Bill Taylor contradicts Trump’s claim. TRANSCRIPT: 10/22/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And that`s exactly why we`re doing another hour of coverage right now
because I couldn`t possibly cover everything that you covered in the last
hour. I`m going to have some things that were not in your hour. And it
feels like we`re still just trying to catch up to it.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes. I mean, I could do – I could have
written the whole show like by noon, and then by 5:00, a whole different
show, and then between 5:00 and 8:00, a new show, and now, just what`s
happened this hour is already blown all that out of the water. I can`t
O`DONNELL: It`s the present tense with Rachel Maddow. That`s the name of
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, Ambassador William Taylor sealed Donald Trump`s fate today as the
next impeached president of the United States. Ambassador Taylor may have
changed the lives of other members of the Trump team who could be charged
with participating in an illegal conspiracy involving aid to Ukraine and at
least one who might be charged with perjury after Ambassador Taylor`s
testimony today in an under oath deposition to the House of Representatives
which was, most definitely, not a lynching.
Strom Thurmond would be very, very proud of Lindsey Graham today. Strom
Thurmond was the racist who held Lindsey Graham`s Senate seat for almost 50
years before Lindsey Graham succeeded him in 2003. All 31 of Lindsey
Graham`s predecessors in that Senate seat would be proud of him today.
They were all racists.
Many of them were slaveholders. Some of them were supporters of the 156
lynchings of black people that South Carolina recorded in the worst of
times in America. When Donald Trump tweeted this morning that the
impeachment process is, quote, a lynching, no one actually took Donald
Trump literally except Lindsey Graham.
There was a rush to object to the president`s appropriating the word,
lynching, to describe his suffering in the impeachment process, even Mitch
McConnell whose state lynched 142 black people said it was an unfortunate
choice of words, but Lindsey Graham, Lindsey Graham offered his most
perverse defense of Donald Trump yet today by saying that the impeachment
investigation is, quote, this is what Lindsey Graham said, a lynching in
Every sense means not just figuratively but literally, literally someone is
putting a rope on Donald Trump`s neck with his hands tied behind his back
and he`s being strung up on a tree. That`s what Lindsey Graham said today.
Lindsey Graham is so far gone that he does not know where he is and he does
not know what is happening in Washington. What is happening is people who
have devoted their lives to service without any interest in ever getting
rich like Donald Trump are bringing their devotion to service and to duty
to an impeachment process that shines more light every day on the
impeachable conduct of Donald Trump, impeachable under the Constitution of
the United States.
Ambassador William B. Taylor was born the year after Donald Trump was born
and they grew up in very different worlds. Donald Trump, the son of a
father who had been arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally and then went on to be
accused by the Justice Department of racist discrimination as a New York
City landlord. William Taylor`s father graduated at West Point, spent his
life in service, mostly with the Army Corps of engineers.
Donald Trump and William Taylor followed in their father`s footsteps.
Donald Trump, too, was accused by the Justice Department, along with his
father, of racist practices as a landlord. Like his father before him,
William Taylor graduated from West Point and spent most of his career in
government service, first in the infantry in the Vietnam War then in
civilian positions in the Department of Energy, as a member of Senator Bill
Bradley`s Senate staff, and then with the State Department serving in
Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, and Ukraine.
William Taylor is an expert on Ukraine. He served as George W. Bush`s
ambassador to Ukraine. And after Donald Trump forced out Marie Yovanovitch
as ambassador, William Taylor is now serving as acting ambassador to
Ukraine. He testified for ten hours today under oath about what Donald
Trump and Rudy Giuliani have been doing with Ukraine. And, yes, William
Taylor delivered testimony devastating to President Trump.
One freshman member of the committee hearing his testimony today said after
the first couple hours of William Taylor`s testimony that it was, quote, my
most disturbing day in Congress so far. That congressman will join us in a
William Taylor`s testimony could make the impeachment of Donald Trump
bipartisan. His testimony could turn some Republican votes in the House of
Representatives and it might be the testimony that convinces Republican
Senator Mitt Romney to vote to convict and remove Donald Trump from office.
Donald Trump`s very rich and totally incompetent and unqualified ambassador
to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, could face perjury charges after
William Taylor`s testimony today. We will consider later in this hour how
William Taylor`s testimony increases Rudy Giuliani`s risk of being charged
in federal crimes, along with Giuliani`s friends and associates who have
already been charged with federal crimes because of their dealings
Even though over 90 percent of William Taylor`s opening statement today was
about possible impeachable offenses by Donald Trump and the possible
criminal conduct of Rudy Giuliani and Gordon Sondland, the message that was
clearly closest to William Taylor`s heart in his opening statement today
what was he had to tell Congress about Ukraine and its people, unlike
Donald Trump, William Taylor cares about Ukraine. He cares about the
people of Ukraine deeply.
