First public impeachment hearing. TRANSCRIPT: 11/13/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. Thank you very
And Deval Patrick, at least, won`t be one of those presidential candidates
who is tied down as a juror in the Trump impeachment trial in the United
States Senate if that`s what January is all about.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Seriously, I mean, just the impeachment
hearings right now in the House are already stacked up against, for
example, the Democratic debate next Wednesday which is going to have two
impeachment hearings that day. It`s going to be nuts, man.
O`DONNELL: But, you know, look, America`s going to watch the hearing, and
then they`re going to watch you moderate that debate. That`s the way it`s
going to work.
MADDOW: Kill me now.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We have so much ground to cover on this historic first day of
public hearings in the impeachment investigation. We will consider the
historical import of it all at the end of this hour with two Pulitzer Prize
winners who are covering their third, yes, third presidential impeachment
investigation, Eugene Robinson and Howard Reines (ph), will join us.
We will get former acting solicitor-general Neal Katyal`s legal analysis,
invaluable legal analysis of today`s hearing. And we will be joined by
former CIA director John Brennan on the day when we learned that the
president of the United States accepted a cell phone call from a restaurant
in Ukraine where the president`s voice could be overheard in that
restaurant, during that wildly unsecure phone call.
We begin tonight with the first televised testimony in the impeachment
investigation, which included the stunning news of the president`s voice
being overheard on that cellphone in that restaurant in Ukraine. Toward
the end of his long and detailed opening statement today, Ambassador
William Taylor delivered hugely important information that was not included
in his testimony to the committee in a closed door deposition last month.
It was devastating new testimony about Donald Trump, and not one Republican
member of Congress in that room said one word about that devastating new
The Republican members of Congress are so afraid of that new information
that they were rendered utterly speechless about it all day in today`s
hearing. That new information has added a new very important witness to
the witness list in the impeachment inquiry.
Here is how Ambassador Taylor delivered that incriminating new information
about Donald Trump and revealed the existence of a new very important
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM TAYLOR, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: In the presence of my staff at
a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of
his meetings in Kiev. A member of my staff could hear President Trump on
the phone asking ambassador Sondland about the investigations. Ambassador
Sondland told President Trump the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.
Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked
Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador
Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations
of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for. At the time I gave my
deposition on October 22nd, I was not aware of this information. I`m
including it here for completeness.
As the committee knows, I reported this information through counsel,
through the State Department`s legal advisor, as well as to counsel for
both the majority and minority of this committee. It is my understanding
that the committee is following up on this matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Sources familiar with the matter tell NBC News that the person
who overheard Donald Trump`s phone call with Ambassador Sondland was David
Holmes, an official at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine. David Holmes is
scheduled to give a closed door deposition to the impeachment inquiry on
Friday, which could mean he might be added to the list of witnesses for
public hearings as early as next week.
Republicans did not say one word about this devastating new testimony about
Donald Trump caring more about investigating Joe Biden than he cares about
The two witnesses who testified today, Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy
Assistant Secretary George Kent cared deeply – cared deeply about Ukraine
and kept returning to the importance of the U.S. government`s support for
Ukraine while it is under attack from Russia. In fact, Ambassador Taylor
was actually at the front line, literally the front line of Ukraine`s
battle, hot battle, with Russia at the very moment that Gordon Sondland was
on the phone in that restaurant in Ukraine with Donald Trump.
When David Holmes testifies about hearing Donald Trump`s voice on Gordon
Sondland`s telephone, Republicans are not going to be able to complain
about hearsay. That is not hearsay evidence. That is someone who was
there telling you what he heard the president of the United States say and
what he heard Gordon Sondland say. That is going to be another very bad
day for the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee.
Every day was a bad day for the Republicans during the closed door
depositions because the transcripts show that the Republicans could not
come up with any form of defense for Donald Trump in those depositions, and
they didn`t bother with the kinds of stunts and speech making that they do
in public hearings. Today, Chairman Adam Schiff delivered a master class
of how to chair a congressional hearing in the age of Trumpism in Congress.
The chairman held a tight rein on the proceedings, he shutdown Republican
interpretations so quickly that the Republicans gave up trying to
And Jim Jordan who was specifically imported into the committee just last
week by Republicans so that they`re so-called toughest guy could be the
toughest questioner, was crushed. And I mean he was crushed by Congressman
Peter Welch who will join us later in this hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): There is one witness, one witness that they won`t
bring in front of us, they won`t bring in front of the American people, and
that`s the guy who started it all, the whistle-blower.
REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): I say to my colleague, I`d be glad to have the
person who started it all come in and testify. President Trump is welcome
to take a seat right there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jim Jordan was not content to just complain about hearsay. He
also lied about today`s witnesses while he was at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORDAN: Over the next few weeks, we`re going to have more witnesses like
we`ve had today that the Democrats will parade in here, and they`re all
going to say this, so-and-so said such and such to so-and-so, and
therefore, we`ve got to impeach the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: What a vile liar that man is. Today`s witnesses very
specifically did not say we got to impeach the president. They both
specifically refused to offer any view of whether the evidence they were
presenting is impeachable conduct. They scrupulously avoided any such
comment, and Jim Jordan just lies about them, lies about them, right in
front of them, right in front of an audience who all know Jim Jordan is
Jim Jordan lied about George Kent, saying that George Kent was there today
saying you`ve got to impeach the president. George Kent never said
anything like that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: My name is George Kent,
and I am the deputy assistant secretary of state for Eastern Europe and the
Caucuses. I have served proudly as a nonpartisan career Foreign Service
officer for more than 27 years under five presidents, three Republican and
two Democrat. As I mentioned in my opening comments last month in the
closed door deposition, I represent the third generation of my family who
have chosen a career in public service and sworn the oath of office that
all U.S. public servants do in defense of our Constitution.
Indeed, there has been a George Kent sworn to defend the Constitution
continuously for nearly 60 years, ever since my father reported to
Annapolis for his plebe summer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is the George Kent who Jim Jordan lied about today.
Jim Jordan also lied about Ambassador William Taylor, lied about Taylor
testifying you`ve got to impeach the president. Jim Jordan put those words
in Ambassador Taylor`s mouth, not true. Ambassador Taylor didn`t come
close to saying anything like that. He simply repeatedly answered
questions about what he saw and what he heard and what he knows, nothing
Ambassador Taylor and Donald Trump are a year apart in age. They are a
year apart in college graduation, but they could not possibly be farther
apart in the way that they have lived their lives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): Ambassador Taylor, what year did you
graduate from West Point?
TAYLOR: 1969, sir.
MALONEY: That`s the height of the Vietnam War, wasn`t it, sir?
TAYLOR: The height was about that time.
MALONEY: What was your class rank at West Point?
TAYLOR: I was number 5.
MALONEY: How many people in your class?
TAYLOR: Eight hundred.
MALONEY: Eight hundred cadets, you were number 5.
TAYLOR: Yes, sir.
MALONEY: So, when you were top 1 percent of your class at West Point, you
probably get your pick of assignments, but you picked the infantry.
TAYLOR: I did, sir. Yes, sir.
MALONEY: You were rifle company commander.
MALONEY: Where`d you serve?
TAYLOR: In Vietnam.
MALONEY: Did you see combat in Vietnam, sir?
TAYLOR: I did.
MALONEY: Did you earn any accommodations for that service?
TAYLOR: I was awarded the Combat Infantryman`s Badge which is my highest
I`m proudest of. There was a Bronze Star. There was an Air Medal –
MALONEY: That`s for valor, isn`t it, sir?
TAYLOR: It is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Valor has no meaning to liars like Jim Jordan and Donald Trump.
Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Sean Patrick Maloney of
New York. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He was in
the impeachment hearing today.
We`re also joined now by Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former under-secretary
of state for political affairs in the Obama administration. She is a
member of the global affairs – global affairs contributor.
And Jill Wine-Banks is with us. She`s a former assistant Watergate special
prosecutor. She`s an MSNBC legal analyst.
Congressman Maloney, let me start with you. I just want to get from you
why you decided to start with Ambassador Taylor`s biography.
MALONEY: Because it`s an extraordinary story of, well, you use the word
valor. And he`s so understated and humble, he might not know this was a
person who graduated fifth in his class of 800 at West Point. And then
with any choice he wanted went to the thick of the fight in Vietnam and
served with distinction.
And that, of course, was the beginning of his career, the 101st Airborne.
He was with the 506 Regiment. That`s the famous Band of Brothers regiment.
And then, of course, he serves his country for 40, 50 years.
And I think it`s important to compare and contrast that to the person
calling him names or minimizing his account, not just to the members of
Congress but, of course, the president himself who made very different
choices at that time in his life. And I just wanted people to know who
this man was.
