Tom Brokaw on The Rachel Maddow Show. TRANSCRIPT: 11/15/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: I wanted to keep the conversation
going, and then I came to you early, and thought I screwed it up, but
So, good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: It`s a tightrope every night, baby.
MADDOW: Well done. Thanks you guys. Much appreciated. That was
And thanks to you at home for joining us here this hour on this fine Friday
night. I will you – there are a bunch of moving parts in the news right
now. And we`re just going to take it one piece at a time, one step at a
time with the full and full-hearted expectation that more news will break
over the course of this hour. You know it will, right?
I mean, that has generally been our experience on Friday nights over the
course of the Trump administration. But today and tonight already, it has
just been relentless. So, let`s just jump in.
We`ve got a whole show prepared. I`m sure it`s all about to go out the
window. Obviously, today was the second public hearing of the impeachment
proceedings against President Trump. We`re going to talk about that in
In terms of the latest news, though, I do need to mention that as soon as
the public hearing wrapped up today with U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch,
immediately thereafter, the impeachment committees started taking a closed
door deposition from another new witness. The public hearings like the
ones we saw with Ambassador Yovanovitch today, those are supposed to be the
sort of second phase of the impeachment proceedings.
But apparently, as more of this story is becoming known to the public and
to the investigators, and as more witnesses are coming forward, you know,
the impeachment committees are having to sort of figure out what to do with
new folks who are relevant to the investigation that they`re still
proceeding with. So they`re discovering new witnesses, they`re then
arranging testimony from these new witnesses. And in order to do that,
they`re basically going back behind closed doors to take initial closed
door depositions from these new witnesses before deciding whether they too
will go onto be part of any public proceedings.
So, Yovanovitch wrapped today at this public hearing. But then immediately
after that, the impeachment committees, not just the Intelligence Committee
but also Foreign Affairs and Oversight, they went behind closed doors at
the secure conference room at the Capitol to take a closed door deposition
from David Holmes.
Now, David Holmes is a career foreign service officer. We heard about him
for the first time though not by name at the first public impeachment
hearing that happened this week when Ambassador Bill Taylor broke this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM TAYLOR, ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Last Friday, a member
of my staff told me of events that occurred on July 26th. In the presence
of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and
told him of his meetings in Kiev. The member of my staff could hear
President Trump on the phone asking Ambassador Sondland about the
investigations. Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that Ukrainians
were ready to move forward.
Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked
Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador
Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations
of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for. At the time I gave my
deposition on October 22nd, I was not aware of this information. I`m
including it here for completeness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So we learn of that story just a couple of days ago, in Ambassador
Bill Taylor`s testimony at the first impeachment hearing, right? It`s kind
of dramatic reveal. A member of his staff coming forward to tell him of
something that the ambassador didn`t know about before, which is that there
had been a phone call between President Trump personally and Ambassador
Gordon Sondland who called the president from a restaurant in Ukraine on
his cellphone on July 26th, the day after President Trump had that call
with the Ukrainian president. That`s the call that has basically led to
these impeachment proceedings.
In that call on July 26th, Taylor`s staff member says he was able to hear
the president on that phone inquiring personally about those investigations
that he was pressing Ukraine for. Well, there`s been a quick turn around
in terms of running that story to ground. And so, now today, that staffer
that was referenced in Bill Taylor`s testimony two days ago, that staffer
has now been brought to Capitol Hill and today, he gave his closed door
And credit to CNN`s excellent congressional correspondent Manu Raju who was
first to obtain a copy of the opening statement that David Holmes gave in
that closed door deposition today. You can see it here. It`s obviously a
photo copy of a folded sheet that contained his opening statement.
Manu Raju obtained it. CNN posted it. And it`s a doozy.
I will warn you. There`s a couple of swear here. Eventually, I`m not
going to say the swear words, but if you`re disturbed by knowing where they
are, you should know they`re coming.
First let me read you what David Holmes says is basically his explanation
as to why he`s coming forward at this late point in the process.
He says, quote: As the current impeachment inquiry has progressed, I`ve
followed press reports and reviewed statements of Ambassador Taylor and
Ambassador Yovanovitch. Based on my experience in Ukraine, my recollection
is generally consistent with their testimony and I believe the relevant
facts were therefore being laid out for the American people. However, in
the last week or so I read press reports expressing for the first time that
certain senior officials may have been acting without the president`s
knowledge in their dealing and suggesting that the only evidence being
elicited at the hearings was hearsay.