He set the stage for his testimony by saying: Ukraine is right at this
moment, while we sit in this room, and for the last five years under armed
attack from Russia. Across the responsibilities I have had in public
service, Ukraine is special for me. If Ukraine succeeds in breaking free
of Russian influence, it is possible for Europe to be whole, free,
democratic, and at peace. In contrast, if Russia dominates Ukraine, Russia
will, again, become an empire, oppressing its people, and threatening its
neighbors and the rest of the world.
Ambassador Taylor then laid out in painstaking detail what he described as
an irregular informal channel of U.S. policymaking with respect to Ukraine,
one which included then-special envoy Kurt Volker, Ambassador Sondland,
Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and as I subsequently learned, Mr.
Ambassador Taylor described a video conference call on July 18th when he
heard a staff person at the Office of Management and Budget say there was a
hold on security assistance to Ukraine, and that that order came from the
president to Mick Mulvaney and from Mick Mulvaney to OMB. Mick Mulvaney is
in even more need of a criminal defense lawyer tonight than he was before
William Taylor`s testimony.
William Taylor`s testimony differs sharply with Gordon Sondland`s under-
oath testimony to the same committees. Gordon Sondland said under oath in
his opening statement, I do not recall any discussions with the White House
on withholding U.S. security assistance from Ukraine in return for
assistance with the president`s 2020 re-election campaign, and William
Taylor`s opening statement, he said, Ambassador Sondland also told me that
he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the
Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with
President Zelensky was dependent on a public announcement of
In fact, Sondland said everything was dependent on such an announcement,
including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted
President Zelensky in a public box by making a public statement about
ordering such investigations. Ambassador Taylor did not know at that time
that Donald Trump in his phone call with the president of Ukraine had
already told him that he wanted an investigation of, quote, Biden. And
Gordon Sondland`s very expensive criminal defense lawyers had exactly one
mission during his testimony to the committees which was to get him through
his testimony without committing perjury, and it appears tonight that they
may have failed in that mission. William Taylor`s testimony today is a
story of incompetent and dangerous fools named Trump and Giuliani and
Sondland betraying America`s multi-decade commitment to Ukraine and the
Ukrainian people. The day after Donald Trump`s impeachable phone call with
the president of Ukraine, William Taylor traveled to the front line of the
battle with Russia.
He said today, I could see the armed and hostile Russian-led forces on the
other side of the damaged bridge across the line of contact. Over 13,000
Ukrainians had been killed in the war, one or two a week. More Ukrainians
would undoubtedly die without the U.S. assistance.
That`s what it was about for William Taylor. Saving Ukrainian lives while
Donald Trump and William Taylor`s view undoubtedly condemned more
Ukrainians to die as he illegally withheld aid that had been mandated by an
act of Congress.
After William Taylor`s testimony today, Donald Trump`s impeachment by the
House of Representatives is even more of a certainty than it was yesterday.
And when members of the House are voting to impeach Donald Trump, followed
by the senators who will vote to convict and remove Donald Trump, many of
them will be quoting the elements of the impeachable offenses outlined by
William Taylor today, including the very clear quid pro quo that some
Republicans until today have claimed was not in evidence and surely as many
House members and member senators announce their vote, they will be quoting
William Taylor saying, more Ukrainians would undoubtedly die, because of
Leading off our discussion tonight are Democratic Congressman Peter Welch
of Vermont. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He was in
the room today during William Taylor`s deposition.
Also with us, Democratic Congressman Andy Levin of Michigan. He`s a member
of the House Foreign affairs committee. He was also in the room today
during William Taylor`s deposition.
And with us is Evelyn Farkas. She`s a former deputy assistant secretary of
defense in the Obama administration. She served on the staff of the Senate
Armed Services Committee for seven years and she also served on the staff
of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She`s an MSNBC national security
And we are going to break with protocol tonight because as in congressional
hearings, we usually go by congressional seniority here, but I want to
start with the freshman. I want to start with Representative Andy Levin
because you said today when we were just a couple hours into this testimony
that this was your – how did you put it? Your worst day so far in service
in the House?
REP. ANDY LEVIN (D-MI): I think the most disturbing day, Lawrence, I think
is what I said.
O`DONNELL: And what was it that you were hearing that left you with that?
LEVIN: Well, I am really intent on honoring our process, and I think it`s
a process that respects the dignity of our witnesses and so I`m not going
to talk a lot about a lot of detail about what was said.
