CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The President must be held accountable. No one is above the law.
HAYES: The Speaker of the House makes it official.
PELOSI: I`m announcing the House of Representative moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.
HAYES: Democrats open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just heard that she`d like to impeach.
HAYES: Tonight, what happened today.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): The time to begin impeachment procedure against this president has to come.
HAYES: What happens now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is full-blown impeachment inquiry.
HAYES: And what happens next.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s got to go.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. Things are moving very, very quickly. Here`s what has happened just since we were on the air last night. Just a few hours ago, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump saying his actions in regard to Ukraine marked a "breach of his constitutional responsibilities."
PELOSI: This week the President has admitted to asking the president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically. The action of -- the actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable fact of the president`s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.
Therefore today, I`m announcing the House of Representative in forward with an official impeachment inquiry.
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HAYES: This is a huge escalation from a speaker that has been very, very, very reluctant to formally dive into impeachment. She has in some ways had very little choice as more than 40 and maybe more Congressional Democrats have come out in support of impeachment proceedings just since yesterday morning.
And that includes members like Abigail Spanberger, and Elissa Slotkin, and Antonio Delgado, absolute front line members who flip Republican districts that Trump won, some of the most vulnerable Democrats, the ones that Pelosi was worried about protecting in an impeachment inquiry.
Meanwhile, the big issue that Pelosi alluded to is that the Trump administration in coordination with the Department of Justice and the Attorney General William Barr have been blocking a whistleblower from going to Congress as is legally required.
Today, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff shared the huge news that he and his staff has been in contact with the whistleblower`s counsel and the whistleblower would like to speak directly to their committee as soon as this week.
Remember, this whistleblower complaint is what started this entire thing. The New York Times reports the complaint -- and this is important -- involved multiple actions that it is about the sum total of Trump`s behavior, not just a phone call.
Also Yahoo! News reporting the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee is launching its own crucially bipartisan inquiry requesting an interview with the whistleblower as well. "No later than Friday, September 27th," as in this Friday. Lawyers for the whistleblower confirmed both of these congressional outreaches to NBC News.
And then an unexpected development and sort of a head-scratching one we`re still trying to parse, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a man who is backed Present Trump at nearly every turn allowed the Republican-controlled Senate to unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Trump administration to release the whistleblower complaint to Congress.
While the resolution is non-binding, the fact that McConnell actually allowed it to pass raises all sorts of questions about his continued willingness to go to the mat for Trump or what his strategy is here.
It`s probably in light of all of this, all of these developments, the president decided to try to make an omelet out of some broken eggs. He announced today that he would be releasing the transcript of that very controversial July phone call with the Ukrainian president hoping he can point to a transcript where there is no explicit open quid pro quo. We`ll give you the money if you investigate Biden.
Of course, the thing is we already know the context the phone call because Trump is the one that told us. A number of things to note about the transcript first is important we see the transcript but it is not the whole story by any means. At this point, we also don`t know if we can trust any document produced by the White House, frankly. I mean. it`s terrible to say that but true.
You got to keep in mind, this is a White House that use the levers of power of the executive to lean on a bunch of weather forecasters of the National Weather Service in Birmingham to retroactively lie about where a hurricane was going and then Sharpie to map in front of us as if we wouldn`t notice. That was this month.
Now, I don`t know what the transcript is going to be sharpied up by the president before it`s released to the public. But it soon became obvious that a transcript released from the White House would not be enough. So tonight -- and this is literally just from the past hour as we try to keep track of everything, we learned a bunch of new things.
So here are the new developments. One, Politico is reporting the White House is preparing to release the actual whistleblower complaint to Congress by the end of the week. Two, New York Times is now reporting the White House is trying to work out a deal that would let this person who filed the complaint against the present speak to Congress.
That`s a lot to process but what`s clear is that we`re in a different world than we were at this time yesterday. We have witnessed over just 24 hours a clear pivot in American history. This is happening.
Here with me now, a member of Congress who reveal the existence of the whistleblower complaint earlier this month who chairs one of the committee`s that will be key in the coming investigations Congressman Adam Schiff, Democratic California, Chair the House Intelligence Committee.
Let me start with the most recent news reporting that suggests that the White House is going to lift its block of this whistleblower and actually allow the complaint itself and perhaps the whistleblower to talk to your committee in Congress. Is that true?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, we don`t know yet. I mean, this is what they`re saying publicly. We don`t know also whether they`re going to be limitations that the White House attempts to place on this whistleblower. We want to make sure that we get the full complaint, that we get the inspector general`s report, and that that whistleblower is allowed to share with Congress anything that whistleblower believes is evidence of misconduct or malfeasance within the contours of the statute.
So I take nothing for granted with this crowd in the White House. The mere fact that the White House which may be the subject of the complaint, we don`t know yet it, has a role in deciding at all whether and how this whistleblower can come forward is in and of itself disturbing.
HAYES: It`s your position that the White House should have nothing to do with this and that William Barr and the Department of Justice and we know the White House Counsel as has being reported are all activist in this. That in and of itself to your mind is inappropriate and possibly not lawful.
