Parnas: ”Trump Knew..” TRANSCRIPT: 1/15/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
Really an extraordinary hour. I think a lot of us as we were watching had
one fundamental question. Why is he doing this? Why has he decided to
basically turn on his friends in the conspiracy and talk about the
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: So what seemed to emerge today when I was
talking with him during the course of the interview and talking to him
about the fact that he was going to do the interview is that he really
believes that the more he makes public about what he saw and what he knows
and what he can document, the safer he is. He`s, I think, worried that if
this – if the information that he`s got is only inside his own head or in
his own, you know, electronic devices and things like that that that`s too
easy – it`s too easy to make that go away, and that to the extent that the
things that he knows can be made public and checked out and verified and
documented and investigated, he feels like, A, the truth will become known
and he will be safer.
O`DONNELL: And does he – does he expect this to help him in the criminal
case where he is now a defendant?
MADDOW: I think that`s implicit. I mean, I think that he is facing very
serious charges in the Southern District of New York. His lawyer has made
clear that he wants to cooperate. He wants to testify with congressional
investigators in the impeachment investigation, implicit in that is the
idea that maybe I think it would help him in his criminal case.
But obviously nothing that he`s saying today is going to help him directly
in his criminal case, and the decision that congressional investigators
have to make about whether or not they`re gong to talk to him I think is
going to be independent of whether or not they think it would help him in
his criminal case. So, I mean, his aims and their likely outcomes may
diverge, but he was willing to have this conversation today.
I was – I will tell you, Lawrence, I was convinced until the moment I was
sitting there talking to him that it was going to be canceled.
O`DONNELL: OK, which brings me to another question. What can you tell us
about how long this has been in the works and how it came about?
MADDOW: It`s been a long time.
MADDOW: It has been months that we have been trying to make this happen.
And so, again, we didn`t expect it when it finally came through, it came
through very quickly.
MADDOW: We had been working on this the way you work on lots of things
that you think won`t pay off for a very long time, but when it came
together, it actually came together very, very quickly, and right at the
top of the interview, Mr. Parnas and his lawyer basically explained, like,
once the material that we`d given to the Intelligence Committee was, A,
safely in their hands and, B, we knew it was going to be conveyed to the
Senate and part of this trial, we felt like, OK, we can talk. They didn`t
want to do anything that would jeopardize that.
And then, so, it came together very quickly. I was up all night.
O`DONNELL: OK, not surprising.
So, you said the magic word there, trial. Neal Katyal is going to join us
in this hour. His latest “Washington Post” piece is entitled: Lev Parnas
and Rudy Giuliani have demolished Trump`s claims of innocence. Does Lev
Parnas expect or is he anticipating having a role in the Senate trial?
MADDOW: I think he`s realistic enough to know that it`s not up to him, and
there`s no reason – I mean, certainly he wants to testify. That`s clear.
His lawyer`s been publicly clear about that from the very beginning.
But I think that they`re realists in knowing that it`s not up to them the
and if it happens it happens, and if it doesn`t, there`s nothing they can
do to make – to force it. But making all this information available and
being willing to comment in a public forum on what it means is them, you
know, getting as close as they can in the public eye to testifying, whether
or not they end up actually in the trial or in a deposition with one of the
– one of the investigating committees in the House.
O`DONNELL: And in this story, individual-1 from the Michael Cohen
prosecution here in New York is labeled in their communications number one.
They keep saying you`re going to tell number one, and Lev Parnas has that
story we heard in the investigation in the House of Representatives of the
president speaking on the phone so loudly that if you are standing near the
person he is speaking to, you can hear him, in this case, it`s Lev Parnas
listening to, as he put it to you the president screaming at Rudy Giuliani
at one point.
MADDOW: Yes. And so that corroborates the testimony that we heard during
the impeachment inquiry about bystanders and people at the same lunch table
being able to hear clearly that it was the president`s voice on a phone
call even when it wasn`t on speakerphone. That`s just corroborating
information which I thought was interesting.
But that`s also in the context of him saying, listen, I know that, you
know, I was in constant contact with Rudy Giuliani about all of this, and
Mr. Giuliani was in constant contact with the president about this. He said
that he met the president a number of times. He was aware of the sort of
loop of information here.
And part of what he`s able to describe as a witness is Mr. Giuliani and
president Trump talking about the Ukraine scheme in detail on multiple
occasions, including when Mr. Parnas could clearly overhear the president`s
distinctive voice on the phone.
O`DONNELL: What do you think is the most damning thing or the most
difficult information for Donald Trump tonight? Is it the involvement as we
heard in the unfolding of this of his Attorney General William Barr? Is it
the involvement as we heard from Lev Parnas of Vice President Mike Pence?
Is it Lev Parnas simply saying Donald Trump wasn`t telling the truth,
Donald Trump was lying when he said he doesn`t know me?
