The Washington Post reports. TRANSCRIPT: 9/26/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And I was speeding down the hallway when I had to stop in front of a TV
when you were reading this breaking news from “The New York Times” tonight
about the preliminary attempts the whistleblower made to get this story
reported within a whistleblower forum before writing this very detailed
document that we finally saw today.
And there are so many extraordinary details on it, including the part of
you read about William Barr being notified about this very early on.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: Yes.
O`DONNELL: And in “The New York Times” reporting about that, it says a
member of the Justice Department went to the White House to read what is
now being called the transcript of the phone call. And then went back to
the Justice Department and briefed William Barr about it. That means
William Barr was briefed that his name is in the transcript of this phone
O`DONNELL: – repeatedly.
O`DONNELL: Right off the bat.
MADDOW: And that the central claim that the whistleblower was concerned
about, the president imploring this foreign country to help him out with
some dirt on his country in the 2020 election. That central scheme is one
in which the president implicated Attorney General William Barr multiple
times in that call and Barr knew about it and Barr nevertheless didn`t
recuse himself and allowed his justice department to get involved and say,
definitely don`t hand this over to Congress. And yes, we`ll look at this
as a criminal matter. And we think that presidents can`t be investigated
for criminal matters so file this in the circular file.
I mean, Barr`s involvement here is going to be the way he goes down in
history. It is just amazing.
O`DONNELL: You know, I was on my way to Austin at dawn tomorrow to
participate in the Texas Tribune Festival down there.
O`DONNELL: I`m going to be here tomorrow night, Rachel. I`m going to get
to Austin on Saturday. I think I`d just better be here. Don`t you have
that feeling? Like it`s kind of –
MADDOW: I mean, the news is happening in Texas, too, but I feel like I
don`t think we can do it, if you could pan down and see my desk right now
and see the 40 different piles of paper that have emerged on my desk over
the course of this hour. I know how difficult it is to get –
O`DONNELL: Yes, they told me I could do the show from some garage in
Austin but I think we`re better off staying right here, only right here.
MADDOW: That`s wise.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: But what happens when an impeachment investigation of the
president finds the smoking gun on the first official day of the
impeachment investigation? That`s where we are tonight. The smoking gun
and the impeachment investigation of president Nixon that forced him to
resign his office was discovered a year into the impeachment investigation
which was actually a year and a half after Congress first began
investigating the Nixon White House.
House committees were already investigating Donald Trump and the Trump
administration. But Nancy Pelosi officially started the impeachment
inquiry on Tuesday night. And on Wednesday, the House of Representatives
had the smoking gun – the record of President Trump`s phone call with the
president of Ukraine.
And what we`re now seeing is that getting the smoking gun on day one puts
an impeachment investigation on the fastest track we have ever seen for an
impeachment investigation, and today`s hearing in the House Intelligence
Committee was the first hearing in that impeachment investigation, under
that official impeachment investigation umbrella. And it has the
president`s allies shaking.
Gabe Sherman who literally wrote the book about inside Fox News that was
recently turned into the Showtime mini-series, “The Loudest Voice”, is
reporting tonight that former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is telling the
owners of Fox News, the Murdoch family, to prepare for the end of the Trump
era. Gabe Sherman will join us with his reporting at the end of the hour.
And we will be on the fast track to impeachment for the rest of this hour.
We will be joined by two jurors in the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump
in the United States Senate, if that`s where the impeachment process ends
up. Two senators who are on the Senate Judiciary Committee which has no
formal role in the impeachment but could conduct investigative hearings of
And we will be joined by a team of experts who have been guiding us through
this story for over a week now, including a former inspector general who
has covered situations like this in his job before.
We`ll also be joined by Larry Pfeiffer. He`s back with us. He was in
charge of handling the transcripts for President Barack Obama`s phone calls
with the leaders of foreign governments. We`ll get his reaction to what we
learned today, and the whistleblower`s report of what that to the record of
President Trump`s phone call with the president of Ukraine.
Tonight, we now know what the first article of impeachment against
President Donald J. Trump will be. And we know as of tonight, the
president has no defense to that article of impeachment because no defense
of the president`s conduct was presented by Republicans today in the House
Intelligence Committee hearing. And that is by far the most important
thing that did not happen in that hearing today.
The president was not defended in that hearing. Republicans defended the
witness, the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire.
Some of the Republicans on the committee took expected swipes at Democrats,
but they did not defend the conduct of the president of the United States
that was the subject of today`s hearing.