SCHIFF: Absolutely. The statute provides that once the director gets the complaint, they have seven days to turn it over to Congress but it shall be provided to Congress. That didn`t happen indeed we didn`t find out about that because the Director of National Intelligence told us hey, I`m not following the law for whatever reason. We only found out about because the Inspector General came to us and said the director is not following the law here.
So that needs to be provided. There is no clause in the statute that allows the White House to weigh in. There`s no provision that allows the director to go and seek a legal opinion from lawyers that are representing the president to withhold a complaint that may involve the president.
So there`s so much wrong with how this has been handled. But we`re determined we`re going to get this. We`re going to have the opportunity to hear from the whistleblower. We`re going to make sure that whistleblower is protected.
And you know, I want to say what`s at stake here if indeed this complaint does involve the President`s interactions with Ukraine. It`s important people understand the history here which is we persuaded Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons and said we will assure your territorial integrity if you do.
Well, they did give up those weapons that it inherited from the Soviets. But the Soviets -- the Russians would later invade their country, they still occupied parts of that country, and on a bipartisan basis Congress approved military support to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia.
And guess what, the president held that up just days before he would lean on the President of Ukraine to assist his political campaign by manufacturing dirt on his opponent. It`s hard to describe a worse abuse of office, a worse violation of his oath of office than those facts whether those are in the complaint or there`s more in the complaint or not. What the president has already admitted is a flagrant abuse of his oath of office.
HAYES: You said this -- you said it`s bad enough Trump sought help from a foreign power in the last election, it`s worse still he obstruct the investigation into misconduct, now he`s admitted using his office to coerce another country to interfere in 2020, I fully support the impeachment inquiry. Is it these set of facts that tipped you over to supporting impeachment?
SCHIFF: It is. And you know, Chris, as you know, I`ve been very reluctant to go down this path.
HAYES: You have.
SCHIFF: Let`s say it`s an extraordinary remedy and one that the Founders I think intended as a last resort since we have periodic elections. But the fact that we would have a president now by his own admission and after having sought foreign help in the last election, now using the power of his office to once again try to get foreign help by getting Ukraine to manufacture dirt on his opponent.
I think that compels us to travel down the road towards impeachment. So I fully support the speaker`s decision.
HAYES: I want to ask a follow-up about what that process looks like in just one moment. But if we can, I just want to circle back to the whistleblower issue here. It is my understanding and you said this publicly that you`re in contact with the whistleblower`s attorney.
How confident are you that you will be able to speak to the whistleblower and see that complaint in the next few days?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, it`s hard to say. I think that the hearing with the director is having the effect that I had hoped that it would, and that is forcing the administration`s hand. I told the director that I`m going to call on him not in closed session but to all the American people to explain why he`s the first director to withhold a complaint in violation of the statute. I don`t think that`s something the director wants to have to do.
And so I imagine that he is pressuring the administration to give him the authority to release this complaint. But the long and the short of it is we`re going to insist that the whistleblower would be protected, that they come to Congress, that they have the full authority to discuss the substance of their complaint, and that we see the complete and unadulterated complaint.
We have all too much experience, Chris, with the administration through their willing participants like Bill Barr misrepresenting official documents. The White House shouldn`t even have this complaint. The president says everybody has seen it. That in itself is a huge problem. But we`re not going to rely on the administration or its minions leading the Justice Department to tell us about anything that`s in it.
HAYES: Were you at all surprised by the president moving towards releasing the full transcript? Do you trust the White House enough to take that transcript and believe that that is an actual representation of what transpired?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I think sadly it`s the case as you described that we cannot trust the administration with respect to anything that it produces. And so there are a couple of issues here. There`s the issue of whether whatever transcript they provide is the only transcript of this conversation or whether there are other readouts of that conversation, and whether they`ve cherry-picked and pick the best readout of that conversation.
But there are also issues about whether this is just one piece, for example, of what the whistleblower may be complaining of. After all, this isn`t the president`s only interaction with Ukraine.
SCHIFF: His interactions are also going through Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer. And if the president is urging Ukraine to meet with Giuliani, to give into Giuliani`s demands, then essentially he`s also speaking through Rudy Giuliani. So there`s a lot more at stake here than simply what will be reflected in the transcript.
HAYES: As to the process that is laid out, there was some debate today or reporting back and forth about what the process forward would be. Some reporting indicated there were discussions of a select committee. I guess would be the closest historical precedent and analog would be a Watergate committee. That`s not what`s happening.
The chairs of the Oversight Committees collectively Judiciary and Oversight and yours among others are going to pursue your inquiries under the rubric of a formal impeachment inquiry. What does that mean, what does that look like, and what is the timeline?
SCHIFF: Well, I think that what it means in terms of this I think most urgent of allegations that is that the president was essentially tried to coerce a foreign leader to help his presidential campaign and withholding military support at the same time. The Intelligence Committee will continue leading that investigation of those -- that constellation of issues.
If that results in sufficient evidence that we think an article of impeachment should be brought, that would be presented to the Judiciary Committee for them to vote on an article of impeachment. And similarly, if other committees reach that point with what their investigating, Oversight in the work they`re doing on the Emoluments Clause, the Judiciary Committee with the work it`s doing on obstruction of justice, that ultimately we will be recommending to our leadership and discussing with our caucus whether that means we need to bring up articles and what they would look like.