O`DONNELL: I want to go to the new information we learned today.
Apparently the committees were – the committee members were notified about
it before we in the public learned it when it was televised today, when he
talked about that phone call overheard by Ambassador Taylor`s staff, that
phone call from Gordon Sondland to President Trump, overheard by Ambassador
What do you see as the import of that in this evidence?
MALONEY: Well, it`s a major development. And I can tell you we were all
stunned when we learned it. This is not information we knew 24 hours ago.
You now have another member of the Foreign Service who isn`t just relaying
something that someone told to him, Jim Jordan`s ridiculous comments
notwithstanding. He heard it directly because the president was speaking
so loudly into his cell phone, setting aside for a minute how crazy it is
for the president to be having these kinds of conversations over an
unsecure line with an individual at a restaurant.
But what the foreign service officer heard the day after the president`s
famous call with the president of Ukraine was the president raising the
issue of investigations, the Bidens, Burisma. We want to know more about
that. That`s one more conversation that corroborates the central
misconduct of the president.
And, by the way, it calls into question, again, the completeness of
Ambassador Sondland`s testimony because this is the first we`re learning of
O`DONNELL: Well, to say it calls into question is very kind. It makes
very clear that Ambassador Sondland left this out. And because he left it
out of his testimony to believe that he had no negative intention and
wasn`t committing perjury by leaving it out, you have to believe that
Gordon Sondland simply didn`t remember this. He didn`t remember sitting in
a restaurant in Ukraine, grabbing his cellphone and saying I`m going to
call the president of the United States.
Getting the president on the phone and then having that conversation in
that restaurant. Like that – is it in any way conceivably credible that
is something that Gordon Sondland could forget?
MALONEY: No, not if it was five years ago, ten years ago. We`re talking
about something that was five weeks ago and we`re talking about something
that is at the heart of this inquiry.
And by the way, this isn`t the first time. Remember his supplemental
declaration that got tacked onto his testimony the first time related to
another critical conversation he seemingly forgot which was with a key aid
to Ukraine in which he delivered the quid pro quo in which he said you`re
not getting the White House meeting, you`re not getting security
assistance, you`re not getting anything until we get a specifically
negotiated statement that smears the Bidens. That conversation didn`t make
it into the first testimony until other witnesses raised the issue of his
failure to recall.
In other words, their testimony forced his hand. And what you`re seeing
with Mr. Sondland, I think, is someone who has a very important story to
tell and needs to tell all of it. And that`s why we`re having them in
public session, but it`s also why we have surrounded him by the credible
accounts of others who leave him no choice but to tell us the whole truth.
And may I say one more thing, there are other records that the State
Department is refusing to produce with no legal basis. They have been
subpoenaed. And all these witnesses kept notes.
Ambassador Taylor in particular kept copious notes. And there are e-mails
and other text messages, no doubt, that we need to have. And you better
believe if any of that information helped exculpate or exonerate the
president, we would have seen it.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Sherman, I want to give you a wide open spot here to
share with us your feelings when you were watching your former colleagues
and diplomatic service in this testimony today, what you want to – any
part you want to comment on, including much of what they had to say about
the importance of Ukraine. They really wanted to take the opportunity to
deliver to this committee the importance of our policy with Ukraine beyond
just what is now the scandalous elements of it.
WENDY SHERMAN, MSNBC GLOBAL AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Lawrence. And
thank you, Congressman, for your good work today. The committee was
incredibly disciplined, particularly in the Democratic side, and
Congressman Schiff really as you say, Lawrence, was a master classman on
how to conduct a congressional hearing. I`ve been on the other side of
that table many, many times. And it`s very tough.
So watching Bill Taylor whom I know extremely well, have for years,
listening to George Kent just really made me incredibly proud. We have a
demoralized state department.
Today, Foreign Service officers, civil servants, the thousands of people
who serve our interests all over the world could stand with high pride
today as these two very sober, steely gentlemen just gave us the facts,
just the facts. And again and again as you pointed out, the Republicans
tried to say do you really want to impeach him, do you really want to
impeach him? And again and again, each of them said I`m here as a fact
witness. I`m going to tell you the truth. I am a public servant.
And as you also pointed out, they talked about Ukraine. Not only what that
country has gone through, I went to Ukraine shortly after the change moving
toward democracy. It was a young country trying to find its roots in
democracy. The United States was critically important to that journey.
