Marie Yovanovitch testifies. TRANSCRIPT: 11/16/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: How was your day? It`s going to do it for us
tonight. We will see you again on Monday when I`m sure I`ll be just as
overwhelmed. But now it`s time for the “Last Word” with Lawrence O`Donnell.
Good evening, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. And don`t worry
about Monday. Roger Stone cannot be found guilty again. And did you ever
imagine that on the day Roger Stone`s verdict would come in and it would
come in guilty on all counts. That it would be in my hour, anyway,
literally the last story I`m going to be able to get to?
MADDOW: Exactly. You have to like squeeze it in among everything else that
not only happened over the course of today but that`s been happening over
the course of tonight. I mean, it`s Friday night. We`re used to it being
busy but this is crazy.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And we have a two way tie, at least a two way tie for the
most important story of the night. On the day when the president tweeted
his way into his own impeachment hearing with a tweet that some are saying
might be criminal and might be worthy of its own article of impeachment.
We have Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe here to talk about that one.
We also have Congressman Eric Swalwell racing towards us because we just
got word that that deposition, that closed door deposition of David Holmes
just ended. Ended like a minute, one minute ago.
O`DONNELL: And congressman Swalwell has been in it all the way. And that
of course has just taken over the number one position of the way we will
begin tonight with these new details about this phone call, cellphone call
from a restaurant in Ukraine overheard by David Holmes and who knows who
MADDOW: Yes. And, I mean, I`m very excited to hear what Congressman
Swalwell is able to tell you about the deposition. Having access to the
opening statement from that witness, I mean, that witness is able to give
us jaw dropping detail about that call which, again, puts the president
right personally at the center of this scandal.
But in addition to that, the witness is giving us corroborating information
and testimony about other elements of this scandal in terms of what he was
able to see from the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, of course a key position.
And he was there after Marie Yovanovitch had left. A lot of the Republican
criticism today was, hey, you weren`t there when the worst of all of these
things happened. Well, Holmes today, coming forward. He was there for all
of it. And so it`s further corroboration and it`s a new important witness
who we didn`t even know the name of until yesterday.
O`DONNELL: And I have to say, when the news of this call emerged, and it
first emerged in Ambassador Taylor`s testimony when he made reference to
it. No name, just a staff member – well, now we know who that is –
overheard this phone call.
Before we even get to the content of it, I was just so stunned at the
imagery of Gordon Sondland sitting there in a restaurant in Kiev calling
the president of the United States on a cellphone. The unsecure nature of
that call is just so wild.
And we`ve since had John Brennen on and others on saying yes, of course,
the Russians were listening to that call. Of course the Ukrainians were
able to listen to that call. Of course that call in that atmosphere was
picked up and probably recorded by other intelligence services.
MADDOW: And at that time in July, right, the fact that the U.S. was
putting this kind of pressure on Ukraine, putting aid at risk and other
things, was not public knowledge at all, right. That hadn`t been publicly
reported. It wasn`t being publicly discussed at all.
We`ve had all of this expert testimony over the past couple of weeks about
how it`s so important to Ukraine`s national security and their ability to
negotiate with Russia with whom they`re in a war with that people not know
that any of that aid was at risk. That people not know there was any rift
at all between them and us, their most important ally.
And there`s the whole world listening in on that phone call knowing that
President Trump is calling his guy in Ukraine being like, oh yes, Ukraine
you just talked to the president, am I getting my investigations? Am I
getting my investigations?
I mean, to the extent that he was broadcasting that by having it on an
unsecured cellphone line that means that the whole world, including Russia,
knew exactly what kind of pressure, improper pressure Trump was putting on
that country and that alliance, which means that phone call alone hurt
Ukraine in their war against Russia.
And these guys obviously don`t care about that. But America will have to
pay for that in terms of our reputation and our credibility as an ally for
the long as the rest of us live.
O`DONNELL: And this is one of those weeks, nights when I just can`t get
the chant of the Trump presidential campaign out of my head. This idea that
the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should be locked up, lock her
up because of questionable security practices involving her e-mail
communication, which turned out to not end up being certainly a legal
problem at all.
But an entire presidential campaign based on how dare you not use the
absolute, most secure, high level forms of secure communication when we
know that Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and many others in the Trump
administration have been using private e-mail.
When we know they`ve been doing exactly what they were accusing Hillary
Clinton of doing but much, much worse. And the Gordon Sondland phone call
is as bad as that gets.
