Trump threatens whistleblower. TRANSCRIPT: 10/7/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Michael Carpenter

CHRISTOPHER WYLIE, AUTHOR:  So that you can buy time to remake the inside

of it. 


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  The book, again, is “Mind F: Cambridge Analytica

and the Plot to Break America”, it is out tomorrow. 


Christopher Wylie, thank you so much. 


WYLIE:  Thanks for having me. 


HAYES:  Before we go, quick reminder, all you West Coast viewers, I am

personally inviting you to come join me and director Adam McKay and author

Omar El Akkad for a special stop on our “Why Is This Happening” world tour

in Los Angeles, October 21st.  It`s going to be a blast.


Go to our website and get tickets.


Now, 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.


Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  I know it has become this

regular thing where I start the show by saying, whoo, boy, wow, there`s a

lot of news.  But honestly, come on.  On a day like today, we could all

admit that`s where we are, right? 


It does – It does feel like we`re in just this kind of cycle right now. 

There`s so much happening so fast, basically every day now.  The news cycle

didn`t slow down at all over this weekend that we just went through. 


And today has been just remarkable.  We have a ton of really big

developments either directly related to the impeachment of President Trump

or sort of adjunct to that story.  One of the things we`re going to be

talking about a little later on in the show is this sort of stunning ruling

from a federal judge today in which the judge said that the president does,

in fact, have to hand over his tax returns in response to a subpoena. 


And I know this sounds like Groundhog Day a little bit.  There have been a

bunch of legal fights on this issue of the president`s tax returns and his

financial records.  What`s notable and important about this one is – well,

first, that this one is being handled really fast.  The other ones have

been tied up in court and it seems like it`s going to be indefinitely. 


Today, this federal judge`s ruling didn`t result in Trump`s – the

president`s tax returns, excuse me, being handed over today.  The judge`s

ruling was immediately appealed to a federal appeals court.  But even that

federal appeals court appears to be ready to move fast.  They already

demanded a very demanding schedule on this.  They want their first briefs

on this by the end of this week.  They expect to be holding their hearing

on this within a couple of weeks. 


The judge`s ruling against Trump was not only scathing against the

president and his lawyers for trying to argue that he is not subject to any

aspect of the criminal law, that he has immunity to break any law he wants

and presidential immunity not only from prosecution but also from

investigation, no matter his crime. 


When the judge was absolutely scathing about that as a substantive matter,

but this judge today went further and argued that the Justice Department

policies which say that in fact a president cannot be indicted.  The judge

today said those Justice Department policies themselves are kind of wack,

and whose policies themselves should maybe be revisited.


So, at one level we`ve got this stark ruling against the president today

which is about his tax returns, but at another level, this is an important

step I think in what has become this president`s effort to try to evade all

legal scrutiny, not just the prospect of being indicted but the prospect of

being investigated.  So, that ruling today from a federal judge on one of

the Trump tax cases that landed just like a thunderbolt today.  I think

that`s going to end up being important and it`s going to play out quickly

just over the course of what`s left of this month.  So that`s a big deal.


And I would stack that up in terms of its importance alongside the news

that we got over the past couple of days that there is another

whistleblower from within the intelligence community who has come forward

and who has become a client of the same lawyers who are representing the

initial whistleblower whose claims about President Trump led to these

impeachment proceedings that we are now going through.  The second

whistleblower is also reported to be an official within the intelligence

community.  He reportedly is somebody who has even closer first-hand

knowledge and experience of the president`s behavior that again has already

led to this impeachment. 


We`ve already talked a little bit on this show and I think it`s become a

matter, of sort, of building urgency, an increasingly urgent concern. 

There`s a lot of speculation I think for good reason around the country

right now as to how President Trump might react to being really cornered by

this impeachment proceedings.  I mean, he`s never really gotten in trouble

for anything in his life, all accounts seem to indicate that the president

takes the prospect of being impeached very seriously and very negative.


What that means in terms of what we should expect from him in response to

that threat, what we should sort of brace ourselves for in terms of his

behavior, it`s an uncertain science.  But as this impeachment proceeding

goes forward and does not slow down and continues to just – continues to

turn up more negative information about the president and his behavior, we

are seeing some even weirder than usual behavior by the president.  I don`t

like to focus on the president`s statements too much, especially his online

– online statements.  I think he uses Twitter basically to outrage people

and get people talking about things on his terms rather than what otherwise

might be driven by the news.  So I try to sort of steer clear.


That said, I do, you know, watch what he says, even if I don`t talk about

it a lot.  And the president today online opining apparently in all

seriousness about what he calls, quote, my great and unmatched wisdom. 


As I have stated strongly before and just to reiterate if Turkey does

anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, considered to be off-



I mean that just feels a little weirder than usual from the president. 

What that statement from the president was about is something weirder than

usual too.  Apparently on impulse or at least on zero notice after he

completed a phone call with the president of Turkey last night, the

president got off that call and basically immediately announced a radical

change in U.S. policy in Syria, including what amounts to basically a

complete abandonment of our allies in the country who we have been

supporting financially and militarily to the point where we have sent lots

of U.S. military advisers to serve alongside them. 


