Trump openly solicits foreign interference. TRANSCRIPT: 10/3/19, The Last Word w/Lawrence O’Donnell.

Guests:
John Heilemann, Walter Shaub, David Frum, Norm Ornstein, Eric Swalwell
Transcript:

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Nicolle.  But I`m not ready

because you`ve got to me ten seconds early. 

 

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST, “DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE”:  Oh, am I early? 

See, she`s never early. 

 

O`DONNELL:  No, the tradition with Rachel is she knows I`m not ready, she

gives me usually about 40 seconds to get ready. 

 

WALLACE:  I could sing, I could do something. 

 

O`DONNELL:  So, Nicolle, I spent the day in Washington where needless to

say heads are spinning on the developments of the day.  And the feeling

here is that impeachment is inevitable.  And if something can become more

inevitable, it`s Donald Trump, who finds out how to make it more inevitable

every day. 

 

WALLACE:  The city does feel different.  And he does appear, at least

today, to be making their jobs a little easier. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  He`s doing their work for them.  Thank you, Nicolle. 

 

WALLACE:  Have a good show. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you.

 

Well, another day, another smoking gun.  Today, we actually got two more

smoking guns if you`re counting, depends on how you`re counting, in the

impeachment investigation of president Trump.  Three, actually.  Maybe it`s

three.  You`ll decide at the end of this hour. 

 

And we are going to have to spread out these three smoking guns throughout

the hour.  We have to find room in this hour also to discuss a new whistle-

blower emerging at the IRS who may be reporting something about the

president`s tax returns. 

 

And at the end of the hour, we`ll take a look at how Vice President Mike

Pence`s week is going as he is now sinking deeper and deeper into the mud

of the impeachment investigation of his boss. 

 

We begin tonight with the president`s solicitation of re-election campaign

help from Ukraine.  The smoking guns are really piling up in this case.  We

already have a smoking gun in the president`s phone call to the president

of Ukraine, the rough transcript of that, in which the president solicited

Ukraine`s help in his re-election campaign by asking Ukraine to investigate

Joe Biden. 

 

Once again today, again, the president publicly solicited help from Ukraine

by publicly asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.  So that`s a second

smoking gun on the Ukraine case.  But each time the president solicits

Ukraine for help in his re-election come pain, he is actually committing a

new crime.  It`s like robbing the same bank again.  It`s a stupid thing to

do.  But most criminals are pretty stupid.  That`s why they`re criminals. 

 

Today, the president delivered a new smoking gun himself when yelling to

reporters with a helicopter waiting in the background, the president once

again asked Ukraine to help in his re-election campaign and for good

measure he threw in China too and asked China to help in his re-election

campaign by investigating Joe Biden. 

 

The president seems to think that if he is announcing something in public,

then it cannot be a crime, cannot be an impeachable offense.  It`s like a

bank robber thinking if he yells over the sound of his getaway helicopter

while he is robbing the bank, then it`s legal.  The president obviously

watched this program and others last night where we emphasized that he had

absolutely no answer, no defense, when he was asked yesterday by White

House reporter Jeff Mason what he wanted the president of Ukraine to do on

that now-famous phone call. 

 

Donald Trump got completely flustered in the face of that question

yesterday, and he no doubt got enraged watching our coverage of his

desperately clumsy inability to answer that question, ending with him

absurdly asking the reporter, are you talking to me? 

 

So Donald Trump apparently decided overnight to show us just how strong his

answer to that question could be.  And in the process, he managed to commit

a few more crimes. 

 

Here is Donald Trump today in the face of that question deciding to

confidently confess to a crime. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REPORTER:  Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about

the Bidens after your phone call? 

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, I would think that if

they were honest about it, they`d start a major investigation into the

Bidens. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  That was criminal enough.  That was impeachable enough.  He

wasn`t finished.  He really wanted to show us just how hard he worked on

that answer overnight.  So he kept going.  And he said this. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  And, by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into

the Bidens.  Because what happened to China is just about as bad as what

happened with Ukraine. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  The president went on to lie incessantly about Joe Biden.  We

will not give him the pleasure of spreading those lies here.  And we have

so many developments on the Ukraine case today that we won`t even get to

that new Trump smoking gun about China until later in the hour. 

 

While the president was committing crimes and impeachable offenses on live

TV, Kurt Volker was giving over nine hours of under oath testimony to three

House committees working on the impeachment of the president.  It was a

deposition behind closed doors, but some elements of Kurt Volker`s

testimony have found their way into “The New York Times” tonight. 

 

Kurt Volker resigned last week as the State Department`s special envoy to

Ukraine.  It`s not at all clear why this State Department needed an envoy

to Ukraine when we already had an ambassador to Ukraine.  But it seems one

of Kurt Volker`s missions was to translate Trump to the new Ukrainian

president. 

 

That means Kurt Volker was in frequent contact with Bill Taylor, who became

in effect the acting ambassador in Ukraine after Donald Trump removed an

ambassador who Rudy Giuliani did not find to be cooperative enough in his

Ukraine schemes that were designed to force Ukraine to help the Trump

campaign by investigating Joe Biden. 

