CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: 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.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they`d start a major investigation into the Biden.
HAYES: The President does it again.
TRUMP: It`s a very simple answer. They should investigate the Biden`s.
HAYES: And again.
TRUMP: Likewise, China just should start an investigation into the Biden`s.
HAYES; And again.
TRUMP: I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Biden`s.
HAYES: The President commits impeachable offenses on camera yet again as damning new evidence emerges of the Trump plan to shakedown Ukraine.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): He feels he can do anything with impunity.
HAYES: Tonight, what we learned from Donald Trump`s former envoy to Ukraine. New reporting that Rudy Giuliani got Trump to remove the Ukrainian ambassador, new questions about what was deleted in the White House call summary.
TRUMP: This is an exact word-for-word transcript of the conversation, right?
HAYES: And why Kellyanne Conway`s husband is making the best case yet that Donald Trump is not fit for office.
TRUMP: I have the right to do whatever I want as president.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. Hold on, it has been quite a day. Right now, well you`re in the midst as you might know of an impeachment inquiry against the President for attempting to use the full force of American foreign policy to get a foreign country to meddle in our election by manufacturing dirt on his political opponent.
That`s the high crime in the Constitution`s words that he is accused of that basically he`s admitted to. Tonight we have new reporting about the scope of that pressure campaign because it wasn`t just one phone call.
The New York Times reporting that two of President Trump`s top envoys to Ukraine drafted a statement for the country`s new president in August that would have publicly committed Ukraine to pursuing investigations sought by Mr. Trump into his political rivals.
One of those two men, the former special envoy the Ukraine Kurt Volker testified on Capitol Hill today. He also turned over some incriminating text messages to that committee. We`re going to show you those in a moment.
But this all comes on a day when the president repeated his crime publicly. He went before the cameras and in full view of all of us, he wants to get attempted to use the force of American foreign policy to get foreign countries to meddle in our election by manufacturing dirt on his political opponent.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Biden`s after your phone call?
TRUMP: Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they`d start a major investigation into the Biden`s. It`s a very simple answer. They should investigate the Biden`s.
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HAYES: OK. There he is. He said it. I mean, we knew it but now he`s saying it again. A reminder that President Zelensky, he`s the new president of Ukraine, the country that the president personally withheld nearly $400 million in aid to while he press Zelensky to conduct that bogus Biden investigation.
Just to be absolutely clear about what`s happening here because there are a lot of forces trying to confuse you, Trump is caught. The people here have all been caught in this corrupt abuse of power. They`ve tried to throw a bunch of dirt in all our eyes but it isn`t working.
So now they`re doing the only thing that is left to them which is to say yes, we did it. We`re still doing it. So what? And Trump isn`t just admitting to what is to my mind and unquestionably impeachable offense, he`s not just doubling down, he`s actually escalating. Today out of nowhere, he said he also wants China to investigate the Biden`s.
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TRUMP: And by the way, likewise, China to start an investigation into the Biden`s. because what happened to China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.
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HAYES: OK. Now, China is in the midst of a U.S. trade war and in fact, Chinese delegation is coming to the U.S. next week for trade talks. It is a trade war which the Chinese would very much like to end because it`s hurting their economy just like it`s hurting our economy.
And in the context of talking about that trade war that China wants over, the President tells China to investigate the Biden`s. He might as well said, I would like you to do us a favor though. And by the way, China is not a place with a very strong rule of law. It`s an authoritarian state that routinely imprisons and even kills dissidents, a place where the Communist Party abuses investigations all the time to go after American businessmen. That`s who he`s telling to go after the Biden`s.
Remember the component parts of this. The President ordered the aid to Ukraine suspended even though it had passed with bipartisan majorities both houses of Congress. He sent a message to Zelensky by telling Mike Pence not to attend the new president`s inauguration and then he ratchet up the pressure personally on a phone call to Zelensky.
Today we learned through the chief U.S. diplomat in Ukraine understood exactly what was happening, that it was all as bad as corrupt and as egregious as it looked. Enclosed to his testimony in Capitol Hill, the former special envoy Ukraine Kurt Volker reportedly provided text messages including one from the top U.S. diplomat who wrote, according to ABC News, "I think it`s crazy to withhold security assistant for help with a political campaign."
Now, in response, a Trump political appointee by the name of Gordon Sondland -- you`ll be hearing more about him so get familiar. Now, Sondland donated over $1 million at Trump`s inaugural committee and now he`s got this position. He responded like a White House spokesperson insisting the president has been crystal clear no quid pro quo of any time. He then added, I suggest we stop the back-and-forth by text. Good one, dude.
Now, the New York Times reports that Sondland made those statements, there`s no quid pro quo, after he talked to the president. He got them straight from the source. Sondland is one of the people who drafted that statement that would have committed Ukraine publicly on paper signed documents to pursuing the investigations. He also assisted Rudy Giuliani in his ceaseless meddling in Ukraine according to Giuliani himself.