MADDOW: Yes, a sensitive national security matter that matters most of us
all to the country where the call was being placed and the country most
likely to be listening in on that unsecured call.
The president personally on that call, not only talking about a crime that
he`s committing, but also endangering the national security of that ally,
all at once. But, you know, there`s Roger Stone with his lock her up t-
shirt that will be the totem for today`s news forever.
O`DONNELL: Okay, here`s what we know we don`t have on Monday. We know we
don`t have a jury verdict coming in on Monday. We know we don`t have a
public hearing. But President Trump will be allowed to tweet on Monday. Who
knows? Who knows what happens Monday.
MADDOW: I`m compartmentalizing and refusing to think about that. Thank you
O`DONNELL: Okay. Thank you very much Rachel. See you Monday. Well, the
breaking news of the night is that closed door deposition of David Holmes
that started this afternoon, just ended about six hours after it started,
going late into the night tonight.
One of the members of Congress who was in that deposition will join us as
soon as he can get to us. David Holmes` opening statement has been obtained
by NBC News and it has rocked Washington as much as any of the testimony
already made public. And it will have a profound effect on next week`s
hearings in the impeachment inquiry.
One of the striking things revealed in David Holmes` opening statement is
that his testimony was actually provoked, very specifically provoked by
some of the things that Republicans have been saying in the public hearings
David Holmes had no intention of testifying to the impeachment inquiry
until he saw that Republicans kept complaining about what they called
hearsay. And David Holmes realized that he had relevant testimony that was
And so he testified this afternoon in a closed door under oath deposition
after former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified in a dramatic
public hearing this morning. David Holmes is a member of the senior staff
of the American ambassador to Ukraine stationed at the U.S. embassy in
Kiev. In a copy of David Holmes` opening statement obtained by NBC News, he
explained exactly why he came forward.
“As the current impeachment inquiry has progressed, I have followed press
reports and reviewed the statements of Ambassador Taylor and Ambassador
Yovanovitch. Based on my experience in Ukraine, my recollection is
generally consistent with their testimony and I believe that the relevant
facts were therefore being laid out for the American people.
However, in the last week or so I read press reports expressing for the
first time that certain senior officials may have been acting without the
president`s knowledge in their dealings with Ukraine. At the same time, I
also read reports noting the lack of first-hand evidence in the
investigation and suggesting that the only evidence being elicited at the
hearings was hearsay.
I came to realize I had first-hand knowledge regarding certain events on
July 26th that had not otherwise been reported and that those officials
were using the levers of our diplomatic power to induce the new Ukrainian
president to announce the opening of a particular criminal investigation.
It is at that point that I made the observation to Ambassador Taylor that
the incident I had witnessed had acquired greater significance, which is
what he reported in his testimony earlier this week.”
The evidence that David Holmes presented that is not hearsay is a telephone
call made by Donald Trump`s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon
Sondland, from a restaurant in Ukraine to the president of the United
Sitting at the table with Ambassador Sondland, David Holmes could easily
hear what the president was saying on the other end of that call, “While
Ambassador Sondland`s phone was not on speakerphone, I could hear the
president`s voice through the earpiece of the phone.
The president`s voice was very loud and recognizable and Ambassador
Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time presumably
because of the loud volume. I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the president
and explain that he was calling from Kiev.
I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in
Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine and went onto
state that President Zelensky loves your ass. I then heard President Trump
ask, so he`s going to do the investigation?
Ambassador Sondland replied that he`s going to do it. Adding that President
Zelensky will do anything you ask him to. After the call ended, Ambassador
Sondland remarked that the president was in a bad mood as Ambassador
Sondland stated was often the case early in the morning.
I then took the opportunity to ask Ambassador Sondland for his candid
impression of the president`s views on Ukraine. In particular, I asked
Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the president did not give a crap
Ambassador Sondland agreed that the president did not give a crap about
Ukraine. I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated that the president
only cares about big stuff.
I noted that there was big stuff going on in Ukraine like a war with
Russia. And Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant big stuff that
benefits the president, like the Biden investigations that Mr. Giuliani was
Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell
of California. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee and the
House Judiciary Committee. He has been in the David Holmes closed door
deposition all afternoon and this evening.
And he has just left that deposition to join us. He was also – took part
in Marie Yovanovitch`s public impeachment hearing earlier today.
