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President Trump denies illness. TRANSCRIPT: 11/19/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Elisabeth Bumiller, Barry McCaffrey; Andrew Desiderio

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Mimi Rocah, John Heilemann, thank you very much for joining us.  That is tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  A long day`s journey into night after an almost 12-hour day in the hearing room.  The news tonight is about four public servants, all of whom swore an oath to the Constitution, describing their discomfort with the effort by the President of the United States to get a foreign leader to go after the Bidens.

Plus, one of today`s witnesses adjusts his story in the face of a flood of other testimony.  As the White House attacks their own employee and the President again bashes the proceedings.

Meanwhile, the questions continue about the story John Bolton could tell and the likelihood we might ever hear it.

And the anticipation for tomorrow, Gordon Sondland, the lead witness, a man with a lot of explaining to do as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Tuesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters in New York.  Day 1,034 of the Trump administration and the latest round of public impeachment hearings wrap up just a short time ago actually.  It was a marathon day.  The questioning was relentless again today.  It will be again tomorrow.

Four witnesses testified for nearly 10 hours before the House Intel Committee about what they knew about President Trump`s request to Ukraine`s President to investigate Democratic political rivals.  The day was divided into two sessions.  The first set of witnesses saw Jennifer Williams, a State Department employee detail to Vice President Pence`s office on Eurasia matters and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the lead Ukraine expert on the White House National Security Council.  The afternoon session heard from two officials the Republican side called as witnesses, Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine and the peace talks there, and Tim Morrison, a senior NSC official overseeing Russia and Europe policy.

Morrison was on that July 25th call with Ukraine`s President.  He resigned in October.  Volker provided one of the hearings big unexpected moments when he amended his closed door testimony and acknowledged others had laid out conditions to Ukraine for releasing military aid.


KURT VOLKER, FMR. SPECIAL ENVOY TO UKRAINE:  At no time was I aware of or knowingly took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden.  I was not on the July 25th phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky.  I was not made aware of any reference to Vice President Biden or his son by President Trump.  Until the transcript of that call was released, I did not know that President Trump or others had raised Vice President Biden with the Ukrainians, or I conflated the investigation of possible Ukrainian corruption with the investigation of the former vice president.

In hindsight I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving Ukrainian company, Burisma, as equivalent to investigating former Vice President Biden.


WILLIAMS:  Not long after that moment, former National Security Official, Tim Morrison, gave what may be the clearest outline of quid pro quo heard so far.  It came during this exchange when Morrison was asked to recall a September 1st conversation between U.S. Ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, and Ukraine government official Andriy Yermak.


DANIEL GOLDMAN, COUNSEL HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE DEMOCRATS:  What did ambassador Sondland tell you that he told Mr. Yermak?

TIM MORRISON, FMR. NATL. SECURITY SR. DR. FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS:  That the Ukrainians would have to have the prosecutor general make a statement with respect to the investigations as a condition of having the aid lifted.


WILLIAMS:  As you may know, this scandal has also been branded missiles for misinformation.  The President`s personal lawyer and his influence on Trump`s thinking on Ukraine was also discussed.  Here`s what Ambassador Volker said Trump told him.


VOLKER:  He said that Ukraine was a corrupt country, full of terrible people.  He said they tried to take me down.

President Trump had a deeply rooted negative view on Ukraine rooted in the past.  He was receiving other information from other sources including Mayor Giuliani that was more negative, causing him to retain this negative view.


WILLIAMS:  The day began with testimony from those two other White House officials, Jennifer Williams, an aide to Pence, and National Security official U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.  Both of whom listened in on that July 25th Trump-Ukraine call.  Both testified about their concerns.


JENNIFER WILLIAMS, AIDE TO VP PENCE:  I found the July 25th phone call unusual because in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.

LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, NATL. SECURITY COUNCIL DIR. EUROPEAN AFFAIRS:  It was inappropriate.  It was improper for the President to request, to demand an investigation.

J. WILLIAMS:  The references to specific individuals and investigations such as former Vice President Biden and his son struck me as political in nature given that the former vice president is a political opponent of the President.


WILLIAMS:  The witnesses were also asked about what was and what was not mentioned in that White House summary of the phone call.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA, INTELLIGENCE CMTE. CHAIRMAN:  Both of you recall President Zelensky in that conversation raising the issue or mentioning Burisma.  Do you not?

J. WILLIAMS:  That`s correct.

VINDMAN:  Correct.

