Cabinet member wrongdoing. TRANSCRIPT: 9/24/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And American history turned a corner today.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: Yes.
O`DONNELL: We know the road we`re on. We know the name of the street.
It`s impeachment street.
We don`t know how far it goes. We don`t know where it ends.
MADDOW: Do you feel like, Lawrence, you have clarity about how the
Democrats are going to pursue this?
O`DONNELL: I do not. It`s not a version of this that we`ve seen before,
but I do believe they can work it out. I actually think the Pelosi
structure of this saying that all six committees are involved now in an
impeachment inquiry is designed to allow sharing of information from one
committee to another that otherwise might not be easy to do, especially
information from the intelligence committee to any other committee and the
ways and means committee if they have information will be in the form of
the Trump tax returns eventually.
So, it`s designed, I believe, to facilitate that, but ultimately the
impeachment committee is the House Judiciary Committee. There`s just no
constitutional way around that.
MADDOW: Yes. And there aren`t very many precedents in history for how to
do this sort of thing, it just hasn`t happened very many times. But
talking with Financial Services Committee Chairman Maxine Waters today,
it`s surprised with what you just said there, it surprised me to hear her
say she thinks this is going to happen very fast, that this is a short time
frame and that this is something that the committee chairs are working on
today, are working on tomorrow and are expected to be working on the rest
of the week, like it`s happening right away.
O`DONNELL: Well, it has to and it can. Both of those things are true.
And this new story, this new development that is driving impeachment now is
so clear and compartmentalized that it`s one of those stories that once you
get the information, you can work pretty quickly on it.
MADDOW: Right. There`s not much – you don`t have to dig too far. What`s
been publicly admitted to is kind of the bottom line.
O`DONNELL: We`ve seen a rolling confession by the president, Rachel. I
think on the theory that if President Trump says it publicly, it can`t be a
MADDOW: Yes. And so, now, he finally gets tested on that.
O`DONNELL: Yes, he found the end of that strategy.
MADDOW: Yes, thanks a lot, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Well, we are covering breaking news tonight, but we`re also
covering breaking history, and history is moving fast. It was a very bad
day in the House of Representatives for the president today with the
speaker formalizing the impeachment process, but in the Senate, it was just
as bad with Mitch McConnell agreeing to a unanimous consent request from
Chuck Schumer to pass a Senate resolution telling the president to release
the whistleblower`s report to the Senate and House Intelligence Committee.
So, Mitch McConnell voted for that. He allowed that to go through the
Senate, as did every other Republican in the Senate. It was unanimous. It
was a Chuck Schumer resolution, and the vote was unanimous. We`ll get
reactions to today`s events in the Senate from two United States senators
who are also presidential candidates.
Senator Kamala Harris will join us. She`s a member of the Senate
Intelligence Committee who will be meeting with the acting director of
national intelligence and the inspector general later this week. And
Senator Cory Booker will join us. He`s a member of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee. He knows what`s at stake for U.S. policy in Ukraine.
We`ll also be joined by members of the House of Representatives who have
just this week come out in support of an impeachment inquiry, including one
member who is a former CIA officer. And at the end of the hour tonight,
there is something very special. We`re going to take you inside the White
House Situation Room. That`s where presidential phone calls with leaders
of governments around the world are monitored. That`s where the note-
takers are. That`s who creates transcripts of those presidential phone
We will be joined by someone who was in charge of monitoring those phone
calls in the situation room when President Barack Obama was making and
receiving those phone calls. He`ll tell us what kind of records of those
phone calls should exist and could be made public.
O`DONNELL: The stonewall, the Republican stonewall in Congress that has
supported and defended Donald Trump at every turn throughout his
presidency, that stonewall finally came tumbling down today on the matter
of the whistleblower. A whistleblower has blown that stone wall down in
just seven days. One whistleblower has triggered a formal impeachment
Just one week ago, Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the
intelligence community, secretly notified the House and Senate Intelligence
Committees that the Trump administration was violating the law by refusing
to turn over a whistleblower complaint.
Tonight, Nancy Pelosi became the fourth speaker of the House in American
history to preside over an impeachment inquiry of the president of the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The president has admitted to asking the
president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically.
The actions of the Trump – the actions of the Trump presidency revealed
dishonorable fact of the president`s betrayal of his oath of office,
betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our
elections. Therefore, today, I`m announcing the House of Representatives
moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. I`m directing our six
committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: History is moving fast tonight on all fronts of this story. In
the House of Representatives, in the Senate and in the Trump administration
with the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, fighting
for his life legally tonight. The speaker of the House today repeatedly
accused Joseph Maguire of committing a crime without mentioning him by
name. She twice said this is a violation of law. Those were her words.