The fact that the president signed legislation to send weapons to Ukraine,
lethal weapons was an important step, one that President Obama did not
take. It was important that President Trump did it. Now, he`s running
away from the very leverage we have to help President Zelensky create the
democracy that the people of Ukraine so richly deserve.
Finally, and thank you for this time, it was all about making sure that
Russia did not take over Ukraine. As I`ve said on this program before
Mitch McConnell after the Soviet Union fell apart, was a huge champion of
Ukraine. And the reason why is because he did not want to see Russia
dominate again. He did not want to see the Soviet Union re-created.
And what we heard from both Kent and Taylor today was everything that the
president is now doing is rushing Ukraine into the arms of Russia and that
doesn`t protect the Ukraine and certainly doesn`t protect the United
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, when I heard Ambassador Taylor begin with
something along the lines of just last Friday I learned, I really was
struck because in a situation like this where we already have a deposition
that we`ve all read, we think we know everything we`re going to hear today,
and then suddenly, here comes this new phone call, this new evidence.
What was it like for you hearing that new evidence break through today in
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: It was
another ah-ha moment where you hear it and go that`s the beauty of a live
witness who really wants to get all the facts out. He clearly wanted
everybody to know everything he knew. He was willing to share.
It`s a shame he`s been denied access to his own records, that the members
of Congress have been denied the records. It`s sort of like what happened
with John Dean who was escorted out of the White House without his records,
where you have people Haldeman and Ehrlichman were allowed to have access.
It helps to have people to be able to remember things and learn things if
they have those records. And there is no legitimate reason why they cannot
I think despite all of that, today`s hearing was so well handled, I agree
completely with what`s been said in terms of how well Adam Schiff handled
the hearings. He was very dignified and controlled and he stayed calm.
The witnesses were able to shine. The witnesses were able to speak.
I just hope that people who listen to networks other than this one will
hear the same things we`re hearing, which is gavel to gavel coverage that
shows exactly what happened. And even for someone like me and I worked in
Ukraine for Motorola, and this was before any of the revolutions before it
was really corrupt.
But I know that there`s a lot that can be done to help that country and we
saw it laid out before us today as to why it`s important to our security to
O`DONNELL: Congressman Maloney, just quickly before we go, I was so
impressed by the conduct of the hearing by Chairman Schiff and by you, the
members, it was very disciplined. None of you overlapped with each other.
It seems like you had some real coordination going into this and some real
planning going into it knowing how you were going to divide up the
questioning and responsibilities.
MALONEY: Well, the credit goes to the chairman. And I`m so glad that
America got to see what all of us see in private, which is he`s an
extraordinary member of Congress, a chairman of a major committee. We`re
blessed to have him in that position. And all of us would follow him to
the ends of the earth.
So when he sets that tone and, you know, says we all need to get organized
and be disciplined, every member of the Democratic side of that committee
says, yes, sir.
And also, don`t forget the staff. I thought the staff did a remarkable job
preparing for today`s hearing, helping all of us. And also Dan Goldman, an
MSNBC alum, I thought did a wonderful job.
And if I can say one more thing since we`re singing peoples praises, I`m so
glad young people out there are able to see what real courage looks like
and what foreign service officers and what military professionals, folks
like Secretary Kent, Ambassador Taylor, but also people to come like
Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and Ambassador Yovanovitch, what that service
really looks like and means.
And I know there`s been demoralization of those departments, but, boy, if
you`re a young person out there thinking about a way to spend your career
and want to do some good, join the Foreign Service. We need you. And look
at today`s hearings as an example of what you can – what you can do.
O`DONNELL: I`m so glad you mentioned the committee staff. This is the
show we never forget the committee staff on the intelligence committee or
Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, Wendy Sherman, Jill Wine-Banks, thank you
all for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, a possible perjury case against Gordon Sondland got
considerably stronger today with Ambassador William Taylor`s stunning
revelation about Sondland`s overheard cellphone call from a restaurant in
Ukraine to the president of the United States.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Gordon Sondland is discovering the hard way that
lying for Donald Trump is not as easy as Donald Trump makes it look.
Here is Congressman Peter Welch on this program three weeks ago when we
first discovered the contradictions between Ambassador Taylor`s testimony
and Gordon Sondland`s testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Is Gordon Sondland in danger of perjury charges for his
testimony to your committee?
WELCH: I think he is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He keeps it simple.