It`s just the latest revelation about the scope of the insane rogue foreign policy being run by the President`s personal attorney, a rogue foreign policy that has nothing to do with U.S. interests or the national interests, or the public interest, or what`s good for the people of Ukraine, or good for the people the United States.
Again, the President endorsed this in his call with a foreign head of state. We now know that Giuliani sent a packet full of lies to the State Department to smear the U.S. ambassador that according to Washington Post, he even consulted on Ukraine with none other than imprisoned felon and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort via lawyer.
It amounts to a complete nutjob conspiracy operation to smear political opponents that`s being run by the President`s lawyer and by the President out of the White House and turned into American foreign policy.
Here with me now on the phone, Michael Schmidt, one of the New York Times reporters who broke the story about the President`s envoy drafting an investigation commitment for the president of Ukraine. Michael what can you tell us about the context in which this document arises?
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, these two diplomats are trying to assuage Trump and Giuliani. They believe that Giuliani is poisoning from the mind about Ukraine and that Giuliani is getting in the way of what they believe would be good U.S.-Ukrainian relations.
And that to sort of pacify them and pacify Giuliani, if they can get the new Ukrainian president to commit to these investigations, then maybe Giuliani will go away, and maybe they can sort of go back and allow the Ukrainians to come and visit Trump in the Oval Office and continue to build these ties.
And that is in the context in which they are discussing giving this statement to the Ukrainians. Now, the Ukrainians ultimately did not put out the statement. They did not want to get any more deeply involved in American politics. They saw the problems with that and obviously you know, some of that has come true.
But they wanted this statement to say that the Ukrainians would investigate the company that was linked to Hunter Biden and the origins of the 2016 elections, the same things that had come up in the July call that the President had with the Ukrainian president.
HAYES: So just for -- just so I understand the timeline. This is in August which means at that point, the aid has been withheld -- you think it gets withheld starting around July 17th. So the aid hangs over the background of this, right?
I mean, presumably, I guess do we know that there`s an understanding by any of the parties here that there`s a connection between this aid that was supposed to show up that hasn`t as of yet and signing the statement?
SCHMIDT: We don`t know about a connection between the two. We do know that Giuliani knew about this statement. We do know that the aid was in question. We do know that the U.S., these diplomats wanted the Ukrainians to agree to this because many times before in private, they had said they would do it but hadn`t -- but hadn`t followed through on it.
Well what happened in the July call, it was a private call, the Ukrainians basically sort of committed to doing this. They certainly entertained the idea. And the U.S. is coming back here a month later and basically saying, hey guys, we want you to say this on the record and that would lock them into that.
HAYES: So you`ve got Giuliani at this point has taken multiple meetings with Ukrainian officials. He is publicly on Twitter and Don Junior as well berating the Ambassador, sort of put pressure on them. And what you`re telling me is there was a lot of yes, yes, yes, we`ll look into it like this guy off our back including Zelensky on the call to President Trump which we`ve read the notes of in which Zelensky says sure, we`ll look into it. This was like we don`t believe you, we need to get you on the record?
SCHMIDT: Yes, it`s a way of sort of locking it in because a public statement they could hold the Ukrainians accountable for it. They could say, hey, look, you committed to doing this. You said you would follow through. Here are your own words.
Now those words would (INAUDIBLE) coming from the United States, but the Ukrainians would have put them out. And as we pointed out, the Ukraine`s saw the pitfalls with this, they saw the problems with it and didn`t do it.
HAYES: Michael Schmidt, this is great reporting. Thank you so much for hopping the phone and sharing those details.
SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.
HAYES: I`m joined now by the former head of the office of legal counsel Walter Dellinger who also served as Acting Solicitor General. Let`s take a step back. There`s a lot of facts coming out. All of them point the same direction which is that the effort by the President to have Ukraine be coerced and extorted into doing a hit job on his political rival was a big enterprise. It wasn`t just this one phone call.
But the President`s comments today on camera, from a constitutional and rule-of-law perspective, what is your reaction to them in which he is publicly doing the thing he did privately and now bringing a new party into it, the Chinese Communist Party.
WALTER DELLINGER, ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: Well, it is -- it is profoundly wrong in three respects. First, no president should get involved in any individual criminal matter. Secondly, as you noted no American president should ever want to subject any American, office holder or not to the tyrannies of the Chinese criminal justice system.
And third and most importantly, it violates a precept that is so fundamental we don`t even notice it, Chris, and that is that the American president should be chosen by the American people.
HAYES: What do you mean by that?
DELLINGER: What I mean by that is that -- is that if there was anything that the framers of the Constitution feared most, it was foreigner meddling in our elections. They feared that we would be the plaything of European politics, that there would be a French party and a British party, and that they would -- and that they went through the Emoluments Clause and through many other parts of the Constitution to try to ensure that American elections were independent.
