IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Sondland scheduled to testify Wednesday. TRANSCRIPT: 11/15/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Melanie Zanona

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Glenn Kirchner, thank you for doing double duty this weekend, covering the Roger Stone case for us all and since we`re all distracted with so much else.  Really appreciate it, Glenn.

KIRCHNER:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  That is "Tonight`s Last Word."  "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, another historic day of impeachment hearings in Washington and a colossally bad day for Donald Trump.  And then it got worse late today.  New testimony from a new witness about what the President said over a cellphone call loud enough to overhear.

This was the day when a veteran U.S. ambassador told her story about getting caught up in a smear campaign, feeling threatened, being pushed out of her job and sent home.  And as she spoke in real time, she was attacked and trolled the President of the United States.

And Roger Stone, the President`s friend of over 30 years, is tonight a convicted felon, the jury verdict, guilty on all seven counts.  He`s now facing years in federal prison.  THE 11TH HOUR just now getting underway on a Friday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 1,030 of the Trump administration brings brand-new testimony from critical impeachment witnesses, none of it good for the President.

Marie Yovanovitch, longtime Foreign Service officer, now former ambassador to Ukraine, told Congress and the viewing audience watching at home how Trump and his people worked to drive her from her job.  More on that in a moment.

The other witness, State Department official David Holmes, stationed at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, appeared behind closed doors for six hours ending tonight.  He testified about an incident that we first learned about on Wednesday on live television during testimony from the former top diplomat in Ukraine, Ambassador William Taylor.

It about how Holmes heard a phone call between Trump and donor turned E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland in which the President asked Sondland if Ukraine would investigate the Bidens.  This conversation took place one day after the now infamous Trump phone call with the Ukrainian President.  And a reminder, it took place over a cellphone at a restaurant in Kiev.

NBC News obtained a copy of David Holmes` opening statement.  Here`s part of what he said, "While Ambassador Sondland`s phone was not on speakerphone I could hear the President`s voice through the earpiece of the phone.  The President`s voice was very loud and recognizable and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time.

I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the President and explained that he was calling from Kiev.  I heard President Trump then clarify Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine.  Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine, went on to state President Zelensky loves your ass.  I then heard President Trump ask, so he`s going to do the investigation?  Ambassador Sondland replied that he`s gonna do it, adding that President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to.

Even though I did not take notes of these statements I have a clear recollection that these statements were made.  I believe that my colleagues who were sitting at the table also knew that Ambassador Sondland was speaking with the President.

Ambassador Sondland agreed that the President did not give a blank about Ukraine.  I asked why not.  And Ambassador Sondland stated that the President only cares about big stuff.  I noted there was big stuff going on in Ukraine like a war with Russia.  And Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant big stuff that benefits the President like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing."

Gordon Sondland has already amended his first version of closed-door testimony once.  And in plain English here, he now has a lot of explaining to do.  We will hear from Gordon Sondland himself when he testifies in public on Wednesday.

That brings us to today`s open hearing, the second in the impeachment investigation.  As we mentioned, Congress heard from ousted Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.  She started with a description of her time as a diplomat representing our country.


MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE:  I have moved 13 times and served in seven different countries, five of them hardship posts.  My first tour was Mogadishu, Somalia, an increasingly dangerous place as that country`s civil war kept grinding on.

I helped open our embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.  As we were establishing relations with a new country, our small embassy was attacked by gunmen who sprayed the embassy building with gunfire.

I later served in Moscow.  In 1993, during the attempted coup in Russia, I was caught in crossfire between presidential and parliamentary forces.


WILLIAMS:  We have established this ambassador doesn`t scare easily.  She then went on to describe how she was removed from her post in Ukraine and her reaction when she learned that Trump had made disparaging comments about her in that call on July 25th.


DANIEL GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL:  You said that Deputy Secretary of State told you that you had done nothing wrong but that there was a concerted campaign against you.  What did he mean by that?

YOVANOVITCH:  I`m not exactly sure, but I took it to mean that the allegations that Mayor Giuliani and others were putting out there.  He said the words that, you know, every Foreign Service officer understands, the President has lost confidence in you.

