Dems invite John Bolton to testify. TRANSCRIPT: 10/30/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
You`ve just framed my first question for Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of
the committee that will be hearing these depositions tomorrow. We`ll see
if Mr. Morrison shows up.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That`s one way to sort of curtain raise on your
testimony, is to resign the day before you do it.
O`DONNELL: Yes. It makes it a little more dramatic.
O`DONNELL: Yes, thank you, Rachel.
O`DONNELL: Well, we`ll be joined tonight by someone who served as a juror
in the impeachment trial of the president of the United States. Former
Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin will tell us what it was like
to sit in judgment of a president of his own party, Bill Clinton. At the
end of this hour, Senator Feingold will tell us how he balanced partisan
pressure against his sworn duty as a juror in a presidential impeachment
We begin tonight with the increasing pace of witnesses testifying to the
impeachment inquiry as more witnesses get added to the deposition schedule
every day. John Bolton will not testify voluntarily. That`s what his
lawyer said today in response to a letter from the House impeachment
investigative committees requesting John Bolton`s voluntary appearance of
the deposition next Thursday, November 7th, at 9:30 a.m.
John Bolton`s lawyer, Charles Cooper, told NBC News, quote, Bolton is not
willing to appear voluntarily. And then the lawyer added, I stand ready at
all times to accept service of a subpoena on his behalf.
But that same attorney, Charles Cooper, represents Charles Kupperman who
was subpoenaed by the impeachment inquiry, and that lawyer then brought an
unprecedented lawsuit to ask a court to clarify whether his client should
obey a lawful subpoena or obey the president`s demand not to testify even
though his client no longer works in government. Donald Trump`s no longer
his boss. He is a private citizen just like John Bolton. And the
president of the United States has no legal authority to issue an order to
a private citizen.
But all private citizens are subject subpoena. And so the lawsuit that
John Bolton`s lawyer has already brought on behalf of one of his clients to
avoid testifying to the impeachment inquiry is another unprecedented,
frivolous legal maneuver thrown in the path of the impeachment inquiry.
The first hearing on that lawsuit is tomorrow.
Attorney Charles Cooper`s clients are eventually going to be ordered by
judges to testify to the impeachment inquiry. And so, John Bolton is
eventually going to have to tell his story under oath in public after first
possibly submitting to a closed door deposition. And the big reason John
Bolton has for not wanting to do that, the big disincentive John Bolton has
about testifying publicly is the financial incentive he has to say all of
his most colorful and most condemning stories about Donald Trump for his
book, his big book which he is reportedly already working on.
And the value of that book increases as long as John Bolton can hold onto
his Trump secrets, which also means that the value of that book declines if
John Bolton is forced to reveal some of those secrets publicly in testimony
to the impeachment inquiry and long before he can publish his book. So, it
seems unlikely that John Bolton will show up for his deposition next
Thursday, even if he`s hit with a subpoena in the meantime.
In addition to requesting testimony from John Bolton, the impeachment
inquiry has sent requests for testimony to John Eisenberg, the top lawyer
for the National Security Council and Michael Ellis, one of Eisenberg`s
deputies, asking them to appear for depositions Monday, Monday, November
Fiona Hill, President Trump`s former top Russia aide on the National
Security Council, testified earlier this month that she met with John
Eisenberg twice at John Bolton`s urging after she was worried about Rudy
Giuliani`s involvement in the Trump administration`s Ukraine policy. Fiona
Hill quoted John Bolton calling Rudy Giuliani, quote, a hand grenade who`s
going to blow everybody up, which is exactly what Rudy Giuliani apparently
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman told the impeachment inquiry yesterday
that he twice reported his concerns to John Eisenberg about President
Trump`s dealings with Ukraine, including the president`s July 25th phone
call with the president of Ukraine. Two current State Department
officials, Christopher Anderson, and Catherine Croft, testified in under
oath depositions to the impeachment inquiry today. Christopher Anderson
served as the Ukraine expert advising former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt
Volker. Christopher Anderson was followed in that job y Catherine Croft.
Mr. Anderson, according to his opening statement, told House impeachment
investigators that Rudy Giuliani prevented the Trump administration from
strengthening cooperation with Ukraine. Christopher Anderson described a
meeting he had with John Bolton on the topic of having senior White House
officials engage more with Ukraine. John Bolton identified an obstacle to
better engagement with Ukraine. He cautioned that Mr. Giuliani was a key
voice with the president on Ukraine which could be an obstacle to increased
White House engagement.