But you have a president of the United States who said in front of the
nation, now, with the phone call notes, that he muscled a foreign leader to
do favors for him about his own political life here in the United States.
It`s not the past, but the future. Not when he was a candidate, but he`s a
sitting president of the United States trying to get favors about his re-
election campaign, and you`ve got his acting chief of staff saying that aid
was held up, vital military assistance, to an ally under attack by Russia
was held up for these political reasons.
Of course, he tried to walk it back, but today, many bricks were added to
the edifice of the case of – for the impeachment of Donald Trump. And
it`s – I mean, if you`re a patriotic American, Lawrence, it`s got to be a
sad day. I mean, I personally take no joy in this, but it was an
overwhelming day, and why?
Because somebody like Bill Taylor, an infantry officer in Vietnam, 101st
Airborne, who went on to serve the country from his days at West Point for
a total of 50 years and counting, Lawrence, he doesn`t care about
Democrats. He doesn`t care about Republicans. He cares about the national
security interests of the United States and he reluctantly came back to
serve in the country, as you mentioned, that he loved so much, Ukraine, and
he`s watching right in front of his eyes a president undermine the national
security of the United States for his own political end.
So that`s a really sad day. And it just confirms what the president,
himself, has said.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Welch, did this testimony give in the clearest
possible terms yet the quid pro quo that some Republicans have been
claiming was not present?
REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): Well, it did. I mean, you nailed it, really, in
your opening. Essentially, what ambassador Taylor saw was that the policy
that we`ve had in Ukraine since 1991 – by the way, he was appointed as
ambassador by President Bush, where we had as a goal to help Ukraine fight
internal corruption and resist external aggression.
You know, it was a bipartisan policy with strong support from Republicans
and Democrats and Republican and Democratic presidents. He saw that
unraveling is what that report says.
Now, this is a sordid mess, but I want to go back to something Andy said
because this is really a moment of grace. I mean, this man, Ambassador
Taylor, he started his public service on the planes of West Point when he
was a teenager and went to Vietnam and he never stopped. And he was
dedicated to a career of competence and professionalism and the
And his requirement to serve in this job was assurance that he would be
able to promote that policy of bringing Ukraine into the Western family of
democracies. And as the testimony evolved, as you saw that in the
statement that is reported, he came to see that there was actually a rogue
policy that was completely outside of the State Department channels and was
intent on accomplishing one thing, and that was getting dirt on Joe Biden,
and getting involved in domestic politics. Something that was obviously
bad for us but it`s also very bad for the Ukraine because the point that
the ambassador made was the linchpin, the strategic significance of
Ukraine, was that they did have bipartisan support and he feared that would
jeopardize that bipartisan support.
O`DONNELL: And, Evelyn, there`s a very personal, briefly told but personal
story in his opening statement today that I think everyone in government
service recognized. He talks about being asked to go and do this job in
Ukraine for what would now be the Trump administration and he was very
reluctant because of what he had seen of the chaos of President Trump. He
was very reluctant of serving a president who he had really no reason to
have confidence in. And there`s a friend, unnamed friend, who says to him
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Right, he
said a former mentor.
O`DONNELL: – when you`re asked to serve the country, it doesn`t matter
who the president is in a situation like this, and we are so lucky that
that friend gave him that advice in the moment when he needed it and in a
moment where he says that his wife was opposed to him doing this.
FARKAS: Yes, there are a lot of good people, Lawrence, I know them, who
are serving, some even in political positions in this administration
because they think they can make a difference. I mean, Fiona Hill is
another example. I talked to her before she went in. She is not a
political person, but she felt she could make a difference. She could do
And, Bill Taylor, he knew the background. I mean, you can tell from the
testimony, he knew what happened to Masha Yovanovitch, Marie Yovanovitch,
the ambassador, proceeding him. All these people are interconnected. You
know, they`ve know each other for decades and worked on these problems.
So, he went in despite that probably thinking he could help, again.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Levin, I want to read a piece from the opening
statement about John Bolton, in which Ambassador Taylor said, Ambassador
Bolton opposed the call between President Zelensky and President Trump out
of concern that it would be a disaster. So there you have John Bolton
doesn`t want President Trump to even get on the phone with the president of
Ukraine, apparently, because he was afraid of exactly what did happen on
LEVIN: You know, Lawrence, I just want to stress here the importance of
bipartisanship in foreign policy and the broad consensus we`ve had in our
country about the importance of Ukraine in this neighbor of Russia, and I
have to say, personally on my part, I am from – I`m a kid from Berkeley,
Michigan. I grew up with Ukrainian-American kids. Places like Warren and
Sterling Heights in my district are a big center of the Ukrainian-American
So this is really important to me personally and to my constituents. And I
think what those comments you referenced reflect is that any normal
Republican or Democratic foreign policy professional would say that it`s
tremendously in our interests to support the development of Ukraine as a
democratic society, try to nurture this very delicate flower that`s had a
lot of trouble growing. A lot of corruption there.
