Turkish military escalates operation. TRANSCRIPT: 10/14/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: 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.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
So, Lev and Igor have been freed from jail. It was a dramatic twist in the
impeachment proceedings against President Trump last week, on Thursday
morning, when we learned that these two gentlemen had been indicted by a
grand jury and arrested Wednesday night at Dulles Airport as they attempted
to board an international flight. The U.S. attorney of New York said that
the two men had one-way tickets to leave the country. That apparently sped
up the process by which they were indicted.
The indictment was filed by the grand jury on Wednesday. They were
arrested on Wednesday night at Dulles. Thursday morning, that indictment
was unsealed and soon thereafter we got these now indelibly memorable mug
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are charged with an illegal campaign finance in
which they are said to have funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars, at
least some of which was from a secret Russian source that the indictment
doesn`t spell out. Those donations were directed to the main super PAC
supporting President Trump`s reelection campaign and lots and lots of
Republican politicians and campaign groups. As spelled out in the
indictment of Lev and Igor, one of the things they leveraged with those
illegal campaign donations was an effort by Texas Republican Congressman
Pete Sessions to pile on America`s ambassador in Ukraine, to get Marie
Yovanovitch fired from her ambassadorship and brought back to the United
Congressman Pete Sessions, according to the indictment, basically took
those donations that turned out to be illegal donations. He then took the
meeting with the guys who had funneled him those illegal donations, and
then thereafter he wrote the letter they wanted, demanding the resignation
of America`s ambassador in Ukraine.
Well, after their initial court appearance on Thursday morning, in the same
federal district where Dulles Airport is, the eastern district of Virginia,
Lev and Igor, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman, were held in custody in
anticipation of their formal arraignment in federal court in New York City
later this week, on Thursday of this week.
But now, “The Wall Street Journal” is reporting tonight that the two men
have met their bail conditions. They apparently have each put up a million
bucks. And so they are sprung. They are no longer in the federal jail
where they had been being held since late last week. They`re out on bail.
According to the bail conditions, they are out wearing active GPS ankle
bracelets. Also according to the bail condition sheets which we obtained
tonight, they are not allowed to have any contact with each other about
their case unless they`re in the presence of counsel.
Again, both men are expected in federal court in New York on Thursday to
face these charges. But that “Wall Street Journal” reporting tonight about
them getting out on bail as of this evening, that appears in this article
in “The Journal” about the president`s personal attorney. Not that one.
That one is already in federal prison. It`s the next one, Rudy Giuliani
who has professed over the past several days to being just bewildered by
these now multiple reports that the U.S. attorney`s office he used to run
back in the `80s, the federal prosecutors office in the Southern District
of New York, there have been these reports that Rudy Giuliani himself is
now under investigation by his old office. He has professed to be just
flabbergasted by these reports. He has no idea what that even means.
Well, multiple news organizations have now reported that in “The Wall
Street Journal” advances that story considerably tonight with the news that
not only are federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York
investigating Mayor Giuliani, in part for his alleged role in the
conspiracy that prosecutors allege against Lev and Igor, his associates,
who are just out tonight on million dollars bail, but according to “The
Wall Street Journal,” prosecutors are also in addition to looking at
whether he was part of that conspiracy that has already been charged,
they`re also reportedly looking at his business dealings in the nation of
Ukraine, including his finances, his meetings, and his work for a city
This investigation in SDNY reportedly includes investigators looking at Mr.
Giuliani`s bank records. And while Rudy Giuliani`s bank records I imagine
might be a sort of scary place to get lost, “The Journal” does spell out a
little of why federal investigators might want to be looking in those
records. For example, “The Journal” tonight describes a 2017 deal that Mr.
Giuliani`s security company did with a city in the pro-Russian eastern part
of Ukraine. So, this was a contract Giuliani`s company did with the city
administration, according to “The Journal”, to, quote, streamline municipal
emergency services. OK.
Weird thing about this contract that Giuliani signed up for with that city
is that even though that contract was with that city, it wasn`t the city
that paid him for it. The entity that paid Rudy Giuliani and his security
firm for that contract was just a guy, a guy pictured here with President
Donald Trump. His name is Pavel Fuks. His name has surfaced time and
again in reporting about President Trump and the Russia scandal. President
Trump`s reported business and financial dealings with Russia. He keeps
turning up and again – up – he keeps turning in those reports, because
Pavel Fuks had tried to negotiate a deal with Donald Trump in Moscow to put
the Trump name on a new Trump Tower in Moscow City.