 

“The New York Times” reports this smoking gun in Kurt Volker`s under oath

testimony today.  He disclosed a set of texts in September in which Bill

Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, alluded to Mr. Trump`s

decision earlier in the summer to freeze a military aid package to the

country.  He told Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volcker: I think it`s crazy to

withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign. 

 

That is a very smoky gun, in writing.  A member of the Trump

administration`s diplomatic corps, the highest-ranking diplomat in Ukraine

puts the Trump crime in writing in a text.  I think it`s crazy to withhold

security assistance for help with a political campaign.  It`s all there,

everything you need is right there in that text. 

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is blocking Gordon Sondland, who is the

other person who was on that text, from testifying to the House.  Gordon

Sondland is United States ambassador to the European Union.  Now we know

why Mike Pompeo is blocking his testimony.  Sondland is in possession of at

least one text in which America`s top diplomat in Ukraine says, I think

it`s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political

campaign. 

 

It`s all right there in that text.  That`s why I`m repeating it.  Withhold

security assistance for help with a political campaign. 

 

Mike Pompeo didn`t want you to know that those words were ever written by

one of the ambassadors in Ukraine.  How many more smoking guns are there in

the State Department text messages, in their email records and documents

that Mike Pompeo is now refusing to hand over to the House of

Representatives? 

 

“The New York Times” is reporting tonight that Kurt Volker and Gordon

Sondland co-wrote a statement for the president of Ukraine to make about

investigating Joe Biden.  “The Times” reports the statement would have

committed Ukraine to investigating the energy company Burisma which had

employed Hunter Biden, the younger son of former Vice President Joseph R.

Biden Jr., and would have called for the Ukrainian government to look into

what Mr. Trump and his allies believe was interference by Ukrainians in the

2016 election in the United States to benefit Hillary Clinton. 

 

The president of Ukraine never delivered that statement that was written

for him by the Trump administration. 

 

Leading off our discussion tonight are: Evelyn Farkas, she`s a former

deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration.  She

served on the professional staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee and

is now an MSNBC national security analyst. 

 

Also joining us, John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and

MSNBC.  He is co-host and executive producer of Showtime`s “The Circus.”

 

Evelyn, I want to start with you and where we are on this Ukraine case. 

You know some of the players in this case.  You know Kurt Volker. 

 

EVELYN FARKAS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST:  Yes, uh-huh.

 

O`DONNELL:  What do you make of his testimony today?  And what more do you

think we`re going to be learning about it? 

 

FARKAS:  Right, so as you say, I know Ambassador Yovanovitch, who also

testified or I guess –

 

O`DONNELL:  She`s the one who is removed by Donald Trump from her position. 

 

FARKAS:  Exactly.  I know her, I know her deputy.  He`s also being held

back by Pompeo.  I know Kurt Volker. 

 

And I happen to know from a source close to the investigation a bit of what

happened today, a bit of the context, I guess.  You know, again, this is

secondhand, at least. 

 

But essentially it seems that what Volker was trying to do, and I`ve known

him a long time so I`m giving him a lot of benefit of the doubt, was to try

to maneuver the situation so that he can get President Trump to meet with

President Zelensky, the new Ukrainian president.  He thought that Giuliani

was feeding a bunch of garbage that he had heard from some Ukrainians, one

Ukrainian in particular, to President Trump, and that he needed to just get

the truth from Zelensky. 

 

The problem here is that Kurt Volker is the envoy, the president`s envoy. 

The president should be listening to Kurt Volker, who`s a long-time –

never mind he was appointed by Trump, he`s a long-time Foreign Service

officer, you know, for many years before he got out and started to work for

the McCain Institute. 

 

So, President Trump should have been listening to him, but he was listening

to Rudy Giuliani.  And so, Kurt`s trying to maneuver it so that he can

inoculate Trump and maybe convince Giuliani somewhere along the way that

there`s no problem with Ukraine under this new president, and maybe steer

him away from the investigation. 

 

Now I can`t speak to what Kurt knew, what these guys knew.  Clearly, the

new acting ambassador, Bill Taylor, relatively new, we`ll see how long he

lasts, I know him as well.  You know, he was also pointing out to them what

they were doing, and they shouldn`t be doing it.  The document that “The

New York Times” has is a draft and apparently both Kurt and the Ukrainian

go-between, the same guy that Giuliani met with –

 

O`DONNELL:  The statement they wanted the president of Ukraine to make? 

 

FARKAS:  Exactly. 

 

O`DONNELL:  They have a draft of that. 

 

FARKAS:  They agreed to drop it because the Ukrainians got nervous, they

didn`t want to mention Biden, I don`t know if they wanted to mention

Burisma, the oil company, and ultimately, both Kurt and the Ukrainian

decided, let`s drop this. 

 

Kurt didn`t get what he wanted, though, either, because he wanted a

separate meeting with President Trump and President Zelensky, not on the

sidelines of the U.N. meeting, because it would have been a bigger deal to

have it at the White House. 

 

O`DONNELL:  John Heilemann, the – 

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

O`DONNELL:  By the way, this is an available reading of the evidence.  When

you look at all this evidence, you can look at Volker, for example, and

say, this is either a guy who, as the text says, is part of this scheme to

withhold aid for a political campaign favor.  You could see him as part of

that. 

