Allies of Trump question Lt. Col. Vindman’s loyalty. TRANSCRIPT: 10/29/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
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They sent him and his wife dead rats in the mail. This is from the
resentencing filing that his lawyers ultimately made on his behalf. Quote,
Mr. Arbel was indeed threatened. He and his wife received a number of dead
rats on various occasions in the mail. He was treated said as a target as
much as a coconspirator, perhaps because he was an outsider and foreigner.
He was used and extorted.
This is guy who pled guilty to his involvement in a criminal scheme, pled
guilty to help prosecutors against the other people who had been charged as
defendants in that scheme. Their response was to come after him, including
by mailing dead rats to him and his family, which is not a subtle thing.
Hard to miss that message.
Even years later when he was appealing to the court to lessen his own
sentence in that case he said years later that he was still afraid to make
public some of the other threats that had been made against him and his
wife and his child. Beyond the dead rats, there was more, but he would
only address those on a confidential basis for the court. He was trying to
make the case to the court that he deserved more credit basically for
flipping against these particular codefendants. Given the kind of risk he
and his family took onto do that, he was asking the court to give him more
credit to do that.
And there was corroboration for his claims about how big a risk he was
taking, including not just the stuff about the dead rats in the mail, but
also his codefendant who was, quote, severely beaten by some of the other
gentlemen involved in this crime.
What this crime was a pump and dump stock scheme connected to the mob, and
it was a big one. According to the indictment in the case which is filed
in the Eastern District of New York, the scheme produced tens of millions
of dollars in illegal profits. Quote, although Euro-Atlantic held itself
out as a legitimate brokerage firm, it was in fact operated for the primary
purpose of earning money through fraud.
As laid out by federal prosecutors in this case, the basic way it worked
was that there was this firm, Euro Atlantic, that was setup in Florida and
that firm secretly owned big blocks of totally worthless stocks. Stocks in
what were essentially made up worthless companies. But then, in
conjunction with the mob, with the Colombo crime family to be specific,
that firm in Florida basically setup a New York outpost. They set up
basically a boiler room in New York, and the mobsters and crooks who worked
at that boiler room were assigned to artificially drive up demand for these
worthless stocks by a variety of illegal and very mop-like means, basically
forcing people to buy these stocks, tricking people into it, conning people
into it, intimidating people into it.
When people cotton to the scene and told them they wanted to sell those
stocks, they didn`t want them after all, they just wouldn`t allow them to
sell them. There were beatings, there was intimidation.
But when those stocks were ultimately bought up, thanks to the work of that
mobbed out boiler room, that, of course, would make the demand for the
stock go up. That would make the price of those stocks go up.
And then this firm in Florida that was the heart of this scheme, Euro
Atlantic, once the price of those stocks was up, they would sell all of
their shares at that higher price. They would get all the money, cash out.
Then the price of the stocks would collapse. The mobsters make off with
tons of money. All the suckers who got strong armed or tricked or
intimidated into buying all this worthless stuff to pump up the price of
those stocks, those are all the people that got soaked.
And I know it sounds like kind of a white-collar thing. I confess I have
no idea what color shirts these guys wore or if they wore shirts at all.
But this is not necessarily the kind of thing you might picture when you
imagine like white collar Wall Street crime. I mean, for example, this one
really did involve giant bags of cash money.
Quote, the defendants together with others laundered money by wiring
profits from the fraudulent scheme to city check cashing in New Jersey.
After the profits were wired to city check cashing defendant Steven
Dibenedetto and others went to city check`s office and obtained cash in the
amount of wire transfers. The cash proceeds were used in part to make cash
payoffs and bribes for selling the stocks that were implicated in this
And just in case we`re not totally clear, what that means, like
cinematically, they`re getting cash for the amount of the wire transfers.
That literally means they`re getting bags of cash that they`re take out of
this check cashing place in New Jersey. This check-cashing place, that`s
part of their money-laundering scheme.
And if you want to imagine the size of the bags of cash that they`re taking
out of out there, look at the amounts as spelled out in the indictment. On
September 21st, it was $45,000. On October 11th, it was $83,300. November
7th, it was $468,200. Put that all in the bag, please.
January 14th, $166,000. Look at this. Over the course of just one week in
October, these are transfers that they did in and out of that check-cashing
place – $800,000 in cash on a Thursday. The following Tuesday, they pick
up another $188,000. The following day, on Wednesday, another $136,000
large. All in cash.
Gigantic bags of money that they`re presumably throwing in the trunk of
some mobster car and driving off with in New Jersey to go pay off the
various crooks involved in this scheme and presumably to have like Carmela
hide it in the crawlspace with the AK-47s and the gold bars.