Republican Congressman Mike Turner has always been a staunch defender of
Donald Trump. Until today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): I`ve read the transcript of the conversation with
the president and the president of the Ukraine. Concerning that
conversation, I want to say, president, this is not OK. That conversation
is not OK. And I think it is disappointing to the American public when
they read the transcript.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That conversation is not OK. Not OK? How not OK was that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The president of the United States has betrayed
his oath of office, betrayed his oath to defend our national security and
betrayed his oath to defend our Constitution. For yesterday, we were
presented with a record of a call between the president of the United
States and the president of Ukraine in which the president, our president,
sacrificed our national security and our Constitution for his personal,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And not one Republican member of the House Intelligence
Committee today said Donald Trump did not betray his oath of office. Not
one of them.
They did not say Chairman Schiff is wrong. President Trump did not betray
his oath of office. They did not say, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was wrong on
Tuesday when she announced an official impeachment investigation because as
she put it, the president betrayed his oath of office.
(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 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Republicans and the Republican staff had 48 hours to write
their speeches for today`s hearing condemning Nancy Pelosi for saying the
president betrayed his oath of office and not one of them did that. Not
The Republicans have no defense for what the president said on the phone to
President Zelensky of Ukraine. So, Donald Trump can now spend his first
night in the White House facing the absolute certainty that he will be
impeached by the House of Representatives because the Democrats this week
were already united on the fastest track to impeachment that we have ever
seen after the sudden revelation of damning evidence against the president.
And today, Democrats discovered that House Republicans have no defense of
Donald Trump`s conduct with the president of Ukraine. There will be more
hearings. There will be more witnesses. There will be more questions.
But the die is cast.
Donald Trump will become the third president in history impeached by the
House of Representatives, because nothing in the upcoming hearings can
change a word that Donald Trump said on that phone call to the president of
Ukraine. The inspector general of the intelligence committee believes
there is evidence on that phone call that Donald Trump committed a federal
crime, the crime of soliciting help from a foreign country for his re-
In their discussion with reporters at the United Nations yesterday, much
was made of the question of did Donald Trump pressure the president of
Ukraine? The president of Ukraine said he did not feel pushed to which
Donald Trump that, in other words, no pressure. The problem for Donald
Trump is, pressure is legally irrelevant. The law the inspector general
cited said it is unlawful for a person to solicit help from a foreign
country for an American political campaign.
The word “pressure” does not appear in that law. The word in the law is
“solicit”. Unfortunately, most of the news media is falling for the Trump
frail of the issue and using the word pressure in their coverage of the
phone call as if pressure matters. And that is the wrong frame for the
crime that the inspector general is concerned about. It is a crime to ask
for campaign help from a foreign person or a foreign country, even if you
ask politely, even if you ask respectfully.
And the record of the phone call shows Donald Trump asked. I would like
you to do us a favor though – those words have now become the most famous
words of the Trump presidency, because that is how Donald Trump began his
request for help in his re-election campaign from the president of the
Ukraine. Illegal help.
And then the president went on and on and on about wanting the president of
Ukraine to order an investigation of Joe Biden and Joe Biden`s son.
There`s a lot of talk about Biden`s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution
on a lot of people want to find out about that.
So whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden
went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution. So if you can look
into it. It sounds horrible to me.
And that now sounds horrible to most Americans. It sounds like a crime.
It even sounds like an abuse of power, if not a crime.
It definitely sounds like a violation of the president`s oath of office.
And it sounds horrible enough to everyone in Congress who has taken an oath
to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States
against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That none of them, not even the
Republicans are defending those words that Donald Trump said, about
investigating Joe Biden to the president of Ukraine.
It takes 218 votes to impeach the president in the House of
Representatives. The Democrats already have 223 members of the House who
support an impeachment investigation of the president based on this phone
call alone. And tonight, “The Washington Post” is reporting that some
unnamed Democratic members of the House and Democratic staff that, quote,
impeachment articles could be ready for a House vote around Thanksgiving.
Leading off our fast track discussion of the fast track impeachment process
tonight are Larry Pfeiffer, the former director of the White House
Situation Room for President Obama. He listened in President Obama`s phone
calls with heads of state and prepared written records of those phone
calls. He is also former chief of staff to the director of the CIA.
And Ned Price, a former CIA analyst and former senior director and
spokesperson for the National Security Council in the Obama administration.
