CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And those are the facts. And that`s HARDBALL for now. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
BILL TAYLOR, ACTING UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: He withholds that assistance for no good reason other than help with a political campaign. It made no sense.
HAYES: Day one of the impeachment of Donald J. Trump.
TAYLOR: It was illogical. It could not be explained. It was crazy.
HAYES: Career diplomats lay out the facts before the nation.
GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY IN THE EUROPEAN AND EURASIAN BUREAU: Rudy Giuliani -- and Giuliani said it would not be acceptable if it didn`t mention Biden and Burisma in 2016.
HAYES: And unveil brand new evidence of the President`s plot to extort Ukraine.
TAYLOR: The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone asking Ambassador Sondland about the investigations.
HAYES: Tonight, the takeaways from today`s historic hearing.
DANIEL GOLDMAN, IMPEACHMENT LAWYER: Have you ever seen another example of foreign aid conditioned on the personal or political interests of the President of the United States?
TAYLOR: No, Mr. Goldman, I`ve not.
HAYES: How Republicans attempted to defend the President.
STEVE CASTOR, ATTORNEY FOR REPUBLICAN MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE: This year regular channel of diplomacy, it`s not as outlandish as it could be. Is that correct?
HAYES: What the President was up to while the whole world was watching his impeachment hearings?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven`t watched for one minute.
HAYES: And what democrats are planning for a second act.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s the ultimate impeachable offense.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. It`s here today. The House of Representatives held its first public televised hearing into the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump. It is just the fourth time in American history that we have done this kind of thing as a country. So if you`re under the age of 20, you were not alive the last time this happened.
Today, the American people got a fuller picture of the corrupt abuse of power by the President of the United States. We have known for over a month, about the catalyst for this investigation when the Ukrainian President told President Trump he wanted to buy more American weapons, and the President responded, "I would like you to do us a favor though."
So we have the call notes and we`ve gotten thousands and thousands of pages of transcripts from impeachment depositions of people testifying behind closed doors about what happened. But today, we got to hear it and see it with our own eyes. It was truly historic.
The first witnesses in the impeachment hearing, Acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent. They testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee for more than five hours.
And what we heard was specific testimony about how President Trump withheld military assistance from Ukraine, a country currently occupied by Russia, a country in desperate need of that aid and assistance in order to squeeze the new Ukrainian president into manufacturing dirt on the President`s political rivals.
Ambassador Taylor, a man who served in critical state department rolls around the world for over three decades and who somewhat remarkably still wakes up every morning when he`s back in Ukraine and goes to work of the U.S. embassy in Kiev described a conversation with the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland when Taylor realized that President Trump was, in fact, withholding this vital military aid for his own personal gain.
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TAYLOR: I sent Ambassador Sondland a text message asking if we are now saying that the security assistance and a White House meeting are conditioned on investigations. Ambassador Sondland responded asking me to call him which I did. During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling Ukrainian officials that only a White House meeting with President Zelensky was dependent on a public announcement of the investigations. In fact, Ambassador Sondland said everything was dependent on such an announcement including security assistance.
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HAYES: Ambassador Taylor also explained how he learned that the words investigate corruption were just code for investigate the Democrats and the Biden`s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: I had come to understand well before then that investigations was a term Ambassadors Volker and Sondland used to mean matters related to the 2016 elections and to -- and to investigations of Burisma and the Bidens.
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HAYES: Taylor also made a huge bit of news today when he revealed a previously undisclosed recent communication with a member of his staff that clearly demonstrates President Trump`s priorities and motivations. Keep in mind that the interaction Taylor is describing in the bit of sound I`m going to play for you is from literally the day after Trump`s infamous phone call with the Ukrainian president.
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TAYLOR: Last Friday, a member of my staff told me of events that occurred on July 26th. While Ambassador Volker and I -- Volker and I visited the front, member of my staff accompanied Ambassador Sondland. Ambassador Sondland met with Mr. Yermak.
Following that meeting in the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kiev. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone asking Ambassador Sondland about the investigations. Ambassador told President Trump the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.
Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I mean, there you have it, I guess, right? President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden. He sure does. That is what this whole thing is about. Now, Gordon Sondland, a man who donated $1 million to Trump Inaugural Committee and basically got the ambassador gig as a thank you, meet with his top Ukrainian official the day after the President`s infamous call.
After that meeting, Sondland goes to a restaurant. In the middle of the restaurant decides to just ring up the Pres. to update him. And the President asked Sondland about the investigations. And he is doing it so loudly that other people near Sondland can hear President Trump. And Ambassador Sondland tells him the deal is on. We`ve closed it. You talked to him yesterday. I`m here in person to close.
