Judge orders Don McGahn to testify. TRANSCRIPT: 11/25/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, my friend. You have a great night.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST Will do. Thank you.
VELSHI: All right. I`m in for Lawrence O`Donnell tonight.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said his committee, as
Rachel said, preparing to turnover its report on the impeachment
investigation evidence to the House Judiciary Committee soon after
Thanksgiving. Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren who sits on the
Judiciary Committee will join me shortly.
And billionaire Michael Bloomberg has officially entered the race for the
Democratic nomination for 2020 but his fundraising strategy is ruffling
feathers among other Democratic candidates. Will Bloomberg`s presence
shake up the Democratic race? Charlie Cook is here later with some strong
thoughts on that.
But we begin tonight with breaking news. A federal judge issues a stinging
rebuke to the Trump administration`s stonewalling of Congress that could
have ripple effects for other potential impeachment witnesses. Tonight,
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled that former White House counsel, this
man, Don McGahn, must testify in compliance with the congressional
In her ruling, Judge Jackson rejected the Justice Department`s claim of
unreviewable absolute testimonial immunity, calling it, quote, baseless.
Executive branch officials are not absolutely immune from compulsory
congressional process even if the president expressly directs such
officials` non-compliance. This conclusion is inescapable precisely
because compulsory appearance by dent of a subpoena is a legal construct,
not a political one, and per the Constitution, no one is above the law, end
Judge Jackson made clear McGahn could invoke executive privilege during his
testimony when appropriate. But she declared the presidents cannot
unilaterally block judges from testifying, adding, quote, stated simply,
the primary take away from the past 250 years of recorded American history
is that presidents are not kings.
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, praised the
judge`s decision, saying in a statement, quote, Don McGahn is a central
witness to allegations that President Trump obstructed special counsel
Mueller`s investigation and the administration`s claim that officials can
claim absolute immunity from congressional subpoenas has no basis in law,
as the court recognize today. Now that the court has ruled, I expect him
to follow his legal obligations, and promptly appear before the committee.
It`s not clear how promptly that might be. The Department of Justice
announced its plans to quickly appeal the ruling and said it will stay –
seek a stay to block its enforcement. McGahn`s lawyer says Don McGahn will
comply with Judge Jackson`s decision unless it is stayed pending appeal.
The DOJ is handling this case so you`ll need to ask them whether they
intend to seek a stay.
But while this legal fight is not over, tonight`s ruling has significant
implications for other Trump administration officials who have been
instructed not to testify about Donald Trump`s scheme to pressure Ukraine
to investigate his political rival in exchange for military aid. Those
potential witnesses include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House
Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Advisor John
Jonathan Shaub, a former attorney in the Justice Department`s Office of
Legal Counsel told “The Washington Post” that this ruling could, quote,
provide cover for other witnesses, especially former employees who are
inclined to testify but feel compelled by the White House`s direction not
to. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the Democrats
are moving forward with the impeachment inquiry while leaving the door open
for more witnesses to come forward.
Tonight, Chairman Schiff had this message to others refusing to testify.
Quote, to all those witnesses who hide behind fallacious claims of absolute
immunity, this ruling shows again how meritless their position remains.
The witnesses who have defied Congress at the behest of the president will
have to decide whether their duty is to the country or to a president who
believes that he is above the law.
Leading off our discussion tonight, Mieke Eoyang, former staff member for
the House Intelligence Committee and an MSNBC contributor. She`s currently
vice president of the national security program at Third Way. Glenn
Kirschner is a former federal prosecutor who`s worked with special counsel
Robert Mueller and an MSNBC legal analyst. And Ron Klain, former chief
counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and senior aide to Vice President
Joe Biden and president Obama. He`s an advisor to Joe Biden`s 2020
Ron, I`m going to start with you, as somebody who spent a lot of time in
the White House. This was something that the White House had been able to
hang on to for sometime, that Don McGahn who is central to so many things
that Donald Trump was involved in was able to avoid testifying to Congress.
There were a lot of people looking for this judgment tonight to understand
what was going to happen to Don McGahn.
I imagine the White House is very uneasy this evening.
RON KLAIN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL: Well, I think
they are. Look, it is several more steps before we get the truth out of
Don McGahn, the Justice Department, as you reported, Ali, is going to
appeal and seek a stay and even if McGahn, you know, that stay is denied
and he`s forced to come before Congress, he can still assert executive
privilege. He can assert the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination.