And then a few years later, once Donald Trump is president, Rudy Giuliani
signs a deal that on paper look likes some city in Eastern Ukraine is
hiring him to do something, but in reality, it`s that same guy who was
trying to negotiate a Trump Tower deal with Donald Trump in Moscow, that
guy is now just sending checks to Rudy and making it look like it`s a city
contract? Why did they do it that way? Why did that happen? Do you think
the city of Kharkiv in Eastern Ukraine ever got its streamlined emergency
municipal services out of this deal?
So, we will see where this is going, but the president`s personal attorney,
the other president`s personal attorney, the one who is not in federal
prison is reportedly now – reported by approximately news sources now to
be under serious federal investigation. And not to put too fine a point on
it, if you kind oft put together this array, you`ve now got the president`s
first personal lawyer in federal prison, in part for committing campaign
finance felonies that federal prosecutors say the president not only
participated in, he directed the commission of those felonies. He is
individual 1 in those crimes.
The president`s subsequent personal lawyer is himself reportedly under
investigation by that same federal prosecutor`s office that put Michael
Cohen in jail. The president is in the middle of impeachment proceedings
for having tried to enlist a foreign power to help him against the
Democrats in 2020. Rudy Giuliani, the president`s personal lawyer, who is
under investigation for a number of different strands of this scheme
related to what the president is now being impeached for with the help of a
clown car pull of upstanding citizens. Rudy Giuliani was working on this
scheme for the president to try to get help from this foreign country in
this next election with the help of Lev and Igor, who are now indicted for
allegedly having funneled illegal Russian campaign donations to Russian
politicians, including the pro-Trump super PAC.
Giuliani was also reportedly working with the campaign chairman who is now
a federal prisoner to help put together this scheme for which the president
is being impeached. Giuliani is also using material that he obtained from
Dmitry Firtash, a Kremlin-connected billionaire who is currently fighting
extradition to the United States where he is wanted on felony charges
related to a gigantic bribery scheme. Federal prosecutors call Mr. Firtash
an upper echelon associate of Russian organized crime.
And so that looks to be kind of the president`s team here. This appears to
have been, like, his squad as he was trying to pull off this operation for
which he has now been caught in which Ukraine would help him versus the
Democrats and Joe Biden specifically for 2020. I mean – so that`s the
president`s side of the impeachment proceeding right now. Obviously, this
is going great for him. Who wouldn`t want to be on this team?
If you`re having a hard time keeping track of the president`s squad for
this operation, it is sort of easy to remember if you just consider them by
their circumstances. The guys on the bottom are out on bail. The guy in
the middle on the top is fighting extradition. The guy on the top in the
right is already in prison, and the by on the top in left is under
investigation by the U.S. attorney`s office he used to run, currently
having his banking records read through by federal prosecutors.
That`s who the president was working on this thing. So clearly, as the
more we learn about it, the better this is looking, right?
A key part of this scheme these guys wither trying to pull off with
President Trump involved ousting the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie
Yovanovitch. She was pulled out of the embassy, apparently with the
consent of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the spring of this year.
Ambassador Yovanovitch testified on Friday that she was told to get out of
Ukraine, quote, on the next plane. In her opening statement before her
nine-hour deposition on Friday, she spelled out how the number two official
in the State Department told her it was on the president`s orders that she
was being recalled from her ambassadorship, even though she was told she
had done nothing wrong.
If that, in fact, was the conclusion of the State Department, that she had
done nothing wrong and was being pulled out anyway just because the
president wanted her out, it is all the more remarkable that the Secretary
of State Mike Pompeo we now know was sitting there on the call between
President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine when President Trump
apropos of nothing brought up the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and told the
Ukrainian president that she was, in his words, bad news. President Trump
then threatened the former U.S. ambassador, saying she was, quote, going to
go through some things. Like Pompeo sitting there on that call, listening
Last week, a senior State Department official Michael McKinley, a senior
adviser to Mike Pompeo, resigned from the department in protest over
Pompeo`s failure to support state department personnel, particularly that
ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch. We now know that Pompeo not only had her
fire on the president`s orders, he did sit there silently while the
president threatened her on a call to a foreign leader, even though he and
his own department knew she had done nothing wrong. It is hard to imagine
that Mike Pompeo gets to stay on as secretary of state in these
Well, tonight you can add plus one to that, because just before getting on
the air tonight, we learned that that recently resigned senior adviser to
Mike Pompeo, Michael McKinley, the one who reportedly stepped down in
protest of Pompeo`s behavior, Michael McKinley is now scheduled to testify
in the impeachment inquiry against President Trump. His deposition is
scheduled for the day after tomorrow.