Ukrainians are ready to move forward with the investigations. Two sources tell NBC News that the man who relayed that account to Ambassador Taylor, a man named David Holmes will now be giving a private deposition to the Committee on Friday. Trump was asked about that conversation at a press conference this afternoon, and completely punted saying I don`t recall, no, not at all, not even a little bit.
Today`s hearing was the first opportunity for Congressional Republicans to publically cross-examine people who had front row seats to the President`s extortion of Ukraine. It was their chance to refute the accusations being made to build a strong defense of the President`s actions. They did not really do any of those things.
Instead, they tried to make the hearing all about Joe Biden`s son, argue that what those political investigations were in the best interest of Ukraine and the U.S. But Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent treaded that defense.
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GOLDMAN: Is pressuring Ukraine to conduct what I believe you`ve called political investigations, a part of U.S. foreign policy to promote the rule of law in Ukraine and around the world?
KENT: It is not.
GOLDMAN: Is it in the national interest of the United States?
KENT: In my opinion, it is not.
GOLDMAN: So in other words, it is a purpose of our foreign policy to encourage foreign nations to refrain from conducting political investigations, is that right?
KENT: Correct. And in fact, as a matter of policy, not of programming, we oftentimes raise our concerns usually in private with countries that we feel are engaged in selective political prosecution and persecution of their opponents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That`s George Kent who previously served as the senior anti- corruption coordinator in the State Department`s European Bureau saying President Trump`s pressure campaign was itself a kind of corruption, that it was bad for the U.S. and bad for Ukraine, which I think just about sums up the entire story we heard today.
Joining me now one of the members of Congress who questioned the two witnesses today, Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, a member of both the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees. Congressman, what did you think of today? What did you learn?
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Well, I had about three takeaways. First is we did learn new information that makes it look like President Trump was even more deeply involved than we previously thought. I mean for him to basically have a cell phone call with Sondland the very day after the July 25th call to just kind of close the deal, as you mentioned before, is news.
The second takeaway I had was that the witnesses presented very compelling testimony, especially Ambassador Taylor. And then the third is, we actually maintain some good decorum today. It wasn`t the circus that some people feared. And I think credit goes to Chairman Schiff for maintaining an excellent set of proceedings, laying the ground rules very clearly, and dealing with points of order and so forth, expeditiously in a fair way.
HAYES: One thing I noticed today, and I`m curious if you had the same impression. I did not hear Republicans on the committee or the committee lawyer attempts to essentially make the case that there wasn`t a kind of exchange, condition, quid pro quo, whatever you want to call it. It seems to be that the arguments are about whether it was successful or whether it`s legitimate interest of the United States to do that. Was that your understanding of your colleague`s argument?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, I did not hear too many arguments that you know a lot of the central allegations, the substance of the charges against the President are actually non-meritorious or false. It was rather, like you said, it was more with regard to yes, this happened but it was almost like the Mick Mulvaney, get over it type of defense.
HAYES: What do you think the groundwork was laid today and what are you -- how do you understand the trajectory of these hearings as they go forward?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, you know, there are a number of witnesses coming before us in the next couple weeks. On Friday, we hear from Ambassador Yovanovitch. And basically her testimony is very important because essentially what she`s going to be talking about, if you read her deposition transcript, you would see that essentially a smear campaign was kind of propagated against her by Giuliani to Remove her and make way for the three amigos namely Volker, Sondland, and Perry on with Giuliani to commandeer Ukraine policy, not necessarily in the best interest of America, but in the best interests of Giuliani`s clients, people like Donald Trump and maybe other potential international actors as well.
HAYES: One complaint today from Republicans was a complaint about hearsay, which they said a lot, that Taylor, for instance, Ambassador Taylor never actually spoke directly to the President. My understanding is that there`s a number of people who have spoken directly to the President that have been called before the committee that have declined. Would you like to be able to talk to say, Mick Mulvaney, or Rick Perry, before your committee?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Sure. But on the other hand, there are a number of people coming that have talked to the President such as Gordon Sondland who`s appearing next week. But the most important thing that I would just point out is, you know, Gordon Sondland, Tim Morrison, and others, basically vouch for the recounting of these conversations with the president or Zelensky that Ambassador Taylor made.
And so I have not yet heard anybody dispute these particular descriptions of those conversations, and that`s very important.
HAYES: How do you understand what your role is, both you as a member of Congress, but also the committee in this? I mean, as you said before, these individuals have given depositions behind closed doors. What do you see as the function of today and Friday and going forward?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think at least two functions. One, you know, laying out the evidence in a way that`s clear, and that educates the American public about what we`ve learned. And then secondly, asking questions, building on what we learned in the depositions.