So, it`s not clear if this is going to produce really truth telling yet,
but what it does do is sends a powerful signal that the president can`t
just tell people not to come. The president can`t just say, hey, we`re not
cooperating at all and it really puts a powerful piece of leverage behind
the House committees, the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee
to get the ball rolling of high-profile witnesses who they have been
absolutely barred from talking to so far.
VELSHI: Glenn, let me ask you about – I want this particular part of the
judge`s opinion, I want to read to you. When the DOJ insists that
presidents can lawfully prevent their senior level aides from responding to
compelled congressional process and that neither the federal courts nor
Congress has the power to do anything about it, DOJ promotes a conception
of separation-of-powers principles that gets these constitutional commands
Accordingly, DOJ`s conceptual claim to unreviewable absolute testimonial
immunity on separation of power`s grounds essentially that the
constitutional scheme countenances unassailable executive branch authority
is baseless and as such, cannot be sustained.
Glenn, the only sentence I understand there is baseless and as such cannot
be sustained. Tell us what the rest of that means.
GLENN KRISCHNER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: So, I`ll tell you. Judge Ketanji
Brown Jackson got it exactly right and it is a very forceful opinion. It`s
also a lengthy opinion, 120 pages long. One of the other sentences, Ali,
that really caught my attention is when Judge Jackson said and I quote, Mr.
McGahn`s failure to appear was without legal justification.
And let me take that one step further. Donald Trump`s ordering Mr. McGahn
not to appear was without legal justification. That is darn near being
able to say it was illegal. I don`t want to mince words but – so I think
this is really going to give the House some additional fuel for adding
obstruction of justice as an article of impeachment because the president
has never had a lawful basis to order all of these people not to appear,
whether it`s McGahn or Pompeo or Mulvaney or Hicks.
So, hopefully, we will now begin to see these people testify and provide
some accurate information of what was going on behind the curtain.
VELSHI: And, of course, Mika, we`re reaching out to those people, Pompeo
and Mulvaney and Bolton. Mulvaney`s lawyer has said this ruling does not
affect whether he`ll testify.
This is Robert Driscoll, he`s the attorney acting for White House Chief of
Staff Mick Mulvaney. He says: Mick will continue to follow the instruction
of the president based on a DOJ Office of Legal Counsel opinion with
respect to the House subpoena.
So, anybody hoping that everybody whose been resisting these congressional
subpoenas will suddenly cave as a result of tonight`s ruling is going to
have to wait a little longer.
EOYANG: Yes, that`s right. This opinion is mid-stream, usually when you
have a district court ruling, the losing party will run immediately to the
appellate court and everything is going to be on pause until the appellate
court rules. But to come back to your initial question about what this
means and the constitutional structure, what Jackson is saying here is that
Congress is the branch that constitutionally is designated to do oversight
of the executive branch.
So for the executive branch to say it`s people don`t have to show up in
response to a congressional attempts to conduct oversight, that actually
subverts the entire structure of the Constitution that the Department of
Justice is arguing this goes against the founding of our country but also
it goes against pass precedent, as she cites the example of Harriet Miers,
the Bush administration White House counsel who was also ordered to
testify, who`d also made a similarly broad claim that she was absolutely
immune and that was also rejected.
VELSHI: Ron, what do you think the White House`s strategy is going to be
in the face of Adam Schiff saying they basically conducted and finished –
you know, got the information they need for the report that`s going to go
over to the Judiciary Committee? Momentarily, I`m gong to speak with
Representative Zoe Lofgren who is the second highest ranking Democrat on
But at this point, this thing is – the horse has left the barn. The White
House is going to have to pull together a strategy that makes more sense
than the one they employed so far.
KLAIN: Yes, well, White House strategy is an oxymoron in this context of
this presidency and this administration and, you know, what we seen is
already the complete blowing up of their strategy. Yes, they were able to
keep several of these high profile witnesses from appearing before Congress
but they were devastated by the career people, the less famous people until
last week who came before the Congress and told the truth in such a
powerful way like Fiona Hill, for example.