I came to realize, Holmes says, that I had first-hand knowledge regarding
certain events on July 26th that had otherwise not been reported and that
those events potentially bore on the question of whether the president in
fact had knowledge that those officials were using the levers of our
diplomatic power to induce the new Ukrainian president to announce the
opening of a particular criminal investigation. It is at that point I made
the observation to Ambassador Taylor that the incident I had witnessed had
acquired greater significance, which is what he reported in his testimony
earlier this week.
So that`s why Holmes is saying, this is why I`m coming forward. I realized
that, you know, what I know I thought was just consistent with what you`ve
already heard but then I realized I actually know something that other
people don`t and that other people are saying isn`t the way this all went
down. You need to know about this thing that I know.
You know, as for this July 26th call, the way Bill Taylor described it in
his testimony a few days ago I think underplays it compared to what David
Holmes described to the impeachment committee as far as his opening
statement. We`ve got that now.
And again what he`s describing here in time, this is late July. July 25th,
President Trump makes that call to the Ukrainian president, right? We`ve
all seen the call notes from that. It led to the impeachment inquiry.
The day after that a delegation of U.S. officials, including Ambassador
Gordon Sondland, the Trump donor guy who was assigned to be ambassador to
the E.U. and then the president inexplicably reassigned him to go work on
Ukraine instead. Ambassador Gordon Sondland and this witness who testified
today, David Holmes, they went into a high level meeting with the Ukrainian
government, including a meeting with President Zelensky just one day after
President Zelensky had had that call with President Trump.
And at that point, David Holmes said he hadn`t himself had a readout as to
what happened during the call the previous day, between Trump and Zelensky,
but he says Zelensky, the following day at this meeting, said that, quote,
President Trump had three times raised some very sensitive issues and he`d
have to follow up on those issues when they met in person.
Holmes says, quote: Not having received a readout of the July 25th call, I
did not know what those sensitive issues were. Holmes says, quote: As I
was leaving the meeting with President Zelensky, I was told to join another
meeting with Ambassador Sondland. When that meeting ended, the two
staffers and I accompanied him out of the administration building and into
the embassy vehicle.
Ambassador Sondland said he wanted to go to lunch. I told Ambassador
Sondland I`d be happy to join if he wanted to brief me on his meetings or
discuss other issues. Ambassador Sondland said that I should join. The
two staffers joined for lunch as well.
The four of us went to a nearby restaurant and sat on an outdoor terrace.
I sat directly across from Ambassador Sondland and the two staffers sat off
to our sides. At first, the lunch was largely social. Ambassador Sondland
selected a bottle of wine that he shared among the four of us and we
discussed topics such as marketing strategies for his hotel business,
At which point I interject with narrator voice, your taxpayer dollars at
work, right? This ambassador talking about marketing strategies for his
hotel business with all these Foreign Service officers and embassy
But then here`s the part that Bill Taylor brought to the attention of the
impeachment committees. Quote, during the lunch, Ambassador Sondland said
that he was going to call president Trump to give him an update.
Ambassador Sondland placed the call on his mobile phone, and I heard him
announce himself several times along the lines of Gordon Sondland holding
for the president.
It appeared he was being transferred through several layers of switch
boards and assistants. I then noticed Ambassador Sondland`s demeanor
change and I understood that he had been connected to President Trump.
While Ambassador Sondland`s phone was not on speakerphone, I could hear the
president`s voice through the earpiece of the phone.
The president`s voice was very loud and recognizable, and Ambassador
Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time presumably
because of the loud volume. I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the
president and explain he was calling from Kiev. I heard president Trump
then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland
replied, yes, he was in Ukraine and went on to state that President
Zelensky – forgive me here – went on to state President Zelensky, quote,
loves your ass.
I said I wasn`t going to say the swearword and then I just did, I`m sorry.
Holmes continues, I then heard President Trump ask, so he`s going to do the
investigation? Ambassador Sondland replied that he`s going to do it,
adding that President Zelensky, quote, will do anything you ask him to.
Even though I did not take notes on these statements I have a clear
recollection that these statements were made, I believe that my colleagues
who were sitting at the table also knew that Ambassador Sondland was
speaking with the president, which would mean there are two more witnesses
who can attest to the fact that this happened.
David Holmes then describes some of the other things that happened on that
conversation he could overhear between Gordon Sondland and President Trump
including naturally a reference to the Kardashians. Long story. We`ll
talk about that some other time.
But then there`s this. He says, quote, after the call ended, Ambassador
Sondland remarked that the president was in a bad mood as Ambassador
Sondland stated is often the case early in the morning. I then took the
opportunity to ask Ambassador Sondland for his candid impression of the
president`s views on Ukraine. In particular, I asked ambassador Sondland
if it was true the president did not give a – that the president did not -
- that the president did not give a shoot about Ukraine. He didn`t say
Ambassador Sondland agreed that the president did not give a shoot about
Ukraine. I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated that the
president only cares about, quote, big stuff.