But we haven`t gotten into I think the specifics of that because frankly, that`s putting the cart before the horse. Right now we need to make sure that we get the facts and in particular, we get the facts about the President`s egregious conduct vis-a-vis Ukraine.
HAYES: What do you -- how do you understand the White House`s actions in the last 24 hours in which it seems to be denial, then a kind of almost open admission to some of the main contours of the substance of what`s been reported about this, to some capitulation.
I mean the transcript may be making the whistleblower available. There`s lots of people were sort of looking at this or looking at Mitch McConnell refusing to object to a unanimous consent resolution in the Senate and a bipartisan -- the Senate they`re saying is this for real or is there some strategy being played out here that I`m missing?
SCHIFF: Well, Chris, I think it`s a couple of things. First, I think the administration realizes this is going to come out. Ultimately the public is going to know about the President`s misconduct and they want to try to get ahead of it and they also want to try to shape it in the same way Bill Barr misled the country about what was involved.
So you can already see the President trying to suggest to the country that hey if I didn`t specifically ask for a quid pro quo then there`s no problem here. You don`t need an explicit quid pro quo, you don`t need an implicit quid pro quo. Ukraine understands how it is entirely dependent on the United States, how it is entirely dependent on the goodwill of the President of the United States for military support, for financial support, for support among the international community.
And when the President of the United States tells that country this is what I want you to do for me, much like James Comey said when the president said I`d like you to see if you can make this Flynn matter go away, that foreign country understands that not as a request but as this will be done or there are repercussions. He doesn`t have to make it explicit.
It`s enough that he withheld this military support even as he is browbeating this president and his personal lawyer is browbeating Ukraine for help in their political campaign. So part of it is I think they know these facts are coming out. Part of it too though, Chris, is this is the pattern we see over and over.
You asked for documents you should get, they refused. You subpoena you get something. You talk about bringing contempt you get a little more. Now I think the big club has been brought out and is forcing them to agree to provide the transcript and provide the whistleblower and that big club is the club of impeachment. I think but for that being brought out, the White House would not be relinquish this information.
HAYES: That is very -- all of that very illuminating and very interesting to hear directly from you Chair Schiff on this evening. Thank you so much for making time tonight.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
HAYES: Here with you now the vice-chair of the House Oversight Committee Democratic Congresswoman of Katie Hill of California. She came out in favor of impeachment proceedings earlier today. Congresswoman, take me through what changed for you to tip you from reticent, skeptical, hesitant, to supporting an impeachment inquiry.
REP. KATIE HILL (D-CA): Hi, Chris. Thanks so much. Well, listen, this is a tipping point for us. We know for a fact as the President admitted and as his personal lawyer admitted that they were attempting to coerce or asking for assistance from a foreign government to interfere in our elections to help dig up dirt or to manufacture dirt on a political opponent and it`s that simple.
That is undermining the very integrity of our elections, of our democracy, and of our national security. So at that point, you`re left with nothing else except for to bring out as my colleague Mr. Chairman said previously the big guns with impeachment as a possibility.
And it looks like it`s -- you know, it`s actually forcing them to act in some ways and hopefully that pans out to getting us the information that we need to make a final determination.
HAYES: Are you confident you can -- you come from a district that had been represented by Republicans for a very long period of time. It`s considered a swing district. It`s -- it`ll be heavily contested almost certainly in 2020. Are you confident that you can stand behind and explain this support for an impeachment inquiry to the voters back in your district?
HILL: Well, listen, my district is full of veterans, it`s full of service members, it`s a very defense-heavy district. And I come from generations of service members in the military and my brother right now is in the Navy.
And to go back to my district and say listen I did not want to do this. I in no way came to Congress with the desire to impeach the president. I came because I wanted to work on lowering the cost of prescription drugs, on making housing and health care more affordable, and on the issues that really are important to the people in my community.
But at a certain point, it becomes clear that those things that my family and so many others in our district and in our communities have fought for have risked their lives in support of is at -- is at threat at its very core. And when the person at the highest level of office is willing to throw away exactly what they`ve been fighting for his own political purposes, then we have to step up and we`ve got to do more.
And this is a very reluctant thing that I`m doing and we have to take it with as much gravity and seriousness as we possibly can and know that it is only because of our national security and because of the very integrity of our democratic institutions that we`re moving forward with this.
HAYES: How much conversation has there been between you and other freshman members particularly those freshman members and say those 40 seats that are considered the sort of most frontline districts? Are you talking to each other about this checking in with each other, arguing about this amongst yourselves?
HILL: Yes, we talk to each other about this all the time. And it`s been - - even over the course of the last several months it`s been a constant topic of conversation. And I think that this administration and the information that`s come forth over the last you know several months since we`ve been here has pushed some -- each of us further and further and further towards you know, towards that question of at what point do we need to push this all the way towards you know, full-on impeachment proceeding.
And I think that this was finally the tipping point for so many of us. That`s why you saw all of these different statements that were coming out today because we -- you know, you can no longer -- you can no longer take it when so much is in jeopardy.
So -- but yes, it`s -- you know, we know it`s risky, right? We know that ultimately we`re doing what we have to do to uphold the oath that we took when we got sworn in January 3rd, but we also know that it is coming potentially with the risk of losing our seats.