At the same time we learned that, we also learned that a current Defense
Department official, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper has
also been scheduled to testify in the impeachment inquiry on Friday of this
week. We know that part of her area of – sort of part of her remit within
the Defense Department involved both Russia and Ukraine. We don`t yet know
what the impeachment inquiries want Laura Cooper to testify about, but she
reportedly has been called.
And we know that the White House has been trying to stop all sorts of
different people from giving testimony as part of these impeachment
proceedings, both current officials and former officials. But whatever
they`re trying to stop people from testifying no longer seems to be
working. Ambassador Yovanovitch`s testimony on Friday would have seemed to
have been a key breakthrough on that point.
Early this morning, we saw Fiona Hill arrive at the Capitol for her
testimony. She was the senior official at the National Security Council
inside the White House with responsibility for Russia and Ukraine. That
means she was President Trump`s top adviser on Russia and Ukraine. She was
in that role at the Trump National Security Council when Ambassador
Yovanovitch got forced out of her job in April.
Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos at “The New York Times” report that Fiona
Hill expressed strenuous opposition to Yovanovitch being fired. They say
she considered Yovanovitch`s firing to be, quote, an egregious abuse.
It is hard to figure out the extent of the White House`s efforts to try to
block Fiona Hill from this testifying today. Ultimately, we know that she
did testify. The committees did provide her a subpoena in advance of her
testimony. It is exactly unclear the sequence of events, when the subpoena
arrived, if she would have been able to testify without it what exactly
that means, but she testified.
Unlike Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill today did not release an opening
statement. Unlike the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, she did
not hand over any documents from her tenure as a key Ukraine adviser to
President Trump. That`s reportedly because she didn`t take any documents
with her when she quit the National Security Council this summer. She quit
in July, just less than a week before President Trump`s fateful call with
the Ukrainian president that has now led to his impeachment.
According to “The Times” today, Fiona Hill was expected to confirm that
there was a quid pro quo being demanded by the Trump White House, that the
Ukrainian government was told by the Trump administration they wouldn`t get
a White House meeting unless they made a commitment for some kind of
investigations that the administration wanted, and we know that what the
president wanted investigated was Joe Biden.
But while we`ve had a bunch of reporting as to what Fiona Hill was expected
to have said today, she only emerged from her deposition immediately before
I got on the air tonight, after ten hours of questioning. And so, we sort
of are still waiting to find out what may have happened, what may have
transpired over the course of those ten hours. Again, as you know, it was
behind closed doors.
We expect that her deposition will eventually be made public. But as to
what she said today, well we have only the barest sense. Republicans have
complained that the witnesses in the impeachment proceedings thus far
haven`t been testifying in public. They say they want public testimony.
They don`t like that these things are happening behind closed doors.
Democratic Congressman Denny Heck was asked about that today by reporters
after he stepped out of the Fiona Hill deposition this evening, after she
had been going for hours and hours and hours. Denny Heck said Republicans
are only complaining about the closed door nature of this testimony because
they need some excuse to justify the White House not cooperating with the
But I wanted to play you what Congressman Heck said in part, because he
also suggested that Republicans might want to be careful what they wish for
in terms of this testimony becoming public. He is suggesting that they
probably wouldn`t like if the American public got to hear what was being
said behind closed doors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): You want to know what I think about that? I think
the minority who is using this as an excuse du jour, and there shouldn`t be
a single person standing here who believes for one second that if they
these were open, they wouldn`t invent another excuse for the administration
not to cooperate. I`m not done. They wouldn`t invent another excuse for
the administration not to cooperate.
But here`s what I really believe. They are darned lucky these weren`t
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, Fiona Hill testified today. We are expecting another senior
State Department official George Kent to testify tomorrow. We`ll have more
on that coming up in few minutes in the show.
The recently resigned in protest senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo, a man named Michael McKinley is expected to testify on Wednesday.
Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who was basically sent in to handle Ukraine
matters along with Rudy Giuliani after they ousted Marie Yovanovitch, he
was reportedly involved in basically collecting on the quid pro quo in
Ukraine. According to Republican Senator Ron Johnson, Sondland is the man
who described the demanded quid pro quo to him explicitly. Sondland is
expected to testify on Thursday of this week, and then on Friday, we`ll
have the senior defense official Laura Cooper.
She, as I mentioned, is a new addition. She has been, interestingly, a
part of the public face of the administration in assuring Ukraine that we
will always stand by them, particularly when it comes to military aid.