According to Catherine Croft`s opening statement, she first learned of the
Trump White House`s plan to hold up Ukrainian – military assistance to
Ukraine during a July 18th Office of Budget and Management meeting. She
listened in on by videoconference. An OMB official told the group that
White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had placed what she called an
informal hold on the $391 million in aid to Ukraine. Catherine Croft
testified that the reason given then for the hold on Ukraine, the hold on
Ukraine aid was that the order came at the direction of the president.
Catherine Croft testified under subpoena today according to an official
working on the impeachment inquiry in light of an attempt by the White
House and State Department to direct Catherine Croft not to appear for her
NBC News has learned more about Lieutenant Colonel Vindman`s deposition
yesterday. NBC News is reporting Colonel Vindman told House impeachment
investigators on Tuesday that a White House meeting between President
Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky, as well as the delivery of
nearly $400 million in security and military aid was contingent on
Ukrainian officials carrying out investigations into Burisma, the Bidens,
the 2016 election and CrowdStrike, NBC News has learned.
Colonel Vindman said in his opening statement: I did not think it was
proper to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was
worried about the implications of the U.S. government support of Ukraine.
According to NBC News, two sources familiar with the testimony say that
Colonel Vindman later went further than his opening statement by drawing a
direct line between the deliverables for Ukraine and the multiple
Leading off our discussion tonight are Democratic Congressman Raja
Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. He`s a member of the House Oversight Committee
and the House Intelligence Committee. He attended the depositions of both
Christopher Anderson and Catherine Croft today.
Also joining us, Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special
prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst.
And Evelyn Farkas is with us. She`s a former deputy assistant secretary of
defense in the Obama administration and a former staff member on the House
Foreign Affairs Committee. She served on the staff of the Senate Armed
Services Committee for seven years. She knows Catherine Croft who
testified today, and Evelyn is an MSNBC national security analyst.
Congressman, first of all, today`s depositions, did they deepen your
understanding of what has been happening within the administration on
Ukraine and in what ways did they do that?
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Thanks for having me on, Lawrence. I
think it`s fair to say that they fleshed out further kind of the evidence
supporting the whistle-blower`s allegations and the scheme to basically
pressure the Ukrainians to initiate bogus investigations of the president`s
domestic rivals in return for aid and potentially a White House meeting as
well. And so, I can`t comment on the specifics of the testimony, but these
individuals, you know, made statements that were completely consistent with
others narratives and their testimony as well.
O`DONNELL: And so – what can you tell us about Tim Morrison and the
report tonight he has resigned. He`s scheduled to testify tomorrow.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that`s – I think more of a reason that I
hope he will show up tomorrow because he will no longer be within the
president`s employ. And he`ll be in some – you could say he`s a private
citizen at that point. And, you know, who knows? Maybe he`ll even have
some documents with him. I`m not sure about that.
But the point is that I think that cutting ties with the administration
makes it less likely that the president could compel him not to show or not
to produce documents of his own.
O`DONNELL: And, Congressman, the – there seems to be a more rapid pace
now for scheduling these things. I mean, we watched the House of
Representatives, for example, in effect negotiate to schedule Robert
Mueller`s testimony for months. The negotiation took months. It was then
scheduled for more than a month in advance of when it was announced.
We`re now learning today that John Bolton`s told we want you to come in
seven days from now. It seems like this pace is something that we haven`t
KRISHNAMOORTHI: No, we haven`t, and it`s a parade of career public civil
servants. I call them a parade of patriots, quite frankly. People who are
putting their necks on the line, they hire their own attorneys so they`re
coming in at their own expense. They`re basically coming forward out of
conviction to tell the truth. And to tell the truth about misconduct that
They are incredibly commendable and just yesterday you talked about Colonel
Vindman. There`s a gentleman who is currently in the National Security
Council, currently in the White House, and he came forward today or
yesterday to testify. Again, a very compelling witness, just like for
instance Mr. Taylor, Ambassador Taylor from last week.
O`DONNELL: And, Jill Wine-Banks I want to bring you in on this legal
question. The most absurd thing I`ve seen develop here legally in relation
to the committee`s actions is John Bolton`s lawyer, on behalf of another
client asking the court to clarify what should we do here?
We have a subpoena from Congress and yet the president is telling my client
not to testify. The client is a private citizen. I can`t think of a more
ridiculous thing to bring to a judge.
