Trump openly solicits foreign interference. TRANSCRIPT: 10/3/19, The Last Word w/Lawrence O’Donnell.
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
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
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
(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
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
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
“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?
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 –
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
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
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
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?
HEILEMANN: They`re sitting there on the table smoking, I have a hard time
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
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
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
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
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
O`DONNELL: No one blows the whistle on Donald Trump quite like Donald
(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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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–
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
FRUM: It`s kind of late. Please delete this evil confession.
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.
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,
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
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.
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the