Congressman Swalwell, thank you very much for joining us. And as I
understand it, the deposition just wrapped up, has just been completed.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Good evening, Lawrence. We are done with both
Ambassador Yovanovitch`s testimony and the deposition with David Holmes.
And of course tomorrow morning, bright and early we have one last witness
for the week, an OMB employee.
O`DONNELL: We have read, as you know, his opening statement has become
public. It is shocking enough just as an opening statement before you get
to any questions. After this opening statement, what was developed in the
six hours of testimony that followed it?
SWALWELL: Just what exactly did Mr. Holmes see, what did he hear, and what
did he do. You know, it was the reason we called him in today. I will say
first and foremost with gratitude to Mr. Holmes because he showed up. He
came from Ukraine.
And despite Mick Mulvaney and John Bolton and Secretary Rick Perry refusing
to cooperate with our investigation, Mr. Holmes continues this long line of
career foreign service officers honoring the duty to cooperate with
And each time someone has done that just as Mr. Holmes did today, we have
learned new information, and we learned new information today.
O`DONNELL: And in terms of the security of that phone call, that cellphone
call, did you learn anymore details about exactly what kind of device that
was? Was that a personal cellphone making that call all the more risky?
SWALWELL: So, Lawrence, I`m not going to go into his testimony just yet.
I`ll let our chairman characterize that. But I will say I think we`re about
five exits past operational security concerns as it relates to Donald
We know that Donald Trump does not really execute or carry out operational
security as it relates to his cellphone. There were concerns from other
witnesses about Ambassador Sondland and his own operational security.
What we are focused on, though, is whether the president leveraged taxpayer
dollars for his personal benefit to have the Ukrainians investigate his
And as you heard Ambassador Taylor talk about his interaction with David
Holmes, I don`t think there`s anyone in the world who has a hard time
believing that Donald Trump, the day after he talked to President Zelensky,
followed up with Ambassador Sondland to say, hey, are they going to follow
through with these investigations?
It`s obsessive behavior by the president because he needed those
investigations for his own personal political gain.
O`DONNELL: What can you tell us about David Holmes` credibility in this
six hours and the Republicans` approach to David Holmes` credibility?
SWALWELL: Well, Lawrence, I can tell you just like people before him, you
know, he has served all over the world. You know, he is a person of
integrity. I did not, you know, judge – I did not judge or see any reason
to question you know, his truthfulness.
And again, the fact that he showed up says a lot about who he is compared
to so many people who have chosen to defy us. And I don`t expect there to
be any issues with his integrity or credibility.
O`DONNELL: The opening statement I think has many things that are
striking, but one thing about it is it`s very clear that David Holmes is
saying that he didn`t see himself as a witness in these proceedings until
he heard Republicans complaining repeatedly about hearsay.
And he realized that what he has to say is not hearsay. He was a witness,
physically present, listening to these words exactly as they were spoken.
Was there any complaining about hearsay in this deposition today?
SWALWELL: I did not hear them say anything about that, Lawrence. However,
the best evidence remains the president`s own words that the president put
out. That`s an admission by the president.
The next best evidence we have from people like Ambassador Sondland who
told Ambassador Taylor the president was telling him everything is on the
line with the Ukrainians. Not just the White House visit but also the
And of course as Ambassador Taylor described, you have a new witness in
David Holmes who heard the president talking obsessively about the
investigations with the Bidens.
And finally, Lawrence, we use hearsay all the time if we aren`t talking
about hearsay to find out and take actions. By the way, a terrorist named
Osama bin Laden was captured and brought to justice in Abbottabad, Pakistan
based on hearsay evidence. So hearsay evidence can be quite effective.
O`DONNELL: And David Holmes was very, in his opening statement, full of
praise for Ambassador Yovanovitch. What was your assessment in the end of
the effect of the public hearing this morning?
SWALWELL: The American people saw a smart, dedicated, tough anti-
corruption ambassador who was removed from her post not because she was not
fighting corruption, but because she was fighting corruption and she was a
barrier to President Trump wanting to weaponize corruption to his personal
I also believe, Lawrence, this was bigger than just Ambassador Yovanovitch,
and she recognized that, that if the president can do this to her, he can
do it to anyone, and that should be of great concern that a president would
use his powers to act this way.
As she acknowledged, the president has every right to remove someone from
office if it`s for a good reason, not if it`s for a corrupt reason.