I mean, this – another way you know this was not your typical white-collar
crime was the list of guys named in the indictment. Alongside their co-
defendant who flipped to whom they sent the dead rats, you had name-checked
guys like Colombo crime family members, Black Dom, and Wild Bill. Wild
Bill also went by the tabloid-friendly name of Billy Fingers.
Within a couple of years of this stock scheme being shut down and expelled
from the U.S. securities industries for its crimes, Wild Bill, aka Billy
Fingers, who`s described in the indictment as a captive of the Colombo
organized crime family, he would soon be murdered in a basement in
Brooklyn. They would not find his body until nine years later at a mob
dumping ground outside the All County Flooring Supply Store in Long Island,
By then, his family had gone into witness protection. Authorities were
able to identify his body officially by his dental records. But
contemporaneous reporting suggests all his missing fingers helped with the
identification, too. Even after he was wrapped up in a tarp and stuffed
under a flooring supply store parking lot for nine years.
So, yes, this was not exactly your typical Wall Street crime spree. But it
was the end of Euro Atlantic Securities Incorporated. They were expelled
formally from the U.S. securities industry.
They left a regulatory trail that doesn`t tell you all that much about what
exactly what went wrong there. But when you check the criminal indictments
and ultimately the trail of murders of the people involved, that gives you
all the detail you might want and more. Euro Atlantic Securities
Incorporated, that was their story.
You want to know who worked at Euro Atlantic Securities Incorporated? This
guy did. Lev Parnas, arrested earlier this month in the criminal trial
that is unfolding in parallel alongside the presidential impeachment
inquiry in Washington.
CNN reporting today that since his arraignment last week in federal
district court in Manhattan, Lev Parnas is under house arrest in Florida.
Today, we learned that in addition to the criminal proceedings pending
against him in New York, Mr. Parnas has also been ordered by a different
federal judge in Florida that he needs to testify under oath in a federal
civil case against him. It`s a court order from 2016 that ordered him to
repay more than half a million dollars he took from a family trust.
Despite that court order he didn`t repay the money. That`s why he`s being
pursued in federal court now by the people he stole this money from. Among
other things they`ve been following his own money trail and his own assets
to try to get their half million dollars back.
Well, today, a federal judge ruled in that case that Lev Parnas has to
appear in court to give sworn testimony about his financial situation and
his assets including specifically about the hundreds of thousands of
dollars he was somehow able to scratch together to pay the national
Republican campaign committee and various Republican politicians and the
super PAC supporting President Trump`s re-election.
According to this federal judge`s order today in Florida, Lev Parnas needs
to give that sworn testimony within 30 days, which means he will have to
fit it in around the criminal case that he`s facing in a different federal
jurisdiction up north for allegedly funneling illegal foreign campaign
donations to Republican candidates and to the president`s re-election PAC.
It`s an illegal donation scheme that prosecutors say was tied to an effort
by Mr. Parnas and his co-defendant to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine
She, of course, was fired. She recently testified in the president`s
impeachment inquiry in a way that gave us a good sense as to why these guys
might have wanted her fired, might have wanted her out of that embassy in
But given the links between this ongoing criminal case and the ongoing and
increasingly serious impeachment proceedings against the president in
Washington, you know, it`s interesting to look at them both at once. I
mean it`s interesting. This guy, you go back to his time at the dead rats
in the mail mafia stock shop – I mean, we know from his publicly
accessible records from his own time as a broker that he was there at Euro
Atlantic at the time of the crimes for which these defendants were all
charged and Lev Parnas himself was not indicted when his whole company was
brought down in this mafia indictment and then expelled from the securities
industry, shut down by the federal government for its crimes.
He personally was not indicted but he was working there at the time the
crimes happened and once that firm was shut down on order from the Feds, he
had to find another place to work. The next place he went was another
brokerage firm where he went for less than a year. Then he hopped to
another brokerage firm for less than three months.
The next place he landed thereafter was another firm that also got expelled
from the securities industry, that also got forcibly shut down by federal
regulators for committing financial crimes. Lev Parnas was listed as the
director and president of that firm which got shut down by regulators, got
kicked out of Wall Street. After that one got shut down, the next place he
landed was also expelled from the securities industry and shut down by
federal regulators for committing crimes.
It`s like this stuff just really trailed him around. Imagine the bad luck.
Every place he worked got shut down as a criminal enterprise including the
mob stuff. It`s weird, right? It`s just uncanny.
After the third straight firm he worked at got shut down and expelled from
the securities industry, Lev Parnas finally appears to have given up his
work in finance. Of course, we know he lands on his feet because now he
works for the president of the United States of America. At least he was.