And so, now, they face the risk that these higher level people are going to
be either compelled to testify or merely get the fig leaf they need to
testify. Will John Bolton use this as an excuse to come forward and
testify? Will other ex officials who maybe are less friendly to the
president start to testify? So this takes what was already a five-
dimensional chess game way beyond the Trump White House`s capacity to
manage, and adds three or four additional dimensions to it.
VELSHI: Glenn, let me just read to you another piece of this ruling in
which the judge talks about what is missing from the Constitution. She
writes, what is missing from the Constitution`s frame work as the framers
envisioned it is the president`s purported power to kneecap House
investigations of executive branch operations by demanding that a senior
level aid breach their legal duty to respond to compelled congressional
This judge is not holding back on her view how the president and his legal
team have interpreted congressional subpoenas that and as Mieke was talking
about, congressional oversight.
KIRSCHNER: Yes, there are some people who are, I think, baselessly
claiming maybe some of these judges just don`t like Trump or his policies.
You know, I`ll tell you, I think the judiciary doesn`t like people
disobeying the law or making up laws like executive privilege to really try
to avoid proper oversight function. So I actually think I heard you say
that Mick Mulvaney is putting out a statement that he`s still going to
refuse to compile and listen to Trump if Trump continues to say don`t
I have to tell you, that couldn`t be a more squarely unlawful act and it is
in contempt of what a federal court judge just said with respect to the
law. So I think these people now are really putting themselves in harm`s
VELSHI: What does this do, Mieke, to Democratic strategy right now? Adam
Schiff has put out a statement saying the investigative work continues.
We`re learning additional information almost every day. But while we
continue with our investigative work and do not foreclose the possibility
of further depositions of hearings, we will not allow the president or
others to drag this out for months on end in the courts.
He basically said, by next week, possibly as early as next week, they could
hand this over to the Judiciary Committee.
EOYANG: Yes, I think it`s clear what we learned over the course of Adam
Schiff`s hearings is greater detail and filling in of a story that the
president admitted to from the very beginning. We`ve known from the start
the president brought a pressure campaign to bear against a foreign power
to force the investigation of his most feared political rival and that is
just fund mentally wrong. So I think that Adam Schiff is feeling like it`s
so wrong, we cannot delay, you can`t allow the president or his aides to
hold the process hostage with endless appeals in courts.
And so, what we know is the Department of Justice will try and delay this
effect of the McGahn ruling and any other ruling to prevent these witnesses
from coming forward to talk to Congress.
VELSHI: Thanks to the three of you getting us started, Ron Klain, Glenn
Kirschner and Mieke Eoyang.
Coming up, Chairman Adam Schiff said the intelligence committee is working
on the report on the impeachment investigation and as we discussed, it
could be delivered to the Judiciary Committee soon after Thanksgiving.
Judiciary Committee member Zoe Lofgren joins me next.
VELSHI: As a federal ruling puts pressure on the administration officials
to testify, House Democrats are not willing to take the next big step to
impeach President Donald Trump. Chairman Adam Schiff says soon after
Thanksgiving, the intelligence committee will deliver a report with all of
the impeachment evidence to the Judiciary Committee, which will then draft
and vote on articles of impeachment.
Chairman Schiff writes to his congressional colleagues, quote: We will
catalog the instances of non-compliance with lawful subpoenas as part of
our report to the Judiciary Committee, which will allow that committee to
consider whether an article of impeachment based on obstruction of Congress
is warranted along with an article or articles based on this underlying
conduct or other presidential misconduct.
One of the Democrats that will decide on articles of impeachment is
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California. She was involved in the last two
presidential impeachments. In 1974, there she is on the right. She was a
congressional staffer when the House Judiciary Committee prepared articles
of impeachment against President Richard Nixon.
And then, in 1998, she was a member of Congress on the Judiciary Committee
and voted against impeaching President Bill Clinton.
Now, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren is second highest ranking Democrat on the
Judiciary Committee. She joins me now for our second conversation today.
Congresswoman, good to see you again. Thank you for joining us.
I want to get your comment on what Adam Schiff said that they on the
Intelligence Committee are looking at these refusals to be present for
congressional subpoenas that and provide testimony as possible evidence of
obstruction of justice but that is for you on the Judiciary Committee to
determine whether that makes its way into articles of impeachment. Give me
your thoughts on that.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): I think Adam has it exactly right. The
Intelligence Committee has done the fact-finding. We can`t be held up for
months at a time through frivolous appeals of very well-reasoned decisions.
