State Dept. releases Ukraine documents. TRANSCRIPT: 11/22/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: This one is hand-died with tea and coffee before
she did the cross-stitch by hand. She wanted a more vintage look. Thank
Oh, but wait there`s more. Look at this one. This one is from Barbara in –
can I get the reflection off?
Barbara in Garden City, New York. Barbara, I love what you did here. See,
instead of stitching the full kind of long quote from Mr. Kent, she got
right to it. You can`t fight corruption without pissing off corrupt people.
True that, Barbara. True that.
You guys, we love this more than anything. We will cherish them forever and
ever. We`re planning to build a small museum for them in our office.
Fantastic, I will say if anybody else out there was inspired to actually
make this in real life, the way these awesome folks were, if there`s a
basket of thread calling your name on something like this, I hereby suggest
you share the cross-stitch you love with someone special in your life.
We have – don`t send us anymore. We love the ones you have. If you are
making these, you have to gift them around and spread them around the
country. Give them to somebody you like. Even better, perhaps give them to
someone you disagree with. Could be a conversation starter, right? Best
new thing in the world.
That does it for us tonight. See you again on Monday.
Now it`s time for the “Last Word.” Ali Velshi filling in for Lawrence
tonight. Good evening, Ali.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: I know you have to go, but it would really be
appreciated if you just had more of these and you showed them to us. And if
you are building a museum, people do actually have to send you more of
them. Do you know what the museum is going to be called?
MADDOW: It`s going to be called the Rachel Maddow Show Cross-stitch Museum
of Impeachment Art from November 2019, maybe.
VELSHI: I would like to take a patron`s membership in that.
MADDOW: Well done. I will put your name on the cornerstone, my friend.
Thank you very much.
VELSHI: You have an excellent weekend, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Ali.
VELSHI: We`ll see you Monday. Bye-bye. Ahead tonight, John Bolton`s back
and he`s causing headaches for the Trump administration. The former
National Security advisor is re-emerging after a public hiatus and he`s
already fighting with the White House. Could his next public appearance be
under oath at an impeachment hearing?
Also, the president went on his favorite network today and the Fox News
host tried harder than usual to challenge him. It didn`t go over well. More
on those stories later in the hour, but we begin tonight with the latest
In a new interview with the “L.A. Times,” House Intelligence Committee
Chairman Adam Schiff says that his committee has begun writing his report
in the impeachment investigation against President Trump. And once the
report is written, it`ll be handed off to the Judiciary Committee which
will draft the actual articles of impeachment.
But Schiff hasn`t ruled out hearing from more witnesses before he submits
the report, “We`re not foreclosing the possibility of additional
depositions or hearings, but we`re also not willing to wait months and
months and let them play rope-a-dope with us in the courts.”
Schiff said the committee will work, “on both tracks of continuing to
investigate while beginning to put our report together.” Democrats seem to
think they have learned all they need to from the impeachment hearings.
But the same cannot be said for the president who continues to push the
unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine worked against him in the 2016 election.
We should warn you what you are about to hear is not accurate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): The FBI went
in and they told him get out of here, you`re not – we`re not giving it to
you. They gave the server to CrowdStrike or whatever it`s called, which is
a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian.
And I still want to see that server. You know, the FBI has never gotten
that server. That`s a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to
a Ukrainian company?
STEEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS HOST: Are you sure they did that? Are you sure they
gave it to Ukraine?
TRUMP: Well, that`s what the word is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That`s not actually what the word is. I just want to feel for
those guys on “Fox & Friends.” Allow me if you will to step back and fact
check this. “They gave the server to CrowdStrike or whatever it`s called.”
Wrong. “Which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian.” Wrong. “The
FBI has never gotten that server.” Wrong.
Trump can`t even seem to get his own conspiracy theory right. Trump went on
to tell Fox News, “Ukraine hated me. They were after me in the election.
They wanted Hillary Clinton to win. Let`s be clear on this point, too.
The intelligence community concluded that Russia – Russia interfered in
the 2016 election. All of this is to say that the president must not have
been watching the impeachment hearings too closely this week because his
comments came just a day after this woman, Fiona Hill, the former National
Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia chastised
Republicans for pushing this, “fictional narrative.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIONA HILL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR ON RUSSIA: Some of you on this
committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not
conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps somehow for some
reason Ukraine did. This is fictional narrative that has been perpetrated
and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP
VELSHI: Fiona hill has no other dog in this fight. When she says it`s a
fictional narrative, this comes from a lot of experience. Tonight the “New
York Times” report that Fiona Hill`s testimony aligned closely with recent
intelligence briefings given to United States senators.
“American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in
recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearlong campaign to essentially
frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow`s own hacking of the 2016 election,
according to three American officials.
The revelations demonstrate Russia`s persistence in trying to sow discord
among its adversaries and show that the Kremlin apparently succeeded, as
unfounded claims about Ukrainian interference seeped into Republican
If that is not evidence enough that Trump is pushing a conspiracy theory,
try this. Vladimir Putin himself says he`s pleased that the, “political
battles in Washington” have put on the back burner accusations that Russia
interfered in U.S. elections.
