not on the other side of a red line, it`s up

for grabs, in what you describe as a scheme. 

 

And I wonder if you think that is worthy of more probing, of understanding

just how many people were in on a scheme. 

 

MCFAUL:  I think that`s an excellent question.  I would love to know what

Secretary Perry and Ambassadors Volker and the others on that delegation

were discussing with Mr. Zelensky months before this phone call, right? 

That was a trip Vice President Pence was supposed to go on, they downgraded

it.  It seems to me the policy towards Ukraine got hijacked by a focus on

two objectives, you know, undermining the story that Russia – not the

story, the facts that Russia intervened in our election in 2016, and

searching for dirt on the Bidens and everything else got put to the side. 

 

I think we really need to know when this started and how many people were

involved in it.  It sounds like it was more than just one phone call. 

 

WALLACE:  It sure does.  Ambassador, we always end up with more questions

than answers, but for that I`m grateful to you. 

 

MCFAUL:  Sure, thanks for having me.

 

WALLACE:  Former U.S. ambassador to Russia, thank you so much for being

here. 

 

We have a lot more to get to on what has become yet another nonstop news

day, including the not-so-veiled request from the president to another

foreign power.  That`s just ahead. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

WALLACE:  President Trump already under threat of impeachment for asking

the president of Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice

President Joe Biden, he did it last July in a phone call that the White

House at first tried to keep secret.  So, it makes it even more puzzling

that today the president`s impulse was to do the same thing, again, only

louder, in front of the cameras and in public. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REPORTER:  Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about

the Bidens after your phone call?  Exactly.

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, I would think if they

were honest about it, they would start a major investigation into the

Bidens.  It`s a very simple answer.  They should investigate the Bidens

because how does a company that`s newly formed and all these companies, if

you – and by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into

the Bidens, because what happened to China is just about as bad as what

happened with – with Ukraine. 

 

REPORTER:  Have you asked President Xi to investigate Biden?

 

TRUMP:  I haven`t, but it`s certainly something we can start thinking

about. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WALLACE:  That really happened.  So, if the first potential article of

impeachment is Ukraine, might China be article number two? 

 

Joining us now is Matt Miller, former chief spokesman for the Justice

Department. 

 

Thank you for being here with us, Matt.  Just – you and I had so many

conversations over the last two and a half years.  What did you think when

you saw Donald Trump seek out and ask in the case of China, really threaten

them with all the leverage, in his words, that he has over China, if they

don`t cooperate with his political efforts? 

 

MATTHEW MILLER, FORMER CHIEF SPOKESMAN FOR THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT:  You

know, in one sense, it`s stunning to see an American president stand there

in front of the White House and launch a brazen attack on the rule of law

and democracy in the country.  It`s hard to say anybody could be surprised

at Donald Trump doing this.  This is the same person who has a candidate

called on Russia to interfere in the election in 2016.  Famously, said,

Russia, if you`re listening.

 

We just recently found out that, you know, he told the Russian foreign

minister and Russian ambassador in the Oval Office that he wasn`t worried

about their interference.  And, remember, earlier this year, when he told

George Stephanopoulos that he would welcome, you know, interference from a

foreign adversary in the election.  And he backtracked from that remark

under pressure but I think it was always cheer that he meant it. 

 

And so, to see him standing there and say it today, it`s not really

surprising but I think it adds real urgency to what the Democrats are doing

in the House and trying to impeach him, because what it means is he`s not

going to stop inviting foreign countries to help him in the election.  It`s

not just going to be Ukraine.  Now, add another country to the list.  I`m

sure we`ll add more as we get closer to November 2020.

 

And so, what it does is raise the stakes for impeachment because it means

as long as he`s in office, we may not have a free and fair election in this

country.  And that is an alarming thing to say in the United States of

America. 

 

WALLACE:  You know, I remember all the post, sort of, 9/11 analysis was

about our failure of imagination, to fail to imagine what threats we face. 

I wonder if we are engaged in the same sort of failure of imagination.  We

are only having this conversation, Democrats are only proceeding with

impeachment, they didn`t move to impeachment after the other two incidents

you named, Russia, are you listening, or telling George Stephanopoulos,

yes, I would listen to a foreign power.  They moved to it after a

whistleblower complaint revealed the substance of this one phone call. 