Military aid we now know is allegedly what the White House was withholding
to try to leverage from them this help against Democrats for the
So, Laura Cooper having been busy reassuring the Ukrainians we would always
stand by them, and that that military aid is something they can count on,
she is reportedly now going to be testifying at the end of this week in the
So with all that on deck this week, I think we`ll continue to be just as
nuts as things have been. That said, the impeachment of the president at
its core remains a simple thing. You can`t ask a foreign power for
assistance with your reelection campaign. You can`t even ask, no matter
what they give.
The effort by the president to carry out that scheme, though, wasn`t as
simple a matter. It turns out to have involved this amazing array of true
crime all-stars, right? And because this was him trying to leverage a
foreign power into doing this on his behalf, he wasn`t just demanding it,
he was trying force them into doing it, it also involves the foreign policy
and U.S. defense policy establishment. All of these elements of the
national security apparatus of the U.S. government were all brought to bear
on this illegal scheme to get that country to help the president get
And that part of what the president is being impeached for, his use of the
national security apparatus, his use of military aid, his use of diplomatic
pressure, his use of sort of shadow diplomacy working with all of these
crooks working with Giuliani, that is all, coincidentally or not, coming to
the surface right now while real American foreign policy and defense policy
is collapsing into catastrophe.
We`re going to be speaking live with NBC`s Richard Engel from northern
Syria in just a few minutes. The Kurdish fighters that the U.S. military
was aligned with for years inside Syria, President Trump inexplicably last
week told Turkey we would step away from them, and Turkey was essentially
free to come into the territory that our Kurdish allies had been holding so
Turkey could take it for their own purposes. With us abandoning our allies
there, our Kurdish allies, predictably now as of yesterday have made a
formal alliance with somebody else who they can count on more reliably.
They`ve turned for support and protection against Turkey to their next best
option, which is Russia and the Syrian regime, which is propped up by the
Russia props up the Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad. The Kurdish fighters
who had been our allies fighting against ISIS have now left us because we
left them. They`re now instead switching sides. So they`re siding with
Assad and the Russians instead, which leaves nobody fighting ISIS anymore
It also means that U.S. troops are one of the stranded/abandoned parties
here. U.S. troops in the region have been reportedly pinned down and
bracketed by Turkish artillery fire since the president`s surprise
announcement that U.S. troops would get out of the way and allow Turkey to
advance. Them being bracketed by artillery fire means that they have been
deliberately targeted by a foreign military that is supposed by one of our
I mean, there`s now a serious question, aside from everything else going
wrong here, there is now a serious question as to the safety of these
American troops, even while they are being withdrawn. The Defense
Department has announced that President Trump has now ordered them all out,
but we`re still not even sure how that all happens with Turkish troops and
Turkish supported troops controlling a key road out of the region. The
plans for withdrawing U.S. troops are very uncertain.
This is from David Stanger tonight in “The New York Times.” Quote:
President Trump`s acquiescence to Turkey`s move to send troops deep inside
the Syrian territory has in only one week`s time turned into a bloody
carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American
project to keep the peace on that volatile border, and given an
unanticipated victory to four American adversaries, Russia, Iran, the
Syrian government they support, and ISIS. Rarely has a presidential
decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have
described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests.
He says, quote, the drama is nowhere near over. Out of necessity, the
Kurds switched sides on Sunday, turning their backs on America. At the
Pentagon, officials struggled with the right response. If Turkish force,
again, NATO allies, again open fire on any of the thousand or so Americans
who are now preparing to retreat from their positions inside Syria. Those
U.S. troops are trapped for now since Turkey has cut off the roads,
removing them may require an airlift.
And in case that`s not unnerving enough, here is something I completely
forgot to panic about. Quote, over the weekend, U.S. State and Energy
Department officials were quietly reviewing plans for evacuating roughly 50
tactical nuclear weapons that the U.S. has long stored under American
control at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. Oh, right.
Now that our supposed NATO ally Turkey is shooting artillery rounds at
American forces, maybe we need to rethink the safety of us keeping 50 of
our tactical nuclear weapons sitting inside an air base in their country,
right? If we`re going have to send in an airlift to rescue U.S. troops out
of a situation that the president precipitously created while U.S. troops
were in danger, then maybe we should worry about the U.S. troops that are
guarding our live nuclear weapons inside Turkey.
Don`t worry, though. Rick Perry and Mike Pompeo are tasked with figuring
out plan to get all those nuclear weapons safely taken care of. I should
mention that Mike Pompeo and Rick Perry are both facing subpoenas from the
impeachment inquiry right now. And, you know, maybe you wanted troops,
U.S. troops to not be in Syria in the first place. Maybe you wanted them
brought home now or some time before now, but nobody has ever advocated for
what President Trump has done, this reckless and bizarre sudden
announcement that turned a previously basically peaceful at least stable
part of Syria controlled by our allies into what is now the site of
civilian massacres and journalists being shot at and everything else.