According to the Associated Press, Putin said this week, “Thank god no one
is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore. Now they`re
Leading off our discussion tonight Michael Weiss, “Daily Beast” editor-at-
large. He`s currently writing a book on Russian military intelligence,
David Corn, Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” and an MSNBC
political analyst. He attended all three days of the impeachment hearings
Gentlemen, we had a fairly robust conversation before the show started on
the idea that there are people, you might even call them reasonable people,
educated people, smart people who continue to believe this bunk that Fiona
Hill told Congress, and she is as senior and learned as you get on this, is
not true. It is a fiction.
It is perpetrated by Russia to have people believe that somehow Ukraine,
which is in a war with Russia, in dispute with Russia, was the one involved
in hacking the election or interfering in the U.S. Election. What more,
Michael, can you say to people who continue to believe this or perpetrate
MICHAEL WEISS, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE DAILY BEAST: There are several
different strands to this conspiracy theory. The most – I hesitate to use
the word legitimate, but the most kind of credible one, the then Ukrainian
ambassador to the United States, Mr. Chaly, wrote an op-ed castigating
Donald Trump for comments he made which are rather bizarre and also
Number one, Donald Trump, then candidate Trump said that most Crimeans want
to be part of Russia thus legitimating the invasion and annexation of
sovereign European soil the first time since World War II.
Also, Donald Trump I believe in conversation with George Stephanopoulos
said weirdly, if I`m president Russia will never invade Crimea even after
they had done.
WEISS: So this was his way to get back at Barack Obama. Chaly`s op-ed I
think published it was published in “The Hill.” It was ill-advised as Dr.
Hill mentioned at Congress. However, it was done publicly. It is actually
based on my own reporting.
Some of the least incendiary rhetoric used by European diplomats about by
then candidate Trump given some of the comments he made not just about
Ukraine but also about NATO, the trans-Atlantic relationship.
I well recall being in a European country and meeting with foreign minister
of a NATO member state in which Donald Trump came on the television as then
candidate Trump and that former minister told me if this man is elected,
it`s the end of the west.
VELSHI: So the point here is that somebody in an official capacity in
Ukraine criticized Donald Trump –
VELSHI: – who was then a candidate, which Donald Trump and others have
now then turned into the fact that there was an attempt to interfere in the
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, and he did it openly. That`s
the key thing. The Russian attack as Bob Mueller characterized it was
systematic and sweeping. It involved illegal activity, stealing e-mails,
releasing them and taking over parts of –
VELSHI: This was the op-ed.
CORN: Yes, and this was an op-ed. And it`s kind of – we have just now,
all three of us, fallen into the trap.
VELSHI: We`re discussing it –
CORN: We`re discussing it and we`re trying to explain what`s there and
what isn`t there and getting into details when Donald Trump – and I sat
through this all week.
Jim Jordan, Devin Nunes and the Republicans on the panel and others, all
they do is they try to string together in a very word solid nefarious way,
terms and names like Steele, Ukraine, meddling, op-eds, tweets, money and
they try to create an impression –
VELSHI: However, unfortunately, it`s something you can`t get away from
because it`s in the mainstream now.
CORN: Because the president himself is the one who is doing this.
VELSHI: Right, puts it there.
CORN: And they are just trying to create this alternative reality for
people who don`t want to believe the worst of Donald Trump, who want to
believe in Donald Trump and they need something else to hang onto. And
that`s what they`re giving them.
WEISS: In the lead up to the Brexit referendum in the U.K., Barack Obama
who I think was then visiting the U.K. –
WEISS: – wrote an op-ed in the “Telegraph” I believe, basically saying,
guys, don`t do this –
VELSHI: Don`t do this. Yes.
WEISS: – as the American president. Now, also, arguably ill advised,
indecorous, as the American president to –
VELSHI: Get involved in somebody`s internal politics.
WEISSS: However, is that the same thing –
VELSHI: As interference.
WEISS: – as two different Russian intelligence organizations conducting
cyber espionage –
WEISS: – against a political party in a foreign country, then leaking the
contents of their correspondence to a Russian asset, in this case,
WikiLeaks, for the purposes of bolstering one candidate and diminishing the
Is that also tantamount to running a sophisticated active measures campaign
in the form of disinformation and propaganda using social media services
such as Twitter and Facebook? Is it the same thing? It is not.
VELSHI: So let`s assume that everything that you two have just said, we
take it at face value, that these are different things. What this diplomat
did is not the same as interference in an election.
I want to play why this is dangerous. So you said wisely, we fall into a
trap when we discuss this. As journalist, sometimes we have to go down some
of these roads.
CORN: Yes. Yes.
VELSHI: But here`s where the real danger lies as articulated by Fiona
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Right now, Russia`s security services and their proxies have geared
up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We are running out of
time to stop them. In the course of this investigation I would ask that you
please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That`s the rub. Therein lies the rub. As long as everybody`s
discussing this, Vladimir Putin has said, this is fantastic.
CORN: Oh, it`s great. And what it does is – Trump has never fully
acknowledged that the Russians attacked and that the Russians attacked to
help him and that the Russian attack had an impact on the campaign. H
He can`t live with that. It`s a taint on his presidency. And because of
that he has not been able to in the last three years as president to deal
with the prospect of another Russian attack.