SCHIFF:  And yet the word Burisma appears nowhere in the call record that`s been released in the public, is that right?

J. WILLIAMS:  That`s right.

VINDMAN:  Correct.


WILLIAMS:  Reminder, we have not seen a transcript.  What`s been released is a summary of the phone call.

House Republicans tried to refocus the morning session by pressing Vindman on his conversations that followed the call with a line of questioning the committee chairman quickly shut down.


REP. DEVIN NUNES, (R) CALIFORNIA INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, do you describe the July 25th phone call with anyone outside the White House on July 25th or the 26th?  And if so, with whom?

VINDMAN:  I spoke to two individuals with regard to providing a some sort of readout of the call.  Not in the White House cleared U.S. government officials with appropriate need to know.

NUNES:  And what agencies were these officials with?

VINDMAN:  Department of State, Department of State, Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent who is responsible for the portfolio, Eastern Europe including Ukraine, and a individual from the office of -- an individual in the Intelligence Community.

NUNES:  What agency was this individual from?

SCHIFF:  If I could interject here, we don`t want to use these proceedings.  It`s our time.

NUNES:  I know, but Chair --

SCHIFF:  But we need to protect the whistleblower.  If -- please stop.


WILLIAMS:  That exchange, that interruption was followed by a rather tense correction.


NUNES:  Mr. Vindman, you testified in your deposition that you did not know the whistleblower.

VINDMAN:  Ranking Member, ex-Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, please.


WILLIAMS:  There were also attempts to call Lieutenant Colonel Vindman`s loyalty into question.  The Iraq War veteran, Purple Heart recipient came to the U.S. as a young boy after his family fled the Soviet Union.  During the hearing he was asked about repeated job offers he had received from the director of Ukraine`s National Security Council.


STEVE CASTOR, MINORITY COUNSEL:  Did Mr. Danylyluk offers you a position of defense minister with the Ukrainian government?

VINDMAN:  He did.

CASTOR:  And how many times did he do that?

VINDMAN:  I believe it was three times.

CASTOR:  And do you have any reason why he asked you to do that?

VINDMAN:  I don`t know, but every single time I dismissed it.  Upon returning, I notified my chain of command and the appropriate counterintelligence folks about this -- the offer.

REP. JIM HIMES, (D) CONNETICUT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  Multiple right wing conspiracy theorists including Rudy Giuliani have accused you of harboring loyalty toward Ukraine.

They`ve accused of you espionage and dual loyalties.  We`ve seen that in this room this morning.  The three minutes that were spent asking you about the offer made to make you the minister of defense that may have come clothed in a Brooks Brothers suit and in parliamentary language that that was designed exclusively to give the right wing media an opening to question your loyalties.


WILLIAMS:  We should note in light of Lieutenant Colonel Vindman now being in the public eye and under criticism, the U.S. Army tells NBC News, it`s working with civilian authorities to ensure that he and his family are properly protected.  That could include moving them from their home if need be.

As he was testifying, the President was holding a Cabinet meeting and complaining about this inquiry.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I just got to watch and the Republicans are absolutely killing it.  They are doing so well, because it`s a scam.  It`s a big scam.


WILLIAMS:  One more thing here, the House did act on a piece of business today.  Lawmakers passed a short-term funding bill today to try to avert a government shutdown and keep our government open until December 20th.  That would be five days before Christmas.  What could go wrong?  The bill now moves on to the U.S. Senate.

But back to our lead story.  Let`s bring in our guests to start us off this Tuesday night, Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and the Pentagon, notably former Chief Counsel to that very committee we`ve been watching, House Intelligence, Elisabeth Bumiller, the Washington Bureau Chief for "The New York Times," and Jonathan Lemire, the White House Reporter for the Associated Press.  Good evening and welcome to all of you.

Jeremy Bash, I`d like to begin with you.  What was it we witnessed today?  What have we learned after today?

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF:  Well, the record is building, Brian.  Here you have four Trump appointees who bucked the official directive of the administration which is to stonewall Congress and they came forward and they confirmed the essential facts as we know, that the President of the United States demanded that a foreign leader try to help him rig the 2020 election.  And although the state of the Republican defense is a little bit in disarray as they sort of grope around for what the right theory of the case is.