And nothing like that ever happened in the Watergate. There wasn`t anybody
who went to a judge and said, do I obey a congressional subpoena, I`m a
private citizen, or do I list to the president about what to do on this?
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: No, it
never happened in Watergate and it shouldn`t be happening now because the
answer is obvious. That a subpoena trumps – no pun intended – trumps
They have a legitimate right, and, of course, the court opinions now have
been very clear that the Congress is conducting a legitimate, lawful,
constitutionally mandated impeachment inquiry. And even the vote which
will now happen and I`m sure will pass, but even without that, it was
totally legitimate, and they should be allowed to use the subpoena power
and people come in and testify, and they`re in contempt if they don`t
follow the subpoena.
So, it`s very hard to get a court to issue what`s called a declaratory
judgment because there`s not really an issue. There`s no real fight going
on. And you have to have two opposing sides to get the courts to rule.
But I think they did a good job of phrasing it, and maybe the court will
say this is ridiculous, you have to of course abide by a subpoena. And I
think they will.
O`DONNELL: Evelyn, you know some of these witnesses. What is your sense
of how this evidence is developing now?
EVELYN FARKAS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think it`s really interesting,
Lawrence, because of course there`s been an acceleration of witnesses. We
can`t even keep their names straight.
I mean I can because I know all of them personally.
O`DONNELL: I have a list there, which is a very long list.
FARKAS: But the point is these are all hardworking professionals.
Catherine Croft, who came forward today and testified, she knows Ukraine
inside out, and that`s probably why she –
O`DONNELL: Let`s pause over this.
O`DONNELL: She`s a current federal government employee. She`s in the
O`DONNELL: She`s on the payroll, and she got her subpoena. She went.
There was no confusion about what to do. She doesn`t care what Pompeo says
or what Trump says.
FARKAS: But part of it is I think because she`s a civil servant she has a
sense of duty. Really, Masha – Ambassador Yovanovitch, Marie Yovanovitch,
remember she was the first one to go. She was the senior one. What I`d
heard from inside the department was that she wanted to stay in the
government so that she could do that, so she could look out for other
people. I don`t know, I haven`t corroborated it with lots of people. But
my sense was from people I`ve talked to –
O`DONNELL: She wants to stay in the government as a model of what to do –
O`DONNELL: – in testifying even when you`re working in the government.
FARKAS: You know, she`s senior, she has her pension. She can afford let`s
say financially and otherwise to put her leg out there a little bit, and
that`s actually then – that emboldened a lot of others.
Bill Taylor is in the situation she is, more senior, can afford to take the
For these people who are in the middle – Catherine Croft has a great
career ahead of her. For her to make a misstep without that cover would
have been more dangerous.
I want to pause on Tim Morrison because I worked with him and we talked
about him actually you and I. You asked me whether he would testify. He
worked for a long time in Congress. He worked actually for Mac Thornberry
who`s retiring, with the House Armed Services. I suspect that he left –
he was a political appointee.
I think he left the White House so he could speak more frankly, so he could
testify. That`s my bet.
You know, policy-wise, a lot of Democrats want to say negative things
because they don`t like the policies he worked hard to advocate, anti-arms
control, et cetera, but as a colleague, I worked hard with him, and I know
that he – and my sense is he understands his constitutional obligations.
O`DONNELL: Jill, what do you make of the pace that Congressman
Krishnamoorthi tells us has definitely picked up?
WINE-BANKS: I think it`s a natural reaction to the fact the evidence is
mounting so fast and people are coming in and they`re getting leads from
everybody who testifies. So, it`s like pieces of jigsaw that are really
coming together and fitting well now. The evidence is so strong, it`s
impossible for Republicans to defend on the facts.
The law is against them so you know you always say if the law is against
you, argue the facts. If the facts are against you, pound the table.
There`s nothing left for them to do but to do that because the evidence and
the law are so strong, and every one of the people you mentioned in your
opening, fit together and make an unbelievably strong case.
You can`t just take the phone call out of context. Yes, the phone call on
the face of it is really damning to the president. He said I need a favor,
though. There`s no question that he was asking for something of value,
which is a Hatch Act violation, soliciting a bribe, it`s terrible thing to
have done, it endangers our security, it endangers Ukraine`s security.