 

Are we – are we – I know there`s a political need for impeachment to be

focused, but are we failing to imagine what else goes on? 

 

MILLER:  Look, I think – I think impeachment ought to be focused on the

thing that`s most likely to lead to conviction in the Senate.  But the

reason to impeach the president, the reason to try to remove him from

office, is because all of the things he does to threaten democracy in the

country. 

 

It`s not just his invitation to foreign leaders to interfere in the

election.  Look what he`s done with trying to build a wall, which he

believes building a wall before the election is key to his survival.  So

you see him pushing the bureaucracy, inviting people to break the law to

seize lands, telling them, if you break the law, I will pardon you,

something like his invitation to China and Ukraine to interfere, the kind

of thing that would have been inconceivable two or three years ago. 

 

It would have been inconceivable in the beginning of his administration. 

But now in this later stages where you see the guardrails come off and

there aren`t people around him to tell him no, who will push back.  I think

we do have to ask the question, is there anything that you can imagine that

he wouldn`t do, any norm he wouldn`t violate, any law he wouldn`t break to

win re-election? 

 

I have a hard time coming up with some way to answer that question. 

 

WALLACE:  Susan Glasser writes in “The New Yorker” that Donald Trump would

appear to be trying to self-impeach.  What do you – what do the Democrats

do with all this evidence that Donald Trump is providing about his own

guilt? 

 

MILLER:  Well, they`re going to obviously have to use it.  But I think – I

think you make the point, whatever percentage you attach to him being

impeached, convicted, removed from office right now, I think it`s hard for

that to be accurate because you can`t factor in how he`s going to behave. 

Look, in just the week and a half now since Nancy Pelosi said the House is

going to proceed with impeachment, you`ve seen the president really kind of

spiral out of control. 

 

I think the display we saw yesterday, it was just full of self pity and

anger, followed up today with these invitations to foreign countries to

interfere.  You know, self-impeaching is one way to put it.  The other way

is, he is possibly changing public opinion in a way that`s even more

effective than what Democrats in the House can do, and that can have a

real, you know, real say on his ultimate political prospects. 

 

WALLACE:  It`s a good point.  And lots of potty words yesterday which break

right through and doesn`t help him where he`s already hurting with suburban

moms. 

 

My last question is public opinion.  CBS had the polls swinging to 55

percent of the public supporting the commencement of an impeachment

inquiry.  Does that embolden Democrats or reassure Democrats?  We`ve had

lots of conversations about how wary they are about impeachment. 

 

MILLER:  Yes, I think they`re emboldened, but also emboldened by the

president`s behavior and the defense he`s making for himself.  We saw the

last week, his defense has largely been to gaslight the public, saying what

you saw in this transcript isn`t what happened, you may think you see me

pressuring a foreign leader, but no, that wasn`t pressure, it was a perfect

call. 

 

You saw him shift strategies today.  And instead of gaslighting, now he`s

trying to move the goalposts and say, now it`s acceptable to pressure a

foreign leader.  The problem is that is it`s an overwhelmingly unpopular

position with the American public.  Poll after poll after poll says

Americans reject that position.  So, if that`s the strategy, if that`s the

message he`s going to push, he`s putting the Republican senators as the

ultimate jury in an impeachment trial, in a very difficult position. 

 

One way he could have done is say, well, maybe I went too far but it`s not

impeachable.  That`s not what he`s done, he`s asking Republicans to endorse

the proposition that inviting foreign interference is OK, and I think

that`s a very, very tricky thing for them to do. 

 

WALLACE:  Tricky is one word for it. 

 

Matt Miller, former chief spokesman for the Justice Department, I

appreciate you staying up with me.

 

MILLER:  Thank you. 

 

WALLACE:  Still ahead, more on Vice President Pence`s see no evil, hear no

evil strategy.  We have “The Washington Post” reporter who broke that news,

straight ahead. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

WALLACE:  So, today, the vice president was in Scottsdale, Arizona, doing

what we usually think of as normal stuff for a vice president.  But after a

roundtable with Hispanic leaders, when it was time to take questions from

reporters, the vice president got asked about, what else, the impeachment

scandal currently engulfing his boss, the president. 

 

Vice President Pence got asked about the allegation that the president

leaned on Ukraine to investigate the last vice president and current Trump

political rival Joe Biden. 