In fact, the “Washington Post” reported a few weeks ago that when he met in
May, I think, of 2017 with two Russian officials in the Oval Office, he
told them he was not concerned. And so what he`s been trying to do for the
last three years is to remove this stain, create alternative narratives.
And what it does is it leaves the United States wide open to another attack
because he can`t accept the first one. And we go fast forward to the
Ukraine scandal which is all about what – again, trying to do something to
rig the 2020 election in his favor.
VELSHI: Okay, so the gear we should be on here, the other line of defense
that Republicans are using, Michael, is that nobody who`s testified was
really in the room or on the call which is not true because there were
people there and they`re in fact witnesses and there are people like Fiona
Hill who have context and are fact witnesses.
But the bottom line is the people who could probably tell us the most about
this did not appear to testify. Adam Schiff tells the “Los Angeles Times”
that “we`ve made it abundantly clear to the president that their failure to
permit witnesses to testify and failure to respond to any of our subpoenas
has only built the case against them for obstruction of Congress.”
The fact is Mulvaney, Giuliani, Bolton, these people can tell you whether
the president told them to do something. The president and others have made
it clear that he`s willing to throw them under the bus. So we don`t know
what they`re going to do. Gordon Sondland responded to being thrown under
the bus or threatened by throwing somebody else back.
WEISS: The other side of this, I mean, this is assuming that Mr. Giuliani
and Mr. Bolton would tell the truth before Congress, which in the case of
Mr. Giuliani, I`m not willing to place that he can tell.
WEISS: However, the idea that this is a Democratic coup, witch-hunt, this
is the most preposterous statement or allegation of them all. The call is
coming from inside the house as they say in horror films. The people who
are going to impeach this president are Republicans.
Gordon Sndland, not exactly anybody`s idea of the diplomat`s diplomat. A
partisan hack, if I may. Somebody who gave a lot of money to the RNC and to
the Trump campaign. Got a position he probably didn`t deserve – comes
before Congress and said there was a quid pro quo. He`s a Republican
Kurt Volker, neo-conservative of the McCain stripe, arguably tried to
finesse and manage a very difficult situation, didn`t exactly cover himself
in glory, has also delivered a verdict that, yes, there was something very
dodgy going on here.
John Bolton on the record to the press or quoted in the press –
VELSHI: Seems to be looking for an opportune –
WEISS: – I don`t want any part of this drug deal. John Bolton, nobody`s
idea of a progressive liberal Democratic operative.
WEISS: Republicans are the ones coming forward and basically –
WEISS: – providing the noose with which this president is going to hang
himself. So, you know, the Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan line, that this whole
thing is a party political –
WEISS: – you know, conspiracy, its nonsense. It`s nonsense on stilts.
Fiona Hill is a – I`ve known Fiona Hill for several years. I`ve followed
her work for a very long time. This is one of the most professional
scholarly Russia analysts there is.
By the way, she`s described often in the U.S. news cycle as a Kremlin hawk.
Not exactly – very nuanced in her appraisal. Her biography, which is one
of the more insightful biographies of Vladimir Putin, very cleverly – it`s
almost a post-modern kind of analysis.
She takes different ark types of who Putin is and studies them and takes
them in isolation and then creates a composite. Not just the KGB case
officer but the capitalists, the statist and so on. This is not somebody
who gets ahead of her skis with allegations.
VELSHI: And if you were listening to her, that`s the conclusion
(inaudible). Unfortunately we`re out of time for this discussion, but I
love having it with you guys. Thank you both, Michael Weiss and David Corn.
Thanks for being with us.
All right, coming up, Lev and Igor have made it into the impeachment
investigation, and now Lev`s lawyer says Lev has evidence relevant to the
investigation about Devin Nunes, the minority chairman of the House
Intelligence Committee. That is next.
VELSHI: The indicted Ukrainian associate of Rudy Giuliani says he has
“hard evidence of Donald Trump`s misconduct in the plot to bribe Ukraine.
Joseph Bondy is a lawyer for Lev Parnas.
He tweeted, “He has material first-hand evidence that is in our national
interest to hear.” Part of that evidence we`re learning also pertains to
the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, this man, Devin
Another of Parnas` lawyers, Ed MacMahon, told “The Daily Beast” earlier
this week that Parnas “helped arrange meetings and calls in Europe for
Representative Devin Nunes in 2018. Nunes` aide, Derek Harvey, participated
in the meetings, the lawyer said, which were arranged to help Nunes`
investigative work. MacMahon didn`t specify what those investigations
Betsy Woodruff Swan`s reporting was entered into the congressional record
during the public impeachment hearing on Thursday. Betsy Woodruff Swan is
still working on the story. She joins us now. She`s a politics reporter for
“The Daily Beast” and an MSNBC contributor.
Also with us as I always love to have when we`ve got complicated legal
messes is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney of the Eastern District of
Michigan and an MSNBC legal contributor. Thank you to both of you for being
with us. Betsy, let`s start with you. What is this new information about
BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I can tell you that I spoke with
Bondy, the lawyer you referred to earlier this evening. He told me two
things that are new for me to have confirmed.