Now that whole swath of Syria will likely end up being controlled by Assad
and Russia in some sort of deal that they will likely work out between
themselves and Turkey. The president`s decision leading to this reckless
and again bizarre risk to American troops there, without support, with
their supply lines cut off, with no clear way to retreat, without any clear
indication of what they`re supposed to be doing, without any clear
indication that the president knew they were there and that they would be
at risk if we suddenly green-lit the second largest military in NATO coming
in and taking over that territory from our allies.
I mean, U.S. troops stuck there at the site of our abandonment of our
allies that the soldiers spent five years working with and supporting and
promising to stand by. It`s what “The Times” described tonight as, quote,
a fast unraveling situation.
Meanwhile, a 30-plus year veteran of the Foreign Service, William J. Burns
has come forward to say that what the president is doing now in total
should be seen as more of a danger to Americans` international influence
than anything in the past 70 years, calling President Trump, quote, for
dictator, the gift that keeps on giving.
We`re going to speak with Bill Burns here live tonight. Also, Richard
Engel live from northern Syria. We`ll also be watching for the continuing
development of lots of these stories that are still rolling tonight.
Stay with us. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Well, this is direct and to the point. Quote: In my three and a
half decades as a U.S. Foreign Service officer, I have never seen an attack
on diplomacy as damaging to both the State Department as an institution and
our international influence as the one now under way.
Quote, the contemptible mistreatment of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S.
ambassador to Ukraine who was dismissed for getting in the way of the
president`s scheme to solicit interference in U.S. elections is just the
latest example of the president`s dangerous brand of diplomatic
malpractice. His is a diplomacy of narcissism, bent on advancing private
interests at the expense of our national interests.
Quote: For dictators, Trump is the gift that keeps on giving, a nonstop
advertisement for Western self-dealing. So much for enlightened self-
interest. So much for the power of our example. So much for our
To clean up the institutional wreckage in the State Department will take
many years. The damage to our influence and reputation may prove to be
even longer lasting and harder to repair.
That`s from Ambassador William Burns, former deputy secretary of state,
former U.S. ambassador to Russia. He`s got more than 30 years of
experience in the U.S. Foreign Service.
Joining us now is Ambassador Burns. He is currently the president of the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is also author of “The Back
Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal.”
Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for being here.
WILLIAM BURNS, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Rachel, it`s great to be
MADDOW: So, this is not very diplomatic. You were speaking in very blunt
BURNS: Yes, no. And I didn`t write those words lightly either. We`ve
seen a lot of highs and lows over three and a half decades as U.S. Foreign
Service officer, and I`m deeply worried today. Not just about the
hollowing out of my old institution, but about the fact that the United
States is digging a deep hole for itself in a very competitive and
complicated international landscape.
MADDOW: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appears to be quite enmeshed in
this scandal that has led to these impeachment proceedings against the
president. I am sort of – it sort of struck me. I wasn`t reading it at
the time. I wasn`t – I wasn`t thinking – I didn`t even think I was
thinking about the impeachment scandal when it finally occurred to me that
Mike Pompeo was on the line listening, when the president said to President
Zelensky of Ukraine, that ambassador, that woman, she was bad news. She`s
going to go through some things.
Mike Pompeo did not allow it to be known for a couple of weeks that he had
been on that call. He professed ignorance about what had happened there.
And then when we found out he had been on that call, we know that`s one of
the things he sat through.
How – what does that do to a secretary of state for everybody who serves
in the Foreign Service, everybody who serves in the State Department to
know that he abided that?
BURNS: Well, it does a lot of damage for at least two reasons. First, you
know, you expect the leadership of the State Department to stand up for its
BURNS: – in the face of unfair and unfounded accusations.
And second, you have another obligation to the Constitution. You know,
when you have the president of the United States clearly trying to use
public office and the leverage of the United States not to promote the
national interests, but to promote private political interest, that`s also
a big problem.
MADDOW: We`ve learned just tonight that a senior adviser to Secretary of
State Pompeo, Michael McKinley, who is a career diplomat, very well-
respected, has served ambassador posts all over the world, on Thursday, he
resigned. And according to “The Washington Post,” he resigned in protest
about the way that Secretary of State Pompeo has behaved towards State
Department employees through this process. We have now learned he is going
to testify as part of these proceedings.
First of all, do you think there is any technical reason that they could
block him from testifying if they tried to?
BURNS: Yes, I think they could try, but I think Mike McKinley, like Masha
Yovanovitch is a terrific professional, an honest, honorable person. So, I
suspect he is going to do just what Ambassador Yovanovitch did.