No American wants to have Russians or Ukrainians or the Chinese playing a role in influencing the outcome of an American presidential election. So when a president attempts to violate that precept, he is or should be disqualified from even running for reelection because he has shown that he is -- he is unwilling to play by the understood rules of the game that we`ve had since 1790.
HAYES: There`s a Daily Beast story today that quotes the White House newsletter 1600 daily. And I don`t know whether this is a misstatement by said newsletter or not a misstatement, and I think a lot depends on whether it is. I`m going to read it to you.
It now says the president -- the president has asked Ukraine to fully cooperate with any Justice Department investigation into the actions of former Vice President Joe Biden and his family in Ukraine. Justice Department investigations -- it seems to me that we are already across a Rubicon on incredibly dangerous Democratic territory. But to the extent that the Justice Department has actually began an investigation at the President`s words against his political rival, that strikes me as even worse.
DELLINGER: It is. It is. And the negative fragment is you should not -- you should not cooperate with any congressional investigation. So you know, I feel that we`ve lost the leadership of the Department of Justice to the rule of law.
But essentially we`ve got to make clear how simple this story is. The President is asking for foreign governments to try to decide who the next president of the United States is and to play a role in making that decision. That is -- that -- there is nothing more fundamentally wrong than that in a democratic republic.
HAYES: On a scale of one to ten, I mean, there`s sort of been a low level or high-level rule of law crisis since the President was inaugurated in many ways. He clearly doesn`t just is sort of fundamentally lawless. He just doesn`t care about the law. He doesn`t care about the rule of law certainly. He really admires dictators and authoritarian strongmen.
Where are we right now on the sort of scale of one to ten, ten being something that would be what someone characterizes a constitutional crisis, one being a dispute about interpretation of the Constitution.
DELLINGER: Well, I think we`re at nine when the president has shown himself to be lawless. You know the statement -- I always thought there was a lot to be said for waiting until the 2020 election and voting Trump out of office. But he has shown himself willing to make sure that the 2020 election is corrupted and influenced by -- you know, by foreigners.
It`s hard to get higher on the scale than the President putting the life of a whistleblower who follow the whistleblower protection procedures, putting that person`s life and well-being at risk and sending out a message to all others who might come forward and talk about the misdeeds of this administration. They too are going to be put at risk, labeled as traitors and spies, and then we`re going to talk about what we used to do to traitors to spies.
HAYES: All right, Walter Dellinger, thank you for being with me tonight sharing your expertise.
DELLINGER: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: For more on today`s developments, I want to bring an MSNBC Political Analyst Michelle Goldberg, Columnist for the New York Times and Boston University Law Professor Rebecca Ingber who served in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the State Department. There`s a lot going on at State today.
First I just want to -- so there`s a lot here. Let`s start with what -- so there`s two things happening. The crime is being committed in public right, and now being double down on. But what we`re learning behind the scenes is the scope of the effort.
Now, I want to talk about this Michael Schmidt story. This is like a scene from Glengarry Glen Ross where like you have the person on the phone and they`re kind of -- then you get them in the office and it`s like sign, sign, sign, sign, sign. This is a hard close and it`s being done by U.S. diplomats.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And obviously, the U.S. ambassador understood exactly -- well two U.S. ambassadors understood exactly what was going on, right? There was the first U.S. ambassador who was removed apparently on the word of Rudy Giuliani because she would not cooperate with this shakedown.
HAYES: She was an obstacle to the shakedown the President was exerting and Giuliani on Ukraine to do a political hit job on Joe Biden.
GOLDBERG: She is replaced. The new ambassador texts and basically expressing the same sort of outraged incredulity that we are all expressing right now basically -- I mean, I don`t have the exact words, but saying it`s crazy to withhold foreign aid for U.S. political reasons, right?
And there no -- there`s no dispute about what happened here. The debate now or it`s not even a debate this sort of epistemological warfare that`s going on right now is that you`re going to have Trump, apparently Mike Pence -- you know, all the Republicans basically say there`s nothing wrong with this, right?
GOLDBERG: Yes, so what?
HAYES: As someone who -- you were in the legal department of the State Department, right? And you also write about sort of the civil service and government bureaucracy so you have sort of the scholars view on this and a practitioner`s view.
What is your reaction to watching what appears to have happened to the State Department`s instruments of coercion for foreign policy being sublimated at the President`s political will?
REBECCA INGBER, LAW PROFESSOR, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: Yes, there`s a lot going on there. So I mean, the story of the State Department until this point has been one of systematic gutting of the career civil service, right? And the concern that people raised with that is that the career civil service is there to A, to know what`s normal. To actually --
INGBER: -- To actually be able to promote U.S. values abroad and to continue the institutional memory of the State Department and those norms that we`ve been talking about and their importance. And now we see that there`s a whole range of State Department actors and the works here right now, right?
