Impeach. investigators release depositions. TRANSCRIPT: 11/4/19,The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And Mike Pence has tried to maintain a hear no evil, see no evil posture on
this, and, of course, subpoenaing the vice president out of the question
for the impeachment inquiry, but this is pretty close to it.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes. And they`ll have to make a decision.
Individual officials have to make a decision here how they`re going to deal
with the White House inevitably telling them don`t show up now that there
is all of these examples of officials who did show up and said what they
O`DONNELL: Yes, and Ambassador McKinley in that transcript released today
makes it so clear his own reaction. That`s something I`m going to cite
when I get into my coverage of it. That when he – as soon as he got the
request he said, of course, of course I was going to testify, right away.
He didn`t have to think about it.
MADDOW: Yes, and the only question now is the divide between sort of
people who have that patriotic response to it, yes, like congressional
oversight is a real thing. I will tell you what I know. You can swear me
in under oath and I will tell the truth.
The divide between them and oh, the White House told me not to. That will
get litigated or otherwise worked out. But those people are going to have
to live with that for the rest of their lives.
O`DONNELL: And it is moving fast.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe will be joining
us tonight. He has actually co0written a book on impeachment and has much
to say about the building impeachment case against Donald Trump and we`ll
get Professor Tribe`s reaction to a very important federal court ruling
today, ruling with surprising speed and ruling unanimously against
President Trump on the release of his tax returns. The president`s lawyers
have said they will take the case to the United States Supreme Court. The
court where Laurence Tribe has argued more cases than any of us except
possibly Professor Tribe can remember.
And at the end of this hour, former federal prosecutor Chuck Rosenberg will
join us with his reaction to a big turning of the tables in the impeachment
inquiry today when one of Rudy Giuliani`s partners in crime, I mean
literally crime, one who has actually been accused of committing federal
crimes by prosecutors has decided to cooperate with the impeachment
inquiry. A new lawyer representing Lev Parnas says he will agree to
testify to the impeachment inquiry and turn over any documents subpoenaed
by Congress involving his dealings with Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump and
Lev Parnas is reportedly very upset that Donald Trump has claimed that he
does not know him, even though Lev and his partner Igor, Igor Fruman have
photographic evidence that they have met Donald Trump.
We begin tonight with the first public release of deposition transcripts in
the impeachment inquiry. The most important thing in the transcripts of
the depositions, most important thing in these depositions in the
impeachment inquiry that were released today is that there is no defense of
Donald Trump in those transcripts, not one word of defense. The Republican
members of the investigating committees who love to play tough guy in the
hallway in front of the microphones were timid little sheep in those
Tough guy Jim Jordan was in the room. Trump worshiper Mark Meadows was in
the room, and they couldn`t come up with a single word to put in those
transcripts released today that was helpful to Donald Trump. Donald Trump
might not have brought Mark Meadows to a World Series game and to the
ultimate fighting spectacle in Madison square garden this weekend if Donald
Trump knew that Mark Meadows did and said absolutely nothing for him in
those depositions, nothing.
Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows are completely different people with the door
closed and no cameras allowed. The real evidence in this case is the same,
whether the testimony is public or private, but what we discover in private
testimony is that there is absolutely no defense of Donald Trump being
offered by Republicans or by the Republican Committee Staff counsel, who is
allowed to ask as many questions as they wanted to in the two depositions
And those questions accomplished nothing. They accomplished nothing in
their many questions. That is why Republicans did not issue their own set
of highlights today from the depositions, no Republican highlights
whatsoever. The Democrats released highlights of what they considered the
highlights of the depositions. The Democrats issued nine pages of
highlights of the testimony of former ambassador to Ukraine Marie
Yovanovitch. And five pages of highlights from the testimony of Ambassador
Michael McKinley, a former senior director to Secretary of State Mike
Jim Jordan had about a two-minute interlude with Ambassador McKinley in
which Jim Jordan asked absolutely nothing relevant to the investigation,
softball stuff that meant nothing. But when Jim Jordan made a reference to
Ambassador McKinley`s lawyer sitting there with him in the deposition,
Ambassador McKinley said, I had to be talked into approaching a lawyer. I
didn`t want to deal with legal.
