Bill Taylor, confirms quid pro quo. TRANSCRIPT: 10/22/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Val Demings
Transcript:

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.  Thanks, my friend.  Much

appreciated.

 

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 

 

And I quote, Ambassador Sondland told me that he now recognized he made a

mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a

White House meeting with President Zelensky was dependent on a public

announcement of investigations.  In fact, Ambassador Sondland said,

everything was dependent on such an announcement including security

assistance, by which he means military assistance. 

 

Sondland said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky in a public

box by making a public statement about ordering such investigations. 

 

President Trump wanted President Zelensky in a public box by making public

statements ordering such investigations.  You know, we knew after the first

members of the impeachment committees came out and talked to reporters

today in the middle of Ambassador Bill Taylor`s deposition and those

members of Congress told reporters that what was going on in that hearing

room was a sea change, that what was happening in that hearing room was

likely to escalate the impeachment proceedings, perhaps to speed them up as

well. 

 

We knew from those initial reports from people who had been inside the room

that something really serious was going on today with this deposition at

the impeachment proceedings for President Trump.  But it wasn`t until late

in the afternoon when we got a copy of Ambassador Bill Taylor`s opening

statement for his deposition that we could see what exactly that sea change

was all about.  And, honestly, just how bad this is now looking for

President Trump. 

 

Because this testimony today is so damning and, apparently so well-

corroborated with notes and contemporaneous documentation, I think we

should expect the president and his supporters will try to not just attack

this testimony, but to attack the testifier.  They`ll try to presumably

destroy the reputation of Ambassador Bill Taylor, they`ll smear him as some

sort of a Democratic partisan because we know that`s how I think they will

have to respond to this.  If past is any prologue, that`s what they`re

going to try to do to him because it might be helpful to note how he

introduced himself today, which gives a good sort of brief bio of who he is

and where he`s been. 

 

He says, quote: I`ve dedicated my life to serving U.S. interests at home

and abroad in both military and civilian roles.  My background and

experience are nonpartisan and I`ve been honored to serve under any

administration, Republican and Democratic, since 1985.  For 50 years, I

have served this country, starting as a cadet at West Point, then as an

infantry officer for six years, including with the 101st Airborne Division

in Vietnam.  Then at the Department of Energy, then as a member of Senate

staff, then at NATO, then with the State Department here and abroad, in

Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Jerusalem and Ukraine. 

 

And we have seen from the initial response of this testimony from the White

House that the president and his supporters are going to go after Bill

Taylor nevertheless as if he`s some plant, some Democratic partisan,

someone they can impugn personally.  It is hard to see that working both

because of who Bill Taylor is, but also just because of the gravity of what

he has spelled out under oath. 

 

Quote: On May 28th of this year, I met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

who asked me to return to Kiev to lead our embassy in Ukraine.  It was and

is a critical time in U.S.-Ukraine relations.  Volodymyr Zelensky had just

been elected president and Ukraine remained at war with Russia. 

 

As the summer approached, a new Ukrainian government would be seated,

parliamentary elections were imminent and the Ukrainian political

trajectory would be set for the next several years.  I cared about

Ukraine`s future and the important U.S. interests there.  So when Secretary

Pompeo asked me to go back to Kiev, I wanted to say “yes” but it was not an

easy decision. 

 

The former Ambassador Masha Yovanovitch had been treated poorly, caught in

a web of political machinations both in Kiev and in Washington.  I fear

that those problems were still present.  When I talked to her about

accepting the offer however, she urged me to go both for policy reasons and

for the morale of the embassy. 

 

Before answering the secretary though, I consulted both my wife and a

respected former senior Republican official who`s been a mentor to me.  I

tell you that my wife in no uncertain terms strongly opposed the idea.  The

mentor counseled, if your country asks you to do something, you do it, if

you can be effective. 

 

But Bill Taylor despite those conflicting feelings and that strong advice

otherwise from his wife, he says yes to the posting, comes out of private

life and rejoins essentially the diplomatic corps. 

 

He says, quote: But once I arrived in Kiev, I discovered a weird

combination of encouraging, confusing, and ultimately alarming

circumstances.  I found it confusing and unusual arrangement for making

U.S. policy towards Ukraine.  There appeared to be two channels of U.S.

policy-making and implementation, one regular and one highly irregular. 

 

As the chief of mission at the embassy, I had authority over the regular

formal diplomatic processes, including the bulk of the U.S. effort to

support Ukraine against Russian invasion and to help it defeat corruption. 

This regular channel of U.S. policy-making has consistently had strong

bipartisan support both in Congress and in all administrations since

Ukraine`s independence from Russia in 1991. 