MADDOW: I mean, I think it is stark and difficult for the White House to
have Mr. Parnas who was so plainly involved in every aspect of this bluntly
and directly and without equivocation say the president was directing this.
The president was involved in every step of this. The president knew
everything that we were doing, and we were doing it on his behalf, and we
did nothing without hiss express approval.
I mean, that is – you know, that`s sort of chapter and verse of the
scandal in terms of presidential culpability. I actually think that for me,
the headline out of this interview is very serious questions being raised
about vice president Mike Pence. So, Mr. Parnas is saying that we – that
there`s two interactions between Vice President Mike Pence and the
Ukrainian government that are very important here and that Mike Pence
appears to have been very much in the loop for.
And one of them was the cancellation of his planned trip to go to the
Zelensky inauguration. He tells a very vivid story on a very tight, very
specific timeline with lots of very specific logistical details about how
he, Lev Parnas, was in Ukraine, making a one last chance demand of the
Ukrainian government, announced those investigations or Pence isn`t coming
to your inauguration. He does that on the 12th, and on the 13th, in fact,
Pence cancels his trip to the inauguration.
That`s this very important moment to Mr. Parnas because it`s very
legitimizing for him as he continues to do this work that the Ukrainian
government knows he`s got the juice, knows that he can actually deliver in
terms of the vice president`s whereabouts.
Now, Mr. Parnas is saying that it`s inconceivable that Vice Presidents
Pence didn`t know that trip to his inauguration was contingent on those
investigations being agreed to or announced before he went. In addition, he
says that Mike Pence was absolutely the person from the Trump
administration who was supposed to go over to Poland to meet Zelensky on
September 1st and get those investigations announced. And he knew it, and
that was his job, and that`s why the Defense Department and those e-mails
that we`ve seen was able to say we expect this issue, this standoff with
Ukraine will be resolved once Vice President Pence is over there.
That really puts the spotlight on Vice President Pence. It also very much
begs for John Bolton`s testimony because John Bolton could testify to that
both in terms of the factual accuracy of what Mr. Parnas is saying and to
the vice president`s culpability in this scandal, and if the president and
the vice president are both culpable in this scandal, if they were both
carrying out this scheme personally, that makes impeachment a different
thing than it was before.
O`DONNELL: It certainly does, and there`s that moment in that dramatic
revealing of it the way Lev Parnas does of when the Ukrainians did not do -
- in fact, the guy who was communicating deleted him –
MADDOW: Blocked him, yes, deleted him off WhatsApp.
O`DONNELL: Blocked him on the phone, and he reports that to Rudy Giuliani,
Rudy Giuliani`s line is, OK, they`ll see.
O`DONNELL: They`ll see.
MADDOW: And in fact, they do.
O`DONNELL: And the next day, they see. Mike Pence isn`t coming.
Rachel, I could go on and on with you. I could keep you for the hour, but I
must not. Thank you for staying up all night, and thank you for delivering
us that extraordinary hour. We`re going to spend an hour on what you just
MADDOW: I appreciate it, my friend, and we will have part two tomorrow
O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel. Really appreciate it. There will be part two
There is much to cover here. We`re going to get to it as quickly as we can.
We`re going to be joined by former Ambassador Dana Shell Smith, who has
been tweeting some of the most important points about what has happened
within the State Department since Lev Parnas` information came out, since
it emerged last night what appeared to be a threat, possibly even a deadly
threat to the former ambassador to Ukraine.
And not one word, not one word from the State Department from Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo about this in now over 24 hours. Ambassador Smith is not
the only member, former member of the Diplomatic Corps who is outraged
about this, but it will be her voice that will be brought to this program
tonight to speak for them and to speak for the shock being felt by the
Diplomatic Corps about what they learned about these possible threats
through text that were revealed last night – threats to the ambassador of
Rachel has a lot on that in her interview with Lev Parnas. It becomes a
very different story in Lev Parnas` telling. We will get to that in this
To begin, we`re going to be joined by Barbara McQuade. She`s a former U.S.
attorney and an MSNBC legal contributor. And David Corn is a Washington
bureau chief of “Mother Jones” and an MSNBC political analyst.
David has two reports out today about Robert Hyde, who is one of the
characters in the texts that were very threatening to the ambassador to
I want to start with you, Barbara, just from a legal perspective based on
everything that you`ve heard in the last hour in this extraordinary
interview with Lev Parnas, what do you think its impact is now on this
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, we heard some extraordinary
things, but like all cooperators, I think it`s useful to have a healthy
dose of skepticism when you listen to someone like Lev Parnas, much of what
he said was not corroborated. But I think the big picture take away here is
it behooves us to get to the bottom of what he has to say, to try to get to
the truth, to probe and try to corroborate some of what he said.