My approach to coming to this was I saw the request, I answered it before I
even talked to any legal counsel. And my approach was why should I need
legal counsel to come here and talk about this? But that`s not the way
Washington works apparently.
That is certainly not the way Washington works for the four Trump
administration officials who defied impeachment today and refused to show
up for their depositions. The most important of those was the man everyone
rushed to complain to after Donald Trump`s phone call with the president of
Ukraine, John Eisenberg, the lawyer for the National Security Council.
John Eisenberg is now hiding behind the Trump administration directive that
Ambassador McKinley and Ambassador Yovanovitch ignored – the directive to
not testify to the impeachment inquiry. The testimony of the ambassador
proves that there is no legal basis whatsoever for the Trump administration
blocking any of this testimony.
Mike McKinley testified under oath that he agreed to the committee`s
request without even checking with a lawyer. Why should I need legal
counsel to come here and talk about this? That`s what he said. That
window on Mike McKinley`s integrity and old-fashioned respect for Congress
and congressional subpoenas stands as the model by which history will judge
how witnesses carried out their duty to the Constitution to the truth in
the impeachment inquiry of Donald J. Trump.
Here is what Chairman Adam Schiff said today about the witnesses who
refused to testify today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): This will only further add to the body of
evidence on a potential obstruction of Congress charge against the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And so the choice for Trump administration witnesses subpoenaed
by the impeachment inquiry is to defy the subpoena and add to the evidence
of obstruction of Congress, which is an impeachable offense, or testify and
add to the evidence which already has proved that Donald Trump solicited
Ukraine`s help in his reelection campaign when he asked the president of
Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
There is no third option available to Trump administration witnesses.
Theoretically, the third option could be testify to the impeachment inquiry
and provide evidence helpful to Donald Trump`s defense, but the reality is
there is no such evidence to present. That`s why they won`t testify.
And there isn`t even a defense theory to present. That`s what we
discovered in the transcripts. The cowardly lions Jim Jordan and Mark
Meadows prove that in their very weak entries in the deposition transcript
released today that there is absolutely no defense of Donald Trump.
Ambassador Yovanovitch tells the dramatic story in her testimony about
being called in the middle of the night by a State Department official
telling her to leave her post in Ukraine and come back to Washington on the
next plane. The person calling her had no idea why she had to come back.
She said she felt threatened when Donald Trump`s phone call with the
president of Ukraine became public and he said in that phone call, quote,
she`s going to go through some things.
She still feels threatened, she testified. She told the impeachment
inquiry that she got Trump management advice from Gordon Sondland, the
completely inexperienced ambassador to the European Union who bought his
ambassadorship with a million dollar contribution to the Trump inauguration
and who knows what else.
With members of the Ukrainian government telling her she needed to, quote,
watch her back because of what Rudy Giuliani was up to in Ukraine, Gordon
Sondland gave her advice about how to handle the president of the United
States. Ambassador Yovanovitch testified, quote, he said, you know, you
need to go big or go home. You need to, you know, tweet out there that you
support the president and that all these are lies and everything else, and,
you know, so – I mean, obviously that was advice. It was advice that I
did not see how I could implement in my role as an ambassador and as a
Foreign Service officer.
Some of Donald Trump`s ridiculously inept, inexperienced, rich ambassadors
who have purchased their ambassadorships have publicly tweeted their
devotion to Donald Trump, but not a career Foreign Service officer. How
strange would it be for an ambassador to be tweeting public worship over
Ambassador Mike McKinley testified, I spent 37 years being a diplomat,
being a diplomat for the United States means supporting millions of
Americans overseas. It means supporting our companies to create jobs at
home. It means resolving conflicts that impact the United States. It
means keeping the homeland safe. It means working with our military, the
agency, all of our civilian agencies on protecting our interests and
influence overseas. It means projecting American values.
In this context, frankly, to see the emerging information on the engagement
of our missions to procure negative political information for domestic
purposes combined with the failure I saw in the building to provide support
for our professional cadre in a particularly trying time, I think the
combination was a pretty good reason to decide enough, that I had no longer
had a user role to play.