We`ve got to move forward.
But the fact that the president has instructed people not to comply with
lawful subpoenas that and he`s done other things, not a single document has
been released as evidence only he`s hiding something but that he is
refusing to compile with the lawful requests of Congress and that`s an
obstruction matter. That was the third article in the Richard Nixon
VELSHI: There are lessons from the Richard Nixon impeachment that there
are a few people like you who were there then, you were there for the
impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton.
What do you see here that you`ve drawn experience from in the past?
LOFGREN: Well, certainly a picture of misconduct on the part of the
president has emerged over these hearings and it has everything to do with
subverting the constitutional system for his personal interest. That
certainly was not present with Bill Clinton. He was charged with lying
about sex, not an admirable thing but really not much to do with the
We`re not talking about President Trump lying about sex and lying about
paying off these women that he was caught with. That has nothing to do
with the constitutional order. What we`re talking about is activities that
really threatened the national security and the will of Congress, the
appropriations that were enacted duly to keep Russia from tramping all over
VELSHI: Congresswoman Lofgren, one of the new lines of attack and there
are several from Republicans since this news about the quid pro quo and
Ukraine military aid for an investigation into Joe Biden came out, one of
the latest is that you all are so occupied with this that no legislation is
being under taken and nothing is being passed. You took issue with that?
LOFGREN: I certainly do. We`ve passed over 300 bills out of the House of
Representatives that are just sitting over in the Senate. I don`t know
what Mitch McConnell is doing but he`s not doing any legislating.
Everything from closing the loopholes on background checks for guns to the
Violence Against Women Act, we did a huge ethics reform, the biggest ethics
election reform in many decades. We`ve done measures to reduce the cost of
prescription drugs. Just this last week in the Judiciary Committee, we
marked up a bill to deal with the farm labor in the United States as well
as decriminalizing marijuana because half the states have legalized it and
the federal government has not followed along.
We`re very busy, but we can walk and chew gum, I wish we could say the same
for Mr. McConnell over there in the Senate.
VELSHI: I – you said just this last week, that belies what some of your
colleagues from across the aisle are saying. You`re actually getting
legislation done in the midst of all this.
What – for those Americans and many millions of them watching the
impeachment proceedings, they got to see Devin Nunes there, the ranking
member on the Republican side. Something very interesting emerged about
Devin Nunes. There are allegations that he sought info for – about Joe
Biden from Ukraine.
And I want to play one of the interactions he had with a Fox Business News
host about this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MARIA BARTIROMO, FBN HOST: Bottom line, were you in Vienna with Shokin?
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): Yes, so, look, Maria, I really want to answer all
of these questions and I promise you I absolutely will come back on the
show and answer these questions, but because there is criminal activity
here, we`re working with the appropriate law enforcement agency.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
VELSHI: That`s a weird statement. Were you in Vienna because there is
criminal activity I can`t tell you about? This is the ranking member of
the House Intelligence Committee.
LOFGREN: Well, I have no idea what he`s talking about, but I don`t really
want to comment on Mr. Nunes. I`m sure that whatever occurred will
ultimately be revealed. What we`re focusing in on is President Trump and
whether his actions threatened our democracy, whether they threaten our
national security. And if so, what should we do about it.
VELSHI: It would be strange to have a congressman who oversees some of
these hearings being involved in the actual thing that`s being
LOFGREN: Well, yes, it would but I don`t want to jump to a conclusion
based on snippets of news reports. We`ll wait happily for the full piece
of information to come out. Meanwhile, we have our job to do coming up in
the house judiciary committee, which is first to receive the information
from the House Intel Committee to evaluate it against the standard in the
Constitution, which is misconduct on the part of the president that
constitutes treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
Now what does that mean? There is a meaning in it and back in the `70s
when I worked on the Nixon impeachment, the staff, I didn`t write it, other
staffers did, did a document explaining what is –
LOFGREN: – impeachment? What do those words mean? I got that report on
my website so if people want to early entree into the history and legal
meaning, what do the Founders think? Go ahead and read that little report.
It`s very revealing.
VELSHI: Those kinds of things used to be dry reading for nerdy folks but
now it`s the hot ticket.
Congresswoman, great to talk to you twice today. Thank you for joining us,
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California.