MADDOW: As Ambassador Yovanovitch testifies as we expect Mr. McKinley to
testify, Fiona Hill testifying today, she`s an ex-intelligence officer at
the National Security Council, I wonder if you – if you see that testimony
as something they`re required to do and they don`t have a choice and it`s
just part of the job? Or do you think it does take bravery? Are they
BURNS: It does. It reflects a sense of decency that is sorely lacking
right now in a lot of the political appointees in this administration that
you`ve been talking about.
MADDOW: We`re also seeing foreign policy blow up right now under the Trump
administration. Not only in terms of the way it`s being misused, but
whatever is happening with northern Syria, whatever happened between
President Trump and President Erdogan with this sudden decision, this U-
turn. Obviously, it`s an ongoing and very dangerous situation there. But
I wonder with the State Department having a crisis of credibility, the type
of hollowing out they described.
MADDOW: Facing a political crisis around this impeachment and the
implication of the secretary of state in that while also facing these very
real disasters –
MADDOW: – caused by U.S. misuse of our foreign policy power. I mean, who
is going to do the cleanup? Who is going to be the steady hand?
BURNS: Oh, it`s a mess. And it`s chaos right now. And you`re going to
see other adversaries and rivals I think tempted to test us, because one
crisis oftentimes multiplies as well. And there are no shortage of places
around the world today where you could see that as well.
MADDOW: We`re going to speak with Richard Engel live from northern Syria
in just a moment. Before we speak with him, I just wonder if you have any
insight that you could share, any thoughts that you have on why the
president did what he did in that phone call with the president of Turkey.
We don`t know his motivation. We certainly – I can`t imagine this is what
he intended to happen, including U.S. troops being in grave danger.
Do you have any way for to help us think about why he did this?
BURNS: No, I mean, I think he is impulsive. He is dismissive of expertise
and he doesn`t pay attention to consequences, whether intended or
unintended. The Middle East is the land of unintended consequences. And
so, not to handle this carefully and think through what is a very
complicated choice to make I think is a huge embarrassment, and it`s going
to cost us in a lot of ways. It already is.
MADDOW: Do you agree that the ultimate beneficiary of this chaos right now
is Russia, Syria, Iran?
BURNS: And ISIS, right. That`s quite a foursome.
MADDOW: Ambassador William Burns is former deputy secretary of state,
former U.S. ambassador to Russia, long-time U.S. Foreign Service veteran –
sir, thank you. It`s an honor to have you here.
BURNS: Nice to see (ph) you, Rachel. Thanks so much.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I am honored and impressed and more than a little worried to tell
you that Richard Engel, NBC News` chief foreign correspondent, is live in
northern Syria tonight where he joins us from on the ground.
Richard, my friend, I am happy to be talking to you. I`m a little bit
sorry that you`re there. But thank you for doing what you`re doing to
cover this story.
Get us up to date in terms of what you know as of tonight.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s good to be
with you. And what we`re seeing right now, it may sound very, very
complicated with all of these different factions. We`re talking about the
Kurds and the Syrians and the Russians and the Turks, but what is actually
happening, if you break it down is fairly simple.
What happened a few days ago, it seems like a long time ago, was President
Trump in this phone call gave Turkey a green light to invade northern
Syria. They say they didn`t do it. President Trump is going on and on,
says he didn`t do it. The White House issued a statement after their phone
call saying that U.S. troops would be pulling back, and that the Turks
would be moving in. So, that`s the green light.
The Turks moved in. But as you said earlier, this is a major NATO country.
Turkey has an enormous army, but it is not using its army entirely. It is
also using these Arab militias, and the Arab militias are critical to this
story, because part of these Arab militias, these shock troops that have
been coming in, attacking the Kurds here in northern Syria, they include
ISIS and al Qaeda members, according to multiple U.S. officials.
And it was these shock troops, as they`ve been moving through this area,
killing civilians, that is what caused the Kurds to panic. That is what
caused the Kurds to change sides.
So in this panic, as these atrocities were taking place, they reached over
and they made a deal with the Assad government, which is backed up by
Russia and said come in and help us. And as they were making this deal,
the U.S. is leaving. So the Kurds saw shock troops coming in, militias,
backed up by extremists. They see the Americans are leaving, and they made
a deal. They reached out to Assad and said come and help us.
And right now, tonight, we`re seeing this land grab with the Assad forces
trying to take as much territory and the Turks trying to take as much
territory so that they can come up with some sort of deal, but each have
something in their hands to negotiate with.