 

Or you could see him as someone who is struggling under the burden of that

desire created by Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump.  And he`s trying to get

to the right place.  He`s trying to get Ukraine to the right place.  And

he`s saying, look, just say this.  Let`s Trump hear you say this then

everything will be OK. 

 

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST:  I don`t want to express

lack of interest in that topic.  I don`t know Kurt Volker and there`s

psychoanalysis involved in that. 

 

I just want to step back to the beginning of what you were saying.  What`s

happened today, which is the president of the United States went out and

has already confessed to this crime, then doubled and tripled down on the

crime. 

 

To your point, Lawrence, he does seem to think that – he understands, I

think, now, that there are no facts in contention here.  Given that it has

been explained to him, since there are no facts in dispute, you can argue

process, right?  You can say, Democrats are in league with the

whistleblowers, somehow Schiff is shifty, you can say all that stuff. 

 

But on the facts of it, the only way out for him now is to basically say,

yes, I did this thing, because it`s clear I did, and it`s OK.  And to make

the point that it`s OK is the best way to do that is do it again, do it as

publicly as possible, in the most flaming, gratuitous way that you can. 

 

And watching this happen today, I`ll say I arrived in Washington from the

west coast, making “The Circus” this week, and came here looking for a

Republican, any Republican, any Republican who would come on camera to talk

to me about what`s going on.  It`s maybe the worst day in the history of my

life trying to book a Republican in Washington to talk about Donald Trump,

because there`s no one who wants to get within a mile of a camera on this

day.

 

That`s how bad this day was for Donald Trump.  Even his most stalwart

defenders are like, no, thank you.  That`s how bad what happened this

morning for Trump is in the way the politics are shifting. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you for refocusing on the smoking guns, because when you

have smoking guns, why talk about anything else? 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

HEILEMANN:  They`re sitting there on the table smoking, I have a hard time

ignoring them. 

 

O`DONNELL:  We`ve got to get this smoke.

 

So, Evelyn, so I think what we`re seeing in the president`s behavior today

is one of the failures of the Mueller report, and I want to make a

distinction here between the Mueller investigation, which was comprehensive

and professional and discovered all sorts of things we needed to know, then

the delivery of the Mueller report, because it`s in the Mueller report

where they have the passage about the president saying, Russia, if you`re

listening.  And the Mueller report basically lets him off the hook in that

scene at the end of those paragraphs. 

 

And Donald Trump, he didn`t read it, of course.  But he was briefed on it. 

He said, hey, you got away with the Russia, are you listening, the Mueller

report thing, they were afraid to touch you on that.  As soon as he learned

that, I think that`s what gave him his inspiration for going out there

today and doing it again, because what the Mueller report said was there

was something in that public moment of Russia, are you listening, that

indicated that Donald Trump didn`t really know what he was doing. 

 

In other words, there was something that smells like innocence in Donald

Trump`s mind in that passage of the Mueller report. 

 

FARKAS:  Yes, I think you`re right, Lawrence.  I think he thinks he can get

away with somehow being innocent or crazy.  I mean, I don`t know what his

defense will be ultimately. 

 

And unfortunately a lot of his defenders, they don`t understand the law. 

So I was on a radio show, somebody asked me, what`s wrong with asking this

question?  And I answer to the guy, I said, listen, if your Uncle Frank –

if President Trump was saying, did uncle frank did something bad in

Ukraine?  Maybe that would be OK.  It would be weird because the FBI should

be looking into what a U.S. citizen is doing in Ukraine. 

 

But the fact that he asked about his opponent in the upcoming election is

illegal.  And I think a lot of Americans just don`t understand that. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  And, John, one of the things, one of the defenses that

we`ve heard about Trump from Republicans over the years, oh, that`s just

Donald being Donald, Trump being Trump.  They`re not even throwing that

defense out there right now, but that`s clearly was Trump was going for

today with the helicopter behind him yelling these crimes into the

microphone was, I want them to do the that`s just Trump being Trump thing. 

 

HEILEMANN:  Well, and I think it`s clear that there are multiple layers of

potential cover-up involved in this Ukraine scandal, right?  But in Trump`s

mind, I think he`s ahistorical.  He doesn`t know very much.  He knows a

couple of things about Watergate.  He knows, follow America. 

 

Also, the worst crime is not the crime itself, it`s the cover-up.  So, if

you`re – if you believe that`s one of the shibboleths from that

experience, you kind of making the claim, it can`t be a cover-up if I`m

standing in front of you saying it.  Somehow confessing to it in that overt

way, in Trump`s mind he`s dispelling any sense he`s covering something up,

he has nothing to be ashamed of, saying it over and over again. 

 

Obviously, again, there are cover-ups that are involved here, that relate

to the super secret server and all the classification issues, but I do

think there`s something in Trump`s mind, that you are right.  There`s no

question that he is the person who when someone gets away with a crime –

two kinds of people, one who gets away with a crime, wow, I barely got away

with that I`ll never do that again.  There but for the grace of God go I. 

 

And the other person goes, I can do that again.  I can do it again, again,

and again.  Trump is in the latter category. 

 

O`DONNELL:  You know what the difference is.  One of those is a

professional criminal.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

O`DONNELL:  When you`re a criminal by profession, when you get away with

something, that`s a lesson about how to do it next time. 