She was referring to Joseph Maguire`s refusal to deliver the
whistleblower`s complaint directly to Congress as the law requires him to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: The law is unequivocal. The DNI`s staff – it says the DNI,
director of national intelligence, shall provide Congress the full
whistleblower complaint. This Thursday, the acting DNI will appear before
the House Intelligence Committee. At that time, he must turn over the
whistleblower`s full complaint to the committee. He will have to choose
whether to break the law or honor his responsibility to the Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And tonight, in response, the acting director of national
intelligence Joseph Maguire, released a written statement saying: In light
of recent reporting on the whistleblower complaint, I want to make clear
that I have upheld my responsibility to follow the law every step of the
The law tells the director of national intelligence that he must deliver
the whistleblower complaint to Congress, and he has refused to do that.
The whistleblower`s attorney, Andrew Bakaj, wrote a letter to Joseph
Maguire saying: I am providing you formal notice of our intent to contact
the congressional intelligence committees directly.
That provoked a reply from Jason Klitenic, the general counsel of the
Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In that letter he said:
We – we have determined after consulting with the department of justice
that your client`s disclosure to the inspector general does not fall within
the statutory definition of an urgent concern.
That means Jason Klitenic has now put in writing that he personally joined
in this violation of law with Joseph Maguire. We have determined, he
The law does not allow him to determine anything about a whistleblower
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, then wrote a
letter to the whistleblower`s lawyer saying: In light of your notice of
intent to the acting director of national intelligence, the committee
requests a voluntary interview with your client on Thursday, September 26,
2019, in the afternoon, following the public testimony of Acting Director
Maguire before the committee.
Nancy Pelosi has been resisting, formalizing the impeachment process –
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.
Getting back to our Founders, in the darkest days of the American
Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote, the times have found us. The times found
them to fight for and establish our democracy. The times have found us
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight are: Democratic Congressman
Ben Ray Lujan of Mexico. He is the assistant speaker of the House of
Representatives and he is running for Senate in New Mexico.
Also joining us, Democratic Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.
She`s a former CIA officer and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
She and other six other national security Democrats authored an op-ed in
“The Washington Post” supporting an impeachment inquiry.
And Democratic Congresswoman Angie Craig of Minnesota, she came out last
night in support of an impeachment inquiry.
Congressman Lujan, let me start with you. You`re a member of the
leadership. You have been supportive of the impeachment inquiry. What was
your reading of the speaker`s decision-making process that got us to here?
REP. BEN RAY LUJAN (D-NM): Well, Lawrence, good to be with you tonight,
number one. Number two, everyone should understand the speaker always has
a plan. The speaker is someone that can see around the corner, that is
making sure that we`re making strong decisions.
But the speaker`s announcement today of moving forward with the impeachment
process, of making it abundantly clear that the six committees that have
jurisdiction and that are conducting investigations are now operating under
this umbrella helps us understand the magnitude of this moment.
O`DONNELL: Abigail Spanberger, let me ask you about some testimony that
the president, in effect, gave today that we now know is an impeachment
inquiry. He said this before the impeachment inquiry was formalized, but -
- and presidents don`t normally testify in impeachment inquiries. But
let`s listen to what he said today about withholding funding from Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as withholding funds,
those funds were paid. They were fully paid. But my complaint has always
been, and I`ll withhold again and I`ll withhold until such time as Europe
and other countries contribute to Ukraine, because they`re not doing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Spanberger, your reaction to that defense.
REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D-VA): Well, in that defense, he both said he
didn`t withhold and that he would withhold again in the future. It`s
contradictory. We know that funds were withheld and this is detrimental to
our national security.
These security assistance funds that we provide to other countries are
appropriated by Congress, part of larger programs, for stabilization
efforts, anti-corruption efforts, and our efforts to ensure and provide for
our own national security priorities in regions throughout the world. And
so, the fact that as the allegations are, the president would use this
money, this taxpayer dollars that is meant for security assistance as
leverage to get a foreign government to dig up dirt on an opponent, it is
just inconceivable for so many of us here in the House of Representatives.
O`DONNELL: Representative Spanberger, you have just decided to support
impeachment on the basis of this incident. Why was this the final straw
SPANBERGER: So, I have been very clear that these allegations, the notion
that the president would ask a foreign country to provide information, dig
up dirt on a political adversary and to use foreign assistance, military
assistance dollars to do it, it is – it is incomprehensible, it is
absolutely a violation of the president`s oath, and these stand-alone
allegations as they are drawn up are for me what it is that I`m focused on.