The president last night declared that as far as he`s concerned, those

allies that we have been working with that us service members have been

serving alongside and propping up and supplying and – president considers

them to no longer be our problem.  If Turkey wants to off all of them, who

are we to say no? 


He said this immediately after getting off a phone call with the president

of Turkey, apparently with zero consultation with the U.S. State

Department, the U.S. military or anybody else in his government.  He only

consulted with the president of Turkey who got President Trump to do

exactly what he wants and to take a 180 in U.S. policy without talking to

anybody in the U.S. government about it. 


And while I wouldn`t put that past this president at any of the time that

he has been in office, it happening now alongside some of the president`s

more unhinged public behavior and statements sort of starts to feel like a

coherent thing.  So, we will talk in detail more tonight about this sudden

radical change in U.S. policy, apparently dictated by the president without

consulting anybody in the U.S. military, without even consulting any of his

Republican allies who have sometimes been able to tell him what to do on

foreign policy.  This one, he apparently just ripped on his own in the

middle of the night at the direction of some other country`s president.


So we will have some expert help on that coming up in the show, but I also

think it`s worth watching in the very short term like as of tonight whether

that might get undone.  Part of the reason we`re going to talk about this

big change that he just made in Syria is that I think it is worth watching

whether or not the administration is right now in the process of trying to

undo what the president announced last night.  I think that`s likely – I

shouldn`t say likely, I think that`s possible, maybe even likely because

what the president announced with regard to Syria has brought out even

Republicans like Mitch McConnell in the U.S. Senate, brought them out of

the woodwork to stand up alongside the Democrats and on this one say, no,

Mr. President, this is terrible.  You`re confining your – you`re

condemning our very dear allies to what is basically certain death here.


I mean there are very few things on which Republicans stand up against

President Trump.  This appears to be one of those rare instances and what

we`ve seen over and over again is whenever Republicans push back on

President Trump at all, the president does tend to cave and quickly.  So I

think this in particulars worth watching tonight because this was a new

policy announced by the president in the middle of the night last night. 

There is a possibility that new policy will not make it till tomorrow

morning.  We shall see.  I expect this to continue to develop.


But, you know, I mean what they say, right?  What the going gets weird, the

weird turn pro.  The going has definitely gotten weird over the last couple

of weeks and over this weekend and into today stuff is happening very



Part of the reason though I think things might feel a little hard to follow

right now is because of a little trick that is happening once again when it

comes to the basic language that we`re using to talk about the impeachment

proceedings against President Trump and this – the core of the scandal

that is not going away that is continuing to develop in ways that aren`t

good for the president that aren`t good for the White House.  And these

developments as I said – I mean, armchair psychology is always dangerous

but he does appear to be slightly driven up the wall as the scenario just

gets worse and worse for him.


Back in 2014, a website called “The Verge” ran this story about the Ebola

crisis.  This was at a time when the Ebola crisis in Africa and the

international worries about the spread of Ebola some real panic about the

ability of modern medicine to responsibly handle active cases of Ebola was

really at its height.  And what “The Verge” reported on was a number of

stories that were suddenly appearing on social media, mostly on Facebook,

that were stories about the Ebola crisis but they weren`t real stories.


Here`s how “The Verge” put it back in 2014.  Quote: There`s a scary story

bouncing around Facebook accruing hundreds of thousands of likes.  The

story says that the small town of Purdon, Texas, P-U-R-D-O-N, Purdon,

Texas, has been quarantined.  The whole town has been quarantined after a

family of five there was diagnosed with Ebola.


Now, at the time “The Verge” reported on this in October 2014, so five

years ago, that made-up story which was not at all true had been shared

more than 340,000 times on Facebook.  I mean. the Ebola crisis was a real

thing.  Purdon, Texas, is a real town, but there was no quarantine of that

town.  There was no family of five in that town that had come down with



Somebody just wholesale made this thing up to freak people out and to get

clicks which the originators of that false story appears to be monetizing

by collecting ad revenue off the site, where you would land if you clicked

through on that story once you saw it on Facebook.  So, The Verge ran this

piece five years ago.  Fake news sites are using Facebook to spread Ebola



“The Verge” covered this as essentially a sort of scary offshoot of the

Ebola crisis itself right, both in terms of the – you know, there`s the

legitimate concern about Ebola and there`s the hysteria around the Ebola

crisis.  They were basically covering this is another thing to be worried

about when it came to Ebola.  This idea of totally made-up news stories

being used to capitalize on those legitimate concerns and the panic.


But those legitimate – excuse me – but those illegitimate stories were

designed not to convey any real information, but instead to freak people

out and divide people, to make people believe the worst about their fellow

human beings, right?  We started to see made-up news stories not just about

particular health crises like that but made up new stories that were about

supposedly horrific things done around the country around the world that

people are getting away with, things that would make you feel particularly

badly about the state of humanity, particularly about specific human beings

so you might already be predisposed to think the worst about.


