STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And he was headed to political oblivion. Then everything changed. And now, all these years later, it may be changing again.
That`s HARDBALL for now. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY, SDNY: Parnas and Fruman were arrested as they were about to board an international flight with one-way tickets.
HAYES: The first arrest of the impeachment era.
BERMAN: And I want to add that this investigation is continuing.
HAYES: Two men working with Rudy Giuliani to manufacture dirt on the President`s political opponents arrested trying to flee the country.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Maybe I`ll ask Rudy to say a few words.
HAYES: Tonight, what we know about the two men. Is Rudy Giuliani now under investigation? And what did the President know and when did he know it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What conversations have you had with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman?
TRUMP: I don`t know those gentlemen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re in pictures with them.
HAYES: Plus, Bill Clinton`s Chief of Staff during impeachment, and Hillary Clinton`s campaign manager John Podesta on what he makes on the push to impeach Trump. And as the president stews over Republican defections --
TRUMP: No Republicans have raised concern.
HAYES: The new call from conservative lawyers who say a speedy impeachment inquiry is necessary, when ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. The first arrest of the impeachment era happened today. Two suspects now by the FBI and the Washington D.C. airport, attempting to leave the country with one-way tickets, get this, only hours after they launched -- after they launched with their business associate and lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Let me take a minute to explain these two suspects who probably are not that familiar to you. They`ve been floating around the coverage of the Ukraine scandal. They`ve been close to Rudy Giuliani from the very beginning. Lev Parnas, on the left, was born in Ukraine. Igor Fruman, on the right, was born in Belarus. They`re American citizens naturalized.
They`re described in the federal indictment and in reporting as businessmen although, to be honest, their current businesses sort of unclear. They`ve been working hand in hand tightly with Rudy Giuliani on the Ukraine operations since the very beginning. They have been setting up meetings in Ukraine acting as intermediaries abroad, meeting with people in the Trump circle.
They have been a crucial part of the scheme by Rudy Giuliani and President Trump to apply maximal pressure to the Ukrainian government to manufacture dirt on the President`s political rival to interfere in the next election so that Trump can win reelection. They`ve been part of this impeachable act from the beginning.
They`ve been so integral to it that shortly after the indictment was reported, they were subpoenaed by the House committees leading the impeachment investigation. In fact, today was the day that this guy on the left -- not the one with the saucily unbuttoned shirt, the guy who`s dressed a little more modestly, he was supposed to give a deposition before those committees. The guy with the open shirt was supposed to do that tomorrow. Oh, and yes, that is Don Jr. on the other side of the table with those gentlemen.
Anyway, those you guys were supposed to get depositions before the House today and tomorrow. But a few days ago, the President`s former lawyer, and now these gentlemen`s lawyer, John Dowd, wrote a letter to Congress in the most professional font, Comic Sans, explaining that they couldn`t appear because, and I`m quoting here, "Messrs Parnas and Fruman, assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump."
In other words, they are part of the President`s legal team, one big happy family representing the president, and that`s why they can`t testify for Congress. And I`m quoting their own lawyer here. I`m not making this up. He said it. They assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump. So they can`t talk to the Congress. Sorry.
That was a week ago, OK. And the Wall Street Journal which broke this whole story this morning reports that those two gentlemen had lunch with Giuliani himself at the Trump International Hotel in Washington on Wednesday. That would be yesterday, Giuliani and the two men having lunch.
And then we know from U.S. Attorney hours at later, that`s hours after lunch with Giuliani at the Trump hotel, Parnas and Fruman were arrested at a D.C. airport as they were about to board an international flight with one-way tickets.
Now, what they are indicted for is a scheme to funnel foreign money into American elections. Interesting. They`re trying to have foreign nationals -- foreign governments, maybe, meddling American elections.
Here`s how the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman, a Trump appointee explained it.
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BERMAN: As alleged in the indictment, the defendants broke the law to gain political influence while avoiding disclosure of who was actually making the donations and where the money was coming from. They saw political influence not only to advance their own financial interests but to advance the political interests of at least one foreign official, a Ukrainian government official who sought the dismissal of the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
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HAYES: They were advocating for the dismissal for the U.S. Ambassador of Ukraine. That sure sounds familiar. Oh, right. It`s because the Journal reported last week that Trump himself ordered that U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine removed after complaints from Giuliani and "others."
Take a listen to how the President responded today when asked about his communications with the men who were, again, according to their own lawyer, part of the President`s legal team.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
What conversations have you had with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman?
TRUMP: I don`t know those gentlemen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re in pictures with them.
TRUMP: Now, it`s possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody. I don`t know them. I don`t know about them. I don`t know what they do. But I don`t know, maybe they were clients of Rudy and you have to ask Rudy. I just don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Sorry to this man. It`s true. The President isn`t going to remember everyone who takes picture with him, and the Vice President, and his personal attorney, and his son, but you wouldn`t think he would remember members of his legal team who had to dinner with him personally, just last spring, right before they donated into a super PAC.
But just to keep track of all this, two men from the former USSR, who told Congress they were part of the President`s legal team, and who had been working actively with Rudy Giuliani to push the Ukraine scandal that now has the President on the edge of impeachment, were arrested last night while attempting to leave the country with one way tickets.