O`DONNELL: Without necessarily specific reference to David Holmes`
testimony, which I know you can`t reveal any more about, how much more
trouble is Gordon Sondland in his testimony next week? He`s already changed
his testimony to your committee once for fear of a possible perjury charge
of testimony that he had that was in conflict with other under oath
Now, he has a major conflict in his testimony with David Holmes. He never
said a word about this cellphone call and clearly gave testimony indicating
that he had no additional communication with the president that wasn`t
included in his testimony.
This is very clearly in the David Holmes testimony, is a very clear
contradiction of that. So, where do you see Gordon Sondland`s possible
legal jeopardy at this point tonight?
SWALWELL: Gordon Sondland has the opportunity to come forward and do the
right thing on Wednesday, Lawrence. I have a different view of Gordon
Sondland because as a prosecutor, I presented to juries a lot of witnesses
like Gordon Sondland.
People who were not necessarily forthcoming the first time they were asked
to recall something that happened, but over time for a variety of reasons,
usually because they want to do the right thing, evolve and give the full
version of the truth.
And Mr. Sondland, I hope comes forward on Wednesday and gives us that
version because this investigation, his obligation to the constitution and
our country and the integrity of this process is relying on that.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you very much for joining us
after this very long day for you –
SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: – the committee`s work. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Well, here is Rudy Giuliani`s entry in David Holmes` under oath deposition
testimony to the impeachment inquiry today. “At one point during a
preliminary meeting of the inauguration delegation, someone wondered aloud
about why Mr. Giuliani was so active in the media with respect to Ukraine.
My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland stated, “Dammit, Rudy. Every
time Rudy gets involved he goes and effs everything up.”
Joining our special now, Glenn Kirschner, former federal prosecutor and an
MSNBC legal analyst, Mieke Eoyang, a former staff member for the House
Intelligence Committee, and Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former Undersecretary
of State for political affairs. She is an MSNBC global affairs contributor.
And Ambassador Sherman, I want to get your reaction to this new testimony
that we`re learning of tonight from David Holmes. This is a high ranking
staff member in the embassy in Ukraine who`s a note taker.
He`s been in countless meetings with the president of Ukraine and the
previous president of Ukraine. This is detailed man as it were, and this is
his clear and precise account of the Gordon Sondland phone call. Your
reaction to that.
WENDY SHERMA, MSNBC GLOBAL AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR: Indeed. David Holmes was
the political counselor. That means he was in charge of the political
section. He was the advisor about the politics of Ukraine. Not our
politics, but the politics of Ukraine.
And one thing that your viewers, and I hope all the members of Congress
understand, even though he did not take contemporaneous notes, the Foreign
Service trains its officers particularly its political counselors to have
complete recall of what goes on because they find themselves in many
situations where they cannot write a memo, they cannot do contemporaneous
But never in all of my life, except when I served at the State Department
over 11 years did I see anything like this where these Foreign Service
officers recall it all.
And I think David Holmes is to be really thanked for being a patriot like
so many of his other colleagues have over the last few days and come all
the way from Kiev to give this testimony, not only about this gob smacking
call that happened in the open without any operational security whatsoever
as you`ve already pointed out.
But really was sharing all kinds of stuff with staff without regard not
only to security, but the fact he wasn`t being loyal to the president of
the United States. He was just being his own guy have in his view, a ball
rather than realizing that he was playing with the national security of the
O`DONNELL: Mieke Eoyang, if you were still with the intelligence committee
you would have been in that closed door deposition today taking notes there
as a staff person. I want to get your reaction to what is very clear in
David Holmes` opening statement, that the reason he came forward is what he
was hearing from Republicans.
He doesn`t say Republicans, but he says all of the complaints that he was
reading about hearsay testimony. And he realized that, okay, I have
something to say that is not hearsay. I have something to testify about
that I was present for that`s very important along with several other
elements of his testimony that supports the testimony of other witnesses.
MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER STAFF MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yes, it`s
really interesting because what we`ve seen throughout these open hearings
are the Republicans trying particular defenses of the president of the
United States, saying this is hearsay evidence, there`s a due process
problem, that perhaps Sondland and Giuliani were freelancing on their own.
The problem that the House Republicans have with every single one of their
defenses is they have no idea whether or not those defenses can be
contradicted by fact witnesses who heard things first-hand as they saw
David Holmes do today in this closed door testimony.