And the way to do that is by talking to other witnesses and looking for
documents. He may not have firsthand information, which means I`m not sure
I can believe it and take it to the bank. So you talk to the people who do
have the firsthand information, people like Rudy Giuliani or John Bolton or
others who were actually there and participated in these conversations.
So I think my big takeaway is, he has put up a lot of smoke, and I really
want to know if there`s some fire there.
O`DONNELL: And, David, I know you have the reporting on Mr. Hyde today.
You heard what Parnas said about that. He said he took the threatening
texts to be a joke. He said the guy is drunk all the time, didn`t take him
seriously. Hyde himself did an interview on right wing television outlet,
saying the same thing, saying he was drunk a lot in those days, saying they
were just having fun.
We`re going to show that later in the hour, but I just want to get your
reaction to their latest version of it, the two people who were in that –
those text exchange. If that was a conspiracy, they`re denying it both –
both of them saying it was basically a joke.
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, I`ve been following
Hyde for well over a year now, long before he got involved in this, and he
did strike me as a wannabe player, operator who was unreliable. The piece
we put out in “Mother Jones” late last night showed that he had been taken
into police custody at one of Trump`s resorts Florida when he had this sort
of paranoid event and claimed that hit men and the Secret Service were out
to get him.
I haven`t seen any capability on his part to run sort of any operation in
Ukraine where he could actually infiltrate the security detail of the
That said, I mean, it seemed – one thing that I would have, you know,
liked to see Lev Parnas pressed upon is why did he continue to engage in
those conversations or those text messages with Hyde. But it gives you a
flavor of kind of what we`re dealing with.
Where did they meet? They met at the Trump hotel bar, which is a lot like
that bar in the original Star Wars, where all these unsavory characters all
trying to get a piece of the president, leverage something, make a
donation, get something in return. It`s kind of how Lev Parnas and Igor
Fruman got involved in the first instance here with Rudy Giuliani.
So Giuliani is putting together a team of offbeat oddball outliers to do
stuff, which is not – it may not be – whether it`s illegal or not, it`s
certainly not proper, and so then, you know, Robert Hyde gets drawn into
this as well. I mean, this is a little bit like what we saw with the Iran
Contra days with freebooters doing things the president wanted but that he
wasn`t willing to do officially.
O`DONNELL: All right. Let`s take a look at what Rachel said she thinks is
possibly the most important point revealed in her interview so far, and
that is Vice President Mike Pence`s involvement and what Lev Parnas has to
say. Let`s watch.
I can read it if we don`t have it in the control room. I guess we do have
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEV PARNAS, RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: Basically next day, Pence to my
awareness Trump called up and said to make sure Pence doesn`t go there.
MADDOW: So you believe that Mr. Pence`s trip to the inauguration was
canceled because they didn`t agree?
PARNAS: Oh, I know 100 percent.
MADDOW: To announce the investigations into Biden?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Barbara, your reaction to that?
MCQUADE: Well, again, I think it raises the question. If that is true,
then I agree with Rachel that that is an incredibly significant event
because it brings Mike Pence into this scheme, but I`d want to know a
little more about it. Number one, did Mike Pence know that that was the
reason his trip was canceled? Is that in fact the reason his trip was
canceled? If so, it is very significant.
But I think that, again, what it demonstrates is it behooves the Senate to
make this a real trial, to call witnesses, to try to get to the bottom of
what was really going on here. In fact, it could even tee up a House
investigation of Mike Pence for an impeachment of him.
O`DONNELL: The witness that Mitt Romney says he wants to hear from is John
Bolton. He doesn`t specify others, but he sounds like he`s willing to hear
from others also. There seems to be the most pressure on John Bolton as a
possible witness that enough Republicans might agree to hear.
Let`s listen to what Lev Parnas said tonight about John Bolton, and as we
listen to this, let`s consider how much this might add to Republican
willingness to hear from John Bolton as a witness in the Senate trial.
Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARNAS: I don`t know exactly what Mr. Bolton knew, but I know Mr. Bolton
was definitely involved in the loop because of the firing of Marie
Yovanovitch, also his interactions with Rudy Giuliani. They started butting
heads, and he was not agreeing – I mean, from Venezuela to Ukraine, Bolton
didn`t agree with Rudy – with Giuliani on the way of dealing with it, so
there was tension there. There was – there was definitely tension.
MADDOW: But you believe he knows what the administration was pressuring
Ukraine to do?
PARNAS: Bolton, 100 percent. He knows what happened there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: David Corn, it seems like the Bolton testimony just became just
a little bit more important?
CORN: As if – as if it could. Remember, you know, John Bolton has been
secondhand quoted saying that this was a drug deal, you know, the whole
business with extorting Ukraine to get Joe Biden investigation.
