LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, new reporting that says some of this nation`s most powerful prosecutors are collecting documents on a man who was once among the nation`s most powerful prosecutors. Now he happens to be Rudy Giuliani.
Plus, another witness, another former insider tells Congress over another marathon session what she knows and what she saw from inside the West Wing regarding Giuliani`s shadow foreign policy in Ukraine.
Also tonight there`s a new attempt to fix the brutal Turkish military campaign, an attempt to cover the American forces who`ve been ordered to retreat. All of it, of course, the result of one Trump phone call and the green light it conveyed as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Monday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 998 now of the Trump administration. There is new reporting tonight from "The Wall Street Journal" and it indicates that the federal investigation into Rudy Giuliani and just what he`s been up to in Ukraine appears to be more consequential and deeper than first thought.
"The Journal" writes that prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, the Manhattan office of the Justice Department, in effect, are, "examining Rudy Giuliani`s business dealings in Ukraine, including his finances, meetings and work for a city mayor there," as well as "Giuliani`s bank records. Witnesses have been questioned about Mr. Giuliani since at least August and prosecutors want to know more about Mr. Giuliani`s role in an alleged conspiracy involving two of his business associates."
Last week, Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested on campaign finance and conspiracy charges, including trying to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine fired.
"The New York Times" first reported that federal prosecutors were looking at Giuliani.
This weekend, Trump made a show of standing by his man. First, by meeting Giuliani for lunch at his Virginia golf club, then following that up with a full-throated, live via telephone defense of Rudy with Jeanine Pirro on Fox.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was a great mayor. One of the greatest, maybe the greatest mayor in the history of New York. He was a fantastic prosecutor. I know nothing about him being under investigation.
I stand behind Rudy Giuliani, absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So this week brings brand new testimony from key witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry, several State Department officials are scheduled to appear. Every day this week, it`s someone new for closed-door depositions.
Career foreign policy expert Fiona Hill, who last worked on Trump policy in the West Wing, wrapped up her closed door interview earlier this evening after 10 long hours with lawmakers. She`s the first person from inside the White House to testify about Trump`s dealings with Ukraine.
Tonight, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin gave some clues as to what he heard during that testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was your takeaway from her about Rudy Giuliani`s role in pushing Ukraine policy for the Trump administration?
REP. JAMIE RASKIN, (D) MARYLAND: Rudy Giuliani has clearly been a leading force for the administration in defining a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine. There was an official foreign policy which was attempting to counter corruption in Ukraine and then there was Rudy Giuliani and, you know, the gang that couldn`t shoot straight, who worked for him, who were involved precisely in connecting with corruption in Ukraine and promoting corruption in Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That was just tonight. This week`s other star witness will be the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. His name is Gordon Sondland. He is a political appointee and a Trump donor. He appears on Thursday on the Hill.
He was the guy who responded to concerns about Trump`s scheme in Ukraine with that text message, "The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo`s of any kind." Trump even pointed to that text as evidence of his exoneration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The text message that I saw from Ambassador Sondland, who is highly respected, was there`s no quid pro quo. He said that. He said, by the way, it almost sounded like in general. He said, by the way, there`s no quid pro quo. And there isn`t.
There is no pro quo. And that was the text message that I saw. And that nullified everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Said there, it almost sounded like a general. "The Washington Post" reports when Sondland testifies before the committees he plans to say the content of that text message was relayed to him directly by President Trump and he doesn`t know if it was true.
"The Post" also reports, "Sondland contends he didn`t know Sondland contends he didn`t know about the Biden connection until a whistleblower complaint and transcript surfaced in late September." Now, "To trust Sondland`s testimony," here, "members of Congress are going to have to believe that Sondland had not seen televised appearances by Giuliani over the spring and summer or numerous newspaper and magazine articles."
Ad amid all this, Trump is also facing growing chaos in the Middle East. Just over a week ago he essentially signed off on Turkish invasion of Northern Syria, allowing Turkish forces to attack Kurdish fighters who had been aligned with the U.S. in the war on Isis. Since then the region has been plunged into violence, Turkey has expanded its assault.