It helps only one person and that`s Putin and Russia. It all goes back to
Russia. So, it`s really getting to be strong but you need it in context
where you say for months before that, Rudy Giuliani was really trying to
get them to make up an investigation, to make up evidence that doesn`t
O`DONNELL: Congressman, we got reports yesterday indicating Republicans
were trying to get the name of the whistle-blower out of the colonel
yesterday in his testimony even though he testified in his opening
statement he doesn`t know who the whistle-blower is.
What were their tactics today? Was it anything similar to that? Was it
obstructionist or were they spectators today?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I felt they were a little more subdued, quite frankly. I
think at this point, it`s been made clear by Chairman Schiff and also the
counsel for the witnesses that they`re not going to allow for anybody to
get them to intentionally or inadvertently release the names of any people
that could be whistle-blowers. As you know, whistle blowers are protected
under statute regulations from being exposed.
And we also know that president Trump and his allies in Congress want to
expose this whistle-blower so that they can then retaliate against him or
her. And if that is done, not only will it harm the whistle-blower in
question, but it will create a tremendous chilling effect for anyone else
who wants to come forward with evidence of wrongdoing who might be in the
rank and file of our government. The American people devised the whistle-
blower system for one reason alone, and that is they want the rank and file
people to come forward so they can get good government.
And the reason why the Trump administration wants to create this chilling
effect is precisely to get people to avoid doing that. And we can`t allow
that to happen, so we`re not going to allow people to burn this whistle-
O`DONNELL: Congressman, quickly before we go to the break, I`ve had two
members of the committees in depositions who have said on this program that
they believe Gordon Sondland is coming very close to risking perjury
charges based on what they`ve seen in the direct contradictions of his
testimony under oath by other witnesses.
Do you share that sense that Gordon Sondland could be in legal jeopardy?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I wouldn`t say it that way. What I would say is that at
least my impression of his testimony was that he wasn`t able to recall a
whole heck of a lot with regard to a lot of his encounters and
conversations. And so, that kind of lack of memory, selective amnesia and
perhaps evasiveness are issues. But that being said, there are a lot of
other data points now that we have with regard to conversations, meetings
and so forth that help to fill in the picture.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Jill Wine-Banks, Evelyn
Farkas, thank you all for starting us off tonight.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Donald Trump faces impeachment but who
else is in legal trouble in the impeachment inquiry? Will Trump
contributor turned ambassador Gordon Sondland face perjury charges? I will
ask a House Intelligence member who first suggested that possibility to us
on this program last week. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump is going to be impeached by the House of
Representatives and sent to trial in the United States Senate. Rudy
Giuliani is under criminal investigation for his activities involving
Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland might be next.
Last week on this program, Congressman Peter Welch made news when he said
Trump`s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, could face
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Is Gordon Sondland in danger of perjury charges for his
testimony to your committee?
REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): I think he is. When he presented himself he was
kind of a rich guy who bought an ambassadorship, and he pretended that 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 is going to be evaluated
when reviewed by potential prosecutors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was right after Ambassador William Taylor testified in
direct contradiction to Gordon Sondland`s testimony. And yesterday, it got
worse for Gordon Sondland when Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman also
testified in direct contradiction to Gordon Sondland`s under oath
Congressman Joaquin Castro tweeted, based on all the testimony so far, I
believe Ambassador Sondland committed perjury.
Last night on this program, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney who was in the
room for Colonel Vindman`s deposition yesterday said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): I think Ambassador Sondland ought to
read his transcript very carefully, and he ought to see whether his
recollection or whether his ability to answer in more complete ways has
been enhanced, let me put it that way. I think Ambassador Sondland is at
the heart of this thing, and he owes us truthful testimony, all of it. And
that is in his own best interest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, a member of the House Intelligence and
Oversight Committees, who has been in the room for these depositions,
Democratic Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont.
Congressman, thank you very much for joining us again on this question.
And let`s just take a look at this evidence here in what could be the basis
of a perjury charge against Sondland. Based on what Colonel Vindman said
yesterday, here`s Colonel Vindman`s testimony in his opening statement, he
said: 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. 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 this – 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 push. Dr. Hill then
entered the room and asserted to Ambassador Sondland that his statements
And Gordon Sondland apparently says that none of that happened. Here what
we have from Gordon Sondland, in his opening statement. Under oath, he
said we have regular communications with the NSC about Ukraine both before
and after the July meeting and neither Ambassador Bolton, Dr. Hill, nor
anyone else on the NSC staff ever expressed any concerns to me about our
efforts our most importantly any concerns that we were acting improperly.