He has basically destroyed a number of lines of argument that the
Republicans are going to use to try and defend the president because he was
there and the facts just do not support what they were arguing.
O`DONNELL: Glenn Kirschner, I just want to give you kind of a wide open
field for the prosecutors` view of David Holmes` testimony. The thing that
occurs to me obviously is, wow, this is very sharp contradiction with
Gordon Sondland and this seems to put Gordon Sondland in some real trouble,
some real pressure for his testimony next week.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: It sure does, Lawrence. And I have
two quick observations, one on form and one on substance. When I was
reading Mr. Holmes` opening statement, I noticed that he started with these
words, “I did not seek this opportunity to testify.”
Can I tell you in my 30 years as a prosecutor I had so many witnesses come
in and say Mr. Kirschner, I don`t want to testify. And pretty much to a
person when they said that, you knew they were about to blow somebody up
with some truthful incriminating testimony.
So, I think it actually enhances his credibility that he didn`t seek out
this opportunity to testify. Now, on substance you`ve already related some
of what – some of the information provided. But there was one additional
line that caught my attention.
When Sondland told Mr. Holmes, you know what, not only is he ready to do
the investigation, he will do anything that you, President Trump, ask him
And you know what? I`ll bet that`s true. I`ll bet President Zelensky would
do anything President Trump asked of him whether it was righteous or not
because President Zelensky was trying to save the lives of his people.
He was trying to protect the sovereignty of his country against unlawful
Russian aggression. And so I read this interaction and this conversation
overheard between Sondland and Trump as basically arms for political dirt,
deal done, bribery complete. That`s what this was.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Sherman, I want to get your reaction to what is the
last line of David Holmes` opening statement that has been obtained by NBC
News. The last line is, “Ukrainians and freedom loving people everywhere
are watching the example we set of democracy and the rule of law.” Your
reaction to that, Ambassador Sherman?
SHERMAN: Indeed, he begins that section by saying next week it`ll be six
years ago since Ukrainian citizens came into Independence Square to really
create the revolution that got Russia out until they took Crimea and now
are on the Donbass trying a hot war with Ukraine. So, it`s very present for
him that this is not only consequential to Ukraine.
But as he said, as Masha Yovanovitch said today, this is saying to people
all over the world if you don`t like our ambassador, if you don`t like what
they`re trying to do to bring democracy, to end corruption, to have human
freedom and human dignity, all you have to do is call Rudy Giuliani, get a
couple of guys like Parnas and Fruman and you can get rid of that
It undermines our credibility. It undermines our reliability. And it says
really what Russia has been trying to perpetrate all over the world, which
is you can count on Russia, you can`t count on the United States because
you never know what the guy with the twitter finger is going to do next.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Mieke Eoyang, Glenn Kirschner, thank
you all for your expertise tonight. Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, we have never seen a president live tweet his own
impeachment hearing until today. And in the process, the president may have
added a new article of impeachment against him. Harvard Law School
professor Lawrence Tribe joins us next with his reaction to the tweet that
could be a crime.
O`DONNELL: President Trump actually tweeted his way into today`s
impeachment inquiry hearing with former ambassador of Ukraine, Marie
Yovanovitch, and in the process, the President may have created another
article of impeachment against the President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Ambassador Yovanovitch, as we sit here testifying,
the President is attacking you on Twitter and I`d like to give you a chance
to respond. I`ll read part of one of his tweets: “Everywhere Marie
Yovanovitch went, turned bad. She started off in Somalia; how did that go?”
And he goes on to say later on the tweet, “It`s a US President`s absolute
right to appoint ambassadors.”
MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, first
of all, Ambassador Yovanovitch, the Senate has a chance to confirm or deny
an ambassador, do they not?
YOVANOVITCH: Yes, advise and consent.
SCHIFF: The President implicitly threatened you in that call record and now
the President real-time is attacking you. What effect do you think that has
on other witnesses` willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?
YOVANOVITCH: Well, it`s very intimidating.
SCHIFF: It`s designed to intimidate, is it not?
YOVANOVITCH: I mean I can`t speak to what the President is trying to do,
but I think the effect is to be intimidating.