Where they`re mostly going is to say we`re a year out from an election so let`s let the voters decide, except the very heart of the case that the President was trying to rig that election and trying to undermine national security in so doing.  And so I think today was the day that it advanced the narrative and the factual record and tomorrow, of course, we`ll hear from a very important witness who is really at the center of this quid pro quo, the deal to require the investigation in exchange for the military aid.

WILLIAMS:  And Jeremy, quickly, what about these attacks, glancing and direct on an active duty U.S. army lieutenant colonel?

BASH:  Oh, it dim and settled (ph), Brian, it was quite frankly disgusting.  I mean, here is a guy who was wounded in combat, has served his country for 20 plus years, all of his brothers have served.  His dad took the family out of the Soviet Union so they could be free.  So they could speak truth to power.  So they could speak openly about truth and facts.  And here we have some people on the dais and some in the media claiming that he`s a soviet traitor, someone who`s not really in the army.  I mean, I think all military families and the entire chain of commands should stand up and say whether or not you agree with him or not, get off his back and let the guy live and testify in safety.

WILLIAMS:  Elisabeth, at the ends of each day your job is to decide the package of coverage your newspaper runs from your bureau in Washington, nothing could be more important right about now.  How did you begin that task late today?  How do you possibly headline what we witness all day long?

ELISABETH BUMILLER, THE NEW YORK TIMES WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  I think the main thing we -- the main news today was that two White House officials said in open testimony that they found the call that President Trump had with the President of Ukraine on July 25th, as inappropriate and improper.  We certainly had heard that before from their closed-door testimony.  This we heard in public.

Secondly, the most important story, is that the White House turned on its own.  We have seen President Trump and the Trump administration, we`ve seen President Trump turn on his attorney general, turn on the fed chair, turn on people who have left the White House like John Bolton.  We have never seen the President turn on current White House officials who are going to go to work in the White House complex tomorrow morning.  That was the first.  And that, again, he did it in real-time.

And thirdly, I think we saw that Colonel Vindman was very, you know, he wore his uniform.  It evoked images of Oliver North from more three deck eights ago in the Iran-Contra hearings.  And he -- the uniform was a symbol and also a bit of a protector for Colonel Vindman to show that I`m an American citizen.  I serve my country.  And yet, he was still open to criticism from the Republicans.

WILLIAMS:  We have a gentleman who used to wear four-stars on his uniform who is standing by to talk to us on that very topic later in this broadcast.

Jonathan Lemire, about the Republicans, did they get what they were looking to get out of today, do you think?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  For the most part, I would say the answer is no.  Volker and Morrison were Republican witnesses.  And Volker in particular sort of played down what the White House and the Trump allies have been saying.  He very much defended Joe Biden on the records that he was a good guy, that he, you know, that he was public servant, had been -- had known him for decades.

He said that, we heard a little bit at the top of the show here where he outlined the sort of false information the President had been fed on Ukraine.  Others believe some of that originates from Vladimir Putin who of course is -- has very negative opinions about Ukraine.  And then closer to home, some of the conspiracy theorists which includes Rudy Giuliani.  And he really took some swipes at Giuliani, some settle , some last suggesting that he was completely misinformed about these issue (ph) in Ukraine.  Everyone who testified today, they`re unanimous in the idea that no one in the national security community thought that the United States should have withheld this military aid from Ukraine.

Again, sort of isolating the President and his wishes there, making it clear this was being done for just political purposes.  This was not to advance the national interests and security of that part of the world.

And this is also, you know, the highlighted two people who were on actually on the call itself which is an important step, as the Democrats build the narrative here of this impeachment.  And back to Lieutenant Colonel Vindman who, you know, was the subject of most of the attacks from the Republicans today as they tried to undermine his credibility and tried to suggest perhaps of his loyalties laid elsewhere.  As Jeremy said, his family took him out of the Soviet Union when he was a child.  And he mentioned that at the top of his remarks today.

The end of his prepared opening statement, he said that his father expressed some worry for him.  Said that like this is the kind of thing if you were in Russia and you spoke truth to power like this that you would -- you could be in trouble, you could even be killed.  And he in a pretty emotional moment said today in the Capitol, so dad, like, we`re in America now.  I`m paraphrasing, but, dad, we`re in America.  I`m going to be safe.  You know, at the same time we`re learning that the military is looking to perhaps move him and his family to a isolated location to safeguard them because perhaps he`s not safe.  And that`s a heart breaking moment for us all.