Coming up, at what point does Republican loyalty to Donald Trump become
Republican complicity in Russian disinformation to obscure it`s on going
attacks on our democracy? We`re going to discuss that with our next guests
after this break.
VELSHI: Republicans and White House officials have tried to portray
President Trump`s decision to withhold $400 million in military aid to
Ukraine as standard operating procedure but emails from within the federal
budget office, the OMB show that those officials were actually scrambling
to find a justification for the decision and wondered if it was even legal.
“The Washington Post” reports that the White House has uncovered, quote,
hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-
the-fact justification for the president`s decision to freeze the aid to
Ukraine and a debate over whether the delay was legal, according to three
people familiar with the records.
One person briefed on the records told “The Washington Post” that “White
House lawyers are expressing concern that the review has turned up some
unflattering exchanges and facts that could at a minimum embarrass the
President. It`s unclear whether the Acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney,
discussions or other records pose any legal problems for Trump in the
impeachment inquiry, but some fear they could pose political problems if
The new report adds to the pile of undisputed evidence that President Trump
pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival based in part on a
Russian conspiracy theory that Ukraine - not Russia, Ukraine attacked our
democracy during the 2016 election.
And we`re starting to learn that a growing number of Republicans are not
only embracing that outlandish notion, but they are defending it, defending
a conspiracy theory that goes against the findings of the entire American
Here is Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Kennedy, who do you believe was responsible for
hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign computers, their emails? Was it Russia
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I don`t know. Nor do you. Nor do any of us. Ms.
Hill is entitled to her–
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I mean, let me just interrupt to say, the entire
intelligence community says it was Russia.
KENNEDY: Right. But it could also be Ukraine. I`m not saying that I know
one way or the other. I`m saying that Ms. Hill is entitled to her opinion,
but no rebuttal evidence was allowed to be offered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Senator Kennedy made that wildly unfounded remark just days after
the “New York Times” reported that “American intelligence officials
informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged
in a year`s long campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for
Moscow`s own hacking of the 2016 election.” It seems someone wasn`t paying
attention during class or didn`t want to.
After the break, we`ll discuss the growing embrace of a Russian conspiracy
theory and what it means for the 2020 election with Ron Klain and David
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMB. WILLIAM TAYLOR, TOP U.S. OFFICIAL IN UKRAINE: To withhold that
assistance for no good reason other than help with the political campaign
made no sense. It was counterproductive to all of what we had been trying
to do. It was illogical. It could not be explained. It was crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That was William Taylor, the top U.S. official in Ukraine, during
his testimony before the impeachment inquiry.
Joining me now, David Jolly, former Republican congressman from Florida.
He`s an MSNBC Political Analyst. Back with us, Ron Klain. Gentlemen, good
to see you.
David, this is strange. There is no part of the Republican Party prior to
2015 that would knowingly be part of spreading Russian disinformation about
having hacked and provided disinformation in a U.S. election. It`s just not
something that would have happened. Lindsey Graham wouldn`t have tolerated
it. John McCain wouldn`t have tolerated it. People like you wouldn`t have
tolerated it. What has happened that the Republican Party has become
attached to a Russian conspiracy theory?
DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER REPRESENTATIVE, FLORIDA & MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, I think it reveals a lot about their true motivations. And first,
let`s recognize that what they are doing right now, what Senator Kennedy
said, what Lindsey Graham is doing is it`s dangerous, it`s gravely
dangerous that through their own ignorance, negligence or malfeasance ,
they are being used by Russia.
Republican senators, Republican members of Congress tonight are being used
by Russia because they are unwilling to look at the truth. And Ali, I would
offer perspective as a former Republican, and I know my - some of my
Democratic friends may disagree with what I`m about to say. But I was on
the Hill during the `90s, during the Clinton impeachment, and I thought
Bill Clinton should be impeached because I believed in a certain law-and-
order principle that a President shouldn`t engage in perjury or obstruction
of justice, that I thought I belonged to a party that agreed with that.
I was in office during Barack Obama, and I didn`t think that he had the
executive authority to do DACA by executive order. Even Obama said, maybe I
don`t have the authority to do it. I thought I belonged to a party that
opposed that on constitutional grounds.
But in retrospect, what I`ve learned these last three years is it wasn`t a
law-and-order party, the Republican Party in the `90s. It was just a party
that hated Bill Clinton. It wasn`t a constitutional party when Barack Obama
was in office. It was just a party that hated Barack Obama.