And so, now, we saw, I think, this evening Lev Parnas describing what can
only be compared to a mob operation. You had this great quote that Giuliani
said, OK, they`ll see if they don`t give in to this. And, you know, what
happens, Trump tells Giuliani, and then Giuliani tells these button men,
you know, basically they`re hit men, Lev Parnas to get out there and make
this stuff happen, and they put the squeeze on Ukraine.
So, Bolton can really get to that point directly. What do you mean by
calling this a drug deal? What did you think was really going on?
But remember, John Bolton has said he will testify if subpoenaed. What are
the House – excuse me, what are the Senate rules going to be about issuing
subpoenas? And who`s going to go along with that?
And to Barbara`s point, you know, having witnesses testify will be great. I
think Lev Parnas should testify, but you got to have investigation to go
with those witnesses, and that`s something that is really not a part of the
Senate trial procedures. It`s something the house could do or the Southern
District of New York, but there`s a lot here that the impeachment trial
will not dig into.
O`DONNELL: David Corn, Barbara McQuade, thank you for starting off our
CORN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Neal Katyal will join us on what this
new evidence revealed tonight could mean in the Senate impeachment trial.
O`DONNELL: Here`s Rudy Giuliani calling his good friend Lev Parnas.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP PRESONAL LAWYER: Hi, Lev. It`s Rudy. When you get a
chance, give me a call and bring me up to days, OK? I got a couple of
things to tell you, too. Thanks, Lev, bye.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I don`t think he`s going to be giving him a call. After that
voice mail and other documents released by the House Intelligence Committee
and after Lev Parnas` interview with Rachel tonight, I don`t think Rudy
Giuliani`s going to be getting that call anymore.
Neil Katyal`s new piece in “The Washington Post” is: Lev Parnas and Rudy
Giuliani have demolished Trump`s claims of innocence.
And joining us now is Neal Katyal. He`s a former acting U.S. solicitor
general and he`s now an MSNBC legal contributor. The title of his new piece
is as I said, “Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani have demolished Trump`s claims
Your reaction – I just want to give you a wide open field here, Neal, and
your reaction to what you heard in the last hour and Rachel`s interview?
NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what an extraordinary hour of
television, and Rachel really deserves a lot of commendation for bringing
that out, as does the House Intelligence Committee for getting those
documents yesterday because I think taken together, all of it is really
damning for President Trump. And it`s not just the existence of the
documents or what he – what he said Mr. Parnas said tonight to Rachel.
It`s more than that.
It`s the trajectory here. It`s the fact that every month, every week, new
documents come out, new witnesses come forward and increasingly point the
finger at Trump, call him a liar, call him the centerpiece of this
orchestrated scheme and the like, and you know, that`s why I think we`ve
seen Trump do something no president in history has ever done, a complete
gag on all witnesses and all documents, and you know, even Nixon didn`t do
So there`s something – we now know why. I mean, I think the trajectory,
the documents what Parnas said tonight reveals one thing, which is the
president is trying to hide the truth from coming out, and if there`s one
thing I want to leave your viewers with tonight, Lawrence, it`s this. That
trajectory is the reason why you need to have a real trial in the senate.
In one way, shape, or form, the documents have to come out. The witnesses
have to come out, and they have to testify.
And perhaps the best reason is that there are a lot of Americans who think
this is all political and all made up and stuff like that, and the Supreme
Court has said, you know, live testimony is the greatest engine for truth
that the world has ever known.
So let`s have live testimony. Let`s bring it out there and show everyone,
you know, if this is a politically trumped up thing, fine, but boy, it sure
doesn`t look that way when witness after witness, even though they were
attempted to be gagged by the Trump administration have come forward and
pointed the finger at the president, and now you`ve got this guy who`s
facing jail tonight doing the same thing.
O`DONNELL: And one of the big headlines coming out of this interview
involves Attorney General Barr. Let`s listen to what Lev Parnas said about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Did Rudy Giuliani tell you he`d spoken to the attorney general
specifically about Ukraine?
PARNAS: Not only Rudy Giuliani, I mean, Victoria and Joe, they were all
best friends. I mean, Barr was – Attorney General Barr was basically on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, Neal, let me just give you one more piece of the interview
about Attorney General Barr before your comment on it. Let`s listen to this
one extra piece, which is even more specific.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Do you know if Mr. Giuliani was ever in contact with Mr. Barr
specifically about the fact that he was trying to get Ukraine to announce
these investigations into Joe Biden?
PARNAS: Oh, absolutely.
MADDOW: Mr. Barr knew about that?
PARNAS: Mr. Barr had to have known everything. I mean, it`s impossible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Your reaction to that, Neal?
KATYAL: Well, I want to, you know, pause and wait and see the
corroboration as was just said by one of your guests earlier tonight. I
mean, we want to see exactly what Parnas knew, when he was in the room and
the like before that.