But we know that it`s the right thing to do and hopefully, we`ll be able to communicate that back to the people at home that this doesn`t come lightly. This is something that we have to believe in and do it whether it`s the easy thing or not.
HAYES: All right, Congresswoman Katie Hill of California, thanks very much.
HILL: Thank you.
HAYES: Here with me now to talk about what he`s hearing in Capitol Hill, Mike Debonis who covers a Congress for the Washington Post. He`s a very, very diligent and well-sourced reporter about the doings among the House Democratic caucus. What was going on behind the scenes today in that caucus?
MIKE DEBONIS, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, thanks, Chris, for having me. There were just a ton of kind -- of a ton of conversations, a lot of speculation, just members not knowing what direction this was going to go, what was Nancy Pelosi going to say. Was she going to launch an inquiry? Was she`s just going to say she personally supported impeachment? Was she going to set up a special committee to handle this? Was this basically going to continue on the course it had?
There was a lot of things happening behind the scenes in terms of people in the House trying to shape what this ultimately would become. And that was playing out not only today, yesterday, and over the weekend.
HAYES: So what is your understanding of what the kind of buy-in from the caucus is and their understanding of what the meaning of today is?
DEBONIS: Well, the buy-in is certainly greater now than it was a week ago. There either -- there has been a very discernible shift in sentiment. That said, it`s not unanimous. Not every Democrat right now is ready to take a vote to impeach the President.
I spoke to several, you know, "front-liners" these members from the more disputed districts who are facing tough free elections next year. Some of them came out and said these allegations regarding Ukraine and the president were just the final straw but there`s others who say you know, listen, you know, maybe we need to get the facts first before we start using the I word.
They are not being very vocal right now because they can feel in the caucus the sentiment, the center of gravity shifting and they know that they`re becoming a dwindling group. But they`re still out there and at some point, this becomes a numbers game.
You know, you need 218 votes to impeach the president. You know, their voices are going to matter as this process plays out and their voices are going to become more important but right now, they`re laying low.
HAYES: So final question for you. So if you -- I think you`re viewing in this in the maximally cynical way and I don`t think it`s necessarily the correct interpretation but I want to lay it out for you and get response which is this is essentially Nancy Pelosi it`s a kind of speech act.
I mean comes out she makes a speech. We now are formally engaged in impeachment inquiry but nothing substantively has changed. It`s still that the chairs are looking into this and the numbers are sort of ticking around. And maybe she sort of regains control of this and can -- and can slow it down if that`s what she wants to do. What do you think about that theory?
DEBONIS: That`s absolutely right. I mean, the impeachment of Richard Nixon, the impeachment of Bill Clinton, they both started with votes of the House to launch an impeachment investigation and they ended with articles impeachment being filed by the Judiciary Committee.
We`re not having that House vote. This hasn`t been ratified by the -- by the House. Currently, the House is in litigation trying to get documents from the special counsel`s office, grand jury testimony. And you know there`s a real question of whether just saying that you`re in an impeachment inquiry by the Speaker of the House is enough or do you actually need to take a vote, do you actually need to put this on paper.
And that`s going to be litigated. That`s going to play out in the courts over the next few weeks if not months. And that`s an important question that they really don`t have a good answer to you right now.
HAYES: All right, Mike Debonis on Capitol Hill, thank you very much. We saw the proverbial dam breaking in the House, that torrent of about 40 members coming forth. Now we`re seeing very clear calls for impeachment in the Senate which is a quite new development.
One of those people is someone who has some special insight into all this. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut put out a statement today arguing for the House to begin impeachment proceedings against the president. "To use America`s global credibility as a casino token, to be cashed in for personal political gain is an intolerable abuse of power and totally anathema up to the rule of law."
Now, Senator Murphy sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And more than that, he has been one of the most active members in the entire U.S. Senate on U.S.-Ukraine relations. He`s traveled there multiple times and in fact, was just there a few weeks ago where he met with the new incoming Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Senator Chris Murphy is here with me now. Let`s start with that. You were there a few weeks ago. You talked to the incoming President Zelensky. What did you hear? What did you -- what was your takeaway?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, I started to get visits to my office and calls in the spring right after President Zelensky had been sworn in after a resounding election victory with concerns that Rudy Giuliani had begun to pressure Zelenski and his team to launch these investigations into Vice President Biden.
And Zelenski who has never held elective offices before, he`s a political novice, didn`t really understand whether these were official requests from the U.S. government or whether they were requests he should ignore.
And so part of the reason that I eventually made the decision to go there and see him for myself was because I thought it was important for somebody from the United States Congress to raise with him the concern about the damage that could be done to the U.S.-Ukraine relationship if he ceded to the political requests from the president instead of conducting the U.S.- Ukraine relationship through the State Department.
When I raised this concern with him, this was now three weeks ago, he was very ready for my question and he assured me at the time that he had no interest in interfering in the U.S. election in 2020. That was at a time when we did not know that the president had raised these issues with him directly.
So I left confident that, you know, perhaps this matter was behind us. We had to figure out why Giuliani was still at it. Now we know that he, in fact, was hearing directly from the president.
HAYES: Now there`s a parallel story that happens here which is the mystery of the stalled aide. And one of the things that`s come out I think in the reporting in the last few weeks and in some ways was kind of hiding in plain sight was this wasn`t a secret on Capitol Hill. The President blocking this aide was becoming a bigger and bigger deal to you and your colleagues.