The President has the right to withdraw an ambassador at any time, for any reason.  But what I do wonder is why it was necessary to smear my reputation.

GOLDMAN:  You had left Ukraine by the time of the July 25th call between President Trump and President Zelensky.  When was the first time that you saw the call record for this phone call?

YOVANOVITCH:  When it was released publicly at the end of September.

I was shocked and devastated that I would feature in a phone call between two heads of state in such a manner, where President Trump said that I was bad news to another world leader.  It was a terrible moment.

A person who saw me actually reading the transcript said that the color drained from my face.  I think I even had a physical reaction.


WILLIAMS:  The former ambassador also spoke of her concerns about a cryptic reference from Trump to the President of Ukraine.


GOLDMAN:  What did you think when President Trump told President Zelensky and you read that you were going to go through some things?

YOVANOVITCH:  I didn`t know what to think.  But I was very concerned.

GOLDMAN:  What were you concerned about?

YOVANOVITCH:  She`s going to go through some things.  It didn`t sound good.  It sounded like a threat.

GOLDMAN:  Did you feel threatened?



WILLIAMS:  While all this was unfolding, Trump, who was presumably watching at the White House despite denials to the contrary, decided to attack, "Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.  She started off in Somalia, how did that go?  Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him.  It is a U.S. President`s absolute right to appoint ambassadors."

Not long after that, and in real time, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff decided to let Yovanovitch respond.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  As we sit here testifying, the President is attacking you on Twitter.  And I would like to give you a chance to respond.  I`ll read part of one of his tweets.  "Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.  She started off in Somalia, how did that go?"  He goes on to say, later in the tweet, "It`s a U.S. President`s absolute right to appoint ambassadors."

First of all, Ambassador Yovanovitch, the Senate has a chance to confirm or deny an ambassador, do they not?

YOVANOVITCH:  Yes, advise and consent.

SCHIFF:  But would you like to respond to the President`s attack that everywhere you went turned bad?

YOVANOVITCH:  Well, I mean, I don`t think I have such powers, not in Mogadishu, Somalia, and not in other places.

SCHIFF:  What effect do you think that has on other witnesses` willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?

YOVANOVITCH:  Well, it`s very intimidating.

SCHIFF:  Well, I want to let you know, Ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.


WILLIAMS:  Late this afternoon, the President offered his own defense of his move.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you say to Democrats who say you were witness tampering this morning when you made that tweet?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I`ll tell you what tampering is, tampering is when a guy like shifty Schiff doesn`t let us have lawyers.  Tampering is when Schiff doesn`t let us have witnesses, doesn`t let us speak.  I have the right to speak.  I have freedom of speech just as other people do.


WILLIAMS:  Also today there were two other developments that could point to future troubles for this President.  "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that the feds in New York are investigating whether Rudy Giuliani stood to personally profit from a Ukrainian natural gas business pushed by his indicted associates Lev and Igor who were allegedly helping Giuliani to launch investigation that could benefit the President.

And Roger Stone, as we mentioned, Trump`s longtime political advisor and ally, he now a convicted felon, more on that later in this broadcast.

And finally, what happened when today`s hearing came to an end?  Something you don`t often see in the Capitol.  Here is a moment and here is what happened when the ambassador had completed her testimony.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you think it`s witness intimidation to essentially be attacking her while she`s on the stand testifying against her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think Ambassador Yovanovitch has served --


WILLIAMS:  So a round of applause for the witness today.  Here for our lead-off discussion on a Friday night, Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and the Pentagon, notably former Chief Counsel to that very Committee, House Intelligence, Melanie Zanona, Congressional Reporter for POLITICO, and Mike McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia.  Notably his book is titled "From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin`s Russia."

Jeremy, I`d like to begin with you.  It`s been a long day.  The evidence has been devastating.  Take a step back, take a look back.  What did we learn today?  What did we learn about these witnesses?  And what did the President reveal about himself?

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF:  When the curtain went up today, Brian, I think many of us thought what possibly could Ambassador Yovanovitch add to this story, because of course she had been ousted by the time the President got on the phone with President Zelensky of Ukraine on July 25th.  But in fact as it turns out, she was potentially the most significant witness to date.