WILLIAMS:  Jeremy Bash, I don`t know if Mr. Sondland ever played competitive sports or yearning that somebody be given the Heisman.  He might indeed be getting the Heisman late in his career.  The distancing started to begin today in the hearing.  In your view, he already had a lot of explaining to do starting tomorrow morning.  Did his job get tougher still today in?

BASH:  I think so, because multiple witnesses have now come forward and say they heard him say explicitly that Ukraine would not get the aid unless they conducted the investigations of the Bidens.  That was the testimony of Colonel Vindman who said on July 10th he was in a meeting in the White House during which Gordon Sondland said that.  That is what caused Colonel Vindman initially to go to the counsel`s office, to go to the lawyer and say, hey, something is really wrong here.  And of course, Tim Morrison, a Republican or Republican congressional staffer who has worked in the Trump White House, he also said that Sondland was tying those two things exclusively together.

Now, maybe Sondland will claim tomorrow that he was freelancing.  But as we all now know the President directed Sondland to do it this way as everybody in that famous restaurant scene in Ukraine overheard.

WILLIAMS:  And Elisabeth, I want to pick up on something you said in your last answer about the President on social media today.  Yes, we heard from him in full in the Cabinet room.  But I actually heard someone today express pride mixed with surprise that he didn`t live tweet the event.  However, you view a tweet that attacked a U.S. Army, active duty lieutenant colonel White House staffer from the White House Twitter account as at least the equal to that, correct?

BUMILLER:  Well, it was -- this is the official taxpayer funded White House Twitter account going out to, I don`t know how many people.  This is, again, another first in the Trump administration.  We`ve never seen something like this before.

I mean, I just wanted to talk about Gordon Sondland tomorrow.  I think his testimony will be very crucial.  He is going to have to explain why he forgot that phone call with the President in that Kiev restaurant last summer.  It`s just unusual that somebody would forget a phone call with the President.  I don`t care how many times you talk to the President.  So, this will be, I think, a pretty dramatic hearing tomorrow.

WILLIAMS:  Jonathan Lemire, we have seconds left.  But I wanted to hit you on this final topic.  Reported in Time Magazine, Secretary of State would like to find a graceful exit from Washington, go home to Kansas, run for U.S. Senate.  What do you think the chances are of Mr. Pompeo pulling that off?

LEMIRE:  This is certainly been wildly rumored for a while.


LEMIRE:  He has made a number of trips back to Kansas.  He has certainly done very little to try to tamp down the speculation that he might want to do this.  This comes amid reports of some real increased tension between Pompeo and the President.  He sort have been the President`s favorite Cabinet member for the most part in recent months.  But now, according to some reporting, the President is blaming him for this parade of diplomats, the State Department officials who have come up and testified in the impeachment probe.  He thinks that Pompeo should have tried to effectively stop that or should have hired different people.  Let`s remember, most of these are Pompeo hires including Bill Taylor.

WILLIAMS:  At least he hasn`t defended them.

LEMIRE:  Who has kicked them off, that`s true.  I mean, he did not -- you`re right.  He had an opportunity to defend them in the day and didn`t.  As a final note, State Department tonight has put out a statement saying that this is nothing -- there`s nothing to this.  The Secretary of State stayed on the job.  In fact, I believe he`s in Brussels right now ahead of some meetings tomorrow.  But this story is not -- this story is not going away any time soon.

WILLIAMS:  I reckon we`ll find out what the people of Kansas feel about it before too long.  Jeremy Bash, Elisabeth Bumiller, Jonathan Lemire, our thanks to the three of you at the end of a long day for joining us at this late hour tonight.

Coming up, on the eve of another round of critical witness testimony, what`s the chance that tomorrow morning a live television audience gets to see the key witness take the Fifth?

And later, the Decorated Iraq War veteran under attack today from the White House where he works, serving the country he loves, THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this consequential Tuesday night.


WILLIAMS:  This morning Lieutenant Colonel Vindman offered more details about a meeting this past summer that included two key figures in this impeachment inquiry.  National Security Adviser John Bolton and E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland who is scheduled to testify hours from now.


VINDMAN:  On July 10, 2019, Oleksandr Danylyuk, then Ukraine`s National Security Adviser who visited Washington D.C. for a meeting with National Security Adviser Bolton.

Ambassador Volker and Sondland -- Ambassadors Volker and Sondland and Secretary Rick Perry also attended the meeting.  I attended with Dr. Hill.  We fully anticipated the Ukrainians would raise the issue of a meeting between Presidents.  Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short when Ambassador Sondland started to speak about the requirement that Ukraine deliver specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with President Trump.