We`re not sure if that continues now while he`s under arrest and awaiting
trial. But this is just a remarkable thing that is plodding along,
alongside what is happening on Capitol Hill with all the impeachment drama.
I mean, there`s this guy who`s under arrest, he`s facing more than 30 years
in prison. He`s charged with funneling illegal foreign money to the
president`s re-election effort and other Republican campaigns. There are
enough pictures of him with the president and the president`s eldest son
and the president`s lawyer. I mean, there`s enough pictures of this guy
with the president and the president`s milieu that you could make a deck of
cards out of these photos.
When this guy was first directed to appear before the impeachment
proceedings against President Trump, he engaged one of President Trump`s
Russia lawyers initially to handle his defense. That lawyer John Dowd, you
see on the right there then notified Congress in writing that his client,
Lev Parnas, wasn`t just any witness they could call in to testify about
anything, he was a special guy. They were not going to be able to get
anything out of him because he Mr. Parnas, according to his lawyer John
Dowd, quote, assists Rudy Giuliani in connection with Mr. Giuliani`s
representation of President Trump.
So, the president has a lawyer. His name is Rudy Giuliani. In Rudy
Giuliani`s capacity as the president`s lawyer, he employs this guy Lev
Parnas as his assistant, as his little helper, which seemed crazy, not
least because John Dowd, that lawyer wrote his letter addressed to Congress
in the comic sans typeface which made it seem like it was maybe a joke.
But then sure enough when Mr. Parnas got arraigned in federal court along
with his co-defendants in New York, a different lawyer of his representing
him in court made the case out loud to the federal judge in that federal
courtroom that Lev Parnas` case was going to implicate executive privilege
concerns because in fact this criminal case against Mr. Parnas does overlap
with the legal present – legal representation of the president of the
United States because, in fact, Lev Parnas is part of the president`s legal
This guy. This guy who is under arrest, the guy with the dead rat in the
mail mob stock scheme before all the other stock schemes he was associated
with that also got shot down by federal regulators.
I mean this thing the president is being impeached for, Mr. Parnas does
seem to have been a very diligent worker, a very central part of that
scheme. He was making what prosecutors say were illegal donations to
Republican campaigns. And then for at least one of those Republican
members of Congress to whom he gave illegal donations, he took a meeting
with that member of Congress to advocate that that member of Congress try
to get the ambassador to Ukraine fired, and that member of Congress went
ahead and tried to get the ambassador to Ukraine fired.
Again, we know from that ambassador`s testimony in the impeachment
proceedings that you can imagine why they might have wanted her fired, that
she was in the way of this scheme the president cooked up to try to get
Ukraine to give him help against his domestic political enemies and with
hold their military aid and things like White House meetings until they did
so. She was in the way of that, so yeah, she had to go.
In that part of the scheme for which the president is now being impeached,
it appears that good old Lev Parnas played a key role in trying to organize
the ousting of that Ukraine ambassador. In the end, that effort was
successful. Mr. Parnas was also we now know involved in setting up
interviews on the Fox News Channel to help sell this idea that Ukraine
could provide important information that would somehow look terrible for
the Democratic Party and Vice President Joe Biden.
We know he was also involved in setting up interviews for and providing
materials to this guy who until recently worked at the “Hill” newspaper in
Washington. He`s no longer there. But he has throughout this scandal
continued writing most of the script for what President Trump has been
trying to gin up in Ukraine to use against the Democratic Party. Lev
Parnas was involved in all of that.
Mr. Parnas has been doing all of that work on this scheme for which the
president is being impeached. And while that`s been going on, lawyers for
this indicted Ukrainian oligarch who prosecutors say is a top figure in
Russian organized crime has long-time links to Vladimir Putin and the
Kremlin, he`s currently under indictment in this country, fighting
extradition so he won`t have to go on trial here in a huge international
corruption and bribery case, his new lawyers as he fights extradition now
say that Lev Parnas is also part of his legal team.
Lev Parnas has been working for them as they represent Putin connected
Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash.
So, there`s this criminal case, right? Sort of in parallel and alongside
the impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill. But think about what this one
guy represents in those two stories, right? Simultaneously as the
president is being impeached, this guy is part of the legal team
representing both the Russian organized crime guy under indictment and at
the same time what`s the phrase from John Dowd`s note? He`s also, quote,
assisting Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President
I mean, pick a scandal. Pick any scandal in American political history. A
president facing impeachment about some scheme he`s tried to cook up with
some other country to help him in the next election, and what other
president could you ever even imagine being up to his neck with this guy
who was part of the president`s legal team while he`s under arrest and also
while he`s part of the legal time for a Russian organized crime figure
who`s under indictment and fighting extradition to this country. He`s on
both legal teams simultaneously.