MURPHY: Well, and it happened outside of the normal channels. From everything we heard this was a decision made very personally by the President that he had strong feelings about the need to withhold this aid from Ukraine. It surprised Republicans and Democrats when it came out and so it was inexplicable.
And you know, Adam Schiff made the right point which is you know, whether or not you can actually uncover some direct evidence of a quid pro quo, it doesn`t really matter. The very fact that these two things were happening at the same time sent a clear message to the Ukrainian government that if they wanted to get right with the president, they had a surprise withdrawal of aid and a standing request from the president that they were not ceding to.
It would just be common sense for the Ukrainians to come to the conclusion that if they did what the president was asking with respect to getting involved in the 2020 election, then maybe that aid would be unlocked.
HAYES: What changed -- what about this set of facts at least as the President has largely kind of stipulated to in his own weird addled and roundabout way, what about them makes you feel that impeachment -- that the very high constitutional bar of this kind of break glass provision is warranted?
MURPHY: So you know, I had not recommended impeachment as you know up until now in part because a lot of my constituents thought that if we were really litigating the past, the questions of interference in the 2016 election, maybe the 2020 election was the right place to make those decisions.
Now, we`re talking about a president who is actively trying to potentially steal the upcoming election. And that if he were to continue to believe he had impunity for using his office as a means to try to interfere, and impact, and manipulate the 2020 election, then there`s no end to the ways in which he would try to aggressively manipulate others to get involved in this upcoming election.
So to me, because we are now trying to protect an upcoming election, it was really important for us to draw a line in the sand to tell him that if you`re thinking of doing this through other means, we`re watching and we`re willing to take action.
HAYES: So you see this as some kind of deterrent, some restraint on the President`s behavior?
MURPHY: Yes, I think this is prophylactic in some ways. You know, whether or not you`re ultimately going to get 67 votes in the Senate, the President is now on notice that if you were going to try to use the awesome power at your disposal either through your domestic powers or through foreign policy to try -- to try to manipulate others to interfere in the 2020 election, there`s going to be consequences for that.
And I think he was just getting to the point where he felt like there was no check on him. And this at least provides that notice of a real check.
HAYES: One of the -- one of the sort of most surprising moments today was that unanimous consent resolution non-binding that happened in the Senate today. You were tweeting about it others were watching it happen. Mitch McConnell could have objected because it was a unanimous consent and by definition one senator could object to it and he didn`t.
It was non-binding and it recommended the whistleblower complaint be furnished to the appropriate committees in the Senate. What is your understanding of what happened today in the Senate?
MURPHY: You know, it was surprising to me in part because I had spent a good deal of today talking one-on-one with some of my Republican friends in the Senate. And many of them were steadfastly defending the decision to not pressure the president to bring forward the whistleblower complaints.
So, privately, a lot of Senate Republicans, who are close allies of the president, were telling me that they thought that it was justified to keep the whistle-blower complaint out of the hands of congress
And so it was interesting to me that there was a pivot at some point today. I mean, there was a decision by leadership to endorse the whistle-blower complaint coming before congress, and that clearly was not because there was a unanimity among Senate Republicans in making that recommendation. It may be simply because they didn`t want to make senators who are up for reelection in 2020 answer for their caucus`s participation in a cover-up, maybe it`s because they know whats in that whistle-blower complaint and they didn`t want to be seen as trying to keep it from congress.
But clearly there was a change in strategy at some point today by Senate Republicans.
HAYES: All right, Senator Chris Murphy, thank you so much for being here for that.
Ahead, the White House now reportedly dropping its objection to the Trump whistle-blower speaking to congress. I want to talk to the former general counsel to the DNI about what that means next.
HAYES: As we continue to follow today`s breaking news, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing a formal impeachment inquiry into the president, there remain a ton of questions about the full scope of what was in that whistle-blower complaint that initially started all this off.
Today there`s word the House Intel Chair Adam Schiff is working with the whistle-blower`s attorney to possibly get his testimony and the White House might release it.
Joining me now to talk more about it, former general counsel to the director of national intelligence of the Obama administration Robert Litt.
Mr. Litt, what is your read, as someone who had this job as general counsel for DNI, of what the law requires here?
ROBERT LITT, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL TO DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I`ve written a couple of pieces on the Lawfare blog about this, and I would have to respectfully disagree with Congressman Schiff who spoke earlier. I think it`s entirely appropriate for the Director of National Intelligence to get legal advice as to whether or not he`s obligated to furnish this complaint to congress, if he doesn`t think it meets the very technical definition in the statute of a complaint that has to be turned over. Now, that`s different from saying can it be turned over? Can the whistle-blower testify before congress? And I think it`s very encouraging that the whistle-blower seems willing to testify, and at least according to reports this evening the White House seems to be willing to let him testify.
HAYES: Why do you think those developments have happened? Obviously, the White House took relatively extraordinary means, it seems from the reporting that we have, to keep this out of congress, that has now appeared to change. What do you understand as someone who had this job before, like what are the dynamics around something like this like?