What we`re seeing now is a party that is embracing Donald Trump because
they have a quest for power, proximity for power, and they want within
their reach the ability to self-deal. This is a party today without
conviction, and they are willing to be used by Russians.
VELSHI: Ron, regardless of where one stands on the impeachment of President
Trump, there was a lot of testimony that was valid to listen to. Bill
Taylor - Fiona Hill was a good example. She just had a lot of depth of
knowledge about the region. But there was one piece of testimony that Fiona
Hill provided that has been repeated many times and deserves repeating one
more time as it relates to this particular topic that we`re discussing.
Let`s listen to it together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIONA HILL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR ON RUSSIA: Based on questions and
statements I have heard, 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 a
fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian
security services themselves.
I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that
the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary and Ukraine, not Russia,
attacked us in 2016.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: So, Ron, I think we all get why Donald Trump wants to perpetuate
this. Right? Because he doesn`t want to deal with the fact that maybe there
was some advantage provided by Russian interference in the election to him.
But why would Senator John Kennedy, why would others who`ve been appearing
in the media in the last few days - and this is obviously an orchestrated
message - why would they go down this road? What do - what does a
Republican who gets to out-live Donald Trump gain out of perpetrating this?
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN & FORMER SENIOR
AIDE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, clearly, they`re trying to create (ph) a
favor with President Trump. And this is the number-one way to get favor
with Donald Trump, which is to repeat the kind of conspiracy theories and
craziness and untruths and lies and criminality that President Trump is
Look, I can understand if the Republican senators want to sit there and go,
look, Trump is my guy, I`m just not going to vote him out of office or
Trump is my guy, I don`t think of what he did.
VELSHI: But that`s different from what`s going on.
KLAIN: That is different. Exactly, Ali. That`s my point, which is what`s
going on here is something very different, which is the affirmative
decision to spread unsure information about the geopolitical situation, the
affirmative decision to spread a Russian intelligence myth that points the
finger at Ukraine in an effort to help subvert Ukrainian sovereignty.
Look, we do know - to answer Senator Kennedy`s question, we do know who
interfered in the 2016 election. It was Russia. Not only has the entire
intelligence community found that, but Trump`s own Justice Department
prosecuted Russians for interfering with our election.
So let`s just get over the idea that we don`t know about it or this is
anything other than a Russian conspiracy theory to try to reverse the
geopolitical situation in Ukraine.
VELSHI: David Jolly, a quarter of Americans believe in conspiracy theories,
fairly serious ones, probably–
VELSHI: –more than a lot of people in the western world. But it`s not the
basis for the Republican Party. Regular mainstream Republicans can`t
possibly be buying this because it`s dangerous to do so.
JOLLY: Ali, look, I`m a bit at loss for words as we keep having a
conversation nationally, the national conversation around this, because
there is a conspiracy theory that should - can be debated. Why are they
peddling it? But at the end of the day, it`s an abject moral failure on the
part of our Republican leaders. It`s an abandonment of truth, one in which
they have no self-respect or self-reflection. And I`m surprised they can
look themselves in the mirror, much less look at their constituents in the
The American people should be able to trust their elected leaders, whether
they`re from their party or not. Whether it`s a Republican or a Democrat,
we put our trust in our elected leaders. The Republican Party today through
its leadership has abandoned truth and has failed the American people and
frankly failed themselves, and one day they`ll recognize that and regret
VELSHI: David Jolly, thank you for your analysis.
Ron Klain, thanks for coming back–
JOLLY: Thank you.
VELSHI: –second time tonight.
Coming up, new details about the federal investigation into Rudy Giuliani
show that the President`s personal lawyer could be in some serious legal
trouble. That`s next.
VELSHI: Tonight, “The Wall Street Journal” is reporting that subpoenas
issued to people with ties to Rudy Giuliani and his associates indicated a
broad federal investigation examining Giuliani`s business dealings.
Quote, “Subpoenas described to “The Wall Street Journal” listed more than a
half a dozen potential charges under consideration, including obstruction
of justice, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the United States,
making false statements to the federal government, serving as an agent of a
foreign government without registering with the Justice Department,
donating funds from foreign nationals, making contributions in the name of
another person or allowing someone else to use one`s name to make a
contribution, and mail fraud and wire fraud.”