I have been clear in stating that if they are true, that they are an
impeachable – they represent an impeachable offense. And so for me, I`m
looking at these allegations in an isolated manner, frankly, because they
are so egregious, they represent a tremendous threat to our national
security. And I think they are allegations that we need to deal with
fully, and that was the purpose of our op-ed.
O`DONNELL: And, Representative Angie Craig, like Representative
Spanberger, you are from a district that was a Republican district. You
flipped it. You both flipped your districts for the Democrats.
You are the kind of member of the House, you`re both the kinds of members
of the House that the impression has been – Nancy Pelosi has been
protecting you by not letting impeachment be formalized in the House of
Representatives because for representatives in swing districts like yours
that could be politically difficult.
You`ve come out in favor of impeachment also because of this incident. Why
was this your final straw?
REP. ANGIE CRAIG (D-MN): Well, the speaker has given us the freedom to do
what we think is right for our own congressional districts, and I`ve been
listening to the folks in my district over the last several months. I`ve
wanted to be disciplined. I`ve wanted to listen to the facts and use due
But the facts changed on Sunday. The facts are so crystal clear. The
president, ironically, is the one who shared them with us, the fact that he
pressured a foreign government to interfere with a political rival for the
benefit of his own election in 2020, and the fact that those funds to
Ukraine were being withheld in advance of that.
This isolated incident alone was enough for me to say we have to put this
country over our politics, and I hope that many of my Republican colleagues
will join me in doing that.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Lujan, we have reports now that President Trump is
going to release a transcript of the phone call and that the administration
will eventually possibly this week, by the end of the week, release the
actual inspector general`s report of the whistleblower`s report.
What is your reaction – we still don`t know exactly what these things will
look like when they`re released, whether they will be heavily redacted or
what these documents are actually going to be when they`re released, but
that is the developing situation as it is tonight.
LUJAN: Well, Lawrence, it`s absolutely essential that the full report that
was made available by the whistleblower as reported from the inspector
general to the director of national intelligence be released to the chairs
of the intelligence committee. Not only is it essential, it`s the law.
The law requires for that report to be turned over.
So, I don`t know what the president plans to do turning over transcripts.
I think it`s absolutely incumbent that we get word for word everything we
can get our hands on, but what is actually expected as the law requires is
for the whistleblower`s report to be turned over, and that should be turned
over no later than Thursday. It should be turned over now.
O`DONNELL: And, Representative Spanberger, there is new reporting in the
“Washington Post” tonight, breaking news reporting about the strains inside
the Trump administration with Rudy Giuliani basically having this portfolio
to argue this case, to lobby, to try to influence Ukraine to investigate
Joe Biden, Joe Biden`s son. And the state department was upset about this,
John Bolton was upset about this, and apparently these tensions are part of
what is delivering some of the – inside the administration sourcing that
the news media is working with.
SPANBERGER: So the tensions that you mention, I think, are easily
definable. They are the tensions that exist between those that are working
potentially to uphold the law, and those who are looking to abuse their
position. The fact there would be State Department officers uncomfortable
with the type of actions that Rudy Giuliani was allegedly taking, I think,
is absolutely what I would expect of our career diplomats who are focused
on the mission of advocating for American interests abroad, protecting
American interests abroad, and anyone who swore an oath to uphold the
O`DONNELL: And, Representative Craig, also in the “Washington Post”
tonight, they are indicating that Rudy Giuliani was off on his own in a way
that they were trying to figure out what he was doing was actually by
reading newspapers and watching TV of Rudy Giuliani`s statements about what
his involvement in Ukraine might be. They had no way within the
administration, apparently, of finding out what it was.
CRAIG: Well, this gets to the heart of the issue with the president, and
that is he has put his own personal interests by nature of putting his
personal attorney in the middle of all of this. And that`s exactly why we
couldn`t stand on the sidelines and allow this continued behavior – this
behavior to continue by the president and his personal attorney.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Lujan, the Senate unanimous consent agreement today
I think was a surprise to everyone, that the Senate went on record
unanimously, saying that the whistleblower complaint should be delivered to
the intelligence committees immediately. The House of Representatives,
there`s indications from the leadership that you might vote on something
LUJAN: That`s correct, we`re expecting a vote on something similar
tomorrow. But here`s the thing as well, Lawrence. While I appreciate the
urgency that Leader McConnell listened to the direction of Leader Schumer
to bring that resolution to the Senate floor, and every Republican voted
there in favor as well as every Democrat, the silence of House Democrats is
No one is coming forward to talk about the concern associated with the fact
that the law is being broken. The director of national intelligence
refuses to comply with the law, and I think that`s why there is such
urgency to bring this resolution forward and to continue to make progress.