And those made-up stories, that phenomenon of made-up stories tailor-made

for getting lots of clicks on social media, that spread from the money-

making fringe of social media in 2014 and 2015, into ultimately a really

big part of the foreign operation to influence our presidential election in



Craig Silverman and Lawrence Alexander at “BuzzFeed News” had a landmark

story on that phenomenon in the 2016 election.  They published it at

“BuzzFeed News” less than a week before voters went to the polls to cast

their vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  This was the headline: How

Teens in the Balkans are Duping Trump Supporters with Fake News.


That story, that landmark story described purely made up out of whole cloth

stories on topics that were designed to generate likes and clicks, and yes,

ad revenue.  But also the tailoring of further online information with

made-up stuff about how Hillary Clinton had secretly been indicted already,

and if she was elected, that indictment would be unsealed after the

election.  Also, the pope had endorsed Donald Trump for president or a

different fake story built around a fake quote from Hillary Clinton in

which she supposedly praised Donald Trump as honest and as a man who can`t

be bought.


The story was that Clinton in 2013 had said that she would like to see a

man like Donald Trump run for president because he`s such an upstanding

man, that it`s not something that Hillary Clinton ever said but the quote

was fake and the story was fake.  But, boy, did that circulate in the lead-

up to the 2016 election, as did so many other of these false stories that

were designed to freak people out and/or drive people toward one of two

candidates in the general election. 


I mean, during our 2016 election, there were a lot of foreign entities. 

There were Russian government propaganda entities but also hidden

authorship entities like bots and trolls that literally created untrue news

stories out of thin air.  Stories that were designed to exploit and

exacerbate existing divisions in the United States to turn Americans

against each other, to turn people generally toward the Trump worldview, to

especially enhance divisions among Democrats or make Democrats feel like it

wasn`t worth it to vote. 


These made-up stories were also just sort of brutalizing, made-up, outrage

stories, stories about terrible barbarism that were just designed to make

you feel like we were at the end of the line in terms of human beings being

able to live alongside one another.  When we came to understand what Russia

did in 2016 election, those made up false stories designed to have a

politically useful effect on their audiences, we came to realize that that

was part of what Russia did in their attack on us.  It wasn`t the biggest

part of what they did, but it was an alarming thing that they radically up

scaled over the course of 2015 and 2016, this sort of counterfeiting of the

news process.


And so, that became part of our national discussion about what Russia had

done, what Russia had sort of harnessed, to try to interfere in our

election in order to benefit Donald Trump, in the term that was most easily

and specifically and conveniently applied to that phenomenon, the phrase

fake news, because these were in fact fake news stories generated for

political purposes, that phrase fake news was soon adopted by President

Trump and his campaign and then ultimately by all Republicans, basically so

that that phrase became theirs. 


And the way they used it, the phrase fake news no longer described the

thing for which that phrase had been coined.  It no longer described this

very specific aspect of the foreign interference in our election, the Trump

campaign and ultimately Republicans converted that phrase so instead it

would be used as an epithet against all journalists, right?  Any real

journalism, particularly journalism critical of President Trump would be

fake news. 


It was also just an easy undermining epithet for all types of reality based

journalism, all real media is fake news, all journalism is fake news, all

reporters do fake news.  And that had two effects.  I mean, number one, it

undermined journalism and the whole idea of objective facts being the basis

for political discussion and policymaking. 


But it also took away that phrase for a specific and legitimate use.  I

mean, them taking that phrase fake news and using it this new way sort of

rendered mute, rendered kind of linguistically impossible any analysis of

that very real, very specific initial problem for which that phrase was

coined.  That`s what they did with fake news.  That is what they`re doing

now with the word “corruption”.





corruption.  I do care about corruption.  Corruption.  Corruption. 


We are looking for corruption.  Tremendous corruption.  Beyond corruption. 

We are looking at corruption. 


So again this doesn`t pertain to anything but corruption and that has to do

with me.  I don`t care about politics.  I don`t care about anything, but I

do care about corruption.




MADDOW:  You know, corruption is actually a real thing.  I mean, corruption

has a specific meaning in English usage.  I mean, if a U.S. president

intervenes in the U.S. government selection process for the next venue for

the G7 conference and insists that the best venue in America for holding

that conference is his own property which, of course, would result in him

being paid by all those foreign governments and the U.S. government for him

hosting the G7 Conference at his place, I mean, that is corruption if, for

example, the president intervened in the decision-making process around

whether the FBI`s headquarters would be rebuilt on site in Washington or

moved out into the suburbs. 


If he changed the U.S. government`s decision-making process on that subject

in such a way that would result in a better business environment and less

competition for his own Trump Hotel, which is right across the street from

that construction site – I mean, that would be corruption.  Corruption is

an actual thing. 