 

At the same time, however, there was an irregular, informal channel of U.S.

policy-making with respect to Ukraine, one which included then-special

envoy Kurt Volker, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, secretary of energy, Rick

Perry, and, as I subsequently learned, Rudolph Giuliani. 

 

Taylor arrived back at the Kiev embassy on June 17th.  He says within ten

days of his arrival amid efforts to set up a meeting between the new

Ukrainian president and President Trump, Taylor tells Congress today that

he got a call from one of the people operating this, quote, informal,

irregular channel. 

 

Quote, on June 27th, again, ten days after he`s arrived at the embassy,

Ambassador Gordon Sondland told me in a phone conversation that President

Zelensky needed to make the clear to President Trump that he, President

Zelensky, was not standing in the way of investigations.  Taylor says, I

sensed something odd when Ambassador Sondland told me the following day, on

June 28th, that he did not wish to include most of the regular interagency

participants in a call planned with President Zelensky for later that day. 

Ambassador Sondland said he wanted to make sure that no one was

transcribing or monitoring the call as they added President Zelensky to the

line. 

 

Before President Zelensky joined the call, Ambassador Volker separately

told the U.S. participants in the call that he, Ambassador Volker, planned

to be explicit with President Zelensky in a one-on-one meeting planned for

Toronto on July 2nd.  He planned to be explicit with President Zelensky

about what he should do to get his White House meeting. 

 

At that point, June 28th, just 11 days since Taylor`s been in the country,

he says, quote, at that point it was not clear to me on that call what this

meant.  What this means, what exactly the president of Ukraine has to do in

order to get his White House meeting, what exactly they`re going to make so

explicit to him. 

 

Within a couple of weeks, though, by mid-July, Taylor says that he`s

starting to figure it out.  He says, quote: It was becoming clear to me the

meeting that President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on the

investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016

elections, and that`s what the irregular, informal part of U.S. policy

towards Ukraine was trying to achieve. 

 

This is where Taylor then starts to put it together that it`s not just a

meeting with the White House that is conditioned on those investigations,

it`s also the military aid from the United States that`s being made

contingent on Ukraine coughing up these investigations that Rudy Giuliani

was demanding. 

 

Taylor says, quote, on July 10th in Kiev, I met with President Zelensky`s

chief of staff and his foreign policy adviser who said they`ve heard from

Mr. Giuliani that a phone call between President Trump and President

Zelensky was unlikely to happen.  They said they were alarmed and

disappointed. 

 

Days later in a regular National Security Council secure video conference

call, Taylor says, quote, I heard a staff person from the Office of

Management and Budget say there was a hold on security assistance, meaning

military aid to Ukraine, but could not say why.  Quote, toward the end of

an otherwise normal meeting, a voice on the call, the person was off

screen, said that she was from OMB, the Office of Management and Budget,

and that her boss instructed her not to approve any additional spending of

security assistance for Ukraine until further notice. 

 

Taylor says, I and others sat in astonishment.  The Ukrainians were

fighting the Russians and counted on not only the training and weapons, but

also the assurance of U.S. support.  All the OMB staffer said the directive

had come from the president, from the president to the chief of staff to

OMB. 

 

The following day, two senior National Security Council officers including

Fiona Hill spoke by phone with Bill Taylor.  Quote: They gave me an account

of the July 10th meeting with Ukrainian officials at the White House. 

Specifically, they told me that Ambassador Gordon Sondland had connected

investigations with an Oval Office meeting for President Zelensky. 

 

Later that same day, I received text messages on a three-way WhatsApp text

conversation with Ambassadors Volker and Sondland, a record of which I

understand has already been provided to the committees.  Taylor says:

Ambassador Sondland said a call between Trump and Zelensky would take place

soon.  Ambassador Volker said that what was most important was for Zelensky

to say that he will help with the investigation. 

 

The following day, Taylor says, quote, I had a phone conversation with the

Ukrainian national security adviser during which he conveyed to me that

President Zelensky did not want to be used as a pawn in a U.S. re-election

campaign. 

 

Now, by this point, it`s clear that the answer to that, to Ukraine, is too

bad, that`s what`s happening, that`s what we`re using you for.  So that

happens – he arrives mid-June.  We get this sort of time line of what

happens in very short order through mid-June through end of June, through

July. 

 

The following month in August, with the military aid still not being

released by the White House, Bill Taylor says he started calling Washington

to express his concerns as to whether or not Ukraine was going to get that

crucial military aid.  He says he called the counselor at the State

Department.  He says he called Fiona Hill`s new replacement at the National

Security Council because by that point she had left.  Taylor says, quote,

on August 22nd during a phone conversation with Tim Morrison, Fiona Hill`s

replacement at the National Security Council, Taylor says I asked him if

there was a change in policy of strong support for Ukraine.  To which he

responded, it remains to be seen. 