LITT: Well, I would suspect the director of national intelligence and his office was leaning pretty heavily on the White House to allow this to go forward. The director of national intelligence has a very close and cooperative relationship with the intelligence committees and tends to lean forward towards disclosing things to them. And I think Admiral Maguire probably felt pretty caught in the middle here and didn`t want to be caught in the middle.
At the same time who knows? Maybe the White House has concluded that this isn`t as damaging as they thought it was going to be, or maybe they`re just recognizing that the political pressure is so great they have to concede on it.
HAYES: In your time working as a general counsel at DNI, did you ever have stuff like this? How common or rare is a complaint of this nature?
LITT: Well, typically those wouldn`t have come to my attention as general counsel. There were a number of them every year that would come up, some of them were found to be meritorious, some of them were not, but they were always transmitted to congress.
HAYES: So what you`re saying is the normal procedure is it doesn`t go to the counsel of DNI?
LITT: That`s right. Ordinarily it would just be sent up. I think probably what happened here, and I`m entirely speculating here, but when this hit Maguire`s desk he looked at it and said this is an allegation against the president, I better make sure people know about this so that the first time the president hears about it isn`t when there`s a press conference by some member of congress. And that got the ball rolling for the involvement of the Department of Justice.
HAYES: The IG, Michael Atkinson, who will meet with the Senate Intel Committee tomorrow, along with the acting DNI, Jeffrey Maguire, who will be testifying, my understand, again from the reporting, and I don`t have firsthand knowledge, is that Atkinson`s reputation is quite good, that he`s seen as a sort of fair arbiter. Is that your sense?
LITT: I don`t know him personally, but everything I`ve heard about him is that he`s a straight shooter.
HAYES: What do you think happens next? I mean, I guess the question is how does congress and the IG at the DNI and everyone attempt to secure whistle-blower protections as this goes forward? And there will obviously be a tremendous amount of pressure and attention paid to it.
LITT: Well, there are two separate things. And I want to focus first of all on what you just said about securing whistle-blower protections, because I think that`s a very important part of this that people haven`t paid enough attention to. There is a statute that provides some protection for whistle-blowers in the intelligence community, and it is extremely important that people feel they can blow the whistle without retaliation.
You have a situation where the president is already accusing the whistle- blower of being partisan, other people are saying that the whistle-blower is not patriotic. I think that Republicans and Democrats in congress both need to speak very firmly and clearly that this whistle-blower so long as he or -- he or she continues to go through channels and bring the information to the attention of the intelligence community -- committees, that this whistle-blower must be protected from any form of retaliation.
HAYES: Is that plausible? I mean, I just -- I guess I sort of feel like, you know, it`s we`re watching a champagne bottle being shaken and shaken and at a certain point the cork pops off and we all find out who this person is.
LITT: Well, I`m sure we`re going to find out who the person is at some point, but that`s different than saying the person is going to be subject to retaliation. And if this person gets retaliated against, it`s simply going to encourage future whistle-blowers to break the law, to leak things, and that will be to the detriment of the presidency and the intelligence community.
HAYES: That`s really, really interesting point.
Robert Litt, thank you very much for all of that.
LITT: Thanks for having me.
HAYES: Coming up, President Trump is set to meet with the Ukrainian president tomorrow. So just who is Vladimir Zelensky? That story after this.
HAYES: As if the current political situation could not get any crazier tomorrow amid all of this Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with none other than the newly elected 41-year-old president of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky, at the United Nations. He`s the man that Donald Trump sought to pressure for his own political gain, which resulted today in the announcement of an official impeachment inquiry.
Just take a second to appreciate how insane this guy`s life is, Zelensky I mean. He became widely known in 2006 when he won the Ukrainian version of Dancing With the Stars, later starred in a television version show called Servant of the People where he played a high school teacher whose rant against government corruption goes viral propelling him to Ukrainian presidency. And then he runs for the real Ukrainian presidency, and basically the next thing you know he`s elected to be actual president of Ukraine on an anti-corruption agenda, despite zero political experience.
And now he`s about to meet with an American president who basically appears tried to extort him into opening a dormant and closed investigation into the president`s political rival.
So, what the heck does he do? And how does this all look from the Ukrainian perspective?
Joining me now, Andrij Dobriansky of the Ukrainian Congress Committee America, a not for profit that provides support for Ukraine`s developing democracy and just yesterday met with the new Ukrainian president. Also with me Carol Lennig, national reporter for The Washington Post and MSNBC contributor. She`s one of reporters who broke the story that Trump ordered a hold on military aid days before calling Zelensky, which has since been confirmed by NBC News.
Andrij, let me start with you, because you`re here for UN week. And you`ve you just met Zelensky. Like,e how is this, to the extent you can divine or know, like how is this resonating in the circle around this new president who already has a very, very full plate?
ANDRIJ DOBRIANSKY, UKRAINIAN CONGRESS COMMITTEE OF AMERICA : Right. The president exudes a lot of confidence. He can read a room. He`s very much knows how to get people to listen to him. He can command people. And that`s why he`s really hoping to be in a room with Donald Trump.
We think that if Donald Trump and this President Zelensky, who again you mentioned that he was very quickly into politics -- as of six months ago when I was there for the first round of Ukrainian elections, nobody in the entire province had even seen him electioneering there. There was no campaigning going on. It was only until the second round that he was actively doing this.