We don`t even need to make up fake examples to show the worst and most

blatant corruption you could possibly imagine from a U.S. president.  We`ve

lived through all these already.  I mean, diverting the vice president`s

trip to Ireland so he had to stay on the other side of the freaking island

from where all his meetings were, just so U.S. taxpayers would have to put

up the vice president and his entourage and the Secret Service and all the

rest, at the president`s west coast of Ireland resorts while Vice President

Pence took his east coast of Ireland meetings – I mean, plus paying all

the extra money to shuttle him back and forth across that entire country

back and forth across that entire island simply so the money paid for that

trip from the U.S. taxpayers would find its way into the president`s



I mean, that is corruption.  Corruption is a real thing.  That`s a word

that has a real and specific useful meaning. 


Similarly, the corruption of American foreign policy so that instead of

serving the national interest, U.S. foreign policy is diverted to serve the

president`s personal political ambitions.  That is a form of corruption,

and the reason we`re having these impeachment proceedings now is because

the president has now been caught for that.


Now, that there is no question by the president`s own admission by the

evidence provided by the White House, by one and now it looks like two

whistleblowers who appear to have nailed him for doing that, now that the

president is being impeached for doing that, the president`s response is

just to say the word “corruption” over and over again – corruption,

corruption, corruption, corruption, corruption, corruption. 


All I care about is corruption.  I`m here to work on corruption.  I`m not

corrupt.  You`re corrupt. 

Joe Biden`s the corrupt one, Nancy Pelosi`s the corrupt one, impeach me,

impeach Adam Schiff, he`s the corrupt one.   All I care about his

corruption.  All these people coming after me, their corruption.


But when it comes to the accusation that he has been flinging against Vice

President Joe Biden, the broader circumstance there is that Joe Biden as

vice president was the American government`s point person working with the

government of Ukraine to try to combat actual corruption in that country. 

And so, therefore, you`ve now got the president and his allies pointing at

Joe Biden and yelling corruption, corruption, look how close he is to that

corruption in Ukraine, he`s the corrupt one, can`t you tell?


I mean, it`s the same dynamic that we went through around this phrase the

fake news, right?  The media tries to expose and fact-check these fake

stories that are being circulated to try to benefit Trump – well, that

effort itself, that fact-checking effort, that`s fake news.  Oh, you`re the

fake news, everything you do is fake news.  The whole news media is fake



I mean what they`re trying to do is take this word away from their accusers

to try to make any reference to the president`s corruption seem like a sort

of muddy crossfire where there`s allegations of corruption on all – on all

sides, and who can say, right? 


As with their adoption and perversion of that phrase fake news, they are

trying to make us basically linguistic incapable of characterizing the very

real and very simple thing for which the president is being impeached,

right?  The president saying corruption, corruption, corruption as if he is

a force for anti-corruption now, it seems hilarious to hear him say it,

given what he`s been like as president and given what he`s being impeached

for right now.


But I do believe that we are on a very short timeframe now before which we

will not be able to really use the word “corruption” anymore to talk about

this scandal, for which the president is being impeached because by his

sheer repetition of it, and the adoption of it by his supporters and by the

conservative media for to mean the opposite of the real English use of that

word the word will become meaningless, will become something that is no

longer available to us.  It will become something that means both its real

meaning and its opposite.  It`ll be an unspeakable unusable part of this

political drama.


I am in Los Angeles tonight because I`m in the middle of the book tour for

my new book “Blowout”, and I feel oddly like writing parts of this book

prepared me more than I might have expected for this moment in the news,

for trying to understand what`s going on because one of the things I wrote

about in the book is that one of the real benefits for Russia being an oil

and gas power is that Vladimir Putin has very much enjoyed using oil and

gas as a weapon against other countries.  He has used oil and gas to

directly threaten and coerce other countries into doing what he wants.  If

he can shut the lights off in neighboring countries, if they`re dependent

on Russian gas.


And that`s very true in the immediately neighboring countries of the former

Soviet sphere.  It`s also true by extension in two big parts of Western

Europe, including the NATO powerhouse with Germany.  I mean, Russia is not

that strong a country.  They don`t have a strong economy, they don`t have a

strong military, they don`t have that much to offer in terms of things

other nations might want, let alone what to emulate.  But if they can turn

off your source of heat in a given January, you might nevertheless have to

do what they want. 


The other way Russia has used oil and gas, particularly in the nation of

Ukraine which Putin would really like to have become part of Russia again -

- I mean, I don`t know if he wants to rebuild that the Soviet Union on a

smaller scale, minus the Soviet, but he`s been taking parts of Ukraine for

himself.  And what has been handy about Russia`s oil and gas power in

Ukraine as Putin tries to dominate and disassemble it for his own purposes

is that he`s used his huge influence over the energy sector in Ukraine to

corrupt Ukraine, to keep Ukraine corrupt, to keep it corrupt on purpose so

that Ukraine`s government stays weak, so that Russia can manipulate public

institutions and politicians who it has corrupted by cutting them in on oil

and gas deals.