 

He also told me during this call that the president doesn`t want to provide

any assistance to Ukraine at all.  That was extremely troubling to me

because I had told Secretary Pompeo in May when he asked me to come back to

the Kiev embassy that if America`s policy of strong support for Ukraine

were to change, I would have to resign based on my call with Mr. Morrison,

I was preparing to do so. 

 

Taylor also says at this point he sent a direct cable, a, quote, first-

person cable to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, directly relaying his

concerns about what was going on with this military aid, calling it folly

what the U.S. was doing holding up this military assistance.  Taylor says

he received no response from Pompeo to that memo. 

 

Just days later on September 1st, there`s Vice President Pence in Warsaw. 

Sent to meet with President Zelensky of Ukraine in the place of Trump who

had to stay home to monitor the hurricane response.  But he did spend that

weekend playing golf. 

 

During that Warsaw trip, Tim Morrison from the National Security Council

again called Bill Taylor to brief him on what was going on at the Warsaw

meeting.  Quote: During this phone call I had with Mr. Morrison, he

described a conversation that Ambassador Gordon Sondland had with an

assistant to President Zelensky in Warsaw.  Ambassador Sondland told him

that the security assistance money for Ukraine would not come until

President Zelensky committed to pursue the Burisma investigation. 

 

Taylor says, quote, I was alarmed by what Mr. Morrison told me about that

conversation.  This is first time I heard that security assistance not just

the White House meeting, but also that military aid, was conditioned on

these investigations.  He says, quote, very concerned on that same day, I

sent Gordon Sondland a text message asking, are we now saying that security

assistance and a White House meeting are conditioned on investigations? 

Ambassador Sondland responded asking me to call him, which I did. 

 

During that phone call, Gordon Sondland told me that President Trump told

him he wants President Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will

investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S.

election.  Ambassador Sondland also told me he now recognized that he had

made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke

that a White House meeting was dependent on a public announcement of an

investigation.  In fact, Ambassador Sondland said, everything was dependent

on such an announcement, including the military assistance. 

 

He said President Trump wanted President Zelensky in a public box by making

a public statement about ordering such investigations. 

 

It`s important that you say it out loud.  If the whole point is to use

against your re-election effort, then people have to know about the

investigations, right?  You need a public announcement. 

 

Within a week of that, he says, disturbing conversation, Ambassador Taylor

received another readout about the president`s behavior as part of this

scheme.  Morrison briefed Taylor on a phone conversation that took place on

September 7th between President Trump and Ambassador Sondland. 

 

Here`s how Taylor described how that went.  He says, quote, Mr. Morrison

said he had a sinking feeling after learning about this conversation from

Ambassador Sondland.  According to Mr. Morrison, President Trump insisted

on that phone call that President Zelensky must go to a microphone and say

he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference. 

 

The following day on September 8th, Ambassador Sondland and I, meaning Bill

Taylor, speak on the phone.  He said he talked to President Trump.  During

our call on September 8th, Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that

President Trump is a businessman.  When a businessman is about to sign a

check to someone who owes him something, he said the businessman asks him

to pay up before signing the check. 

 

I argued that the explanation made no sense, the Ukrainians did not owe

President Trump anything and holding up military assistance for our

domestic political gain was crazy. 

 

Gordon Sondland told Bill Taylor that after he spoke with President Trump,

he then spoke once again with the Ukrainian president and with the

Ukrainian president`s assistant.  Quote: Ambassador Sondland said this

conversation concluded with President Zelensky agreeing to make a public

statement in an interview with CNN. 

 

Quote, after that call with Ambassador Sondland, I expressed my strong

reservations in a text message to him stating my nightmare is that they,

the Ukrainians, give that interview, and then they still don`t get the

security assistance.  Quote, the Russians love it, and I quit.  I was

serious, he says. 

 

So, Bill Taylor, 50 years in service to this country, was going to quit

this job because this was selling out Ukraine to the Russians, right? 

Here, Putin, take Ukraine, take what you want.  We no longer support them. 

You can have it.  We`re not giving them military support anymore. 

 

And, of course, along the way to that betrayal, Ukraine will be used to

conjure up some politically useful thing for president Trump for his re-

election effort, something that will be collected and used by the president

and then maybe he`s going to screw them anyway and still not give them that

military aid and the Russians will love it, quote, and I will quit. 

 

It`s one thing to put people who are comfortable with this kind of scheme

in charge of carrying it out.  That is apparently what President Trump did. 

That`s apparently why Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the E.U., was in

Ukraine.  Ukraine is not part of the E.U. 

 

That`s apparently what Volker was doing there as well as the president`s

envoy to Ukraine.  That`s apparently what Rick Perry, the secretary of

energy, was doing inserted into all of this process.  And that`s, of

course, what Rudy Giuliani was there for, of course. 