Mike McKinley testified that he spoke to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
three times about issuing a public statement of support for Ambassador
Yovanovitch. Here is what Mike Pompeo said about that two weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: You know, from the time that Ambassador
Yovanovitch departed Ukraine until the time that he came to tell me that he
was departing, I never heard him say a single thing about his concerns with
respect to the decisions made.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: So you were asked –
POMPEO: Not once, not once, George, did Ambassador McKinley say something
to me during that entire time period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: No, Mike, not once. Three times.
Leading off our discussion tonight, are Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former
undersecretary of state for political affairs in the Obama administration.
She is an MSNBC global affairs contributor.
Mieke Eoyang is with us. She`s a former staff member of the House
And Evelyn Farkas, a former deputy secretary of state in the Obama
administration and a former staff member of the House Foreign Affairs
Committee. She also served on the staff of the Senate Armed Services
Committee for seven years. She is an MSNBC national security analyst.
And, Ambassador Sherman, let me start with you. What is your reaction to
what we`re discovering in these transcripts today?
WENDY SHERMAN, MSNBC GLOBAL AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR: I must say, Lawrence,
flipping through the 500 pages and reading the summaries that you`re
referring to, I could just feel my blood boiling, getting angrier and
angrier. The president talks about the time about the deep state, but
these are the deepest of patriots, Masha Yovanovitch and Mike McKinley,
Phil Reeker. These folks are coming forward, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.
They are trying to uphold the oath they can they took to the Constitution,
and here we have people who are undermining them right and left, and who is
at the bottom of all of that? The president of the United States.
Masha Yovanovitch didn`t know why Carol Perez, the director general, was
asking her to come home, and neither did Carol Perez. And again and again,
when she asked whether there might be some support when Mike McKinley asked
Secretary Pompeo for support, basically the message that came forward was,
this would only make things worse, that the president of the United States
might tweet something out that would undermine that support and put Masha
more at risk.
This is not what we should be doing. We should be defending diplomats, not
O`DONNELL: Mieke Eoyang, you`ve been in that room with the door closed
when there are no cameras, and some of the people who are performers for
the cameras are very different people with the door closed.
But these transcripts are really stunning when it comes to players like Jim
Jordan and Mark Meadows. They don`t attempt anything in these depositions.
None of those moves that they play for the cameras.
And most importantly, no defense of Donald Trump. There isn`t a defense of
Donald Trump. There isn`t anything helpful for Donald Trump anywhere in
these transcripts offered by any of the Republicans in the room, including
the Republican staff.
MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER STAFF MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: That`s
right. And you don`t see them tipping their hand to any kind of defense
strategy. It really shows the advantage that Democrats have had in holding
these hearings behind closed doors.
My experience in closed-door hearings is actually members do a much better
job of trying to get to the truth because they`re not playing for the
audience beyond the cameras. And so they are actually much more thoughtful
here. But if Jordan and Meadows thought there was any defense that they
could make, they would be trying to elicit that from these witnesses.
And one of the things that really struck me about this transcript is when
Ambassador McKinley says in his 37 years in the Foreign Service, he`s never
seen anything like this. So far all of those defenders of the president
who keep trying to argue that all presidents do this, and what he has done
is no different than anyone else, actually, the people who have done this
for their entire careers say that is not true. This is very different. No
president has ever tried to dig up dirt on a political opponent and tried
to use the U.S. government to be able to do so.
O`DONNELL: Evelyn, there is a picture that emerges in Ambassador
Yovanovitch`s testimony about what she was going through, but it`s also a
picture of what Ukraine was going through. Ukraine is communicating with
her and officials telling her you got to watch your back because Giuliani
is here, and he`s got these guys with him, and they`re talking about you.
And Ukraine obviously was stuck in a position that must have been extremely
and continues to be extremely difficult for them to navigate while they`re
trying to fight off the Russians.
EVELYN FARKAS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. I mean, here`s the thing. Going
back to the testimony of Ambassador Taylor, remember, Lawrence, Ukraine is
treated as a subject and an object. When it`s the subject of American
attempts to manipulate it and to get it to help with political malfeasance
in this case, it`s really difficult for Ukraine, because they rely on
American support, which means political support and the professionals of
course are doing the bidding of the politicals.