I think her testimony was an emotional pivot point, because here sat a career foreign service leader, 33 years, veteran of the State Department, who essentially was fighting corruption in Ukraine.  And the first obstacle that the Trump team saw in trying to remove her so that they could get their way in Ukraine was to push her aside.  And she received an ominous phone call late one night while on the job, telling her that her security was in jeopardy, that she had to come back to Washington.

And when she gave that testimony, Brian, you could hear a pin drop.  And then of course right then in real time the President was tweeting about her.  The chairman asked her to respond.  And she said she felt intimidated.  This witness intimidation happened in real time.  It was one of the most historic congressional hearings I think any of us have ever seen.  And I think it really was an emotional turning point for this impeachment inquiry.

WILLIAMS:  Mike McFaul, there are two types of movie producers in Hollywood, those who write checks and those who produce the movies.  There are two types of ambassadors, those who write checks and receive their positions through patronage which is hardly new to these times, and those who are members of the career Foreign Service.  Clearly this ambassador, as were you, as a member of the latter category.  What did she reveal of herself today that you already knew to be true?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, MSNBC INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST:  Well, I have worked with Ambassador Yovanovitch for a couple -- I`ve known her for a couple of decades.  When I was in the government, I worked with her.  She was at the State Department when I was the U.S. ambassador in Russia.  I was not surprised by her testimony, although it was incredibly moving and I encourage people, if you want to see what a patriot is, you want to see what a hero is, please look at excerpts of it.

What is important, however, I think for the narrative is what didn`t get done today.  In seven hours of testimony, I watched every single hour of it, sitting in this chair, by the way, not once did anybody, not on the Republican side, challenge the basic facts in the case and the basic timeline.  Remember, she was pushed aside because Giuliani and his two sidekicks were work with Yuriy Lutsenko to try to open an investigation on Hunter Biden.

And it wasn`t working, by the way.  They tried to get her out of the way.  And then they go to plan b, that`s when Ambassador Sondland comes in, that`s when the three amigos come in.  And this phone call that maybe we`ll talk about in a minute, that`s when they`re trying to work to get the same thing done.  But I think it`s really important for everybody to understand that this was something the President was seeking to achieve months before this July 25th phone call and not once in seven hours of testimony did any Republican challenge those basic facts.

WILLIAMS:  Melanie Zanona, when applause breaks out in a hearing on Capitol Hill, you know if you`re the Republicans you may have a problem.  And we know following the President`s attack, Republican questioners started lining up to say at the start of their questioning, we thank you for your service.  This is getting tougher for them.  What have you gleaned from them in your reporting this afternoon?

MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITICO":  You`re absolutely right.  There was not a coincidence that they went out of their way to thank her for her service.  That`s because they plotted yesterday to not directly attack her.  They didn`t want to play into the Democrats` hands and pain her as a sympathetic figure.  They wanted to focus on the idea that President had every right to appoint and fire whoever he wanted as the ambassador.

The problem is that the President came in mid-hearing with a tweet and blew up their entire strategy.  I mean, Republicans that I talked to were absolutely dumbfounded that he would do this.  In fact one Republican wouldn`t even talk to me about it.  We sort of caught eyes as he was walking out of the House chamber and then he immediately whipped out his phone, put it up to his ear and I could see that his home screen was still on, he was clearly not on the phone, but he was just avoiding me even as I ran after him.

But it just goes to show, you know, Republicans time and time again, they`ll try to sort of lay the groundwork for these carefully orchestrated plans and the President will come in and blow it up.  And there really are limits to his trust my gut instincts when it comes to the impeachment defense.  And it makes it harder and harder for Republicans to defend him.

And not only that, but now you have Democrats on Capitol Hill talking about adding witness intimidation to a potential article of impeachment.  So, this was just a terrible morning for Republicans.  Privately they do concede that.  They feel like Democrats are winning the narrative here.  And they`re really going to have to reset for next week.

WILLIAMS:  They had to know this wasn`t supposed to be easy, Melanie, but they also have to know that their jobs, as you point out, next week probably just got tougher.

