House to vote this week on resolution. TRANSCRIPT: 10/28/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And I have the same opening statement in my hands we`ve been studying while
you`ve been on the air. And this – it reads like tip of the iceberg, when
you consider how much this colonel was exposed to in the White House. It`s
a remarkably short and effective opening statement, but there`s a lot
between the lines here.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes, I mean, and it`s five or six pages, from
the colonel, but he`s listening in on the call, he`s the subject matter
expert, he`s a military veteran and a national security lifer. He`s
interacting not directly with the president on this, but interacting
directly with everybody who the president has tasked with doing this thing.
And it sounds like he couldn`t stomach it.
O`DONNELL: It will be fascinating to see what the Republicans have to say
about this witness tomorrow.
MADDOW: Yes, this Purple Heart, wounded, lifelong military veteran –
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right.
O`DONNELL: Well, what is the difference between “lock her up” and “lock
him up”? I will give you my answer to that question that has been burning
up Twitter for the last 24 hours, after baseball fans at last night`s world
series fans chanted “lock him up” when President Trump appeared at the
game, apparently thinking everyone there would be thrilled to see him.
At the end of this hour, we will show you that video and answer that
question, what is the difference? And that video will probably be the last
time that Donald Trump ever appears before a crowd that he cannot control.
We begin tonight, of course, with the breaking news about the testimony of
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who will testify in a closed-door
deposition tomorrow, in the impeachment investigation of Donald Trump. NBC
News has obtained a copy of Colonel Vindman`s opening statement tomorrow,
in which he explains that he was listening to Donald Trump`s phone call
with the president of Ukraine.
He says, I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to
demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and I was
worried about the implications for the U.S. government`s support of
Following the call, I again reported membership concerns to NSC`s lead
counsel, that would be John Eisenberg. Colonel Vindman stresses that he
personally has had no direct contact or communication with President Trump.
And he also says he is not the whistle-blower.
He says, I want the committees to know I am not the whistle-blower who
brought this issue to the CIA and the committees` attention. I do not know
who the whistle-blower is and I would not feel comfortable to speculate as
to the identity of the whistle-blower.
Colonel Vindman begins his opening statement with some basic biographical
information. He says, I have dedicated my entire professional life to the
United States of America. For more than two decades, it has been my honor
to serve as an officer in the United States army. As an infantry officer,
I served multiple overseas tours, including South Korea and Germany, and a
deployment to Iraq for combat operations.
In Iraq, I was wounded in an IED attack and awarded a Purple Heart. Since
2008, I have been a foreign area officer, specializing in Eurasia. In this
role, I have served in the United States` embassies in Kiev, Ukraine, and
Moscow, Russia. In July 2018, I was asked to serve at the National
I sit here as a lieutenant colonel in the United States army, an immigrant.
My family fled the Soviet Union when I was 3 1/2 years old. Upon arriving
in New York City in 1979, my father worked multiple jobs to support us, all
the while learning English at night. He stressed to us the importance of
fully integrating into our adopted country.
I have a deep appreciation for American values and ideals and the power of
freedom. I am a patriot and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and
defend our country, irrespective of party or politics.
And leading out of our breaking news discussion tonight from Kiev, Ukraine,
is NBC News reporter, Josh Lederman, national reporter for NBC News. Also
joining us, former ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, who knows
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman; Evelyn Farkas, former deputy
assistant secretary in defense in Obama administration. And Jonathan Alter
is with us. He`s a columnist for “The Daily Beast”.
And, Ambassador McFaul, let me start with you. What should we know about
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman?
FMR. AMB. MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, we
served together in Moscow. When I was the ambassador, he was part of the
military attache there. You read a lot of it already.
And I was always struck, as I always am, the people that go to serve
overseas in those embassies, especially the military attaches – actually,
not especially – all of them. They`re the best and the brightest, the
people that are the most committed to the cause. Alexander – Colonel
Vindman had another piece of his biography, as you read, he is an emigrant
from that part of the world.
And from my experience, working in the government, there`s something about
the emigrants that join the U.S. government and serve – and serve in the
military. They are even more committed to the cause. You know, he`s a
loyal patriot. I have no idea if he`s a Democrat or a Republican. And
there would be no reason that that would ever come up.
And another thing. I also worked at the White House, I want to underscore.
I was senior director there for three years. And I had people like Colonel
Vindman that worked for me.
Remember, they`re also the best and the brightest that get detailed to work
at the National Security Council. He is definitely one of those people.