And the Ukrainians understand what`s happening. I mean, they`re not blind
to this, and it must have been somewhat embarrassing actually for
I want to make a point here also just to kind of emphasize what my
colleagues just said, the ambassador chairman and Mieke Eoyang. You know,
these are Foreign Service officers. They`re like military service
They don`t have political badges. They`re supposed to, you know, just
carry out the policy of the United States irrespective of who the president
is. And I think this point seems to have been lost on President Trump,
Gordon Sondland and others.
But Secretary Pompeo, it should not be lost on him. That man is a military
– former military officer. He should know better. He is a member of
Congress and that actually really bothers me, that he let these people get
yanked into this really horrible situation where they were getting involved
in nefarious acts and then of course in the case of Ambassador Yovanovitch,
she paid the price in terms of her career.
O`DONNELL: Well, if we believe Mike McKinley`s testimony that he talked to
Pompeo about this three times, then what we saw Mike Pompeo do on
television is lie in a classic Trump style public lying about saying no,
no, no, no such conversation ever occurred.
And Wendy Sherman, I can`t think of the last time a secretary of state has
been publicly in a position like that.
SHERMAN: I think it`s really quite extraordinary and quite frankly so more
than disrespectful to all of these patriots and all of these public
servants. It really does look like Secretary Pompeo is more interested in
being in Kansas, and considering a Senate race in Kansas than he is the
national security of the United States. You know, Ambassador Yovanovitch
in her testimony also talked about the implications of all of this around
Who are other leaders supposed to think makes the decisions? Is it the
official policy of the United States or is it some unofficial gang that is
running a number set out by the president of the United States? What`s
this do to the credibility and reliability of ambassadors all over the
world who are public servants, not political appointees? Do they come with
credibility? Do they come with reliability?
So, this kind of behavior by Secretary Pompeo not only has undermined these
great public servants, but has really put our national security at risk all
over the world.
O`DONNELL: Mieke Eoyang, there is a report tonight from CBS that the
Republicans are considering moving Jim Jordan on to the Intelligence
Committee in time for the public hearings that the intelligence committee
will have, presumably so he can try his bond tossing tactics on that
committee. Of course, that means someone has to be moved off to make the
room for him.
But what do you make of that strategy?
EOYANG: Well, it`s very clear that with a limited number of people,
they`re going to want people who are playing to the president for these
open hearings in front of the press. There are a number of members on the
committee who are actually very thoughtful what the national security
interest is of the United States, even on the Republican side. People like
Congressman Will Hurd, who was a former CIA officer, people like
Congressman Conway who was a former auditor. There are people who are much
more thoughtful and balanced on these things, and I think it is likely that
they will try and move someone off to try and make room for Jim Jordan.
The real question is whether they move off the ranking member Devin Nunes
who has been by all accounts not particularly helpful for effective in
these closed-door negotiations.
O`DONNELL: And, Evelyn, the idea that Jim Jordan has something to
contribute to the public hearings after having absolutely nothing to
contribute to the private hearings, the private depositions that are now
public is just another indication that there is no defense. I mean, if a
defense develops, it`s going to be something that happens down the road.
But as of tonight, sitting here tonight, there is no defense of the
president in the House of Representatives so far.
FARKAS: Right. I mean, Lawrence, so far there has been a lot of noise and
sound and fury, basically criticism of the process. You can expect that to
continue, even though I believe the Democrats addressed this in passing
legislation that set down the rules of the road, which appear to be quite
fair to the minority, to the Republicans and to the president.
But they`ll probably continue to yell about process and everything else
they can. But you`re right. They can`t defend the president. We have the
transcript of the call.
And the president himself keeps talking about the whistle-blower. We are
so beyond the whistle-blower. Here are real actual people who are going to
be sitting there completely uncovered to the public, corroborating
everything the whistle-blower said, saying in their own words. Vindman
himself, of course, was a witness to many of this, including the calls.
So, you know, there is no place for them to hide, and they can`t – it`s
going to be very hard for them to lie in public. So they`re just going to
have to make a lot of noise.
O`DONNELL: Evelyn Farkas, Mieke Eoyang, Wendy Sherman, thank you all for
starting us tonight. I really appreciate it.
And coming up, Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe will join us to discuss
the impeachment investigation and this federal appeals court ruling today,
unanimous ruling that Donald Trump`s tax returns must be handed over to
prosecutors in New York City. That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: Today, Chairman Adam Schiff said the impeachment inquiry will
not wait for judges to order Trump administration officials to testify.