And I will also just note the claim about Mr. Parnas being part of the
president`s legal team, right? The claim there is that Mr. Parnas is
working for Giuliani, right? Lev Parnas is assisting Mr. Giuliani in
connection with his representation of President Trump.
OK. Well, if you`re assisting somebody, that implies you`re working for
somebody. This implies he`s working for Giuliani. When you work for
someone, that implies that the person you`re working for pays you, right,
to work for them?
Well, for some reason in this case that relationship is backwards. There`s
no evidence whatsoever that Rudy Giuliani is paying this guy who was
assisting him in the representation of President Trump. Instead, it
appears this guy is paying Rudy. Rudy Giuliani admits he`s received a half
million dollars from Parnas`s firm. Rudy Parnas` firm get the money.
As “The Washington Post” now reports, it`s not totally clear why Mr. Parnas
was paying Giuliani for the privilege of helping him nor where he was
getting the money to do so. “The Washington Post” quotes Lev Parnas saying
to someone late last year, quote, can you loan me 500k so I can get Rudy
off my back? You pay him a half million dollars so that you can work as
his assistant in his legal representation of the president? Huh?
Who`s actually paying Rudy for the work that he`s doing on behalf of the
president? We know the president isn`t paying him. He says he`s doing it
pro bono. But his assistant is paying him a half million dollars? And we
don`t know where that money came from? And he`s now under arrest and is
charged with funneling foreign money illegally to Republican causes?
I mean, that`s the soup we`re now in. That is team Trump here in the
scheme for which the president is being impeached. And so, naturally, the
president and his supporters have declared today that this guy is the real
scandal here. This guy is the guy everybody should be, what, ashamed to be
This is Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. He serves as a top level
staffer on the National Security Council. Task and Purpose today obtained
a copy of his army service record. It showed he served in the U.S. Army on
active duty for more than 20 years, joined the Army in 1999 as an infantry
In 2004, he deployed to the war in Iraq, he was wounded in combat. He
nevertheless stayed in theater, finished his deployment, returned to the
states in 2005. He`s earned the combat infantryman badge which is awarded
to infantry soldiers who have fought in active ground combat. He`s earned
the Ranger Tab which means he`s been through ranger school.
He`s got a parachutist badge which means he`s gone through Army Airborne
School. He wears the expert infantryman badge in addition to his Purple
Heart for being wounded in combat. If you want to try to put a name to all
of those medals that he bears on his chest in his dress uniform today, it
would take you a long time to do it as a civilian, to match all of his
awards with all of the medals on his chest.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman has just recently, just within the
last few minutes, left the secure hearing room where the impeachment
proceedings were hearing his testimony today. He was there for more than
Despite his decades of unblemished and selfless service to this country
including being wounded in combat, he was denounced today by the president
of the United States. He was denounced by the president`s supporters and
conservative media, including on the Fox News Channel. He was denounced by
the president`s squeaky-clean, totally above suspicion personal lawyer in
this matter, Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani`s denouncing the colonel.
The conservative media, the president, Rudy Giuliani, all casting
aspirations and basically trying to bring down hell on Colonel Vindman for
the crime of him testifying under oath in impeachment proceedings about the
president`s call to the leader of Ukraine in which the president solicited
help against the Democrats and Joe Biden from a foreign country. We also
know from Colonel Vindman`s opening statement which was released by his
lawyers late last night that the colonel also recounted himself internally
raising alarm about the president`s improper and dangerous behavior in the
way that he was trying to extort Ukraine for help in a personal political
He brought those issues up through the chain of command internally before
he ever consented to speak with these committees today in response to the
subpoena that they gave him. And we are used to the president and his
supporters and in particular the conservative media denouncing and trying
to destroy anybody who speaks against the president`s interests in any
context, right? Go back to the Republican National Convention, right? Or
excuse me, the Democratic National Convention and remember the president`s
denunciations of a Gold Star family who lost their son in war for this
country, right? We expect it to a certain degree.
But it is still jarring to see them do it today, to a 20-year military
officer who they have decided to impugn as suspicious. They`ve decided to
question his patriotism. In his case specifically because he comes from an
immigrant family, so therefore he can`t really be an American.