Today, Trump sent Vice President Pence and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin out to the microphones outside the West Wing lobby to announce that he`s imposing sanctions on Turkey for their actions in Syria. And try to tamp down the blow-back that Trump has received from members of his own party.
And a heads up here, as you listen to Vice President Pence, please remember, this is his boss` own doing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, (R) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: the United States of America did not give a green light to Turkey to invade Syria. The President has been very clear on that point and reiterated that to President Erdogan today.
President Trump pressed him very strongly in a telephone call today to immediately embrace a cease fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Well that guy is now going to the rescue. Mike Pence says he`s going to travel to the region to work out a cease fire.
Meanwhile, the Kurdish troops who were U.S. allies have now turned to the government of Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, and to Russian leader, wait for it, Vladimir Putin for help in battling Turkish forces. Richard Engel said from Syria tonight that the combat on the ground is redrawing the map of the Middle East as we watch on the fly. It may not be a coincidence that Vladimir Putin was in the region today, visiting Saudi Arabia.
There is also mounting concern for the safety of our own U.S. troops in Syria. Their positions have come under attack from Turkey. About a thousand or so, Americans are now preparing to retreat from those positions. But as "The New York Times" reports, "Those troops are trapped for now since Turkey has cut off the roads, removing them may require an airlift." And that`s the situation we`re in on a Monday night.
Let`s bring in our lead-off discussion, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize- winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post," A.B. Stoddard, columnist and associate editor at Real Clear Politics and Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. He happens to be the host of the appropriately titled "Michael Steele Podcast." Good evening and welcome to you all.
Mr. Rucker, I would like to begin with you. I have to begin with your cross-town competition over at "The Times." They just, in the last few minutes have moved this story. The headline is, "Bolton objected to Ukraine pressure campaign, calling Giuliani a hand grenade." This is by our friends, Peter Baker and Nick Fandos and it reads in part, "The effort to pressure Ukraine for political help provoked a heated confrontation inside the White House last summer that so alarmed John Bolton, then national security adviser, that he told an aide to alert White House lawyers, House investigators were told on Monday. "I am not part of whatever drug deal Rudy and Mulvaney are cooking up," Mr. Bolton told Fiona Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to the testimony."
Phil, you have reported on the frenzy that followed the first word of the whistleblower. It seems to me it has nowhere to go now but to continue, as this is all Ukraine, all the time.
PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Yes. I think that`s right, Brian. This is incredible reporting tonight by "The New York Times." And congratulations to them because it takes you right to the belly of the beast. We`re not talking about intelligence officials or National Security Council members whose names we do not know. We`re talking about Giuliani, Bolton, Mulvaney, these are the key figures in President Trump`s orbit.
There have been a lot of questions of late about John Bolton, the national security adviser who departed only a month or so ago, very abruptly and on bad terms with President Trump. There have been questions about what he might know, what he might have witnessed, what he might been aware of, regarding the conduct and the relationship with Ukraine, both President Trump but also his attorney, Rudy Giuliani. And now we`re starting to get a clearer picture of all of that.
This revelation, this testimony from Fiona Hill today has to be troubling to the White House. It also points directly to the White House chief of staff, the Acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney. We know from our reporting a month or so ago that it was Mulvaney who withheld the military aid for Ukraine at the direction of President Trump. So he was involved in this scenario in that moment with the decision about the military aid. But now we`re learning that he was part of what Bolton characterized as a drug deal.
WILLIAMS: A.B., you kind of know what question is coming. I ask it to you with regularity. Does this have the power, this Ukraine matter, writ large, does it have the power to do what other stories have not, and that is make distance between Republicans and their President?