Instead, Chairman Schiff and the impeachment investigative committees will
treat the refusal to testify as obstruction of Congress, which could then
become an article of impeachment against Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): This will be further evidence of an effort by the
administration to obstruct the lawful and constitutional duties of
Congress. This will only further add to the body of evidence on a
potential obstruction of Congress charge against the president.
I will say this. It`s quite obvious and we fully expected this. We have
seen a serious of shifting, ever changing rationales for this campaign of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Joining us now is Laurence Tribe, Harvard law professional, constitutional
Professor Tribe, I want to get your reaction to what Chairman Schiff is
saying there, especially since you are the co-author of the book, “To End
the Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.”
Is this – is this a possible way to go, to simply say they`re refusing to
testify rather than try to push this through the courts and take months to
get an order to testify, we`re simply going to treat this as an on
instruction of Congress and possibly create an article of impeachment out
of this behavior?
LAURENCE TRIBE, CO-AUTHOR, “TO END A PRESIDENCY”: I think Chairman Schiff
is exactly right. It`s exactly the way to go. There is no reason to drag
things out in the courts.
The president of Richard Nixon is clear, obstructing Congress when it
performs its solemn function of investigating a president to see whether
articles of impeachment are justified is itself an impeachable offense.
Otherwise the entire system would collapse. If the president could do what
this president is doing, which is even more extreme than what Richard Nixon
did and try to get everyone who has anything to do with the matter to just
clam up, then we couldn`t really get to the bottom of everything.
Now, happily, in this case, Ambassador Yovanovitch and others have agreed
to testify so that the president`s stonewall has to some extent collapsed.
But that doesn`t prevent the Congress from deciding that building that wall
was an obstruction of Congress itself, a high crime and misdemeanor.
O`DONNELL: I want to ask you about the state of the evidence actually.
This is something that Mark Meadows said not in the depositions where he
said next to nothing, but he said to reporters that even if President Trump
made the request for investigation of Joe Biden, it appears that Ukraine
did not deliver that investigation, therefore there is no offense.
TRIBE: Well, that`s crazy. It`s like saying that somebody who tries to
rob a bank and gets halfway is not a bank robber. It`s simply not the law.
The law is clear that attempting to interfere with the proper functions of
government and trying to shake down a foreign government, which is our
ally, by preventing it from defending itself against an adversary, unless
it does your bidding and helps you get reelected and digs up dirt and does
various things, in your own personal favor, that that is an abuse of power.
It`s a betrayal of the president`s oath, and it`s corrupt.
And the fact that he`s not succeeded in every way in doing it just doesn`t
matter. He`s clearly committed a high crime and misdemeanor, and the
evidence is overwhelming and unquestioned, that that`s exactly what he`s
O`DONNELL: Professor Tribe, I`d like to squeeze in a commercial break and
come back with –
O`DONNELL: – Chief Judge Robert Katzmann`s extraordinary opinion today
which is going to go straight to the Supreme Court apparently in which he
wrote the unanimous opinion saying that yes, President Trump`s tax returns
must be handed over to Manhattan prosecutors. We`re going discuss that
right after this break.
O`DONNELL: Prosecutors are one very big step closer to Donald Trump`s tax
returns tonight. A Federal Appeals Court in New York unanimously ruled that
President Trump`s accounting firm must turn over eight years of his
personal and corporate tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors. Donald Trump`s
attorneys have argued that as President he is completely immune, not only
from criminal prosecution, but from investigations.
In the opinion today written by Robert Katzmann, the Chief Judge of the
Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the court said we are not faced in this
case with the President`s arrest or imprisonment or with an order
compelling him to attend court at a particular time or place or indeed with
an order that compels the President himself to do anything. The subpoena at
issue is directed not to the President but to his accountants, compliance
does not require the President to do anything at all. The President`s
lawyer announced they will appeal the case to the United States Supreme
Private constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe is back with us and
first, Tribe, one thing I`ve been struck by in this case is the speed. This
is really showing swift justice. The lawsuit, Donald Trump sued on
September 19th, that`s when he filed suit to try to stop these returns.