O`DONNELL: And, Josh Lederman, in Ukraine tonight, we were going to lead
this hour with your reporting from Ukraine, which reveals that the White
House – people in the White House, in Josh Bolton`s arena of the White
House, knew about the pressure that Rudy Giuliani was putting on Ukraine
earlier than we thought, in May.
How is Colonel Vindman`s statement tonight linking up with your reporting?
JOSH LEDERMAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I got to tell you
something that really jumped out to me in reading that statement tonight,
Lawrence, was the fact that he says that he began to understand as early as
the spring that what he described as outside influencers were getting
involved in Ukraine policy in a way that was contrary to U.S. national
security interests. That links up very well with what we are reporting at
NBC News tonight, which is that as early as mid-May, long before had
previously been known, Fiona Hill, a top official at the White House had
been notified that President Zelensky just barely taking office as the new
president here in Ukraine, was concerned and rattled by this pressure
campaign from Rudy Giuliani and Ambassador Sondland.
So we`re getting a much bigger and broader picture, consistent from
multiple people who are coming forward, describing a pressure campaign that
started early and that was clear to the Ukrainians that they were going to
have to do what Rudy Giuliani wanted if they were going to have the type of
relationship with the United States that they were to be seeking.
O`DONNELL: Evelyn Farkas, Colonel Vindman says he`s not the whistle-
blower, doesn`t know who the whistle-blower is, but it is possible that
Colonel Vindman might be one of the people who shared his concerns about
the situation with the person who turned out that decided to become the
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Right, it
sounds highly likely, Lawrence, because he is describing exactly what
happened – he describes that he heard the phone call, he was alarmed, he
spoke to people about his alarm, he likely spoke to the whistle-blower. He
probably has a sense of who the whistle-blower is, but doesn`t want to put
that person in jeopardy by revealing anything about them. But he expressed
It`s a small group of people. You know, these are all experts who work
very hard, you know, as Ambassador McFaul just said. They work very hard
to help the relationship between the United States and Ukraine.
And in the case of Ukraine, because it`s so pivotal to standing up against
Russia, we focus really and put a lot of heart in it, even if you`re not
Ukrainian-American, but, of course, that was a special element that he had.
You know, the other thing about him, I think, as a military officer, he
stresses over and over again, this duty that he has to speak out and report
up the chain, if he sees something awry.
And it`s something that we don`t drill into civilians regularly. But in
the military, you`re not really required or you`re not expected to resign,
you`re expected to follow orders, but you`re also expected to speak out and
elevate concerns up the chain.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, it seems like every other day, there is a new
name, a new name who suddenly becomes the most important name so far. And
Colonel Vindman is the first person to testify, who heard the phone call.
JONATHAN ALTER, “THE DAILY BEAST” COLUMNIST: Absolutely. And you know,
history is going to look back on this as part of what I call the patriotic
surge. It`s now no longer, you know, just one or two ambassadors. You now
have more than half a dozen patriotic Americans coming forward, doing their
constitutional duty. These are our heroes now and I think they will be
seen as such, when the history of impeachment is written.
And in this case, you have somebody who was not only on the call, but was
in the military, you know. Ambassador Taylor was in Vietnam. He was in
Iraq and he got a Purple Heart, Vindman did, after being wounded in Iraq.
It`s going to be very hard for Donald Trump to rip him apart, when he
testifies in public, which is coming, if not next week, then the week
O`DONNELL: And Ambassador Taylor did testify to some things that were
direct evidence, conversation that he participated in. But a certain
amount of his testimony was hearsay. A certain amount of most of the
whistle-blower`s complaint is what you would call hearsay. Many
Republicans like Lindsey Graham have been dismissing that kind of evidence
But Colonel Vindman is not a hearsay witness. He literally was on the
phone call and he also had his own direct conversations with Gordon
Sondland. Now, I just want to emphasize, this passage of his opening
statement, because Gordon Sondland is now the person in most jeopardy in
terms of what`s happened in the investigation, in the committee so far. He
is the one person who may be close to a perjury charge.
And Colonel Vindman`s opening statement says, Ambassador Sondland started
to speak about Ukraine, delivering specific investigations in order to
secure the meeting with the president, at which time Ambassador Bolton cut
the meeting short. That was a meeting with Ukrainian officials.
Following this meeting, there was a scheduled debriefing during which
Ambassador Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the
investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens and Burisma. I stated to
Ambassador Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the
request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national
security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going
to get involved in or pushed.
Dr. Fiona Hill then entered the room and asserted to Ambassador Sondland
that his statements were inappropriate. Following the debriefing meeting,
I reported my concerns to the NSC`s lead counsel. Dr. Hill also reported
the incident to the NSC`s lead counsel.