So that`s where we are. The Americans are stuck between these two
colliding forces, trying to figure out how they carry out what they call
their deliberate exit. They don`t want the get into a fight. They want to
get themselves safely out of the country in a slow and dignified way. But
they want to do it and not leave their allies behind totally stranded. So,
now their allies have made the deal with Assad.
So, everyone here is saying President Trump started this. The Turks moved
in with this brutal force that I think really shocked a lot of people, and
now there is potentially some effort from the Trump administration to fix
this. Just in the last few hours, we hear that Vice President Pence is
going to come here on a diplomatic mission, and he is going to save the day
and work out some sort of agreement between now the Kurds and the Syrian
government and Turkey.
So that`s what happened. And that`s how it`s unfolding, and we are seeing
the map that the lines in the sand, the map of the Middle East redrawn as
MADDOW: And, Richard, so in terms of those two on marching forces in which
both the Kurds and U.S. forces are in trouble, do you anticipate that
actually the Turkish military and the Arab militias that are fighting with
them and the Syrian army with the Russian forces that are backing them up,
that they will actually come into military conflict in terms of trying to
figure out where the border is between Syria and Turkey? Or do you feel
like between the Syrian and Russian side and the Turkish side, they`ll
actually negotiate something that prevents a war between those two very
ENGEL: It`s very hard to know. On one level, they shouldn`t come in to
contact with each other because both are aligned with Russia. Russia, as
the U.S. is pulling out physically from this area is the new power broker.
So in theory, they shouldn`t come into conflict because they have both this
Russian interest, but their long-term interests are very different.
Syria wants to regain control of all of its territory. Syria lost control
of this region because of the civil war and then because the Kurds were
helping the Americans and the Kurds managed to carve out an autonomous zone
where I am right now.
So, Syria`s long-term goal is to regain control of all of its territory.
Kurdish areas included. And now, the Kurds have said fine, we`ll do that.
We`ll go along with the program. Just don`t let these Turkish militias
carry out ethnic cleansing and genocide against us.
Turkey, however, has a different agenda. You have President Erdogan, who
effectively wants to become the great leader of Turkey. He wants his name
to be more remembered than Kemal Ataturk. He wants to be the person who
conquered a new province for his country and regained Ottoman glory and
correct the wrongs that he sees were imposed on his country after World War
So, Turkey`s objective is to carve all a little piece and to put about 1
million to 3 million Syrian refugees in the pocket that it captures. And
therefore, Erdogan would be able to go home and say that he`s a hero. He`s
a national leader, and he got rid of the refugee problem.
And that`s the way Turkey is selling this. They`re selling this around the
world as they`re doing a service to the world, not using a terrorist-
aligned militia to carry out atrocities against the Kurds. They say they
are doing a service to the world by allowing Syrian refugees to go back to
their own homeland.
So, will their mutual alliance with Russia keep them from fighting right
now in the short-term? Perhaps. But long-term, they both have very
MADDOW: Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent live for us at
o dark 30 in northern Syria – Richard, stay safe. Thank you, my friend,
for being with us. I really appreciate it.
All right. We`ve got more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The former top adviser on Russia and Ukraine to President Trump,
Fiona Hill, answered questions on Capitol Hill today for more than ten
hours. Ms. Hill did not release a public statement, but she reportedly had
high praise for former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was fired by the
president earlier this year, reportedly, because she was in the way of his
plan to leverage Ukraine into helping with his reelection effort against
A CNN source said tonight that Fiona Hill in today`s testimony, quote, made
her opinions known about Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch`s removal.
Now, in advance of her testimony as she was heading into that testimony
today on Capitol Hill, “The New York Times” had reported that Hill would
confirm that the administration leveraged a White House invitation for
Ukraine`s president in exchange for a commitment by Ukraine to investigate
corruption, which was seen as code for investigating Democrats. In other
words, “The New York Times” reported in advance of her testimony that Hill
would confirm that the Trump White House made it a quid pro quo that they
could not get a White House invitation for Zelensky unless he went along
with the scheme for election help.
Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland came out of Fiona Hill`s testimony
tonight and said that Fiona Hill and Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch will be
remembered as the heroes of this story in U.S. history.
Well, tomorrow, a new deposition is scheduled for a man named George Kent.
He is a current high level State Department official with responsibility
for Ukraine policy. Documents turned over to Congress by the State
Department inspector general last week included emails from George Kent
where he pushed back against Rudy Giuliani and the president`s conspiracy
theories in real-time.
You can see George Kent doing that in emails like this one, a rundown for
other State Department officials of the, quote, daily update of the fake
news driven smear out of Ukraine. The fake news driven smear was what
Giuliani and Trump were trying to leverage Ukraine to do in exchange for a
White House visit and potentially military aid.