Could we help this new administration in Ukraine become a flourishing
democracy? That`s why Bill Taylor signed up for duty again. And then he
went in and found this sort of cancer growing there.
And that`s what we`re all seeing, not just from Bill Taylor`s testimony,
but from all of this growing body of evidence that the president had a
whole rogue foreign policy going on run by his personal attorney and that,
sadly, too many of our people within the foreign service may have been
participating in, and other parties of the government.
O`DONNELL: Bill Taylor described the dynamics of the quid pro quo in
several different ways. This is one of them. He said, during our call on
September 8th, Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President
Trump is a businessman, when a businessman is about to sign a check do
someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person
to pay up before signing the check.
Congressman Welch, as you know, Ambassador Taylor then said, of course,
Ukraine owes Donald Trump nothing. Is Gordon Sondland in danger of perjury
charges for his testimony to your committee?
WELCH: I think he is. You know, when he presented himself, he was kind of
a rich guy who bought an ambassadorship. And he pretended it was a good
day for him, he got a job he wanted but he was pretty naive that he didn`t
know the real meeting was going on in the room next door. But, of course,
the evidence is now coming out that, in fact, he was a very active
instrument to try to essentially assist Giuliani in the effort to have this
rogue foreign policy.
So, yes, I think Ambassador Sondland has some reason to be worried about
how his testimony`s going to be evaluated when reviewed by potential
O`DONNELL: And, Congressman, let me stay with that because that`s breaking
news for you as a member of the committee who`s heard this testimony to say
that ambassador Sondland is now in danger of perjury charges. How would
that work – does that work the way it has in the past where the committee
basically refers the case to what is now the William Barr Justice
Department and hopes for the best with them?
WELCH: Well, the William Barr Justice Department is obviously not paying
much attention to this. And by the way, let`s go back here because
whatever Sondland did, he`s a side player here. The heart of this case is
what President Trump said, according to the readout, in his conversation
with President Zelensky. And that`s where the president asked for a favor.
And the favor was to do an investigation and dig up dirt on the Bidens.
And the president explicitly said he`d have Rudy Giuliani and Bill Barr
call him, and that`s the heart of this. So what Mr. Taylor did, or
Ambassador Taylor did, he kind of elaborated on how extensive those efforts
were, but the heart of this is really very simple.
The president in a phone call with his own voice, his own words, requested
a foreign power to provide assistance in a domestic political campaign.
That`s against the law. And by the way, he did that the day after Director
Mueller testified that the new normal may be Russian interference or
O`DONNELL: Congressman Peter Welch and Congressman Andy Levin, thank you
both for joining us tonight, starting us off. We really appreciate that.
WELCH: Thank you.
LEVIN: Thanks, Lawrence. Have a great evening.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And we`re joined by under secretary – former ambassador secretary of
state, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, and Jeremy Bash, a former chief of staff
to CIA and Defense Department. Evelyn Farkas is still with us. All are
And, Ambassador Sherman, I want to start with you. We just heard
Congressman Peter Welch creates some breaking news here. He`s a member of
the committee who`s heard the testimony of Ambassador Sondland, now
Ambassador Taylor. He believes that Gordon Sondland now is very close to
or in danger of perjury charges for his testimony.
AMBASSADOR WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL
AFFAIRS: Lawrence, I`ll leave that to the lawyer in the trio here this
evening, Jeremy. But I will say that there is absolutely no reason not to
believe everything that Bill Taylor has said. I first served with Bill
Taylor when I was the assistant secretary for legislative affairs in the
first Clinton administration after the fall of the Soviet Union, I got help
to get the first $1.2 billion for the newly independent states and Bill was
in charge of what was called the Freedom Fund to try to give that money to
states and it was very bipartisan.
I remember quite clearly Senator McConnell pressing us very hard for $300
million to go to Ukraine. He was terribly, terribly concerned about
Ukraine and its future and its destiny and separating it from Russia. So
what your colleagues on the camera said before us, what the members of
Congress said, is quite true.
And Bill Taylor has been committed to a free and open Europe ever since,
and so I think, yes, this puts Gordon Sondland in great jeopardy because I
think that listening to the detailed accounting that Bill Taylor gave, it`s
very hard to not believe him and very easy to question Sondland.