Joining me now are two people who know the ins and outs of this story Aruna Viswanatha, Justice Department Reporter for The Wall Street Journal who earlier today broke the story about Parnas and Fruman`s arrest, and Michael Sallah, Senior Investigations and Projects Editor for BuzzFeed News, who reported back in July that Parnas and Fruman privately lobbied Ukraine to bid to help President Trump win in 2020.
Aruna, let me start with you. Can you just take us through what this indictment alleges about, what the scheme these gentlemen were involved in was?
ARUNA VISWANATHA, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Sure. So it`s actually a pretty complicated set of allegations, and there are basically two sets of allegations. One has very little to do with the dealings with Ukraine and with Giuliani. It has to do with marijuana business. They were trying to get off the ground in Nevada, and then allegedly getting money from a Russian national to benefit this business, making donations to try to grease the wheels to get this business off the ground.
The other set of allegations squarely has to do with their work with Giuliani. Those allegations are that they were making large donations to a pro-Trump super PAC. And part of that effort was to get more access to do what a Ukrainian government official wanted them to do, which is try to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine pushed out.
HAYES: There -- I mean, we should know there`s hundreds of thousands of dollars. There`s $350,000, I think, that they give the Trump super PAC. There are tons of donations to all kinds of Republicans coming from these individuals, some of which are being returned.
One of the people is a congressman, Michael Sallah, who gets a bunch of money from them. We now know it`s Pete Sessions who represented the -- I think the Houston suburbs, if I`m not mistaken, who lost in 2018. But after he met with him, wrote a letter trying to get rid of the Ukrainian ambassador?
MICHAEL SALLAH, REPORTER, BUZZFEED: The very day, yes, Chris. They met with Congressman -- then-Congressman Sessions and the --during the course of that conversation, we interviewed both the congressman and obviously we spent a lot of time with Lev Parnas. They both made it very clear that Marie Yovanovitch was the center of much of their conversation.
It had to do with the -- they`re not they weren`t happy with her. And they felt like she was standing in the way of President Trump and a lot of his policies there, and that she wasn`t loyal to the President. And so that day, he fired off a letter to Secretary Mike Pompeo basically just saying, she needs to go. You should consider removing her from her -- from her position.
HAYES: We should -- we should note, they give them money, they meet with him. He writes a letter. The President`s attorney tweets about her, the president`s son tweets about her. Eventually, she is removed. She`s seen according reporting an obstacle to the scheme that was being cooked up.
Aruna, what is the deal with these two? Like, how did they get connected in any way shape or form to what appears to be like essentially the inner circle of the President`s attorney, if not the President himself?
VISWANATHA: That part is still a little unclear to us. But from what we know, they started making a lot of big campaign donations in 2018, and then started talking to Mr. Giuliani about his concerns about what Ukraine had been up to in the 2016 election, starts introducing him to people in Ukraine and seems to be delivering what Mr. Giuliani wants, and so ends up in his inner circle.
HAYES: Michael, you guys were on these two from the jump back in this summer. What sort of tip you off that these were key players in this entire operation?
SALLAH: Well, you know, it actually started with one of our reporters or colleagues from the organized crime reporting project who spotted them at a hookah bar basically with some other friends, and it was just on the eve of the inauguration of President Zelensky. And we kind of work backwards from there, who are these characters, what have they been doing swirling around Ukraine and in essentially working as operatives for Rudy Giuliani.
And we were -- in the course of that -- our investigation, we ended up interviewing Mr. Parnas several times, and he was quite open about their work that they were doing, setting up meetings with Mr. Giuliani, with Ukraine prosecutors, and pushing very hard for information on the Biden`s and trying to get them to basically open up an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and also to look into the origins of the release of the black ledger, which was the information that largely told people the millions of dollars that Paul Manafort had taken. And that was really our -- the origins of that work that we did.
HAYES: Wait, just to clarify. The hookah bar was in -- was it in Kiev?
SALLAH: It was in Kiev. It was -- it was a hookah bar on the balcony of the Hilton -- the Hilton Hotel there.
HAYES: Amazing. All right, Aruna Viswanatha and Michael Sallah, great reporting to both of you. Thank you both.
VISWANATHA: Thank you.
SALLAH: Thank you.
HAYES: Joining me now, one of the members of Congress leading the impeach investigation into President Trump, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, member of both the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees. First, your reaction to witnesses that the investigative committees have called, being nabbed in an airport with one-way tickets to Vienna.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, it`s starting to feel more and more like Watergate, I think, to the people who remember Watergate. Except it`s kind of an upside-down Watergate because they`re -- these kinds of characters were found first during the Watergate break-in.
RASKIN: You know, the Ehrlichman`s, and the Haldeman`s, and McCord`s, and then they worked their way up to the president. Here, the President started or was discovered first because of the fateful phone call where he kind of clinched the shakedown deal against President Zelensky.
But what`s coming out now is the whole team behind the shakedown operation, and all of Giuliani`s people who were engaged in this very insidious shadowy campaign in Ukraine to do a number of different political duties and execute a number of different political schemes for the President.
HAYES: Do you want to -- I mean, we found out today that -- so these guys had tickets to Vienna when they get nabbed at the airport. They have lunch with Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani had told Elaina Plott at The Atlantic that he was flying to Vienna just coincidentally. Do you want to know more? I mean, are you going to get to talk to any of these people as part of your investigation independent of what other SDNY does?