“Reuters” obtained one of these grand jury subpoenas, which requests that
the recipient provide, quote, “all documents, including correspondents,
with or related to Rudolph Giuliani, Giuliani Partners or any related
person or entity, and documents related to any actual or potential
payments, or agreements to or with Giuliani.”
Glenn Kirschner, Mieke Eoyang are back with us.
Mieke, what do you make of this new reporting that there are actual, actual
investigations and grand jury inquiries into things having to do with Rudy
MIEKE EOYANG, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE FORMER STAFF MEMBER: Yes. I
think this comes as a little surprise given that his two associates were
arrested trying to flee the country and he`s been up to his ears in
something really confusing and terrible.
And I think it`s really a fair question to ask, “Was Rudy Giuliani acting
as an unregistered agent of a foreign power?” because his behavior in this
Ukraine investigation, as we have seen his relationships with the former
prosecutor general of Ukraine, the stories that he was spreading, it makes
no sense that he would be doing this unless there were some other financial
motive because these stories are so bizarre–
EOYANG: –it is hard to understand where they come from.
VELSHI: There is only one thing more bizarre, Glenn Kirschner, and that is
the conversation Rudy Giuliani had with Ed Henry on Fox News on Saturday
discussing his relationship with President Trump. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S PERSONAL ATTORNEY & FORMER MAYOR OF NEW
YORK CITY: You can assume that I talk to him early and often–
ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
GIULIANI: –and have a very, very good relationship with him, and all of
these comments, which are totally insulting–
GIULIANI: I mean, I`ve seen things written like he`s going to throw me
under the bus.
GIULIANI: When they say that, I say, he isn`t, but I have insurance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: “He isn`t, but I have insurance.” Glenn, what`s he saying there?
That sounds like a threat, but he kind of talks like a mob boss. So I`m not
quite sure what to make of that.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, Ali. It`s really unusual
for an attorney to issue sort of a public ultimatum against his client. I
mean, there are so many data points that suggest Rudy Giuliani is sort of
up to his neck in potential criminal conduct.
And if we look at all of those data points, not only the eight or nine
crimes, you just listed that he`s being investigated for. It might be
easier to list the crimes he is not being investigated for. But as Mieke
said, his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are already indicted,
perhaps his future co-conspirators. There`s been reporting that Lev is
getting ready to cooperate, and (inaudible) he may have tapes.
You also have - you have Rudy issuing that strange ultimatum. So all of
these things in combination suggest that the Southern District of New York
is hot on Rudy`s trail. But here`s the one great unknown that really does
concern me, Ali. Is Bill Barr going to put his thumb on the scale and
prevent the Southern District of New York from going after Rudy Giuliani
perhaps as a way to prevent Rudy Giuliani from working his way up the chain
and flipping and cooperating against Trump?
I mean, thus far, it seems like Bill Barr has let the SDNY do what it does
so well, aggressively investigate crime and bring prosecutions as, for
example, against Lev and Igor. Let`s see if he continues to give the SDNY
the autonomy it needs to bring charges against Rudy Giuliani if
VELSHI: Thanks to both of you again. Glenn, good to see you again. Mieke
Eoyang, thanks for sticking with us tonight.
Coming up, how Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren welcomed billionaire
Michael Bloomberg to the Democratic presidential race. That`s next.
VELSHI: It was only few weeks ago that the Democratic presidential primary
field was still shrinking. But with less than three months until the first
votes are cast, another - another new entrant has joined the already
Former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, made his entry into the 2020
contest official yesterday. The 77-year-old billionaire has vowed to self-
fund his campaign and he`s kicked off his campaign with a $37 million ad-
buy for context.
That is more money than the campaigns of Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg
or Joe Biden have spent on the entire primary race so far, as of last
month`s filing deadline, and barely less than the entire amount already
spent by Bernie Sanders. Again, just on one ad-buy.
Bloomberg`s progressive opponents have already taken aim at his lavish
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do not believe that
billionaires have the right to buy elections. Multi-billionaires like Mr.
Bloomberg are not going to get very far in this election.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Michael Bloomberg is
making a bet about democracy in 2020. He doesn`t need people. He only needs
bags and bags of money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Charlie Cook is the Editor and Publisher of “The Cook Political
Report” and a columnist for “National Journal.” He is an NBC News Political
Charlie, how does this change the race?