So for instance, you know, Mr. Sondland is coming in next Wednesday. He gave his deposition and then he gave an addendum to his deposition clarifying certain points in the deposition. So we`ll want to know why. Like what prompted, for instance, these clarifications? What more can he tell us? What can you tell us about this other conversation that we`ve learned just today? That`s going to be very important.
So at the same time, we`ll be laying out what we`ve learned. We`re going to try to learn more, and that`s very important.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thank you very much.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Joining me now are two legal experts who are paying close attention to today`s impeachment hearing, Melissa Murray Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU, and Matthew Miller former Chief Spokesperson for the Department of Justice, now an MSNBC Justice and National Security Analyst.
And Melissa, I`ll start with you. I thought that -- I was not expecting that we would get new information today, but I thought the new information from Ambassador Bill Taylor was pretty devastatingly incriminating.
MELISSA MURRAY, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, NYU: Now, there is a lot there. You have -- well, there`s so much there. First of all, the Ambassadors the E.U. taking a phone call at a restaurant in Kiev on an open cell phone while people are eating borscht nearby.
HAYES: With the President.
MURRAY: This is crazy. So that usually doesn`t happen, like open cell phone calls. There`s a huge protocol for these kinds of phone calls with the President. That`s one example of just how this administration completely has run roughshod over established norms of how the government operates.
And then the testimony itself that as you are listening, one, the President is talking so loudly, that you can actually hear him saying investigations over and over and over again. And it becomes clear that the driving force here is that these investigations get done over hell or high water and it doesn`t matter. And it`s not for the American interests, it`s really for his interest, and that becomes clear.
HAYES: And that point was the point that I think the Republicans wanted to wrestle with a bit today, because they weren`t denying the conditionality, the extortion, the quid pro quo. They were trying to say that the conditionality was for legitimate interests, that it was fine. The President had --
MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: A strong anti- corruption.
HAYES: Anti-corruption agenda. What did you think of that?
MILLER: Well, look, all you have to do is read the transcript of the President`s call with Zelensky. And you don`t see him calling for strength of institutions in Ukraine. You don`t see him calling for you know, a judicial system or a prosecutorial system as independent. He`s only calling for one thing, investigations of his political opponents.
And it makes clear that phone call that I think the committee is going to hear testimony about on Friday will make that clear again. I also think that phone call is significant for another reason, not just because of what the President said, but because what it does to Gordon Sondland.
Remember, Gordon Sondland said --
HAYES: That day he`s on a hot seat.
MILLER: Yes, he said in his sworn testimony that he didn`t know that Burisma meant Biden until he saw the call transcript that was released in September. Before that, he had no idea. And he never discussed Joe Biden and investigating Joe Biden with anyone.
Here you apparently have a first-hand witness who`s going to come in and say the opposite. And if I`m Gordon Sondland, I`m trying to get right with the committee of my testimony next week, so I don`t get a criminal referral to the Department of Justice.
MURRAY: Well, there`s already been one addendum so he`s already tried to get right with the committee already.
HAYES: Right. Well, that was the other thing that kind of blew my mind about the new facts that was introduced into evidence today by Ambassador Taylor which is that we already know that he sort of came through an addendum. And this appear to show that even with the addendum was not complete.
MURRAY: There`s going to an addendum to the addendum.
HAYES: There`s going to be addendum to the addendum. It`s also the case to me that when you step back, you look at these two individuals who are both sort of like, you know, career diplomats, career Foreign Service, folks. There`s a kind of question at the heart of this almost a constitutional question about like, who gets to say what American policy set is, right?
And I think you saw a theme from some of the Presidents defenders and the committee both from their tweets, and they`re questioning that like who are you, bureaucrats, to say the President can`t do this? What do you think of that argument?
MURRAY: Well, it`s the same kind of argument that we saw shadowed in the DACA arguments yesterday. This whole idea like the President can come in and change immigration policy. Like that is something that administration can do. But I don`t necessarily see the two witnesses today saying that they have a problem with the policy. I think they have a problem with this idea that the President`s policy shifts are not for American interest, but for his own and that`s different.
MILLER: That`s basically what the outcome of this impeachment investigation and eventual trial I think is going to decide is whether the President does get to decide anything --
HAYES: That`s right.
MILLER: -- in his ability to set policy. Because it is true in some cases, if the President sets legitimate policy goals, the bureaucracy is supposed to follow. But I think what you heard these two witnesses coming in saying today is when the President puts his personal interests and makes U.S. foreign policy depend on his personal interests, that`s illegitimate. And if there`s no consequence for him, then I suppose that the Republican proposition becomes true.