Obviously, if Barr was directly involved, it could be explosive. It depends
on what the degree of involvement was and the like. But, you know, the
whole thing here has been so unusual. The president has claimed this is
about fighting corruption. If it`s about fighting corruption, the last
person you task to fight corruption is your own personal private attorney,
particularly when that guy is Rudy Giuliani of all people.
And so, I think there`s always been more than a fishiness to this entire
explanation, but it`s really falling apart. One document last night was
really revealing, Lawrence. It was a document from Giuliani basically
saying, I am acting not as the president`s lawyer – president`s
representative, but at his personal representative, not as the
representative of the president of the United States. And that, I think,
puts the lie – and this is what my Washington piece went into today –
puts the lie to the idea that the president was out there trying to fight
That`s an official task of the president of the United States, and you send
official people to do that. You don`t send your private attorney and your
private attorney who warns everyone, oh, I`m not acting on behalf of the
president as the president but on behalf of his personal interests.
The whole thing stinks. It`s exactly why you need to have live witnesses
and a real trial, and if you`re a Senate Republican right now, I don`t care
how conservative you are, I mean, how much you love this president, you`ve
got to love this country more. The truth has to come out. That`s what the
American way is.
If you want to, you know, say at the end of this, we still want this guy to
be president despite all this, you know, vote that way, but let the truth
come out. Let the people decide. Don`t gag it.
O`DONNELL: And, Neal, you were just citing the letter Rudy Giuliani wrote
to the president of Ukraine saying he represents the president of the
United States in a personal capacity. “The New York Daily News” last night
got a comment out of Rudy Giuliani on that that they published in this
morning`s edition. It was the only comment anyone was able to get out of
Rudy Giuliani until Rachel got a comment out of him tonight.
Here`s what Rudy Giuliani said to the daily news defending that letter. Let
me see if you can make sense of it because he uses some legal words here.
I`m not sure if they belong here.
He says: It is a very helpful letter. It proves I was seeking information
as a private counsel seeking exculpatory evidence for his client.
Neal, doesn`t there have to be a case in which you`re seeking evidence?
KATYAL: Well, I do think that this is helpful in a way. It`s helpful to
Rudy Giuliani because, you know, one of the things I think that Giuliani
has to fear is the president is going to say, oh, Giuliani was a rogue
actor doing this all on his own, and what I think Mr. Giuliani is saying
there is, oh, no, I was doing this at the direction of the president, which
is very good for Rudy Giuliani, very, very bad if you`re Donald Trump
because it`s now undercutting that basis for a possible defense that you
were going to make.
And we heard Mr. Parnas tonight say something similar to Rachel. He said
that the biggest lie and the reason why he was coming forward was Trump`s
claim that he didn`t know. He said Parnas said, quote, Trump knew exactly
what was going on.
And I think Giuliani`s defense this morning in paper is of a similar here.
It`s basically to say, oh, no, I`m not doing this as a rogue agent. I`m
doing this at the direction of Donald Trump, and if you`re Trump tonight, I
think you`ve got to worry that things are starting to circle in on you.
There`s person after person who`s looking out for themselves and looking
out to tell the truth and that`s not a good place if you`re Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, thank you for your invaluable perspective on all of
this tonight. We really enjoyed having you with us. Thank you.
And when we come back, it has been an historic day in the impeachment of
Donald Trump and what is about to be the impeachment trial of Donald Trump
in the United States Senate. That would have been what we would have been
leading with tonight were it not for this extraordinary interview that
Rachel managed to deliver tonight. We will have the impeachment trial of
Donald Trump coming up in this hour and more on Rachel`s interview, and you
will see more of Rachel`s interview in this hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEV PARNAS, INDICTED GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: That the President didn`t know
what was going on, President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was
aware of all of my movements. He - I wouldn`t do anything without the
consent of Rudy Giuliani or the President. I have no intent I have no
reason to speak to any of these officials. I mean, they have more reason to
speak to me. Why would President Zelensky`s inner circle or Minister would
I go for all these people or President Poroshenko meet with me? Who am I?
They were told to meet with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now Ben Rhodes, he is a Form Deputy
National Security Advisor to President Obama. He`s also an MSNBC Political
Analyst and Ron Klain is with us Former Chief Counsel to the Senate
Judiciary Committee and was a senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden, and
President Obama. He`s now an outside adviser to Joe Biden`s 2020
Ben, I want to get your reaction to what you have learned in this hour,
Rachel`s extraordinary first hour interview there will be more tomorrow
night with Lev Parnas.
BEN RHODES, FORMER OBAMA DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Well, Lawrence,
it just kind of confirms the fact pattern and really builds on it, and
spotlights the incredible abnormal corruption of this administration. You
know, a couple things stand out to me, Lawrence.
First of all, just stepping back, why was this person Lev Parnas involved
in our Ukraine policy at all in the first place? You know, we kind of take
this all for granted, but who is this character who`s delivering messages
on behalf of the President of the United States to a foreign government
that has been invaded by Russia to try to get an investigation of President
Trump`s political opponent?