Joining us now is Democratic Republican Congressman Peter Welch. He`s a
member of the House Intelligence Committee and the Oversight Committee. He
took part in today`s hearing.
And Neal Katyal is with us, former acting U.S. solicitor general, and MSNBC
And, Congressman Welch, let`s start with the new discoveries about Gordon
Sondland and that cell phone call. What does it add to what could be a
perjury case against Gordon Sondland?
WELCH: Well, it`s firsthand account that he conveniently left over and
he`s already had one do over. But you have this person who`s going to be
deposed on Friday who heard the phone call between President Trump and
Ambassador Sondland, and President Trump very explicitly according to the
witness today was concerned about the investigations, not about Ukraine
policy, not about repulsing Russia, not about getting rid of corruption.
It was about the investigations he wanted done on Biden. So, it`s going to
be a very powerful day on Friday when we have an opportunity to depose this
O`DONNELL: And, Neal Katyal, legally, I think there are people out there
who think it`s not perjury if you say I do not recall, that kind of
automatically avoids perjury. And it`s not perjury if you just don`t
mention something. You just leave it out, you don`t talk about it, then
that`s not perjury.
How does this work? How do you see this situation for Gordon Sondland
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: I think it`s looking
really, really bad. Obviously, it can`t be the case. The rule can`t be
you can say I don`t recall and get out of perjury charges because then
everyone would say that to every question and we`d never have perjury,
which is one of the essential tools to keep truth in our justice system
going every day.
And here you`ve got a separate problem, which is this new devastating
testimony today by Ambassador Taylor concerns a conversation that Gordon
Sondland had with the president of the United States.
I`ve worked in two different administrations for two different presidents.
I can guarantee you, Lawrence, I can pretty much remember word for word
almost every conversation I had with the president even if I had many of
them because of the gravity of such a thing. You`re talking about the
president of the United States. And here he went and testified and didn`t
mention this at all?
He`s already as the congressman said had to come back once, and now he`s
going to have to come back again. And boy, if I`m advising him, I think
this guy is in real trouble.
Perjury has a five-year statute of limitations, and I know the Trump
administration has gotten used to a fake attorney general who doesn`t look
at and investigate when there`s wrongdoing by members of the executive
branch. But this is five-year statute of limitations. And I`ll tell you,
Lawrence, any attorney general I don`t care if they are Republican or
Democrat, will look at this and be deeply, deeply concerned.
I worked for two different Attorney Generals, Eric Holder and Janet Reno,
and boy, they would look into this and they would look into it even if the
President told them not to. That`s what Holder did, for example, with the
CIA investigation into abuse. When the President didn`t want him to look
into it, he still did and that`s going to happen here.
So, Sondland has to come forward next week and say either he lied before or
he forgot, whatever euphemism he wants to use, or Ambassador Taylor is
lying and good luck with that.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Welch, I want to take a look once again at this
moment that you had with Jim Jordan because Jim Jordan has been getting
away with his stunts in hearings for as long as people have been watching
him in his hearings without the suit coat on. And so, we`ve shown it once
already, but with you here, I want to show it once again. Let`s just take a
look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): There is one witness, one witness that they won`t
bring in front of us, they won`t bring in front of the American people.
That`s the guy who started it all, the whistleblower.
REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): I`d like say to my colleague, I`d be glad to have
the person who started it all come in and testify. President Trump is
welcome to take a seat right there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congressman Welch, well played, to put it mildly. But Jim Jordan
is the big star that the Republicans had to make room for in that
committee. They had to kick off a member, bring him in so he could sit
there and have moments like that, which you completely crushed today. Jim
Jordan had nothing to say back to that moment and of course, obviously,
it`s Donald Trump who started all of this.
WELCH: Well, that`s right. I mean Jordan is a performer and what he does is
incredible bluster. He speaks so fast, I get a headache and I can`t quite
keep up with it. But, when you peel it back, what`s he saying and usually
it`s nothing related to the central question of whether the President
abused his authority to get advantage in a political campaign. And he is
attacking the whistleblower in threatening his identity even though
everything the whistleblower said has been corroborated. And the bottom
line, Jim, if you want to get the truth, why don`t we bring in the
President? That`s sort of the self-evident fact and I called the question
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, I want to go back to a point you were making about
the statute of limitations because, if you look at Donald Trump`s polling
numbers, it looks pretty bad, his reelection prospects. And I keep
wondering about people like Gordon Sondland, don`t they realize that
there`s a very strong possibility of there being a Democratic Attorney
General and not so long down the road and that these cases are all live
cases going into the next administration, possible criminal cases. So if
Gordon Sondland is going to be making phone calls to Donald Trump, he might
want to be talking about pardon.
