Bill Taylor, confirms quid pro quo. TRANSCRIPT: 10/22/19, 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. Thanks, my friend. Much
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
(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
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): No, oh, my God, no. This is completely
outside the furthest boundaries of what any career diplomat would have
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?
(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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the