I certainly hope my House Republican colleagues have the courage of the
Senate Republicans to do what`s right and to demand that this report be
turned over immediately.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger,
Congresswoman Angie Craig, thank you all for starting us off tonight. We
really appreciate it.
SPANBERGER: Thank you.
LUJAN: Thanks for having us.
CRAIG: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Well, as we say, things went badly for the president in the
Democratic-controlled House of Representatives with the speaker`s
announcement of the formal impeachment inquiry today. But they went just
as badly for the president today in the Republican-controlled United States
Senate where Mitch McConnell agreed to Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer`s
request for unanimous consent for a resolution, saying that the
whistleblower complaint should be provided to the House and Senate
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Madam President, as if in legislative session,
I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate
consideration of S Resolution 325 introduced by Mr. Schumer and submitted
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Stipulating that our objective here is simply
to conduct the kind of bipartisan oversight of intelligence matters that
the committee has successfully conducted in the past. I have no objection
to the senator`s request.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Senator Kamala Harris. She is a
member of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Intelligence
Committee. She`s also now a Democratic candidate for president.
Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Please explain to us what Mitch McConnell was up to there today, actually
agreeing to unanimous consent with Chuck Schumer?
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Lawrence, as you
said, I serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee. And I must tell you,
there is something special, actually, about that committee in that,
specifically, no televisions, no reporters, no cell phones. And what ends
up happening in my experience is that members of the United States Senate
walk in that door and really do put country first and understand, for the
most part, what we all should appreciate, which is that on matters of
national security, the approach should not even be bipartisan. It should
And I`d like to believe that that is what motivated Mitch McConnell. And -
- but I think, ultimately, it is because at least the members of the Senate
Intelligence Committee thus far have conducted themselves in a way that
recognizes that we need to get to the bottom of something like this. This
is literally a matter of national security.
O`DONNELL: Now, with – if these – if the inspector general`s report is
referred, delivered directly to your committee, both of the intelligence
committees, does that mean that those committees must hold that report and
it cannot be made public because it`s in the custody of the intelligence
HARRIS: Well, if it – if it contains classified information, then that is
correct. But I`ll know better when we have the hearing on Thursday, but if
there is information that is in that report that is not classified and has
been deemed to not be classified, then absolutely, it should be shared with
the American public.
O`DONNELL: A lot of letters flying around Washington today from the
whistleblower`s lawyer, the DNI`s counsel.
And now, the Chairman Burr of your committee and Senator Warner have
written a bipartisan letter to the whistleblower`s lawyer, saying: We are
writing to request that you make your client available –
HARRIS: Right, that`s right.
O`DONNELL: – for a closed bipartisan interview –
O`DONNELL: – with committee counsel no later than Friday of this week.
So, that would be an interview with committee counsel as the first thing
that they would like to do.
O`DONNELL: Do you think that is likely to happen? It`s a very fast-moving
week, but by the end of this week, do you think this whistleblower will be
speaking to the intelligence committees of the House and the Senate?
HARRIS: Well, from all accounts, the whistleblower, she or he, wants to
participate, and again, I think that we should all be heartened to know
that the Republican chairman, the Democratic co-chairman of the Senate
Intelligence Committee are joined in this request, understanding that –
again, Lawrence, look what we`re talking about. The president of the
United States has confessed that he is – that he is attempting to collude
with a foreign government to yet again manipulate the elections process of
our country, and in particular, the election of who will be the next
president of the United States.
And, you know, I tell you, Donald Trump is probably the least patriotic of
any president we`ve ever had. And there should be – and I`m very
heartened to see that there is – a bipartisan approach to this issue, an
issue of concern, and frankly, an issue of outrage, which is the president
of the United States engaging in this kind of conduct.
Clearly, Donald Trump does not understand that his responsibility as
president is also as commander-in-chief. But repeatedly we have seen
Donald Trump as a so-called commander-in-chief, because I don`t think he
really fully understands the job, he takes the word of the Russian
president over the word of the American intelligence community. He takes
the word of a North Korean dictator over the word of the American
intelligence community. He takes the word of a Saudi prince over the word
of the Senate intelligence community.