O`DONNELL: And, Jeremy Bash, that`s what the perjury case would come down
to, at least as we know it at this stage, it would be the credibility of
William Taylor versus the credibility of Gordon Sondland.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, I think the important point
here, Lawrence, is that President Trump`s own handpicked special envoy, or
ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, acknowledged as we now
see from this witness testimony, that there was a demand for a quid pro
quo, and specifically what Ambassador Taylor, the well-respected career
diplomat who has served Democrats and Republicans in every administration
since 1985 as referenced earlier, served in the 101st Air Force in Vietnam,
started his career at West Point.
What he said today, when he was talking to the National Security Council,
the National Security Council was expressing concern because Gordon
Sondland had said to Zelensky`s team explicitly, here it is on the page,
that there was no money that would be given for security assistance until
the Ukrainians pursued an investigation of Joe Biden and Burisma. That`s
clear. It`s on the page. It`s Bill Taylor`s absolutely 100 percent
crystal clear testimony.
O`DONNELL: And, Evelyn, the testimony as he continues, he talks about
Fiona Hill and Mr. Vinman (ph) trying to reassure him that they were not
aware of any official change in U.S. policy. Let me just read that.
He says: Despite OMB`s announcement that they were holding back the
funding, he said, but they did confirm that the hold on security assistance
for Ukraine came from Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and that the chief of
staff maintained a skeptical view of Ukraine.
And so, now, Ukraine policy is turning on what Mick Mulvaney thinks after
the Congress has ordered this aid.
FARKAS: Right. I mean, Lawrence, the U.S. government`s position is that
we must support Ukraine. Why? Because if we let Ukraine become basically
a vessel of Russia, then essentially we will have allowed Russia`s sphere
of influence and runs counter to everything we now believe in post-World
War II – Borders, the right for peoples to determine their own future,
I mean, the young people in Ukraine as he`s – as the ambassador pointed
out in his testimony, they very clearly said we want a new future, we want
a Democratic future, we don`t want corruption. So, now, these two
individuals, Mick Mulvaney and the president, are trying to turn the entire
policy around, it looks like. I mean, they`re throwing it into question
and that`s really problematic because, again, Congress has spoken. The
executive branch has spoken writ large.
The cabinet still thinks that this is our policy, so this is a renegade
policy that somehow the president has tried to convince his chief of staff
and others to implement.
O`DONNELL: We have to squeeze in a break here. Former Ambassador Wendy
Sherman, Jeremy Bash, Evelyn Farkas, thank you all for joining this
And when we come back, Republican Senator Mitt Romney said on HBO this
weekend that exactly what he would be looking for as a jury in the Senate
impeachment trial of Donald Trump and Ambassador William Taylor is now the
one witness who can give Mitt Romney everything that he says he is looking
for in this case. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Here`s what Republican Senator Mitt Romney said on Sunday night
on Axios on HBO about what he will be looking for when he is a juror in the
Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I`d like to learn the full background of who all
was involved in communications with Ukraine, what was said to them, what
the intent was on the part of the President to the administration with
regards to Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s what Ambassador Taylor testified to today. Ambassador
William Taylor could be the witness who answers all those questions for
Joining us now John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and
MSNBC, he is the co-host and executive producer of SHOWTIME`s The Circus.
Also with us is Mark Thompson host of Make It Plain, his daily podcast.
Mark, the day began with Donald Trump calling this process a lynching, with
only Lindsey Graham agreeing with him. What we saw in what William Taylor
delivered in his opening statement was anything but a lynching.
MARK THOMPSON, HOST OF MAKE IT PLAIN: No, it wasn`t a lynching at all. It`s
a despicable term for him to use. It`s like he`s channeling Clarence Thomas
Aside though is I don`t - we don`t need to explain the racial
insensitivity, but let`s be specific, he is about to undergo a trial.
Lynchings were not trials, people were executed summarily based upon
allegations, which he wanted to do to the Central Park Five, now the
So for him to say he`s a victim of a lynching, when he is in the process of
a trial, witnesses in his administration testify against him. It`s patently
absurd. Look, you have been more outspoken than anyone about how ridiculous
he is and frankly how stupid he is.
So it just doesn`t work. He is being given a fair and due process, and he
needs to go ahead and participate in it. And if there`s any vindication,
put it on a table. But I think we all know we doubt there`s any indication
John Heilemann, when I was hearing Donald Trump lead his crowds and
encourage them in their Lock Her Up chants, I never heard them chanting
about her having a trial before they locked her up.