SCHIFF: Well, I want to let you know ambassador that some of us here take
witness intimidation very, very seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Laurence Tribe; he is a Harvard law professor
of constitutional law and the co-author of “To End a Presidency: The Power
of Impeachment.” Professor Tribe, thank you for joining us once again
tonight, really appreciate it. Your reaction to what that tweet means
LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well,
it is witness intimidation, pure and simple. If it were anyone other than
the President, this person would be subject to indictment and prosecution
and based on the words right out of his Twitter feed, probably conviction
under the United States Criminal Code Section 1512(b)(1) and 1512(b)(2).
But the more important point is that this President just can`t stand not
being at the center of the action, even if it is at his own expense.
Now, in the book that you showed that I wrote about impeachment, one of the
predictions I made is that the way a truly guilty president reacts to being
in the spotlight of the impeachment process is itself likely to make a huge
difference. It`s not just what the president does at the very beginning,
but it`s the way he melts down in the process of being impeached that,
ultimately, will lead for the first time in American history to a
president`s complete downfall. That was a prediction that I think is coming
true and I think more in sadness really than in joy we`re witnessing it on
O`DONNELL: Nancy Pelosi said something today that is similar to that in
that it is about the president`s very nature; let`s watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES: He made a mistake and he knows her strengths and he was
trying to undermine it. The words of the President weigh a ton; they are
very significant and he should not frivolously throw out insults, but
that`s what he does. I think part of it is his own insecurity as an
impostor; I think he knows full well that he`s in that office way over his
head. And so, he has to diminish everyone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And she was, of course, talking about the tweet that he sent out
attacking the ambassador during her testimony. Might this become an article
of impeachment? Justin Amash, who was a former Republican member of the
House of Representatives had to switch to become an independent when he
turned in favor of impeachment, tweeted today “Expect witness tampering to
be an article of impeachment.”
TRIBE: Well, it`s certainly impeachable; it`s a high crime and misdemeanor
without any doubt. But I think it could easily be folded into the broader
article that Chairmanship has already indicated is likely to be recommended
to the Judiciary Committee and that is an article focusing on the
obstruction and defiance of Congress. Now, as we saw with Masha Jovanovic
and Ambassador Taylor and today in the deposition of David Holmes, that
defiance of Congress doesn`t always work. But that doesn`t prevent it from
being a central article of impeachment and part of that article will surely
be witness intimidation of the first order.
I would rather not see an endless series of separate impeachment articles
but then, in the end, that`s a judgment call that the Judiciary Committee
and the entire Congress, under the guidance ultimately of Speaker Pelosi,
are going to have to make.
O`DONNELL: No president under these kinds of investigations has ever made
it more difficult for the House of Representatives to narrow down their
article of impeachment accusations.
TRIBE: He certainly makes it hard; he makes it hard to go with the mantra
that small is beautiful because, in this case, a really proliferating
series of articles are possible, including emoluments, obstruction of
justice, being an impostor to begin with by asking for Russia`s help to
become president and then taking advantage of it, but I think that Nancy
Pelosi is right that less is more in this case. We have to focus and narrow
down, but ultimately it`s going to be up to Senators to ask, “Can we really
go down with this ship? Are we going to stick with this kind of abuse of
power, abuse of the Constitution until the very end, or do we have some
ultimate degree of self-respect?” I`m beginning to think that self-respect
will finally emerge from the Senate chamber, but I`ve been wrong before.
O`DONNELL: But, right more than wrong. Harvard Law Professor Lawrence
Tribe, always an honor to have you with us and we really appreciate you
joining us tonight. Thank you very much.
TRIBE: Good to be with you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, big Republican surprise in today`s
impeachment hearing, their big surprise, the one they planned backfired
spectacularly and proved that Donald Trump was actually lying about his
first phone call with the President of Ukraine.
O`DONNELL: Today, the White House actually admitted that the White House
lied about President Trump`s first phone call with the President of
Ukraine. The White House released their transcript of that first phone call
this morning, so that the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee,
Devin Nunes, could read it in his opening remarks at this morning`s hearing
with former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Devin Nunes and the Republicans seemed very proud of Donald Trump for
getting through the entire short phone call without saying anything that
could be interpreted as criminal or impeachable. In fact, the phone call
turned out to be a very simple congratulatory phone call to then president-
elect Zelensky for winning his election.