And I`m, again, heartened to see that leaders in the United States Senate
who serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee are approaching this with a
bipartisan spirit, understanding again that, fundamentally, this is about
America`s national security.
O`DONNELL: Speaker Pelosi repeatedly today in her statement said – used
the phrase “violation of law”. She said that`s a violation of law.
O`DONNELL: She was referring specifically to the conduct of Acting
Director of National Intelligence Maguire. Do you agree that he violated
HARRIS: Well, what I do believe is that there are many members of this
administration, starting with the president, who believes that he is above
the law, and no one in our system of democracy and in our system of justice
is above the law, including the president of the United States. And there
must be accountability and consequence for behaviors that are clearly
against the law. And that includes for the president.
And I applaud Speaker Pelosi for indicating today that impeachment
proceedings will begin. The American people have a right to know that the
branch of government that exists to put a check on an abuse of power by the
executive, that the United States Congress that we are prepared to take
action to require accountability and consequence for the abuse of power by
O`DONNELL: What is the proper accountability for an acting director of
national intelligence who refuses to comply with the law? It`s not the
president who is holding onto that inspector general`s report. It is
Director Maguire who is holding onto it.
HARRIS: Well, I`ll know better after Thursday`s hearing. But there is no
question that the acting director is violating his responsibility to give
account to the United States Congress.
We have a very specific and important role of oversight. And any request
made by the United States Congress, in particular, the Intelligence
Committees of the House or the Senate, must be complied with by the
director of national intelligence. And again, we have yet another
appointee of Donald Trump`s who thinks that their power is greater than
that of the United States Congress and there should be consequence, and
we`ll see what that is.
O`DONNELL: What would you say to – not just this whistleblower who may be
watching you right now, but any other possible whistleblowers who are
watching the experience of this whistleblower?
O`DONNELL: Should they be frightened by what`s happening to this
whistleblower? Or encouraged at the light that is coming in the direction
of this whistleblower?
HARRIS: What I am saying is you are a true patriot, that you are
demonstrating an extraordinary amount of courage to stand up for the
integrity of our democracy. And that the – that the United States
Congress stands behind you and with you, and as demonstrated again by the
fact that there is a bipartisan push to give support and to give respect to
the words and the information that the whistleblower has.
And so, I think that this should be actually a very clear signal that all
are welcome who have information that may be relevant to our nation`s
security. And that they really should be compelled and feel a sense of
patriotic duty to come forward, because of course the stakes are very high
when we`re talking about the president of the United States colluding with
a foreign government leader against our democracy.
You know, and, Lawrence, I can`t say it enough. Donald Trump doesn`t
understand. That`s not his White House, it`s our White House. It`s the
And any act that he takes that is against the interest of the people of the
United States must be aired, there must be transparency around it, and he
must be held accountable.
O`DONNELL: There is a foreign policy issue at the base of this story that
is getting largely ignored as we talk about the other elements of it. But
what should be our policy toward Ukraine at this moment in their history?
HARRIS: Well, there is a lot there. I mean, what we need to do is
obviously, first of all, deal with the fact that the president should not
be bargaining what otherwise would be aid in exchange for action that helps
him politically. We should follow through with our commitment as a country
to Ukraine, around what they need in terms of humanitarian aid and
assistance, what they need in terms of fighting for democracy and for the
sovereignty that they deserve.
And as we go forward, we`re going to have to, obviously, probably repair
relationships around the globe in terms of what this president has done,
which is to suggest that our relationships with any foreign nation are
transactional based on what that nation can do for the best political
interest of the President of the United States.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, MSNBC: Senator Kamala Harris, thank you very much
for joining us on this important night. Really appreciate it.
HARRIS: Thank you Lawrence, thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Presidential candidate, Cory Booker will
join us. He is a member of the Senate foreign relations committee. That
committee is investigating the hold the Trump administration ports on
financial aid to Ukraine. Senator Cory Booker joins us next.
O`DONNELL: Today all ten Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee called
on Republican Chairman Lindsey Graham to obtain and investigate the
whistleblower reports and hold a hearing with Attorney General William
Barr. In a letter today the senators wrote we have a constitutional
responsibility to determine the reasons for the whistleblowers report and
why it is being withheld from Congress.