He`s an MSNBC national security contributor.
Larry, let me start with you. We got your read of the so-called
transcript, the record of the phone call last night. It all made sense to
you. It looked like the kind of thing you`ve seen before.
What about what you`ve learned from the whistleblower`s report that was
released this morning?
LARRY PFEIFFER, WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM FORMER DIRECTOR: So the
whistleblower`s report, it looks like something written by someone with a
pretty strong analytic mind. Someone trained in the analytic craft. It`s
well-sourced, it`s well-written, it is logically lays out – it lays out
this compelling story.
Unlike a lot of whistleblower complaints, this person does not appear to be
a crack pot or a lunatic or a whack-a-doodle. This is somebody who perhaps
is leading a group of people who were involved in interagency review of the
Ukrainian policy. And perhaps drew the short straw. Perhaps volunteered
to represent the group`s viewpoint on what is going on out of a sense of
O`DONNELL: Larry, what about the details whistleblower reveals about how
the record of this phone call was treated after the fact with White House
lawyers ordering people to move it into a high security area?
PFEIFFER: A number of very unusual aspects of that. Number one, very
unusual for the White House lawyers to be making a call about
classification or about storing something on a more secure system.
Secondly, that system is a system designed to hold the most secret aspects
of our intelligence business, covert action plans and policies, sensitive
reconnaissance developments, very sensitive diplomatic initiatives.
The – could there be phone calls stored in that database? Yes. If a
world leader was talking to the president and they were talking about a
covert action plan that we were relying on a foreign government to support,
yes. A phone conversation about that would be appropriately classified and
put in that database.
This phone conversation was barely secret. It was very easily
declassified. Putting it in that database is an affront to the standards
and care with which the intelligence community takes on that very sensitive
O`DONNELL: And, Ned Price, I want to give you kind of a wide open shot
here at what you learned today from the whistleblower`s report which was
released this morning, which feels like at this point, a couple weeks ago.
Also, the intelligence committee hearing.
NED PRICE, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Lawrence, I think I would
follow on what Larry was saying. And I think four words in the
whistleblower`s complaint were especially chilling because they convey new
and damning information about this president. Not the first time.
And it pertains to this practice of storing, of hiding, stashing away,
transcripts of other potential phone calls between President Trump and his
global counter parts on this top secret code word system. A system that as
Larry knows well, is not designed to hide or to conceal anything, and
certainly not transcripts, most of which are secret or confidential.
You know, I think there`s – the maxim we`ve heard far too many times in
the Trump era. It is not the crime. It`s the cover-up. But I think in
this case, it is actually the cover-up that will lead to us additional
What the whistleblower laid out in that complaint will provide the House
Intelligence Committee with precisely where to go, essentially a road map
saying look here. Go look in the system and see if there are any
additional transcripts in which the president is betraying his oath of
office and betraying the American people.
And we just learned from Chairman Schiff of the Intelligence Committee that
they`ve begun to do just that. They`ve issued a preservation order to the
White House not to destroy, not to remove, any of those transcripts that
are potentially stored on this secret server.
O`DONNELL: I want to turn to some breaking news that we`re just being
handed from “The Washington Post” about how the records of the president`s
phone calls, the transcripts are being handled. “The Washington Post”
reports, the White House has taken extraordinary steps over the past two
years to block details of President Trump`s phone calls with foreign
leaders, following early embarrassment that`s enraged the president and
created a sense of paranoia among his top aides.
We are joined now by phone by one of the reporters who broke the story,
Carol Leonnig, national investigative reporter for “The Washington Post.”
Carol, what else is in your reporting that is relevant now to this
CAROL LEONNIG, NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (via
telephone): I think what – look, my good colleague Josh Dawsey and I
learned in the course of the last 24 hours, in addition to the details of
the whistleblower complaint, which are very logical and methodical. What
we learned was that basically, the string we`ve been collecting for a long
time, that the president`s paranoia about people leaking information about
his conversations has been an escalating paranoia. And he has instructed
his team to clamp down on who gets to listen in to calls. And also, who
can potentially read the readouts from his calls with foreign leaders.
That is been going on for a while.
But this is news, what the whistleblower alleges, very recent, the idea of
transferring what is colloquially called in the intelligence community,
flipping a routine call transcript into one of the holiest of holy
databases for storing information about sources and methods in the
intelligence community. The idea of taking a congratulatory call shocked a
lot of the people that we interviewed today who have handled these in the
past, and viewed it as an abuse of that process, and just totally
O`DONNELL: And, Carol, how much cooperation have you found in your
reporting so far? In the White House, to what the president wanted?