 

It`s also apparently why they got rid of the previous Ukrainian ambassador,

Marie Yovanovitch.  But they did have find a real person to hold down the

ambassador after they fired her.  Unfortunately, for them, they picked a

nonpartisan 50-year veteran diplomat who not only knows how things are

supposed to run in U.S. policy, he knows something about the country in

which he`s operating, and he could see not only what a disaster this was in

terms of President Trump directly soliciting something from a foreign

country that he wanted to use in his re-election campaign, which is a

crime, he could see what he was doing to that country for this craven and

illegal U.S. policy action to put that country in this position. 

 

And so today, with this remarkable testimony, we get this belated, but

robust, sort of cry of conscious from Bill Taylor.  And we get the news

that he apparently took notes and filed memos every step of the way along

this entire process. 

 

So, this is really proceeding, I think, along three different lanes here. 

I mean, this investigation in Congress has basically filled out the

narrative about how this scheme worked and what they were trying to do and

who was involved.  I mean, the secretary of state clearly knew about it. 

He was not only listening in on the infamous phone call between President

Trump and Zelensky that led to this impeachment, he was involved in the

firing of the previous ambassador. 

 

He knew why she was being fired, right?  He was the recipient of that whole

stash of documents from Giuliani laying out the scheme, that stash of

documents that was ultimately provided to Congress by the inspector general

of the State Department.  We now know from this testimony today that the

top official representative of the U.S. government in Ukraine, Bill Taylor,

the man in charge at the mission, at the Kiev embassy, we know he wrote to

Secretary of State Pompeo directly and personally to inform him about what

was happening in Ukraine, to inform him about his grave concerns about it,

to inform him about what this White House informal cabal appeared to be

forming there. 

 

So, the secretary of state knew about it.  The secretary of state was part

of the scheme.  The secretary of energy, Rick Perry, who announced his

relaxed, also appears to have been part of it.  The vice president, who

went to Warsaw and told the Ukrainian president there that he wasn`t going

to get his military aid, he appears to have been part of it as well. 

 

I mean, despite the involvement of those very senior cabinet officials and

the vice president, they all kept it quiet.  We also know that the attorney

general knew all about it.  He was cited multiple times by the president in

that phone call between the presidents of the United States and Ukraine. 

He was cited multiple times by President Trump as one of two people, the

other being Rudy Giuliani, who the Ukrainian president should work with to

give him his deliverables on this scheme. 

 

Bill Barr and his Justice Department not only saw the transcript of that

call, they also received multiple criminal referrals about the president`s

behavior in this scheme.  So Barr knew about it and Barr kept it quiet, and

Barr, in fact, try to intervene to make sure Congress would never learn

about it.  Barr tried to make sure that the Justice Department would never

investigate it. 

 

But these efforts at the top of the Trump administration, right, three

cabinet officials, including the top law enforcement official in the

country, plus the vice president, and, of course, the president himself,

they were all in on it.  They were all part of it, they all kept it quiet

or overtly tried to cover it up. 

 

The efforts to keep everybody else quiet about it, though, have failed,

spectacularly.  And I don`t know in what form the impeachment committees

are going to ultimately compile this information and report it to the rest

of Congress.  I don`t know how fast they`re going to do it.  I don`t know

how many depositions they`re going to take and whether they want to get

people like Ambassador Gordon Sondland back under oath if it appears that

he may have lied or evaded the truth in his earlier sworn testimony. 

 

But the consistent narrative now told by all these people who are coming

forward as witnesses to this scheme, who are defying the efforts by the

White House and the State Department to stop them from saying what they

know, the consistent narrative from all of them is that this was an illegal

effort involving people inside the government and outside the government

that, at its correspond, was directed in detail by the president of the

United States.  And it was not only a crime scheme, a criminal scheme

directed by the president, it was also something that was deeply injurious

to somebody who was supposed to be a good ally of ours in a very important

part of the world. 

 

And so, the congressional investigation has now produced this damning

indictment of the president and the other people who he involved in this

who didn`t blow the whistle and who helped to cover it up.  The impeachment

proceedings against the president remain sort of a question mark in terms

of how exactly they`re going to prosecute this case against him, how much

more they will need, how they may try to tailor these charges to try to

achieve his removal in the Senate, not just his impeachment in the House. 

 

When the first members of Congress heard this deposition, came outside and

said to reporters this new information may accelerate the time frame in

terms of when the president gets impeached, you can see why, right now that

we know at least in part that Bill Taylor testified to.  I mean, how much

more do they need after this?  How much more do you need to hear?  How much

more evidence is anybody going to need to see? 