We therefore ask that you convene hearings to address the facts underlying
the whistle blower`s report. The administration`s refusal to provide that
report to Congress in contravention of the law and any legal advice
provided by the Department of Justice or the White House Counsel on these
matters and joining us now is one of the co-signers of that letter,
Democratic Senator Cory Booker, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee
and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Booker is also a democratic candidate for President. Senator, thank
you very much for joining us.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Lawrence, it`s good to be
O`DONNELL: This - so this goes to the question of what did William Barr do
in this process. The law provides no moment at which the Director of
National Intelligence should consult the Justice Department about what to
do and yet that happened.
BOOKER: The law is very clear. They use the word that is we know in
Congress very well, it`s the word not `may`, it is `shall.` Nancy Pelosi
was a 100 percent right tonight when she said they did not abide by the
law. This is clear.
Congress should be in possession of that report and those who have not done
it to me acted not only in contrary to the law but given the subject matter
here, this is a moment where all of us as Americans even those of us who
you injured by Donald Trump, want him to be on, this is we need to take a
sober pause and understand that this must be seen through the lens of
And what is at stake for our country right now. I`ve visited Ukraine as a
member of the Foreign Relations Committee. I`ve met with their soldiers who
are relying on the aid of this country, who are on in the Donbass region in
eastern Ukraine who are under attack by the Russians who had already
This is a hot war going on in Europe where there are specific American
interests in that region and to understand that the gravity of what the
Russians are doing, not just to Ukraine but talk to Latvians, Estonians,
Lithuanians. Talk to the mischief when I was in Poland, this time with our
military officials who called it a hybrid war we`re in right now.
With the Russians working, whether it`s the hot aspects of it in the
Donbass region in Ukraine or the last time in the Senate I went into the
bunker we have to read intelligence reports about what the Russians are
doing to interfere with our democracy right now.
They are actively attacking the United States. Congress is working in a
bipartisan manner to give the critical resources, I saw with my own eyes,
heard from generals in the field that that they need to defend themselves
to protect their lives, to serving American interests.
And this is a President United States, forget partisanship or party, the
President of United States was withholding aid in a bipartisan Congress
wanted to send not for any national security reason but for petty political
attempt to yet again undermine America`s elections.
This is insidious and it must be dealt with in a patriotic bipartisan
manner. This cannot be acceptable in America.
O`DONNELL: What happened in the Senate today? Why did Mitch McConnell go on
with this unanimous consent request?
BOOKER: I`m not sure and I`ve stopped long ago trying to figure out the
mind of Mitch McConnell but I can`t imagine a moment where Chuck Schumer
stood on the Senate floor and requested unanimous consent, someone has to
come to the floor and object.
And I can imagine a moment where someone comes to the floor and objects to
the Senate having access to a report that the law says it should have, it
kind of puts you on a difficult footing. I`m not sure if all the
Republicans and clearly what we`re seeing now the Senate intelligence
committee that there are many Republicans that agree we should have this
So the more I think about it, the more I understand that this was perhaps
the right thing for Mitch McConnell to do for a number of the reasons that
are part of that man`s calculus and how he deals in the senate.
O`DONNELL: Could it also be part of the Presidential campaign in the
following way. Mitch McConnell knows this is actually coming up. It cannot
be stopped. The sooner it comes out for Mitch McConnell, the better because
a year from now say, or in the middle of the Republican convention, he
doesn`t want his nominee hit with something like this.
Then this gives him time to make a plan for different nominee if he has to.
BOOKER: You know, Mitch McConnell is definitely one of those people you
know when the senate is playing three dimensional chess. And I`m sure there
are layers of their thinking of this and forgive me for not thinking on
those layers because I think this is a moment where politics should be
damned and we should sit, understanding that we will be judged by history.
What did we do when a United States President was betraying his office,
betraying Congress, betraying the self - the national security interests of
this country to yet pursue attacks on a political opponent. This to me is
very dramatic. We are in a very dramatic moment in American history and we
should be clear enough to let patriotism be the day, not partisanship.
O`DONNELL: Has the President in effect confessed now publicly to a high
crime when he said today, when he talked about, I would withhold again
meaning I did withhold.
BOOKER: Yes, to me it just seemed another moment that is consistent with
his past of reckless defiance of our laws and our norms, starting back when
he was on the campaign where he said, hey Russians, you know, investigate -
get the emails - which is exactly the criminal activity that went on in
stealing the emails of Secretary Clinton.
So this is not out of character with him and I think again, this is yet
another reason why the House of Representatives and Nancy Pelosi did what
they did today, it was too much of a flaunting of our constitution and of
our national security by a President that clearly is in reckless disregard
for our nation`s best intent.