So -- but again, once he gets in a room, whether it`s the Ukrainian parliament that he, you know, commands, or it`s one-on-one, he`s very, very good. And we hope that -- that fact, get him in a room with President Trump, a former...
HAYES: To what end? To what end? Tell him to not, you know, twist his arm to open up an investigation into the former vice president`s son?
DOBRIANSKY: Well, that`s not -- I don`t see Donald Trump going through, you know, old newspapers and actually end up saying, oh, maybe I should go with, you know, Biden and stuff.
I think the real thing is about what`s going to happen when another person gives him a different perspective. I think President Zelensky, again, is a person who can project a different kind of perspective. Maybe influence President Trump to actually come visit Ukraine, which, you know, he`s been promising to do for a while, because Barack Obama never did it. So come on over to Ukraine, figure this out, because that`s what is really missing here. Somebody needs to come over there and actually understand why it`s important to fund this, you know, $250 million or that $140 million, that`s the important part.
HAYES: Carol, you`ve done a lot of reporting on this. And one thing I think is interesting here is the role Giuliani has played and/or the State Department in all of this. And there`s a little question in my mind, and I wonder if you can clarify or what you know about the role the State Department has been? Because Giuliani basically says, oh, I over there because the State Department called me and wanted to.
There`s something a little strange about the official channel of U.S. foreign relations setting up meetings for the president`s personal attorney. But what do we know about the role State has played?
CAROL LEONNIG, NATIONAL REPORTER: Well, I`m so glad you asked, Chris, because I think the time-line is really interesting. I mean, everybody is really focused on the president`s call with Zelensky and on July 25 when he admitted today he asked him multiple times to open this investigation to get to the bottom of corruption in their country and to look at Biden`s son.
That call is followed by a meeting that the president has, or the conversation he has with State Department. His ambassador then meet with Zelensky and talks with him the next day, ambassador to Ukraine. And then the ambassador to Ukraine from the United States helps arrange a meeting for Giuliani to go meet with a Zelensky aide in Madrid, Spain where Giuliani has told us he was pressing and saying, look, you know, you really need to investigate this stuff, it`s important to the United States.
How odd, though, for the president`s personal attorney to be conducting this kind of diplomacy that is like half diplomacy and half what can you do for us about dirt on Biden?
HAYES: Yeah, that is a very strange arrangement.
I want to read -- so I`ve been talking to friends of mine who read Russian, and some of whom who follow the press in Ukraine, and I don`t read Ukrainian or Russian. But the Daily Beast had a report that Ukraine is likely to reopen the probe of Hunter Biden`s firm?
DOBRIANSKY: There are two weird stories, it was both (inaudible) in the Daily Beast. One of them quoted a member of parliament who I`ve been on panels with, (inaudible), which has no power at all. And he said we`d be glad to open up...
HAYES: This is sort of speculative...
DOBRIANSKY: Not just speculative, but maybe put me in charge of it. I`ll do it.
HAYES: I see. I see.
DOBRIANSKY: And then another follow-up with another member of the government, not really in the inner circle at all.
So, sometimes those headlines from the Daily Beast are just a little bit more causing a little...
HAYES: But you don`t think there`s been an official decision taken by Zelensky doing this.
DOBRIANSKY: I don`t think anybody wants to do anything close to this. You know this is...
HAYES: Well, it seems almost now they`re sort of trapped and they can`t.
I mean -- you know what I mean? Like, if his whole thing is I`m a reformer and I`m -- I ran against corruption, like being strong armed by an American president into doing this like your first few weeks in office seems like a tough thing.
DOBRIANSKY: Well, you know, Ukraine can sit back -- Ukraine`s agriculture has been going through the roof since the Chinese tariffs went out on American wheat. So, Ukraine has been benefiting in some ways from that.
But I just want to point out also there`s no current ambassador from Ukraine to the United States, and there`s no ambassador from the United States to Ukraine, there`s just a temporary charge there, a former ambassador.
HAYES: Carol, do you think that this stops now? I mean, that`s my big question, right? Like, these two countries have bilateral relationships, but Giuliani seems like completely unperturbed, it seems like he`s just going to keep going at it.
LENNIG: It`s really interesting. And Chris, you know, you asked do you think this ends here. I don`t think so. I think we`re only going to learn more and more every day, including tomorrow. I mean, the president said this afternoon from New York that he`s declassifying the call that he made in July 25 because he said it was a perfect call, it was a totally appropriate call, and he wants everyone to see that it was.
But I think more information that we`re going to piece together we have to find out what happened before and after.
You say -- you asked the going what else is going to to happen. I mean one of the things that`s most interesting to me and worrisome from the perspective of this narrative that the White House had that everything was fine, is Zelensky himself told a U.S. lawmaker in September that he was concerned that the aid being withheld was the consequence of him not opening an investigation.
What else do you need if the person who is the president of Ukraine fears that this is a quid pro quo?
HAYES: All right, Andrij Dobriansky and Carol Lennig, thank you both for being with me.
Coming up, what exactly Nancy Pelosi`s announcement today means in the push for impeachment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable fact of the president`s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. Therefore, today, I`m announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced this afternoon the start of a formal impeachment process. And while there`s been some speculation today the speaker would announce a special select committee, ultimately that`s not what she decided to do. Instead, this formal inquiry will be run by the six committee chairs already investigating Trump now under the rubric of an official impeachment inquiry. And they will then refer their findings over to the House Judiciary Committee for possible articles of impeachment.