HAYES: Right. That`s -- I feel like we`re watching this sort of battle about almost as sort of transformation of what the culture of American -- the American executive is. I mean, is it -- do we live in a country in which it`s just like listen to the man at the top and do whatever he says. And if what he says is go dig up dirt on my political rivals, or if what he says his attorney general, opening criminal investigation into those folks over there or subpoena that over there, do we live in that kind of country now? That`s what it comes down to.
MURRAY: Well, and again, it goes back to what I said the last time I was here. This is the unitary executive I`m on steroids. Like the State Department is what I say the State Department is. It is -- it`s an extension of me and it does what I want it to do. And if that`s where we are, we don`t have a democracy, we have an autocracy, and that`s totally a different proposition.
MILLER: I would just think we -- the Republicans who believe in this unitary executive theory, only believe that when Republicans are president.
HAYES: Yes, that`s right.
MILLER: They will only -- they will only believe that the president --
HAYES: It`s like the whistleblower. They`d love nothing more than a whistleblower in the Obama administration.
HAYES: Melissa Murray and Matt Miller, thank you both. Much more to come tonight on the first day of public impeachment hearings like how the Ukrainians dealt with the political pressure from President Trump. Senator Chris Murphy whose name was invoked by today`s witnesses joins me in two minutes.
HAYES: One thing that is clear from today`s testimony is that the Ukrainians were under tremendous amount of pressure from President Donald Trump to investigate his political rival Joe Biden. And the Ukrainians were really wrestling with precisely what they were going to do about that pressure.
There were a number of voices along the way who were telling the new Ukrainian President to steer clear of meddling and American elections, and that included Ambassador Bill Taylor, and both Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. Senate. Ambassador Taylor talked about it in his opening statement today.
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TAYLOR: On September 5th, I accompanied senators Johnson and Murphy during their visit to Kiev. When we met with President Zelensky, his first question to the senators was about the withheld security assistance.
My recollection of the meeting is that both senators had stressed that bipartisan support for Ukraine in Washington was Ukraine`s most important strategic asset and that presence of Zelensky should not jeopardize that bipartisan support by getting drawn in to U.S. domestic politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now is one of the senators who met with Presidents Zelensky, Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat from Connecticut. Senator, I wanted to ask you about that meeting. I think we`ve talked a little bit about it before. It was interesting to hear it in the testimony. How well do you recall that meeting and what happened in it?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, I recall the meeting well. I recall it as Ambassador Taylor remembers it. Of course, back in the spring, Rudy Giuliani was openly crowing about his attempts to get the Ukrainian government, the new President Zelensky to investigate the President`s political rivals.
And one of the reasons I wanted to go to Ukraine in early September was to raise this issue with Zelensky, to tell him that it was going to damage Ukraine`s credibility if they were seen as an agent of the Trump campaign.
And I also remember as Ambassador Taylor does that when we sat down at the meeting, Zelensky sort of dispense with the regular diplomatic formalities. He wanted to get right to this question of how he could get the aid turned back on. This was an absolute priority to him because he knew that Ukrainian soldiers were dying on the front without that American aid.
And in the end of the meeting, he did tell us that he had no intent to get involved in American politics. Little did we know that he was at the very moment involved in back-channel negotiations to do just that, because he was being told if he didn`t announce investigations into Joe Biden, he wasn`t getting that security aid.
HAYES: So here`s what`s fascinating to me. That aid is held up I believe in mid-July. By that time, word had made its way to you and other people in the Hill right, that the aid was held. Like what a you know, as someone deeply invested in Ukraine policy, about the reasons for this mysterious hole on the aid that had been voted through by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President.
MURPHY: Right, so we don`t learn about the withholding of the aid until only days before our trip to Ukraine in early September. And so the notice was very late to Congress. And of course, the President does not have the ability to withhold aid to a country once it`s been congressionally appropriated. And if he doesn`t, he`s got to go through a long burdensome process of notification which the administration didn`t do.
Of course, we all suspected that it could be that the aid was being withheld as leverage. And even if that hadn`t been explicitly told to the Ukrainians as it was, of course, their impression would be that in order to get the money, they have to start a seeding to the requests that the President`s representatives are making.
So to me, it looked corrupt on the face of it, which is part of the reason why I wanted to go to Ukraine. But now we know that it was not implied, that it was actually -- it was actually explicit, and we`re going to have a number of people testify to that before the impeachment committee.