A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOC. EDITOR AND COLUMNIST: Well, it`s interesting, Brian. The catastrophic decision over Syria to permit the Turkish government to invade at the border has so taken up all the oxygen. And you know that members of Congress are back from a two-week recess and really spent the day lambasting the administration for its response. Now they`re in sort of a wagon circling clean-up mode where Lindsey Graham is leading the effort, the senator for South Carolina. It`s all hands on deck.
He is not the chairman of the Arms Services Committee. He is not chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee but he is telling everyone that they should come around to support whatever Trump is doing that President Erdogan has underestimated both the senator and the President.
And you know, Pence, as you`ve mention, is leaving to also go and clean this up overseas. So, they continue to talk about that and hope that that continues to sort of be the headline and they`re, you know, rushing to the rescue and they`re going to try to keep Trump on one position. He often changes his mind. We will see what this explosive testimony does, though, to their opinions about this. They`ve done their level best to stay quiet.
But as Phil points out, the idea that obviously John Bolton has known all along about the way these decisions were made, who was involved, from Mike Pompeo to Mike Pence, from Mick Mulvaney, to Rick Perry, people at the highest level of government, if not conspiring, knowing exactly what was going on. And it`s making Republicans he incredibly nervous because they have no idea from day-to-day, what revelations will come next.
WILLIAMS: Wow. Michael Steele, what she just said.
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN: Exactly. A.B. just laid it out. She laid out the indictment of the situation as it stands right now in such a way that, yes, there are a lot of nervous Republicans coming back to Washington this week. Lindsey Graham can be on point all day long. It doesn`t matter.
The Vice President can go to Turkey. He can go to the moon at this point. It doesn`t matter, because the revelations that are coming and that are coming out now and will come out the rest of this week, they don`t know. And they don`t know how it`s going to land.
And so a lot of Republicans have taken the position, just keep our mouths shut and keep our head low and then maybe we`ll get through the next few days or next week with little -- small implosions around us, not big ones.
WILLIAMS: And here is the difference, Mr. Chairman. People from the inside are now coming forward and talking.
STEELE: Yes. And that`s something they never expected. And certainly, you know, the White House throwing around executive privilege on everything --
STEELE: -- has used that completely up. It has no value certainly with the Congress at this point. And it has, I think, less and less value with the American people. Because we want to know exactly what they know and what they knew at the time, what they did, what the President did.
The President dictated that text, all right? He put the words out on the street that there was no quid pro quo. So, this is now becoming more and more revealed and folks sit back and go, maybe there is a there there.
WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, how do you reckon it is, Mike Pence can stand in the driveway and say that there was no green light? This takes a heap of denial from top to bottom that this didn`t entirely change when Donald Trump hung up the phone with Erdogan.
RUCKER: I mean, Brian, it all change when Donald Trump hang up the phone with Erdogan. And part of what was going on there is President Trump wasn`t following a script, he was kind of riffing in that call with President Erdogan, which is, frankly, what he does in a lot of his conversations with foreign leaders. He was not following the direction of his advisers. For months now the national security team around the President has been warning him about the dangers, about the risks of pulling troops back out of Syria, about this sort of series of domino -- dominos that would fall from that decision.
And Trump has largely ignored their advice and wanted to follow his own impulses. He did that with the phone call and in the span of really only a week, we`ve now seen calamity. This is a human story of what is happening there in Syria, but it`s also a geopolitical one because it`s a huge win for Russia. It`s a win for Assad.
It could be a win or at least giving new life to Isis and President Trump is trying to defend the decision in tweets but he has not sort of come forward and fully explained what happened and why he did what he did and when to the American people. There`s been no address or sort of formal communication from him to explain what`s happening. All we`re seeing are the images coming over of death and destruction.
WILLIAMS: A.B., you`ve been at the intersection of journalism and mostly Republican politics all your life. And mostly, I want to just listen to you some more. Because among the names you just name checked were Pence and Pompeo. And if the way you lay it out is anything approaching end game here, this means the entire management structure of this administration has dirt on its hands here.