That said, there are a lot of questions about what that looks like and how it all works. To help answer some of them, I`m joined by Brian Beutler, editor-in-chief of Crooked.com, who has a new piece up today titled "The Lessons of Impeachment and End of Trump`s Impunity," and Maya Wiley, professor at The New School and an MSNBC legal analyst.
Brian, let me start with you, because you have been writing about this and banging this drum for awhile, quite vociferously, that impeachment was -- it was important, it was important both politically, substantively, that in some ways almost from a game theory perspective, it`s the only thing the president would understand was some sort of official sanction.
Do you think that was accomplished today? And what`s your read on how important today was?
BRIAN BEUTLER, CROOKED.COM EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: I think it was very important. I mean I think that you can just look at the first nine-and-a-half months of the Democratic majority tried to look into any of President Trump`s corruptions or any of the accusations that he committed crimes, they were stonewalled, he -- you know, he sued to try to block subpoenas. They really got nowhere in nine-and-a-half months. And then within four hours they prevailed on him to release this transcript of this phone call, to make arrangements for this whistle-blower to testify to the intelligence community -- or to the intelligence committees, and to release his complaint to congress. I mean, that`s more than they`ve gotten all year.
And so the proof is kind of in the pudding.
HAYES: It`s a great point. I mean, some ways it`s to the point that people are like, wait, I don`t understand, what`s happening? What`s the catch? This is just reportable just in the last few minutes from NBC News, the White House is preparing to turn over the whistle-blower complaint by this Thursday, tells NBC News the complaint will undergo a classification review and be provided to congress by Thursday.
Now again, they can always try to manipulate things, but this is, to Brian point, much faster than they`ve responded to anything so far.
MAYA WILEY, THE NEW SCHOOL: Well, and with the senate resolution that said yeah, yeah, yeah, you should do it. You know that didn`t happen without a call going to the White House beforehand saying you really have to do this.
HAYES: So you think that was McConnell laying on the White House to be like, it will be better for -- you can not stonewall this?
WILEY: You can`t stonewall this, and the reason you can`t is that you have a Trump-appointed inspector-general, not a Democratic appointed inspector- general, a Trump appointee who said credible urgent. And the combination of those two words in conjunction with a president who said yes, I did have that call and I did in fact ask him to investigate.
HAYES: Yeah, we talked about the Bidens and also you don`t want to send money to these people.
WILEY: And by the way, I did it the day after Robert Mueller`s testimony. And, oh, and by the way, Rudy Giuliani, as we know in press accounts, constantly trying to get this jump started. So he had no -- there was no question that the only strategy here was to be as transparent as was expedient.
HAYES: There is new reporting tonight from The Washington Post about Rudy Giuliani`s freelance or not freelance foreign policy with Ukraine. The big question to me, Brian, now are sort of what`s the content of the whistle- blower complaint and the whistle-blower`s testimony? And if congress can get it. And then how quickly this moves.
Because I can imagine two worlds. I can imagine a world of sort of like the momentum keeps going and there is widespread consensus among Democrats that this itself, this one violation is a high crime and misdemeanor and is impeachable, and then I can see a much longer process that perhaps stalls out. What do you think?
BEUTLER: Well, so I think that in the nature of the process that Pelosi green-lighted, they sort of have Trump beset on all sides, right. Right now what`s capturing the public`s imagination is this whistle-blower complaint. And that means that Adam Schiff`s committee is going to be the focus of a lot of attention.
But meanwhile, the other committees that have their own resources and their own lawyers and their own staffs are going to be ramping up their own processes. And if at some point some of those lines of inquiry stall out, that doesn`t mean that the whole thing falls apart.
BEUTLER: I think that, you know, you get a sense as you keep moving whether really the only thing that`s going to carry water in the House or really move any senators is the one -- the one thing we have going on on the Ukraine, then that`s what will get reported to the judiciary and then over to the senate. But they don`t seem to be closing the door at all...
BEUTLER: ...and, you know, by just doing this, by stepping forward and saying we are doing an impeachment inquiry and it`s real this time, everyone is paying attention now.
So what was -- what used to be until recently very hard to get the public to focus on Trump`s enriching himself with the office and his obstruction of justice as outlined in the Mueller report and so on is just going to be easier to get people to pay attention to. And so those threads might come alive again.
HAYES: Do you agree with that?
WILEY: I do agree with that. And I think the other important piece here is the suggestion now that the Democrats have said, now that Nancy Pelosi has come forward and said, we are doing this, what she`s saying is I have the votes for articles of impeachment, which means particularly on an issue like this one, like the whistle-blower, there is already a lot of evidence. It`s pretty straightforward. Once it`s confirmed, they don`t have to go through court anymore.
HAYES: What you said just now I think is really important and one of the main takeaways of the day, which is that Pelosi saying that thing -- she didn`t take a vote, but her saying it is that I can get the votes if I need it, because she doesn`t say it unless she can. And all the players in this understand that, which is why today was so significant.
Brian Beutler and Maya Wiley, thank you both for joining us.
That is ALL IN this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END