I noted that there was big stuff going on in Ukraine like a war with
Russia. Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant big stuff that benefits
the president like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.
The conversation then moved onto other topics.
Again, that`s from the opening statement from Foreign Service officer David
Holmes which was obtained and first published tonight by CNN. That witness
both corroborating the testimony we`ve heard thus far from witnesses like
Ambassadors Bill Taylor and Marie Yovanovitch, but also directly quoting
the president in a conversation in which the president appears to have been
checking up on his man in Ukraine to inquire as to the progress of these
investigations into the Bidens, that he was leaning on that foreign
government to provide him.
The president pressuring that foreign government to do those
investigations, of course, because of the domestic political benefit he
thought they would provide him here at home. And that, of course, is the
core issue for which the president is now being impeached. David Holmes`
testimony and presumably any further corroborating testimony on this matter
we may get from those other two alleged witnesses who were sitting there
listening to that call as well or maybe even from Ambassador Gordon
Sondland himself scheduled to testify next week, that testimony – I mean,
it all puts the president squarely and personally in the role of not only
running this operation for which he`s being impeached but personally
checking in on its progress as the pressure campaign was at its apex.
So, I mean, that`s all happened. That`s all come out tonight since the
Yovanovitch testimony at this dramatic hours long hearing today.
I should also tell you that tomorrow there`s going to be another closed
door deposition. For the first time, an official from the office of
management and budget is going to be testifying. From good reporting first
from “The Wall Street Journal” and also “the Washington Post,” we believe
the official testifying tomorrow from OMB will be able to tribe what
appears to have been a strange process inside the White House in which
somebody decided that the career expert officials in charge of tracking
something like military aid to Ukraine, those career officials were taken
out of the process of taking or withholding the aid to Ukraine.
Those career officials were replaced instead with a Trump political
appointee who had been the executive director of the Wisconsin Republican
Party. Until now there has been no public reporting – excuse me, until
now there has been public reporting but no testimony to the impeachment
inquiry that the reason the White House may have had to do that, the reason
they may have had to take those career technocratic officials out of that
process and instead install their appointee is because of the belief by the
career officials that the president putting this hold on the military aid
was something that was actually illegal. That is why the White House
apparently had to take out of the loop these career officials because those
career officials knew and expressed the view that that would be illegal, so
they had to take those people out of the mix and instead stick a political
appointee in there who apparently would be happy to do it.
So that career OMB staffer is going to testify in a closed door deposition
tomorrow. I don`t know if we`re going to get an opening statement from
that official the way we did from David Holmes tonight, but stay tuned.
Impeachment is not stopping for the weekend. It`s not even stopping for
But we`re starting to recognize consistent sort of dynamics at work in the
way the president tried to pull off this scheme, the way public officials,
public servants who would have – who wouldn`t go along with it had to be
taken off the job or had to be otherwise sidelined so this scheme to
pressure Ukraine for the president`s benefit could go ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I don`t know if you had a chance to watch George
Kent`s testimony yesterday, but would you agree with his rather frank
assessment that if you fight corruption you`re going to piss off some
MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Yes.
SCHIFF: And in your efforts fighting corruption to advance U.S. policy
interests, did you anger some of the corrupt leaders in Ukraine?
SCHIFF: Was one of those corrupt people Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko?
YOVANOVITCH: Yes, I believe so.
SCHIFF: And wasn`t Mr. Lutsenko among others who coordinated with Mr.
Giuliani to peddle false accusations against you as well as the Bidens?
YOVANOVITCH: Yes, that is my understanding.
SCHIFF: And were these smears also amplified by the president`s son as
well as hosts on Fox?
YOVANOVITCH: Yes. Yes, that is the case.
SCHIFF: In the face of this smear campaign, did colleagues at the State
Department try to get a statement of support for you from Secretary Pompeo?
SCHIFF: Were they successful?
SCHIFF: Did you come to learn they couldn`t issue such a statement because
they feared it would be undercut by the president?
SCHIFF: And then were you told that though you did nothing wrong you did
not enjoy the confidence of the president and could no longer serve as
YOVANOVITCH: Yes, that is correct.
SCHIFF: And in fact, you flew home from Kiev on the same day as the
inauguration of Ukraine`s new president?
YOVANOVITCH: That`s true.