HAYES: I wanted -- you just highlighted something that I just wanted to follow up on which Republicans today making an argument, the narrow version of which I think is true, which is the president sets foreign policy priorities.
But in this particular instance, I mean, even you know, Matt Gaetz saying that the deep state is subverting the President`s policy. I`m not crazy here. The House and the Senate passed this appropriation for this aid and the President himself signed it, right? It was not magically called into law. This was the policy of both article one and articles and branches of the United States government.
MURPHY: Well, what`s interesting is that for the first year or so of the President`s term, he often bragged about the fact that he had given more aid to the Ukrainians than President Obama did until, of course, he figured out that he could use that aid as leverage to get help for himself politically.
And so yes, the President is able to dictate a lot of American foreign policy. But amongst the tools he has at his disposal is not the withholding of aid that Congress has appropriated. And, and he and his advisors know that because many of them recommended against him doing it because of its illegality.
HAYES: The nature of kind of polarization being what it is, it was interesting to hear about this sort of bipartisan consensus in support of Ukraine, as they are currently occupied by Russia. They`ve lost 13,000 servicemembers in that war, which is a number I had not heard before and was quite shocking, actually.
Do you fear that that`s unraveling now as you watch Republicans on the committee who out of a kind of tribal loyalty to the President seem to also be turning on Ukraine?
MURPHY: Yes. And listen, the reason that we are involved in Ukraine is because Russia has breached at very important international norm, which is the sanctity of borders. Now, Ukraine is not a NATO ally. We don`t have an obligation to defend them. But if we telegraph that Ukraine is on their own, that there`s going to be no consequence to Russia for invading that country, then it`s an invitation to lots of other countries to start thinking about expanding their territory as well.
And for a long time, Republicans and Democrats got that. So we stood together, and we helped Ukraine. We certainly knew that there was corruption there but we didn`t attack Ukraine on a regular basis. We tried to help them get better.
Now, it`s the President`s strategy to try to combat the impeachment process to make Ukraine look as desperate and as weak and as dysfunctional as possible. And that, of course, delights Russia. And it frankly invites other countries to think about the same kind of incursions into peripheral territory because they might get away with it in the way that Russia seems to be getting away with it right now.
HAYES: All right, Senator Chris Murphy, thank you so much for your time tonight.
HAYES: Ahead, it was one of the big unknowns going into today`s first public hearing. How would Republicans attempt to defend the indefensible? That`s next.
HAYES: Republicans tried out a variety of arguments to defend Trump today. The president can do whatever he want, that`s it`s legitimate to investigate it DNC in 2016 and Bidens, and that extortion or bribery or quid pro quo or whatever Democrats want to call it doesn`t count if you don`t pull it off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES, (R) CALIFORNIA: Leschenko was a source for Fusion GPS`s operation to dirty up the Trump campaign, including the compilation of the Steele Dossier.
REP. JIM JORDAN, (R) OHIO: President Zelenskiy didn`t announce he was going to investigate Burisma or the Bidens. He didn`t do a press conference and say I`m going to investigate the Bidens, we`re going to investigate Burisma. President Zelenskiy doesn`t announce it before the aid is released on the 11th.
REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE, (R) TEXAS: Are either of here to assert there was an impeachable defense in that call? Shout it out.
SCHIFF: You ask the witness the question...
RATCLIFFE: I withdraw the question.
What did President Zelenskiy actually do to get the aid? The answer is nothing. He did nothing. He didn`t open any investigations.
JORDAN: We`re not talking any country, we`re talking Ukraine. Ernst and Young said one of the three most corrupt countries on the planet. President Trump said let`s just see if he`s legit. So for 55 days we checked him out.
STEVE CASTOR, GOP COUNSEL: This is irregular channel of diplomacy, it`s not as outlandish as it could be, is that correct?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Not as outlandish as it could be.
As to whether any of those performances worked, I want to bring in Republican strategist Tim Miller who served as the indication`s director the 2016 presidential campaign.
There`s two things that I always note when I watch Republican House members. One is that they don`t seem to be aiming their rhetoric to like the middle of the electorate -- no, really -- isn`t that an amazing insight? As a kind of persuasive undertaking. And I think that was true today, don`t you think?
TIM MILLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: For sure. I mean, Nunes` opening statement was like a conspiracy potpourri -- CrowdStrike and Chalupa (ph) and Fusion GPS. Like, I don`t even understand how a swing voter watching that could even understand and translate what he was saying unless they were steeped in this Shean Hannity-esque conspiracy tale -- narrative -- that they`d been spinning.
And so, you know, I think that set the tone.