WILLIAMS:  Let`s talk about all of this.  And back with us tonight is Barbara McQuade, veteran federal prosecutor, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.  Barbara, thanks for never throwing your phone into lake Michigan when we call.  We call you a lot and we depend on you on nights like this.

I`d like to start with Sondland and then go to Bolton.  And I`m afraid I have a three-parter for you.  What`s the chance he takes the Fifth tomorrow morning?  Remind our audience why people take the Fifth.  And is immunity the work around when people take the Fifth?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY:  So I think there is a very high probability that Gordon Sondland is thinking about taking the Fifth Amendment.  The Fifth Amendment is a provision -- has a provision in it that says, witnesses are not -- may not be compelled to be witnesses against themselves.  And so to avoid self-incrimination, they may invoke that right under the Fifth Amendment and refuse to anxious questions that could incriminate them.

Gordon Sondland having given contradictory statements now, statements that contradict the testimony of other witnesses, could very well be exposing himself to criminal charges for perjury, or even for the substantive crimes here of conspiracy to defraud the United States in the fair administration of elections, even conspiracy to commit bribery.  So he has some very real potential criminal exposure here in a very strong likelihood, I think, of invoking his Fifth Amendment rights not to answer those questions.

But as you say, immunity is the work-around.  So if he were to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights, the Trump card that the House has in this instance just as prosecutors have in a criminal investigation, is to immunize him.  That is to say, we agree not to use against you any statements that you might make in your testimony here.  And what could be a reason they might do that is, Gordon Sondland is far more valuable as a witness to President Trump than he is as any sort of defendant in a criminal case against himself.

WILLIAMS:  And what happens to a guy like Sondland if he comes before that committee and says, look, I`ve been in business all my life, I run a chain of hotels in the Pacific Northwest.  I`m not a lawyer and I didn`t understand contemporaneously that what I was hearing from the President was illegal.

MCQUADE:  I think that it has to be plausible, about whether he understands it`s illegal.  And understanding that it`s illegal is typically not an element of the defense.  You know, today we heard people, Congressman Ratcliffe criticizing some of the witnesses for not characterizing things as bribery or using legal conclusions.  That`s not a witness`s job.  A witness`s job is simply to state what the facts are.

And so if you were to come in tomorrow and correct his testimony and say, here`s what happened, I will leave it to the lawyers to characterize whether this is illegal, whether it is a quid pro quo, or whether it is an abuse of presidential power, his job is just to say, this is what happened.  And he can do that and even protect himself if he gets immunity in exchange for testimony.

WILLIAMS:  And finally, in your view, Bolton`s status as the big fish potential witness, only increased today?

MCQUADE:  I think so.  The testimony we heard today about his participation in that the July 10th meeting makes him a very valuable witness.  He is the one who cut the meeting short.  And as Lieutenant Colonel Vindman testified, it wasn`t that the meeting was over.  They had additional items to discuss and they had more time left before the meeting was over and he stopped it abruptly when Gordon Sondland raised this issue of investigations in exchange for military aid.

Now, he has said he will not testify unless there is a court order to do that.  I think the Democrats are waiting to see what kind of order they get in the litigation they already have pending involving Dan McGahn as a witness.  But if that goes well, I think you will see that subpoena and perhaps even a court order directing Bolton to testify.  And if he does, I think he will do the right thing.  I think he will tell the truth.  And I think it will be explosive.

WILLIAMS:  Wow.  Barbara McQuade, thank you so much for always answering the bell and adding to our broadcast and our understanding tonight.

Coming up for us in almost unimaginable plot line, young immigrant to this country grows up, signs up to fights overseas, comes home a Decorated veteran, gets on work for the President and the White House, and that`s where the trouble begins for him.




LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, DIRECTOR, EUROPEAN AFFAIRS FOR THE UNITED STATES:  I speak Russian and Ukrainian and a little bit of English.


WILLIAMS:  Next month marks 40 years since Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman and his family came to the United States as Jewish refugees fleeing the Soviet Union.  While children living in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, he and his twin brother made an appearance in a 1985 Ken Burns documentary about the Statue of Liberty and immigrants in our country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We came from Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We came from Kiev.  And then we went to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Our mother died so we went to Italy.  Then we came here.