I mean, well, before this current scandal, I was writing this freaking book

in part on how Russia basically created a sort of La Brea Tar Pit of

corruption in the energy sector in Ukraine in a way that is politically

handy to them because any politician that brushes up against that mess,

that mess that they have deliberately created there, even if that

politician has brushed up against it because they`re trying to clean it up,

those politicians can themselves be called corrupt.  They can be prosecuted

even, because look at their proximity to that notoriously corrupt Ukrainian

energy sector.  You`re trying to clean up the corruption here, no, you`re

the corrupt one.


Before Paul Manafort became Donald Trump`s campaign chairman in 2016,

running those kinds of operations against politicians in Ukraine was kind

of one of his political specialties.  I mean, he was a real political

Svengali in Ukraine. 


He would run these types of ops against politicians who he wanted out of

the way.  He would accuse them of corruption, even if they`re only

proximity to real corruption was the fact that they were the ones trying to

clean it up.  That was Manafort – that was a Manafort special in Ukraine,

back before he became Trump`s campaign chairman.  It`s what they`re trying

to do to Joe Biden in Ukraine today and we have since learned in this

current scandal for which the president is being impeached that his lawyer

Rudy Giuliani has been regularly consulting with Paul Manafort from prison

on how best to make this accusation against Joe Biden and how best to

leverage the Ukrainian government into helping Trump slime Joe Biden with



They`ve been consulting with Manafort on that from Manafort`s prison cell. 


Well, now, over the weekend, we have learned that in addition to trying to

put together these backwards words have no meaning accusations against Joe

Biden, right, to try to turn his anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine into

some sort of evidence of his corruption, we`ve since learned in the last

few days that the other thing Giuliani and his guys on the ground in

Ukraine have been working for trying to do themselves is that they`ve been

trying to do their own little deals.  They`ve been trying to cash in

themselves in some Ukrainian natural gas opportunities.


“The A.P.” today telling this lurid story about Giuliani`s guys on the

ground in Ukraine siding up to a Ukrainian natural gas company and making

an offer that nobody should refuse, touting their advanced knowledge that

the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was about to be fired and replaced, which in

fact was true, and they did have advanced knowledge of it, touting their

inside track on forthcoming U.S. government policy about Ukraine, touting

their connections to both Giuliani and Trump.  And with those connections

saying to an executive at a Ukrainian natural gas company, hey, wouldn`t

you my friend like to find yourself becoming the new CEO with the biggest

natural gas company in this country?  We can make that happen all you got

to do is hook us up thereafter with the kinds of contracts that will make

us not just henchmen but oligarch henchmen. 


Did I mention that we`re working for Rudy in this and that we`ve got inside

information about what`s about to happen with U.S. policy?  Watch.  We`ll

make it happen.  They`re fighting corruption, remember?


The “A.P.” has incredible reporting on this today.  “Politico” had some

incredible reporting on this over the weekend.  Rudy Giuliani`s comments to

“Politico” on this is one for the ages.  He told “Politico” and I quote, I

may or may not know anything about it – which you got to give it to Mayor

Giuliani, that is undoubtedly true, he may or may not know anything about

it, zero Pinocchio`s for that.


But as the president is getting impeached for this scandal, for trying to

get help against the Democrats and against his potential 2020 opponent from

a foreign country, the effort that we are going to see here, what we have

already started living through here is an effort to, you know, I`m rubber,

you`re glue his way out of this, to turn the behavior for which the

president has now been caught not just into some amorphous and

unnecessarily complicated thing that doesn`t really have any inherent

meaning, but also to try to make his sins our sins, right?  To try to

absolve himself of his own crimes by putting what he did and what he and

his sort of henchmen in Ukraine have been doing to try to put those crimes

on everybody else`s rap sheet. 


And I know it is hard to follow the twists and turns of the story as it

continues to develop right now, but just heads up on this part of it,

right?  We are in the middle of them trying to redefine this whole thing,

to try to make this simple case as messy as possible, and to try to make it

seem like whatever the president did must have been done by his accusers

first and worse.  We`ve seen them do this before with language and with the

no puppet, no puppet, you`re the puppet argument.  If it works against this

impeachment thing, there`s no grounds on which factually based accusations

can ever be brought against this president. 


If it doesn`t work in this impeachment thing, we will have taken giant

steps forward as a country part not being manipulated this way again the

way we have so badly for the last three years.  Luckily, we have as our

first guest tonight a person who I have somewhat desperately wanted to get

on this show ever since this story first broke.  Tonight is the first time

we have been able to get him. 


Stay tuned.  We`ll be right back.




MADDOW:  He was a career diplomat in the State Department before serving in

the Obama administration first as deputy assistant secretary of defense,

with responsibility for Russia, and then in the White House as a foreign

policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and on Obama`s national security

council as the director for Russia. 


His op-ed in “The Washington Post” today is titled only in Trump`s world,

could what Joe Biden did in Ukraine be considered corrupt?