KATYAL: Absolutely. I mean I think if you`re Gordon Sondland, right now,
you have a lot to worry about. And by the way, Lawrence, I think that`s
true even if it`s another Republican Attorney General who comes in. I think
any fair-minded Attorney General will look at this and say, “Oh really, you
forgot a conversation you had with the President of the United States in a
restaurant? I mean come on, give me a break.” And this is why I think and
this is what you`re talking about with Congressman Welch that the Trump
defenses have essentially collapsed.
I mean the defense today that Jim Jordan was running was, well, this is all
hearsay and third-hand, usually you don`t have any first-hand witnesses to
what the President thought. I think the congressman is exactly right; the
real devastating problem with that is the Democrats say, “Look, we won all
of these people and we want Trump to come in. We want Bolton to come in. We
want all these witnesses. We want documents and emails. And what are you
doing, Mr. President? You`ve issued an order that says, no executive branch
employee can come in and testify to Congress and tell the truth. You`ve
said no documents will be turned over. That is not the way a President of
the United States behaves. That`s the way King George III behaved 200 years
ago and what we fought the revolution about.”
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, thank you for joining us tonight with your
invaluable legal insight on this. And Congressman Peter Welch, thank you
for joining us tonight. Very important for us to have you here tonight on
this night where I know for a fact that you are a hero among both Democrats
and many Republicans in the House of Representatives for crushing the Jim
Jordan Act today. It`s not just Democrats who know how silly that man is.
WELCH: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Congressman. And when we come back, John Brennan will
join us to explain the danger of what foreign governments learned about
Donald Trump in today`s impeachment hearing. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: And supporting Ukraine`s
brave resistance to Russian aggression, we have a front-row seat to the
Russian way of war in the 21st century, gaining priceless insights that
contribute to our own security.
O`DONNELL: Yes, Donald Trump doesn`t care about that. According to his
friend, Gordon Sondland, after he hung up his cell phone in a Ukraine
restaurant just after speaking with Donald Trump, Gordon Sondland said that
Donald Trump cares more about investigating Joe Biden than he cares about
For a national security and intelligence perspective on today`s testimony,
we turn now to former CIA director, John Brennan. He is a senior national
security and intelligence analyst for MSNBC. And I want to get your
reaction to that phone call in that restaurant, which sounds like a very,
very high level security risk.
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR, MSNBC SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY AND
INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, it it`s just a number of things. One is that, I
think as Neal mentioned, Ambassador Sondland has a fair amount of
explaining to do. Number two, it shows that Donald Trump was continually
focused on the status of Ukraine`s willingness to make a public statement
about investigating the Bidens. And three, it shows that Donald Trump will
have these open conversations, including to Ukraine, where the Russians
have tremendous technical capabilities to tap into those conversations. So,
I think it just again underscores Mr. Trump`s failings as President of the
O`DONNELL: What do - what do other countries watching this today, I was
thinking about obviously there`s intense interest in this hearing in
Ukraine, there`s intense interest in it in Russia, as tend to interest
here. At a certain point I started to wonder, well, what is the rest of the
world - what are other governments seeing when they watch this today?
BRENNAN: Well, I think other government officials like the rest of us have
witnessed over the last two-and-a-half years, Mr. Trump`s incompetence, his
ignorance of foreign affairs, and his inability in fact to carry out the
duties of the office on the national security front. But the Ukraine matter
is different, I think it really reveals Mr. Trump`s malfeasance of office
and his interest in getting political dirt on his opponents in the upcoming
And so, I think it sends a signal that if you`re a foreign leader, I don`t
think even Mr. Trump has to ask for that information now; I think they know
that he is keenly interested in it. He will accept it and he will give them
the appropriate praise as well as maybe compensation as a result. So, I
think it sends a very bad signal that, unlike any of the president
certainly in my memory, this individual Mr. Trump is willing to engage in
these corrupt political practices, the type of practices that the foreign
service officers like Mr. Kent and Ambassador Taylor have tried to rid the
countries of. And here we are, practicing it ourselves.