 

FARKAS:  It`s like jumping out of a perfectly good plane, if you do it a

couple of times, you`re not afraid anymore. 

 

O`DONNELL:  What more should we expect from basically the State Department

sources that the house is trying to hear from?  Pompeo`s blocking them so

far.  The only reason we heard from Volker is that he resigned from the

State Department last week. 

 

FARKAS:  Right, right, exactly.  I mean, I think we`ll either get more

whistleblowers.  I think there`ll be more pressure on Pompeo – this

position can`t hold, it`s untenable. 

 

I understand there are I.G. investigations ongoing.  There`s one in DOD

that`s been very quiet.  I don`t know how it was started.  I`m hearing also

from other agencies. 

 

All kinds of disgruntled words, they said, Evelyn, we see documents that

aren`t accurate all the time, like records of meetings.  So it`s really

disturbing.  But this judge last night, Amy Berman Jackson, who said, hold

all the documents.  I think we`re going to see a lot more coming out in the

form of paper. 

 

O`DONNELL:  John, this is a White House that has fought every form of legal

process, every subpoena.  They`re going to continue to do that, aren`t

they? 

 

HEILEMANN:  They are. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And State Department`s going to continue.  Why – I mean,

Evelyn, I understand this point about Pompeo`s going to feel the pressure,

really?  I mean, that`s what at least half-decent people used to feel in

those jobs. 

 

I haven`t noticed a Trump person – Wilbur Ross doesn`t feel the pressure

about the scandals in his department. 

 

HEILEMANN:  I don`t think they feel any pressure.  I think what ultimately

– what I think people who believe this impeachment inquiry – the

impeachment inquiry and the formal declaration, why that was important, was

that it would expedite some of these court processes that have taken a long

time to resolve the question of subpoenas before judges, where in the

context of a formal impeachment inquiry, those things can be fast tracked,

and so, you look back to Nixon and the 14 days or whatever it took to get

the court ruling on the smoking gun tape, right? 

 

I think the only pressure they will feel is not a pressure, not more

pressure, political pressure, but if there is a genuine expediting of legal

processes that bring that kind of pressure to bear that could change their

calculus. 

 

FARKAS:  Right.  Which brings up the contempt of Congress thing.  That`s

what I meant by eventually you`ll see that pressure. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, yes.  Evelyn Farkas, John Heilemann, thank you both very

much for starting us off. 

 

And when we come back, John Heilemann just told us that he couldn`t get any

Republicans to go on camera today.  Well, there were some cameras in

Washington today trying to get Republicans on camera.  We`ll show you what

they got. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  No one blows the whistle on Donald Trump quite like Donald

Trump. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  And, by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into

the Bidens, because what happened to China is just about as bad as what

happened with Ukraine. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Donald Trump`s defense about colluding with foreign governments

for his presidential campaign has gone from I didn`t do it to I would do it

again to OK, everybody, watch me do it. 

 

After committing that crime on live TV today, Donald Trump told reporters

that he had not previously asked President Xi to investigate his political

rival, but CNN is reporting tonight that Donald Trump raised the subjects

of Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren during a phone call with the Chinese

president on June 18th.  And Donald Trump said in that phone call promised

that he would stay quiet on Hong Kong protests for freedom while trade

talks continued with China. 

 

According to CNN, the record of that call was also placed in that highly

secure server where the transcript of his call with the Ukrainian president

still sits. 

 

Joining us now is John Harwood, the editor at large for CNBC, and Joyce

Vance, former U.S. attorney and MSNBC legal analyst.

 

And, Joyce, I want to go straight to you for a legal opinion on what Donald

Trump did today and what he said. 

 

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Well, Donald Trump built a very

compelling criminal case against himself today confessing on national

television to committing campaign finance crimes.  But, you know, Lawrence,

you make this point and it`s important to remember, Congress doesn`t need

an actual violation of federal law or of criminal law.  What they`re

looking for is a high crime and misdemeanor. 

 

I think it`s just sort of the ultimate nuance from this president who can`t

seem to do anything to save himself that he would actually commit crimes in

public and appear to be proud of it. 

 

O`DONNELL:  John, and now it`s China. 

 

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It`s China.  And I do think of the two

things that happened today, learning that he told Xi that he would keep

quiet about Hong Kong during the trade talks is actually more freshly

damning than what he said on the White House lawn. 

 

This is open corruption of the presidency of the United States.  On the one

hand, we have someone who is so focused on himself and his own interests

that he solicits assistance on his campaign rivals.  But in the case of

Hong Kong, he`s essentially selling off the commitment to freedom by the

United States in order to get something through this trade deal process. 

 

There is no particular indication that the trade deal that he gets is going

to be anything that changes the lives of Americans in a substantial way,

but the very idea that he is so focused on his own personal accomplishments

that he would sell out the moral commitments of the United States in such a

straight forward way is kind of stunning. 

 

O`DONNELL:  It`s such an important point that John just made, Joyce.  And

the other thing I think we know about Donald Trump is he absolutely does

not care about the freedom of people in Hong Kong.  And so his – the idea

that his would be the voice standing up for them is hard to imagine even if

he wasn`t trying to get some kind of trade deal with China, but that makes

him the very first president in history who would side with China against

protesters like this. 