Four days later, the District Court heard oral arguments. Less than two
weeks after that, Judge Marrero issued a 75-page decision, which the
Appeals Court hears the arguments on less than two weeks after that. And
then less than two weeks after the arguments, you have Judge Katzmann with
a 35-page opinion today upholding the lower court and saying, yes, they
must hand these over and nowhere in the in these two decisions does there
seem to be any space for the Supreme Court to rule in another direction.
LAURENCE TRIBE, PRIVATE CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: I think that`s
clearly right. Judge Marrero wrote a brilliant decision, making it very
easy for the Court of Appeals to reject the quite absurd position by the
President`s lawyers that just being President means you can`t be
investigated even for your tax violations, your criminal activity, when a
grand jury - a state grand jury is investigating the matter. It was an
extreme position and the Court of Appeals rendered so narrow a ruling that
there is no basis at all for the U.S. Supreme Court to disagree.
I think it will not take much time for the Supreme Court to toss this case
out, although courts do not always act as swiftly as the Federal Courts in
New York have acted. So, I think the key thing to remember is that nothing
about the impeachment proceedings needs to await the judicial rulings.
These tax returns will come out, whether they come out before or after the
President is impeached is almost a sidelight, not a matter of great
O`DONNELL: I noticed that Judge Katzmann`s ruling was very narrow and he
emphasized that. He actually used the word narrow in describing it.
O`DONNELL: And isn`t that a judicial strategy when you`re handing it to the
court above to give the Supreme Court a very narrow case to rule on?
TRIBE: Right, because the only way the Supreme Court could find any hook to
reverse is by looking at broad implications of this ruling, but the ruling
itself is so indisputably correct that no one of the nine justices could
plausibly come up with any reason to reverse it. And the Supreme Court has
often said, “We sit to review judgments, not to write elaborate opinions
and essays.” There`s nothing in this judgment for the Supreme Court to
O`DONNELL: It seems to me, if this case did not involve the President of
the United States, that the Supreme Court would be very unlikely to even
TRIBE: I don`t think it`ll take it anyway. The fact that it involves the
President gives them an additional reason not to, because for the court to
jump into a politically deep thicket and the swamp of sorts when the legal
ruling is clear, convincing and unmistakably correct would be to invite a
political mud fight that the court doesn`t need and doesn`t want.
O`DONNELL: So, you think it`s possible they won`t even grant certiorari -
the Supreme Court won`t even choose to hear this case?
TRIBE: I think that`s more likely than not and if they did hear it, they
would clearly affirm. But, I think the most likely thing is simply not
agreeing to hear it at all.
O`DONNELL: Professor Laurence Tribe, thank you very much for your guidance
TRIBE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Really appreciate it, thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, the Mueller Report is back. New pieces of
the Mueller investigation were revealed publicly for the first time this
weekend and they seem to explain a lot about Donald Trump`s fixation on
Ukraine; that`s next.
O`DONNELL: The Mueller Report is back. As the result of a Freedom of
Information Act lawsuit brought by BuzzFeed News, the Justice Department
has now been forced to release hundreds of pages of notes from FBI
interviews with witnesses in the Russia investigation and more releases are
to come. According to these newly released documents, Rick Gates the former
deputy, Trump`s convicted former campaign chair Paul Manafort told the FBI
during the Mueller investigation that Paul Manafort was the first person in
the Trump campaign to raise the conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia,
was responsible for the attack on the Democratic National Committee email,
stealing those emails in 2016.
In the notes from the FBI interview with Rick Gates, officials say Gates
recalled Manafort saying the hack was likely carried out by the Ukrainians.
That conspiracy theory is one of the things that Donald Trump asked the
Ukrainian prime minister to investigate in their phone call. But according
to Rick Gates, no one was more defensive of Russia than Michael Flynn,
Donald Trump`s first national security adviser, who is now a convicted
felon for lying to the FBI.
After this break, former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and former
federal prosecutor Chuck Rosenberg will join us to consider how this new
information from the Mueller investigation can be helpful in the
impeachment inquiry; that`s next.
O`DONNELL: Ukraine did it, not Russia; that was the thinking in Trump
world, at least some of the people in Trump world. Joining us now is
Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia in the Obama
Administration. He`s an MSNBC national security analyst. Also with us Chuck
Rosenberg, former senior FBI official and former U.S. attorney, he is a
former counsel to Robert Mueller at the FBI and now hosts the MSNBC
podcast, The Oath.