There is also this email in which George Kent dismisses the false
allegation that Ambassador Yovanovitch had given prosecutors a “do not
prosecute` list. George Kent in this email calls that idea, quote,
complete poppycock. So, it seems like George Kent was one of those inside
the State Department, again, a veteran career official, who was not going
along with what they were trying to do with Ukraine.
Barring any late changes, we`re told by an official working on the
impeachment inquiry tonight that George Kent is expected to show up
tomorrow morning to give his version of events. If so, he will just be the
latest witness to show up and offer testimony that is expected to be deeply
unhelpful to the president and to, increasingly, members of his cabinet, as
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last week, this ad started appearing on Facebook. It says:
Breaking news, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook just endorsed Donald Trump for
reelection. You`re probably shocked and you might be thinking, how could
this possibly be true? Well, it`s not.
That Facebook ad was paid for by Elizabeth Warren`s presidential campaign.
What they`re doing there is essentially goading Facebook into doing
something about its ad policy.
As that policy now stands, Facebook says politicians are allowed to run
totally false ads, anything they want, as long as the checks don`t bounce
when Facebook goes to cash them.
Last week, former Vice President Biden requested that Facebook delete a
Trump ad that falsely accused Biden on this Ukraine nonsense. That ad was
viewed more than 5 million times. It was totally false.
But Facebook refused to take it down. They told Biden in a letter that
under their new political ad policy, false is fine with them. It doesn`t
That letter, interestingly, was signed by Katie Harbath, public policy
director for global elections at Facebook. Prior to her time at Facebook,
she was chief digital strategist for the National Republican Senatorial
Committee. Before that, she worked for Rudy Giuliani`s presidential
But I am sure she has everyone`s best interest in mind when it comes to the
2020 election. No reason to worry about that.
I mean, the dark and increasingly partisan truth at the heart of Facebook`s
political influence is that Facebook`s algorithms, obviously, favor
engagement, right? Whether positive or negative, they favor engagement,
which means the most controversial, most provocative, most offensive
material will circulate the most widely on the site.
Now, Facebook is telling politicians that not only will they continue to
get awarded for posting provocative, offensive content, which drives the
most engagement, they also have nothing to worry about when it comes to
pushing overtly provably false claims.
And this comes, of course, at a critical time. President Trump is going
wall to wall with ads over why impeachment is horrible, and he never asked
Ukraine to do anything, and if he did, it was good, not illegal. The
president and the RNC have already launched a $10 million ad campaign
telling those points.
There is nothing to match that on the Democratic side thus far. Democrats
have been completely outspent on this issue. There are the first signs,
though, that Democratic interest may be trying to change that a little bit.
Progressive groups like Indivisible and Move On are among those considering
media campaigns to try to counter Trump`s narrative on impeachment.
A progressive group called Acronym was also out with a million dollar
online ad buy. Right now, it`s focused on five swing states, Arizona,
Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It`s targeting users
of Facebook in those states with ades like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president admits that on a phone call with the
president of Ukraine, he requested that the president of Ukraine
investigate his 2020 political rival Joe Biden. Is that a crime?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a crime for the president to solicit aid for his
campaign from a foreign government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that to which the president has admitted is in and
of itself a crime?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s the very first Democratic ads just starting to air on
Facebook on the impeachment issue. Again, the Trump campaign is launching
$10 million worth of ads. The Democratic campaign thus far is about this
big. You can see why they might see Facebook as contested territory which
to even try this, but they have started trying.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We are just about done for tonight but I have to make a correction
before we go. This is interesting. At the very top of the show, I cited
“The Wall Street Journal`s” reporting tonight that Lev Parnas and Igor
Furman had been released on million dollars bail. Parnas and Fruman are
the allies of Rudy Giuliani who arrested last week on conspiracy charges
related to a campaign finance scheme.
“The Wall Street Journal” reports tonight that they had both been released
on $1 million bond. I cited that at the top of the show. That said, it
turns out not to be correct. We are told by the Southern District of New
York just moments that despite the fact that they have had the conditions
for their bail set, they`re not out. “The Wall Street Journal” reported
they have been released on bail, but the Southern District of New York
tells us that Parnas and Fruman are still in federal custody and have not
yet met the requirements for getting out of jail. A spokesperson for SDNY
telling us that directly tonight. Quote, they remain in federal custody.
So, “The Wall Street Journal” still as of right now as their story the way
we reported it. We`re told that`s incorrect. I`m sorry for any confusion
but it`s kind of intriguing all the same.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Sorry I went into your time.
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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