 

VANCE:  Well, this president is no friend to anyone`s civil rights whether

it`s domestic or foreign.  And to John`s point and your point, this makes

it all the more critical that the American public, the congressional

investigators have access to full transcripts from these calls.  We need to

know what our president has been saying.  That conduct needs to be

assessed. 

 

And it`s so suspicious that these memos of conversation would be filed

rather than as they would routinely and normally be filed for the

president`s classification system that they have been put on the code word

server which is an entirely different sort of process.  It`s more like

hiding the transcripts than it looks like filing them.  And it`s something

that we need to have brought to the forefront.  Those transcripts will be

the best evidence of these conversations. 

 

HARWOOD:  And, Lawrence, you talked before the break about Republicans not

– and John Heilemann talked about Republicans not willing to talk.  I

experienced some of that today. 

 

I had a text exchange with one congressman.  I said, can you talk for a

minute?  He said, what about?  I said, Trump and Ukraine.  And he ghosted

for the rest of the day.

 

O`DONNELL:  Right.

 

HARWOOD:  Talked to another one who said I kind of wish he hadn`t said what

he said, poor choice of words, but it`s not a crime, which is the

distinction that Joyce referred to a moment ago.  Not necessary for

impeachment, but that`s the line they`re staying on the other side of. 

 

I think it will be harder for Republican politicians to defend the

sacrifice of the interest of people in Hong Kong.  That broke late in the

day.  I bet some Republicans feel obliged. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s take a quick look at Joni Ernst.  A lot of members are

not in Washington right now.  Joni Ernst, Senator Joni Ernst in Iowa,

reporters didn`t really catch up, but voters did. 

 

Let`s listen to how that went. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): Whistleblower should be protected, please let folks

out there know. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And our president shouldn`t be threatening them and

should not be encouraging other countries to investigate his political

rivals. 

 

ERNST:  I would say to that, corruption no matter where it is should be

ferreted out.  I don`t care where it is.  I don`t care who it is, when it

is, corruption is corruption and it should be combated.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But it`s OK for our president to extort other

countries to begin investigations –

 

ERNST:  I – you know, I – OK, we`re going to move on to another question. 

What I would say is we can`t determine that yet. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  So, John, if you want to get a question in, you will have to

get out of Washington to find them. 

 

John Harwood, Joyce Vance, thank you both for joining us tonight. 

 

And when we come back, the other whistleblower, the new one.  Tonight, we

have new details about a whistleblower complaint filed by a career IRS

official about possible interference with the standard audit that is always

done on the tax returns of the president and the vice president.  That`s

next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Washington Post is reporting new details

tonight about another whistleblower complaint inside the Trump

administration. An Internal Revenue Service official has filed a

whistleblower complaint reporting that he was told at least - by at least

one Treasury Department political appointee, who attempted to improperly

interfere with the annual audit of the President or Vice President`s tax

returns, according to multiple people familiar with the document.

 

Trump administration officials dismissed the whistleblower`s complaint as

flimsy, because it is based on conversations with other government

officials. But Congressional Democrats were alarmed by the complaint now

circulating on Capitol Hill, and flagged it to a federal judge.

 

They are also discussing whether to make it public. The existence of this

whistleblower complaint was first disclosed in August in court filings by

the House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, who wrote that the

complaint reveals “potential inappropriate efforts to influence the

mandatory audit program.”

 

Democrats are demanding President Trump`s tax returns be released in

accordance with a law that gives the House Ways and Means Committee

Chairman access to any tax returns.

 

After this break, we`ll be joined by John Heilemann once again and Walter

Shaub who is the former Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

In other words, Walter Shaub used to be the conscience of the federal

government.

 

Walter Shaub resigned from that job when he realized it was going to be

impossible to carry out those duties, with the Trump administration making

a mockery of the ethics rules in government. That`s next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL: Donald Trump has continued to tell the lie that as President he

cannot make his tax returns public as long as they are being audited. Every

President, since Richard Nixon, has made every one of their tax returns

fully public, while those tax returns were automatically being audited by

the IRS.

 

Joining us now is Walter Shaub, he`s the former Director of the U.S. Office

of Government Ethics. He resigned in protest of the Trump administration`s

failure in the category of ethics. And John Heilemann is back with us.

 

And Walter, I want to get your reaction to this reporting tonight on the

whistleblower now within the IRS, and we seem to be learning more about it,

or maybe weeks away from seeing exactly what that is. But it sounds like

someone at Treasury, a political appointee, reaching in in some way

interfering with what has become the automatic tax audit of both the

President and Vice-President`s returns.

 

WALTER SHAUB, FORMER DIRECTOR, U.S. OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS: Yes that`s

right, the allegation we don`t know the specifics of but the understanding

is that somebody may have reached out and tried to influence it.

 

I think what`s really important to understand is that Treasury Department

officials don`t communicate with IRS officials about specific reports, so

that`s extraordinary. But the existence of this complaint itself, even if

investigation ultimately clears whoever allegedly did this, shows why

Congress needs access to these tax returns of the President. And of course

we`re only in this position because the President didn`t release his tax

returns.