 

Pence`s opinion?  Go for it. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  When you hold the second

highest office in the land, it comes with unique responsibilities, not just

to be above impropriety but to be above the appearance of impropriety. 

Clearly in this case there are legitimate questions that ought to be asked. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WALLACE:  Hmm.  When Vice President Pence said legitimate questions that

ought to be asked, he was essentially parroting and defending the

president`s unfounded and debunked conspiracy theories about Joe Biden,

even as the vice president has become the latest high-profile

administration figure to become embroiled in the scandal.  “The Washington

Post” reported last night that Pence was involved in Trump`s alleged

efforts to pressure Ukraine.  Aides to Pence said he had either not known

or not understood what the president was allegedly doing when he asked the

president of Ukraine for a favor. 

 

But there he was today, in Arizona, telling reporters that the president

did nothing wrong in that call.  As this scandal continues to hang over the

White House, more people in Trump`s orbit are coming under more and more

scrutiny.  Even before the reporting this week about Pence, this there was

Attorney General Bill Barr whose name came up several times during

President Trump`s now infamous July 25th conversation with the Ukrainian

president.  Then it was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who finally admitted

that he was on the line listening during Trump`s July call with the

Ukrainian leader.  Also that he was passed oppo documents by Rudy Giuliani

that targeted Joe Biden and the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine before

she was removed from her post. 

 

The vice president`s staff is now scrambling to try to distance him from

the scandal, maintaining that while he personally delivered the message

that military aid was being withheld, he was totally and completely unaware

of Trump`s prior request for dirt on Biden. 

 

Today, he found himself having to explain that dubious position to

skeptical reporters. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REPORTER:  Can you say what you spoke about with President Zelensky when

you met with him in Poland and whether the Bidens detail up, whether you

mentioned the Bidens at all with him? 

 

BIDEN:  Well, as I said the day after that meeting, we focused entirely in

my meeting with President Zelensky of Ukraine on the issues that President

Trump had raised as a concern, namely the lack of support from European

partners to Ukraine and real issues of corruption in Ukraine.  Those were

the topics that we discussed.  That was all we discussed. 

 

But the simple truth is that those are the same issues that the president

raised with President Zelensky in their call.  Anyone who looks at the

president`s transcript will see that the president was raising issues that

were appropriate, that were of genuine interest to the American people. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WALLACE:  Joining us now is Greg Miller, national security correspondent to

“The “Washington Post.”

 

It`s great to have you here.  I`m a fan of all your reporting.  But this

story just jumps off the page, how is it going to land with the guy in the

office with no corners?  It seemed to me and I wonder what your thoughts

are, that Pence did a little bit of dancing today. 

 

GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Yes, I

mean, I think he`s in a tough spot.  He has so far in this presidency

walked this tightrope where he sort of is supporting the president at every

step but simultaneously keeping some distance away from him, enough

distance that he hasn`t been terribly tainted by all these scandals. 

 

But I think in our story today we were trying to write about just how

difficult it is to kind of accept that assertion of obliviousness in this

case given how many flags there were swirling all around the vice president

while he`s delivering these messages, these powerful and important messages

to this new leader in Ukraine. 

 

WALLACE: I mean – and obliviousness is the perfect word, because if you

take what pence said in the tape we played, you have to believe that he

didn`t know that when he said investigate corruption, what Zelensky heard

was investigate Biden.  Is that your understanding of Pence`s position

today? 

 

MILLER:  I think that is Pence`s position.  And, you know, I`ve had many

senior officials, including senior officials in this administration, say

they find it highly implausible that Pence didn`t read the transcript of

that July 25th call between Trump and Zelensky before Pence then goes off

to meet with Zelensky.  It would border on malpractice for him not to do

that when he`s meeting a new leader, with a such a thin resume at that

point, frankly, that Zelensky had. 

 

You would want to know if you were vice president of the United States, who

you were talking, what has he been like in conversations with the

president.  That would be the first place you turn.  But even if you accept

that claim from Pence in this case, he would have to ignore everything that

Giuliani was doing and saying in a very public fashion, and all of these

other alarms that were happening in and around him at the White House. 

 

WALLACE:  The other pieces in the public record include your reporting that

Pence`s national security adviser was listening in on the call. 

 

MILLER:  Yes. 