WILLIAMS:  When reached by NewsDay, Ken Burns said he doesn`t know which brother is which.  Lieutenant Colonel Vindman`s twin brother is also now an active duty U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, if you can believe it.  The brothers work together in the White House.  Besides becoming a decorated officer in the U.S. Army, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, today`s witness, earned a master`s degree from Harvard and served in the U.S. embassies in Ukraine and Russia.

When asked what Vindman represents today, Ken Burns told NewsDay, "I think he just represents the continuation of the American dream".  In today`s hearing, New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney asked the Lieutenant Colonel to reread a portion of his opening statement.


VINDMAN:  Dad, my sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family.  Do not worry, I`ll be fine for telling the truth.

REP. PATRICK MALONEY (D), NEW YORK:  You realize when you came forward out of sense of duty, that you were putting yourself in direct opposition to the most powerful person in the world.  Do you realize that, sir?

VINDMAN:  I knew I was assuming a lot of risk.

MALONEY:  And I`m struck by the word, don`t worry -- that phrase, do not worry, you addressed to your dad.  Was your dad a warrior?

VINDMAN:  He did serve.  It was a different military though.

MALONEY:  And he would worried if you were putting yourself up against the President of the United States, is that right?

VINDMAN:  He deeply worried about it because in his context, there was the ultimate risk.

MALONEY:  And why do you have confidence that you can do that and tell your dad not to worry?

VINDMAN:  Congressman, because this is America.  This is the country I`ve served and defended, that all my brothers have served, and here, right matters.

MALONEY:  Thank you, sir.  Yield back.


WILLIAMS:  On that note, we`ll take another break.  And coming up, what Lieutenant Colonel Vindman chose to wear to the hearing today.  That became a topic of conversation and even glancing ridicule.  We`ll ask a Retired Four Star U.S. Army General what he made of it all.



REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA:  Mr. Vindman, you testified in your deposition that you did not know the whistleblower.

VINDMAN:  Ranking Member, it`s Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, please.


WILLIAMS:  During today`s hearing, Republican Congressman and Air Force Veteran Chris Stewart of Utah went on to ask Lieutenant Colonel Vindman about that exchange with Congressman Nunes.


REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, I see you`re wearing your dress uniform.  Knowing that`s not the uniform of the day, do you normally wear a suit to the White House?  I think it`s a great reminder of your military service.  I, too, come from my military family.  These are my father`s Air Force wings.  He was a pilot in World War II.  Five of his son served in the military.

So as one military family to another, thank you and your brothers for your service.  Your example here -- Very quickly, I`m curious, when Ranking Member Nunes referred you as Mr. Vindman, you quickly corrected him and wanted to be called Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.  Do you always insist on civilians calling you by your rank?

VINDMAN:  Mr. Stewart, Representative Stewart, I`m in uniform.  I`m wearing my military rank.  I just thought it was appropriate to stick with that.

STEWART:  Well, I`m sure he meant no disrespect.

VINDMAN:  I`m sorry, Mr. Stewart.  I apologize.  I don`t believe he did, but the attacks that I`ve had in the press, in Twitter have kind of eliminated the fact that either marginalized me as a military officer or --

STEWART:  Listen, I`m just telling you that the Ranking Member meant no disrespect to you.

VINDMAN:  I believe that.


WILLIAMS:  With us to talk about all these tonight, General Barry McCaffrey, Retired U.S. Army Four Star General, heavily decorated combat veteran of Vietnam and one of the ground commanders for the U.S. in the Gulf War.  General McCaffrey, I just wanted to hear you out on this topic.  Wearing his dress uniform into a hearing today.  Though civilian garb when he works in the West Wing.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  Yes.  Well, look, it`s very moving testimony.  An immigrant family, patriotic, contributing their boisterous defense of the nation.  And as been pointed, this fellow is not only a combat entry officer, wounded in action, ranger tab, parachutist badge, CIB, he`s also one of our elite foreign area officer specialists.  Though, it takes us around five years to produce them.  They have a very bright, Harvard graduate school, multilingual.

He is a real asset.  He worked for Joe Dunford, the Chairman of the JCS and helped write the Russian strategy in the Pentagon.  He was then seconded to the NSE staff which is a collection of the brightest people in our government.  So I think when he saw something wrong going on, he said to himself, look, you know, Brian, every soldier who see something illegal or unethical can go to the inspector general, can go to the staff judge advocate, can write their congressman, they can demand open door hearings with the commander one above the problem level, and they can`t be accused of disloyalty for doing that.  They`re upholding army values.  And that`s what Lieutenant Colonel Vindman was doing.  I thought he is an honorable, impressive guy.