RASKIN: Well, I haven`t spoken to anybody in the committee staffs about this, but I`m personally fascinated by what they were doing. Where they just trying to escape? Where they, you know, trying to leave the country? Did they understand that the heat was drawing in on them? Were they continuing to conduct the other schemes on behalf of Giuliani and the president?
All of these things are fascinating. But the critical thing that`s going on politically here, Chris, is that America has woken up to the corrupt and lawless character of the White House. And everybody understands the basic contours of the Ukrainian episode.
The President of the United States engaged in a shakedown of a vulnerable American ally and partner in President Zelensky in order to political dirt on his political opponent back home. Nobody has ever seen anything like it.
And that shakedown is a complete sellout of American values, and it`s a sellout of our election. And what we`re seeing from, you know, this illegal funneling of money from abroad through a campaign finance scheme that these guys were involved in, is that they do not have respect for American elections.
You know, I disagree with everything that Jim Jordan says, but I respect entirely his right to be involved in our elections. It`s not true of Russian spies and Ukrainian researchers and Chinese operatives and the United Arab Emirates, and the Saudis and all these other people, they`re trying to get involved in our election.
Can`t they find any Americans who support them? Why do they need to be bringing in all of this power and money from abroad to interfere with this election? And we`re talking about this election in 2020. It`s just an outrage and a scandal after what they did to us in 2016.
HAYES: Final question for you is about Mare Yovanovitch who is a pivotal figure in this, a career Foreign Service, had been the U.S. Ambassador Ukraine, the target of a sort of smears from Rudy Giuliani with a packet of files he sent to Mike Pompeo that were being circulated on the State Department, the target of these men to the extent that they were giving donations and meeting with a congressman to get them to write a letter. Like she clearly becomes a target of Rudy Giuliani and Don Jr. and these indicted gentlemen and a whole lot of other people. She is supposed to testify tomorrow or will be deposed, I suppose, tomorrow. Is it your understanding that she`s going to be there?
RASKIN: I have no reason to think that she won`t be there tomorrow. I`ve been out making some speeches for the last several hours so I don`t know whether there have been any changes in these, you know, developments relating to her appearance.
But I will say, there was clearly a campaign of sabotage directed at her. Anybody who basically was I`m going to play ball and subordinate their professional commitment to the President was going to be targeted by them, and they did it. But we got to remember this, Chris, this is not exactly an Agatha Christie mystery at this point.
HAYES: No, we learned --
RASKIN: We know exactly what happened. We`re trying to fill in --
HAYES: Yes, we got -- we got -- well, basically the --
RASKIN: We`re just filling in the details at this point.
HAYES: Yes. The crime was admitted to in the first page of this novel. We`re just like learning -- we`re now on the flashback mode and figure out how you know, how did we actually get there. Congressman Jamie Raskin, thank you very much.
OK, there`s more breaking news at this hour. Two big stories coming in. NBC News is now reporting exclusively tonight that one of the former Trump administration officials slated to testify before Congress next week is going to reveal that Rudy Giuliani and E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland circumvented the National Security Council and the normal White House process to pursue a shadow policy on Ukraine.
And this comes as the Washington Post is reporting that at least four national security official raised alarms about the Trump administration`s attempts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes, both after and before the infamous July 25th call between President Trump and Zelensky.
That is where we begin tonight with Greg Miller Pulitzer Prize-winning National Security Correspondent for The Washington Post who broke this story. He joins me by phone. Greg, what have you learned?
GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, what was learned is that that, you know, I think it`s significant that there were alarms that were being raised inside official White House channels well before the whistleblower complaint is even submitted to the Intelligence Community Inspector General.
Starting in July, early July, even before the July 25th call that you just described as infamous, you know, there are people going to the National Security Council`s top lawyer expressing alarm and concern about what is happening on Ukraine, citing a series of developments over the preceding months that made them very worried about what Trump was doing in his attempts to extract political ammunition from Kiev.
HAYES: Just to be clear, when you say White House officials here, and I know you don`t want to out your sources, and I respect that, but we`re talking about people that are hired by the President that work for the President.
MILLER: I mean, I think you`re going to find that there`s a combination of them here. And although our story says at least four -- I mean, I think that`s a conservative estimate of the number of people who were involved here in trying to raise these issues internally.
And so I think that, you know, there are -- there are people who work directly for and interact, you know, daily with the President and then there are others who are -- who are a little bit farther down the food chain. I mean, there`s an important quote, in our story from one of the officials we talked to that say, you know, these are -- these people aren`t a swamp, it`s not a deep state. These are people who have a conscience and they`re really concerned and they`re fearful that this is not how they think the government should run.
HAYES: Two more details that turned out to me. The idea that they`re worried about the phone call before the phone call happens, that there`s this concern that the President is essentially going to do something that abuses his power that is corrupt, that is possibly criminal, which is what the you know, part of the whistleblower complaint is about, that -- you`re reporting indicates people were worried about the phone call for that reason.