Obviously, there`s a certain group that would resist it. They would want
to go by the system that Larry Pfeiffer and others have been using for
years. But there had to be some people in the White House who wanted to
enable the president`s approach to this.
LEONNIG: You know, it is a really good big picture question, because one
thing I learned today, talking to people who used to serve the president
and people who are loyal to him still is that they fear he has lost the
guardrail people who used to stop him essentially from doing things were
dangerous or incriminating, people like John Kelly, who several sources
said to me, John Kelly would have been monitoring this call and would have
had an order, essentially, of managing what was said.
There would have been talking points if H.R. McMaster had been involved in
this call and encouraging the president to stick to them. There would have
been talking points if John Bolton had been a full partner for the – as
the national security adviser. John Bolton was on the outs on July 25th
when this call took place. A lot of the people that sort of provided
guardrails for the president are not here anymore, and that has worried a
lot of the president`s deepest allies.
O`DONNELL: Carol Leonnig, thank you very much for joining us with your
breaking news reporting tonight. Really appreciate it.
LEONNIG: Of course.
O`DONNELL: Ned Price and Larry Pfeiffer are still with us.
Larry, let me go straight to you with your reaction to what Carol is
revealing tonight in her reporting?
PFEIFFER: Well, there`s always been a fine line in terms of distributing
presidential phone call transcripts around government. You want to
distribute them far enough that they can be of value to the execution of
our national security and foreign policy plans. Yet, you don`t want to
distribute them so far that, you know, perhaps slightly embarrassing or
slightly sensitive material could be getting to broad examination.
This White House clearly has made a decision that sharing the conversations
of the president with foreign leaders with people who then execute that
policy is not a good idea. I think that speaks volumes about what is
actually being said in those conversations.
O`DONNELL: And, Ned, Carol used a word that caught me, paranoid. The
president is paranoid about who is listening into the phone calls.
It is not paranoid if you are worried about who is listening in to your
criminal conspiracies. You should be worried about that. You should be
trying to minimize that. The mob bosses go to great lengths to not have
their phones tapped are not paranoid. They know what they`re doing and
they know that law enforcement and others have an interest in what they`re
PRICE: Yes. You know, Lawrence, the president is not wrong about one
thing. The transcripts, the contents of his calls have been vulnerable to
leaks before. And you always have to ask yourself the question, when you
see these leak out, what is the motivation behind these leakers?
And to be fair in this White House, it is and always has been a den of
vipers. And there are internecine battles both in terms of policy and
personality. But in so many of the leaks we`ve seen, including separately
with this whistleblower complaint, they`re predicated not on this in
fighting but on a profound unease, a profound concern with what the
president is doing, and in extreme cases like the one we`ve been discussing
over the past week, even the possibility that the president has betrayed
his oath of office.
When you think of some of the – shall we say marquee leaks of this
administration, you get that sense, leaking top secret information to the
Russians in the Oval Office, going to meet Vladimir Putin without a note
taker, without a translator and discussing a whole series of issues with
him and you can go down the line of leaks that really I think illustrate
that the people – even those people closest to the president are
profoundly disturbed by what he has done and what he`s tried to do.
O`DONNELL: Ned Price, Larry Pfeiffer, thank you very much for joining us
tonight. Really appreciate it.
PFEIFFER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And we`re just going to crash through a commercial break to go
straight through Joel Brenner.
Joining us now is Joel Brenner. He`s the former inspector general of the
National Security Agency under President George W. Bush from 2002 to 2006.
Joe Brenner was the head of the U.S. counterintelligence in the Office of
the Director of National Intelligence in the Bush administration from 2006
And, Mr. Brenner, thank you very much for joining us again tonight.
I wanted to get your reaction to what Carol Leonnig is reporting tonight,
which is a supplementary to what we learned in the whistleblower`s report,
whistleblower`s report describes this special treatment of the phone
transcript, the phone record of the president`s conversation with the
president of Ukraine. And now, “The Washington Post” is reporting since
the beginning of the administration, they have taken increasing steps along
the way to restrict access to records of the president`s phone calls.