What Congressman Nunes was doing deliberately was being, trying to isolate him from appearing as a member of the Armed Forces.  The most respected institution in American society.  So Nunes did it deliberately.  And then I think they sent Chris Stewart out there, very impressive, Air Force officer, author, successful businessman, they said send Stewart out there and try and knock him back.  But I was very proud of this officer for responding the way he did.

WILLIAMS:  General, I correctly remembered today, you came on this broadcast when H.R. McMaster was named National Security Adviser and publicly advised him not to wear his uniform on the job in the West Wing.  Tell our viewers why you felt that way.

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I went beyond that.  I felt it was inappropriate for him to stay in the military.  You know, I faced the same kind of question when I became the Drug Policy Director for the Clinton administration.  Some argued about me staying in uniform.  I said don`t do that.  By and large, Congress deals with and views active members of the Armed Forces in a very different light.  And you have sort of a limited ability to act in a political manner.

So I thought H.R. made a mistake.  He was then a subservient officer to the Secretary of Defense.  He was subject to UCMJ.  It didn`t make a lot of sense.  But the active staff in the White House, there are a couple thousand people work over there and many are military, communications officers, medical, transportation, but the NSE staff itself in many cases are the brightest Foreign Service CIA and military officers we have.  And by and large, they work in civilian clothes but make no mistake, they`re still active duty military officers.

WILLIAMS:  I also wanted to get you on record, General.  The President gave out pardons this past weekend to three members of the U.S. Navy.  The Navy going against his wishes has decided to remove one of them as a Navy SEAL, which means taking away their trident pin which is -- that`s what you`re struggling to earn at the end of Navy SEAL buds training.  They want to kick out three senior officers who were over him in management.  They`ve taken away 154 tridents since about the last 10-year period.  What do you make of this?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, look, the Armed Forces has been in war for 15 years.  We`ve had 60,000 killed and wounded.  The special ops community, including Air Force, Navy, Army, and marines has been really out, alone in the face of constant danger.  I think they`re out of control.  The Navy put a Two Star Admiral Collins in to try to unscrew this mess and get them back under Navy discipline.   So I`m not surprised they`re doing it.  So it`s going to be a very difficult situation.

The President of the United States gave legal orders to reverse uniform code of military justice actions.  That`s a law passed by the Congress.  You know, we didn`t make it up in the Pentagon.  The President didn`t get a chance to change it at will.  So he`s -- we`ve never seen anything like this in the history of the country, to have a commander in chief directly intervene at a granular level on individual cases.

In the case of one of these officers, he hadn`t even gone to court-martial trial yet.  So again, it`s preposterous what`s going on.  The Navy (INAUDIBLE) is under great pressure right now to maintain that superb service and their values which include don`t kill prisoners.

WILLIAMS:  From the Pacific Northwest tonight, our thanks to General Barry McCaffrey as always for coming on the broadcast, General.

And coming up for us, one of the congressional reporters covering these hearings from inside the committee room.  That made for a long day today.  And again tomorrow, but he`s here with us tonight.



TIM MORRISON, FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS:  Among the discussions I had with Dr. Hill were about Ambassador Sondland.  I think she might have coined it the Gordon problem.  And I decided to keep track of what Ambassador Sondland was doing.  I didn`t necessarily always act on things Gordon suggested he believed were important.


WILLIAMS:  So that was a senior NSC official casting doubt ahead of tomorrow morning`s testimony from E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland.  Mr. Morrison and Ambassador Volker both testified they had serious concerns about this Mr. Sondland.  POLITICO reports, "Volker and Morrison stood in particular for their dismissive tone toward the Ambassador, who Republicans will try to paint as a political crony who only wanted to curry favor with Trump."

Andrew Desiderio, Congressional Reporter for POLITICO, was in the hearing room again today and is with us again tonight.  Andrew, is this a setup because it seems to me Sondland already had a tough job going in there tomorrow morning, it got tougher today?

ANDREW DESIDERIO, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO:  That`s absolutely right.  Sondland is a crucial yet a flawed witness at the same time.  He`s crucial because he`s essentially the connective tissue running through all of this witness testimony that we have heard ever since he came in for his closed-door deposition.  But he`s a flawed witness in that both sides, Democrats and Republicans, have pointed out that he has serious credibility issues.