Just the character of Lev Parnas is unthinkable in any other
administration, and that alone is kind of staggering to see him talk about
these messages he`s delivering on behalf of the President of the United
States. The one other thing I want to say, Lawrence, is the idea that Mike
Pence wouldn`t know why his trip to the Ukrainian inauguration was
I think is also laughable, and Ron knows this from being Chief of Staff for
a Vice President, but this is a big deal to travel all the way to Ukraine
for the inauguration of an ally that is besieged by Russia. If the rug is
pulled out from under that trip, you would have to know why, so I think
this does point a very big finger at Mike Pence in this scheme as well.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Lev Parnas said about corruption. He said
it was not ever about corruption. It was always about Joe Biden. Let`s
listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: The President was aware that you and Mr.
Giuliani were working on this effort in Ukraine to basically try to hurt
Joe Biden`s political career? He knows about that.
PARNAS: Yes, it was all about Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and also Rudy had a
personal thing with the Manafort stuff, the black ledger, and that was
another thing that they were looking into. But it was never about
corruption. It was never - it was strictly about the Burisma, which
included Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, it was never about corruption.
RON KLAIN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL: Yes, it`s clear
the President used the lowest of criminals to commit the highest of crimes.
This is part of a pattern of getting foreign governments, trying to extort,
bribe, foreign governments to participate in our elections.
This wasn`t about corruption at all. This wasn`t about anything on the
merit level. It was 100 percent about him trying to dig up dirt on a
political opponent and pressure a foreign government, bribe a foreign
government to manufacture dirt about a political opponent.
As Ben said, you know, this was not a small stakes situation. Ukraine had
been invaded by Russia, national security was on the line, and the
President put all that on hold, hired these low level thugs to go try to
shake down a foreign government to help him in a campaign. It is the most
serious betrayal of his oath of office, and he used crazy thugs to do it.
O`DONNELL: And Ben, Lev Parnas went on about the specific way he
communicated, some of his communication was more angry and forceful than
others with the Ukrainian government, but he makes it very clear what`s
necessary in order to have good relations with President Trump, to have any
kind of relations with President Trump, anything involving the military aid
or anything else.
And as much as we can wonder about the credibility of this witness who
we`ve never heard speak before, everything he said tonight syncs up with
other testimony that`s already been presented under oath in the
investigation. I didn`t hear anything that didn`t fit with a puzzle part
that we already had.
RHODES: That`s right, and it`s amazing to think, you know, months ago we
were debating whether it would be confirmed in some way that there was a
quid pro quo. Now every witness we`ve heard from in formal testimony and
now in interviews like this confirm that they were leveraging Pence`s trip
to get this investigation into the Bidens. They were leveraging military
aid to get the investigation into the Bidens.
Each witness has added that fact pattern, and that says two things to me.
One, you cannot possibly have a Senate trial without wanting to hear from
people who can fill in more of this picture because everybody who we hear
from provides more information, and we know Lev Parnas has documents. It`s
all going to come out anyway. It should come out in this trial.
And the other thing is what do we not know about what Trump is doing in his
foreign policy? Can you imagine? This investigation, the impeachment, the
highest course of action that the House can take has yielded and squeezed
out this information. What are we not seeing in Trump`s relationships with
What level of corruption and personal interest might be there in a
relationship with Russia or China, or Saudi Arabia in addition to Ukraine?
I think that should be - put the onus further on Congress to investigate
not just this but what exactly is happening in this White House?
O`DONNELL: One of the other things he said tonight that syncs up with pre-
existing reality is that Rudy Giuliani has said some pretty crazy things on
TV and not so surprisingly, according to Lev Parnas Donald Trump has been
very angry about some of those things, and he talked about during the
Mueller investigation hearing President Trump on the phone screaming at
Rudy Giuliani about something he`d said on TV. Let`s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARNAS: I remembered during the Mueller times where Rudy I remember said
something that he didn`t appreciate or was taken out of context, and he was
screaming at him so loud. That`s when I watched the impeachment and I saw
the testimony about - that I understand that you could hear President Trump
talking, like I heard him several times when he was with Rudy.
MADDOW: Because he speaks loudly on the phone.
PARNAS: Very loudly, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, he - President Trump does not apparently know how to
have a conversation one on one that stays one on one?
KLAIN: Yes, the worst client in the world has the worst lawyer in the
world, and it`s a match that really they deserve one another apparently.
But as Mr. Parnas said, this kind of also corroborates Ambassador
Sondland`s testimony in the House before where he said that everyone could
hear Trump talking to him, yelling at him on the phone and Trump said, oh,
you know, Trump at that time said no one ever overhears me on these phone
calls and now we have more corroboration of this.