O`DONNELL: And Adam Schiff tonight saying that the President in this phone
call does not have to specifically say, I won`t give you the money if you
don`t do the investigation. Adam Schiff`s point being that of course, it
can be implied. Let`s listen to what the Chairman of your Committee of the
Judiciary Committee said with Sean Hannity tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R): Tomorrow when we read the transcript, is there any
evidence at all that President Trump threatened to take it away from the
Ukraine unless they investigate Biden or do his–
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW: The answer here is no,
Senator. What are you hearing?
GRAHAM: I don`t know but I`ll tell you this, if the answer is yes, I`ll be
on your show very disappointed with our President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: What would you say to your Chairman?
BOOKER: I agree with Adam Schiff. We all know how this works. If he was
taking actions and the evidence is mounting that he was specifically taking
action to deny aid. I`ve heard a number of things from commercial
colleagues today that give me great suspicion this is what he was doing.
If the evidence is mounting that he actually took those actions and then
eight times in a conversation kept pressing this point, I think you`re
beginning to have a refutable picture of this President acting against the
national interest and trying to do something that is thuggish frankly when
it comes to the national stage that is a defiling of the presidency, of
that office, of our country and he should be held to account.
O`DONNELL: Let me ask you something about running a Presidential campaign
in the midst of this kind of atmosphere. A couple of minutes of what we
discussed here tonight was your view from a Presidential perspective about
an important foreign policy situation that you would inherit as President,
So that that was a good serious presidential level conversation about that.
There are 10 other presidential issues I know you`d like to discuss, we`re
not going to. We`re not going to talk about your criminal justice policies
tonight. We`re not going to talk about any of - any of your economic
We - our time is devoted to this. Does this make running for President now
more difficult challenge that it would in a flatter news environment.
BOOKER: You know I think one of the greatest privileges I had in my life is
to serve in the United States Senate and to be able to serve my country
especially in times like this, in times of natural disaster, in times of
crisis, to have the privilege of being there to fight for people.
And so there are individual ambitions, there are campaigns going on but you
have to separate those two and do your job. So today, this is a painfully
historic day in many ways the fourth time in the history of our Republic
that this has happened and for good reason.
So I`m sitting in the saddle, I`m doing my job as United States Senator.
The Presidential campaign will, whatever will happen will happen but this
is one of those times that politics, partisanship, that all of those things
should be put aside for the purpose that we all have.
And I hope that first and foremost, we all are patriotic Americans who when
times are tough, we will focus in on what`s important and do our jobs.
O`DONNELL: President Trump couldn`t do what he does without the staff who
does it for him. Don McGahn showed that. He ordered Don McGahn to fire
Robert Mueller and Don McGahn didn`t do it. This Director of National
Intelligence has done what the President wants.
He could have gone the other way. McGuire could have gone the other way.
The Justice Department has done what the President wants on this whistle
blower report. What should be the penalties for the people who don`t
approach this work the way Don McGahn did and refuse to do the illegal
things that the President wants them to do.
BOOKER: Well, let me just say number one, if you`re breaking the law,
you`re breaking the law and you should be held accountable and I think that
that is something that we should be looking at at every step of the way of
holding people accountable because every time we don`t, we`re creating a
perverse incentive in the future for people to act in this way.
But I just want to say and I`ve seen this, I`ve been saying this from the
beginning of the Trump administration. Those people who are enabling him,
who assuage their conscious, witness the kind of things he does on a
regular basis and we`ve heard the reports.
I`ve heard your reporting. The kind of things this person does to do moral
vandalism in that office, those people that are enabling him, there is a
cold, frigid place under the historical eye. They will go down in history
as despicable actors who have enabled one of the President`s who is doing
some of the worst things to that office in the entire history of our
The truth comes out. The truth about Donald Trump will come out. That is
why we will defeat him and 2020 if he`s still there. But these people, I
have a - I have a very low regard for people who know he`s doing wrong but
still enable him, defend him and in many ways empower him to remain in that
O`DONNELL: Senator Cory Booker, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Please come back. We can - on a segment we can devote to your actual
BOOKER: I appreciate that.
O`DONNELL: Admissions and policies, we`re going to try to get one of those
segments in one of these nights when we–
BOOKER: This is what`s important and thank you very much.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much, Senator. So who was listening in on
President Trump`s phone call that is now the subject of a whistle blower
complaint. How many people were listening in? Who took notes? Was it taped?
The man who knows what the answers to all of those questions should be is
Larry Pfeiffer who used to listen in on President Barack Obama`s phone
calls with foreign leaders and Larry Pfeiffer will be our next guest.