SCHIFF: That inauguration was attended by three who have become known as
the “three amigos”, Ambassador Sondland, Volker and Perry, was it?
SCHIFF: And three days after that inauguration in a meeting with President
Trump, are you aware that the president designated these “three amigos” to
coordinate Ukraine policy with Rudy Giuliani?
YOVANOVITCH: Since then, I have become aware of that.
SCHIFF: This is the same Rudy Giuliani who orchestrated the smear campaign
SCHIFF: And the same Rudy Giuliani who now during the infamous July 25th
phone call the president recommended to Zelensky in the context of the two
investigations the president wanted into the 2016 election and the Bidens?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes. So, yes, they needed the career official at the White House
budget office who realizes they`re going to do – they`re trying to do an
illegal hold on military aid to Ukraine. Yes, they need that official out
of there, instead put in a political appointee. He`ll do it.
Similarly, they need Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, 33-year foreign service
veteran, serious person, right? They need Marie Yovanovitch, patriot, out
of there, so they pull together this kind of cabal of slime merchants to
cook up wild, false allegations against Marie Yovanovitch, and they used
that as a way to get her out of there.
And then once she`s out of there, they instead installed the president`s
guys to move in and make sure that Ukraine gets the full brunt of the
pressure campaign, right? That they`ve got to get Trump those
investigations to help him for 2020. And there`s the president on the
phone to one of those guys, am I getting my investigations, yes, sir, Mr.
President, they`re going to give you anything you want. All right.
That`s what he wants to know because that`s the big stuff. That`s the big
stuff that benefits him, and that`s what he`s using Ukraine for.
So, yes, of course, you`ve got to get somebody like Marie Yovanovitch out
of there. She`s not going to play these reindeer games. You`ve got get
the real ambassador out of there. You`ve got to get her out of the way so
you guys can take that situation – and that take that situation over in
order to pull off the scheme to upend everything the United States is doing
in accordance with U.S. policy and U.S. interests in that country to
instead turn it all to the president`s domestic political benefit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): The last time you were in Ukraine was May
20th of this year, right?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: In his opening statement, Ambassador Taylor said he took
charge in Ukraine on June 17th.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Therefore, there was almost a one-month gap between the
time you departed and when Taylor took over, right?
YOVANOVITCH: Yes. Yes.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: During that time on May 20th, Ambassador Sondland, Rick
Perry, and others came to the inauguration of President Zelensky, right?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And during that gap in time, Ambassador Sondland visited
the White House along with others and got directions from President Trump
to talk to Rudy. Those were his words, talk to Rudy about what to do in
YOVANOVITCH: That`s my understanding.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: In other words, isn`t it the case that your departure and
the one month gap between the time you left and when Ambassador Taylor
arrived provided the perfect opportunity for another group of people to
basically take over Ukraine policy, isn`t that right?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Ambassador, you`re going to have speak a little louder
into the mike.
YOVANOVITCH: Yes, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes. Yes, they had to get her out of there. They had to run this
smear campaign against her, get her yanked out of there so that the Trump
guys who are willing to take direction from Rudy Giuliani and take
direction from the president about getting those investigations and in the
case of Gordon Sondland by his own admission, the guys willing to tell
Ukraine that they weren`t going to get their military aid unless they cough
that stuff up, those guys had to get in there which meant Ambassador Marie
Yovanovitch had to get out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): If you had remained ambassador to Ukraine, would
you have recommended to the president of the United States that he asked
the new Ukrainian president to investigate – and I`m quoting from the
transcript here – CrowdStrike or the server?
YOVANOVITCH: No. I would repeat once again that the U.S. intelligence
community has concluded that it was the Russians who interfered.
HIMES: OK, so, Ambassador, if you had remained as ambassador and not been
summarily dismissed, would you have supported a three-month delay in
congressionally mandated military aid to Ukraine?
HIMES: Ambassador, if you had remained as ambassador of Ukraine, would you
have recommended to the president that he ask a new president of Ukraine
to, quote, find out about Biden`s son?
HIMES: I have no more questions. I yield back the balance of my time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, she wouldn`t have done any of those things. She wouldn`t
have stood for any of those things, so they had to get her out of there.
Which would have worked perfectly except for the fact that people like
that, people who have been run roughshod like that, people who have had to
be ejected from the normal course so that the president`s men could come in
and do what needed to be done regardless of whether it was illegal, the
people who got ejected from that process, whether they`re the career
staffers or the career ambassador at the embassy, those people are real
people who are alive and who will respond to subpoenas when lawfully
subjected to compulsory process by an impeachment proceeding.