Ambassador McFaul, we have with these so-called 302s, these FBI notes in
the - for the Mueller investigation just released this weekend, this new
window into Trump World`s thinking about Russia, Michael Flynn just totally
defensive of everything involving Russia in ways that Rick Gates describes
to the FBI and others, what was your reading of what we discovered there?
MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, I haven`t read
everything yet, Lawrence. I have a day job here out at Stanford, but what I
have freed from the summary reports is just shocking. This crazy idea about
Ukraine being responsible and before we get to their interpretation of it,
I just want to remind everybody that in 2016, candidate Trump was saying he
might look into recognizing Crimea as being part of Russia, candidate Trump
was saying he wanted to lift sanctions on the Russians, and he wanted to
blow up NATO, and he never said a word about democracy or human rights.
So, why would the Ukrainians want to steal emails from the DNC to help
Donald Trump? It just makes no sense. But the fact that they`re talking
about it is truly shocking and then it appears in the phone call with
President Zelensky. President Trump then makes it crystal clear that he
still believes this broad conspiracy and why I think that`s important is it
shows that that one phone call was not just someone off thing, but it was a
predicate that goes back years now about the way they were thinking about
their relationship with Ukraine.
O`DONNELL: Chuck Rosenberg, can the impeachment inquiry use any of this
information that has come out this weekend to at least inform the way they
are looking at this evidence?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER COUNSEL TO ROBERT MUELLER: Oh, sure they can,
Lawrence. You know, the way the FBI uses these memoranda of interview often
are as pointers. They point to other people, places where you might find
documents, questions you might want to ask, things you might want to
follow-up on. And so, the Congress could use it in the same way.
Of course, these documents are heavily redacted, so they may not be quite
as helpful to the Congress as they were to the Muller team. Nevertheless,
this is going to tell them where to look and as the Ambassador said, help
to establish a timeline, how far back does some of this conduct go and who
might know more about it. So, it can be helpful. I`m not sure it`ll be
dispositive, but it can certainly be helpful.
O`DONNELL: And one of the revelations in the FBI documents, it reveals that
the Republican National Committee, the Republican Party knew that the
timing that would be involved in the releasing of the emails, Democratic
emails, during the campaign. It said the RNC also indicated that they knew
the timing of the upcoming releases. Gates did not specify who at the RNC
knew this information. Gates said the only non-public information the RNC
had was related to the timing of the releases.
And Ambassador McFaul, the timing was everything including the timing of
some of the releases occurring within hours of the release of the Access
Hollywood video where Donald Trump was bragging about sexual assault.
MCFAUL: Of course. And it - when I read that, I`d wondered what are the
sourcing for that, how did they know about the timing, who was in the loop.
And remember, Paul Manafort was very close, his main client in Ukraine was
Viktor Yanukovych, who at this time is in exile in Russia, right? Remember
that, that his client is in Russia and people connected to him are
connected to Vladimir Putin.
And Mr. Kilimnik, if you remember that name from the Muller Report, he also
is going back and forth with these Russian contacts. So, it made me just
want to know are - is there more to the Russia connection going all the way
back then. And again, they would be the same people that would be spinning
this kooky idea that the Ukrainians, the enemies of Mr. Yanukovych, the
enemies of Paul Manafort were responsible for the DNC hacking.
O`DONNELL: And, Chuck, how does - how does the committee take notice of
this? Is this something that they can simply, now that it has become public
through the Freedom of Information Act, can they just adopt it into the
record of their investigation if they want to?
ROSENBERG: They sure can. And again, they can use it for questioning other
witnesses or for seeking other documents. But one cautionary note,
Lawrence, which I think is important, these are essentially raw
intelligence reports. When an FBI agent sits down with someone and
interviews them, she writes down whatever they say.
If that person lies to her, she writes it down. If that person tells her
the truth, she writes it down. And if that person is guessing, she writes
it down. So, they`re faithful recordations, but they`re not always
accurate. And so, you have to be careful with them, but they are very
useful again for helping to point you in the direction of where you can get
other information, and Congress is free to use them.