Also, we see the Secretary State Pompeo is on the phone call. We see the I.G. separately racing off to Congress to deliver this package and we don`t yet know entirely what the meaning of it is that apparently, lawyers had given him, right.
And so I think what you`re seeing is that this is deeply problematic on two levels. The first is that the involvement of high-level actors of the State Department intertwined with the President`s personal lawyer means that the president is using all the power of the state --
HAYES: Of the government, of the American government, the most powerful government in the world.
INGBER: He is using the power of the state for his own personal political purposes, right? So that`s the first level. And the second level is all of the other stuff that the State Department is supposed to be doing including these political appointees, Trump`s political appointees, they`re not doing.
HAYES: No, they`re not running a U.S. foreign policies, they`re running a rat effing operation. They are -- he is turning the State Department into creep, the committee to re-elect the president, the plumbers. He has taken the State Department and turned it into the plumbers.
The off-book operation of Nixon is now being run through the American State Department with the American or foreign officials who have behind them the backing of the American State and all its power.
INGBER: The State Department hasn`t been entirely gutted, right? So there`s an entire building of people who are --
HAYES: Yes. And I don`t want to cast dispersions on them. Many of whom I think could probably push back on this quite a bit. And we see it in the you know, Marie Yovanovitch who got booted because she did.
INGBER: And how much -- you know, she got booted because she was doing -- she was doing her job and she was acting within the confines of the law, right? And so we don`t actually see enormous you know, what we -- people think about deep state, hashtag cabinet resistance coming out of the State Department. What we see is people being pushed out for doing their jobs and following the normal order of things and the law.
HAYES: OK. Then today, China -- I want to just go to this quickly. So he does it in front of us with China. We know the trade talks are coming. We know the trade war hangs over this. So we know two things. One is that during a phone call in the 18th, Trump has already raised Biden`s political prospects as well as those set on Elizabeth -- Senator Elizabeth Warren who by then had started rising in the polls, and that the call is stored on the same secret server. So who knows what`s in that call.
But here`s the reaction. One Trump ally outside the White House today describing receiving a message from the Chinese government officials asking if Trump was serious when he suggested China open investigation into Biden. The response, investigating corruption is an easy way to earn goodwill with Trump. They are doing it right now in the moment in public.
GOLDBERG: Well, and there`s two parts to that, right? Because one of the slippery ways that Trump defenders get around defending the actual substance of what he says is either it`s just Trump being Trump which is not a defense because it`s just saying a criminal is committing more crimes.
But they`ll say it`s either Trump being Trump, we take him literally -- we take him seriously but not literally. There`s no -- there`s no proof that there was any follow-through. People don`t listen to him. And here we`re seeing in two different instances people do listen to him. And the course of foreign -- in the course of foreign policy is in fact changed.
HAYES: Yes, the best defense the President always is he`s a mentally incompetent weirdo that no one pays attention to. But in this case, that doesn`t work. That doesn`t work. Because after that phone call with Zelensky, two U.S. officials show up with a paper for you to sign selling your soul and committing yourselves to the hit job he wants you to do.
GOLDBERG: And I just want to say something quickly about what is happening to Ukraine because this is the country that has struggled with corruption, that has you know waged this revolution against his Russian aligned oligarch. Here we have the foreign policy of the United States ordering them to become to be more corrupt.
HAYES: To become more corrupt. Yes. Michelle Goldberg, Rebecca Ingber, thank you both for being with me. A lot more. Next, we learned from one of the men named in the whistleblower complaint after nine hours of testimony today. What we learned. The reports are damning. We`ll talk to someone who is in that room in just two minutes. Don`t go anywhere.
HAYES: Today was the first day of formal testimony in the newly inaugurated impeachment inquiry. The first since that formal inquiry was announced by Speaker Pelosi. And despite his best attempt, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could not stop it from happening. The White House could not stop it from happening.
So today, Kurt Volker, the former State Department envoy to Ukraine, a man who is named in the whistleblower complaint gave testimony to three House committees. And by most accounts, it was damning for the president, and was damning for his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
I should tell you, Kurt Volker went in to testify at around 9:30 this morning. He literally just left an hour ago. He testified for nine and a half hours before those committees. Congressman Gerry Connolly who was in that deposition joins us shortly to tell us what he learned, but Volker is not the only big witness who will speak to those committees. Former U.S. Ambassador Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch who was recalled from her mission in Ukraine is scheduled to give a deposition in the committee next week.
Tonight, The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump ordered her removed after Giuliani complained she was blocking the attempted investigation into Joe Biden among other things. Remember, it was just yesterday that Giuliani admitted to passing along some weird propaganda packet full of conspiracy theories to the State Department, some of which were used to smear the former Ukrainian Ambassador Yovanovitch.