MILLER: I mean, they`re -- this phone call is a source of particular worry because it -- because it raises issues of election interference and people are highly sensitive to that. You know, people who are coming from intelligence agencies to work the National Security Council lived through 2016. They remember that. This is a sore spot for them. They don`t want that to happen again.
But I can tell you, Chris, that this wasn`t confined to just this one subject or this one country. There were people at the White House who were trying to head off Trump calls with other world leaders because they just were constantly worried about the risk. What was he going to say, what was he going to ask for, what was he going to promise, and was it going to be anything close to what U.S. national security interests were?
HAYES: And then there`s -- the chain of events that happens afterwards was also striking to me. Basically, there are people who -- there is no whistleblower process in the White House. There`s nothing to be done. They go to the lawyer for the NSC, the National Security Council, who is that individual and what does he do with them?
MILLER: So the lawyer for National Security Council is somebody named John Eisenberg. He`s been there from the very beginning of the administration and he is, you know, a respected attorney and a veteran of the Justice Department.
But, you know, as you just mentioned, there is no equivalent of an inspector general in the White House. There was some confusion among people that were we supposed to go with this? And I think that is partly what accounts for some of these people turning outside the walls of the White House and turning to the CIA officer, who then collects all this material for a whistleblower complaint.
Eisenberg, one of the core -- one of our big questions and weren`t quite able to answer is what does he do with the situation? The white -- the White House would not respond to our questions today about what Eisenberg did when he handled this stuff. But we know that the whistleblower complaint itself says that White House lawyers were the ones who directed that the record of that call be quickly stuffed into a highly classified computer network out of sight.
HAYES: Right. Greg Miller, great reporting, and thank you for joining us on short notice. I appreciate it.
MILLER: Thank you.
HAYES: Turning now to NBC News National Political Reporter Josh Lederman who worked on this other major story breaking tonight, the exclusive report about what a former national security official intends to tell Congress next week. Josh, what did you learn?
JOSH LEDERMAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, earlier today, Chris, we learned that Fiona Hill who until recently was the top Russia and Europe official at the White House plans to testify before Congress next week. Now we`re learning about what she plans to say.
According to a source that`s familiar with her testimony, Fiona Hill plans to testify that Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Rudy Giuliani essentially pulled an end-run around the normal White House policymaking process on Ukraine and we`re running a shadow foreign policy that circumvented officials like Fiona Hill, like former National Security Advisor John Bolton, and that basically they had a direct line into Trump to do Ukraine policy that differed from the normal process that`s used across the government to come up with policy on Foreign Relations.
HAYES: Hill had been there I think from the very beginning, right? She`s, she`s a Russia expert. When did -- she left in the summer, is that right?
LEDERMAN: She started winding down her role there over this summer. She was no longer in the top Russia job on the day that Trump had that now- infamous call with President Zelensky, but she was upright until those final days. So she would have had full knowledge of all of the events that would have led up to this phone call.
HAYES: You know, it strikes me that your story and Greg Miller`s story are of a piece. I mean, what we`re seeing coming to focus is a picture of bunch of people in the White House where White House officials were fairly high up who are anxious to tell people whether or not honestly or in this case testimony that they -- this was not their policy.
LEDERMAN: Exactly. There were concerns we now know from top levels of the White House that what these outside folks Rudy Giuliani and Ambassador Sondland and others were doing was really going around the way that things were supposed to be done to have a cohesive foreign policy.
And it`s also important for another reason, Chris, which is that the fact that Fiona Hill is going to testify next week, if that goes through his plan is really a key test for whether Congress is going to be able to obtain testimony from former officials, because we know there`s the threat. The White House could try to assert executive privilege over these officials.
That`s a pretty murky area legally when it comes to former officials who are now private citizens. So if this all goes forward as planned, we should expect to see Congress try to get a whole bunch of other former faces potentially including John Bolton, others who worked for him to tell Congress what they know as well.
HAYES: Do we know who makes that determination? I mean, I know that former officials in the past when the White House is invoked executive privilege, which they`ve done multiple times, the people involved had sort of deferred to it as if they have no choice. But it`s not clear to me that`s the case.
LEDERMAN: Right. So for current officials, they work for the government so it`s essentially their employer basically instructing them to do something. For former officials, it`s not totally clear. We know this came up with Don McGahn when Congress subpoenaed him, he didn`t testify. There`s now litigation by the House Judiciary Committee.
But essentially, there`s an OLC opinion, that`s the legal counsel office of the Justice Department that tries to say, these officials should have to respect executive privilege. It`s never really been fully tested in the courts. And so this is something that if the Congress -- I`m sorry, if the White House were to try to assert that privilege, we could expect that to be another matter for litigation.
HAYES: All right, Josh Lederman, thank you so much for joining me.
HAYES: Don`t go away. Coming up next, we have someone with a unique perspective on this day`s events. He ran the Hillary Clinton campaign 2016, he ran the White House during the last impeachment of a president. John Podesta is here next.
HAYES: The last time the President was impeached, a man serving as his chief of staff was John Podesta whose name probably rings a bell. Podesta would go on to found the Center for American Progress and then work for President Obama and then quite famously chair Hillary Clinton`s 2016 presidential run and have his inbox hacked by Russian hackers who then leaked to the WikiLeaks.
So we thought who better to process what we`re seeing now than the man himself. John Podesta joins me now. Thanks for -- thanks for coming on, John.
JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CHAIRMAN, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Nice to be back with you, Chris.
HAYES: I guess the first thing is do you support the President`s impeachment? Do you think the facts as we know them support an impeachment?
PODESTA: Well, I think they certainly support the impeachment inquiry. And I would say yes, they support an impeachment. You know, he`s really tried to almost blackmail a foreign leader to try to get them to interfere in our election.
You know, the Founding Fathers really were concerned about this when they wrote the Constitution and included the clause for impeachment about foreign interference in U.S. elections. And I think when once the House Judiciary Committee and in House Intelligence Committee dig into this, I think that`s what they`re going to find.
We learn new facts every day. Donald Trump says he was trying to prevent corruption in Ukraine. Now we see the two indictments of Rudy Giuliani`s sidekicks today. It looks like they were trying to foment corruption rather than fight it.
HAYES: You know, you are -- you worked with several White Houses as White House chief of staff. I`m wondering what you made when you heard that call -- those call notes of that phone call having been in on calls between the U.S. president and a foreign head of state. Did it strike you as horrifying as it apparently struck some people in the White House?
PODESTA: Yes. I think it`s, you know, Houston, we have a problem. He`s clearly saying, you know, I`ll get around to the meeting. I`ll get around. I`m going to hold back the money that Congress has appropriated. But first, I need a favor. And what`s the favor? To investigate my principal opponent or a principal opponent in the upcoming election, asking them directly to interfere and intervene in the U.S. election.
I think that is an abuse of power and something that obviously the Congress is going to need to look into. You know, Nancy Pelosi was reluctant to go down this path but I think once that whistleblower complaint came out, once that memcon was released by the White House I think she had no choice. And I think the right thing to do is to -- is to investigate this and then render a judgment, whether he, in fact, abused his office. But I think the facts are pretty plain in the -- in that memorandum.
HAYES: You know, you worked in White Houses and I know people that have worked there. My wife was in the White House Counsel`s Office in Barack Obama`s administration. And those folks tend to be pretty -- they tend to take seriously the executive power and executive prerogative, right? They take seriously the assertions of executive privilege. They don`t want Congress to just be able to get their hands on anything that happens in a White House.
As someone that comes from that background, has that experience, what do you make of the assertion the White House is making in that eight page letter and other places that basically congress can`t get anything?
JOHN PODESTA, FORM. WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF FOR PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, look, it goes against hundreds of years of constitutional history and a hundred years of constitutional jurisprudence where the Supreme Court has clearly recognized congress`s power to investigate. It`s an inherent power in the constitution. They`ve affirmed it again and again.
The first cases, of course, were what was always thought of as the most corrupt administration in history, the Harding administration. But I think Trump may outdo that.
But the Supreme Court has always recognized the power of congress to investigate, and that includes the power to engage in an impeachment inquiry.
I think they`ve handled this seriously. They`ve tried to develop the factual basis for this. And all they`ve been met with is a giant stonewall and a laughable letter from the White House counsel.
HAYES: You were the chief of staff during the last impeachment that happened with Republicans in the House and President Clinton in the White House. Compare that experience and the context there to what we`re seeing now.
PODESTA: Well, look, I think, you know, again, this was an exercise -- it began with the Starr investigation, it went on and on and on, and ultimately resulted in the referral by Mr. Starr of his report to the House. The House voted articles of impeachment. They rejected a couple. They went to the Senate. The Senate ultimately heard the evidence. They conducted a trial. They listened to the president`s lawyers. They concluded while I think most people in the Senate thought what the president had done was worthy of, you know, some scorn, that it was not an impeachable offense. He did not abuse the power and the office of the presidency.
I think this is quite different. And because this is the president using his office, using his power, using the instruments of government, trying to insert Rudy Giuliani into the direct, you know, instruments of U.S. foreign policy, to do what? To help himself personally, to help his campaign and to get a foreign government to directly interfere with the United States election. And I think they are quite different.
And I think that this is at the heart, again, of what the founders were worried about when we`re a young nation. And they were worried about foreign interference, the big European powers exerting influence on the electoral process, on our president and other leaders of our government. And that`s why they put this power to remove a president into the constitution.
HAYES: You`re still associated with CAP I know and today I`m talking to you as millions of folks, 2 million I think in California, have their power shutdown as PG&E, the utility there, prophylactically shuts it down to maybe avoid wildfires. This is this kind of like cocktail of climate disaster in which like delayed infrastructure investments meet rising temperatures.
CAP has a big climate plan you guys unveiled today. How big is the scope? Is this in the same category as a kind of Green New Deal that we`ve heard about?
PODESTA: Yeah, I think the transformation of our economy that is science is asking for, and dictating really, is that we have to go from a very highly polluting energy system to what people refer to as net zero. We have to eliminate emissions. We have to be able to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. That`s an awesome task, but it`s also a chance of great opportunity to put people to work, to build new industries.
But what it`s going to mean is, for example, all new vehicles by 2035 are going to have to be zero emission. All new buildings and appliances are going to have to be run on electricity. All that electricity is going to have be powered by zero carbon electricity, from renewable resources and other means of getting zero carbon electricity.