There were a couple of other things either brand new at this hearing today
or that intruded on the hearing from outside. They were both big
surprises. In one of these cases, it made me get off my couch and jump up
and down and call everybody I know. Both of those instances coming up.
Stay with us. Lots to come tonight.
MADDOW: About an hour into today`s dramatic impeachment hearing, an
external event intruded upon the hearing. It was about 10:00 a.m. this
morning Eastern Time when the president himself made a statement online
attacking Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch even as she testified. And that, of
course, is sort of the president`s M.O., right?
This is one of his favorite ways to derail the news when things are not
going his way. He just grabs the nearest third rail and says something so
outrageous, deliberately outrageous people in good faith and good
conscience can`t ignore it. And people stop talking about whatever was
going on in the news he was trying to distract from and instead they turn
to the president`s latest outrageous statement to talk about that.
If this president was a pony and he had to be reduced to one trick, that
would be his one pony trick. Like that`s the closest thing he has to a
But when President Trump tried that standard one trick pony trick today in
the middle of Marie Yovanovitch`s testimony, it went wrong for him in a
couple of important ways.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Ambassador, you`ve shown the courage to come forward today and
testify. Notwithstanding the fact you were urged by the White House or
state department not to, notwithstanding the fact that as you testified
earlier, the president implicitly threatened you in that call record. And
now, the president in real time is attacking you.
What effect do you think that has on other witness` willingness to come
forward and expose wrongdoing?
YOVANOVITCH: Well, it`s very intimidating.
SCHIFF: It`s designed to intimidate, is it not?
YOVANOVITCH: I mean, I can`t speak to what the president is trying to do,
but I think the effect is to be intimidating.
SCHIFF: Well, I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here
take witness intimidation very, very seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Part of the reason this standard Trump attention trick of saying
something outrageous and diverting everybody`s attention from what was
going on to instead pay attention to whatever latest or outrageous thing he
has said or done, part of the reason I think this went a little pear-shaped
for the president today is number one because an impeachment hearing is not
a news cycle. It`s a real thing.
And the president may have just earned himself a new stand alone article of
impeachment today for witness intimidation by having the gall to do this in
the middle of public testimony that was in part about the way the president
has mistreated and used this distinguished career Foreign Service officer
who had never done anything wrong. That`s one of – I think the
president`s not used to like, you know, accountability. So that was hard.
The other reason it went wrong for the president today, though, is just
karmic bad timing. Because within the hour of that happening in that jury
room, a jury sitting in the federal court in Washington, D.C. finished up
their deliberations, filed back into the courtroom, and handed to the judge
this verdict, this verdict sheet. These two pages are the verdict sheet
they handed over to the judge today. This verdict against the president`s
longstanding political adviser Roger Stone.
And as you can see on the verdict sheet, the jury was asked to consider
seven felony counts against Mr. Stone. Their decision on those counts was
guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty.
And in some ways, this verdict, it`s sort of tempting to see it as yet
another Trump campaign figure going to prison or at least another one of
them awaiting sentencing after being convicted or pleading guilty to felony
charges. There`s a lot of them now, right? They`re going to name a wing
after them at some point.
I mean, everybody from his national security adviser, to his campaign
chairman, to his deputy campaign chairman, to his foreign policy adviser,
to his lawyer and now to this guy too – I mean, it is tempting to just add
this new seven-count felony conviction today to the pile. But it was also
impossible to avoid the fact today that the felony from which Roger Stone
is now facing the most jail time, of these seven felony the one he`s
looking at a potential 20-year maximum prison sentence is the crime of
witness tampering. It was count seven today against Roger Stone, a
violation of 18 U.S. Code Section 1512(b)(1), we the members of the jury
unanimously find Mr. Stone guilty, count seven, witness tampering.
I mean, among the most damning evidence in the Mueller report, in volume
two of the Mueller report was the evidence that the president had tried to
tamper with witnesses in the Russia case, including Michael Cohen and Paul
Manafort and others. And the special counsel said he couldn`t bring
criminal charges against the president for that behavior or anything else.
But the impeachment inquiry is not constrained in the same way. So within
the hour that the president is hearing from the head of the impeachment
inquiry about how seriously, how very, very seriously those committees take
the crime of witness intimidation, here`s his long-standing political
advisor being convicted in a criminal court of witness intimidation. So
that all being spat out of the volcano by the news gods at the same time
today was a dramatic thing.
But immediately after that happened in the hearing, while the hearing was
still buzzing with what had just happened there in front of their eyes,
with then got a brand-new piece of information about the president`s
behavior here and the president`s motivation here that had never been
voiced before. This is thing that made me get up off the couch and start
calling everybody I know.