Joining me now is one of the members of Congress who was at the deposition of the former Ukrainian special envoy today, Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia. He`s a member of both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Oversight Committee. Congressman, what you hear today?
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Well, I heard some chilling things but what I mostly heard, Chris, was corroborated evidence of the whistleblower complaint. And for that matter, factual backup for the actual transcript of July 25th phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky.
HAYES: After listening to Volker, do you feel like you have a better sense of the scope of this effort which reporting now indicates was not just the President on a phone call and Giuliani running around meeting with people, but actually quite deeply involved, Volker and his colleagues in the State Department.
CONNOLLY: Yes. I think -- I think this is really a grave moment it seems to me for the United States when President Trump is able to basically corrupt the entire apparatus of our diplomatic corps and of our foreign policy, to bend it to his sordid desire to get dirt on a political opponent.
And now we know it`s not limited to Ukraine. It occurred with respect to President Xi of China because we know on the `16 campaign it had occurred in the open with a government of Russia. Where does this end?
Is it now going to be an accepted norm that a president whoever is the incumbent is lucky enough to be, gets to use the entire apparatus of our government for nasty partisan political purposes to destroy any possibility of a viable political opponent. That`s not how our democracy works.
HAYES: I wonder -- I don`t know how much you can tell us about what you heard today. Obviously, it happened in closed session. Can you confirm the text message that we`ve read from the Chief of Mission in which -- the current Chief of Mission Mr. Taylor I believe in Ukraine who says it`s crazy that we are withholding aid for a political purpose.
CONNOLLY: I can. And I think the chronology there is also very important, the sequence. That text was written before the whistleblower complaint. So for Republicans to try to argue that this blew apart the narrative and totally destroyed the case being made, that`s false. He made that linkage before anyone knew about a whistleblower complaint making the same way.
HAYES: So I want to be clear here because I think this is important. This individual is the Chief of Mission right now who`s as far as I understand currently running the Embassy in Ukraine because we don`t have a formal ambassador. Is that right?
CONNOLLY: I believe that`s correct.
CONNOLLY: I think it`s Bill Taylor.
HAYES: Yes, Bill Taylor. So he`s the one who says in writing in a text, his understanding from his perch in Kyiv as the U.S. Chief of Mission in the U.S. Embassy is that what is happening is that we are withholding aid in order to extract a press -- a promise the Ukrainians will undertake a political hit job for the president.
CONNOLLY: That`s correct. And I think we got to call this what it is. If the Republicans don`t want to call it quid pro quo, no problem, it`s extortion. And extortion is not only morally wrong and an abuse of office, it`s illegal.
HAYES: Do you have a sense of what Volker`s role was in this after talking -- hearing him for nine and a half hours about whether he was a willing party to this, he was being dragged along, what`s your sense?
CONNOLLY: In the session I attended this morning about an hour and a half, Chris, my sense was this was a forthright professional who had real misgivings about some of the activities going on like the suspension of military aid. He was totally puzzled by that, he said. Like the rogue activities of Giuliani who was buying crackpot theories, like the false narrative about why the prosecutor in Ukraine was being nudged out by people like Biden and the E.U. It was precisely the opposite of what Trump is trying to have you believe because he wouldn`t prosecute.
But I am really troubled to learn subsequently that he found himself nonetheless trying to shake down the president, the new president of Ukraine to sign a document --
CONNOLLY: -- promising he would do this political dirty work for Trump. That is deeply troubling to me and seems at variance with the man I was hearing this morning.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Gerry Connolly, thank you very much for making time this evening.
CONNOLLY: My pleasure, Chris.
HAYES: Still come, new reporting and new doubts about the White House`s public account of what happened on that call with the Ukrainian President, what might be missing, ahead.
HAYES: Yesterday, the president referred to record of his call with Ukrainian President Zelensky as an exact quote word for word comma for comma transcript, that`s what the president said. But if there`s one thing we know about that is that is not true. The reason we know that is, because on the bottom of the very first page of the document in question that the White House released it says, and I quote, "caution, a memorandum of a telephone conversation is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion."
So there`s that.
There`s also good reason to believe there is an actual word for word verbatim transcript based on what the whistleblower wrote in his complaint, quote, "I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to lock down all records of the phone call, especially the official word for word transcript of the call that was produced as is customary by the White House Situation Room."
OK, so does the word for word transcript differ from what the White House released? Carol Leonnig and some of her colleagues at The Washington Post reporting on a bunch of indicators within the document itself suggesting such a thing might exist. Carol Leonnig is here with me now.
So that`s a question, we`ve got this memorandum, these call notes. They read transcript-esque. But the question is do we know definitively is there an actual verbatim word-for-word transcript somewhere.