Congressman Welch, someone`s not telling the truth there.
WELCH: Well, that`s right. And I think Sondland has a lot of explaining
But, you know, what`s really pointing out is that there`s two categories of
witnesses here. There`s the political class and I put Sondland in that
category and it`s pretty sordid. It`s about being self-serving. It`s
about doing whatever the president`s bidding is. It`s about making it up
as you go along. And it`s about concealing what you`re doing.
And then there are the civil servant witnesses like the people today, like
Ambassador Taylor. And it`s about duty. Those folks are inspiring. They
are about teamwork, about long-term service of our country – and that`s
what`s the inspiring part.
But we`ve got the sordid. And I put Sondland in that category, quite
frankly. He bought an ambassadorship. He wanted to please the president.
He had no long-term commitment to what the Ukraine policy has traditionally
been and even one, by the way, that John Bolton supported to root out
corruption in Ukraine and defend it from foreign aggression.
So, Sondland has got a lot of explaining to do, but he was clearly doing
the bidding of the president.
O`DONNELL: Now, we all know it was public information that Sondland was
offered the standard opportunity in these situations to review the
transcript of his deposition, to see if there was anything in there that he
might want to try to correct. But there are some limitations on what
you`re allowed to correct in those review sessions, aren`t there?
WELCH: Well, there are. I mean, you can correct – if it`s not stated
correctly you can correct it. Or if you misspoke you can say that. But I
think changing your answer, day is night, that doesn`t work so well. But
I mean, the bottom line here is that it`s very clear that Sondland was one
of the three amigos, that he knew what the real Ukraine policy was from the
president, and that was essentially to get them to agree on investigation
of the Bidens. So, he knew that even as he was working in the regular
ranks of the ambassadorial class on the so-called long-term policy which
people like Ambassador Taylor and even John Bolton thought they were
working on, corruption and thwarting Russian aggression.
O`DONNELL: And in the normal course of a situation like this, if you were
going to refer that testimony for a perjury prosecution, you`d be sending
it over to what is now William Barr`s Justice Department. But the
committee can wait until there is a new Justice Department after the next
presidential election and send it over then. That might be something that
Gordon Sondland isn`t aware of.
WELCH: Well, it`s possible. And look, everybody is accountable. And
everyone owes themselves to be brought to justice for whatever they may
But right now, the focus obviously is on what was the president`s policy.
And the big question is, can a president of the United States solicit aid
for his campaign from a foreign power and in order to get that, with hold
congressionally approved military aid? That`s really what the question is.
So, Sondland for whatever he did, and I think he was doing the bidding of
the president, was a sideshow. What really is at the heart of this is what
was in that presidential call to President Zelensky of Ukraine.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Peter Welch, thank you very much for joining us
again. We really appreciate it.
WELCH: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, it was a very bad day for Donald Trump in the United
States Senate. He had no defenders, zero defenders in a Senate hearing, no
Republican defenders, and that could be a bad sign for Donald Trump`s
support in an impeachment trial in the Senate.
O`DONNELL: There`s a new question that Trump nominees must face in Senate
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ, (D-NJ): Do you think it`s ever appropriate for the
President to use his office to solicit investigations into a domestic
JOHN SULLIVAN, TRUMP NOMINEE FOR AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Soliciting
investigations into a domestic political opponent, I don`t think that would
be in accord with our values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan who got that
answer correct in his confirmation hearing today, to be the next Ambassador
to Russia. He`s also the person who was forced to tell the last Ambassador
to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, that Donald Trump decided to remove her from
MENENDEZ: You were aware that there were individuals and forces outside of
the State Department seeking to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch, is that
SULLIVAN: I was.
MENENDEZ: And just seeking to remove her, is that correct?
SULLIVAN: I was.
MENENDEZ: And did you know Mr. Giuliani was one of those people?
SULLIVAN: I believed he was, yes.
MENENDEZ: What did you know about a shadow Ukraine policy being carried out
by Rudy Giuliani?
SULLIVAN: My knowledge in the spring and summer of this year about any
involvement of Mr. Giuliani was in connection with a campaign against our
Ambassador to Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Mr. Sullivan said he did not know until the whistleblower`s
complaint became public that Donald Trump was soliciting information from
Ukraine in his re-election campaign by asking Ukraine to investigate Joe
Biden. In a very bad sign for Donald Trump, not one Republican Senator in
that hearing today tried to defend Donald Trump`s removal of the Ambassador
to Ukraine at Rudy Giuliani`s urging.