The first thing he said is that an aide to Congressman Nunes told Lev
Parnas that Nunes and his team were investigating the Biden family and a
Ukrainian energy company called Burisma where Joe Biden`s son, Hunter Biden
was a board member.
Those topics were of paramount importance to President Trump and Rudy
Giuliani. Trump and Giuliani pressured the Ukrainian government to
investigate those specific topics apparently in hopes that such an
investigation – with the announcement of such an investigation would
And the second thing that Bondy told me is that a former Ukrainian
prosecutor named Victor Shokin, an important character, told Lev Parnas
that he had a meeting with Congressman Nunes in Vienna. Victor Shokin is a
vital character in this story.
He was the prosecutor in Ukraine, widely accused of corruption, who Biden
and other western leaders basically pushed out. Biden and other European
leaders told the Ukrainian government that they wouldn`t get a financial
aid package unless Shokin was ousted.
Shokin now has claimed that the reason he was ousted was because he was
scrutinizing Burisma and that Biden forced him out as part of a quid pro
quo. The evidence belies those allegations.
But that allegation is something that President Trump appears to have
bought hook, line and sinker, and its part of what he was pressuring the
Zelensky administration to announce that they were scrutinizing back on
that July 25th phone call.
VELSHI: Now, Barbara, as you know, we study these things as journalists
and people like Betsy report on them, but the little we know about the law
leads one to think that Devin Nunes was front and center in these hearings.
He was in all of the so-called secret hearings, the behind closed door
hearings that Republicans accused Democrats of not letting Republicans into
even though Devin Nunes was in all of them.
He used to be the chair of the Intel Committee. He is the ranking member
and he has been there all week. Americans have watched this man all week.
Eric Swalwell who is on the Intelligence Committee entered Betsy`s
reporting about Devin Nunes into the record and said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Mr. Chairman, you have been falsely accused
throughout these proceedings by the ranking member as being “fact witness.”
Now, if this story is correct, the ranking member may have actually been
projecting and in fact he may be the fact witness if he`s working with
indicted individuals around our investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Now, Barbara, we`ve had this conversation about a few people over
the last several months including the Attorney General Bill Barr. If Devin
Nunes went to Ukraine and is mixed up in this conversation one way or the
other, even if he was simply investigating by holding meetings with people
who are sort of principals in this discussion, how does that play into the
fact he is the ranking member, the lead Republican involved in these
BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: You know, there are a lot of layers
to unpack here. I mean, at one level, it`s just as a fact finder who is
supposed to be in kind of a position of serving as a check and balance on
the executive branch, if he himself is involved in investigating this on
his own, freelancing, it seems like he`s got a recusal situation or a
conflict of interest.
I don`t know how the rules work there but with regard to members of
Congress, but it seems like he`s intertwining a bit of his own involvement
along with his role in oversight. So that seems a little strange.
It also could be the case and that depends on the facts. If he is involved
directly in obtaining a thing of value in connection with an election, he
himself could be committing crimes, campaign finance violations if he`s
assisting President Trump in getting dirt on Joe Biden knowing that there`s
no merit to the information in these investigations. So, problematic in a
couple of levels there.
VELSHI: Betsy, from your reporting you say congressional records show
Nunes traveled to Europe from November 30th to December 3rd, 2018. Three of
his aides, Harvey, Scott Glabe, and George Pappas, traveled with him per
the records. U.S. government funds paid for the group`s four-day trip,
which cost over $63,000.
You got this from public records. I don`t know that I`ve heard Devin Nunes
speak about this or speak openly. If feels like it would have been relevant
to bring up in the proceedings.
That said you`re getting information from the lawyer of Lev Parnas, a guy
who has been charged with election offenses. How do we feel about the
information that you`re getting from the lawyer of Lev Parnas or the
information that originates with Lev Parnas?
SWAN: Look, people are at their most credible when they`re speaking under
oath. I have no reason to believe that the information that Bondy has told
me on the record is incorrect. But it goes without saying, without question
that the statements that Bondy has made would carry significantly more
weight where Parnas to say them on the record and under oath to Congress.
So, a big question that`s open right now is whether Parnas will end up
going before Congress, taking an oath and sharing what Parnas` lawyer has
shared with me. Now, for Parnas to do something like that, it would be
incredibly risky in part, of course, because he has been indicted in the
Southern District of New York.
So, one possible avenue that his lawyers could potentially pursue and which
lawyers sometimes pursue when they have a client who both faces criminal
exposure before the Justice Department, but also has information that`s
interesting to Congress, one avenue they could look at is trying to get a
specific type of immunity from Congress where Parnas would make a deal with
Capitol Hill that he wouldn`t face criminal liability for the particular
matters that he discussed before the House Intelligence Committee.
Now, it`s unclear to me whether such a deal will be cut, whether the House
Intelligence Committee would think it was important enough to them to bring
in Parnas to make that kind of agreement. But those agreements have been
made in the past, and it`s clear that Parnas at the very least had
significant visibility, and to many of the topics that are at the heart of
the impeachment inquiry.
VELSHI: So Barbara, put your prosecutor hat on now. If such a deal needed
to be made I`m sure Congress could make it if they thought that it was, as
Betsy says, important to have Lev Parnas there.