CAROL LEONNIG, THE WASHINGTON POST: We don`t know with 100 percent certainly, Chris, but I`ll tell you this much we`ve interviewed more than a dozen people who have handled these kinds of calls and they said it works exactly as the whistleblower said. A Situation Room employee, duty officers, using a voice to text software system basically creates a digital transcript that`s word for word. That word for word item has to be corrected and cleaned up. You know, sometimes you use the word Adam and it really should be atom with a "t."
And so those -- that transcription is sent around to be corrected and modified as necessary for errors and for clarity.
So that word for word transcript should exist and it should have been emailed around to a series of people with an interest in the call on the National Security Counsel, the vice president`s office, the president`s office, the chief of staff, White House lawyers potentially. It should exist. And it is indicated that it does exist by the whistleblower who said that there was this rush to lock it down.
HAYES: So there`s two bits of evidence that you have of the possibility that the document we have cuts out or leaves out some of the things that were in the full conversation.
You talk about the ellipses. And I want want to sort of pull this up. So this is the president in two different places. The president is speaking to Zelensky. He says, "I would like to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine. They say Crowdstrike...I guess you have one of your wealthy people..." And then later, "Biden went around bragging he stopped the prosecution, so if you could look into it..."
What is your understand of what is indicated by those ellipses?
LEONNIG: Well, I have no idea what`s behind them or what might have been edited out if anything was edited out, I just know from talking to people who handle these calls routinely and have in the past during the Trump administration, that an ellipsis wasn`t the norm, that it was more likely to have dashes to indicate there might be a stray phrase or two people might be talking over each other or the president might even be saying something like uh-huh, uh-huh, mm-hmm. But usually an ellipsis was not the way to do that.
And there are many other things about this call -- and we can get into it as you wish -- but many other things that say this was not handled the way a normal call would be handled. In other words, the transcription is sent around as a package. There`s no package number on this document, also raising questions about whether it was kind of, you know, interrupted, essentially, along the way. And that`s again what the whistleblower claims is that somewhere along the way White House lawyers and other officials got anxious about this transcript and wanted to do something to control people`s access to it.
HAYES: The final sort of point you make is about the words per minute. So we do know there was an interpreter on this call. I think Zelensky has confirmed that. Obviously, I think his English is not good enough to do this kind of statecraft in English. You note a 53-minute call with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto was 102 words per minute and this is about 65 words per minute. A lot of people are like this seems short for a 30- minute phone call.
LEONNIG: It does seem short, Chris. Now, I want to give bend over backwards, give the benefit of the doubt to the possibility that, you know, this was a random and errant extremely long call because there was big pauses. Maybe the translator worked more slowly in Ukrainian than others or maybe there was some dialect, we don`t know. It just is another interesting fact.
I think the more interesting facts are that we know normally a word for word transcription exists and this is not it.
HAYES: Right. And that presumably that it exists somewhere, and presumably that`s a thing that one could get ones hands on if you were a congressional investigator, perhaps.
Carol Leonnig, thank you for sharing your reporting.
LEONNIG: Of course.
HAYES: Next, breaking news tonight about another whistleblower, this time from an IRS official, and this time about the president`s tax returns. Details after this.
HAYES: Breaking news tonight, another whistleblower complaint, this time about the president`s tax returns. According to the Washington Post, an IRS whistleblower says that he was, quote, told that at least one Treasury Department political appointee attempted to improperly interfere with the annual audit of the president or vice president`s tax returns.
These are the first details we are getting about this whistleblower`s complaint months after its existence was first revealed in court filings. And the report comes amidst an ongoing legal battle between congressional Democrats are the Treasury Department about the president`s tax returns. Democrats are demanding the release in accordance with the law that gives congress access to any return.
I`m joined now by someone who spent years chasing down and investigating Donald Trump`s tax records, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston.
David, what do you make of this?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST: Well, The Post`s very diligent reporters got to the whistleblower who is a career IRS official, I assume an executive, and who was concerned about some of the reports about this complaint. And what`s become very clear is that someone from Treasury who`s a political appointee, and there aren`t that many of them over in Treasury, but I would point out one of them is the Treasury secretary, some have tried to interfere in the audit of Trump`s returns.
The IRS has very detailed procedures for how it examines the returns of the president and the vice president. They`re sent to Austin, Texas. They`re put in double envelopes. Their instructions they are never to be folded or written upon with some minor exceptions, because they eventually go to the National Archives. And whatever happened here it`s enough that Richie Neal (ph), the congressman who`s chairman of the Weighs and Means Committee, seems -- thinks this is quite important that we get to what exactly kind of interference there was. And there shouldn`t be so much of a phone call saying hey what`s up with the audit.
So, I just want to be clear here, my understanding of the whistleblower complaint is that this person was told, again, that they first-hand did not witness this, they were told that this happened and we haven`t definitively established that the interference alleged has happened as of yet. It seems to me that that would be a good thing to get to the bottom of.