 

O`DONNELL: Yes, and John, it turns out - I think a lot of us thought that

it was just not a law, it was an IRS law, that we had written a law that

says that President and Vice-President`s tax returns are automatically

audited. We didn`t, it is just a custom, and it was a custom that no

President prior to now dared to tamper with.

 

JOHN HEILEMANN, NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, MSNBC: Like many of the best

things that are in our government, it`s just a norm.

 

O`DONNELL: Yes.

 

HEILEMANN: And what we have found I think in the course of the Trump

administration is that just many of the norms have helped, but some of them

have not, and what we found is that the President of United States has no

respect for them, is willing to trample over them at any given point.

 

I`m a little confused by this story, as I - as you read it. I mean Walter I

ask you like, what do you think is actually going on in this story, because

I`ve read it now three or four times and I still can`t quite get what is

being alleged, other than kind of some vague like - there`s a

whistleblower, which is interesting in and of itself is a dynamic now, the

notion that the whistleblowers are coming forth in Washington is kind of an

interesting thing. But what is actually being alleged as having been the

wrongdoing here?

 

SHAUB: So we don`t actually know and there`s a very important reason for

that. The law strictly protects access to tax returns and imposes severe

penalties, so that`s going to make it a little harder for Congress to be

able to release this one than they did the Ukraine whistleblower`s

complaint.

 

But they`re apparently researching that and analyzing whether they can do

it. So the only thing we do know is that the complaint involves a potential

effort by some political appointee at the Treasury Department level with

regard to the tax return of either the President or the Vice President that

was being reviewed by IRS officials.

 

That may pan out to involve no misconduct or it may involve very serious

misconduct, because if the allegation is true, that`s really an

extraordinary thing. Because again, they don`t communicate about individual

complaints and the departmental level officials have no role in the IRS

review of the President`s report.

 

O`DONNELL: Yes, but because this is an arena that no one has tampered with

since Nixon, it could actually be a Trump appointee in Treasury, simply

calling up the IRS and saying, you know that audit you automatically do of

the President`s returns, don`t do it. And I`m not sure that legally there

would be anything wrong with that, because there is no law that says that

they must do the audit.

 

HEILEMANN: Right, and I think that again to the point of the - there are

some areas that we`re going to learn in the course of these four years with

Trump is that, there are some areas where we should codify some things–

 

O`DONNELL: Yes.

 

HEILEMANN: –that had just been norms and standard practices in the past,

because we thought no President would be shameless to ignore - so shameless

as to ignore them. But we have to either create an enormous political cost

for violating them or a legal prohibition. And I think in Trump`s case,

what we`re learning is that there are circumstances where there`s no

political price to pay or not one that`s substantial enough, and we need

these laws, we need some of these things to actually become statutory.

 

O`DONNELL: Yes, we`re on the time for this tonight, Walter, but I`m sure

your head is now just filled with things that, as some of which are

statutory, but they don`t have penalties that force enforcement like

Kellyanne Conway`s constantly violating the law and White House property by

basically campaigning.

 

Turns out the penalty for that is administered by your boss, which means

there`s no penalty, so maybe we need a codified penalty for that.

 

SHAUB: Yes, we`re going to need a lot stronger laws that actually come with

some teeth. I think one of the most important things the past couple of

weeks has taught us is we really need stronger whistleblower protections.

 

O`DONNELL: Yes.

 

SHAUB: Because for one thing, you can`t have an Inspector General program,

you can`t have an ethics program be truly effective if whistleblowers are

afraid to come forward with wrongdoing.

 

O`DONNELL: Yes. John Heilemann, Walter Shaub, thank you both very much for

joining me tonight, really appreciate that.

 

And when we come back, we have breaking news about the nine and a half hour

deposition that took place tonight, the Chairmen of the Committees involved

have released a statement and information about that deposition.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL: We have breaking news at this hour from the Committees that were

- that are doing the impeachment investigation, who conducted the nine and

a half hour deposition today with former State Department envoy Kurt

Volker.

 

The Committee Chairmen have released a joint statement saying that today`s

hearing and the documents obtained in the hearing, especially the text

messages obtained in the hearing, have been very revealing.

 

They say these text messages reflect serious concerns raised by a State

Department official about the detrimental effects of withholding critical

military assistance from Ukraine, and the importance of setting up a

meeting between Donald Trump and the Ukrainian President without further

delay.

 

We quoted you one of those texts that had already leaked earlier in this

hour. That was from Bill Taylor - that was Bill Taylor saying in a text, “I

think it`s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political

campaign.” This document released tonight by the Chairs of the Committees

now provides the full context and the full exchange on that text.

 

Also has a text from Bill Taylor to others involved in the discussions

about Ukraine, are we now saying that security assistance and White House

meeting are conditioned on investigation. That was a text to Gordon

Sondland, who said - whose response was, call me.

 

That is a recurring response from Gordon Sondland. We`ve seen Sondland -

we`ve seen in these texts that whenever Bill Taylor goes into the essence

of what the Trump administration is up to, linking aid to a criminal

investigation of Joe Biden, Gordon Sondland always wants to take that off

of a written record and move it on to a verbal phone call.