And by the way, if they get the full Grand Jury information that the
Mueller team assembled, they will have the unredacted memos and can fill in
all the details that we cannot yet see.
O`DONNELL: Former Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, thank you for
joining our discussion tonight.
O`DONNELL: And Chuck Rosenberg, please stay with us. When we come back,
we`ll talk about Rudy Giuliani`s pal, Lev Parnas, who now says he is
willing to cooperate with the House Impeachment Investigation. That cannot
be good for Rudy Giuliani or the President of the United States.
O`DONNELL: One of Rudy Giuliani`s partners in crime who has actually been
indicted by the federal government is now flipping and announcing his
cooperation with the impeachment inquiry. Giuliani`s friends and partners,
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, have been indicted for their activities
involving Ukraine. Rudy Giuliani is a continuing subject of that criminal
And now, after dropping a lawyer who once represented Donald Trump, live
Parnas is saying through his new lawyer that he will cooperate with the
impeachment inquiry by testifying and supplying documents subpoenaed by
Congress. The New York Times reports tonight that Lev Parnas` change of
heart has to do directly with Donald Trump who denied knowing Lev Parnas
after his arrest.
“Mr. Parnas was very upset by President Trump`s plainly false statement
that he did not know him,” said Joseph Bondi whose client has maintained
that he has had extensive dealings with the President. Chuck Rosenberg is
back with us. Chuck, what do you make of this flip at least in relation to
the congressional inquiry? How does a witness say - not a witness, but a
defendant in a criminal case say, “I`m willing to testify as a witness in
this same matter to Congress while I`m awaiting trial in this criminal
ROSENBERG: Precisely the right question, Lawrence. So, it`s perilous,
right? Until he resolves his criminal case in the Southern District of New
York, either by pleading guilty or going to trial and being acquitted or
convicted, he has a huge problem. Anything he says publicly could be used
against him in that trial. And so, maybe it means he`s trying to resolve
the criminal case perhaps by pleading guilty, but we don`t know that yet,
or perhaps he wants to help Congress but can`t to do that just now because
he`s limited in what he can say.
He has a couple of gates he needs to get through. But I will say this, most
defendants become convicted felons and most convicted felons look for a way
to cooperate in order to reduce their sentence.
O`DONNELL: And he still has the Fifth Amendment available to him and his
lawyer makes that clear that, if he does testify to Congress and if he does
have Fifth Amendment interest that he must protect, he will. But that could
conceivably leave some pretty big areas that they could explore in his
ROSENBERG: Sure, that`s right. But I think if he wants to cut a deal, the
way to do it is to do it - it`s sort of a global resolution meaning to
resolve the case with the Southern District of New York, to agree to
cooperate with any state federal or local prosecutor who wants his help,
and as part of that to help Congress if they seek his testimony as part of
the impeachment inquiry.
Again, he does have a Fifth Amendment privilege. He has a pending case. And
so, I understand why he wants to cooperate but he has a good attorney now.
I know one of them and I respect them, and I think they`re going to be very
careful with what he says before that trial, before that open matter in the
Southern District of New York, Lawrence, is resolved.
O`DONNELL: I just want to remind the audience how shocking this new posture
is with his previous legal posture because his previous legal posture was
so shocking, enunciated by John Dowd who had worked as Donald Trump`s
lawyer for a while. John Dowd said that Mr. Parnas` testimony could include
attorney-client privilege because he was working with Rudy Giuliani,
therefore, part of the President`s legal team, and so he would somehow fall
under the attorney-client privileges that exist between Donald Trump and
And then also, Dowd referred to other privileges, possibly executive
privilege of the President would somehow extend to this defendant.
ROSENBERG: Yes, I think the legal word for that, Lawrence, is nonsense. And
by the way, just so you - and I`m sure your viewers remember this, Michael
Conan at one point professed that he was going to take a bullet for Mr.
Trump and then was eager to testify against him, including an open session
in Congress. And so again, most defendants become convicted felons and most
convicted felons look for ways to cooperate. I imagine Mr. Parnas is going
to look for a way to cooperate. He has good attorneys to guide him through
O`DONNELL: Chuck Rosenberg gets tonight`s LAST WORD. Thanks for joining us,
Chuck. Really appreciate it.
ROSENBERG: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams
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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