O`DONNELL: There`s yet another element to this, which - I`m going to
squeeze in the commercial break and come back after that - and that is that
the other thing foreign governments are learning today is that if they did
engage in that kind of political help to Donald Trump, Republicans in
Congress would protect them and would protect Donald Trump for have - even
if caught in that. Well, we`ll pick that up when we come back right after
this break, with John Brennan.
O`DONNELL: We`re back with former CIA director, John Brennan, and I wanted
to just put up on the screen for the audience a tweet you`ve put out today
saying, “The impeachment process will reveal whether Republicans will
tolerate corruption, dishonesty & avarice in our Nation`s highest office.
If so, America`s political soul & global standing will be indelibly
sullied, and Donald Trump will have destroyed the very heart of the GOP.”
What did you learn about that today?
BRENNAN: Well, I guess I`ve been holding out hope that there will be
Republicans of conscience who will do the right thing, but I was very proud
of how our diplomats carried out their responsibilities, testifying to
Congress today. I was embarrassed by the shameful, shameful performance of
the Republicans who seemed to have no interest in uncovering the truth and
doing what is right and consistent with American values and principles.
And so, it seems as though they`re going to continue to circle the wagons
and they`re going to defend Mr. Trump at all costs and they have decided to
jump into the cesspool of politics with him with their dishonesty, and it
really is quite unfortunate that they`ve decided to go down this road. I
really believe that if these members - if these Republican members of
Congress were in office in 1974, Richard Nixon never would have been
removed from office. He never would have been shown the door basically by
And I`m still hoping that Republicans in Congress, in the Senate and the
House, are going to rise to the occasion, but I`m losing hope and faith in
O`DONNELL: Former CIA director, John Brennan, thank you very much for
joining us and I really appreciate it.
BRENNAN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And up next, two Pulitzer Prize winners who are covering their
third impeachment investigation of the President, Eugene Robinson and
Howell Raines, will join us.
O`DONNELL: Two presidential impeachment investigations, 45 years apart, are
at their core about the integrity of our democratic elections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SAM ERVIN (D-NC): The burglars who broke into the headquarters of the
Democratic National Committee at the Watergate were in effect breaking into
the home of every citizen of the United States. And if these allegations
prove to be true, what they were seeking to steal was not the jewels, money
or other property of American citizens, but something much more valuable -
their most precious heritage: the right to vote in a free election.”
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): At the end of the day, we`re going to have to
decide based on the evidence that you and others provide whether we`re
prepared to accept in the presence of the United States a situation where
the President for their own personal or political benefit can condition
military aid, diplomatic meetings or any other performance of an official
act in order to get help in their re-election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion on this historic night now, Eugene
Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The
Washington Post; also with us another Pulitzer Prize winner, Howell Raines,
former executive editor of the New York Times, both are MSNBC contributors.
And Gene, we all remember what a large character Sir Sam Ervin became in
the Watergate investigative hearings, and we`re seeing something like that
happening today with Adam Schiff happening for the last few weeks in the
way this has emerged. What is your sense of the comparison of these two?
EUGENE ROBINSON, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, WASHINGTON POST AND MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:
Well, I think we will remember Adam Schiff as a leading actor in this drama
that we`re living through now. This was a historic day and as much as the
Republicans in that room tried to make it into a food fight, it wasn`t. It
was a day in which a committee of the House of Representatives was taking
public open testimony concerning the impeachment or the possible
impeachment of the President of the United States.
And I thought it was a stunning day in many ways; it had a plot twist with
Ambassador Taylor`s revelation of the restaurant phone call involving
Ambassador Sondland and the President. It was - and it`s just Wednesday.
ROBINSON: It`s just the beginning of what is going to be the rest of this
week and then next week, a whole lineup of witnesses. So, this is just
O`DONNELL: It`s just Wednesday is the line of the night for me so far. I
have to say - haven`t really - that puts it in perspective for me, Gene. I
haven`t really thought about that.
I think when I was a kid, I guess I was in college when I was watching that
first impeachment of President Nixon, the idea that we would live through
three of them was just something that history certainly did not promise. It
was extremely unlikely that we`d ever see another one and yet here we are
HOWELL RAINES, FORMER EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES AND MSNBC
CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. This is one of those days in Washington that reminds us
that news breaks, but history congeals, and what we saw today was a
coagulation, a thickening of the evidentiary case against the President of
the United States. What - the new thing that we`re seeing though is that we
now have a major political party that in the face of that evidence is
committed to the sophistry that facts don`t matter in regard to enforcement
of the law and the Constitution. That means I think we are a long, long way
from a safe harbor for our political system and that`s what Sam Ervin was
talking about so eloquently.