ZANONA:  Yes, that`s exactly right.  I mean, the other challenge for Republicans is that you`ve seen their defenses crumble one by one.  And part of the reason is because they don`t know what`s around the corner.  Even after all of these depositions and these transcripts, we`re still getting new information, including, as you mentioned earlier, David Holmes testifying today that he did hear the President on this phone call talk about the investigations.

And that`s another problem for Republicans, because their key defense strategy has been talking about the fact that none of the witnesses thus far have been firsthand account witnesses.  But that`s going to change, especially if they bring Holmes in front of the committee which I assume that they will.

WILLIAMS:  So Jeremy Bash, let`s go to the Holmes phone call and his six hours of closed door testimony, ending tonight.  Here is another guy, a government worker we did not know about prior to this, a guy with no motive to lie, precisely everything to lose by coming forward.  Tell us, in the tableau of a restaurant in Kiev, over a cellphone, how his whole story differs from the norm where communicating with Presidents is concerned.

BASH:  Well, normally when diplomats are overseas and they`re communicating back to the White House, certainly with the President, a diplomat will go into a secure facility and speak on a classified or secure line.  But not Ambassador Sondland.  He called the President from a restaurant in Kiev, had the President speaking loudly into Sondland`s cellphone, and there were others in the restaurant who could hear the conversation coming out of Sondland`s phone.

And what Holmes says he heard the President say was, I want you to press forward on those investigations, can you guarantee that the Ukrainians are doing those investigations of the Bidens?  And Sondland said, he`s going to do anything you want, Mr. President, he referring to Zelensky, he`ll do anything you ask.

And so clearly this is direct evidence of the President not only demanding the investigations but directing Sondland to carry it out.  I think if anybody tries to throw Sondland under the bus and say he was freelancing, Holmes is going to contradict that testimony directly and say now, it was the President who directed it and I heard him say it.

WILLIAMS:  And more than that, Mike McFaul, there`s a story that we learned today, Sondland trying to arrange a meeting with his equivalent in Kiev trying to make sure there`s no note-taker present.  How big a red flag is that?


WILLIAMS:  How big a break is that from the norm that you were raised on?

MCFAUL:  Well, first, just to underscore this really important thing, the President`s voice now is directly involved in telling his lieutenants here, one of his three amigos, what to do, and they`re all giving each other high five.  But that`s a great tidbit you picked up on, Brian, in David Holmes` testimony, by the way, another guy that used to work with me in Moscow, just so you know.

Everybody says nobody ever heard of him.  I had heard of him before, first rate star who -- going to a lot of risk to do this, by the way.  He`s a mid-career person with a lot of time in the government ahead of him.

But that Yirmark (ph), the presidential aide, he knows that this is sensitive stuff.  He doesn`t want the note taker there.  That`s somebody showing sophistication and that Ambassador Sondland is on the phone with people sitting around, by the way, with the Russians and Ukrainians also listening in, don`t forget that, shows just how inexperienced this guy is, and he`s way over his head.  Maybe he was even showing off, right?  Maybe he wants that these people to see that he`s talking to the President of the United States.

But that the Ukrainians knew that this was not a good thing to have note takers in, just underscores that they knew this was a drug deal as Ambassador Bolton called it.  They were trying to keep it under wraps.  Sondland did exactly the opposite.

WILLIAMS:  Our big three starting us off tonight.  Jeremy Bash, Melanie Zanona, and Mike McFaul, our thanks to all three of you for joining us at the end of a long week.

Coming up for us, a ruling that couldn`t have come at a more precarious time for the President.  His friend of many decades, that man tonight is a convicted felon, guilty on all counts.

And later, on this consequential night, two presidential historians on standby for us to talk about just what it is, the history that we are watching.  "THE 11TH HOUR" just getting started on this Friday night.



ROGER STONE, TRUMP ASSOCIATE:  I will plead not guilty to these charges.  I will defeat them in court.  There is no circumstance, whatsoever, under which I will bear false witness against the President nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself.


WILLIAMS:  Tonight, Roger Stone, that man, is a convicted felon.  A jury found him guilty on all seven counts including witness tampering and making false statements to Congress.  Prosecutors argued Stone obstructed a Congressional investigation into Russian election interference because the truth would have looked bad for the President.

