Trump threatens whistleblower. TRANSCRIPT: 10/7/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRISTOPHER WYLIE, AUTHOR: So that you can buy time to remake the inside
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.
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
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
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
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”.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everything to me is about
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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.
MICHAEL CARPENTER, PENN BIDEN CENTER FOR DIPLOMACY AND GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT
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
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.
BRETT MCGURK, MSNBC FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: Thanks for having me.
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
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
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
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
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.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the