And, Ambassador McFaul, this is the kind of scene that I`m sure does not
surprise you at all, except for the Sondland part. But the part where the
professionals stand up to this, in effect, tourist ambassador, this rich
guy who bought his ambassadorship based on no experience whatsoever, that`s
what you would expect them to do with an amateur like that.
MCFAUL: Yes, well, normally, professionals like Colonel Vindman would
never even interact with those kind of ambassadors. Remember, Sondland had
nothing to do with Ukraine policy. He bought his position to be the
ambassador to the European Union.
And remember, at the time, when he`s working at the NSC, his job is to be
the point person for the entire government at his level for Ukraine, right?
So he is reporting to Fiona – Fiona Hill, who`s the senior director.
He`s the director for Ukraine. So he has primary responsibility for
coordinating the entire policy. And that`s why he`s so upset when he sees
this, as his boss called it, drug deal happening in parallel.
And what you read, Lawrence, that sounds like a patriot to me. I challenge
anyone to go after Colonel Vindman, the way they did with Ambassador
Taylor, when they called him some radical, unelected bureaucrat. This
sounds like a patriot to me, as was and as is Ambassador Taylor, somebody I
O`DONNELL: Well, because he`s also an immigrant, we can expect Donald
Trump to accuse him of being bias, in favor of Ukraine.
And, Josh Lederman, Colonel Vindman is very well known in Ukraine. He
speaks the language. He is someone who has his own real experience there.
And I assume he`s someone who I assume the government and Ukraine has dealt
LEDERMAN: That`s right. So he was a foreign area expert, which means that
even though he served in some different capacities, he`s currently detailed
to the National Security Council. He`s been focused on this region for
quite a while. He had served here in Kiev as well as other parts of the
So, he was well known to people here, had a level of trust. They knew who
he was and what he stood for, the fact that he was someone who also had
ancestry here. And he is someone who has had added credibility as a result
of the fact that he`s a real expert in his area. Not someone as you
mentioned like Ambassador Sondland who kind of came in and seemed to be
acting out of political purposes, instead of a well-verse knowledge of U.S.
national security interests when it comes to Ukraine and the broader Europe
O`DONNELL: Evelyn Farkas, the national security counsel`s lawyer is now is
a very sharp focus of this investigation. Whenever something like this
happens, the professionals immediately report it to the NSC`s counsel.
FARKAS: Right. And so, now, the question is, what did that counsel do
with the information and what was the conversation like between Ambassador
Bolton, the national security adviser, and the lawyer for the National
There are a lot of questions about what the lawyer`s involvement was in
basically taking phone transcripts and putting them on to the very secret
computers, which you`ve talked about in other programs. This lawyer is
also potentially, I would say, in some jeopardy. So he can join Ambassador
Sondland in that arena. But certainly, Sondland, of course, is in a bit of
trouble, because it looks like he may have misled Congress when he went up
O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan Alter, to stress to the audience, since the
Republicans have been lying about this, tomorrow`s deposition is – there`s
48 Republican members of the House who have a right to be in that
deposition, listen to ever word, and ask every question they might want to
ask of Colonel Vindman. There are Republican staff members in that room.
And so this is their chance to talk – their first chance, to talk to
someone who actually listened to the Trump phone call.
ALTER: Yes, and I don`t think they`re going to do anything to knock him
down. There`s no indication that the Republicans have laid a glove on any
of these other people being deposed. They know that their president is in
a pickle. And what eventually a lot of them are going to do is just say,
well, this doesn`t rise to the level of impeachment. They`re not even
going to try to contest the facts, which are now very clear.
The problem with the argument that is emerging, that this doesn`t rise to
the level of impeachment, is that it has now become a national security
issue. And this is one of the things that Colonel Vindman does, is he
links up why this is related to our national security. And the reason is,
the reason that Ukraine did not want to be put in this position is that if
their aid was politicized, if it became a Democrat versus Republican thing,
because, say, the Democrats thought, well, you know, Ukraine is
investigating Joe Biden on a bogus charge, then it would be less likely
that they would get aid in the future, less likely that they would be able
to defend themselves against Russia.
That is very much in our national security interests. That`s why we`re
giving them $400 million, is that this is a national security issue for us,
and this has now become enmeshed in this case.
O`DONNELL: We`re joined now by a member of the House Intelligence
Committee and House Judiciary Committee, Democratic Congressman Eric
Congressman Swalwell, I want to get your reaction to Colonel Vindman`s
opening statement. It has been made public and I know it`s going to be
something he delivers in the closed-door deposition tomorrow. But it is
now a public statement. And this will be the first witness who you will
have, who actually listened to the president`s phone call.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Good evening, Lawrence. I very much look
forward tomorrow morning to thanking Lieutenant Colonel Vindman for his
service to our country. This Soviet-born immigrant, this wounded warrior,
this patriot who I have not seen officially the opening statement. But
from what I have read, which has been released, of course, based on his
service to our country, he would be concerned about what he heard.