JOHN HEILEMANN, NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST FOR NBC NEWS AND MSNBC: Yes,
Lawrence, the recourse to a process argument is always the recourse of
HEILEMANN: When the facts are against you, you argue the law and in this
case obviously you can`t argue the law, because this isn`t really strictly
speaking a legal proceeding. It`s a political proceeding that has various
kinds of protections in it.
We have heard people on this show and other shows point out that the way
that impeachment works is that the House side is basically designed to be
like a grand jury process. It`s about the collection of facts in the same
way that a grand jury operates largely in secret.
It deduces all the facts and then it makes a charge, and the charge are the
articles of impeachment. If they are passed, you then end up at the United
States Senate, where you have a genuine trial and you have all of the kind
of due process that someone would normally get in a criminal trial, and
that`s what Donald Trump is surely headed now.
I think there`s not been a question for a while that Donald Trump was going
to get impeached in the House of Representatives. Obviously conviction is
still a large question. But if there was any question in anyone`s mind
before today about whether Donald Trump is going to be impeached in the
House of Representatives. That question has now been fully obliterated by
the testimony that we learned about today.
O`DONNELL: Mark, there are two key witnesses now against Donald Trump, are
so far Donald Trump in his own rough transcript released by the White House
of his phone call, those words of Donald Trump on that phone call, and
Ambassador Taylor today.
THOMPSON: Yes, Ambassador Tyler, that`s a compelling witness and I`m
grateful that there are some people, witnesses and obviously those
witnesses, advisers and attorneys with the good sense to go down there and
tell the truth.
Everybody doesn`t have to go down with the ship and I`m glad. And it`s
chilling, because when you get that on a phone call what Taylor said that
there needed to be a public announcement of this. Now, we could infer that
from the phone call.
But for him to actually know that it had been told and if it`s had been
documented, that makes it even worse.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and John, Taylor`s testimony said that there was actually a
plan that the President had and others involved or someone to get the
President of Ukraine to go on television in an interview and in a public
interview, as Trump put it, put him in a public box where he would say that
they are investigating the Bidens.
HEILEMANN: Right. And I mean, Taylor of course in his conversations with
the Ukrainians thought that was a bad idea and kind of counseled them not
to want to do it. I think it is extraordinary, I mean Lawrence, that the
key elements of this testimony that we learned today on both sides, the
notion that it was explicit, that everything meaning the military aid was
contingent on everything on the other side meaning you had to investigate
the Bidens, you had to investigate 2016 corruption, and that not only you
had to do it, but you had to do it publicly.
That all of that stuff was that explicit in the conversation with Sondland
is a really devastating piece of evidence, and I do think that although the
White House right now is fighting back and try to portray Taylor as a left-
wing member of the Deep State, the notion that this man who`s resume says
that he was made Ambassador to Ukraine by George W. Bush and was
reappointed as Ambassador - effectively Ambassador to Ukraine by Mike
Pompeo is going to be very hard I think for the President`s political
operatives to paint this person as some kind of a
Clinton/Obama/Sanders/Warren left wing Trotskyite member of some kind of
coup attempting Deep State. It just doesn`t work with the man`s resume.
O`DONNELL: Let me get a quick exit question as we go to this break. Mark
Thompson, can William Taylor`s testimony flip some Republican votes in the
House of Representatives?
THOMPSON: Yes, I think so and including with everything else what`s going
on in Syria, let`s not forget about Fiona Hill`s testimony, I think all of
that is damning, this is pretty bad.
O`DONNELL: And John Heilemann, to the Senate - for example Senator Romney,
did he get in William Taylor`s testimony what he said he needs to see to
make a decision here?
HEILEMANN: I think it`s hard to imagine Mitt Romney does not already have
what he needs to see. I think he`s going to want to see that trial proceed.
I think the question Lawrence continues to be, where on the day after
Thanksgiving, if this trial does begin the day after Thanksgiving as Mitch
McConnell has suggested or the week after Thanksgiving, what is Donald
Trump`s approval rating with the general public and what is his approval
rating with the Republican Party, that will tell you what the Senate trial
is going to look like politically and whether they`re going to be a few
Senate votes to remove him or maybe more.
O`DONNELL: Yes exactly.
HEILEMANN: Republican votes.
O`DONNELL: At that point exactly, who does Mitch McConnell really want to
have as a nominee for President in his party in the following year. Mark
Thompson, John Heilemann, thank you for guiding us through this.
And when we come back, a member of Congress who has known Ambassador
William Taylor for 20 years will join us. She`ll give us her view of the
credibility contest now between William Taylor and Gordon Sondland.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur has known Ambassador William Taylor
for over 20 years. NBC`s Garrett Haake caught up to her today and asked her
about her reaction to his reported testimony, including some of his text
messages about what Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani were trying to do to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARRETT HAAKE, NBC NEWS: What do you make of these incredulous text
messages that have come out from him, questioning the administration policy
on Ukraine from after he got back into the country?
REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D-OH): Well, he walked into a rat`s nest, and I think
that the rats there are very big.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Representative Marcy Kaptur is Co-Chair of the Ukraine Caucus.
Now as Representative, she serves as Chairwoman of the House Appropriations
Subcommittee on Energy, which has jurisdiction over the Department of
Energy, which was of course led by and is led by Secretary Rick Perry.
Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I want to get
your reaction to what we`re learning today about Rick Perry`s role in this.
It was not very prominent in William Taylor`s testimony, but he definitely
had a hand in some of this communication about this.
Is that something he should be testifying to your Committee about?
KAPTUR: He should. He should actually go before the Intelligence Committee,
because I can affirm that Secretary Perry led the delegation to President
Zelensky, the new President of Ukraine, to his inaugural, when President
Trump refused to go, and in addition to that, has traveled to Ukraine
probably more than any of the top administration officials in the Trump
The Secretary often would tell me that he was going, but quite frankly, he
never reported back formally in his testimony before our Committee as to
what he had actually accomplished. Now that I`ve heard his announcement
that he`s leaving, I`m saying to myself, oh no, no, no, not so fast.
I think that we need to debrief him to find out exactly where he went, who
was meeting with him, whether it was just in Ukraine or an adjacent country
such as Poland. Some of the other names that are being mentioned, Mr.
Sondland, Mr. Volker. To what extent was Secretary Perry a very important
member of that triumvirate?
O`DONNELL: So William Taylor now and Gordon Sondland are in a very direct
credibility clash. William Taylor saying Gordon Sondland repeatedly laid
out the very explicit exchange that Donald Trump had in mind, that an
investigation of the Bidens was what was necessary to get the aid delivered
to Ukraine, and/or to get a meeting with Donald Trump.
Gordon Sondland said, absolutely, and said out under oath that no such
understanding existed, there was no quid pro quo. What can we bring to our
understanding of these two people, as we evaluate their credibility?
KAPTUR: Well I have known Ambassador William Taylor, I calculated at 27
years from the fall of the Soviet Union, a system of governance completely
antithetical to our own, all the way up to the present day when he came out
of retirement to serve our country in an embattled country called Ukraine,
where - which really is the scrimmage line for liberty on the vast European
continent, the largest landmass nation in all of Europe, and the doorstep
to liberty in Russia someday I hope.
And I have watched him work as an Ambassador, but also as a military
genius. He was in Afghanistan, Iraq, he had fought for our country in the
82nd Airborne and 101st in Vietnam. He`s a West Point graduate, he`s a
scholar, he was an Assistant Director at the Institute of Peace here in
Washington, and he came out of retirement.
This man has given a half century of his life to this country. He is a true
patriot. And I don`t want to be too critical here, but I think I must - I
cannot find a single veteran in the Trump family. And indeed, the President
himself chose not to enter the military when he was asked during the war in
So you have two very different individuals here. Someone who has selflessly
served his country and someone who appears to be using his position to
advantage some of his own personal interests and frankly jeopardizing
liberty in a most tender part of the world where Russia has invaded
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, thank you very much for joining us
and I really appreciate it.
KAPTUR: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, did William Taylor`s testimony today move
Rudy Giuliani closer to being indicted along with his friends and
associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who are already indicted and will
actually be arraigned tomorrow. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: From the start, Donald Trump and his teammates have been looking
for back channels. Before Donald Trump was inaugurated, Jared Kushner
trying to set up a secret back channel to communicate with Russia.
One of the Trump team members involved in trying to set up that back
channel to Russia is now a convicted felon, Donald Trump`s first National
Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Is Rudy Giuliani next?
Before Ambassador William Taylor testified today, Rudy Giuliani was already
under federal criminal investigation for his back-channel dealings with
Ukraine, along with two of his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
Lev and Igor will be arraigned in Federal Court tomorrow on charges tied to
their dealings with Ukraine. Federal prosecutors in New York City in charge
of that investigation will surely be studying the transcript of today`s
deposition with Ambassador William Taylor for more evidence of what Rudy
Giuliani has been up to.
We have access only to Ambassador Taylor`s opening statement in what became
10 hours of testimony. In that opening statement, Ambassador Taylor said
the push to make President Zelensky publicly commit to investigations of
Burisma and alleged interference in the 2016 election showed how the
official foreign policy of the United States was undercut by the irregular
efforts led by Mr. Giuliani.