JOHNSTON: Yes. And part of doing that would be for the Internal Revenue Service commissioner, Charles Rettig, or Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, to obey the law. We have a nearly 90-year-old anti-corruption law that says you shall turn over the tax returns.
And by the way, Trump has the same right, he can call up your or my tax return if he wants to under this very same statute.
HAYES: The whistleblower -- part of the reason this reporting I think broke today, we knew about this whistleblower from a court filing by Chairman Neal in his court battle to shake loose these returns from Treasury.
But today The Washington Post actually talked to the whistleblower. The whistleblower says that he has legitimate concerns about reckless statements being made about whistle blowers. You have got to imagine this individual is now under a fair amount of pressure.
JOHNSTON: Yes. And if identified has to worry there`ll be some effort to fire them. And Trump very clearly here is trying to intimidate all whistleblowers, to say to the bureaucracy and people especially in the State Department and the FBI, keep your mouth shut or life will be difficult for you.
Trump when asked about putting in danger the life of one of the whistleblowers, because not of him personally, but crazy people out there, and Trump just shrugged off the question. And this is very -- should be very deeply disturbing to us, this is not what an honest, legitimate government of the people by the people for the people that owes its existence to the people should be doing.
HAYES: All right, David Cay Johnston, thank you so much for joining me.
Ahead, one of the most persuasive cases yet that the president is just manifestly unfit for the office he holds and it coming from the husband of Kellyanne Conway. We`ll talk about it coming up.
HAYES: If you are watching this right now, or even on a time delay, and you live in L.A. or southern California, I`m talking to you. Yes you. Everyone else, but especially you. Because I love L.A., I love California, love being around you beautiful people with your sunglasses and your Kombucha and your legalized marijuana -- I`m kidding mostly.
I do love L.A., though, and I`m going to be coming to pay you a very special visit. October 21 I`ll be hosting a live edition of my podcast Why is This Happening at this absolutely gorgeous theater at the Ace Hotel. And there I`m going to be talking to two people whose work I really admire: Adam McKay, he`s got a fascinating career trajectory, he`s an SNL writer and then director of The Big Short and Vice, not to mention Talledega Knights and Anchorman, both of which are truly exceptional and brilliant films; and Omar El Akkad, a journalist and novelist whose debut novel is set in a near future America in the midst of a civil war caused by climate change.
And Adam and Omar are both right now thinking about how you represent the cost of the climate crisis not just in the news but in art and in culture, how you represent it in a novel or a movie. And I think it`s as urgent a task as exists.
It`s going to be a great discussion. So Los Angeles, come out, you can get tickets by heading to Ticketmaster searching for my name, Chris Hayes. Just go to our website, MSNBC.com/withpodtour. I love seeing WITHpod and All In fans on the road.
Now, if you`re an All In fan in New York, don`t forget you can be in our studio audience tomorrow right here at Rockefeller Center, those tickets are free. There are just a few left, so if you want to join me and a couple hundred of our closest friends for the full studio experience visit all Allin.msnbc.com. Hope to see you there.
HAYES: There`s a really good essay published in The Atlantic today making a case that it`s been basically made since Donald Trump was inaugurated, but it`s that the man is unfit for the office.
But the thing about this piece is it`s more specific in the argument, and it basically says that the presidency, in the words of this piece, is kind of like a fiduciary trust or running a charitable trust, right, it necessitates putting the interest of the thing you are entrusted with, in this case the country, over your own interests, as just a core definitional part of what the job is. And in order to fulfill that undertaking of the presidency of that public trust, the person who does it has to have a certain kind of moral disposition. Quoting from the piece, "the process of election affords a moral certainty, Hamilton wrote, that the office of president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, might suffice for someone to be elected to the governorship of a state, but not the presidency."
Well, the thing is this president is literally incapable, seemingly, at almost a kind of physical level, just like who he is down to his cells, of actually doing that. He literally cannot do the thing that is to conceive of interests outside of his own that the job requires, and that`s the central thing that being president calls for.
Also another interesting thing about the article, the person who wrote it, George Conway. Up until the Trump era, George Conway was a top flight elite conservative Republican lawyer who also happens to be married to White House special counselor Kellyanne Conway.
And George has become one of Trump`s biggest online nemeses, leading to all sorts of questions as to what the hell is going on over there in the Conway house.
Joining me now is George Conway`s editor on that piece, Yoni Applebaum, senior editor at The Atlantic, who himself back in March wrote a great cover story at The Atlantic simply entitled "Impeach Donald Trump;" and Jelani Cobb, staff writer for The New Yorker, journalism professor at Columbia University who back in July observed the, quote, "the evidence of Trump`s unfitness for the presidency -- whether it is calculated or simply deranged -- is inescapable."