JOE BRENNER, CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES MIT SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW:
Well, I can tell you, Lawrence, when I was the NSAIG, if we were doing an
investigation and in the course of it, had discovered that someone we were
looking at, a person of interest, had misclassified and overclassified
documents in order to shield them from legitimate, for an illegitimate
purpose, and we proved that, that person would have been frog-marched out
of the building that day, stripped of his clearance that day, not tomorrow,
that day. And walked out of the building, either to go home or into the
arms of an FBI agent who would have put him or her in handcuffs.
Now, it has been said that, well, the president can classify anything any
way he wants. Well, first place, even a president has to follow – can do
certain things but has to do them according to the rules of the executive
branch. And secondly, it`s basic law, Lawrence, that anyone who does an
otherwise lawful act for an unlawful purpose makes that otherwise lawful
act against the law. That`s fundamental black letter conspiracy law. This
is deeply troubling.
O`DONNELL: Would you advise the lawyers in the White House who are not
mentioned by name but described in the whistleblower`s report, White House
lawyers telling people in the White House to basically reclassify the
transcript of the president`s call? Move it into the most high level
security holding they have for it? Would you say those White House lawyers
should be out getting their own personal criminal defense lawyers right
BRENNER: I`m glad you asked that, because that to me was one of the most
stunning things about this document. We know, when you have a really nasty
scandal, you want to ask, where were the lawyers? In this case, if that
complaint proves out, we`ve got lawyers who were participating in a
And I would be surprised if those lawyers tonight aren`t consulting with
counsel. Let me read you something really short, Lawrence. It comes from
the ABA`s rules of professional conduct which are pretty much in effect in
every state in the Union.
A lawyer shall not counsel a client to engage or assist a client in conduct
that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent.
Now, that means that not only do those lawyers have potential criminal
exposure but they have exposure in terms of their licenses to practice law.
And we will see how this pans out and whether there are some cracks in
that. If they`re not worried tonight, they`re not wide awake.
O`DONNELL: Joel Brenner, thank you very much for joining us on this
breaking news night. Really appreciate it. Thank you.
BRENNER: You bet. And after this break, we will hear from two of the
potential jurors in the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump in the United
States Senate, if that`s where this case is headed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): You don`t believe the whistleblower is a political
hack, do you Director?
JOSEPH MAGUIRE, ACTING DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I believe that,
as I said before Mr. Chairman, I believe the whistleblower is operating in
good faith. I think the whistleblower did the right thing. I think he
followed the law every step of the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, MSNBC: The jury for the impeachment trial of
Donald J. Trump has already been selected. The voters did that in the
United States Senate elections. If the House of Representatives votes in
favor of one or more articles of impeachment, that bill of impeachment will
be sent to the United States Senate for the trial of Donald J. Trump.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will be presiding in that trial and
all 100 members of the Senate will sit as jurors, who in the end will vote
yes or no for the conviction and removal from office of President Donald J.
We`re joined now by one of those potential jurors, Senator Sheldon
Whitehouse of Rhode Island, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He
is also the author of Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American
Senator Whitehouse, we now have more votes than the Democrats need in the
House of Representatives to send a bill of impeachment to the Senate.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): Correct.
O`DONNELL: Do you expect that, by the end of this year, that bill of
impeachment on this phone call will show up in the side?
WHITEHOUSE: I don`t know. And as somebody who`s been in the prosecutor
business, I`d be concerned about the House putting a deadline on its work,
which would give a deadline for the Trump forces to delay and stall beyond.
I think the transcript is extremely damning. But if I were a prosecutor and
were given that transcript, it was a wiretap - an organized-crime wiretap
transcript, I would say to the agents who did it, this is great. There may
even be some high fives in the room. But now, let`s go out and let`s pin
down these 15 or 20 things.
So I hope that the House does its job, because I think that the Republicans
are in a tough spot in the Senate, and a well and meticulously researched
and proven case could be a very different thing than the partisanship you
see right now.
O`DONNELL: I know, when you were a prosecutor, one of the things you have
to worry about protect against is witness tampering.
O`DONNELL: We just heard what the Acting Director of National Intelligence
said about the whistleblower today, whistleblower did the right thing.
Let`s listen to what Donald Trump said about the whistleblower today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I want to know who`s the
person that gave the whistleblower - who`s the person that gave the
whistleblower the information? Because that`s close to a spy. You know what
we used to do in the old days, when we were smart, right? The spies and
treason, we used to handle it a little bit differently than we do now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So the penalty for treason is death?