It is a pattern. It was basically a mob protection racket to try to extort
help from a foreign government in a political campaign. It`s one of the
worst crimes we`ve seen in American history, and every piece of evidence
fits together and makes clear that`s what was going on here.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain and Ben Rhodes, we really appreciate having your
perspectives, having worked for Vice President and the President and being
inside a White House, but you`re hearing tonight about nothing like
anything you`ve ever experienced inside the White House and apparently no
one`s ever experienced inside the White House. Really appreciate having
And when we come back, where is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with all of
this information coming out about possible surveillance and alleged
possible threats of a U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine? Where is the Secretary of
State who was supposed to protect those Ambassadors? Mike Pompeo as a
member of Congress was outraged endlessly about what happened to our
Ambassador at Benghazi, but he has nothing to say, nothing to say in these
last 24 hours
(BEGIN VEDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Do you believe that part of a motivation to get rid of Ambassador
Yovanovitch to get her out of post was because she was in the way of this
effort to get the government of Ukraine to announce investigations of Joe
PARNAS: That was the only motivation.
MADDOW: That was the only motivation.
PARNAS: There was no other motivation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump told the President of Ukraine in the phone call
that got the President of the United States impeached that the American
Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who Donald Trump had just removed
was, “Was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were
bad news, so I just want to let you know that. She`s going to go through
Did Donald Trump have Ambassador Yovanovitch under surveillance through
Rudy Giuliani and his associates including Lev Parnas? The evidence Lev
Parnas handed over to the House Intelligence Committee includes texts from
Trump contributor Robert Hyde to Lev Parnas that indicated Mr. Hyde had the
Ambassador under surveillance. Rachel asked Lev Parnas about hat
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL: He appears to be giving you very specific information about the
Ambassador`s movements, about her location, about her security situation,
calls her the “B” word over and over again, very hostile to her and seems
to be monitoring her whereabouts. What - why did those exchanges happen?
What was he trying to tell you?
PARNAS: Well, I don`t believe it`s true. I think he was either drunk or he
was trying to make himself bigger than he was. So I didn`t take it
seriously, and I was trying to - as you see, I didn`t even respond to him
most of the time, and if I did, it was something like lol, or okay, or
great or, you know, something like that just because I wouldn`t respond for
a long time, and then I didn`t want him to get rowdy if I saw him next time
and say why didn`t you type a response.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Those texts were taken very seriously last night when they were
released last night by the diplomatic corps of the United States all over
the world. Dana Shell Smith is a Former Career Foreign Service Officer who
served as Ambassador to Qatar in the Obama Administration. She held several
positions in the State Department with tours of duty and posts around the
She speaks Arabic, Chinese, Spanish and Hebrew. She knows the kind of risks
our Ambassadors face including threats that she herself faced when serving
as Ambassador. After the news broke last night of the threatening language
used in these newly revealed texts about Ambassador Yovanovitch, Dana Shell
Smith tweeted, many Ambassadors are used to hearing about threats and
various malign actors surveilling us. It`s the fact that it was Americans
plotting, associates of the President that takes this just beyond.
Joining our discussion now is Former Ambassador Dana Shell Smith. Thank you
very much for joining us tonight, and I want to get your reaction to the
new evidence entering into this picture tonight of Lev Parnas saying, oh,
don`t worry about it. That was all just a joke. Mr. Hyde is just a drunk,
and I didn`t take him seriously. Mr. Hyde himself appeared on another
network saying, yes, I was drunk. That was all a joke. What is your
reaction to that it was all a joke defense?
DANA SHELL SMITH, FORMER SENIOR FOREIGN SERVICE OFFICER: Well, thanks for
having me, Lawrence. I mean, my reaction is that it needs to be
investigated. I hope it was just a joke. I hope a landscaper in Connecticut
who was drunk just happened to be texting about an Ambassador to Ukraine,
with very specific things like what her electronic devices were doing and
the layout of the embassy building.
So yes, I hope that was a joke, but it really just does need to be
investigated. If we take it and think of it in a different context maybe
from regions where I`ve served, if you knew a group wanted you out of the
way and then you saw that sort of text exchange, I don`t think anybody
would be very relaxed about it.
O`DONNELL: Can you imagine in any previous administration a Secretary of
State being absolutely silent after the revelation of evidence like this?
SMITH: Lawrence, I joined the Foreign Service when I was 21 years old. I
worked for eight Secretaries of State, five Presidents, I`ve seen
leadership. This is - it`s unbelievable. No I cannot imagine any Secretary
having been just absent every hour that Secretary Pompeo is silent or
tweeting about other things is just - it`s more unconscionable and a
complete abdication of his leadership role.
O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at Rachel going at this issue again. As I
said, she questioned him about this repeatedly. Let`s listen to more of her
questions about this, questions about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL: Well, the texts where he was supposedly reporting on the
whereabouts of the Ambassador went on for a week. I mean, it wasn`t like
one drunk night. This went for seven days. He couldn`t have been drunk the
PARNAS: No, he was drunk the whole time. He wakes up and he`s drunk. He
starts at 6:00 - I mean, I`ve never seen him not drunk.