Yoni, let me start with you, I`m going to start with just asking this question and you can just bat it away or not answer it, but it is hard to read a George Conway byline piece, which you edited, which makes mention as just entered into evidence like how his staff reacts to him and not wonder if I`m reading like Kellyanne Conway is a source.
YONI APPLEBAUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I think what George says in the essay, and it`s a good point, is that all of this is out there in public, that to know Donald Trump in private, and he knew Donald Trump before he was president as well, is to know him in slightly more intense form than the way he`s visible in public.
But George`s point in the essay is that all of this is out there for anyone to see. It doesn`t take special access, it doesn`t take behind the scenes sources, we can all see exactly who Trump is every day.
HAYES: Conway starts with a pretty good metaphor in the lead, which is he describes an injury to a Washington football player`s leg during a play. And he said you don`t have to be a doctor when you looked at the play and he`s howling on the ground writhing in pain, and you look at the replay to know like something is wrong.
And he`s basically saying like the same thing is the case here with the president.
JELANI COBB, THE NEW YORKER: Yeah, and I think that you know I`ll match that analogy with one of my own, which is that if you have a car that has really great alignment and you`re driving on a flat surface, you can take your hands off the wheel and the car will stay in its lane and it will keep going. But no matter how great your alignment is, eventually you`ll start to drift. And left unchecked, you wind up in a ditch.
We`re running that same experiment right now.
COBB: That the institutions in this country that have been sustained through the various trials and tribulations of amendments and social upheaval and civil war and so on, that the machinery of democracy has been able to remain on the road.
But we should be very clear that no one has their hands on the wheel right now, especially when we`re looking at just the kind of daily cascade of crazy, which I think is the real benefit of the Conway piece, because it really lays down -- it`s almost a glossary of the insane things that have happened during the course of this administration.
HAYES: And it`s also an argument -- that`s a great metaphor, by the way. It`s also an argument, Yoni, that you just -- again, it`s an argument to be made that sort of snaps it into focus, which is that the job requires centrally, almost more than anything else, that you recognize your interests as a human being, what you want for yourself, is just distinct from the job you`ve been entrusted with, which is to do what`s best for the American people and America as a nation, and that he literally in the way that a color-blind person can`t see color, like he actually can`t understand that.
APPLEBAUM: Yeah, the first time I talked to George, who is one of the nation`s top corporate litigators, who Trump wanted for a top Justice Department post, he said, look, I know what this is, I deal every day with the law of fiduciaries, with people who are entrusted with overseeing some set of interests that`s distinct from their own, and Trump can`t do that, he is constitutionally incapable of doing that, that this is about his character, not about his disposition. He cannot separate his own personal interests from the national interests.
I think if you look at the news over the last few days, we`ve seen example after example after example of how this president is incapable of seeing a difference between the collective public interest, which is his job to safeguard, and his own personal private political aspiration.
HAYES: And that goes to everything, it goes to his business, which he continues to profit from in the presidency. There`s reporting the House Oversight Committee is now investigating whether the groups booking rooms at Trump hotels and not using them. So just like big blocks of rooms to ingratiate yourself with the president and not using them, which is essentially just a bribe.
HAYES: And that only exists because he failed to divest and detach himself, because he can`t come to think that those two things could be in tension in any way.
COBB: But he`s also playing on a particular kind of misunderstanding I think in the public, which is that if it`s done out in the open, it must be honest. So if I`m corrupt, but I`m public about it, it means that I can`t quite be corrupt, it must be OK because I`ve been just up front about it.
And so this is like the conundrum we find ourselves in, that people who understand what the actually guide posts are, their hair is on fire, and then a kind of wide swath of the public that either doesn`t get it or 80 percent of the Republican Party, which actually adores this guy.
HAYES: Yes. And they`ve -- I think that 80 percent of the Republican Party, Yoni, they have come to actually internalize the idea that the relationship between the president`s interests and America`s interests are necessarily an identity relationship, that they are definitionally one and the same and therefore what the president does is in pursuit of America and if you oppose the president, you are essentially traitorous.
APPLEBAUM: You know, what`s so interesting about this particular moment is that Trump finds himself in a new kind of trouble because those around him were trying to protect him, because they looked at the transcript of the call with Ukraine, they were listening to his calls with the leaders of China, of Saudi Arabia, of Russia, and they said, we`ve got to put this on a special server,this can never see the light of day.
It was the fact that everyone around him recognized what he was doing was wrong and tried to protect him from it, that his signal to the public, there was something bad here.
Whereas when he does it out there in public, I think it`s much harder for folks to differentiate. They hear the arguments from both sides, they have trouble figuring out where the truth lies.
When you see everyone around the president understanding that what he`s just done is a violation, that`s crystal clear.
HAYES: Yoni Applebaum, Jelani Cobb, thanks for making time tonight.
That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now with Nicolle Wallace in for Rachel. Nice to see you around these parts.
Good evening, Nicolle.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END