Joining us now is Michael Carpenter.  He`s currently the senior director of

the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.


Mr. Carpenter, it`s a real pleasure to have you here.  I`ve really been

looking forward to talking with you.



SENIOR DIRECTOR:  Thanks.  Good to be here. 


MADDOW:  The reason I have wanted to talk to you since this scandal first

broke open is because of your – your subject matter expertise here.  There

are very few people who have recently served in government at the kind of

levels that you have, focusing on that part of the world, knowing all the

players involved, knowing all the dynamics, almost in – almost in real

time in terms of your – the recent nature of your government service.


So, because of that, can I just ask you your reaction generally to the

prospect that the president is going to be impeached based on how we know

he has behaved toward Ukraine?  What sure what`s your attitude toward that

seeming eventuality itself?


CARPENTETR:  Well, of course, that`s a political call, and I`m less well

placed to speak about the politics of the impeachment vote in the House and

the Senate.  But, of course, it is a gross abuse of power by the president

to withhold security assistance to a prime U.S. partner that is engaged

right now, in fact, in an ongoing war of attrition with Russia in order to

pressure that country`s leadership to concoct false evidence to smear his

political opponent.  I mean that is the definition of abuse of power.


So, the predicate certainly seems to be there but then the politics I don`t

know how it will play out frankly.


MADDOW:  In terms of the way that this is being fought over on the sort of

political battlefield, right now, what you`re seeing from the president,

from the White House, increasingly from the president`s allies to remain in

Washington, is that they are using the word corruption as both a shield and

a sword, denying that it applies to the president`s behavior, saying that

we he`s within its rights, and accusing everybody from Vice President Biden

to his accusers in the – in the Congress, to the media who`s talking about

it – calling everybody else corrupt, trying to I think sort of take the

meaning out of that word so that it no longer lands with such a sting when

applied to him.


I have to ask how you feel about the accusation of Vice President Biden

having been sort of spotted alongside the notoriously corrupt Ukrainian oil

and gas industry and that being a reason to call him – to say that he`s

the one who has the corruption problem here?


CARPENTER:  Well, you`ve hit the nail on the head.  This is really a sort

of Orwellian inversion of reality where black is white and white is black. 

And, in fact, you know, Vice President Biden in 2014, 2015, after the

Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine was pushing for Ukrainian reformers to be

able to fight corruption and to take on those entrenched interests that had

dogged the country since its independence in 1991, and pushing for the

removal of Viktor Shokin, a prosecutor who was accused not only of

shielding corrupt scandals and corrupt players but also of being part of

one with reference to subordinates who were engaged in a shakedown scheme

that was investigated by two of his deputies or one of whom was fired, the

other of whom resigned in disgust, just sort of shows you how the narrative

has been completely inverted.


I mean, this is a guy who everybody in the international community, the

IMF, the E.U., our own government had been repeatedly calling in the fall

of 2015, for this prosecutor`s removal, and then Vice President Biden when

he travelled to Ukraine in December of 2015, amplified those calls and

demanded that the prosecutor general`s office be thoroughly reformed.  If

that`s corruption, then we`re living in a sort of a parallel universe. 

That is called fighting corruption and standing up for reformers who want

to do the right thing.


MADDOW:  Michael, if you wouldn`t mind holding with us for just one second,

there`s a new twist in this story that`s been developed by “Politico” and

the “Associated Press” over the past couple of days, which is an allegation

that while trying to cook up these accusations against Joe Biden that the

president`s allies in Ukraine may have themselves been trying to do some

sort of natural gas deals, I`d like to talk to you about that just because

of your subject matter expertise here if you don`t mind when we come back.


We`ll be right back with Michael Carpenter right after this.  Stay with us.




MADDOW:  As the president is going through impeachment proceedings over his

efforts to get a foreign country to help him concoct accusations against

former Vice President Joe Biden that he can use in his 2020 reelection

campaign, the “Associated Press” has now broken this sort of as the worm

terms story about the president`s efforts to concoct these accusations in



Can we put up that “A.P.” story?  Put that on the screen.  Thank you.


Profit, not politics: Trump allies sought Ukraine gas deal.  Why not seek

your own Ukraine gas deal while you`re trying to get Ukraine to cook up

accusations against Joe Biden related to gas deals?


Joining us once again is Michael Carpenter, who is currently the senior

director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement,

formerly a deputy assistant secretary of defense.


Mr. Carpenter, thank you again for sticking with us.




MADDOW:  As this story does sort of take these twists and turns, we`ve now

got this “Associated Press” reporting that centers on how, the president`s

lawyer, Mr. Giuliani, and his sort of accomplices on the ground in Ukraine,

in addition to trying to come up with some negative story about Joe Biden,

they were simultaneously also trying to make money by getting their own

political allies onto the board of Ukraine`s biggest public natural gas

company and then trying to get gas contracts for themselves.


The characters here are – a lot of them are mysteries to me, but this

dynamic I find somewhere between very funny and very tragic.  I wondered if

you could shed some light on it for us.