There were reports today that Republicans continued to use their time in
the impeachment proceedings behind closed doors to try to unmask the
initial whistle-blower, the initial intelligence official according to
reports whose complaints first alerted Congress about what had happened
between President Trump and the leader of Ukraine. That whistleblower`s
complaint of course has been multiply corroborated by lots of different
Trump administration officials including officials from the State
Department and the Defense Department and now an official from the White
House. The basic claims of an improper quid pro quo between the president
trying to extort something out of Ukraine, also been corroborated by the
president`s own chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.
It`s even been corroborated by the president`s hand-picked Trump donor
ambassador, million-dollar Trump donor Gordon Sondland, who`s been named by
multiple witnesses now as one of the key people who was involved in
carrying out this scheme. He himself has corroborated the account that
this was an improper quid pro quo, the president was waging to try to help
himself get re-elected with the help of this foreign power that he was
basically extorting to get them to do so. Today, we got this 8-page draft
from the house of representatives laying out their rules, their expected
format for the next phase of the impeachment inquiry as it moves from
closed-door depositions to open public hearings.
As first reported by “The New York Times” last night, the resolution in
fact shows the questioning from these forthcoming public hearings may in
fact be led by professional committee staff rather than just by individual
members of Congress, which is a blessing to anyone hoping those hearings
will tell a coherent story of what happened here. It`s not just going to
be members of Congress getting in their five minutes of incoherent
questioning. It`s going to be trained committee staff who have continuity,
who are following up with witnesses without being on a timed five-minute
And so, this is – this is moving. It is increasingly serious both for the
president and his supporters in terms of his behavior that has been exposed
and the closing off of all the various doors they`ve tried to sneak out of
in terms of trying to avoid the core question at the heart of impeachment.
It`s getting increasingly serious and it`s being handled with seriousness
by the Democrats that shows I think – gives us some sense how this is
going to play out in a way that`s not going to get better over time for the
president, let alone his supporters who have been saying nothing happened.
It`s the impeachment proceeding proceeds apace.
But do not sleep on the criminal case that proceeds alongside it and in
parallel with these Capitol Hill proceedings. Two of the people involved
in carrying out this scheme on behalf of the president are already under
arrest. The president`s lawyer who was apparently running point on this
scheme and who was apparently being paid by those guys is reportedly a
person of interest in two different federal investigations being run out of
the Southern District of New York.
Politico.com has recently reported that main justice, meaning the Justice
Department headquarters in Washington, may be horning in on those SDNY
investigations of Rudy Giuliani. And who knows what that means? It may
indicate some effort by Attorney General Bill Barr to try to shield Mr.
Giuliani from what SDNY would otherwise be doing or concluding in his case.
But this is – there`s two things going on here. There`s the impeachment
and there is this criminal fight. This is not just your average Washington
fight over, you know, bad faith and bad actors. This is criminal, too.
And it involves some fairly serious crooks. And we are nowhere near out of
those woods yet.
Lots to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Because it`s a day that ends in y, since we`ve been on the air
there`s new breaking news to bring you tonight. This time it`s the “The
New York Times” that`s just broken news, some fairly explosive news about
the testimony that just wrapped up today from Lieutenant Colonel Alexander
Vindman who`s the top Ukrainian expert on the national security counsel.
We know because “The New York Times” was the first to report last night on
the content of Colonel Vindman`s opening statement. We know he was due to
tell Congress today in the impeachment proceedings about his concerns and
the fact he raised an internal alarm after listening in on the president`s
call to the president of Ukraine because he believed what he heard was
improper and he reported it up the chain of command.
Now, according to Julian Barnes and Nicholas Fandos and Danny Hakim with
“The New York Times”, we`ve got more detail as to what Colonel Vindman
testified about. Let me just tell you what the lead of their piece is.
Quote: Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the
National Security Council, told House impeachment investigators today that
the White House transcript of a July call between president Trump and
Ukraine`s president omitted crucial words and phrases and that his attempts
to restore them failed. Citing three people familiar with the testimony,
they described this basic process.
“Times” says tonight, quote: There`s no recording of the July 25th call by
the American side. The White House uses note takers listening in on the
call as well as voice recognition software to create a rough transcript
that`s a close approximation of the call. But names and technical terms
are frequently missed by the software according to people familiar with the
After the call took place in which Colonel Vindman listened in, he was
given a hard copy of the rough transcript to make updates and corrections.
Colonel Vindman went through the transcript, made changes and gave his
written edits to his boss, Timothy Morrison, who`s the current director of
Russia and European affairs at the National Security Council.
Incidentally, Mr. Morrison is due to testify to the impeachment proceedings
the day after tomorrow.
But in terms of what Vindman tried to correct in that testimony, this is
explosive, the omissions Colonel Vindman said included President Trump`s
assertion that there were recordings of Joe Biden discussing Ukraine
corruption and an explicit mention by Ukraine`s President Volodymyr
Zelensky of Burisma Holdings, the energy company whose board employed Mr.