Now, Jordan and Stefan (ph) -- there were some better arguments that maybe not 100 percent accurate or true or defensible, but there were some better arguments that came out of Stefanik, you know, Nikki Haley on the shows when she was making the rounds last week, made a couple of OK arguments. But most of the House guys today, they`re playing to their base. They want to make everybody feel good. And they want to keep everybody on board. They think that if they get a party line vote, why do they -- why do they need to -- who do they need to...
HAYES: That I think -- so, when you think about like not aiming for the middle of the electorate, like they`ve got to hold the 40 percent. They have learned this lesson, right, like hold fast, hold the 40 percent.
I think the Democrats -- it was interesting to me just in terms of the kind of credentials of these two, they really did seem to be making a kind of middle of the road argument insofar as there`s no ideological freight to this, right, like -- it seemed to be they`re trying make this argument that like what`s being done here is wrong and it`s against a bipartisan consensus, et cetera.
MILLER: Yeah, in some senses they are trying to appeal to me or to George H.W. Bushian, kind of respect for the diplomatic core. That`s who these two guys were, as best as I can tell. And they seemed like George H.W. Bush style Republicans who were testifying today.
And I thought Schiff`s opening statement really was pretty fact based. What he was trying to do was explain the narrative as clearly as possible. And there wasn`t a lot of gratuitous slaps at Trump. I mean, there were plenty of opportunities for that, of course.
So, I guess I would agree with that. I mean, I th ink that if you are the Democrats, though, that makes sense, right. Who are you trying to win over?
HAYES: That`s right, yes.
MILLER: Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, you want to at least get a couple of bipartisan votes so the end vote in the Senate
So, you want to get at least a couple of bipartisan votes. With Republicans you`re just trying to get a party line deal, but the Republicans you`re just trying to get a party line deal.
So the persuadable universe here is a pretty small group of me`s.
HAYES: Yeah, that`s right. It is a small group of yous, which is a small group.
MILLER: It`s very small.
HAYES: We should just note, sometimes over represented.
The other thought I had here was, the -- you know, people have been making fun they didn`t get away with it argument. Rightly so, you know, there`s this Sideshow Bob in jail in the Simpsons saying no one gets a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry, like attempted murder. But in some ways, I guess in some ways it`s the best -- it is kind of the best argument they have, because at least it doesn`t require them to say it`s fine for if he had gotten away with it, and also to deny the facts that are produced.
MILLER: I think it`s a second best argument, right. Stefanik made that in the post-game press conference. She said, there was no investigation in the end into Burisma. They got their aid. They didn`t get their aid under Obama and that`s that. You know, she`s a congresswoman from New York who worked with me as the RNC as a traditional Republican type.
The problem with that argument for me is that Zelenskiy was booked on CNN, right. And they were two days away from getting away with it, from winning the chemistry Nobel Prize award, right. So, there`s some holes in that.
HAYES: And the only reason that the money was released, as far as we can tell, is the whole whistle-blower complaint started to...
MILLER: Yeah, two days beforehand. The whistle-blower complaint was on the ninth, and then on the 11th they released the aid. So, I think there are some holes there.
The Haley argument over the weekend, which was this is the death penalty. These guys have been trying to do this for three years. Is this a death penalty-type crime? I think that`s their best argument. I disagree with it, also, because it was trying to impact the next election, which is why I think it`s a death penalty crime. But it is compelling.
HAYES: All right, Tim Miller, thanks for coming by.
MILLER: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Up next, what it means when we talk about the president withholding aid from Ukraine, Simon Ostrovsky spent years reporting on that conflict and the people who rely on that aid. He joins me to talk about how this is playing out on the ground after this.
HAYEWS: One of the big themes that hit home today was that the reason that the president`s extortion of Ukraine, a, had a chance of working, and b was so unseemly, is because Ukraine is mired in a war with Russia, a war that has taken the lives of 13,000 people, a war that they are fighting as we speak, which is why getting that military assistance was so critical to Ukraine`s livelihood.
Ambassador Bill Taylor has been on the front lines of that battle in Ukraine. He shared his experience with Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY, (D) NEW YORK: You go to the front, you go to Donbass with Ambassador Volker, I believe. And you`re on the bridge and you`re looking over on the front line at the Russian soldiers, is that what you recalled?
TAYLOR: Yes, sir.
MALONEY: And you said the commander there, the Ukrainian commander, thanked you for the American military assistance that you knew was being withheld at that moment.
TAYLOR: That is correct.
MALONEY: How`d that make you feel, sir?