STODDARD: This is the problem. We`ve known for months that Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, froze the aid. It was building his own -- I mean, not -- we didn`t know that. We`ve known that for a few weeks.
For months we`ve known he had marginalized John Bolton, so with Secretary Pompeo. And Mulvaney had built his own version of the NSC. And they were, like I said, stuffing Bolton somewhere in the basement.
Mike Pence, the Vice President, was supposed to be at President Zelensky`s inaugural celebration and he was in a snub. The President did not let him go. And instead, Rick Perry was sent.
Mike Pence has known that Rudy Giuliani has been running around, doing this since at least January. Mick Mulvaney is in on it. mike Pompeo obviously knows a lot. And Rick Perry decided to leave the administration after being involved in some of these meetings where Gordon Sondland was told by the President any meeting with me and the President of Ukraine has to be approved by Rudy Giuliani.
I mean, if you`re a Republican on Capitol Hill, how can you take any more?
WILLIAMS: Michael Steele --
STEELE: Well put, A.B.
WILLIAMS: -- you are laughing. Let`s take a minute and talk about America`s mayor.
STEELE: Yes. It is disappointing and frustrating on so many levels, particularly for a lot of us who have worked with Rudy and known him and his brand, if you will, in Republican politics. And to watch him like Lindsey Graham, just sort of throwing it all away at the service and pleasure of Donald Trump is something astonishing. You know, I`m going to weigh these two men at any given point in time. Before right now, Giuliani was the guy with the heft. He was the guy that Donald Trump would go to and say hey, Rudy, can you help a brother out, you know?
WILLIAMS: Yes. Yes. Do you know a guy?
STEELE: Yes, do you know a guy? But to see this turnaround is just -- it speaks to the poison that comes from dealing with and being around this Trumpification of our politics to the sense that you lose your common sense and you`re willing to go off because Donald Trump wants you to go negotiate aside foreign policy deal to his benefit. This doesn`t benefit the United States. Right now, we`re now, you know, sort of girding for when Isis may strike again because you just released 800 of them because of this crazy policy.
WILLIAMS: We just signed the Isis Renewal Act of 2019.
STEELE: I mean, so why did we go through all this gathering, and collecting, and fighting and men and women dying to defeat Isis only to have this President, who made it his pledge coming in to defeat Isis actually give them the key to get out of jail?
WILLIAMS: Can`t imagine having three better guests to get our conversation started on another consequential night. As we start, what promises to be another consequential week? To Phil Rucker, A.B. Stoddard, to Michael Steele, our thanks for coming on tonight.
And coming up for us, as the impeachment inquiry proceeds, Neal Katyal is here with us to talk about the case against Trump as it presently stands.
And later, it`s now under 24 hours away, 12 candidates on one debate stage. So much talking, you won`t believe it. Our viewers guide to what to look for as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on a Monday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA, INTELLIGENCE CMTE. CHAIRMAN: Given that we already have the call record, we don`t need the whistleblower who wasn`t on the call to tell us what took place during the call. We have the best evidence of that. We do want to make sure that we identify other evidence that may not be necessary to take steps that might reveal the whistleblower`s identity to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So, those comments brought this about from Trump and we quote, "Shifty Schiff now seems to think we don`t need the whistleblower, who started the whole scam. The reason is that the whistleblower has lost all credibility because the story is so far from the facts on the, capital t, Transcript. Also, the second whistleblower is no longer even mentioned."
The House, meantime, is moving forward with the impeachment inquiry. Tomorrow marks some key deadlines here. Rudy Giuliani, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Acting OMB Director Russell Vought and Mike Pence`s office all have until tomorrow to hand over documents to Congress.
Yesterday, Esper, over at the Pentagon said his department will do everything it could to comply with the subpoena. But you recall just last week, the White House straight up refused to hand over documents to Congress. In a letter, White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, told the Democrats their impeachment inquiry was constitutionally invalid, despite what it says in the constitution about the House having the sole power of impeachment.