He already had to amend his testimony and disclose that conversation he had with a senior Ukrainian official about what he told them about what it would take for them to get the military aid finally delivered to them.  And, of course, you know, other witnesses have testified to details of that July 10th meeting at the White House with another senior Ukrainian national security official that Gordon Sondland omitted, namely the fact that he brought up the Bidens and Burisma as conditions for getting that military aid and a White House meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky.  He`s going to have a lot to confront tomorrow and both Democrats and Republicans are going to hammer him over it.

WILLIAMS:  And of course he is not the only witness.  Can you preview for us the afternoon session?

DESIDERIO:  That`s right.  So Laura Cooper, who is a Senior Pentagon Official, will testify alongside David Hale, who is essentially the number three official at the State Department.  Republicans wanted David Hale to testify.  His deposition transcript was released last night.  It had a lot of interesting details in it.  But I think what Democrats are going to want to draw out from his testimony is essentially the efforts within the State Department to defend or not defend Ambassador Yovanovitch from the smear campaign that Rudy Giuliani was running against her.

Obviously, that was a subject of the testimony last week but I think Chairman Schiff felt like he needed to throw another bone to the Republicans to give them one of their witnesses that they requested.  Laura Cooper will be able to speak directly to this military aid holdup, when she found out about it, how she found out about it, and how she worked with other officials across the government to convince the White House to essentially release the hold on aid and allow it to flow to Ukraine.

WILLIAMS:  Final question.  There is a seating section I note in the hearing room for Members of Congress not on the committee.  How many of them at any given time are stopping by to take in all or part of the testimony?

DESIDERIO:  Yes, very few, Brian.  There are actually three rows right behind the press section that are reserved for Members of Congress.  They have signs on them explicitly stating that.  But only really -- I see the President`s most vociferous defenders like Mark Meadows and Lee Zeldin and Andy Biggs, the Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.  They`re there for every minute of the hearing.

I barely see any Democrats showing up.  And, you know, a lot of them have excuses.  Obviously, it`s a busy day on Capitol Hill all the time.  A lot of them sit on other committees that have hearings and meetings and obviously there`s votes going on all throughout the day as well.  But I`ve been struck throughout this entire process, Brian, to see so few Members of Congress actually show up and attend the hearings.  It`s usually been the President`s defenders like the ones I just mentioned that have been in there for essentially every minute of the hearing.

WILLIAMS:  Well, these are long days.  We really appreciate you joining us late at night.  Andrew Desiderio, our thanks.

DESIDERIO:  Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  And when we come back, the President talks about his health and blames the media for worrying his family about it over the weekend.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go here tonight is the President`s health.  It was surprising to hear that Mr. Trump took an unscheduled trip to Walter Reed by motorcade on a Saturday afternoon.  When he tweeted later that it was the first phase of his annual physical, to be completed in 2020, that didn`t sound at all familiar or even plausible to most of the doctors consulted by the news media.

The President`s annual physical usually takes most of the day.  It`s usually posted on his schedule far in advance for starters.  So it`s also true that rumors started almost immediately including some brand name news outlets, saying that the President had perhaps suffered some sort of discomfort, perhaps even heart trouble.  Then last night came the letter from his White House Navy doctor saying, in effect nothing to see here, the guy`s cholesterol is 165 and so on.  And then today the President brought it up.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  One other thing I thought I`d bring it up while we`re here.  I went for a physical on Saturday.  My wife said oh, darling, that`s wonderful.  Because I had some extra time.  And I came back, my wife said, darling, are you OK?  What`s wrong?  They`re reporting you may have had a heart attack.  I said, why did I have a heart attack?  Because you went to Walter Reed Medical Center.  That`s where we go when we get the physicals.

I said, I was only there for a very short period of time.  I went -- did a very routine, just a piece of it, the rest of it takes place in January -- did a very routine physical.  I got back home.  And I get greeted with the news that, we understand you had a heart attack.  I was called by people in public relations.  Sir, are you OK?  I said, OK from what?  The word is you had a heart attack.  CNN said you may have had a heart attack.  You had massive chest pains.  You went to the hospital.

These people are sick.  They`re sick.


WILLIAMS:  But again and for the record, the President says he was not the person who was sick.  And now we`ve heard from him.

That is our broadcast on this Tuesday night.  Look at the time.  We`ll be back here first thing tomorrow morning for day four of the public hearings and the start of the Sondland testimony in the morning.  Thank you for being here with us tonight and good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.


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