Biden`s son Hunter.
Colonel Vindman told the impeachment investigators today he tried to change
the constructed transcript made by White House staff to reflect those
omissions, but while some of his edits were successful those two
corrections were not made. Colonel Vindman did not testify to a motive
behind the editing process, but his testimony is likely to drive
investigators to ask further questions about how officials handled the
call, including changes to the transcript and the decision to put it into
the White House`s most classified computer system. It will also drive
questions about whether those moves were meant to conceal the call`s most
controversial aspects. Yes, it will.
Joining us now is Michael McFaul. He`s former U.S. ambassador to Russia.
He served with Colonel Vindman in Moscow.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you for joining us tonight. I really appreciate you
making the time.
MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Sure. Glad to be here,
MADDOW: So, couple of things going on here. I want to talk to you about
your experience with Colonel Vindman, your reaction to the way his
testimony was treated today. I do have to ask your reaction to this
breaking news that has just come out from the “New York Times” that he may
have been involved in – seems like was properly involved in trying to make
sure the White House transcripts/notes of that call were accurate. But
when he tried to materially fill in stuff that was left out of the
transcript, his corrections were rejected.
Does that resonate for you in terms of what you know about how foreign
leader calls are handled?
MCFAUL: No, it doesn`t resonate with me at all. Remember, I worked three
years at the National Security Council as a senior director, listened to
many phone calls, and my directors, right, the equivalent of what Colonel
Vindman was serving at the time when he listened to that call, they
frequently would sit down there in the White House Situation Room, next to
the transcribers because the transcribers aren`t experts on U.S.-Ukrainian
relations or U.S.-Russian relations.
And so, the directors would listen as well and then correct the record just
to make sure they get all the facts right, especially as you just noted the
proper nouns, right? Who knows what Burisma is? There`s a guy who does
know what Burisma is. His name is Colonel Vindman.
And that`s why they`re there, to just correct the record. It`s supposed to
be an official record. So, that was left out. It is shocking to me. That
is not standard operating procedure.
MADDOW: If there is a scandal here, if there is something potentially
criminal here in terms of the White House trying to basically lock down the
evidence about the president`s behavior here, improperly classifying this
material or moving it or making sure that the records were not correct,
deliberately to try to prevent people from knowing either inside the
government or ultimately in this kind of impeachment proceeding, knowing an
accurate record of what happened, do you believe the impeachment
proceedings will be able to get to the bottom of that? Are these processes
in the White House something that leaves enough of a trail that
investigators will be able to find it?
MCFAUL: I`m not sure, Rachel. That`s a great question. I don`t know the
It would be hard thinking – I had read multiple transcripts in my time at
the White House. It would be hard for me to retrace like who is the one
that actually did the final edits. Usually, it`s the director in charge,
right? Usually, it would be me, the senior director and my directors, that
is, people at the level that Colonel Vindman was serving that would have
the final say. This sounds like it obviously wasn`t. But who was
responsible for that, I don`t know how you would trace that.
I do think it underscores something we`ve talked about before. If this was
a perfect call and there`s nothing to hide, why did they put it on this
super secret server? Why are we now learning that they did not put in
factually correct corrections that Colonel Vindman was trying to put in the
MADDOW: One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you tonight, sir, is
because I know from your Twitter feed today you said you served with
Colonel Vindman in Moscow. You called him a patriot and a, quote, first-
rate military attache, one of the best on the team.
Because of your experience with him I just wanted to give you a chance to
respond to the attacks on him from the president, conservative media, some
of the president`s supporters in Congress, essentially questioning his
patriotism, describing him as having some sort of suspect loyalties because
he`s from an immigrant family.
MCFAUL: First, Rachel, I want to thank you for what you already said about
him before the break. Second, we live in a polarized society. Here at
Stanford, we study the causes of polarization. I personally deal with it.
I know you personally deal with it.
I felt yesterday, we reached a new low, however. When I saw what people
were saying about dual loyalties, hyphenated adjectives, maybe he likes
Ukraine more than the United States of America and even one suggestion,
insinuation of espionage because he talks to Ukrainian officials, that`s in
his job description, by the way, working at the National Security Council.
And I just found it completely outrageous. And you can tell – you know, I
just – what have we come to that people that sign up to serve in our
country in harm`s way, in Iraq and also the National Security Council and
in our embassies and Kiev and Moscow, that we would disparage people this
We have a dark history where we`ve done this before, and it really troubles
me that anyone would insinuate anything about that. But I actually know
Alex. I know Colonel Vindman.