TAYLOR: Because it was clear that that commander counted on us. It was clear that that commander had confidence in us. It was clear that that commander had -- was appreciative of the capabilities that he was given by that assistance, but also the reassurance that we were supporting him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I want to bring in someone who has done extensive on the ground reporting from Ukraine ever since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014. He was detained at one point by pro-Russia gunmen in eastern Ukraine. And he just got back from yet another reporting trip for PBS last week. Simon Ostrovsky joins me now. It`s great to see you, Simon.
SIMON OSTROVSKY, PBS: Evening, Chris.
HAYES: So, I think you have a vast body of knowledge in reporting on this conflict, particularly for five years at least. What were the stakes, and the contexts, for this new president coming in and his dependence on the Americans with this war still raging in the east?
OSTROVSKY: So Volodymyr Zelenskiy had promised during his election campaign that he was going to ease tensions with Russia. People were so tired of the war. And he won an incredible 73 percent vote of the vote, which was unprecedented. So, he had a huge, huge mandate.
So when he came into power he was going to negotiate with Russia from a position of strength. And, you know, that`s something that Taylor talked about today, how important that was for him to be able to negotiate with the Russians from a position of strength.
But then when it became public knowledge to the entire world, and of course to Russia, that the Americans were holding up the aid that they had promised already to Ukraine, that showed the cracks in the U.S.-American (sic) relationship and that send a message, a signal loud and clear to Russia, that maybe, maybe America doesn`t exactly have Ukraine`s back like they said up until now and maybe the Russians can push their own advantage in any forthcoming negotiations.
So when I was on the front lines last week and I was talking to members of the 92nd Brigade, I asked them point-blank, I said do you think you can get a fair deal from Russia without the strong support from the United States, and soldiers there told me, no, no without the U.S. and without the EU, there`s no way that Russia is going to hold to the terms of any agreement.
HAYES: And that right now is something that is being -- that is in in the beginning of being negotiated, right. I mean, this is big promise Zelenskiy made was to try to end this war.
OSTROVSKY: So for the past several weeks, Zelenskiy has been pulling troops back from certain areas along the front lines, three sectors so far.
And the idea is, is that if the troops are further away from the enemy, if they can`t see the enemy, then there`s going to be less opportunity to exchange fire and for the soldiers to get killed, because Ukrainian soldiers, and of course people on the pro-Russia side, they`re getting killed week in and week out, and this is strain on Ukraine. It`s been going on for five years.
So, you know, one of his promises is to bring that down. And that`s what he`s trying to do. but how do you get the other side to believe that they need to hold to the terms of such an agreement if you`ve got a super power, a former super power like Russia, if you`ve got another super power backing your adversary, that`s one thing. But if that super power`s resolve suddenly disappears, what are you left with?
HAYES: Here`s someone who reported -- knows intimately well Ukrainian politics, has reported on it, and in context of the conflict, what did you start to think when you first started see reports of the news, first Giuliani, and then the whistle-blower, and then the call?
OSTROVSKY: Well, those of us who watch Ukraine day and in and day out, we knew that something was up starting in May when Giuliani started sending these weird tweets about Zelenskiy is surrounding himself with people who are enemies of Donald Trump. And, you know, that`s the kind of language that people reserve for their adversaries, not for their allies.
If you have something to say to a partner, to an ally, then you say that behind closed doors. You certainly don`t tweet about it and say that you are surrounding your presidency with enemies of our president. That`s almost like a hostile overt action.
So, that rung alarm bells really for those of us who were in Kiev at the time who were seeing these tweets and that`s when we started just wondering what the heck is going on.
HAYES: What the heck is going on. Simon Ostrovsky, thank you so much for joining me.
Still ahead, while the nation watched the first televised impeachment hearings of President Trump, he was hanging out with Turkish President Erdogan. What unfolded inside the White House today after this.
HAYES: Well, the first public impeachment hearing was going down the road, Donald Trump today hosted the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House, a man we calls his, quote, very good friend.
Erdogan is the strong man who Trump effectively gave a green light to to invade Syria and attack America`s Kurdish allies who helped fight against ISIS. He did that by announcing, very suddenly and abruptly without telling anyone, that he was withdrawing U.S. troops from the region.
Today, Trump stood by as Erdogan cast the Kurds in Northern Syria as terrorists, and Trump also claimed Syria`s oil for the United States in flagrant violation of international law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We want to worry about our things. We`re keeping the oil. We have the oil. The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Only for the oil. It`s not our oil. You can`t really -- I mean, you can do that, but it`s not right or legal.
Trump`s embrace of Erdogan and abandonment of the Kurds has been of course criticized across party lines and within the national security establishment, but as we reported last night John Bolton, Trump`s own former national security advisor, may have just provided an explanation.