CARPENTER:  Well, Rachel, this is truly a remarkable story of how political

corruption and economic corruption intersect.  You have these two

operatives reportedly work for Mr. Giuliani, who traveled to Ukraine in the

spring of this year in order to try to pressure Ukrainian prosecutors to

launch some sort of an investigation of Vice President Biden to smear him

in the upcoming presidential campaign.  Then, these very same operatives

are trying to lobby for a change, a stacking of the board of directors of

Ukraine`s largest natural gas company, Naftogaz. 


And if that weren`t bad enough, then we find that the U.S. ambassador to

the E.U., Gordon Sondland, the U.S. representative to Ukraine, Ambassador

Kurt Volker, and the Energy Secretary Rick Perry, all travelled to the

inauguration of the new Ukrainian president, President Volodymyr Zelensky

in May, and literally right after he is inaugurated and sworn in, they are

pressing him to change the board so that they can in place more friendly

people on to what has hitherto been an independent supervisory board for

this company. 


And one of the folks was a campaign donor to Mr. Perry`s presidential

campaign.  The other is a man who worked directly for the former energy

minister in the Yanukovych government, that is the government – the

kleptocratic government of former President Yanukovych for whom Paul

Manafort worked and who likely has ties to Paul Manafort himself.  These

are the sorts of people they wanted on the board of this Ukrainian gas

company and they wanted to remove the independent Europeans and Americans

who sit on the board today.


I mean, it`s just an amazing story.


MADDOW:  An amazing story, particularly for an administration that is

trying to make the case that they`re over there just trying to clean up

corruption, and anybody who thinks there`s anything untoward here as a

partisan axe to grind.  It`s just incredible.


Michael Carpenter, foreign policy advisor to Vice President Biden, now

senior director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global

Engagement – sir, thank you for your time.  It`s real honor to have you



CARPENTER:  My pleasure.


MADDOW:  All right.  Much more to get to.  Busy night.  Stay with us.




MADDOW:  The last time President Trump got off the phone with the president

of Turkey and immediately announced, I am pulling all American troops out

of Syria, the last time he did that, he lost both his defense secretary,

James Mattis, and soon thereafter, his administration`s point person on the

fight against ISIS, Brett McGurk.  They both basically resigned in protest

against the president`s decision.


Now, Trump eventually walked back that decision, but now less than a year

later, the president has done it again, again after a phone call with the

president of Turkey.  And although former Defense Secretary James Mattis

refuses to say anything about President Trump at all, Mr. McGurk had some

choice words for the president today. 


Brett McGurk served as senior director for Iraq and Afghanistan in the

George W. Bush White House.  He then was, as I mentioned, the special envoy

for the campaign against ISIS under President Obama then that`s a role that

he continued under President Trump until he resigned in protest at the end

of last year.


Mr. McGurk writes today, quote: Trump twice abruptly reversed course after,

one, a foreign leader call, and, two, without consulting his own military

advisors.  If anyone still believes Trump cares about Syria, they`re

mistaken.  He doesn`t and his erratic swings heightened risk to our

personnel on the ground.  The U.S. leads a coalition that includes over 80

countries and nearly two dozen contributors to the military and/or

stabilization mission in Syria.  Leading a coalition requires consultation

with coalition partners before major decisions are taken. 


This is elementary.  The consequences of such unreliability from the Oval

will reverberate well beyond Syria.  The value of an American handshake is

depreciating.  Trump said today, we could crush ISIS again if it

regenerated, with whom?  What allies would sign up?  Who would fight on his



Bottom line: these are matters of war and peace, life and death.  Our

military personnel, friends and allies deserve deliberation and thought

before decisions are made.  That`s the essence of command.  Erratic swings

favored far more patient adversaries in Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran.


Joining us now is Brett McGurk, former special presidential envoy to the

global coalition to defeat ISIS. 


Mr. McGurk, it`s a real honor to have you here tonight.  Thanks very much

for making time.




MADDOW:  So you wrote today pointedly that a move like this one from the

president which you clearly think is very – very problematic both in its

substance and in its process, you said that it would favor adversaries,

more patient adversaries from Moscow to Beijing to Tehran.


Why did you single out Russia and China and Iran?  And why does this

benefit them?


MCGURK:  Well, the essence of foreign policy decision-making and matters of

war and peace, presidents do a lot of things but this is the most important

thing they do – make decisions about our military personnel.  And we know

from history that if those decisions are not made with deliberation, with

thought, with analysis, with facts, we can get ourselves into some trouble.


We face in the world, our competitors and adversaries in Beijing and in

Moscow in particular, that have very long-term time horizons.  They are

patient.  They are deliberate.  They`re implementing a long term plan.


In the region the Middle East, Iran is doing the same thing.  And we have

President Trump who these wild swings in policy I think is really

increasing the risk not only to our personnel on the ground most

importantly, but devaluate our ability to really exercise leadership and

power in the world.  And when I say devaluing the value of an American

handshake, you know, American diplomats are on the front lines all around

the world.