RACHEL: So you thought that this was him making it up. You didn`t believe
he actually had the Ambassador under surveillance?
PARNAS: No, absolutely not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So the defense is it was a joke, he was drunk. But what you`re
calling for is an investigation. And I know if you were still an Ambassador
in service you couldn`t be with us now having this conversation and calling
for this investigation. I have a sense that you are speaking for
Ambassadors - United States Ambassadors around the world tonight.
SMITH: Well, they haven`t asked me too. I may have the sense that I`m
speaking for some of them as well, but I`m here with my own opinion. But I
don`t know how anybody could listen to that interview and not walk away and
say there needs to be an investigation of the threat and of all of these
You had an earlier guest talking about our foreign policy being hijacked by
this group of people with no official role and no oversight. There`s a
whole host of issues that need to be investigated and I think anyone who
cares about our national security feels that way.
O`DONNELL: And such an investigation would be under the jurisdiction of the
Attorney General of the United States. And in the last hour in that
interview we just heard Lev Parnas say that Attorney General William Barr
is on the team, he was part of this entire endeavor, trying to influence
Ukraine. How does that make you feel about the possibilities of an
SMITH: Well, I can`t speculate on what might actually happen in an
investigation, and I`m really grateful that Chairman Engel and the House
Foreign Affairs Committee are calling for an investigation as well and I
believe planning to conduct one.
But I will say having spent, you know, 2 1/2 decades explaining American
institutions to foreign publics and talking about our justice system as the
finest in the world and our system of checks and balances, it`s
heartbreaking, actually, to even contemplate that our system might not
And I`m not talking about what the outcome is. I`m talking about an
investigation. Let the investigation happen and see where is it leads you.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Dana Shell Smith thank you for your service
representing this country around the world and thank you for joining us
tonight. Really appreciate it.
SMITH: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, once again, with Donald Trump as Nancy
Pelosi says, all roads lead to Putin. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Did you also convey to him that the U.S. government would stop
showing support for Mr. Zelensky, that they wouldn`t attend the
PARNAS: That was the biggest thing, actually. That was - that was the main
- because at that time you have to understand the way Ukraine is. For
President Zelensky winning on that platform being a young President and not
really having any experience, the number one thing - and being at war with
Russia at the time, the number one thing for them was not even aid. And I
know it sounds crazy. But it was more of support from the President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Back with us is Ben Rhodes, a Former Deputy National Security
Advisor to President Obama. And Ben, of course the beneficiary of
withholding aid to Ukraine and withholding any kind of recognition by the
President or Vice President of the new President of Ukraine, the big
beneficiary of that, every day of that, is Vladimir Putin.
And I want to combine what we just heard with a passage from this new book
that`s coming out about the President written by two “Washington Post”
reporters. And it contains this moment during the transition talking about
he interrupts the President interrupts an interview with one of his
Secretary of State candidates to inquire about his pressing desire. “When
can I meet Putin? Can I meet him before the inaugural ceremony? He asks”.
“Nancy Pelosi`s it all roads lead to Putin” seems very powerful in this
RHODES: Absolutely, Lawrence. I mean, keep in mind we`re talking about a
scandal in Ukraine. Russia occupies a chunk of that country and has been in
an ongoing war in Ukraine. What Russia wants is they want Ukraine isolated
and in their orbit, their sphere of influence. They want the United States
divided from our allies.
They want the United States to be dysfunctional and divided at home. So
they have been engaged in a multiyear intelligence operation to support
Donald Trump. And it began before the 2016 election and it hasn`t ended.
And we know from recent reporting that they are also in on the effort to
get damaging material about the Bidens of Burisma through some of the same
military intelligence units that were responsible for the 2016 election
So absolutely, we know Vladimir Putin wants to help Donald Trump. We know
that Donald Trump is very solicitous of Vladimir Putin and frankly the
question that we`ve always wondered is why Donald Trump persistently so
solicitous of Vladimir Putin and so willing to fall into the hands and do
the things that a U.S. adversary wants us to do?
Yet another reason for Republicans who used to care about this, used to be
tough on Russia, or say they were at least, to want to get to the bottom of
O`DONNELL: Let me make sure I credit the book properly. The title is “A
Very Stable Gene Kruse” and it`s written by Philip Rucker and Carol
Leonnig. There are extraordinary stories in here, including Trump having no
ideas where China`s borders are. We can go on and on can about it. I think
we will on another night.
Ben Rhodes, thank you very much for joining us on this important night.
Really appreciate. That`s tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian
Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: The breaking news tonight we get to hear from
Lev of Lev and Igor. And he goes here. He says the President is lying.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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