Not one Trump defender in that room, a room full of Senators who are going
to be jurors in the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump in the United
States Senate. John Heilemann will join our discussion next as we move even
closer to the impeachment of President Trump.
O`DONNELL: Good news, you`re going to be seeing a lot more of Barry Burke.
Barry Burke is of course the Council to the House Judiciary Committee who
destroyed Cory Lewandowski in 30 uninterrupted minutes of questioning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARRY BURKE, ATTORNEY GENERAL: My question to you, sir, is on national
television did you lie about your relationship with the Special Counsel and
whether they sought your interview.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, DONALD TRUMP`S 2016 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don`t know.
BURKE: Why did you lie on a national television sir about the President
giving a message to the Attorney General about the Special Counsel`s
LEWANDOWSKI: I don`t recall that particular day and my mind-set at the time
so I couldn`t answer that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Barry Burke will get 45 minutes of uninterrupted questioning
during impeachment hearings in the House Judiciary Committee, the
Republican Counsel to the Committee will get equal time according to a
resolution passed in the House Rules Committee today that will be voted on
the full House tomorrow establishing the rules and procedures of the
Impeachment Inquiry Committees.
Joining our discussion now is John Heilemann, Co-Host and Executive
Producer of show time`s “The Circus” and he is also an MSNBC Analyst. And
John we saw two things today. That sailing through the Rules Committee,
this new set of procedures empowering Barry Burke individually, but the
concept of Counsel asking the questions in the Committee hearings and then
we saw over on the Senate side kind of a bad sign for Donald Trump with
that controversy being dragged into a confirmation hearing about recalling
the Ambassador to Ukraine, not one Republican defender of the President
JOHN HEILEMANN, “THE CIRCUS” CO-HOST EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Yes, both bad
signs for the President, Lawrence, and I`d say the first one the headline
on what`s happening on the impeachment front with the House Democrats is
they are serious this time.
And I think, you know, it`s easy to say they would be serious. It`s an
impeachment hearing that we`re heading into, it`s impeachment that`s on the
table, it`s historic et cetera. But you and I both know we`ve seen a lot of
moves by House Democrats for Congress going back to our youth as distance
as that is where the desire for camera time by Congress people overrides
good sense of what would produce the most damning evidence and the most
And in this case it looks like these House Democrats are serious enough
that they`re willing to say, hey, we`re going to let some lawyers do some
lawyering here and step back from our needing to get our camera time and
try to make the most devastating argument you could make. And on the Senate
side as you point out there`s a lot of signs right now that Senate
Republicans are coming to grips with the seriousness of this situation and
recognizing that there are going to be some real political risks that are
entailed if they`re going to stick by Donald Trump given the weight of the
evidence now accumulated.
O`DONNELL: Yes, it seems the Democrats learned from the certain amount of
flailing around they did with the Mueller report and how to deal with the
Mueller report, delays that they got dragged into in trying to deal with
the Mueller report and then how some of those hearings went, and surely
Nancy Pelosi was watching those hearings just like the rest of us and
knowing there`s a better way.
HEILEMANN: Well, and specifically you think about that Lewandowski hearing.
You played the sound appropriately that showed this lawyer who we`re now
going to see a lot of in this impeachment process destroying Lewandowski.
What`s forgotten but not for Nancy Pelosi forgotten is how bad that hearing
was for the rest of the day because of the fact that the House Democrats
who were questioning him did such a bad job at it.
So the way that hearing that day was most of the day Lewandowski not
exactly running rings around the Democrats but sort of mocking them and
being able to filibuster and turn the thing into sort of a kind of piece of
performance art until the very end when things got serious.
And again, I think one of the things that Nancy Pelosi did over the course
of the time when she refrained from launching impeachment was kept her
powder dry and another was to really get a good gauge of public opinion and
other was to wait for the right moment. But the last one was to see who the
strong players are on the Democratic team and what the kind of process is
this likely to be most effective. And I think she knows exactly what she`s
doing going into this particular very high stakes game.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
HEILEMANN: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back we`ll be joined by a Senator who has taken
that oath to be a juror in the impeachment trial of a President.