We`ve seen this most recently in Ukraine with what our diplomats are doing

in Kiev, trying to manage this most difficult situation, and the value of

an American handshake used to really mean something.  I was part of the

process that built this global coalition against ISIS, almost 80 countries,

one of largest coalitions in the world, and we were there from the United

States and we needed help and we need your support, and we needed your

troops and we need your forces and your money.  And the country signed up

because they trusted us and that is becoming much, much more difficult

because diplomats aren`t speaking for the country because nobody knows what

Donald Trump will do from day to day.


So I think it`s dangerous and I would just really encourage him and anyone

who can influence him to get back to a deliberative process before these

most consequential decisions are made because the consequences can be quite

far reaching.


MADDOW:  The prospect of a deliberate process on national security matters

or in any policy matters in this White House feels farther and farther –

feels more and more remote with each passing day.  The policy process as it

would be recognized in any other administration just doesn`t seem to exist

in this administration, especially matters that have the president directly



I am struck by the fact in light of that that when you resigned and when

Secretary Mattis resigned over the last time the president made a sort of

rash and erratic and unexplained decision on Syria that was also right

after he got off the phone with the Turkish leader Erdogan.  And I just –

James Laporta at “Newsweek” today has a scary story in which he has a

National Security Council source who tells him that on that phone call, the

person heard the phone call, the president just got rolled, that Erdogan

just basically manipulated him into making this rash decision.


Is there something about the president and one-on-one conversations with

foreign leaders like Erdogan or others that he`s particularly susceptible



MCGURK:  The president – it`s a lot of bluster and then when the plans and

policies meet friction in the real world, which any policy does, he tends

to just totally back down.


So, we`ve seen this on Iran, in which he`s implementing a maximalist policy

on Iran which we`re trying to just strangle their economy, and Iran is

going to react, and then onus is on President Trump how are you going to



When it comes to Turkey, two calls in a row, the president just completely

backed down.


I`ve been on a lot of foreign leader calls with multiple presidents and

these calls are usually – I was in the Bush administration in particular,

as in the Oval Office, President Bush, a number of calls with Erdogan and

others, they`re very well-prepared.  Mr. President, here`s what you`re

likely to hear.  Here is that we think you should answer that.  If he says

this, take it back, say that we`ll consult and advise.


It`s – for the president to make a major decision which involves matters

of war and peace immediately after a foreign leader call I think is almost

historically unprecedented, because there`s no consultation with the

national security team, with military commanders, to think through the

costs and consequences of different courses of action.


So, it`s very odd.  You`ve seen the administration as you reported, Rachel,

are trying to walk back the decision today and we might get into a place

again which I think is the worst place to be, in which the president is

making very clear to the world that he wants out of Syria, but the national

security team is trying to find a way to stay in Syria, and he just buy

enough time until you have another crisis with Trump.


So, it`s a dangerous situation.  But I hope Americans are in their thoughts

– we have Americans on the ground in Syria.  I spent a lot of time in

Syria in this war against ISIS.  I used to go in there every couple months.


And we have people on the ground tonight who are there under President

Trump orders and they really have no idea what they`re supposed to do.  And

that is just unacceptable if you`re the commander-in-chief.  This is the

most solemn obligation for a president and what he did last night just

through this entire a policy process into disarray and left our people out

there totally exposed.


MADDOW:  Brett McGurk, former special presidential envoy for the global

coalition to defeat ISIS, you have a choice about whether or not to speak

about these matters given your government service and I really, really

appreciate and think it`s a real service to the public that you`re willing

to do interviews like this and talk about what you know.  Thank you for

being here tonight.


MCGURK:  Thank you, Rachel.


MADDOW:  All right.  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us.




MADDOW:  Tomorrow is going to be another busy day. 


A senior State Department official, State Department counselor whose name

Ulrich Brechbuhl, forgive me if I`m pronouncing it wrong, he`s due tomorrow

for a deposition tomorrow in the House impeachment inquiry.  He is the

State Department official who was mistakenly identified as having been on

that – on the president`s July 25th call. 


It was like a big deal in the whistleblower complaint that somebody as

senior as him was in on that call.  It turns out he wasn`t on that call,

but the actual secretary of state, Mike Pompeo was.  We don`t know whether

or not Mr. Brechbuhl will show up for that deposition tomorrow but he is



Also tomorrow, the president`s ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, is

expected to show up, but we`ll see.  He`s the Trump donor and novice State

Department official who appears to have been directly involved in the

scheme to pressure the Ukrainian government into helping President Trump

somehow with dirt against the Democrats for 2020.


In advance of that deposition, NBC News tonight is reporting that a dozen

House Democrats are already calling for Gordon Sondland`s resignation from

the State Department.  But he is due tomorrow for a deposition.  So, we

shall see.  Stay with us.


That does it for us tonight.  We`ll see you again tomorrow. 




Good evening, Lawrence.







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