WHITEHOUSE: Yes, hanging or a firing squad.
O`DONNELL: It seems the President knows that much of the law anyway. What
do you make of comments like that? Because the people who helped the
whistleblower with the information that the whistleblower delivered, and we
know from the whistleblower`s report that he had help with the information.
O`DONNELL: Some of those people are–
WHITEHOUSE: But we also know from the whistleblower`s report that he got
that information through the ordinary effort of interagency work that is a
part of what goes on in the White House every day.
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump is saying that`s treason today.
WHITEHOUSE: He`s saying that they`re spies, when spies are people who take
information and give it to foreign governments. These people kept the
information within the government. They were working for the US government.
So he`s almost unhinged in this comparison to spying, and in his suggestion
that there was anything improper about the way in which the whistleblower
got the information. He got it through the ordinary process of interagency
O`DONNELL: What do you make of the process that Speaker Pelosi outlined
this week, six Committees doing their work? Tonight reports in The
Washington Post indicating that the primary work now, this is unusual for
impeachment, will be done in the Intelligence Committee because the primary
focus is going to be on this phone call.
WHITEHOUSE: Well, I hope they find ways to spread it around where they can,
so that you`re not backing up the Intelligence Committee and they get stuck
behind subpoena non-compliance and things like that, that you spread it out
as much as you can.
Because I think there`s a prospect that you can get Republican Senators to
vote in favor of impeachment on a well pled meticulously researched case.
But we`re not there yet. And at the moment, I think we`re at a very
partisan place in the Senate.
So there`s homework to be done on the House side to make this a winning
case. I think they can do it, but I would urge them to spread the work and
be all hands on deck.
O`DONNELL: Now, as a litigator yourself, when you - this is basically the
first kind of hearing in the case today.
O`DONNELL: Senator, kind of in criminal process, sort of a preliminary
O`DONNELL: Not one word of defense about what the President said–
WHITEHOUSE: Of the actual conduct.
O`DONNELL: –on the phone call. When you go into court and you discover
that the defense has literally nothing to say about the prosecution`s
evidence, not one word, that has to be–
WHITEHOUSE: Not to mention one of your lead witnesses, the Director of
National Intelligence, has heavily corroborated the whistleblower, said
that he was in good faith, connected the elements in the whistleblower
complaint exactly to what turned out to be the case in the actual
transcript. I mean, this was not a good day for Team Trump preparing for an
O`DONNELL: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, thank you very much.
WHITEHOUSE: Good to be with you, Lawrence, thank you.
O`DONNELL: I really appreciate it, thank you. And when we come back, more
on tonight`s breaking news from The New York Times about the first time the
whistleblower tried to raise these concerns.
O`DONNELL: With more on the breaking news from The New York Times tonight,
The Times is reporting that the whistleblower raised concerns about Donald
Trump`s Ukraine phone call through separate previously unreported channels.
According to The Times, during the preliminary inquiry, a career lawyer
learned that multiple people had raised concerns about Mr. Trump`s call.
Joining our discussion now is Amy Klobuchar, Democratic Senator from
Minnesota, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She is also a
candidate for President of the United States.
Senator Klobuchar, The Times is reporting now that this whistleblower was
not alone, spiritually anyway. I mean we`ve all been wondering why only
one. Turns out the whistleblower, as we saw in Lois Lorenz (ph) report, got
a lot of help from other people, and there were many other people
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I`m not surprised at
all, and I think this is going to have to be a lot of their investigation.
Because you can imagine that this may not have been the first time this
And there are people who used to work in that White House, who work there
now, who know things, who have been talking about this, and I think that
has got to be key to this investigation. There have to be people there who
feel they have a patriotic duty to come forward. And if that doesn`t work,
there`s always the subpoena.
And I just think they have to, because this is something that we see a
pattern from the moment he stood in front of the that sacred wall of the
stars of the deceased CIA agents and made a partisan speech too, believing
Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence officers, to where we are now, and
having visited Ukraine with John McCain and Lindsey Graham and seeing the
state of that fragile democracy and how much they depended on our country.
McCain`s decision to go there right after Trump was elected, because he
knew how important it was to stand by that ally. You can just see how
Donald Trump would be able to wield this power to try to get them to do
something and that`s what`s reflected in this partial transcript or summary
that we see now.
So to me, I loved when you brought up the Watergate thing, it is a global
modern version of that, digging for dirt in a different era, and then
covering it up.