O`DONNELL: 1,305 people have served as United States Senators in our
history. Only 154 of them have been jurors in impeachment trials of the
President of the United States. Joining us now is one of those 154, Former
Democratic Senator from Wisconsin Russ Feingold who was sworn in as a juror
in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Senator Feingold, thank
you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D-WI): Lawrence, it`s a pleasure. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Tell us about that moment when you had to take that additional
oath beyond your oath of office as a Senator, that oath that ends with I
will do impartial justice according to the constitution and laws so help me
FEINGOLD: That`s exactly what it says, and it really was an incredible
experience because I`d just done a different oath earlier in the week as
you may remember start a second term as a United States Senator. But this
is a second oath it is required by the constitution. It`s the only other
oath required than the oath that members of Congress take and of course
what the President takes.
And it`s a different oath. We had a separate signing ceremony where we had
to go up and each and sign the book and do this oath for impartial justice
and as you said, so help me God. To me it was a somber moment. In many ways
the facts were sort of absurd, the process was bizarre. But at that moment
when the Chief Justice came in and when the trial started, I think most of
us took it very seriously that this was something that had to be done
according to the founders will.
And what the founders wanted was for this process to be difficult but
serious, in a dire situation such as the one we`re in right now. And I hope
all Senators will take it exactly that way.
O`DONNELL: How much partisan pressure did you feel from your own party? How
much partisan pressure did you feel in the room that the Republicans were
feeling in that Senate Chamber?
FEINGOLD: Well, to be honest with you there was far too much partisan
pressure on both sides. Even though Senators were diligent and listened
carefully to the information that was being presented on the floor of the
Senate in the caucuses that were held, there was tremendous pressure to
just go along with the President or go against the President.
And I thought that was, frankly, inappropriate. And I became the only
Democratic Senator to actually vote to hear the evidence, to actually see
the depositions before I made a final decision on whether or not to convict
the President. And I think that`s exactly what should be done here.
Both sides should realize that hearing the case, hearing the evidence is
the only appropriate way to live up to the requirement that somebody does
impartial justice. This is not a regular bill. This is not what we used to
see out there vote around with all the different issues trying to score
points. This is really something that goes way beyond this that involves
very integrity of our country and frankly in this case the National
Security of our country.
O`DONNELL: Senator, let me take you back to that moment because - just to
explain to the audience the very first thing one of the very first
procedural things that happened in the Senate Chamber was that there was a
motion introduced to dismiss the case, and you were the only Democrat who
voted in favor of hearing the case at that point.
FEINGOLD: That`s right. There were actually two weeks of very interesting
argument, oral argument introductory statements by the House Managers of
Republicans coming in to prosecute the case against President Clinton and
then there was the defense of President Clinton.
But at the conclusion of that Senator Burr you know of course in many ways
the most distinguished Senator in the body. He did move to dismiss the case
even though there were a number of depositions including, the deposition of
Monica Lewinsky that were potentially available to be taken and heard.
And I thought that we had to look at the information, look at the evidence
and of course the Republicans also wanted that. And so we did it and I
think in the end it made the process better I ultimately concluded that
they had not met their burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that
President Clinton had obstructed justice and so I voted not to convict him,
and I believe about ten Republicans also did not vote to convict him.
The process will be far better if we do that, and I think everybody should
be on guard if Senator McConnell tries to quickly dismiss the case maybe
even earlier than was attempted in the Clinton case. The American people
deserve a full trial if this occurs and frankly the founders of our country
basically required that a trial be held and that a vote be held on whether
the President should be convicted or not and removed from office.
O`DONNELL: That`s a really important clarification about when the dismissal
motion came. It came at the end of the presentation of the evidence in the
case as happens in a trial, it`s all the evidence has gone in and the
defense counsel stands up and asks for a directed verdict, which is kind of
the equivalent of what they`re asking for here.
O`DONNELL: Not on that first day and that is a huge distinction that we
have to watch in this next Senate trial. Former Senator Russ Feingold,
thank you very much for joining us tonight, and please come back.
FEINGOLD: You bet. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, the White House has to be operating at its very best, at
its very sharpest during an impeachment investigation and an impeachment
trial. And of course, of course Mick Mulvaney has the Trump White House
operating at its worst along with of course Donald Trump operating at his
worst. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: NBC News is reporting that Acting White House Chief of Staff
Mick Mulvaney first learned about the U.S. military raid against Al-
Baghdadi after the operation was already under way. Mulvaney was at his
home in South Carolina on Saturday when the President tweeted “Something
very big has just happened!”