 

So there`s the investigation, there`s the question about the impeachment of

the president, but alongside those two proceedings, there`s this third

lane, right?  That`s proceeding alongside and adjacent to this idiotic spy

movie that is such a simple plot, it doesn`t even have time for a twist,

right?  And that other lane is the criminal proceedings here. 

 

I mean, Bill Barr and Brian Benczkowski, the head of the criminal division

of the Justice Department may have decided at Main Justice that definitely

nobody should look into this.  But that`s not holding everywhere.  I mean,

when it came to carrying out what Bill Taylor described today as the highly

irregular channel of U.S. policy-making that was running this scheme on

behalf of the president, I mean, everybody involved in that is, like, in

jail or going to jail or fighting going to jail. 

 

This was a scheme in which Rudy Giuliani consulted with the president`s

imprisoned former campaign chairman.  He employed some mysterious services

of two men who are now under criminal indicted for funneling illegal

foreign campaign contributions to the president`s reelection effort and

various Republican campaigns.  They`re due to be arraigned in federal court

in New York tomorrow. 

 

We learned tonight at Politico.com that at least one of them will be using

one of Paul Manafort`s lawyers at his arraignment.  The two of them also

used Paul Manafort`s lawyers in Virginia at their initial court appearance

after being arrested at Dulles Airport trying to leave the country. 

 

The Kremlin-linked Ukrainian oligarch who funded Paul Manafort`s old pro-

Putin work in Ukraine back in the day, to whom Paul Manafort is still

reportedly had financial ties while he was serving as Trump`s campaign

chairman, who was reportedly, according to “Reuters”, financing the

operations of these guys who were working with Giuliani on this scheme,

that Ukrainian oligarch himself is under federal indictment in this country

as well.  He`s fighting extradition to the United States to face charges in

a huge bribery case. 

 

And the president`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is now being described as person

of interest in two federal investigations, one of which appears to be

potentially a counterintelligence investigation. 

 

So, everybody involved with Rudy Giuliani in this scheme, the irregular

outside the government part of this scheme that Ambassador Bill Taylor

described today in his sworn deposition, everyone involved in the Giuliani

part of this is either already modeling the latest in GPS ankle monitors,

or is nevertheless looking forward to a future career as a fine distiller

of prison wine made from toilet water and old fruit packets of sugar. 

 

I mean, those guys are a piece of work, right, from Manafort on down.  The

administration officials who are involved in this are either coming forward

now and telling what they know, or they`re hiding from subpoenas or some

combination thereof.  Of course, the president himself is basically

perfectly exposed at this point. 

 

I mean, all these claims about the president being immune from

investigation and nobody who`s ever worked in the government is ever

allowed to testify about any behavior of the president, well, that only

works as far as you can throw it, apparently.  This is going fast now.  But

I think that these depositions are very important on their own terms. 

 

They`re also incredibly important in terms of who they`re in front, the

credibility of these people giving these depositions, and the fact that

they are all thus far mutually enforcing.  The only people who have

testified anything differently than the way it`s been described by every

other witness are the people who are most implicated in the scheme as being

closest to the president while he was trying to carry it out. 

 

Lots more to get to tonight.  We`ll speak with a member of Congress who was

there for this deposition today. 

 

Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA):  You could hear a pin drop, literally, as the

ambassador has laid out in his opening statement. 

 

REPORTER:  You ever seen anything like this while you were at the State

Department?

 

REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ):  No, oh, my God, no.  This is completely

outside the furthest boundaries of what any career diplomat would have

thought possible. 

 

REP. ANDY LEVIN (D-MI):  All I have to say is that in my 10 short months in

Congress, it`s not even noon, right?  This is my most disturbing day in

Congress so far.  Very troubling.  Thanks. 

 

REPORTER:   Do you have anything to share about why it`s disturbing? 

 

LEVIN:  No. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Yes, cannot share it.

 

Members of Congress emerging from the testimony today at the top American

diplomat in Ukraine appearing to be somewhat shaken by what they heard. 

Ambassador Bill Taylor spent the better part of ten hours in his deposition

before the impeachment committees today. 

 

Joining us now is Val Demings.  She`s a law enforcement veteran, longtime

police chief.  She`s now a member of Congress with a seat on the

intelligence committee. 

 

Representative Demings, thanks for making the time tonight.  I know today

was a long day. 

 

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL):  It`s great to be with you, Rachel. 

 

MADDOW:  So, some of your colleagues did seem to be sort of shaken by

Ambassador Taylor`s testimony today.  What was your reaction? 

 

DEMINGS:  Well, I tell you what.  Ambassador Taylor`s testimony was

refreshing.  Let me say that, number one.  But his testimony was powerful. 