Is there some danger, given what you`ve heard in the last week, given the
testimony from remarkably credible people, Fiona Hill and the like that
America heard all week and we know that millions and millions of Americans
were glued to that testimony this week? Is there some risk in getting
Parnas involved in this?
MCQUADE: There is at a couple of levels. It may very well be what he has
to say is true and what the reporting is, is true, but a couple of problems
One is, if Congress or the Southern District of New York, which is hearing
(ph) the criminal prosecution, were interested in this information, his
lawyer wouldn`t need to be tweeting about it and having public discussions
So it seems that they are trying to create some public pressure to get them
to bite on this information, and it seems that they`re reluctant to bite
either because they believe it not to be credible or it may be they just
don`t want to go down this road at least not at this moment.
It maybe that focusing on Devin Nunes at this moment is distraction. The
testimony has been very focused. We`ve heard two weeks of very compelling
witness testimony, and to now go down another, you know, rabbit hole
talking about Devin Nunes is maybe too far a field from the relevant
impeachment inquiry focusing on the conduct of President Trump.
So, it may just be they don`t want to go down that road. The other thing is
it gets complicated when you offer immunity to a witness to testify before
Congress because it could preclude charges against him later by the
Southern District of New York.
And they may want to continue to keep the heat on him to use that as
leverage to get information about Rudy Giuliani, President Trump or others.
And so there may be some very good reasons that they`re reluctant to deal
VELSHI: It`s a complicated issue, did need a little unpacking and we
appreciate the help that you both give and both in your reporting and your
analysis – Betsy Swan and Barbara McQuade, thanks to both of you.
Coming up, John Bolton is back on twitter teasing a back story, but
Democrats say he needs to tell in the deposition room. That`s next.
VELSHI: Former National Security Advisor John Bolton has returned to
Twitter after a two-month absence. Bolton claims that the White House is
responsible for blocking his access to Twitter, tweeting, quote, “Since
resigning as National Security Advisor, the White House refused to return
access to my personal Twitter account. Out of fear of what I might say? To
those who speculated I went into hiding, I`m sorry to disappoint!”
And in an interview on “Fox & Friends,” President Trump denied that the
White House blocked Bolton in any way from Twitter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Bolton has just gotten back on Twitter. His account
was frozen for two months. Did you guys freeze his account?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: No, of course not. Of
course not. No, I actually had a good relationship with John.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: John Bolton`s return to Twitter left many calling for him to do the
right thing and testify before Congress in the impeachment inquiry. Bolton
did not show up to his scheduled deposition with the impeachment
investigators earlier this month despite being a key witness of the events
surrounding Trump`s interactions with Ukraine.
Joining me to make more sense of this, Jennifer Rubin, an opinion writer at
The Washington Post and an MSNBC contributor, and Tim Miller, the Former
Communications Director for Jeb Bush`s 2016 presidential campaign and
spokesman for the Republican National Committee. He`s now a contributor to
Welcome to both of you. Thank you for being here.
Jennifer, John Bolton is doctrinaire in his conservative thinking. It was
puzzling to some people that he got himself mixed up with Donald Trump, but
it suited him because he`s got some hawkish views on a few things that
Donald Trump was willing to indulge. At this point though, he doesn`t seem
to have any particular loyalty to Donald Trump, and he seems to be
signaling to everyone that he`s got something to say. What do you make of
JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST OPINION WRITER & MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:
Well, first of all, the most interesting thing about that is he repeated
one of his disputes with Donald Trump, and that is he resigned. Remember,
when he resigned, Trump claimed to have fired him.
VELSHI: That`s right.
RUBIN: And that just reminds us that he has no love lost for Donald Trump.
It`s very interesting he put that in there.
Listen, I think John Bolton has a book, and he apparently has a book deal.
He`s giving speeches to investment banking groups and making a lot of
money. So he is making money off of his story. And if he comes and tells
that story for free under oath to Congress, it`s not worth that much.
So I hate to say it, but I think part of this is greed. Part of this is
financial greed. The notion that he has to get permission from a court is
nonsense. Fiona Hill didn`t get permission. Gordon Sondland didn`t get
permission. All of these people knew that any order from the White House
not to testify was based on a bogus absolute immunity defense. And they
came up and they did their patriotic duty.
So why is John Bolton hiding behind Fiona Hill`s skirts? Well, part of it
is money and part of it is because he lives within this right-wing
ecosphere. These are his friends, these are his supporters, these are the
people who donate to his super PAC.
And I think he`s trying to have it both ways. He`s trying to be very cute
and stay in the public eye. He`s trying to maintain his credibility, but at
the same time, he is not doing his patriotic duty. He is not helping to get
to the bottom of this. And so, in that case, he is really enabling Donald
Trump and indirectly Vladimir Putin.
VELSHI: His lawyer seems to be helping him as well, Tim. John Bolton`s
lawyer in a letter on November 8th to the House General Counsel said Bolton
“was personally involved in many of the events, meetings, and conversations
about which you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant
meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the
testimonies thus far.”
So I sort of get the fact that he`s trying to make money out of the whole
thing, but he does seem to be constantly be baiting somebody into saying
you need to talk to me. Do you think there`s material information that he
has that could help Trump? Because Mulvaney, Bolton and Giuliani actually
know what happened.