Stone is now the sixth Trump associate who has either pleaded guilty or been convicted in connection to the Mueller Russia investigation.  The list includes Trump`s former Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort, his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, both gentlemen spending another Friday night in prison, but let`s not forget the President`s former National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn.

Here with us tonight to talk about it, Barbara McQuade, veteran federal prosecutor, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of the State of Michigan.  Barb, how significant was the verdict today?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  I think today`s verdict was really important to just make sure the world knows the truth still matters.  At one point, Roger Stone himself said that these lies don`t matter.  And I think with this verdict, seven counts out of seven counts unanimous jury verdict, in just a few hours of deliberation, sends a clear message that truth really does matter.

I also think that it could have an impact on other witnesses who are testifying in the impeachment proceedings, who are watching and who see that there is consequence for telling lies.

WILLIAMS:  We all, because we`re journalists, say, we use the same phraseology, barring appeal, pending appeal.  What is the real life likelihood that this conviction is somehow overturned?

MCQUADE:  Well, I think it`s unlikely.  I didn`t watch every minute of the trial, I was not in the courtroom, and so sometimes there are evidentiary problems, jury instruction problems that could result in a reversal on appeal.  But I have not seen any reporting of anything that would suggest to me that there was a reversible error.  The evidence seems strong.  The other basis for a reversal is that the evidence was not sufficient for a rational trier of fact to have found guilt the way they did.

In this instance there was strong evidence and obviously the jury returned its verdict unanimously.  So, I think an appeal is unlikely.  I think what could be more likely is a pardon.  But we`ll have to see how that shakes out.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, I was going to ask you about that.  What would a pardon say about our system of justice after what we`ve just been through, what we continue to go through?

MCQUADE:  I think a pardon would be a really awful thing for the rule of law in the United States.  It would say that loyalty to the President matters more than fidelity to the rule of law.

You know, sometimes people are forgiven.  That is the purpose of a pardon, to say we are showing you mercy because you have shown remorse.  To date I`ve seen no remorse from Roger Stone.  He says that he won`t lie for the President.

Now that he`s been convicted, if his story should change, maybe that changes that scenario.  But he continues to tell the story that he is being persecuted as opposed to prosecuted for his crimes.

WILLIAMS:  We know the witness intimidation is one of the charges they nicked him on today.  Could you make an argument that that`s what the President engaged in, in the open today?

MCQUADE:  Yes.  I think it very much looked like witness intimidation.  And in fact Ambassador Yovanovitch said that she felt intimidated by that statement.  And she`s testifying, he begins to smear her and her career.

What can that look like other than an attack to try to chill her testimony?  And even if it did not stop her, because she had the courage to continue, does it send a message to everyone else out there who may be watching and may say, I`m not going to stick my neck out and put myself through that same kind of abuse that she is suffering.  And so it is a crime to intimidate a witness, to try to influence their testimony by intimidating them or threatening them.  And it`s certainly an abuse of power that I also think shows a consciousness of guilt and a desperation by the President.

WILLIAMS:  Final question, as we keep saying, Ambassador Sondland`s got a whole lot of explaining to do.  Can he take the Fifth or can he try to get an immunity deal?

MCQUADE:  He could do both.  He could take the Fifth and just refuse to answer any question that might incriminate him.  If I were his lawyer, I would be having a very serious conversation about that right now.  He could also get an immunity deal.  I don`t know that Congress would want to give that because that would mean that it could also immunize him as to any criminal proceeding that might follow these hearings.  But if they believe that it is worth it to get the information that they need about President Trump, that is something that Adam Schiff has on the table for him to use.

WILLIAMS:  This is what he gets for having written a million dollar check to the inauguration.  Barbara McQuade, it`s always a pleasure to have you on.  Thank you.

MCQUADE:  Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up for us, the target of a powerful smear campaign has her say.  We will show you an important portion of her testimony when we come back.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST:  The Ambassador, I knew nothing about until my name and your name came up in the audition hearings that nobody saw, and what it comes down to is she didn`t like that you reported on the fact that the Prosecutor General, and if my understanding is correct, that would be the equivalent of our Attorney General, had said he handed her a list of people not to prosecute.  Now people are saying that he has recanted that.  You are saying no, he has not.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Part of the coverage, one of the more powerful portions of former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch`s testimony was when she talked today about the smear campaign she says was carried out against her by certain media outlets, egged on by Rudy Giuliani and his associates.