And of course he would follow the proper chain of command. He did not leak
out to the press. He went through the chain of command, through the
national security lawyers, expressing his concern.
And it really will be people like him who have come forward, who have
followed lawful subpoenas, done their duty, that will aid our
investigation, people like Ambassador Yovanovitch, people like Ambassador
McKinley and Ambassador Taylor, who provided so much color to this
And to my Republican colleagues who have heard this testimony, if they have
sat through it, I ask, can you hear them now and will you hear them now?
O`DONNELL: And, Congressman, this is your first opportunity to question
someone who actually listened to the phone call. This means it`s the first
opportunity to check the voracity of the rough transcript of that phone
call released by the White House. That so-called transcript has ellipses
in it of a few times.
Is that something that someone will zero in on and ask him, does he recall
if there were any additional words spoken, especially in those spaces that
are just represented by a dot, dot, dot?
SWALWELL: Of course, Lawrence. That will be a mart of our investigation,
as well as understanding who else was on the call. Did anyone else express
But, Lawrence, frankly, if there was nothing else, you know, to the dot,
dot, dots, as you referenced, it`s a gross abuse of power. And if all
President Trump did was ask the Ukrainian president to help him investigate
the Bidens, that would be a gross abuse of power.
But he didn`t just do that, he leveraged a White House meeting and he
didn`t just do that, he also leveraged $391 million of your taxpayer
dollars. That is what we`re investigating and I very much look forward to
hearing from the lieutenant colonel tomorrow.
O`DONNELL: There seems to be a conflict in Colonel Vindman`s testimony and
Ambassador Sondland`s testimony. There seems to be a very sharp conflict
between Ambassador Bill Taylor`s testimony and Gordon Sondland`s. One
member of the committee who listened to these testimonies said that he
believes that Gordon Sondland could easily face perjury charges the way
this investigation is going.
Is Gordon Sondland in more trouble tonight as a result of Colonel Vindman`s
SWALWELL: I`m going to reserve judgment on that and wait until I hear from
all of the witnesses. But I will say, Ambassador Taylor, whose testimony
was in sharp conflict, at least the opening statement that was released
with Ambassador Sondland, he had a deep recall that was backed up by
meticulous notes that he took. And that is in sharp conflict with
Now, Ambassador Sondland was at the committee today, reviewing his
testimony with his lawyer, and of course, has an opportunity, you know, to
review that testimony. I`ll wait to see what he does with it.
But people like Fiona Hill, also as you saw in your testimony, have
corroborated what Ambassador Taylor and others have said. And it seems to
be that the arrows continue to point toward a shakedown ordered by this
president, two sharp lines to Rudy Giuliani and Ambassador Sondland, to
have the Ukrainians, at the president`s direction, investigate his
political opponents in exchange for a White House meeting and security
O`DONNELL: Congressman Swalwell, let me just go over that review of
testimony from Ambassador Sondland. That is an offer that`s made to
witnesses when they testify under oath in depositions like this by your
committees, that they can have an opportunity to review their testimony.
What is the point of that review and is that a situation in which someone
like Gordon Sondland can look over his answers and say, having thought it
over, I would actually – I actually think the correct answer is something
And is that a moment you want to think very seriously about possible
perjury if you`re Gordon Sondland?
SWALWELL: Well, I hope he thought about that before he testified,
Lawrence. But it`s not an opportunity to change the answer. It`s really
to make sure that the court reporter, the stenographer, accurately, you
know, was able to capture your words. It`s for technical changes or to
clarify where something may be unintelligible.
There`s other ways for him to clear up his testimony if he wanted to do
that, but it`s not to change what the stenographer has taken down. And I
just want your viewers to know, Lawrence, that it`s not just the ambassador
who`s able to review those transcripts. Every member on the Republican
side, up to about 50 of them, are able to also review those transcripts and
participate in these hearings, despite all of the attacks they`ve made on
their lack of access.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador McFaul, if you could suggest a question to Colonel
Vindman tomorrow, what would you suggest the committee, knowing what his
job is and knowing the types of information he has access to, what would
you suggest the committee should zero in on with Colonel Vindman tomorrow?
MCFAUL: Well, on the small part, again, I don`t know how the Trump
national security works, but when I work at the National Security Council,
it would be somebody like a director, the level that he was at, that would
review those transcripts that you are talking about, right? So he would
know if that was the transcript or not.