TIM MILLER, JEB BUSH 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Of
course, there`s material information that he has. I think that he`s got
some really good book agents who are doing a great job teasing his book.
And he definitely has material information on Ukraine. But I want to put a
finer point on something Jennifer mentioned.
As reported by you guys here at MSNBC, at one of those investment banks,
paid speeches, closed door meeting, he implied something that would be
really one of the five biggest scandals in American history. He implied
that the President made decisions in Turkey, allowed our Kurdish allies to
get slaughtered because of personal and business interests that he has. He
made that as a throwaway line in a private speech.
Look, I think if this was somebody who is acting in good faith with these
leaks, this is somebody that wanted to participate with the process, and he
had information that led him to believe that the President was making life
or death decisions based on his financial business interests, something
that is literally unprecedented in modern American history, he would have
gone to Congress. He would have gone to a reporter, an investigative
reporter. He would have gone to - through the proper legal channels.
VELSHI: There are ways to get your information out.
MILLER: Yes. Yes. It`s not at a private dinner–
VELSHI: Yes. Right.
RUBIN: –with investment bankers. So I thought that that one anecdote just
showed where his motivation really is. And lastly, just briefly, he wants a
future in this party. And so he understands that if he goes - does a full
face turn against Donald Trump, that that`s not there. And so, unlike some
of the other people who I think are leaving the administration, Bolton
knows where his bread is buttered.
VELSHI: But that`s interesting, Jennifer, because John Bolton has been a
conservative for a very, very, very long time. He could have a future in a
party that doesn`t involve Donald Trump. One day if Republicans, as you
often think about, fantasize about, if Republicans can take a party back
that doesn`t involve Donald Trump, a guy like John Bolton can have a role
in it. He is not a dumb guy. He`s a bit - can be a bit dug in, but he is -
he knows his stuff.
What`s the cost of John Bolton doing this? Because he`s got real
information that was testified to by Fiona Hill and others where he called
it a drug deal. He said that this thing that Giuliani and Donald Trump were
doing was a drug deal. Meaning, he knew something was wrong. I don`t think
he literally thought they were dealing drugs. He is now the guy who can
decide the outcome of this.
RUBIN: I think he is betting that in the short-term he avoids any blame,
any attacks from the President. And if this all washes out, if Donald Trump
gets either impeached or removed or he gets voted out, no one will hold
John Bolton responsible for having been quiet during this. So he`s hoping
this all washes through, and there he is, standing proud and firm without
dirt on his hands regarding Ukraine. And he`s there to pick up the pieces.
I think the problem with that is two-fold. One is, he will be blamed for
this. He was in an administration that was doing Putin`s dirty work. And
the notion that he had no idea what was going on and could not stop it, I
think, is preposterous. So I think for his own good, he needs to clear the
record and clean up the record.
What did he know about Donald Trump`s obsession with Putin? What steps did
he take to dissuade the President from going down this rabbit hole of
conspiracy theories? So I think for his own credibility, he needs to step
away and say this is what I was doing, I was being the good soldier, I was
stopping this. He hasn`t done that, and I think he`s at risk.
VELSHI: Jennifer and Tim, hold on, as we`re going to be right back.
VELSHI: We have breaking news. Moments ago, the State Department released
nearly 100 pages of records in response to American Oversight`s lawsuit
seeking a range of documents related to the Trump administration`s dealings
with Ukraine. You might have heard Rachel talking about this on her show.
Those documents have just been released.
And joining us now by phone is Austin Evers, the Executive Director of
ethics watchdog group, American Oversight.
Austin, thank you for joining me. I`m just looking at your press release
about these documents. You`re saying that among the records, they include
emails that confirm multiple contacts in March of this year between
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Rudy Giuliani, at least one of which was
facilitated by the President`s Assistant, Madeleine Westerhout. Tell me
what you are learning. I imagine you`ve just received these documents, so
you haven`t fully had a chance to go through them.
AUSTIN EVERS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN OVERSIGHT (via telephone):
Thanks so much for having me on. Yes. We are still reviewing them. We
wanted to get them out to the public as quickly as possible because
transparency is so important on these issues. But–
VELSHI: And you have - you`ve put them up for download. You`ve made them
EVERS (via telephone): We did. They are available on our website,
americanoversight.org, and you could follow our Twitter account,
@weareoversight. We`ll be pulling out the snippets all night long and into
the coming days. But you summarized it well.
The documents show a clear paper trail, connecting not just Rudy Giuliani
to Mike Pompeo, but being connected by the Oval Office. President Trump`s
Personal Assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, serving as a conduit when Rudy
Giuliani can`t get through to Pompeo through, quote, “regular channels.”
The President`s Personal Assistant makes that connection happen.
Based on the timing, which is around March of this year, it looks apparent
that this was a connection to ensure that Rudy Giuliani`s smear campaign
against a sitting U.S. Ambassador made it to Mike Pompeo`s desk. This is
just the first set of disclosures that American Oversight`s litigation is
going to expose.