That`s a lot of work. It`s trillions of dollars of investments. It`s an exciting opportunity. And I think, Chris, really 30 years from now people may look back and judge Donald Trump`s biggest crime as the fact that he`s been on a rampage to send the country in the wrong direction, not deal with this existential threat to our planet and humanity.
But I`m confident that Democrats are stepping up to this in the presidential campaign and we can get the job done.
HAYES: Quickly, final question, If you were chief of staff and you saw what was happening now, if you were Donald Trump`s chief of staff and you saw what was happening now, if you were Donald Trump`s chief of staff, tough thought experiment, you saw the leaks, you saw all the people coming forward, would you be nervous about where this is going?
I think first of all, you don`t know what the facts are. Again, these indictment today are really shocking because these were people who met with the president, evidently, who Giuliani was using as a conduit to the Ukrainian government, who were trying to steer contacts to Trump friendly people in the United States. You really don`t know where that`s going to end.
You have Rick Perry over there trying to put Trump-friendly people onto the Ukrainian gas utility.
You know, I think they`ve projected onto Biden the kind of corruption that they`re engaged in themselves.
HAYES: John Podesta, thank you so much for making time.
PODESTA: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Ahead, as Kurds flee the Turkish assault in Syria tonight, there`s growing outrage that the president`s concession. One elected Republican is now saying He will no longer support Donald Trump`s re-election. That story next.
HAYES: As the president continues to defend his decision to allow Turkey to move into northeastern Syria and attack America`s allies the Kurds, Turkey continues to that area with air strikes. More than 60,000 civilians have been displaced so far.
This is still going on even now. And the president keeps making all sorts of noises about recriminations for Turkey if they don`t, quote, "do it in a soft manner." But literally no one knows what that actually means, including the Turks.
At home, bipartisan condemnation continues to grow, including retiring Republican Congressman John Shimkus who said in an interview with a local radio station that he was, quote shocked, embarrassed and angered by Trump`s decision to allow Turkey to attack Kurdish allies and he no longer supports the president`s reelection.
Here with me now, a journalist who has been closely following this story, Mehdi Hassan, columnist and senior contributor at The Intercept.
It`s remarkable to me -- two things, Mehdi, both the sort of scale of human suffering we`re seeing as people are fleeing this attack and the just unanimity of condemnation you see across the globe and across the political spectrum.
MEHDI HASSAN, THE INTERCEPT: Yes, and as you mentioned just then, Chris, 60,000 people in the first 24 hours displaced from their homes. Aid groups say that could go up to 300,000 if this conflict, if this escalation continues, so it`s no wonder that the secretary-general of the UN, among others, are saying deescalation needs to be the priority. There has been universal condemnation, it`s been interesting to see Republicans coming out and slamming Trump from Lindsey Graham to the outgoing member of congress you just mentioned.
I mean, call me cynical, but, you know, these are the same Republicans who didn`t turn on him when he was a racist, when he was corrupt. They didn`t turn on him when he had a Muslim ban on refugees coming in from Syria. So, you know, I take that with a bit of a grain of salt.
But, yes, they clearly are very angry and they`re making a lot of noises. It`s also interesting because these are the same Republicans who we`re told are too scared to challenge Trump on Ukraine phone calls or brazen corruption or telling the squad to go back to where they came from, but they`re not scared when it comes to Trump doing something on foreign policy or foreign war that they don`t like. I always find that quite ironic.
HAYES: I mean, it`s quite clear -- I mean, Lindsey Graham is talking about a bipartisan sanctions bill, I think you`re right that we should all note that they can criticize Trump, they can cross Trump, they can go across him when they care about the issue. They clearly do care. It just shows what they do and do not care about.
HASSAN: Although you have Lindsey Graham on a phone call now -- you see, I don`t know if your viewers have seen the Russian prankster who got Lindsey Graham on the phone where he`s telling them actually he thinks he`s talking to the Turkish defense minister and when he thinks he`s talking in private to the Turkish government he says, oh, yeah you`ve got a problem with the Kurds and they are a threat to you, and you know, we never should have allied with the YPG, with the Kurdish People`s Protection units who are now under assault.
So, you know, Lindsey Graham surprise surprise is saying one thing in public and one thing in private.
But, yes, this is mess, Chris. And it`s a mess because that part of the world I think a lot of your viewers may quite get the contradictions and the paradoxes involved here. In the last few days we`ve heard a lot of people say, for example, that the Kurds, America`s ally are being betrayed. And they are. But at the same time, Turkey is also an ally of America, it`s a member of NATO. It hosts 50 tactical nuclear weapons on its soil, U.S. nuclear weapons.
For example, you have this idea of Trump giving Erdogan his blessings to invade Syria and then you have Iran and Israel -- Iran and Israel together saying no, no, no, this is bad thing, this will lead to more problems.
You have another -- take another example, Chris, you have anti-war lefties saying American soldiers shouldn`t be on the ground in Syria, it`s illegal. There`s no congressional approval for this, it`s a good thing that Trump is winding down the war, but then people on the anti-war left, I would include myself here, also don`t want to see Kurds slaughtered as American forces pull out.
So, there`s a bunch of contradictions and paradoxes involved in every level of this mess.
HAYES: And we should say that the sort of Lindsey Graham talking out of both sides of his mouth on the phone is a stand-in for American foreign policy more writ-large where it was always like, well, there`s going to be -- someone is going to have to pay the piper here at the end of this when these folks have battled and died against ISIS and we all knew Turkey was going to move against them.