That`s next. We`ve got a lot to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So this was new today, new today and fascinating to me.
Last night on the show, you might remember, we talked about how this
pressure campaign against Ukraine for which President Trump is being
impeached, this campaign was designed to get the government in Ukraine to
announce some kind of investigation into Democratic presidential front-
runner Joe Biden. And because you can`t put too fine a point on it with
these guys even if you try, the specific demand was that Ukraine needed to
announce this biden investigation publicly. They didn`t need to just start
an investigation, they needed to announce they were doing so, so of course
it would have maximum damaging or embarrassing political effect.
But actually put that quote back up there on the screen again from Bill
Taylor`s testimony because it wasn`t just an investigation of Joe Biden
that he – that the president wanted announced by Ukraine, right? It was
also that he wanted an announced investigation from Ukraine of 2016
election interference, 2016 election interference by Ukraine. He wanted an
investigation announced into that, too.
2016 election interference by Ukraine is not a thing. It did not happen.
It was Russia that interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Donald Trump.
It wasn`t Ukraine.
So last night on the show we tried to find in the wild, some trace, some
explanation for where that weird sort of backwards theory about the 2016
election might have come from. I mean, the whole U.S. intelligence
community says it was Russia. Bipartisan intelligence committee just a few
weeks ago said it was Russia. More than a dozen Russian intelligence
officers are currently indicted by the Justice Department because it was
Russia. It was Russia.
So where`s this weird thing coming from that Trump is pursuing in this
pressure campaign in Ukraine, this insistence by him it wasn`t Russia that
interfered in 2016, it was Ukraine that did it? Well, as of last night as
I mentioned on the show last night, the incidents we know of in the wild
where that strange thing might have come from was documented in this FBI
report from Trump`s deputy campaign chair Rick Gates.
Rick Gates explaining to the FBI under penalty of perjury that it wasn`t
Russia, it was Ukraine, that argument was spread in the first instance in
this country by Donald Trump`s now imprisoned campaign chairman Paul
Manafort. And where did he get that theory he started spreading in this
country? Well, what Gates told the FBI is that he was parroting it from a
guy named Kilimnik, Konstantin Kilimnik, who Manafort had worked with in
Ukraine for years. Kilimnik is somebody who the FBI says is affiliated
with Russian intelligence agencies.
So this theory that Trump was demanding that Ukraine needed to provide him
an announced investigation about, right, he wanted the Biden investigation
announced. But he wanted this other investigation announced, too. Best as
we can tell, this other thing he wanted an announced Ukrainian
investigation into this weird claim that it wasn`t Russia, it was Ukraine
that interfered in our last election, that claim appears to have originated
with Russian intelligence.
Russian intelligence gets fed to Trump`s former campaign chairs, had lots
of dealings with pro-Putin elements in the world, right? He`s now in
prison, right? It goes from Russian intelligence to Manafort, Manafort is
the one who spreads it. Giuliani admits he`s been talking to Manafort on
strategy on this whole campaign he`s been running for the president in
But that chain of command sort of makes sense, right? Russia wants to
muddy the waters. Russia doesn`t want to be held to account what they did.
Well, that`s what we knew as of last night. Then knock me over with a
feather, this happened today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL: Now, are you familiar with these
allegations of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election?
YOVANOVITCH: I mean, there have been rumors out there about things like
that. But, you know, there was nothing hard, at least nothing that I was
GOLDMAN: There`s nothing based in fact to support these allegations?
GOLDMAN: And, in fact, who was responsible for interfering and meddling in
the 2016 election?
YOVANOVITCH: Well, the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that it
GOLDMAN: Ambassador Yovanovitch, are you aware that in February of 2017,
Vladimir Putin himself promoted this theory of Ukrainian interference in
the 2016 election?
YOVANOVITCH: You know, maybe I knew that once and have forgotten, but I`m
not familiar with it now.
GOLDMAN: Well, let me show you a press statement that President Putin made
in a joint press conference with Viktor Orban of Hungary on February 2nd,
2017, where he says, second, as we all know, during the presidential
campaign in the United States, the Ukrainian government adopted a
unilateral position in favor of one candidate. More than that, certain
oligarchs certainly with the approval of the political leadership funded
this candidate or female candidate to be more precise.
Now, how would this theory of Ukraine interference in the 2016 election be
in Vladimir Putin`s interest?