So a major message I want people to understand is that while the
administration has refused to turn these documents over to Congress, the
stonewall is cracking, and we`re going to get regular document productions
from the State Department and other agencies to make sure the truth comes
VELSHI: So this is - I want to underscore this point. These are documents
that the Congressional investigation has been asking the State Department
to produce. They`ve asked Mike Pompeo to do this. The State Department has
refused to hand over this information. You then sued under a Freedom of
EVERS (via telephone): That`s correct. If you look at these documents, you
can understand why Mike Pompeo wouldn`t want Congress to have them and why
Congress has been complaining for the last two weeks that they haven`t
received - I believe the quote is - “a single scrap of paper from Mike
Pompeo.” Here it is, are basically his call sheets showing multiple phone
conversations with Rudy Giuliani at what looks to be the beginning of this
scheme to smear the Ambassador.
We have other lawsuits already pending and soon more to come that are going
to focus on different aspects of this scandal from the OMB withholding aid
to contacts later in time with Mike Pompeo and other senior officials.
So, again, these are just the first disclosures. And for our first round to
connect this scandal directly to the Oval Office is pretty significant.
VELSHI: So when you say the first round of disclosures, have you got active
other applications, Freedom of Information applications in right now?
EVERS (via telephone): We do. I don`t want to give you an exact count, but
it`s in the dozens–
EVERS (via telephone): –of open FOIA requests. I`ll tell you what we`ve
been doing. We listen to all the testimony and we read all these deposition
transcripts. And if a witness describes a document and Congress says it
doesn`t have access–
VELSHI: You go for it.
EVERS (via telephone): –well, the Freedom of Information Act means that we
can get it. We can sue for it, and we`re going to force it out in the open.
And if it takes past the Senate impeachment trial to get all the evidence
out, we`re going to keep fighting for it.
VELSHI: Let me ask you this, though. The State Department obviously has
some reasoning, the Executive Branch offers reasoning as to why they won`t
provide this to Congress. And for - guys like me think, well, they must
have thought this through; someone must have explained to somebody why they
can`t release it.
You are obviously under Freedom of Information getting someone to disclose
this. I want to just read from your press release where you say that
American Oversight could obtain these documents establishes that there is
no legal basis for the administration to withhold them from Congress.
That`s a simple statement, but it`s kind of remarkable. If you can get
them, why can our elected officials not get these documents?
EVERS (via telephone): The reason is obstruction. The only reason that a
document that a citizen like me and the members of my team can get can`t go
to Adam Schiff or even Devin Nunes is because of obstruction. And it shows
the power of the courts again coming in to tell the President and his
allies that they have to follow the law even if they don`t want to turn
things over to Congress.
So - I mean, I don`t know what to say about whether the State Department
and the administration should have anticipated this. They probably should
have looked at the articles of impeachment against Former President Clinton
and President Nixon. They include obstruction charges.
EVERS (via telephone): And I think the White House should ask itself,
should it be pursuing a total obstruction strategy if that obstruction of
justice is not even going to be effective?
VELSHI: And to be clear, American Oversight has no special standing. You
are as you just described yourself, a citizen. You are a group of people.
EVERS (via telephone): I think we`re pretty good litigators, but no, that`s
VELSHI: Right. I mean, in other words, you are doing this as an American -
as an American citizen, as a group of American citizens asking for this
information. You don`t have unique standing why you should get this versus
EVERS (via telephone): That is correct.
VELSHI: So why–
EVERS (via telephone): And now that we have extracted these documents, it
means that they belong to the American public. They are public records.
Anyone can read them. And they belong to you.
VELSHI: When you filed this, you received the documents from the office
manager to the Secretary of State - no, that`s actually one of the e-mails
that you`ve got. Where do you get these? Who says it`s OK? When you file
the application, who adjudicates that you are entitled to these documents?
EVERS (via telephone): When it works well, apolitical career civil servants
collect documents and apply the law to determine what can be made public.
Is it classified? Is it - is it privileged? And they apply redactions and
they release them.
So, for the last two weeks, we`ve seen dedicated civil servants defy orders
not to testify, to go out to talk to Congress. There are also unnamed
heroes in agencies across the government who are going to apply the law and
ensure that the Freedom of Information Act is not thwarted by this White
House`s efforts to obstruct.
And frankly, American Oversight, but really the public, writ large, owes
them a debt of gratitude for all the work that they do every day on this
and many other issues.
VELSHI: I mean, that is kind of incredible. And I don`t want to beat a dead
horse, but I think we need to completely illustrate what we`re talking
Documents that members of Congress, Congressional committees investigating
the President asked the State Department for, that were not turned over,
you made Freedom of Information applications for, and you have received now
the first tranche of these documents, 100 documents - about 100 pages worth
of documents that illustrate a connection between Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo and Rudy Giuliani as it related to Ukraine involving the President`s
Assistant, Madeleine Westerhout. At least one of the documents contains
So you have got information that until now the State Department and the
executive have been stonewalling Congress from getting.
EVERS (via telephone): Adam Schiff said they haven`t gotten a single scrap
of paper. We`ve just got more than that. But I should really underscore.