 

This weekend, I had an opportunity to visit the Vietnam War memorial, and

to be in that room today in the presence of Ambassador Taylor, a Vietnam

veteran who has already had 50 years of public service, who came today,

respected a lawful subpoena, came in with one purpose, Rachel, I believe on

his mind, that is, to tell the truth. 

 

And that he did.  His testimony was credible but it was extremely powerful. 

 

MADDOW:  I know there`s – you can`t tell us about what happened.  This was

a closed-door deposition for reasons and these proceedings are being

handled that way to for reasons that have been articulated by the

committee.  But it`s clear to us from the opening statement that we`ve seen

that as a professional with five decades of experience in this field, one

of the things he was trained to do is take a lot of notes to make memos to

file, to memorialize things in writing. 

 

Was the committee able to obtain notes and documentation from him today? 

Or was all that material given to the State Department and you guys don`t

have it? 

 

DEMINGS:  Well, you`re absolutely correct.  I tell you, Ambassador Taylor,

I`ve interviewed a lot of people, of course, in my former life, but he`s

definitely the kind of witness that any person conducting an investigation

would want to talk to. 

 

We did not – I did not have an opportunity to review any of his

documentation or notes, but clearly he`s very meticulous.  He obviously

took extensive notes.  His recall today, different from some other

witnesses, was near perfect. 

 

He`s a consummate professional.  There`s no doubt about that, but someone

who really, Rachel, gave me hope about the state of our country right now. 

Obviously, Ambassador Taylor remembered the oath, multiple oaths he`s taken

having served with several administrations since 1985. 

 

His testimony today was, as I said, just extremely powerful and really

critical to this investigation that we`re involved in. 

 

MADDOW:  Are you getting different stories about the same set of

circumstances from different witnesses?  Clearly some of what he described

today, at least as far as we can tell on the outside, did not seem to line

up with the kind of testimony that we heard described from Ambassador

Gordon Sondland, for example.  Are you hearing conflicting stories where

the committee will be responsible essentially for figuring out who`s

telling the truth or you may need to recall some witnesses who already

testified? 

 

DEMINGS:  One of the things I can tell you, and I know you already know

that this impeachment inquiry, we`re being very methodical, we`re being

very thorough.  We`re going to interview witnesses who can provide critical

information. 

 

The answer to your question is “yes.”  There was some testimony that was

given today that that was in direct conflict with some things that we`ve

heard earlier, some of the things that Ambassador Sondland said.  So I know

this is a decision that I certainly would not make, but I would love to see

the ambassador and perhaps some others come back before our committee and

give them an opportunity to clear up the statements that they gave, earlier

testimony that they gave. 

 

MADDOW:  Congresswoman Val Demings, member of the House Intelligence

Committee – ma`am, I really appreciate you making time for us tonight. 

Thank you so much. 

 

DEMINGS:  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  All right.  Much more ahead tonight, I have been advise of

breaking news we just got in.  I`ll know on the other side of this

commercial, I swear. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Because it`s the 9:00 p.m. hour on a day that ends in “y,” some

new breaking news from “The Washington Post.”  Quote, prosecutors flagged

possible ties between Ukrainian gas tycoon and Giuliani associates.  Tell

me more. 

 

The Ukrainian gas tycoon in question here is the subject of chapter 19 of

my new book.  Boy, I didn`t know it was going to be this relevant.  He`s a

man named Dmytro Firtash.  He`s a Putin-connected oligarch who federal

prosecutors say has high level ties to Russian organized crime.  He has

been indicted in the United States, is fighting an effort to extradite him

here, to face charges in the criminal bribery scheme.

 

Firtash also turned up in the impeachment story because he also appears to

have connections, including financial ties, with these two guys who Rudy

Giuliani was apparently working with to dig up dirt for President Trump in

Ukraine to help him get elected.  We have these pretty pictures of these

gentlemen because they have been charged on criminal campaign finance

violations.  They are due to be arraigned in federal court in New York

tomorrow. 

 

Now, it had been reported that one of these guys had been hired as a

translator for Firtash`s lawyers.  But now, this new scoop from “The Post”

that has just gone up tonight furthers this part of the story in kind of a

big way.  According to “The Post” tonight, the federal prosecutors in

Chicago who`ve been investigating Dmytro Firtash, who have charged him, who

are trying to get him extradited to that court, those Chicago prosecutors,

quote, had previously come across the two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman,

as they pursue their longstanding case against Firtash. 

 

Parnas had been working as an interpreter for the lawyers for Firtash since

late July.  Chicago prosecutors suspect there might be a broader

relationship among Firtash, Parnas, and Fruman.  Chicago prosecutors

reached out to their counterparts in New York where the foreign money

charges had been brought to offer their assistance. 