 

WALLACE:  So you have to believe that Pence took too much Ambien and wasn`t

awake long enough on that flight to read the briefing paper, which had to

have included the transcript, and that Pence`s national security adviser,

it would seem like a fireable offense if the national security adviser

devoted just to the vice president doesn`t brief the vice president about a

call he listened in on about the world leader he`s about to talk to. 

 

MILLER:  Thank you for reminding me of that, that was one of the most

fortunate facts in our story, that yes, the vice president`s national

security adviser was on that call, was in the Situation Room listening to

Trump speak with Zelensky on July 25th.  And astonishingly, the officials

we talked to said that national security adviser, Keith Kellogg, basically

asserts he saw nothing unusual or heard nothing unusual, nothing jumped out

at him that required any kind of response or reaction in that call. 

 

So, I mean, you`re really caught here when these guys stake out a position

like that.  I mean, either you`re not paying attention and kind of sleeping

through this stuff, or you`re so inured at this point to the kind of

outrageous things that happen each and every day that you`re no longer

capable of distinguishing something when it comes along as egregious as

this.  You know, asking the leader of another country to dig up dirt on a

Democratic presidential candidate no longer registers with you as a

problem. 

 

WALLACE:  It`s an unbelievable state of affairs. 

 

Greg Miller, thank you so much for this reporting and for spending time

with us.  We`re grateful. 

 

MILLER:  Thank you.

 

WALLACE: Up next, there`s one story that`s been flying under the radar for

the last few weeks but I suspect that won`t be the case much longer.  That

story straight ahead.  Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

WALLACE:  OK, I`m going to go out on a limb here and say maybe it`s time

for Rachel to start playing the lottery. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

STEPHEN COLBERT, TV HOST/COMEDIAN:  We`re talking about this impeachment

story right now.  What is not being talked about, in your opinion that we

should be talking about because we`re so obsessed with right now? 

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”:  What`s being squeezed out of the news? 

 

COLBERT:  Exactly. 

 

MADDOW:  So much.  For example, there`s another whistle-blower. 

 

COLBERT:  What – what? 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WALLACE:  That was Rachel and Stephen Colbert. 

 

Less than 48 hours ago, and lo and behold, that story she was talking about

is blowing up.  The reporter who broke it joins us next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

WALLACE:  So you`re forgiven if you didn`t realize there are two

whistleblowers.  But there are.  One has to do with President Trump

pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.  The other has to do with

the president`s taxes. 

 

Now, that whistle-blower has been flying under the radar.  We get our first

heads up in August when the famously understated chairman of the House Ways

and Means Committee, Richie Neal, let it slip, almost as an afterthought. 

 

Under federal law, Chairman Neal has the right to request the president`s

tax returns, which he did, back in April.  Ever since, Chairman Neal has

been quietly arm wrestling the Treasury Department for them.  That case was

a real sleeper until late August when Chairman Neal suddenly released a

mountain of legal filings and buried in there was this bombshell. 

 

Quote: on July 29th, 2019, the committee received an unsolicited – the

word unsolicited is underlined in here – an unsolicited communication from

a federal employee setting forth credible allegations of, quote, evidence

of possible misconduct, specifically, potential, quote, inappropriate

efforts to influence the mandatory audit program of a president`s income

tax returns. 

 

That was in August.  Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal revealing a

whistleblower had alleged possible misconduct related to the audit of the

president`s taxes.  For weeks, there`s been radio silence until now. 

 

Last week, Chairman Neal revealed he`s trying to make the whistleblower

complaint public.  This week he said the house is sending their top lawyer

to go talk to the whistleblower. 

 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

 

REPORTER:  There`s been a report that there`s another whistleblower

complaint about efforts to influence the audit of the president`s taxes. 

Have you seen that complaint? 

 

REP. RICHARD NEAL (D-MA):  It is accurate to say that there has been an

individual who has stepped forward and made some allegations, and the legal

counsel for the Ways and Means Committee, Doug Letter, who has argued in

front of the Supreme Court, they are proceeding on the basis of trying to

interview the individual. 

 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

 

WALLACE:  So, all of a sudden, there are all these smoke signals that

something is happening with this second whistle-blower.  And tonight,

finally, “The Washington Post” fills in some of the blanks. 

 

They report that the whistleblower is a, quote, career official at the IRS

who alleges that at least one political appointee in the Treasury

Department attempted to improperly interfere with the annual audit of the

president or vice president`s tax returns, a process that is, quote,

supposed to be walled off from political appointees and interference. 