Because we could all use a good lawyer right about now, we`re so happy to be joined once again tonight by Neal Katyal, a veteran of the Justice Department and former Acting Solicitor General during the Obama administration. He happens to have argued 39 cases before the United States Supreme Court. So, this shouldn`t be too difficult for you, counselor.
First of all how is an impeachment constitutionally invalid? Second of all, how does a White House straight up say, we`re not cooperating?
NEAL KATYAL, FMR. ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: I don`t think they can do either. And let me say, Brian, for the last two weeks, I haven`t been doing much T.V. or anything because I`ve been trying to study the history of the three presidential impeachment proceedings and then compare it to all the evidence in Ukraine that`s come out the last few weeks. And my ultimate conclusion, and this will be part of a longer writing project, is that I think that the President is going to be impeached.
I don`t think that he has any valid arguments to the contrary and it`s very, very serious. And it started with, of course, the transcript which the President himself has released on July 25th. So when he goes and attacks the whistleblower, I think Schiff is absolutely right. The whistleblower is not necessary at all. He started the chain of events, or she started the chain of events. But now we have the transcript itself.
And then every day brings new evidence that`s all damaging to the President, whether it`s one of his former ambassador is saying, something untoward happened today. John Bolton, just a few hours ago, saying that Giuliani was a hand grenade. There was a secret deal being cooked up between the White House chief of staff and Giuliani over pressuring Ukraine over Biden. All of this stuff is tremendously -- I mean, I don`t know another word for it, but evil.
And the idea that the President is going to win by attacking the impeachment investigation, you know, we had a president in our lifetimes who tried it, it was President Nixon. It didn`t turn out too well for him.
WILLIAMS: Neal, do you have reason to believe that the evidence this time around will be so compelling and this story will be so plainly obvious and easy to follow that lawmakers, who so far have not been turned, will ultimately be turned against the President?
KATYAL: Yes. So the evidence is all already there. So this isn`t a case like Mueller where you`ve got to have 22 months of investigation. These are the President`s own words, his own documents. Indeed, he even just said on the White House lawn he said he would do it again and seek information from China.
So we now know this is a president who has admitted to it. You can go back to the founding, you can look at James Mattis and you can look at Alexander Hamilton, all these folks say, the primary evil, the thing they are so worried about a president is going and seeking foreign influence over an election and trying to get himself re-elected. It is literally what the definition -- textbook definition of an impeachment is. So, he can run, he can try to hide, but he`s actually admitted.
And, you know, I do believe that in this country, that it is a country that is ultimately one of country over party. And yes, I know that that`s been tested over the last three years, but here are the evidences, it`s simple, it`s clear and it`s overwhelming.
WILLIAMS: Have you -- any reservations over the ability of Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch to fairly rule on cases involving the President who appointed them?
KATYAL: Well, I don`t think that -- with respect to impeachment, the Supreme Court has said in a case called Nixon versus the United States, not President Nixon, but Walter Nixon, a judge, that the Supreme Court has no role whatsoever in impeachment. And I know the President keeps tweeting, oh, I`ll see you in my Supreme Court over this, you know, fake impeachment and staff like that. He can try to bring it to the Supreme Court. He will lose because the Supreme Court has been clear.
Now, there could be any number of documentary issues or something like that, that are brought in the context of criminal proceedings. But even there, I don`t have reservations. You know, people had reservations when the Nixon tapes case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is part of the criminal investigation against him.
And the Supreme Court had four justices appointed by President Nixon himself. One of them Justice Rehnquist recused. The other three sat on the case, all three, ruled against President Nixon. And that will happen here because the President has made ridiculous, absurd executive privilege claims and he`s cried wolf too many times. And I can`t imagine that this Supreme Court would countenance that kind of lawlessness from our chief executive.
WILLIAMS: Neal Katyal, thank you as always. Great pleasure to have you on our broadcast tonight.
KATYAL: Thank you. Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Coming up, our next guest who oversaw Syria policy in the last White House. We`ll talk about just what it is the President has unleashed overseas.
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