CHARLIE COOK, NATIONAL JOURNAL COLUMNIST, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT EDITOR
AND PUBLISHER & NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s funny. It`s easy to be
dismissive of Bloomberg that he`s got problems with the African-American
community because of stop-and-frisk.
He is a billionaire businessman at a time when the parties go in a
progressive collection. But it`s funny, you could go through every single
one of the credible Democratic candidates and come up with good reasons why
each one of them can`t win the nomination, but every single one of them is
But the fact that he doesn`t have to spend time on Iowa, New Hampshire,
Nevada, South Carolina, that he could be spending time - spending his ad-
buy on a dozen, two dozen states at once. Worry about 56 other states or 46
other states rather than just those four.
It`s really interesting to see that it could be like a whole new paradigm,
kind of like–
COOK: –Trump being able to run last time with spending less money.
VELSHI: Because the current paradigm is that unless you come in first,
second or third in Iowa, you are not a contender.
COOK: Exactly, but that`s all about momentum. The first four states are
about momentum and then the last 46 are about delegates because there
aren`t that many delegates in the first four states.
Bloomberg, he can concentrate on delegates from the get-go. So it`s - I`m a
little skeptical, but he`s going to - he may have a whole different set of
rules than every other Democrat has to run with.
VELSHI: You base this on the math that you`ve run on delegates and how this
works. And if this somebody - if this race continues to be as competitive
as it is and somebody doesn`t get a majority of the first round of
delegates, the whole situation at the convention changes because a second
vote includes a whole lot more delegates.
All of those super-delegates that are excluded from the first round then
come in. So if you - if somebody doesn`t get a majority of the 1,600 or so
delegates on the first ballot, a contested convention, unusual though it
is, could be the kind of thing that Bloomberg could be looking at.
COOK: Exactly. 70 percent of the delegates are going to be picked by the
end of March so that if you don`t have someone with anywhere near a
majority at that point and there are only 25 percent of the pledged
delegates left from there until June, then you probably aren`t going to
have anybody anywhere near a majority going into the convention. But I
would just never use the term brokered convention because we don`t have
brokers in American politics anymore. But contesting convention, that`s a
VELSHI: You wrote something interesting in your column that I believe is
just published. You said, “Notice these arguments, if all taken” - the
arguments against the existing contenders - “if all taken equally
seriously, effectively eliminate every credible Democratic contender. But
profundity alert, someone has to win the Democratic nomination.”
You`re right, logically, but the point that Michael Bloomberg is trying to
make, and he makes it - he made it today actually, when someone said, are
you saying that no one else can beat Donald Trump. Listen to it in his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some are saying that they see your decision to run now
as an indication that you feel that the current candidates in the field are
weak and they can`t get the job done. Is that accurate?
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, let me phrase it this
way. I think that there is a greater risk of having Donald Trump re-elected
than there was before. And in the end, I looked in the mirror and said, I
just cannot let this happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: There`s a weird flavor, the way he talks about himself, but he is
making a point that he actually doesn`t think the others can win and he can
beat Donald Trump.
COOK: Well - yes. I mean - the thing about it is, what I disagree with the
question that was asked of him was, I think he`s afraid that Elizabeth
Warren will win the nomination and can`t beat President Trump and that he
has no confidence or very little confidence that Vice President Biden can.
I think if Biden were doing better or Warren was doing worse, then I don`t
think Bloomberg would be in this race.
I mean - and if he just wanted to stop Warren, he could just run a - he
could just pay for a super pact to stop her. But I think he sees an opening
VELSHI: You think about this a lot. Do you share his view that any of the
other candidates in there are not as likely to beat Donald Trump?
COOK: I think some candidates are more likely than others. Look, if this is
a referendum up or down on President Trump, I think he loses that. The
question is, is it going to be a referendum on something else or someone
else? And if Democrats nominate just someone that`s not as polarizing as
President Trump is, they will win that election.
The question is, can - are they - what is the risk tolerance for Democrats
in this race? How much do they want to risk? How far out there do they want
to go and run the risk of re-electing him?
VELSHI: Charlie, good to see you. Thank you for your analysis tonight,
COOK: Thank you, Ali.
VELSHI: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams”
begins right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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