 

So the criminal case against Firtash, those prosecutors are now working

with the criminal case against Giuliani`s guys.  I mean, this is Lev and

Igor, the guys trying to dig up dirt for Giuliani in this scheme for which

the president is now being impeached, they are turning up in the Dmytro

Firtash legal fight with the U.S. Justice Department in that gigantic

bribery case, prosecutors in Chicago offering to help the prosecutors in

New York who brought these criminal charges against these two guys earlier

this month. 

 

Yes.  The most important stuff always comes from following the flow of

money in these things, always.  It`s the most surprising stuff and the most

important stuff.  Toward that end, I will tell you, tomorrow is going to be

one of the biggest days we have had in the entire Trump presidency when it

comes to following the money.  That story is flying under the radar right

now because of all of this impeachment stuff, but I will tell you what it

is next.  You will want to see this. 

 

Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  All right.  Here is why you are going to be up tomorrow morning

listening to streaming audio on the C-Span Website starting at 10:00 a.m.

Eastern.  I don`t know if any TV network including ours is going to be

broadcasting the audio live as it happens, but I do know the C-Span website

is going to have it.  And we just learned tonight, NBCnews.com also got

permission.  C-Span website, NBCNews.com, both have received permission

from the court to stream this audio tomorrow morning. 

 

And so, I`ll tell you, that`s what I`m going to be doing on the stationary

bike at the gym while everybody else is going fast and concentrating, I`ll

be in the corner with headphones, going slow, taking notes, not actually

getting a workout at all. 

 

All right.  What this is about is – it`s kind of a thing we`ve been

waiting for.  I mean, the impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill are

riveting right now, even just what`s able to seep out from behind closed

doors like this Bill Taylor deposition today.  The criminal case that`s

unfolding alongside and adjacent to the impeachment, that too is turning

out to be fascinating, this rock `em sock `em robots, fast-developing

story.  The whole thing is nuts. 

 

But alongside all of that, we are really coming to pay dirt right now on

what has been an absolutely desperate effort by the president to keep his

financial records and his taxes out of the hands of investigators.  As you

probably know, there`s a bunch of legal cases on this now.  The president

has hired a whole stand-alone team of lawyers just to fight all these cases

to try to keep his taxes and his financial records secret.  So far, that

legal team is doing terribly.  The president and his keep my taxes and

financial records secret legal team have lost every one of these cases so

far, as they continue to win their way through the courts. 

 

President`s legal team has, thus far, lost at every step of the process,

even though he now has William Barr and the U.S. Justice Department to

start weighing in on these the cases on his behalf, which is something that

dropped jaws in legal circles all over the country when the DOJ agreed to

do that.  That, frankly, should have shook loose a whistle-blower or two at

the Justice Department itself, even though we haven`t seen evidence of

that. 

 

But tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, streaming live on c-span and

NBCnews.com, this is really the one that those of us observing the process

so far have been waiting because what`s going to happen tomorrow is about

this particular ruling, which is going to the appeals court level tomorrow. 

Just listen to this.  This is from the ruling that went against the

president that is going to the federal appeals cowardly level tomorrow,

first time any of these cases has gone that high. 

 

Quote, the president asserts an extraordinary claim in the dispute now

before this court.  He contends in his view of the president`s duties and

functions, in the allocation of governmental powers between the executive

and judicial branches under the Constitution, he contends the person who

serves as president while in office enjoys absolute immunity from criminal

process of any kind. 

 

Consider the reach of the president`s argument.  As the court reads it,

presidential immunity would stretch to cover every phase of criminal

proceedings, including investigations, grand jury proceedings and

subpoenas, indictment, prosecution, arrest, trial, conviction, and

incarceration.  That constitutional protection presumably would encompass

any conduct at any time in any forum, whether federal or state, and whether

the president acted alone or in concert with other individuals. 

 

Hence, according to this categorical doctrine as presented in this

proceeding, the constitutional dimensions of the president shield from

judicial process are virtually limitless.  Until the president leaves

office, his exemption from criminal proceedings would extent to not only to

matters arising from performance of the president`s duties and functions in

his official capacity, but also to one`s arising from his private affairs,

his financial transitions, and all other conduct undertaken by him as an

ordinary citizen both during and before his tenure in office.  Such

immunity would operate to frustrate the administration of justice by

insulating from scrutiny not only matters occurring during the president`s

tenure in office, but potentially also records relate to go transactions

and illegal actions the president and others may have committed before he

assumed the presidency. 