Couldn`t have been simpler; President Trump congratulated him and promised
to meet with him. That was about it; it was as legal a phone call as Donald
Trump has ever made. Since this was Donald Trump on the phone now, this is
the way he expressed his good feelings for Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): President Trump says “When I owned Miss Universe,
they always had great people. Ukraine always very well represented, was
always very well represented. When you`re settled in and ready, I`d like to
invite you to the White House. We`ll have a lot of things to talk about but
we`re with you all the way.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That invitation to the White House was everything that
president-elect Zelensky could have hoped for in that phone call. An actual
date of the invitation would have been even better, but president-elect
Zelensky was still pretty happy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNES: Ukraine President Zelensky says “Thank you for the invitation. We
accept the invitation and look forward to the visit. Thank you again; the
whole team and I are looking forward to the visit.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And that was about it. That same day, April 21, the White House
put out their official summary of that phone call and it was filled – I
mean filled with lies. It said President Trump underscored the unwavering
support of the United States for Ukraine`s sovereignty and territorial
integrity within its internationally recognized borders and expressed his
commitment to work together with president-elect Zelensky and the Ukrainian
people to implement reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity
and root out corruption.
Not one word of that is true; not one word. President Trump had more to say
about Miss Universe than he did about corruption in Ukraine. And as Gordon
Sondland could tell you, Donald Trump didn`t say one word that indicated
that he cared at all about Ukraine`s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
So, the telephone call transcript that was the Republican`s big surprise at
the hearing, at the beginning of the hearing, simply proved what anyone
could have guessed which is that Donald Trump cares more about Miss
Universe than he does about corruption in Ukraine. And that phone call
transcript did nothing to diminish the power of Marie Yovanovitch`s
testimony; that`s next.
YOVANOVITCH: Foreign and corrupt interests apparently hijacked our Ukraine
policy. I remain disappointed that the department`s leadership and others
have declined to acknowledge that the attacks against me and others are
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks is with us; she`s a former assistant Watergate
special prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst; and investor Wendy Sherman
is back with us. Jill Wine-Banks, in the ambassador`s testimony today, she
seemed to make it very clear what the outlines of the corrupt policy was –
the corrupted policy and how that policy was, as she just said, hijacked.
And I didn`t hear any Republican questioning that in any way shook any of
those elements of her testimony.
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR AND AN MSNBC
LEGAL ANALYST: They landed not one single blow; they did not dare attack
her credibility or her patriotism and the facts are totally against them
and totally in support of everything she said, everything that Ambassador
Taylor said, everything that Secretary Ken said.
It is looking really like a strong case and she did a really amazing job. I
think everyone in the country who saw that and anyone who didn`t, must go
on YouTube and watch it. She was really a strong and powerful witness for
the government, not just for herself, but just about the State Department
and all the things that they do for us as Americans. And she made it clear
why Ukraine matters to our national security, why if they don`t fight
Russia, we may end up having to do it. And I thought it was a really
powerful moving presentation.
O`DONNELL: Republicans repeatedly made the obvious Constitutional point
that the President does get to appoint ambassadors; they always leave out
that it`s subject to the confirmation process in the Senate and also that
the foreign policy is the President`s to make. Let`s listen to one member
of Congress trying to make this point; that the policy is up to the
president; let`s watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R-OH): I just wanted to make that point that the
President has a right to have their own foreign policy and to make their
own decisions. And with that, I yield back.
YOVANOVITCH: Yes, if I could just supplement one of my answers–
WENSTRUP: Of course.
YOVANOVITCH: So, I want to thank you for your service as well, but what I`d
like to say is while I obviously don`t dispute that the President has the
right to withdraw an ambassador at any time for any reason, but what I do
wonder is why it was necessary to smear my reputation?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Ambassador Sherman, Republicans did not answer that
AMBASSADOR WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL
AFFAIRS: They did not answer that question and one of the most
heartbreaking things today, Lawrence, is that Secretary Pompeo is nowhere
in this story, except absent while on duty. He provided no support to
Ambassador Yovanovitch; he offered no support to the others who have
testified. It`s as if he`s trotting around the world and absent from being
really the Secretary of State.