This morning, Yovanovitch listed the accusations against her picking them apart point by point.


MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE:  I want to reiterate first that the allegation that I disseminated a do not prosecute list was a fabrication.  Mr. Lutsenko, the former Ukrainian Prosecutor General who made that allegation, has acknowledged that the list never existed.  Also untrue are unsourced allegations that I told unidentified embassy employees or Ukrainian officials that President Trump`s orders should be ignored because he was going to be impeached or for any other reason.  I did not.  And I would not say such a thing.  Such statements would be inconsistent with my training as a Foreign Service officer and my role as an ambassador.

The Obama administration did not ask me to help the Clinton campaign or harm the Trump campaign, nor would I have taken any such steps if they had.  Partisanship of this type is not compatible with the role of a career Foreign Service officer.  I have never met Hunter Biden nor have I had any direct or indirect conversations with him.  And although I have met former Vice President Biden several times over the course of our many years in government service, neither he nor the previous administration ever raised the issue of either Burisma or Hunter Biden with me.

With respect to Mayor Giuliani, I have had only minimal contact with him, a total of three.  None related to the events at issue.  I do not understand Mr. Giuliani`s motives for attacking me nor can I offer an opinion on whether he believed the allegations he spread about me.  Clearly, no one at the State Department did.  What I can say is that Mr. Giuliani should have known those claims were suspect, coming as they reportedly did from individuals with questionable motives and with reason to believe that their political and financial ambitions would be stymied by our anticorruption policy in Ukraine.


WILLIAMS:  A 33-year veteran of the Foreign Service in her own words today.

Coming up after this next break, one of our next guests has written about how this President always seems to side with the wise guys instead of wise men.  Two presidential experts are here to talk about that when we come back.



TRUMP:  Rudy Giuliani is a fine man.  He was the greatest mayor in the history of New York.  And he`s been one of the greatest crime fighters and corruption fighters.  Rudy Giuliani is a good man.

Roger Stone is somebody I`ve always liked.  I mean, Roger is a character.  But Roger was not -- I don`t know if you know this or not, Roger wasn`t on my campaign except way at the beginning.


WILLIAMS:  There`s new op-ed in The Washington Post examining the President`s preference for, quote, wise guys over the so called wise men.  It`s a reference to one of the best works of nonfiction of its era, that no respectable bookshelf should be without.  "The Wise Men" written by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas about the foreign policy establishment, published back in 1986.

With us this evening, Jon Meacham, one the co-articles of The Washington Post article -- co-authors of The Washington Post article, forgive me and a Pulitzer Prize Winning Author and Presidential Historian.  Among his works, the timely new book "Impeachment and American History."  And Joanne Freeman, History Professor at Yale University, Co-host of the "BackStory" podcast on American history.  She was last in this studio to talk about her book, "The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War."

Good evening and welcome to you both.  And John, I want to start you off by playing for all of us a clip from today`s hearings.  We`ll talk about it on the other side.


REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL):  You previously testified that you sought advice from Ambassador Sondland at this time about what to do; is that correct?


QUIGLEY:  What was his advice?

YOVANOVITCH:  Well, he suggested that I needed to go big or go home.  And he said that the best thing to do would be to, you know, send out a tweet, praise the President, that sort of thing.  My reaction was that I`m sure he meant well, but it was not advice that I could really follow.  It felt partisan.  It felt political.


WILLIAMS:  John, if in fact, a tweet has become the new kind of electronic loyalty oath, have we ever seen what is in effect a cult of personality around the highest office in the land?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  You know, when Thomas Jefferson was minister to France, he was not tweeting about the President of the Confederation Congress.  So, no.  Averell Harriman didn`t do this for Franklin Roosevelt from Moscow.  What she was -- the Ambassador was being polite there, she said it seems political.  It seems authoritarian, is what it seems, is that somehow another demonstration of personal loyalty to a political agenda from a career Foreign Service officer should somehow be part of her or his job, is outside the bounds of what we`ve understood our diplomacy to be.