O`DONNELL: Earlier today, before The New York Times reporting tonight on
the other people involved in the formulation of the whistleblower`s report,
the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, your Committee, Lindsey Graham -
you traveled to Ukraine with Lindsey Graham - tweeted it is imperative we
find out which White House official talked to the whistleblower and why
didn`t they lodge the complaint.
Now, it would be nice if Lindsey Graham had say a Senate Committee where he
could convene a hearing and find out why didn`t they lodge a complaint,
which White House officials talked to the whistleblower, or about the
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, and he could - we could be conducting some independent
investigations of some of these issues. But as we`ve seen, with regard to
the Mueller Report and other things, while the Intelligence Committee did
those, our Committee under Senator Grassley and now Senator Graham in my
mind have not done enough. And so, this would be right for that.
But the other thing that concerns me of course is the President is
basically putting out there that this is someone who, and someday at least,
would have been executed as opposed to perhaps someone that was voicing a
concern to what may be a CIA agent, as being reported that this
whistleblower is, and just simply voicing a concern about what happened and
the whistleblower goes forward, feels a duty to report it.
But then the President puts a threat out there, and I don`t know if Senator
Graham`s tweet is part of that, I can`t quite read through the tweet words,
to figure that out. But again, this should be taken as an investigation and
it should not just be Democrats, this must be done in a bipartisan basis,
just as your analogy to Watergate.
O`DONNELL: Doesn`t the whole case come down to the words spoken by the
President on the phone to the President of Ukraine?
KLOBUCHAR: Perhaps, but there may be other calls just like this. Just six
days later, he called Vladimir Putin, after calling the President of
Ukraine. There may be other calls like this, we don`t know.
And so, that`s why I think it`s very important now that we know these calls
were logged into this super-secret server where they should not have been
given their classification, that I know the House Committee has asked for
those calls to be preserved, the transcripts or the reports from them,
those have to be looked at.
So it may come down to that, and then there would be corroborating evidence
from other people, or it may be that there be more extensive conversations
with even other world leaders.
O`DONNELL: Do you believe that the transcript of that phone call rises to
the level of being worthy of an impeachment trial on that evidence in the
United States Senate?
O`DONNELL: And in sitting at that trial, do you consider yourself under the
obligation of jurors in courtrooms, where you wouldn`t make a judgment
about the evidence until the conclusion of that trial, because those rules
don`t exist for Senators.
KLOBUCHAR: They don`t.
O`DONNELL: Senators during impeachment trials in the past have gone out and
said, there`s no problem here, they announce–
O`DONNELL: –unlike any other jurors in the world, they announce what
they`re thinking during the trial.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, Lawrence, I think for all of us, for Sheldon and me or
anyone involved in this, we don`t know what all the evidence is yet. We
have all - a number of us, I said it months ago that these impeachment
proceedings should begin. But of course you`re going to look at all the
There`s going to be different counts, if this comes before us, and we have
to make that kind of decision. It`s a very serious constitutional
obligation, going way back to our founding fathers, when James Madison
actually said, when talking at the Constitutional Convention about why we
needed impeachment proceedings and the possibility of them. He said,
because a President might “betray his trust to foreign powers.”
So while it may have been different foreign powers, they were concerned
about back then, this really goes to the founding of our country and our
Constitution that you must have this check on the President.
O`DONNELL: So with your experience as a prosecutor, your reading of Madison
and his - and the role of impeachment, your role as United States Senator,
seeing the evidence that you know about today, the transcript of that phone
call, you believe that evidence should be incorporated into a bill of
impeachment that goes to the United States Senate?
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, the outcome will be on us as a jury, but I think that that
evidence is incredible. I mean as you said, it was a smoking gun that you
didn`t take a year to find out, you`d found out right away. So then one
believes, as a former prosecutor, I look at this and say what are the other
smoking guns, and we have to look at this like that, that there most likely
are corroborating witnesses that are out there that just must come forward
or be found, and that there`s also perhaps other phone calls.
At the bottom line, he was trying to get dirt, it`s that simple, on a
political opponent from a foreign power and then holding something back
that they really needed to do that, and that is not what a President should
do. You should be putting your country first, not your own interests.