And Mulvaney was then briefed on the raid later that evening. Here is what
the White House Chief of Staff is supposed to be doing in those situations.
There`s White House Chief of Staff Bill Daly standing, right there, in the
situation room with President Obama.
“POLITICO” is reporting that Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman testified
on Tuesday that he was excluded from debriefing President Trump on Ukraine
because a former aide to Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, who had joined
the White House Staff, had convinced the President that he was the National
Security Council`s Ukraine Adviser instead of Colonel Vindman.
“Vindman testified that he was told this directly by his boss at the time,
NSC Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs Fiona Hill. Hill told
Vindman that she and National Security Adviser John Bolton thought it best
to exclude Vindman from the debriefing to avoid an uncomfortable
situation”, he said.
Joining our discussion now is Chris Whipple. He literally wrought book on
how a White House is supposed to be run. It is called “The Gatekeepers: How
the White House Chiefs of Staff define every presidency,” except Mick
Chris, at this point Trump has had some - has had the worst relationships
with White House Chiefs of Staff ever. This is a fascinating level, what we
saw this weekend where let him go home and not even tell him what`s
CHRIS WHIPPLE, AUTHOR, “THE GATEKEEPERS”: Let me just begin by conceding
what you`ve been trying to tell me for a long time, Lawrence, which is the
subtitle of my book, “How the White House Chiefs define every presidency”
is no longer operative as Ron Ziegler used to say.
Only Donald Trump defines his presidency. In the process what we`ve seen
over the last week is that he`s defined the Chief of Staff out of
existence. Mick Mulvaney was - had no authority to begin with, never tried
to assert the authority that he should have. But now he`s the invisible man
in South Carolina during one of the critical National Security operations
of the Presidency.
So we truly have a situation where there are no guardrails, no grown-ups,
and the inmate is running the asylum.
O`DONNELL: To the point that there`s someone walking around in the building
who Donald Trump thinks is the Ukraine expert and is not the Ukraine
WHIPPLE: That`s an incredible story in the “POLITICO” story today. So here
it`s classic Trump. He`s essentially got a choice. He can be briefed by the
guy with the chest full of medals, Harvard educated, fluent in Russian and
Ukrainian, the expert on Ukraine. Or he can be briefed by this guy from
Nunes`s office wearing a tinfoil hat who pursues these ridiculous
Guess who he chooses. Naturally he goes with the tinfoil hat guy. And this
speaks to this astonishing obsession of Trump with the 2016 election. And I
think, look, we`ve had delusional Presidents before. Richard Nixon was
convinced there was something in a safe in the Brookings Institution and
told Haldeman to go blow the safe. It was a figment of his imagination. But
it`s nothing compared to this fixation of Donald Trump`s.
O`DONNELL: And by the way, they just didn`t do it.
WHIPPLE: They didn`t do it.
O`DONNELL: They did break into Watergate but they did not break into
WHIPPLE: That was one that Haldeman decided not to do.
WHIPPLE: But it pales in comparison to this obsession that Trump has with
2016. I agree with Tom Bossert, his erstwhile ally, maybe still ally, who
said this is Trump`s white whale. This could be the thing that really
brings him down. And if it does, no Chief of Staff will be around to talk
him out of it.
O`DONNELL: How much time does Mick Mulvaney have with this title, which
apparently is all he has, is the title?
WHIPPLE: Again, the title is symptomatic of the fact that there is no
functioning White House Chief of Staff right now. And therefore, I don`t
think Trump is in any hurry to replace him. He clearly has no interest in a
Chief of Staff. He`s unchained, unbound, and we`re all seeing the results
of letting Trump be Trump.
O`DONNELL: And the Mulvaney holding on to the OMB job at the same time,
wasn`t that Mulvaney`s way of saying I know this Chief of Staff thing
cannot possibly work?
WHIPPLE: I can`t imagine what the motivation was, but it`s clearly - you
know, it clearly, this is just the most dysfunctional White House we`ve
ever seen, more dysfunctional by the day, and it`s unclear who`s in charge
of what? Is Jared Kushner the White House Chief of Staff? Is Ivanka? Is
anybody really performing that function? I don`t think so.
O`DONNELL: Chris Whipple, let`s figure out a new subtitle after the show
tonight. We`ll stick around on the desk and work on 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