Former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade is here to evaluate what the
testimony of William Taylor could mean in the criminal investigation of
Rudy Giuliani, an investigation being conducted by the same U.S. Attorney`s
Office that Rudy Giuliani used to be in charge of when he was U.S. attorney
for the Southern District of New York. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): This is not just rogue Rudy Giuliani self-
dealing in Ukraine. He`s an agent of the President. The President is his
client. Anything Rudy Giuliani does is on behalf of the President, so Rudy
Giuliani is President Trump, President Trump is Rudy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Barbara McQuade, the former U.S.
attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and an MSNBC legal
contributor. And John Heilemann is back with us. Barbara, what happened to
the criminal investigation of Rudy Giuliani today?
BARBARA MCQUADE, THE FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF
MICHIGAN AND MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it likely got stronger.
I think that, as you said, if I was a prosecutor in the Southern District
of New York, I`d want to get my hands on that transcript of what Bill
Taylor had to say today.
We got his opening statement, 15 pages where we talked about Rudy Giuliani
being the leader of this alternative world of foreign policy that was going
on at the same time, leading the foreign policy in a very dark place to put
together this quid pro quo, this idea that in exchange for an investigation
on Biden and the 2016 election, President Trump would release this aid.
That could very well be a bribery scheme. And although we know a sitting
President can`t be charged with a crime, there`s no rule that says a
sitting President`s lawyer can`t be charged with a crime. And so, I think a
conspiracy to commit bribery is something that is very much on the table
and something they would be looking at today. I think they would be
scouring the many hours of deposition testimony for other leads and other
witnesses they can talk to about this.
O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at Rudy Giuliani`s televised confession, when
asked the question, did you ask Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No. Actually, I didn`t.
I asked the Ukraine to investigate the allegations that there was
interference in the election of 2016 by the Ukrainians for the benefit of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?
GIULIANI: Of course I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, of course I did.
HEILEMANN: Of course I did. Yes, Lawrence, to the point of what Barbara was
saying, and actually to the point what Eric Swalwell was saying before, I
had been joking for a while that Rudy Giuliani is like Donald Trump`s
criminal lawyer, except without the lawyer part.
And increasingly it seems to me that that`s not just a joke, but it`s true.
We`re going to see two of his associates hauled into court tomorrow, our
friends Lev and Igor, who we met a couple weeks ago. You`ve got connections
increasingly to Ukrainian oligarchs, including this gentleman, Mr. Firtash.
They are looking at it - it is increasingly looking like a very cloudy
scheme that involves an effort to both profiteer and profiteer off of
election interference, with Rudy Giuliani at the center of it.
And I think everything that has happened, this testimony today obviously
the most damning, but what we`ve seen over the course of the last week and
a half, and I think going forward, we`re going to find out more and more
details of the extent to which Rudy Giuliani is at the center of what looks
like a criminal conspiratorial enterprise on behalf of the President.
And the point that Swalwell made that`s super important, you will remember
like Iran-Contra, whence you had the President basically saying, all these
guys around me were freelancing, I didn`t know anything about this. That
was Reagan`s defense.
In this case, it`s impossible for Rudy Giuliani to freelance on Donald
Trump`s behalf. He`s not in the government. The only connection he has to
this is directly through the one principal who`s in the government that he
is serving and that`s Donald Trump. And so that, I think, puts a lot of
onus on Giuliani and also puts a lot of onus on the connection between the
President of the United States and this particular gentleman.
O`DONNELL: Barbara, Eric Swalwell was actually echoing a concept advanced
in the Nixon impeachment, which was that the staff was acting on behalf of
the President, so the President was in effect guilty of all the things that
the staff was also accused of. But what do you make of the way Eric
Swalwell just phrased it, it basically comes down to Trump is Giuliani, and
Giuliani is Trump.
MCQUADE: Yes, I don`t think the law or the House is going to be quite so
aligned in saying that, even if President Trump didn`t know what Rudy
Giuliani was doing, that they would hold him accountable.
But nonetheless, the sole reason that Rudy Giuliani is engaging in these
transactions is for the benefit of President Trump. And if you look at what
Bill Taylor said today, he puts President Trump squarely in the middle of
some of those conversations of asking President Zelensky of Ukraine to put
him in a box, to make an announcement about investigations.
And so, yes, Rudy Giuliani is acting as his agent in traveling, but
President Trump is very much involved according to Bill Taylor.
O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade gets tonight`s LAST WORD. Barbara McQuade, John
Heilemann, thank you both for joining our discussions tonight. Really
appreciate it. That is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian
Williams starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the