But the big question, and I think that`s really revealing about what he
said so far is the timeline here. As you were talking about earlier, that
I think what this testimony suggests is that the phone call was just one
act, was just one play, if you will, in a long, multiple month, many, many
different iterations with the Ukrainians. And I want to know when he knew,
the other things that happened before that phone call.
And secondly, I would ask him about the first phone call. We haven`t
talked much about that phone call, but there was a congratulatory phone
call to President Zelensky earlier in the year. Was he on that call and
could he talk about what will happen in that call as well?
O`DONNELL: And, Josh Lederman, that takes you back to your reporting,
which is the timeline. You`ve done important work on the timeline
reporting today. And it seems that Colonel Vindman`s testimony is
lightning with your timeline.
LEDERMAN: That`s right. And we`re learning more from this new reporting
about how early the alarm bells were going off inside the National Security
Council, with John Bolton, the former national security adviser, being
briefed by Fiona Hill after a visit from a former U.S. diplomat, who had
just met here in Kiev with Zelensky and his advisers, as they were
preparing to take office. This is the period in between when Zelensky was
elected and he was inaugurated.
And he was already feeling the pressure from Giuliani, to change up the
board of Naftogaz. Fiona Hill was told about the involvement of Fruman and
Parnas, those two Florida businessmen who were also trying to dig up dirt
on the vice president`s son and have also now been indicted for alleged
campaign finance violations. And Fiona Hill at the White House was also
told in may about Gordon Sondland making unsolicited overtures to President
Zelensky about who he should put into key influential positions in his new
administration with the Ukrainians feeling before he`d even been sworn in
that that was inappropriate, and making sure that that message got to the
O`DONNELL: Evelyn Farkas, one thing that happens, we`ve discovered, in
these depositions is that new names come up and new people get discovered
in this story. Corporal Vindman was mentioned in some of the earlier
depositions and that`s where we learned about him. So that`s one of the
possibilities that could emerge in Colonel Vindman`s testimony tomorrow.
But what would you focus on, if you could be in that room tomorrow with
Colonel Vindman`s testimony?
FARKAS: I would be interested whether he knows anything about how all of
this started, because the strands of these stories. There`s, first of all,
the president trying to get the dirt on Biden and his son, and basically to
use it for his own political purposes. And then there are these guys
trying to make business deals and basically trying to take the reformed
Ukrainian natural gas industry.
It was like the one place where we had success. And it wasn`t corrupt
anymore. And they`re trying to dirty it up again.
Who actually directed Giuliani and these guys? Who put the idea in their
heads to start with Ukraine? I mean, they could have tried to get dirt on
Vice President Biden and his son elsewhere. And again, I believe that as
Nancy Pelosi put it, Speaker Pelosi put it, all roads lead back to the
I think there were people who were whispering in the ears of these
affiliates of Giuliani`s or others. Certainly, we know Firtash, the guy
who`s in jail, and we`re trying to get him extradited to the United States,
who was providing funding. He`s a pro-Russian guy. All the Ukrainians
that were dealing with back in Ukrainian, Josh is probably tracking them
all down now.
But these guys had an axe to grind with the United States. They were pro-
Russian. So, there`s a game being played here that unfortunately I think
Moscow is a little too heavily involved in. So, again, all roads go back
to the Kremlin and this is not good for Ukraine or the United States.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to squeeze in a break here. Congressman
Swalwell, please stay with us, so we can talk about that impeachment
resolution that the House will be voting on this week.
Josh Lederman from Ukraine, thank you for joining us tonight. Ambassador
Michael McFaul, Evelyn Farkas, Jonathan Alter, thank you all for starting
us off tonight.
We will be right back.
O`DONNELL: We will get our first look at the resolution Nancy Pelosi told
the House of Representatives that will be introduced this week. We`ll get
the first look at that on Wednesday when the Chairman of the Rules
Committee, Jim McGovern, brings it to a vote in the Rules Committee before
a full vote on the House floor on Thursday.
In a letter to Democratic members of the House, Speaker Pelosi said this
about the resolution. She said, “This resolution establishes the procedure
for hearings that are open to the American people, authorizes the
disclosure of deposition transcripts, outlines procedures to transfer
evidence to the Judiciary Committee, as it considers potential articles of
impeachment and sets forth due process rights for the President and his
Counsel. We are taking this step to eliminate any doubt as to whether the
Trump administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony,
disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of
Congressman Eric Swalwell is back with us. And Congressman, this is a -
this resolution will be very clear set of guidelines about how the
impeachment investigation proceeds from here. But is it also a political
response to Republicans trying to delegitimize what`s been happening in the
House because there has not been a vote of the full House on impeachment?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Yes. It`s not, Lawrence. It just so happens that
it also is that. But I think the Speaker is giving the President the due
process that he would never give anyone himself. And it would have been
premature to have done this last month when we just launched this
investigation. At that point, we weren`t quite sure if it would be
necessary to proceed to full public hearings.