 

This court cannot endorse such a categorical and limitless assertion of

presidential immunity from judicial process as being countenanced by the

nation`s constitutional plan, especially in the light of the fundamental

concerns over excessive irrigation of power that animated the

constitution`s delicate structure and its calibrated balance of authority

among the three branches of the national government.  The expansive notion

of constitutional immunity invoked here to shield the president from

judicial process would constitute an overreach of executive power.  As

articulated, such sweeping doctrine finds no support in the Constitution`s

text or history or in germane guidance charted by rulings of the Supreme

Court. 

 

Bared to its core, the proposition the president advances reduces to the

very notion that the founders rejected at the inception of this republic,

and that the Supreme Court has since unequivocally repudiated, that a

constitutional domain exists in this country in which not only the

president, but relatives and persons and business entities associated with

him and potentially unlawful private activities are, in fact, above the

law.  This court finds aspects of such a doctrine repugnant to the nation`s

governmental structure and constitutional values.  Repugnant. 

 

So, that was the somewhat clarion ruling of the district court – the

federal district court, that is getting reviewed on appeal tomorrow.  It`s

going to be an hour-long argument before a panel of three federal judges. 

This is a federal appeals court, so they`re sitting in a court just one

level below the Supreme Court, 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, streaming live on

C-Span and NBCNews.com.  This is an appeal of this federal court ruling

calling the president`s claim to executive immunity from crimes he

committed while in office or before, calling that, quote, repugnant to the

nation`s governmental structure. 

 

I wonder how the appeal`s going to go.  If you are able to check it out, I

will say the thing to listen for is not only whether the subject of this

case is going to get resolved, whether the president`s financial records

and his tax returns are finally going to be handed over in response to the

subpoena.  Obviously, that`s a significant public interest and that will be

something to watch for in terms of listening to those hearings – listening

to that hearing tomorrow. 

 

But beyond that, the other thing to really listen for is that this ruling

against Trump that is being appealed tomorrow, it not only smacks down the

president for this incredible executive overreach in terms of what he says

he can get away with, it also basically dismantles the internal memos at

the Justice Department that say that is a president can`t be indicted.  I

mean, the president`s lawyers and Attorney General William Barr basically

hinge their case that the president can`t be investigated on these internal

Justice Department memos which, in fact, say that a president can`t be

indicted.  These are the same memos that supposedly constrained Robert

Mueller from recommending any charges against president Trump in his

report, right?  So that the DOJ policy that a president can`t be charged. 

 

Well, the judge in this case that smacked down Trump for trying to say that

he is immune from any investigation, the judge in this case in this ruling

also says those Justice Department memos shouldn`t be seen as having,

quote, substantial legal force.  It says those memos, quote, do not

constitute authoritative judicial interpretation of the Constitution

concerning these issues. 

 

The ruling says those DOJ memos are, quote, flawed by ambiguities if not

outright conflicts.  The ruling says that in short, quote, the court

rejects the Justice Department memos` position.  By which the justice means

specifically that this ruling rejects the position those memos take, which

is the position that a president can`t be criminally charged while in

office.

 

That whole idea that we have that the president can`t be indicted, that

comes from those DOJ memos, part of this ruling that is being appealed

tomorrow is a ruling that says actually those DOJ memos shouldn`t be

enforced here.  There shouldn`t be a rule that says the president can`t be

indicted.  That`s crazy.  That`s what that fight is going to be about at

the 2nd Circuit tomorrow. 

 

So, bring your headphones to work.  You could pretend you`re listening to

an important conference call or something, 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time.  C-

Span`s website, NBCNews.com.  I`ll be the one on the stationary bike in the

corner with the clipboard scribbling down by notes listening. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Laura Cooper is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for

Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.  She`s also the first Pentagon official who`s

been called to testify in the impeachment proceedings. 

 

Part of the impeachment scandal, of course, is that the military assistance

that was supposed to go to Ukraine, that is legally obligated for that

purpose and so the White House blocking it for months to try to get dirt on

Joe Biden from Ukraine and sort of leveraging that military aid, that was

arguably an illegal act by the White House. 

 

So far, we haven`t heard anything from the Pentagon side about this, but we

are about to.  Secretary of Defense Mark Esper blew off a subpoena from the

impeachment committees that told him that he needed to hand over documents

from the Defense Department.  But this Defense Department official, Laura

Cooper, is due to testify tomorrow morning presumably I`m guessing the

Trump administration will try to block her from testifying as well, but

we`ll see. 

 

The precedent has now been set by these career State Department officials

that if you do get subpoenaed, you can go, you can give your testimony even

if the Trump administration is trying to stop you.  So, watch this space. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  That is going to do it for us tonight.  Whew.  This has been a

busy day and a busy night.  I feel like we haven`t even kept track of the

news even just in terms of what has developed over the course of this hour,

but we`ll just redouble our efforts to try to do better tomorrow.  See you

again then. 

 

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

 

Good evening, Lawrence. 

 

                                                                                                               

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