O`DONNELL: Senator Amy Klobuchar, candidate for President of the United
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Lawrence. It`s great to be here.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate
And when we come back, Gabe Sherman will join us with his new reporting
about how Donald Trump`s friends at Fox News are very worried about life
O`DONNELL: Total panic, that is how one person close to the White House
described the mood there today, to NBC News. NBC News is reporting that
there is “rising anxiety, unease and concern that the whistleblower`s
allegations could seriously wound the President and some of those around
him. There`s not a lot of confidence that there`s no there there,” this
And tonight, those same concerns are being heard deep inside Fox News. Gabe
Sherman reports in Vanity Fair that “This morning, Sean Hannity told
friends, the whistleblower`s allegations are really bad, a person briefed
on Hannity`s conversations told me. And according to four sources, Fox Corp
CEO Lachlan Murdoch is already thinking about how to position the network
for a post-Trump future.”
Among the powerful voices advising Lachlan that Fox should decisively break
with the President is former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who joined the Fox
Board in March. Paul is embarrassed about Trump, and now he has the power
to do something about it, an executive who`s spoken with Ryan told Gabe
Well, too bad Paul Ryan didn`t have the power to do anything about it when
he was Speaker of the House of Representatives. Gabe Sherman will join us
for more of his reporting after this final break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: It is a crime
for the President to solicit aid for his campaign from a foreign
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS HOST: So that would be - that to which the
President has admitted is in and of itself a crime?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Gabe Sherman, Vanity Fair special
correspondent and MSNBC contributor. And Gabe, as I just outlined on the
other side of the break, your reporting is that Fox News is now in chaos
about how to deal with what seems like the impeachment process. Former
House Speaker Paul Ryan advising the Murdochs to get ready for life after
GABE SHERMAN, VANITY FAIR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT AND MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes,
really, Lawrence, this is a metaphor for what`s happening inside the
Republican Party. I mean, Fox News has been the propaganda arm of the Trump
White House, and they`re now faced with the prospect of, if he goes down
that, they go down with him.
And so, Paul Ryan who joined the Board of the parent company of Fox News
has for months now been in the ear of Lachlan Murdoch, the CEO, telling him
that they have the - the network has to cut ties, they have to appeal to a
different kind of voter, chart a post-Trump future. And now it appears that
impeachment is on the horizon, this is that moment.
O`DONNELL: And you see this feuding now going on. That was just half of the
feud. Shepard Smith, who plays it pretty straight during the day, including
to the point of attacking by name some of the prime time hosts, and then
they`re yelling back at him, on TV.
SHERMAN: Yes, I mean, this never would have happened in the Roger Ailes
era. I mean, Fox was a machine that operated with one voice. And now, there
O`DONNELL: And all those people worked there during Roger Ailes era.
SHERMAN: Yes, but now there is a leadership vacuum. There is no one in
charge. No one quite knows which way this is all going to shake out, and so
you see this fighting on camera. And at what point does the network, I mean
to me, what was almost the most shocking part of my reporting today was
that Sean Hannity in private has been telling people that the whistleblower
complaint is, “really, really bad for Donald Trump.” And so, you have
Hannity on air still being a promoter for Donald Trump, but in private,
they know how bad this could get.
O`DONNELL: Do you know if Sean Hannity has sources in the White House in
addition to Donald Trump, who is obviously a source for Sean Hannity?
SHERMAN: I mean, my sense is that relationship is one to one. Why talk to
other people when you can get to the President. When Bill Shine was the
Communications Director, he was a very close friend of Sean Hannity.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And so, the parallel universes of Fox News and the Trump
White House, they both seem to be engulfed tonight in the same inability to
respond to this situation.
SHERMAN: Yes, I mean, the speed by which this has become a firestorm has
just overwhelmed their ability to respond. I just think one thing, the
historical context to point out, this will be a test case, because Fox News
was created for Republicans so that Watergate would never happen again.
We are now entering what appears to be that Watergate moment, and will the
power of Fox News be able to hold the line, or will the dam break and the
Republican Party have to let the sunlight in, which is that Donald Trump
seems to have crossed all the other - all the lines of abuse of power here.
O`DONNELL: And the emotional significance of Watergate for Roger Ailes who
created Fox News is that Watergate was what drove Richard Nixon out of the
Presidency. Richard Nixon was the first candidate who Roger Ailes helped
elect to the Presidency and then he helped elect a bunch of the
SHERMAN: Yes, so the circle has come all the way around.
O`DONNELL: Gabe Sherman, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
SHERMAN: Thank you, Lawrence. Yes, thank you.
O`DONNELL: Amazing reporting again. Gabe Sherman.
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 content.>
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