If there was nothing there, if we saw evidence that would exonerate the
President, we would be able to just wrap up this investigation and say it
doesn`t warrant going further. We have seen evidence that is quite
alarming. And this will move to a public phase.
And as it moves to a public phase, we will want to make sure that the
investigative depositions are released, that there`s a process for the
minority to be a part of the public hearings, that there`s a process for
the President and his Counsel to have some role in the public hearings, and
for staff, as well, to play a role in the questioning.
To do that, you have to have the vote that we`ll be having on Thursday.
But, yes, you`re right. It also answers the question that the President
poses. “Why haven`t you formalized this with a vote?” We`re going to
formalize it with a vote and we`ll see what he does next.
O`DONNELL: And you did have a federal judge rule that you don`t have to
have any kind of vote by the House of Representatives. Judge Howell ruled,
“Even in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never,
in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry.” And so you
actually managed to have that legally established in court.
Was the Speaker waiting for that formal adjudication in court as, in
effect, proof that this is not necessary so that going forward with the
resolution now does not appear to be a necessary step?
SWALWELL: I don`t want to speak for her. I know that she wants to make this
process as fair as possible, but to also move expeditiously. And as I said,
the fact that we`re starting to lay up what the procedures would be for an
open hearing signals that we`re going to be moving toward that phase so
that we can illuminate for the public just what the President did in this
shakedown and give the Republicans an opportunity to question the
Now, I will say, Lawrence, I hope that they finally come to grips with what
is alleged here, bring seriousness that they have not yet brought to this
investigation, but also realize that unlike in our court system where
defendants are often assigned a public defender and that the public
defenders play an important role, the Republicans are not the President`s
public defender. They don`t have to just defend him at all costs. They can
actually play a constructive role in finding out just what happened.
O`DONNELL: It seems a bit optimistic for the Speaker to say that this will
eliminate any doubt that the White House has to comply with your subpoenas.
Of course, the White House will continue to play the game the way they`ve
been playing it. The incentive for the White House has not changed because
of this resolution, in terms of complying with subpoenas.
SWALWELL: As we get ready for the Charlie Brown Halloween and Thanksgiving
and Christmas specials, Lawrence, we expect this to be Lucy with a
football, that we don`t truly expect President Trump to comply and
cooperate. We expect he`ll continue to just lift up the football and have
some new terms. But we`re not going to chase him into court.
We have his confession co-signed by Mick Mulvaney and a lot of
corroborating evidence. If they want to participate, because they have
evidence that will exonerate him, we expect that they will. If they don`t
have that, we expect they will obstruct only because they have a
consciousness of guilt. And we`ll consider that as an article of
obstruction of Congress.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you for joining us tonight.
Really appreciate it.
SWALWELL: Of course. My pleasure, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And when we come back, why some Pentagon officials have been reporting that
the death of al-Baghdadi occurred, their terms, “largely in spite of, and
not because of, Donald Trump.”
O`DONNELL: “The New York Times” is reporting that President Trump`s abrupt
decision to withdraw troops from Syria affected the already-existing plans
for the raid on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
According to intelligence, military and counterterrorism officials, “Mr.
Trump`s abrupt withdrawal order three weeks ago disrupted the meticulous
planning underway and forced Pentagon officials to speed up the plan for
the risky night raid before their ability to control troops, spies and
reconnaissance aircraft disappeared with the pullout,” the official said.
Mr. al-Baghdadi`s death in the raid on Saturday, they said, occurred
largely in spite of, and not because of, Mr. Trump`s actions.
Joining our discussion now, Brett McGurk, served in the national security
positions under presidents Bush, Obama and Trump; most recently, as the
envoy leading the global campaign to defeat ISIS. He is a Senior Foreign
Affairs Analyst for MSNBC. Also joining us, Malcolm Nance, MSNBC
Counterterrorism and Intelligence Analyst.
And Brett McGurk, your reaction to “The Times`” reporting about this?