Nobody`s being sentimental or naive about the nature of foreign policy.  Foreign policy has its political instincts.  One of Jim Baker`s -- one of the great secretaries of state in American history, he used to say, if you don`t understand the politics of the nation you`re dealing with, you can`t be an effective diplomat, you can`t have an effective foreign policy.  That`s a very different thing than asking for personal oaths, almost a test from that sense -- in that sense.

And one of the things that Evan and Walter and I were trying to say in this piece is, it wasn`t that along ago that you had a core of people who were not always right, self-evidently, but who did in fact have a fealty not to a particular President but to a set of ideas, to the constitution, to the notion that we should project freedom as opposed to catering to tyranny, first during the Second World War, and then during the Cold War.  And that`s the kind of thing you want in people who are conducting foreign policy.  You want people who are pursuing a national interest, not the particular interests of a given president.

WILLIAMS:  So Professor, what has traditionally happened over the course of history, when presidents bump into government in the wrong way?  Does government give or do the institutions usually hold?

JOANNE FREEMAN, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, YALE UNIVERSITY:  Well, the way you ask the question has part of the answer, which is of course the President and Congress and the Supreme Court are government.  So it`s not so much the President banging up against government.  It`s branches of government, hopefully, banging up against each other and holding firm.  And the institutions of government really operating in the way that they`re supposed to.

I mean, you know, power, the constitution is about balancing power.  And each branch of government obviously has a substantial amount of power.  What we`re looking at now is a real test of those checks and balances and really seeing what happens when one branch of a government or in this case when a president really is -- I don`t know if I would say just pushing, but really smacking up against and trying to brush aside some of those checks and balances.

WILLIAMS:  If -- Let me bring another example from today`s coverage.  If Roger Stone ends up with a pardon, having been nicked on all seven counts, what will that say about an institution, our rule of law?

FREEMAN:  Well, it certainly is not a pleasant smile at the rule of law.  I mean, the thing about the rule of law is, obviously the idea that no one is above the law is pretty fundamental to American society.  But the thing about the rule of law is, it requires people who are willing to support it and work for it.  And so that kind of a decision, I mean, will it topple the rule of law in and of itself?  No.  Will it be a sign that potentially someone is really not abiding by the rule of law to the degree that one might ideally hope a president would?  Perhaps.

WILLIAMS:  Two learned people have agreed to stay over one break with us.  We`ll do just that coming up.  More on the significance of what we witnessed today.



REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA):  The Democrats have convened us once again to advance their operation to topple a duly elected president.


WILLIAMS:  Devin Nunes from a portion of today`s hearing.

Still with us tonight, Jon Meacham and Professor Joanne Freeman.  Jon, I think it`s Dorothy (ph) who says to the wizard, on the "Wizard of Oz," I don`t imagine there`s anything in your bag for me.  I`ll frame this similarly for you.  You being the wizard.  If I told you that six officials close to this President have gone down in the first three years of a presidency for either convictions or admitting to crimes including lying to the Feds, is there anything in your bag of historical knowledge that would compare to what we`ve witnessed?

MEACHAM:  At least you`re not asking me if I have a brain, so I feel -- at least we were making progress there tonight.  Sure.  I mean, well, I mean, you go to Watergate, where the Attorney General of the United States, who was serving as the President`s reelection chairman, went to prison.  I`ve forgotten the exact number of all the Watergate folks but it was a significant number.

WILLIAMS:  It was impressive.

MEACHAM:  People went to jail over Iran-Contra.  But the analogies only go so far here.  What is at play right now is the question of whether the sovereignty of our national elections was violated in such a way that not only is the 2016 election forever contaminated in history because of the Russian involvement, but it was -- it seemed to be so effective in some ways that the President of the United States wanted to replicate it.  He wanted a sequel.

And I think that`s part of what sometimes gets lost in this narrative is the President was in part of an unfolding plot here.  This is not entirely retrospective.  It was about 2020.  It was about his punitive opponent coming up.  And Joanne was talking about divided sovereignty which is one of the two great insights I`d argue, and I`ll defer to my colleague from Yale., but to be -- to grade me on this.  But two of the great insights for the American Revolution were, a, reason had to take its stand against passion.  But the other came from the idea of divided sovereignty, that three forms of the government in the world had always been monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy.