But there is the question of how this decision happened. I mean, it really does look like -- and this is what`s so remarkable -- a single phone call to Erdogan, no prep work, no staff work, no process run through DOD or State, I mean, literally gets him on the phone. You`ve got to wonder, like, why is Trump so ready to say yes to Erdogan?
HASSAN: Indeed. And I`d love to see the call summary of that phone call to it go with the call to the Ukrainian president.
Look, Trump has a bunch of financial ties, surprise surprise, with Turkey and in Turkey. He has a major conflict of interest here, and these are not my words, these are his words. In 2015, Chris, Trump did an interview with, of all people, Steve Bannon, then at Breitbart, and said I have a little conflict of interest. I have a major, major building in Istanbul. It`s called Trump Towers.
We know that he`s being paid millions of dollars in licensing fees for giving his name to Trump Towers. We know that Ivanka Trump welcomed Erdogan to the opening of Trump Towers in 2012. We know that Erdogan in 2016 got angry about the Muslim ban and said Trump`s name should be removed from those towers until Trump backed his crackdown after the failed coup against Erdogan.
We know all of this. We know that Michael Flynn, Trump`s first national security adviser, was being paid half a million dollars by a Turkish company linked to Erdogan to lobby on behalf of the Turkish government in the U.S.
I mean, these are major financial ties.
Yes, American policy has always been built on hypocrisy and contradictions and trying to get arms deals. But I can`t think of a time in modern American history where the president himself could be financially benefiting from national security decisions.
HAYES: All right, Mehdi Hassan, thank you so much for that.
Coming up, a group of prominent conservative lawyers come out in support of a speedy impeachment inquiry. Two of them join me to talk about their decision ahead.
HAYES: Do you remember when the big concern among Democrats was whether impeachment would be terrible for Democratic members of congress, especially the ones in competitive seats? Well, with a plurality of the nation supporting impeachment, most Democrats don`t seem too worried, it`s the Republicans who are up in 2020, like Senator Cory Gardener of Colorado who are tying themselves into knots when confronted with the simplest of questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe it`s appropriate for the president of the United States to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival, yes or no?
SEN. CORY GARDNER, (R) COLORADO: Well, look, this is what we`re going to get into. The Senate intelligence committee is having an investigation, a bipartisan investigation.
Unfortunately, though, what we`ve seen is a very political process take over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But is it...
GARDNER: Joe, I`ve answered your question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you did want. Is it appropriate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s a yes or no.
GARDNER: Well, here`s what we`ve seen in the House of Representatives, you see a very partisan process taking place.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the question is is it appropriate for a president...
GARDNER: Look, I think we`re going to have an investigation. And it`s a nonpartisan investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But, senator, it`s a yes or no question.
GARDNER: It`s a nonpartisan investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: You don`t need an investigation, you`ve got the call notes. It`s really easy to answer.
That was really bad.
But Iowa Senator Joni Ernst might have been even worse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it appropriate for a president to ask a foreign power to investigate a domestic political rival, yes or no?
SEN. JONI ERNST, (R) IOWA: Well, again, IO think we`re going to have to go back, just as I said last week, we`ll have to wait...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But is it appropriate just the ask itself?
ERNST: Again, we don`t have all the facts in front of us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m asking you if it`s appropriate for a president to ask a foreign power to investigate his domestic political rival, yes or no?
ERNST: Again, I would say that I don`t know that we have that information in front of us and I`ll just stick with what I`ve said all along.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why won`t you answer the question? Are you concerned about retribution?
ERNST: No, I am not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Well, clearly, she is.
The obvious thing for all these Republicans to say it`s just, yes, it`s inappropriate. I don`t like it. It`s bad. It`s not impeachable. But they can`t say that, because it will enrage the president, and not enraging the president, well, that`s also clearly on the mind of Mike Pence, who is also trying desperately to escape further incrimination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you ever aware, Mr. Vice President, interest in the Bidens, that interest in investigating the Bidens was at least part of the reason for aid to Ukraine being held up? Were you ever aware?
MIKE PENCE,VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED S TATES: I never discussed the issue of -- the issue of the Bidens with President Zelensky...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you ever aware within the administration, though?
PENCE: What I can tell you is that all of our discussions internally, between the president and our team and our contacts in my office and Ukraine were entirely focused on the broader issues of the lack of European support...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But were you aware of interest in the Bidens being investigated and that being tied to aid to Ukraine being held up?
PENCE: That`s your question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Now there are some prominent conservatives who have had enough. I`m going to talk to two who have come out for impeachment right after this.
HAYES: There`s a lot of political analysts who seem to take for granted the Republican Party and the base will stick by Donald Trump, but Trump himself does not seem so sure. According to one report, he`s calling Mitch McConnell as much as three times a day, though a McConnell spokesperson denied it.
Today, today he railed against Fox News after the network released a poll showing majority support for impeachment and removal.
Now Trump generally just seems really nervous about his support buckling. And he certainly can`t be pleased with a new statement from a group of 16 esteemed conservative and libertarian lawyers who are now calling for an expeditious impeachment investigation, citing numerous facts that are undisputed they write that it has become clear to any observer of current events, the president is abusing the office of the presidency for personal, political objectives.