BRETT MCGURK, FORMER SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY, NBC NEWS SENIOR FOREIGN
AFFAIRS ANALYST & MSNBC SENIOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, it`s quite an
extraordinary report. And what strikes me is the fact that when President
Trump had this call with President Erdogan, this fateful call on October 6,
I think quite clearly there was no process to really staff that call, to
brief the President. So he fully understood the consequences if Erdogan had
a green light to cross the border, because nobody was providing more
intelligence on Baghdadi. And this isn`t new. This has been going on for
The majority of the intelligence, frankly, has come from the Syrian Kurdish
led forces. And without those forces, our ability to really finish off the
leadership of ISIS, in particular, Baghdadi, who Trump said was his number-
one priority, apparently he said that, we couldn`t do that without these
And what`s happened since then is all the Kurdish areas of Syria along the
border, the vast majority of them, we`ve basically abandoned those areas.
And they`re now under the control of Russia and the Assad regime.
So our ability to continue to prosecute this campaign, to follow up on the
intelligence collected from the Baghdadi compound, which must be an
extraordinary amount of information, is extremely limited. It`s just a
total breakdown in process, and it speaks to issues going on now really
across the board around the world.
O`DONNELL: So, Brett McGurk, what is the overall impact do you think at
this point of stopping al-Baghdadi?
MCGURK: Well, again, I want to say it is a landmark day. The men and women
who pulled this off, the civil servants in the intelligence community, our
men and women in the Special Forces, I spent a lot of time with them in
Iraq and Syria, truly extraordinary. And Baghdadi is not easily replaced.
So we should not understate the achievement here.
And President Trump, at the end of the day, he did order this very gutsy
raid. You could have obliterated the compound from the air, from - with
jets and things. He ordered a raid across hundreds of miles of territory.
That`s risky. But now we`ve collected all of this intelligence. It`s a
I worked on the ISIS account for many years. I can`t - it`s just
unimaginable what we now have in our possession. And we want to follow up
on that quickly and rapidly. But because of the chaos in Northeast Syria
over the last month due to the decision that the President made on October
6, this total unraveling of what was a very secure and stable situation, it
will be very difficult for us to follow through on this information. The
guys working on it will do the best they can, but it is a deeply
unfortunate situation and an unforced error.
O`DONNELL: And Malcolm Nance, the President, when he was giving his thanks
yesterday, the first country he thanked in this collaboration was Russia.
MALCOLM NANCE, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM INTELLIGENCE OFFICER & MSNBC
COUNTERTERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, that`s one of those
aspects of the Trump administration that is still a mystery to everyone.
But as Brett McGurk said, it`s the men and women of the armed forces who
carried out this absolutely amazing piece of special operations activity
and intelligence tradecraft that brought us to the point where we could
take out Baghdadi.
But for the most part, the fact that we actually were drawing down or had
to plan the drawdown, all of these resources, and there`s this elaborate
ballet of intelligence resources on the ground with our allies, the Kurds,
in the air, which any one of which had they come out of sequence, would
have tipped these - tipped this activity off, not just to the Russians, but
to the Syrians and the Turks and people that we didn`t want to have happen,
didn`t want to see and know that we were actually going to carry off this
But that - the President of the United States would have to de-conflict
this mission anyway with the Russians in that immediate air space because
of the resources we put there. But to praise them first is extraordinary. I
mean, that is just something that is going to have to be left for the
history books or for the impeachment process to vet out because it
certainly is not something that I think that the men and women who carried
out this mission would have expected to be at the top of their checklist.
O`DONNELL: Brett, what is the strength level of ISIS today?
MCGURK: In Iraq and Syria, there`s probably above 10,000 fighters or so.
They`re dispersed. They`re trying to regenerate an insurgency. And again,
this is the risk of withdrawing the bulk of our force in Northeast Syria.
And yet we built this campaign to be very cost-effective, very low numbers
of U.S. forces, really no more than 2,000 at any given time. We`re not
fighting. We`re not taking casualties. We`re not spending that much money
And President Trump justifies the withdrawal of these forces by saying he
ran on the promise to bring the troops home. But he`s actually sent 14,000
more U.S. forces to the Middle East since May. So there`s so much
And again, the ability to follow up on this operation has been
significantly diminished. And without the Syrian Kurdish led forces, we
would not have gotten Baghdadi. Without the Syrian Kurdish led forces, we
would not have defeated the ISIS physical caliphate that Trump praises
And again, the Kurdish areas in Syria are now under the control of Russia
and the Assad regime because President Putin and President Erdogan last
week sat in a room in Sochi with a map of Syria and carved up all the
territory that we had left. So that`s what happened.
And the situation is really not a good one, not to mention 180,000 people
who have been displaced since October 6th, many of whom are heading to an
already very unstable, very fragile Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan region. So
this is why you need a serious national security team, a very serious
National Security Council to advise the President and make good decisions.