And part of what the Americans did in the 1770s and 1780s was try to mix all those together to create something new, something that was genuinely new under the sun.  And without the respect for each division`s -- each sovereign division`s respect for each other, then it all begins to collapse.  And I think the Roger Stone news is actually a pretty good sign for the rule of law today, for democracy today.  It means that the institutions, the courts, are doing their job.  The question now is will Congress do its job.

WILLIAMS:  Professor, last word.  Should impeachment be considered the overturning of an election?

FREEMAN:  No, it should not.  When I talk to my students about this, one of the things that I tell them is impeachment is brought to you by the same people that designed the electoral process.  It is not overturning an election.  It is a tool to be used when a president does something that seemingly is serious enough that you shouldn`t wait, you can`t wait until another election.  You need to actually have an investigation.

So, I`ve heard some say, you know, it`s unconstitutional which is a little whacky considering that it`s in the constitution, neither is it overturning an election.  It really is a tool to use in the place of waiting for an election.  It is a way to investigate.  It is a process.  And if nothing else, the founders in creating the constitution were putting processes in motion that we could turn to during times of crisis that would help us find our way out of them.  And that`s the moment that we`re in now.

WILLIAMS:  This is what happens when you invite smart people over, Jon Meacham, Joann Freeman, our thanks.

Coming up, another indelible moment from today.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, let`s talk about the idea of service, serving someone else, serving a cause greater than yourself.  If you`re a veteran, active duty, government employee, first responder, caregiver, then you know what I mean.  And this week we saw three shining examples of service.


GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT, SECRETARY OF STATE:  I have served proudly as a non-partisan career Foreign Service officer for more than 27 years.

WILLIAM TAYLOR, TOP U.S. DIPLOMAT IN UKRAINE:  It has been a privilege for me to serve our country and the American people for more than 50 years.

YOVANOVITCH:  I come before you as an American citizen who has devoted the majority of my life, 33 years, to service to the country that all of us love.


WILLIAMS:  Indeed right there, if you watched today`s testimony, you heard what service means to a career Foreign Service officer.


YOVANOVITCH:  We are people who repeatedly uproot our lives, who risk and sometimes give our lives for this country.  This is about far, far more than me or a couple of individuals.  As Foreign Service professionals are being denigrated and undermined, the institution is also being denigrated.  This will soon cause real harm if it hasn`t already.


WILLIAMS:  That part right there was too much for our own Chuck Rosenberg.  Chuck has taken the oath more than once as a U.S. Attorney at the Department of Justice, at the FBI.  And so, he took it personally today while on the air with Nicole Wallace that Ambassador Yovanovitch who was trolled and attacked today by her commander in chief has received no air support from her boss, the Secretary of State.


CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Let me say something about that, Nicole, because this makes me very, very angry.  Secretary of State is Mike Pompeo.  Like any leader, I think he has three obligations.  First, to the public, the American people.  Second, to the mission of his agency.  And third, just as important to the men and women who serve in that agency.

His silence is deafening.  It is an act of abject cowardice.  I am astonished that somebody who went to West Point and was an Army officer does not have the spine to stand up for the people in his organization who are being denigrated by this President.  That silence, as I said, is deafening and it is disgusting.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST:  Does it suggest more than weakness?  Does it suggest that he`s a complicit actor in the star cup (ph)?

ROSENBERG:  You know, complicity will be determined down the road as we deduce more facts.  I know what I see, and what I see from him is a complete failure of leadership.  I doubt he`s watching this show and I doubt he`s listening to me.  But if he was --

WALLACE:  You would be surprised, Chuck Rosenberg.  Everybody does.

ROSENBERG:  I would tell him he`s a coward.


WILLIAMS:  Chuck Rosenberg talking about Mike Pompeo who famously graduated first in his class from the U.S. Military Academy West Point in 1986.

That is our broadcast for this Friday night and for this eventful week.  Thank you so very much for being here with us.  Have a good weekend and good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.                                                                                                     END