 

We are joined now by phone by Congressman Eric Swalwell who was in some of

that or most of that, or even all of that deposition today, who knew about

this information. Has been unable to comment on it in his previous

comments, until it`s been released by the Committee Chairs.

 

Congressman Swalwell, what else can you tell us about this information

that`s now being released?

 

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Good evening Lawrence. I was present for the

whole interview with the Ambassador. And you first - he corroborated

entirely what the whistleblower complaint stated, that there was a

shakedown - a shadow shakedown going on by Rudy Giuliani, it looks like

ordered by President Trump, and the whistleblower says he was told that

there was an effort to have the Ukrainians “play ball.”

 

And so, here`s what the Ukrainians understood as soon as President Zelensky

was sworn into office, that there were two asks from the White House. And

that, if he wanted a meeting with President Trump, he had to, one,

investigate the 2016 election and essentially exonerate Russia, and two,

investigate the Bidens and that ask was made throughout the process of him

being President, up until that phone call and even beyond.

 

We have evidence of State Department officials, particularly Bill Taylor,

expressing concern even before he came onboard to be the second in command

in Ukraine, of the role that Rudy Giuliani was playing. And just a couple

of weeks ago, Mr. Taylor said he thought it was crazy that security

assistance would be tied to the President`s political campaign.

 

O`DONNELL: This report tonight that Kurt Volker co-wrote a statement that

they hoped the President of Ukraine would give and he co-wrote that with

Gordon Sondland, was that part of his testimony today?

 

SWALWELL: Well, I`m going to leave it to the text messages that were

released, but you do see in those text messages that there was a concerted

effort. It looks like it was being led by the President, carried out by

Rudy Giuliani, to make sure that the Ukrainians were expressing to

President Trump that they would indeed investigate the 2016 election, as

well as this upcoming 2020 election, as it related to a potential 2020

appointee.

 

So again, that corroborates what the whistleblower says. That also really I

would say corroborates the President`s intent on that phone call, and it

gives us new witnesses to interview as we go forward.

 

O`DONNELL: On this lot, this text from Bill Taylor to Gordon Sondland where

he says, are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting

- that means a White House meeting for the President of Ukraine, are we now

saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on

investigations.

 

Gordon Sondland - his response is just, call me. Do we know what happened

when Bill Taylor called him, do we know what was said then?

 

SWALWELL: No, we don`t and that`s why we have a new witness - a potential

witness in Mr. Taylor. But again, when so much of this is taking place on

Whatsapp, that`s the form that they are talking, and then it`s moved off of

that, again you can conclude I believe that it`s because that Ambassador

Sondland does not want to discuss what the President`s true intentions are,

and you do see that as you pointed out a number of times.

 

Mr. Taylor consistently from the time he is placed in charge or is the

second in command and then there`s no Ambassador and he`s essentially the

de facto Ambassador, he has concerns about Rudy Giuliani`s role. And then

you see Ambassador Volker, who I would describe as a serious Ambassador who

is running a parallel diplomacy effort, as Rudy Giuliani is truly the one

who has the President`s intentions.

 

Ambassador Volker, I believe, was carrying out the intentions of the United

States to deliver security assistance to Ukraine, while Rudy Giuliani was

carrying out the ambitions and desires of President Trump, which was to

benefit himself in an upcoming election.

 

O`DONNELL: Did Kurt Volker tell you today under oath why he resigned from

the State Department last week?

 

SWALWELL: He did, and I don`t want to go into that, the transcript is going

to be released soon, but we believe the text messages really do speak for

themselves. And it is clear that a shadow shakedown was being run by Rudy

Giuliani to benefit his client, not the Office of the President, but Donald

Trump, an individual who had a vested political interest in the 2020

outcome where he was leveraging US tax dollars to his benefit.

 

O`DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you very much for joining us

tonight, really appreciate that.

 

SWALWELL: My pleasure, thank you.

 

O`DONNELL: And John Heilemann is back with us, and joining us at the table,

David Frum, senior editor for The Atlantic and a former speechwriter for

George W. Bush. Also with us, Norm Ornstein, he is a Congressional

historian, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

 

And this table is stacked with text messages that you have all been

studying as quickly as you can, while the Congressman has been talking.

David, go ahead.

 

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR FOR THE ATLANTIC AND FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR

GEORGE W. BUSH: I don`t think the serious nature of the conversation he`s

had does justice to the rich comedy of these text messages. I mean this is

like a high school musical about evil wrongdoers.

 

I`m looking at one here from July 25 of 2019, a message from Kurt Volker.

Good luck, good lunch thanks. Kurt from White House, assuming President Z

convinces Trump he will investigate “get to the bottom of what happened in

2016,” we will nail down visit - date for visit to Washington. Good luck,

see you tomorrow.

 

So the visit to the White House, it`s - in a text message is predicated on

getting to the bottom of Trump`s crazy fantasy.

 

O`DONNELL: So there`s China in July in a text message, they`re texting

about China investigating the Bidens in July.

 

FRUM: They`re texting about getting the Ukrainians to endorse this insane

theory that Trump`s has that Seth Rich is the person who actually hacked

the Democratic–

 

O`DONNELL: I`m sorry, was that referring to Presidency Xi or was that

referring to President Zelensky?

 

FRUM: I`m sorry, oh Z as in Zelensky.