And that`s really not happening.
O`DONNELL: And Malcolm, in the President`s statement yesterday, which was
supposed to be 900 words and he rambled it into 8,000, there was no
evidence whatsoever that Donald Trump has any idea what happens next.
NANCE: No. And that`s the problem with the Trump administration.
Incoherence is just the start of how you could describe this lack of
policy. What`s happening here is a series of decisions which are occurring
in Donald Trump`s mind. And from those immediate decisions, which get put
out in a tweet, then some policy has to be immediately drafted up on the
back of a notebook and some note paper, and then as that`s being executed,
Trump changes his mind again.
What we have here is incompetence. There is no policy in the Middle East.
There are deals that are occurring that it appears that are happening that
we don`t know about, but we`re seeing the parameters of them, and then we
find out later on that one of them betrays the number-one ally of the most
successful asymmetric warfare operation since the Jedburghs in World War
So - whatever Donald Trump is doing here, we can only expect to see
absolutely more - more mayhem. That`s just about all I can say.
O`DONNELL: Brett McGurk and Malcolm Nance, thank you both for joining our
discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.
MCGURK: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And Donald Trump has a long history of hating dogs. But all of
that changed for one brief moment yesterday. And in tonight`s “Last Word,”
what is the difference between “lock her up” and “lock him up”? It`s a big
O`DONNELL: There were a couple of big reversals in Trump world yesterday,
beginning with Donald Trump praising a dog.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: A canine, as they call,
I call it a dog, a beautiful dog, a talented dog, was injured and brought
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump has been a lifelong virulent dog hater. There is
nothing worse than a dog in Donald Trump`s world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He was run out of office like a dog.
They throw you the hell out like a dog.
Boy, does he jump like a dog.
I`m watching Marco sweating like a dog.
He choked. It`s just like a dog.
A lot of people choke. They choke like dogs.
And he was fired like a dog.
She lied like a dog. She cheated like a dog.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump reserves the “like a dog” insult for the people he
hates the most. And so it was a big reversal for Donald Trump yesterday to
use the phrase “beautiful dog” for the first time in his life.
And it was a big reversal for him last night when he appeared before a
crowd of 41,000 people who spontaneously started booing Donald Trump while
some of them chanted, “lock him up.” There is a big difference between
“lock him up” and “lock her up.” That`s next.
O`DONNELL: When Donald Trump made the mistake of presenting himself last
night to the 41,000 baseball fans gathered in Washington to watch the World
Series game, he discovered the hard way that they had not forgotten this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We do not need a reckless
President who believes she is above the law.
CROWD: Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up.
FLYNN: Lock her up. That`s right.
CROWD: Lock her up–
FLYNN: Yes, that`s right. Lock her up.
TRUMP: Lock her up is right. She should be locked up, tell you right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: When Donald Trump was introduced to the crowd at the World
Series last night, not only did he get booed, but for the first time in his
life and what surely will not be the last time, he heard the chant “lock
him up” directed at him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Lock him up. Lock him up. Lock him up. Lock him up. Lock him up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Some observers equated the crowd`s use of “lock him up” with
Donald Trump`s use of “lock her up.” But there`s a big difference. None of
the people chanting “lock him up” last night are running for president. No
Democratic candidate for president has ever let a chant of lock him up.
No Democratic candidate for president is ever going to lead a chant of
“lock him up.” No one on the Democratic convention stage is going to lead a
chant of “lock him up.” That`s never going to happen. That was not the
Democratic convention last night. That was a baseball game.
Most sports fans are cheering for things that they know won`t happen most
of the time. Most baseball teams don`t come close to getting into the
playoffs, but their fans cheer them all the way to the end of their failed
seasons because sports fans are at the core, unrealistic, always dreaming
the impossible dream for their team.
And so most of those Washington baseball fans last night probably have
enough Washington experience to know that it`s very unlikely Donald Trump
will ever be locked up, even though federal prosecutors have already
accused him of participating in and directing the crimes that Michael Cohen
has pleaded guilty to and has now been locked up for.
Donald Trump will surely issue himself a blanket pardon for that crime and
other possible crimes when leaving the White House, and so he will probably
never be locked up. But that doesn`t mean that sports fans have to stop
dreaming the impossible dream or giving voice to that dream if Donald Trump
ever makes the mistake of showing up at a game again.
For the rest of his life, if Donald Trump ever steps out of his protected
bubble again, he will hear what people really think of him for the rest of
his life. People will use their First Amendment rights to tell Donald Trump
what they think of him if they ever get the chance and that is the life
sentence that Donald Trump can never escape. 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
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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