He is a first-rate military officer. He was an outstanding official at our
embassy. He was appointed at the National Security Council because he is
one of the best and brightest. And the idea that someone with his resume
would not serve the United States of America is just disgusting. It`s
And I want those people to apologize and to remember what they`re doing
when they take cheap shots at people like Colonel Vindman when they don`t
know his background and they don`t know his history.
MADDOW: Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia – sir, thank you
for being here. I really appreciate you taking the time.
MCFAUL: Thanks for letting me say all I did, Rachel.
MADDOW: I`m glad you did. And I`m glad you said it exactly the way you
did, sir. Thank you.
All right. Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`re continuing to absorb this breaking news that has just been
published by “The New York Times” in the wake of 10 1/2 hours of testimony
today by the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. He`s an
active-duty U.S. military officer, lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army with
20 years experience in the army including combat deployments and including
being awarded a Purple Heart for being wounded in combat.
His name is Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. And we saw his opening
remarks last night which were distributed by his lawyers, who allowed those
to be viewed by the public last night. But we`re now getting the first
reports as to what Colonel Vindman said behind closed doors today.
The headline at “The New York Times” right now, quote, White House Ukraine
expert sought to correct transcript of Trump call. Lieutenant Colonel
Alexander Vindman, who heard president Trump`s July phone call with
Ukraine`s president and was alarmed by it, testified that he tried and
failed to add key details that were left out of the White House`s rough
transcript of that call.
It has been an interesting part of this impeachment inquiry, not just the
president`s behavior toward Ukraine but the question of whether or not
people inside the White House may have acted improperly in trying to
basically cover up evidence of that by among other things securing the
White House notes of that call in a secure server that was never designed
for material of that sort.
Joining us here on set I`m honored to say is John Brennan. He`s a former
Director Brennan, thank you for being here tonight.
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you for making time.
There are a million things I want to talk to you about, but I want to get
your reaction first to this news from Colonel Vindman, his testimony today
and this specific account of his testimony about the way that the notes of
the president`s call was handled.
BRENNAN: I think as Mike McFaul said this is really an aberration for the
way the process is supposed to work. As Mike said, the transcription,
basically software in the White House Situation Room is used but it`s the
White House listeners to this phone call that will put it together
consistent with what they hear but also the experts that are with them.
It`s usually the director such as Colonel Vindman who will go over those
notes and make sure it is comprehensive, it is accurate and complete.
And it sounds as though when he did that, some of his changes were accepted
and some were not. And I think very substantive ones and important ones
were left out intentionally in this transcript.
MADDOW: One of the prospects that`s raised in this “New York Times” report
and I just don`t know enough about these systems to know it it`s possible,
there was the suggestion that while Colonel Vindman was making these
suggestions, while in the normal course him adding relevant context,
filling in proper nouns that were hard for the software to pick up and
things like that, in the normal course while those things would have been
added to the White House notes and corrected the transcript, maybe that
wasn`t possible here specifically because of the way these notes were
handled, because it was moved to the super secure server and then
effectively nobody else could access it and nobody could fix it.
Does that resonate with you?
BRENNAN: Yes. But the transcript that was released publicly, it was
released after it was put in the very highly sensitive server. It was
taken out of that so that there would be at least a version of it put out.
And that version that was put out as “The New York Times” article says,
there were ellipses in there that suggests there were words, phrases,
sentences that were left out.
So I think it was very intentional. But this has a whole host of questions
associated with it. Why was it put into this highly sensitive classified
server, which is out of the course of normal business? If the president
has a conversation with somebody that addresses for example covert action
or something that is super secret and sensitive, it might be put in there.
But for this type of conversation, particularly one that is so politically
charged as this, there`s no reason other than to hide it.
And so I think there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered.
MADDOW: Obviously, the impeachment inquiry that is driving these
revelations is focused very much on the president`s behavior. It`s not an
impeachment inquiry into cabinet officials. There`s no pending case
against anyone else involved in the administration.
What do you think about the idea that part of what`s been exposed already
is behavior by people other than the president to try to cover up the
evidence of what the president did, that there may have been an effort by
both people helping him carry out this scheme and then not telling the
truth about it but also in the White House as the scheme was become evident
and people were becoming concerned about it, trying to close down access to
information that might prove those concerns warranted?
I mean, the president is at the top of this, but what about culpability for
other people involved?
BRENNAN: Well, I think this is consistent with what the administration`s
record has been. When Trump goes out and either makes a policy decision or
takes some type of action, then people try to scurry to either explain or
to cover the tracks. And when he`s involved in this type of behavior,
which I think is clearly inappropriate, unethical and maybe criminal, they
are trying to prevent that exposure.