O`DONNELL: President Trump says that tomorrow he will release the
“complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript of his conversation
with President Zelensky of Ukraine.” When President Richard Nixon released
transcripts of White House conversations, they turned out to be grossly
What will be released tomorrow? Will it be accurate? Will it be a
transcript? Or will it just be notes about the conversation? Or will it be
just a summary of the conversation? The White House Situation Room monitors
Presidential conversations with other Presidents and Prime Ministers and
dictators around the world.
Larry Pfeiffer used to run the Situation Room during the Obama
administration and he used to listen in on those phone calls with President
Obama and prepare the written records of those phone calls. Larry Pfeiffer
is exactly who we want to hear from tonight about what we should expect
Larry Pfeiffer will join us and enlighten us after this final break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We cannot trust the administration with respect to
anything that it produces and so there are a couple issues here. There is
the issue of whether whatever transcript they provide is the only
transcript of this conversation, whether there are other read outs of that
conversation and whether they cherry picked and picked the best to read out
of the conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Larry Pfeiffer. He was the Chief
of Staff to the Director of the CIA during the Bush administration from
2006 to 2009 and then he went on to become the Director of the White House
Situation Room for President Obama.
He listened in on President Obama`s phone calls with heads of state and
prepared the written records of those phone calls. Larry Pfeiffer, thank
you very much for joining us tonight. You just heard what Adam Schiff said.
What would you - how would you advise Adam Schiff in evaluating what is
released tomorrow? What can we expect to be released tomorrow?
LARRY PFEIFFER, FMR DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM: Thank you
Lawrence. Situation room helps set up, monitor and writes up the
transcripts of the phone calls. At least historically, that`s what they`ve
done. I`m not from the Trump White House. I can`t say whether they`ve
changed the procedures since I was there.
The transcripts are finalized by a member of the NSC directorate staff,
responsible for the call. In this case it would be the European
directorate. That becomes the final transcript. If that is what is
released, I`d like to think that it will be as accurate a transcript as
they could have.
If it appears to be anything less than accurate, there are those original
rough transcripts that were done by the Situation Room staff.
O`DONNELL: So there are no recordings of the phone calls?
PFEIFFER: Not unless again procedures have changed in the last few years
but when I arrived, that was one of my first questions when I heard this
elaborate monitoring procedure and transcription procedure we had.
My first question was why aren`t we just recording these calls and I was
told that, that was something that we had stopped doing in the mid 1970s so
I didn`t push the issue after that.
O`DONNELL: Yes, after the Nixon tapes brought down the President.
O`DONNELL: So these are hand written notes that people are - how many
people are taking the notes as the speakers are talking?
PFEIFFER: So normally on a good day, I would assign three people to listen
on the phone call, they sit there with their keyboard with headphones on
and they would just hammer away at those keys.
Those three individuals at the end of the call get together, they compare
the transcripts because one person may have heard something, the other
person didn`t or understood something the other person didn`t. They would
then create a final working transcript that would be provided then as I
mentioned before to the Directorate, somebody who probably has a little
deeper expertise on the topics being discussed to make final corrections.
The final memo that would be issued, it could vary from call to call, it
could vary from administration to administration but it could be everything
from a verbatim transcript, much like what we had produced from the
situation room, all the way to as you mentioned before a summary, sometimes
even a short summary, two or three sentence summary of the phone call. It
O`DONNELL: Do other countries record the phone call and do we know if the
other country is recording the phone call.
PFEIFFER: We don`t specifically know. We don`t ask. I do not know of one
instance when a foreign head of state recorded a phone call much to our
surprise but we generally expect that it`s possible. So it could - it could
be done but it`s hard for me to say with certainty.
O`DONNELL: When you see what`s released tomorrow, will you be able to make
a judgment about the likely accuracy of what you`re looking at?
PFEIFFER: You know if - if one reads it and it sounds like people talking
with the starts and stops and the changes in direction in a conversation,
just those natural pauses like I`m doing right now as I talk to you, I
think - I think one could one could surmise it`s pretty darn accurate.
I think if it reads more like elegant prose, it`s probably something that`s
been massaged a bit and I think if it`s just you know, short summations, if
I`m - if I`m receiving this transcript, I`d probably want to see more than
just a summary.
O`DONNELL: Larry Pfeiffer, can`t wait to get your reaction to what is
released tomorrow. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really
PFEIFFER: Thank you Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s Last Word. The Eleventh Hour with Brian
Williams starts now.
ANNOUNCER: Breaking tonight, the House Speaker wheels the power of the
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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