O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at another similarity between these two
Republican presidents, Nixon and Trump, and what they have to say, what
they`re claiming about their attitude toward this televised impeachment
hearing. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD VALERIANI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: President Nixon does not have a
television set in his hideaway in the executive office building where he
worked this afternoon nor in the Oval Office where he worked this morning.
Therefore, a spokesman said Mr. Nixon did not watch the televised Senate
hearings on Watergate today and will not be watching.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you watch the hearings today?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITES STATES OF AMERICA: No, I didn`t. I
did not watch it. I`m too busy to watch it. It`s a witch-hunt; it`s a hoax.
I`m too busy to watch it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, “I`m too busy to watch it.”
O`DONNELL: Good think he wasn`t under oath.
ROBINSON: Exactly. I mean there`s no one in the universe who believes that
and in fact, the President somehow had time to retweet umpteen times about
the proceedings that he was so assiduously not paying attention to. He paid
very close attention to it, as did others in the White House, by the way,
who were reportedly surprised by this revelation of the restaurant phone
call. It doesn`t seem to anybody to have (ph) mentioned that to any of his
aides in the White House. So, we`ll see what they come up with to counter
O`DONNELL: And we have news tonight from the Washington Post, Senate
Republicans thinking about the - how this intersects with the presidential
campaign and Washing Post reporting some Senate Republican senators and
their advisors are privately discussing whether to pressure GOP leaders to
stage a lengthy impeachment trial beginning in January to scramble the
Democratic presidential race, potentially keeping six contenders in
Washington until the eve of the Iowa caucuses or longer. Howell Raines,
that`s their latest move to try to stop, I guess, Bernie Sanders and
RAINES: Yes, and it reminds us why you`re right, Lawrence, to exhort us to
look back at the Nixon and Clinton experiences in light of where we are.
What the Nixon experience and the Clinton impeachment had in common was
that both parties agreed on the facts of the case. The resolutions were
different; Nixon cut it off by resigning and Clinton, the judgment was that
his behavior was reprehensible, but didn`t rise to the level of removal.
Now, here we have a dispute about the facts and about whether facts matter,
and if I were the Democrats, I would be looking at the impeachment that
neither Gene nor I is old enough to have covered, and that was Andrew
Johnson, and I think that`s the Democrats paradigm that probably they would
think would be their deepest desire, that is that the impeachment fails in
the Senate but the presidency is destroyed. And that`s the stakes that
we`re in right now.
I thought the Post story was fascinating; I read it just before we came on.
But, I frankly don`t see that as something that the Republicans are going
to be willing to gamble on, because every time the evidence is expanded,
deepened, spread out more, it`s bad news for the guy that they`re trying to
get a free pass for.
O`DONNELL: Yes, Gene Robinson, how is an additional day of Senate trial
good for the Trump re-election campaign?
ROBINSON: It is not good for the Trump re-election campaign; it can`t
possibly be good for the re-election campaign. Mitch McConnell is already
saying, basically, it`s going to be a real trial, that it`s not going to be
some sort of quick dismissal and that every minute they spend actually
looking at the facts is bad for the Trump campaign. But think about that,
the sort of tactical gambit.
This could be a textbook definition of grasping at straws at this point,
right, trying to make something positive out of this situation for the
Republican Party by sabotaging the Democratic presidential field. You`re
supposed to be actually having a trial and considering the evidence, I
can`t believe that somebody in the - on the Republican side of the Senate
doesn`t take their job at least seriously enough to understand that they
have a role to play here, under the Constitution.
O`DONNELL: Yes and you know, as they game it out, Howell, the idea that
there`s an impeachment trial of the President of the United States, that`s
where all the country`s focus is going to be. So if you`re a United States
Senator and you`re in that trial, you`re probably in a better position than
the - actually than the other candidates who are available to be out there
RAINES: Yes, gaming is an apt word, Lawrence, in this respect. Although Jim
Jordan and Nunes looks silly, I think they had a pretty good day of keeping
the numbers stable. 48% of the American people, the poll show want to see
impeachment recede; 44% wanted not to go forward, and I think that`s what
Jordan was playing toward.
O`DONNELL: Howell Raines and Eugene Robinson get tonight`s last word. Thank
you both very much for joining us; really appreciate it.
ROBINSON: Good to be here.
O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams
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