And so, unfortunately, the Trump vortex in the White House I think brings
so many other people into it, those who are willing to sacrifice their
ethics and principles. But thank goodness we have people like Colonel
Vindman, that we have people like Ambassador Yovanovitch or Ambassador
Taylor and others who are going to say, no, enough, this is not consistent
with what professional responsibilities call for, which is to not allow
this type of political corruption to seep certainly into the national
And I think that`s why they`re so upset about this. They really see it as
a threat to our national security, and they`re putting their careers at
MADDOW: John Brennan is a former CIA director. Sir, there`s another
aspect of this you have a lot of experience with I`d like to ask you about
after the break. If you could stick with us.
MADDOW: John Brennan is our guest. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I want to thank Colonel Vindman for his courage
in coming forward, his willingness to follow the law, to do his duty. We
have the greatest respect for his service to the country, service that
continues and today took the form of coming in before our committees to
bravely answer these questions. We hope that his example of patriotism
will be emulated by others.
I want to say also how deeply appalled I was at the pernicious attacks on
him last night on Fox. The suggestion that because he`s of Ukrainian
origin, that he has some dual loyalty. This Purple Heart recipient
deserved better than that scandalous attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff today at the close of
10 1/2 hours from Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman, who`s the top Ukraine
official at the National Security Council.
We`re back live with John Brennan, former director of the CIA.
Sir, part of the reason I wanted to talk to you about this is because what
Chairman Schiff was just decrying there, the attacks on Colonel Vindman,
the efforts to portray him as a traitor or having divided loyalties or
something, it echoes for me some of the ways the president has come after
you because of your role at the Central Intelligence Agency at the time
that he was – at the time of the 2016 election.
I just wanted to know if this sort of reactivates everything for you or
what your reaction is to this.
BRENNAN: First of all, I think everybody should be quite proud of someone
like Colonel Vindman. And frequently, it is those citizens who are
citizens not by birth but by choice that really understand the
responsibilities of citizenship. It`s not just the rights and privileges
that go along with it, it`s the responsibilities.
And unfortunately, I think we have somebody in the White House right now
who fears people who are willing to speak out about what is wrong and be
able to expose the – I think corruption that is going on right now.
So I have for the last three years spoken out because I believe that Mr.
Trump is unworthy of the office of the presidency. Having served with six
presidents, three Democrat and three Republican, I was always very proud of
having served with them. I didn`t agree with a lot of their policies but I
always felt that they were doing what they thought was in the best interest
of this country.
But, unfortunately, I think Mr. Trump has shown time and time again that he
has a very personal political agenda that he`s going to pursue, and
unfortunately, too many individuals, including elected representatives of
Congress are willing to give him a pass on things that are wholly
inappropriate, wholly inconsistent with the trust that the American people
have put into Mr. Trump`s hands.
So, I think we`re going to see, in fact, maybe more examples of bravery and
courage that we have seen in the past couple of weeks as people have gone
up to Congress, defying the direction about not appearing, but saying this
is too important to allow the individuals who are taking advantage of the
great trust that we have put in them.
MADDOW: John Brennan, former CIA director – sir, thank you for coming in.
It`s really good to have you here, sir. Thanks a lot.
BRENNAN: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, today, we got the new rules from the House in terms of how the
next phase of the impeachment inquiry is going to go, the part with the
public hearings. In the meantime, though, they`ve still got more closed
door depositions with more witnesses coming down the pike. House
investigators are going to depose the State Department`s special adviser
for Ukraine, Catherine Croft, tomorrow morning at 9:00 Eastern. Right
after that, an official who may have been her predecessor in Ukraine is
going to testify. His name is Christopher Anderson.
Croft and Anderson worked directly with the former U.S. special envoy for
Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who himself testified this month right after he
resigned his post. He`s the one who turned over the text messages which
have since become an essential part of the inquiry.
So, tomorrow, committee members are going to hear from Volker`s basically -
- his former direct reports. This week is going to continue to be like
this every day. It`s only Tuesday now.
MADDOW: That`s going to do it for us tonight. I will warn you that this
week, like I said, it`s only Tuesday and this week is already – the fact
we`ve had big breaking news stories from “New York Times” about the
impeachment inquiry in the middle of our night both Monday night and
We`ve got a double deposition tomorrow for the two direct reports to Kurt
Volker who was the first witness to testify from the administration and the
impeachment inquiry, and then there will be more thereafter – just, it is
one of those weeks. I`m just giving it to you the way I see it. It`s one
of those weeks to pace yourself.
We`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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