State Dept. releases Ukraine documents. TRANSCRIPT: 11/22/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Guests:
Michael Weiss, Jennifer Rubin, Tim Miller, Austin Evers
Transcript:

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

you, Tammy.

 

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

impeachment developments.

 

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

talking points.”

 

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

accusing Ukraine.”

 

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

this week.

 

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

this?

 

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

contradictory.

 

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.

 

VELSHI:  Right. 

 

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 –

 

WEISS:  Correct.

 

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

election.

 

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. –

 

VELSHI:  Yes.

 

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 –

 

VELSHI:  Right.

 

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

other.

 

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

Hill.

 

(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

Russian interests.

 

(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.

 

VELSHI:  Yes.

 

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

operative.

 

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.

 

VELSHI:  Right.

 

WEISS:  Republicans are the ones coming forward and basically –

 

VELSHI:  Right.

 

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 –

 

VELSHI:  Right.

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

Nunes.

 

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

entailed,”

 

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

Lev Parnas?

 

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

benefit Trump.

 

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

impeachment hearings?

 

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

with it.

 

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

about this.

 

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

with him.

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

“The Bulwark.”

 

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

this?

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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–

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

VELSHI: And you have - you`ve put them up for download. You`ve made them

available.

 

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

out.

 

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

Information application.

 

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–

 

VELSHI: Wow!

 

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.

 

VELSHI: Yes.

 

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

true.

 

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

anybody else.

 

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

about here.

 

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

that.

 

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

us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

to Ukraine.

 

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

over now.

 

American Oversight saying that they could obtain these documents

establishes there is no legal basis for the administration to withhold them

from Congress.

 

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

that.

 

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.

 

VELSHI: Yes.

 

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?

 

VELSHI: Yes.

 

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”–

 

VELSHI: Yes.

 

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–

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

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

now.

 

 

 

 

END   

 

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