That`s not because Congress isn`t trying to do its job. It`s not because
it`s not asking for these. It`s because the White House and the
administration have decided to obstruct the impeachment inquiry. They don`t
have a plan to obstruct the Freedom of Information Act, which is backed by
Article III courts. And it`s a major hole in their strategy, and it`s
finally coming to pay off.
VELSHI: Austin, thank you for joining me. We look forward to looking
through these documents and more that you get. Austin is the Executive
Director of American Oversight.
Jennifer Rubin and Tim Miller are standing by.
EVERS (via telephone): Thank you.
VELSHI: They have been listening to everything that Austin Miller (ph)
said. We`re going to talk more with them after this final break. Stay with
VELSHI: We have breaking news now. American Oversight group has sued for
Freedom of Information releases of documents that the State Department has
now turned over. More than 100 documents have just been turned over to
American Oversight. They can be found on americanoversight.org.
However, I just checked, and that website appears to be down, probably
because so many people are trying to find these 100 documents. They include
emails that confirm contact in March of 2019 between the Secretary of
State, Mike Pompeo, and Donald Trump`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as it related
One of those contacts was facilitated by - at least one, by the way, was
facilitated by President Trump`s Assistant, Madeleine Westerhout. The State
Department has released these pages to American Oversight. American
Oversight has immediately put it on its website so that everybody in the
world can download it. And it appears that many people in the world are
trying to download it right now.
American Oversight has released a statement saying, “We can see why Mike
Pompeo has refused to release this information to Congress. It reveals a
clear paper trail from Rudy Giuliani to the Oval Office to Secretary Pompeo
to facilitate Giuliani`s smear campaign against a U.S. ambassador.”
If you were watching Rachel`s show earlier tonight, you will know that a
federal judge did give the State Department until midnight tonight, a late
ruling today, to turn these documents over. They have turned the documents
American Oversight saying that they could obtain these documents
establishes there is no legal basis for the administration to withhold them
Jennifer Rubin and Tim Miller are back with us. They were with me. We were
in the middle of a discussion when this all happened.
Jennifer, this feels like a fairly substantial development because the
State Department denied Congressional requests, efforts and subpoenas to
turn over these documents, and a group of American citizens got it with the
Freedom of Information Application.
RUBIN: Absolutely. And when my ears picked up - perked up was when he said
they have dozens of these out there. So every subject matter that we have
been hearing about for the last two weeks may turn over more documents.
This just goes to show you that once you start peeling back the curtain,
all sorts of things come out. And congress is going to be very interested
in all of this. I think they`re going to want to see all of these
documents. They`re going to want to have hearings on some of these. And
they may lead to new witnesses.
What`s so significant about this is - remember what is going on in March.
Rudy and his henchmen are trying to cook up all sorts of rumors to get rid
of our anti-corruption fighting ambassador, Marie–
VELSHI: Marie Yovanovitch, yes.
RUBIN: –Yovanovitch, in the - in Ukraine. Mike Pompeo is doing nothing to
prevent that. Mike Pompeo refuses to put out a statement in support of
VELSHI: Of his ambassador.
RUBIN: Of his own ambassador.
VELSHI: Marie Yovanovitch works for the State Department, and he is the
boss of the State Department, and he won`t protect his people.
RUBIN: Right. So, is he facilitating? Is he helping Rudy Giuliani or is he
objecting to it? He certainly knows it`s going on. And remember, that was
the step, that was the predicate for then launching on this effort to
essentially (ph) extort Ukraine in addition to whatever other financial
deals that Rudy Giuliani was pursuing. They had to get her out of the way.
RUBIN: This puts him right in the middle of this. I think he has extreme
liability. And remember, he has not even recused himself from deciding
whether to turn over these documents. It took a federal court to force him.
So that is completely unacceptable. He`s behaving in a completely
inappropriate manner. He`s a lawyer, and he should know his legal
obligations. I think this is huge.
VELSHI: I think it`s huge, too. Tim?
MILLER: Here`s the thing, Ali. And this gets lost, right, in the back-and-
forth and in the muck-and-the-mire of trying to figure out all the details.
But the biggest takeaway from the Sondland testimony was, none of this was
a secret. Like, this is the thing. They were all–
VELSHI: Right. He said it. They were all in on it.
MILLER: They were all in on it. Right?
MILLER: Pompeo knew it was happening, Pence knew it was happening, Mulvaney
did, the President did. And the only reason that the administration has not
just fallen back on the original Mulvaney press conference answer, which
was “get over it”–
MILLER: –is the President will just not allow it because of his ego.
And so we have to go through this BS, this misinformation where they try to
pretend like there might not have been a quid pro quo, where they try to
pretend like maybe this wasn`t as bad as it looks. It is as bad as it
looks. And eventually, the more information that comes out, we`ll continue
to see more details of that. And the question is, does that actually turn
anyone? I think that`s a–
VELSHI: Well, that is a big question. That is a big question. But these are
actually documents. And to Jennifer`s point, American Oversight has said,
quote, “This is just the first round of disclosures. The evidence is only
going to get worse for the administration as its stonewall strategy
collapses in the face of court orders.” This was a court order. This is one
of what he said are dozens of applications, more than 100 documents.
Jennifer Rubin, Tim Miller, thank you for joining us.
That`s tonight`s “Last Word.” “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” begins
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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