YOVANOVITCH: Well, I mean, President Putin must have been aware that there
were concerns in the U.S. about Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and
what the potential was for Russian meddling in the future. So, you know,
classic for an intelligence officer to try to throw off the scent and
create an alternative narrative that maybe might get picked up and get some
GOLDMAN: An alternative narrative that would absolve his own wrongdoing?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes. Turns out this thing that Trump has been spinning, this
weird thing about Ukraine interfering in the election, I want you to
announce an investigation into that, he`s spinning that exactly the way
Vladimir Putin has been spinning it and the way that Russian intelligence
was feeding it to his now imprisoned campaign chairman who was talking to
Rudy Giuliani about strategy in this campaign.
I mean, and that was just like an interstitial thing that came up at a
quiet moment today. But, man, what`s next?
MADDOW: Joining us now here on set is Congressman Jim Himes. He`s a
member of the Intelligence Committee.
Sir, I know it`s been a big, long, exhausting day. Thank you for being
HIMES: Happy to be here.
MADDOW: I`m just talking about working at 30 Rock today, not what you`ve
Let me ask you about your impressions today at this second hearing with
HIMES: Well, it`s sort of hard to summarize in ten seconds, right? It was
just a stunning hearing, because, first and foremost, the ambassador, what
a startling profile in courage. And it was amazing. So, this leads to the
second thing that was pretty amazing is that just as the Republicans were
falling all over themselves not to attack her, you know, to thank her for
her service, boom out comes the presidential tweet where he says everywhere
she went things screwed up, blame Somalia – you just can`t make this stuff
But really the story told today is the story of this isn`t just a bad phone
call. This is a three, four-month effort with a very clear goal to get an
investigation into the Bidens going. It started with her – before her
firing, right? Because these second rate gangsters in Ukraine and Rudy
Giuliani were spreading these rumors in Ukraine well before she ultimately
was told to come home.
MADDOW: In terms of what we learned that was new and new perspectives that
we got today that we the public couldn`t get without hearing from these
witnesses, I was really struck today when she said basically I understand
why they wanted me out of there now. I didn`t understand at the time, but
I could now see the larger scheme at work.
What I don`t understand is why they didn`t just remove me for no reason.
Why they had to try to destroy me, why they had to smear me and use all –
and levy all these false accusations against me. And her even to this day
sort of bewilderment and sadness over that is something I found very
effecting. But I also, I don`t know if you have the answer or if the
committee has an answer as to why she had to be humiliated and destroyed
instead of just taken out of the way?
HIMES: Well, I don`t think it`s anymore complicated than the inside of
Donald Trump`s brain. I mean, today, really put into relief that line and
Chairman Schiff brought it out that line about in the transcript where the
president says Lutsenko, who`s very dirty guy, right? This is the guy who
started the whole lie.
And, by the way, admitted it was a lie that there was a do not prosecute
list, a very dirty guy.
He`s talking him up the transcript saying – and then of course about the
Ambassador Yovanovitch says she`s a bad woman and things are going to
happen her. I mean, it`s just a complete inversion of any recognizable
moral code, and that`s the inside of Donald Trump`s head.
MADDOW: In terms of what happens next here, obviously the inquiry appears
to still be expanding. The closed door deposition that happened today with
David Holmes, a person who overheard this conversation in which the
president was inquiring about these investigations, tomorrow, there`s going
to be another investigation, office of career management, career staffer,
who we think we know from open source reporting was sort of taken out of
the loop on military aid once OMB staffers decided it might be illegal to
do that hold.
I mean, it seems however fast you want to go you`re getting more witnesses
as the story comes out.
HIMES: Yes, that`s right. And I mean, today was important with this new
witness and the new deposition because the facts here aren`t in dispute.
The long campaign to get an investigation of the Bidens done that involved
withholding military aid, that involved dangling, we`ve known – no one`s
denying it. The Republicans aren`t denying it. They`re just saying it`s
But the piece that was missing that began to fall into place today to sort
of riff on the Watergate thing, what did the president say and when did he
say it? We haven`t actually known who the president talked to other than
Zelensky, right? So, today we learn about this phone call where Donald
Trump is inquiring about his investigation and Sondland is saying going
great, it`s going to happen, and by the way, they`ll do anything you want.
And remember, Ambassador Sondland is coming before the committee next week,
so that direct connection to the president, that`s what`s developing now.
MADDOW: Can you tell us about any time on the horizon in terms of how long
public hearings will go on for?
HIMES: Well, you know, our hope was we might begin to wind them up towards
the end of next week or around there.
HIMES: Because if you think about it, I`m pretty sure the speaker is
committed to getting this process done hopefully by the end of year-ish.
If you sort of work through the end of testimony and what judiciary needs
to do, you`re already struggling to make that timetable. But again, you
just don`t know what`s going to happen.