 

O`DONNELL: OK.

 

FRUM: Not Xi. And you go through them again and again and it`s - as I said,

there`s - we are talking so gravely and Congressman Swalwell does such a

good job, was talking so seriously and with such respect for the

institutions. I think you read this and it is a high school musical.

 

O`DONNELL: Well this - Norm, this is one of the challenges when we`re

covering the game, the gang that couldn`t shoot straight, but when they`re

trying to destroy the world, when they`re basically shooting against the

freedom of protesters in Hong Kong, when they`re shooting against Ukraine

trying to maintain its independence from Russia in effect.

 

I mean that what this crazy gang that isn`t shooting straight is firing

bullets around. And so keeping a straight face when we start reading their

stuff isn`t that easy.

 

NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL HISTORIAN, AND RESIDENT SCHOLAR AT THE

AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I throw up a little in my mouth as I read

some of this stuff.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

I will tell you Lawrence, I`ve been here for 50 years.

 

O`DONNELL: You don`t like it.

 

ORNSTEIN: I know, well I came very young age. I have never seen a level and

depth of corruption, traitorous behavior that we have here, and the

complicity all across the board. What I find striking about some of these

texts is, Bill Taylor trying to do the right thing.

 

O`DONNELL: Yes.

 

ORNSTEIN: And Gordon`s Sondland, anytime that something comes up that seems

a little fishy says, let`s stop texting, call me. Now, what does that mean?

It means I`m not going to put on a text that`s going to be released

somewhere.

 

FRUM: It`s kind of late. Please delete this evil confession.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

ORNSTEIN: Yes. But the lying here - but the idea that Donald Trump cares

about corruption, when he cuddles up to CC (ph), to MBS in Saudi Arabia, to

every vicious corrupt dictator in the world, and this is the place where he

cares about corruption? Please.

 

O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, what`s your favorite?

 

HEILEMANN: Well, it`s not one particular thing, but I`ll say I`m really

struck by the use of exclamation points throughout. There is kind of a high

schoolish quality, to go to David`s point. There is lot of it. And you see

it particularly in the way Volker communicates with Giuliani, where

Giuliani has been citing these things.

 

Volker was like really, but he was on my side, he`s trying to help me out

here. And there is a lot of, hi Mr. Mayor, exclamation point. Thank you,

exclamation point. The way - you kind of - it`s like you can sense that he

is kind of treating Giuliani like he understands that he`s a crazy person

and that he has to be handled with kid gloves. But he is trying to be

solicitous towards him, but also kind the way a 15-year-old is solicitous

with someone who they recognize as kind of a hot potato.

 

O`DONNELL: But this makes so clear why Mike Pompeo is blocking the

testimony of everyone else that they want to hear from.

 

ORNSTEIN: And lied about his own being on the phone call too.

 

O`DONNELL: Yes.

 

FRUM: There may be 25 people in Washington who cared about Ukraine before

all this. But those 25 really cared about it and saw Ukraine`s transition

to greater success as the crucial work on the European continent for the

democratization and liberalization in their time.

 

And the idea that these 25 people, and Kurt Volker is one of them, who care

so much about this project, 50 million people. And in the month of

September, by the way, 50 Ukranian - when the arms were delayed, 50

Ukrainian soldiers killed or wounded. This is not abstract. These are lives

that are being sacrificed by President Trump`s campaign, and these people

have to deal with, as you say, the likes of Rudy Giuliani.

 

HEILEMANN: And Zelensky is so wounded by this that now he is being pushed

to capitulate in the invasion of Crimea and legitimize it. And we shouldn`t

forget Mike Pence in all of this before we end. Greg Sargent has a timeline

there, the idea that Pence didn`t know any of this that was going on, when

it was being shouted from the rooftops by Giuliani and we had all this

other stuff going on is ludicrous too.

 

O`DONNELL: Well, and John, surely as we get more and more of this from

inside the State Department, Mike Pence`s name is going to be in some of

these things at some point.

 

HEILEMANN: Yes. It`s clear that Pence is being dragged deeper and deeper

into this. And he`s dragged in deeper and deeper both by the facts, by the

fact that he is clearly more involved and more implicated than he would

like to be or that anybody would like him to be, except for one person,

Donald Trump.

 

Who - part of the reason Pence is going to end up deeper and deeper in this

is that Trump wants Mike Pence deeper and deeper into this, because if it

gets to a Senate trial, what Donald Trump wants to say to Senate

Republicans is, hey you get rid of me, this guy`s just as dirty as I am.

 

O`DONNELL: And Norm, one of two dozen people who David was referring to who

has always professed concern about Ukraine is Lindsey Graham. And we now

know he didn`t mean a word of it, and as far as we can tell, he has never

meant a word of anything he`s ever said before Donald Trump became

President.

 

ORNSTEIN: I believe that if John McCain were alive today, that he would be

shattered at the duplicity and complicity and traitorous behavior by

Lindsey Graham. It`s shocking.

 

O`DONNELL: We`re going have to leave it there. John Heilemann, Norm

Ornstein, David Frum, thank you for your speed reading of the text

messages. Appreciate it.

 

That is tonight`s last word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, they`ll

have more text messages, starts now.

 

END   

 

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