 

Joining us now is Tom Hamburger of “The Washington Post,” one of the

reporters who broke that story. 

 

Tom, thanks for being here, and congratulations on this.  Viewers of this

show have been following this story for a long time. 

 

How did you reach this breakthrough, and what`s your understanding of the

latest? 

 

TOM HAMBURGER, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Well, we did understand, as

you pointed out there were hints.  Chairman Neal had alluded to it in a

court filing for that ongoing case he has seeking the president`s tax

returns. 

 

And once the very explosive charges from the intelligence community

whistle-blower burst forth, there was more attention looking back.  Is

there a second whistle-blower?  And we found that this second whistle-

blower has emerged.  We were able to talk briefly with this individual. 

And we talked also with Chairman Meal`s staff, with the whistle-blower

complaint submitted to Chairman Neal and to Finance Committee Chairman

Chuck Grassley. 

 

We got confirmation that there is such a complaint, and as you just

described, we understand the complaint deals with potential interference

and audit of the president`s tax returns. 

 

WALLACE:  And you alluded to the intelligence community whistleblower. 

That complaint becoming public changed everything happening in Washington. 

Is there any timeline or prediction that this whistleblower complaint will

become public in a similar manner? 

 

HAMBURGER:  Well, the timeline isn`t precisely clear, but we do know that

Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee are proceeding hoping to make it

public.  That`s what Chairman Neal has said.  And just tonight after our

story appeared, the ranking member of the Finance Committee, Senator Wyden

of Oregon, came forward and said, this is something we need to investigate

and we need a bipartisan review of this complaint as soon as possible. 

 

So, will it emerge publicly, will more details emerge?  We haven`t seen the

complaint, only heard about it from those on Capitol Hill who have seen it. 

But Richard Neal has described the complaint as serious and that he has a

sense of urgency in trying to find out whether there was, in fact,

political interference in an audit of the president`s tax returns. 

 

WALLACE:  I cannot think of anything, not even this country`s state

secrets, that is guarded more ferociously than Donald Trump`s taxes.  Do

you have any indication, any reporting it could be an audit related to the

president or vice president, do you have any indication about what the

substance is that makes up this complaint? 

 

HAMBURGER:  So, we – our understanding is that – and this complaint is

not, as we understand it from those who have seen it on Capitol Hill, does

not deal specifically with the president or the vice president`s taxes. 

But rather with some kind of pressure that was placed upon those career IRS

officials who are tasked annually with reviewing the president and vice

president`s tax returns.  And that`s done in a process that is meant to be

fully insulated from political pressure. 

 

And what this whistleblower complaint deals with is an allegation that

there was, in fact, some political pressure applied on those who were

reviewing the audit. 

 

WALLACE:  It`s an unbelievable piece of reporting.  We`re grateful to have

it, grateful to have you spend some time with us. 

 

HAMBURGER:  Thank you.

 

WALLACE:  “The Washington Post`s” Tom Hamburger, thank you. 

 

More to come tonight.  Don`t go anywhere.  We`ll be right back.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

WALLACE:  On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent a letter to House

Democrats essentially telling them to bug off and threatening to block the

depositions of State Department officials called to testify in the

impeachment inquiry.  But tucked in at the end of that letter, the

secretary of state also said that he plans to respond to a congressional

subpoena calling for documents related to the Ukraine investigation.  He

said that he intends to respond by the deadline, which is October 4th,

which of course is tomorrow.  So, it will be interesting to see what, if

anything, gets produced tomorrow. 

 

Also tomorrow, the House Intel Committee plans to hold a closed-door

meeting with Michael Atkinson.  Now, he`s the inspector general for the

intelligence community and unlike the last time Atkinson was on the Hill,

the whistleblower complaint is now out in the open.  So presumably he

should be a lot more free to speak his mind in front of congressional

investigators. 

 

And if all that were not enough, Rachel will join me on my show, “DEADLINE:

WHITE HOUSE” tomorrow at 4:00 to talk about all this, plus her new book,

“Blowout.”  And then good news, the best news, she`ll be right back here in

this chair tomorrow night.  Quite a Friday, as she would say, eat your

Wheaties. 

 

That does it for us tonight. 

 

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

 

Hi, I never get to say good evening, Lawrence.

 

                                                                                                               

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