The other big piece here of course is Rudy Giuliani. Now, Rudy Giuliani is
the other half of this thing. He`s running around Ukraine, you know,
smearing an ambassador. God only knows what sort of business deals he was
pursuing. And because he won`t appear in contempt of Congress, and we`ll
deal with that down the road, it`s going to take some time to know that
other half of the story here.
MADDOW: Congressman Jim Himes of House Intelligence Committee, sir, it`s
great to have you here. Thank you very much.
HIMES: Thank you, Rachel. Yes.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us now is somebody who I am honored to have here on set,
somebody who I should mention has deep knowledge of presidents and
impeachment. Tom Brokaw covered Richard Nixon`s final year in the White
House, as he tried to outrun Watergate. He later anchored “NBC Nightly
News” during the impeachment of President Clinton.
Tom is now a senior correspondent for NBC News. He`s also author of a new
book called “The Fall of Richard Nixon: A Reporter Remembers Watergate.”
Talk about good timing. Sir, it`s great to have you here.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: I would like to say that I was
so prescient, I saw this coming. In fact, it was not due to come out later
in November but we thought maybe we ought to get it out right now because
there are things in here that has applications to now. But there`s been a
lot of change as well.
MADDOW: Do you feel like we over-extrapolate from the Watergate example to
understand the current impeachment or do you feel like it does have –
BROKAW: Well, there`s separate and unequal in so many ways. Richard Nixon
was in office for a full year, when most of his staff was going to prison.
We have the tapes, we`re looking at it, and yet, they couldn`t quite get
the apparatus going.
But they were very meticulous about it. And when they finally got around
to the Supreme Court saying you`ve got to give up the tapes, by then a
bilateral position was on the Hill and ready to initiate impeachment. But
he, in fact, resigned before all of that happened.
The other thing is different then. We`re on the air two or three times a
day. We`re not now 24/7.
BROKAW: It wasn`t that kind of constant thing going on. Watching today
for what it`s worth I thought the most dramatic moment was that cheap shot
that the president made about her and her experience in Somalia.
I`ve been in Somalia. It`s one of the most dangerous places in the world.
It was the home of Black Hawk Down.
And for him to kind of throw that off, here`s a guy who goes home to Mar-a-
Lago at night, and she was out there in really tough places. But at the
same time you have to remember that impeachment is a procedure that the
rest of the country also has a voice in. And I think that this situation
now, it`s hard for a lot of people to kind of parse it, you know, what was
going on there, isn`t that how they always do business?
So my own judgment is I think there has to be one more hand in the cookie
jar coming out with a whole kind of – something or visible to everyone
else, and they know that he`s done something just dramatically wrong but
something against the best interest of this country.
MADDOW: And in terms of the way it`s playing out, obviously it`s early in
the process although we don`t know how early. We just heard Congressman
Himes saying that the aim to is to try to finish this entirely by the end
of this year. We`re already pretty deep in November. So, we don`t know
how long this process is going to go on for.
But we at least on this point have the Republicans not really defending the
president on the substance of what he did but instead complaining about
Adam Schiff, complaining about the means by which the inquiry is being
conducted. Are their parallels there in terms of Watergate, or is this a
new approach that the Republicans are taking in defense of the president?
BROKAW: Well, I think every time you have impeachment, it`s a new approach
because situations are different, circumstances are different. You look at
the Bill Clinton case, for example, President Nixon was going to be found
guilty, there`s no question about it, but it lasted a full year which is a
reminder that I keep making to people that he was able to hang in there
because a country doesn`t give up their presidents easily.
And this guy for whatever we think about him still has a loyal core out
there that will show up for these rallies. And the big, big change is what
we`re doing right here.
MADDOW: In terms of the frequency –
BROKAW: Twenty-four-seven, everybody`s got something to say and everybody
however inconsequential they may be has a place on that big, big billboard
and people kind of have to listen to it.
So, there`s always a lot of sorting out to do here. But I always believe
in the UFO theory, the unforeseeable will occur. And I don`t know quite
what that`s going to be, but we`re in for a long tumultuous time that`s
going to be a test of this country, quite honestly, about what they have in
mind for our future and for our system of governing. And I think everybody
has to think about that first.
MADDOW: Tom Brokaw is the author most recently of “The Fall of Richard
Nixon: A Reporter Remembers Watergate”, Tom, it`s honor to have you here.
BROKAW: It`s a pleasure.
MADDOW: Thanks, my friend.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Whoo, how was your day?
That`s going to do it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday when
I`m sure I`ll be just as overwhelmed.
But 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