I`ve served four Secretaries of State, they all cared about the people in
the building and although they were Democratic Secretaries of State, one of
the most popular in history is George Shultz, a Republican, because he
cared and put everyone in the building first. He really is a role model for
all the Secretaries of State for whom I have served. But, what Secretary
Pompeo has in mind here, maybe it`s to run in Kansas, maybe it`s to keep
the loyalty of the President, but he should know by now that that loyalty
only goes one way and the Foreign Service who really stand up for all of us
as Jill just said have learned that Secretary Pompeo does not stand with
O`DONNELL: Jill, just a quick word on Adam Schiff`s chairing of the
hearing. I noticed it opened with a lot of attempted chaos by the
Republicans; that said to me that they were disappointed, the Republicans
were disappointed with how well the previous hearings had gone and their
strategy today was to disrupt. But, Adam Schiff just gaveled them down
repeatedly and quickly and completely held on to control of that hearing.
WINE-BANKS: As much as Ambassador Yovanovitch has been a hero to me and
most Americans today, so was Adam Schiff. He was calm, cool, collected; he
controlled that entire hearing room. He did not take any guff and nonsense
and jokes. This is not a joke; this is a serious hearing. And the
Republicans because they don`t have any facts to argue and don`t have any
procedures to argue, are just trying to be disruptive in general. And I
think they`re starting to look really bad, so Schiff did a great job.
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, Wendy Sherman, thank you both for joining us on
this important Friday night, really appreciate it.
WINE-BANKS: Thank you.
SHERMAN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, we`ll discuss the guilty verdict in the
Roger Stone trial today and how it might affect Gordon Sondland`s under-
oath testimony in his public hearing next week.
O`DONNELL: Richard Nixon is finally going to prison on Roger Stone`s back.
Roger Stone started his career as a Republican political operative 50 years
ago in the era of his idol, the disgraced President Richard Nixon, who was
pardoned by President Ford for all of the crimes Nixon committed while
President. Roger Stone became Donald Trump`s longest-serving political
In the final prosecution of the Mueller Investigation, Roger Stone was
found guilty today by a Washington DC jury on all seven counts of lying to
Congress, tampering with a witness, and obstructing the House of
Representatives investigation, into the Russian interference in the 2016
Roger stone is now the sixth associate of President Trump to be convicted
of crimes since the President took office. That is the fastest rate of
criminal conviction of presidential associates in history. Who`s next?
Gordon Sondland has already changed his under-oath testimony once to avoid
perjury charges and today`s revelation about the details of his cell phone
call from a restaurant in Ukraine to President Trump will require Gordon
Sondland to change his testimony once again next week in public.
But, will that be enough for Gordon Sondland to avoid Roger Stone`s fate?
Back with us, Glenn Kirschner, who has been at the courthouse every day of
the Roger Stone trial and was there today when the verdict came in. Glenn,
what does this verdict mean going forward for the investigation and for
possible witnesses like Gordon Sondland?
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR AND MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I would
say, Lawrence, that Gordon Sondland better sit up and take note of what
happened today to Roger Stone on the witness tampering front and, when he
raises his right hand and he swears to Congress to tell the truth, he had
better not play any games because when you look at what has happened today
alone on the witness tampering front, you`ve got President Trump sending
out that tweet, the defamatory threatening tweet to Ambassador Yovanovitch,
as your previous guest Professor Laurence Tribe said, that sort of fits the
bill for witness intimidation.
And then over in federal court today, you have Roger Stone being convicted
of witness tampering. You have to start to wonder when applicants for jobs
apply to the Trump Administration and they show their resumes, do the folks
look at it and say, “Well, you know that all looks good, but how are you at
tampering with witnesses?” And that`s a light hearted take on a very
I mean when you consider the seven charges that Roger stone was convicted
of today, the first six carry a maximum punishment of five years in prison;
the 7th, witness tampering carries up to 20 years in prison. I think Gordon
Sondland better pay attention to that.
O`DONNELL: Glenn, a word on how close this Roger Stone case got to Donald
Trump; one of the things he`s convicted for was lying about a phone call
that Roger Stone had with President Trump and it`s one of those phone calls
– a cell phone call during the campaign that`s overheard by someone, in
this case Rick Gates.
KIRSCHNER: Yes, how close did it get? It bumped right up against Donald
Trump because of that phone call, which showed according to Gates`
testimony that President Trump was intimately involved in real time, a
courtesy of Roger Stone with the WikiLeaks dump. So, that sure looks more
like just passively receiving information, it looks like coordination and
it looks a lot like a conspiracy.
O`DONNELL: Glenn Kirchner, thank you for doing double duty this weekend,
covering the Roger Stone case for us all and since we`re all distracted
with so much else. Really appreciate it, Glenn.
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the