I`m joined now by two of the signatories to that statement, Harvard Law Professor Charles Fried, who was solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan, and Jonathan Adler, law professor at Case Western Reserve.
Professor Fried, let me start with you. When did you or how did you come to believe that an impeachment inquiry, or an impeachment itself, should be launched against the president?
CHARLES FRIED, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, let me back up one moment. I was born in a vibrant democracy, Czechoslovakia, and I fled with my family because of a dictator who invaded it. I came to this country and it took us in, and I`ve had a wonderful life here. I love it, as do my children and my grandchildren. And this man terrifies me.
FRIED: Because of the way he thinks, what he says about himself. He says that the constitution said, and he said this to a bunch of high school students, I can do whatever I want. That`s what Article 2 says.
Well, it doesn`t. Any lawyer knows that. Any lawyer except maybe Bill Barr and Mr. Cipollone. Everybody who studied the constitution, which I teach, knows that.
Our fidelity is to the law and to the office, not to a man.
HAYES: Professor Adler, the White House has to Professor Fried`s points, sort of operationalized the president`s broad view of executive authority, if you could even call it something that sophisticated. In its letter to congress, and the idea that congress just has no right to do any of this, what they`re conducting is a kangaroo court, what do you think of those assertions?
JONATHAN ADLER, CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY: The letter makes political arguments, not legal arguments. The point of the letter is to give people rhetoric and talking points, but as a legal matter, congress has the authority to do this. Congress has the authority to not merely investigate the president, but the House has the authority to impeach the president.
There is enough undisputed material -- there are undisputed facts that alone establish that the president is not upholding his oath to preserve and protect the United States and to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.
And ideally, we would be able to have a bipartisan inquiry to figure out how deep the rot goes. But there is enough on the record that the question should be put forward do these acts rise to the level where the president should be removed.
HAYES: Professor Fried, you teach constitutional law. You were solicitor general under President Reagan. There are people who use the term "constitution crisis." And it`s always hard to define precisely what that means. A law professor, Noah Feldman, wrote a piece recently I think just the other day saying we are in one.
Do you see us as in a constitutional crisis at this moment?
FRIED: Yes, because if the president succeeds in stonewalling the lawful, constitutionally provided processes of the House of Representatives, then something will have to be done. The various officials who will not testify, because they have been told not to and they`re scared of this thug, will have to be sanctioned. They are in contempt. Of course he is in contempt.
HAYES: What do you think, Professor Adler?
ADLER: Well, I don`t know if I`d use the phrase constitutional crisis. The House has enough information to act. It has the ability to inquire further. And as we know in the case of Richard Nixon and Watergate, if the White House refuses to cooperate, refuses to respond to lawful demands for information, then that itself can be a further grounding for impeachment.
But, again, we have in the quid pro quo with Ukraine, we have in the Volker texts and email and so on, more than enough material on the record that shows that this White House is not following the law, that this president is not upholding his oath, and that`s something that the House should consider expeditiously.
And as your setup noted, senators should be in a position where they have to answer the question at what point does this justify removal from office?
HAYES: Professor Fried...
FRIED: I would add the second -- I would add the second part of the Mueller report, which quite dutifully would not say that the president can be indicted for obstruction of justice, because his instructions from the Justice Department said so, but he said I will not exonerate him. That is in another place. But of course, that`s the congress. And Bill Barr lied about what that report said when he thought that we weren`t going to see it.
HAYES: Well, let me -- Professor Fried, let me follow up and I`ll ask you the same question, Professor Adler. Professor Fried, you`re sort of conservative legal legend, I think it`s fair to say. I mean, you have had many students throughout the years, you are extremely highly regarded. You have been part of American conservatism for a very long time. What are the conversations you have with people that you would consider, you know, for lack of a better word cheekily fellow travelers about what is happening with this president and the rule of law?
FRIED: They are horrified. It is the very opposite of the great Republicans, the great Republicans like Ronald Reagan, like Dwight -- can you imagine Dwight Eisenhower speaking the way this man speaks? Or Lincoln? Or Teddy Roosevelt? This man is ignorant and foul-mouthed.
HAYES: Professor Adler, what are your conversations like with fellow conservatives?
I consider you a sort of libertarian conservative lawyer in good standing in many ways. You`re active in -- no, you`re active in contemporary stuff. I mean, you opposed some of the legal argumentation to justify Obamacare. What are those conversations like for you?
ADLER: Well, I mean I think in a lot of cases, and one of the reasons we form checks and balances is there are a lot of folks who consider themselves legal conservatives, because of their views about the rule of law, because of their rules about the nature of American government and the obligations that government officials have that are very uncomfortable not only with the way the president conducts himself, but also with a number of people in the administration and in congress that enable the president.
And so part of the whole point of creating checks and balances in the first place and issuing statements like this is to let those that feel this way know that they`re not alone. And certainly I have many conversations with conservative students, young members of the Federalist Society and the like, who have these concerns and who worry that being a legal conservative means exonerating or enabling this conduct. And the point we`re trying to make is that that`s just not so.
HAYES: Charles Fried, Jonathan Adler, thank you both very much for your time tonight.
That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
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