According to ABC News, Bolton indicated in a recent private speech, that he was mystified by Trump`s opposition to sanctions against Turkey, given the sanctions had broad bipartisan support in congress, quote, "Bolton said he believes there is a personal or business relationship dictating Trump`s position on Turkey because none of his advisers are aligned with him on the issue."
If Bolton is right, it`s yet another example of Trump putting his own interests ahead of the interests of the United States of America, which of course, is exactly what he`s accused of doing when he held up vital military aid to Ukraine in an extortion scheme to drum up dirt on his potential political opponent.
We`re going to talk about how today`s impeachment hearings played with the public, how Trump TV is desperately trying to spin a devastating set of facts when we come back, so don`t go away. so don`t go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORDAN: Now, there is one witness, one witness that they won`t bring in front of us, they won`t bring in front of the American people, and that`s the guy who started it all, the whistle-blower.
REP. PETER WELCH, (D) VERMONT: I say to my colleague, I`d be glad to have the person who started it all come in and testify. President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: There`s a lot to digest from the very first public impeachment hearing of Donald Trump. To do that, I`m joined by Christina Greer, Associate Professor at Fordham University. Co-host of the FAQ NYC podcast, and Sam Seder, host of the Majority Report podcast, and an MSNBC contributor.
That moment I thought was fascinating for this reason: one of the themes from the Republicans was like this is all hearsay. And why do we have these people and not the people who talked to Trump. And I was like, do you guys understand the argument you`re making is Mick Mulvaney should be here, or Trump -- there`s all sorts of people that we all would love to hear from?
CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, considering the Republicans have decided subpoenas are now optional, right. So the primary sources don`t have to show up and so now we`re going to secondary and tertiary sources and now you`re saying that`s not credible. And we know that all the Republicans are performing for the president who said, oh, well this is boring, I didn`t want to watch it today, even though we know that for the past three years you`ve done nothing but sit at home and watch television when you aren`t golfing.
So, it`s interesting if you look at his timeline you can tell he`s been retweeting problem who have been watching it all day. But the problem is are there so many people who need to be in front of this committee who are just choosing not to show up, and that is really detrimental to I think the Democratic process.
HAYES: Although, I have to say I thought the -- I thought the -- particularly Taylor`s opening statement, again, it`s slightly weedsy, right, but I`ve been following, but I thought like, man, that`s a pretty solid set of facts you laid out.
SAM SEDER, HOST, MAJORITY REPORT: I think this came up with your earlier guests in terms of who the audience is. And really I think if you look at impeachment not as its implications on the presidential election in 2020, but on the senate, things start to make a lot more sense. Because to come out in the beginning and make the argument that the Ukrainian policy is very important to the interests of the United States, that`s not for your average person on the street.
HAYES: Yeah, they don`t care.
SEDER: I don`t think most people -- and frankly if you were going to appeal to those people on the street, you wouldn`t go there. You would just simply say this is American policy and the irregulars were not pursuing that.
This is an argument to box in those half-dozen, 7, 8, Senators who are going to be faced with a very difficult vote, because if they vote against Donald Trump, Donald Trump is not the type of person who`s going to say like I`m going to release you on this one. Susan Collins, don`t worry.
HAYES: Oh, you don`t think they`re going to get a back channel message to Susan Collins.
SEDER: Exactly. They`re going to come in and he`s going to attack them because he can`t have this be in any way other than party lines. And if they vote with Trump, then every person who runs against them in every election has to say one thing to point out to say you`re either with Trump or against Trump, and you`re with Trump. And Susan Collins and Joni Ernst, and Thom Tillis and Cory Gardener, they don`t want to be that close to Donald Trump.
HAYES: You know, that`s a -- I think that`s well said. And it gets to thing I was saying to Tim just before about how self sort of consciously I think the Democrats and Schiff and all of them have set this up as kind of a non-ideological undertaking, you know, it`s all about bipartisan consensus of American foreign policy national foreign interests and duty and honor and abuse, and -- which I think in some ways is at it should be, because I think they really are both thinking about those front line members in those 40 seats and they`re thinking about how to bring people onboard to the argument they`re making.
GREER: I mean, this is a different impeachment trial than the Clinton days in 1996. And you saw there was a backlash against the Republicans to a certain extent. I think what Nancy Pelosi and her camp are trying to put together is that this is actually not the same, because we are dealing with an executive who is possibly doing the exact thing that George Washington warned us against, which is cuddling up to foreign entities and going against the will of the American rule of law, the American people, and choosing a foreign power over his own nation.
And with that is -- there`s no words.
HAYES: Well, but the thing about it also is part of my thinking -- I go back and forth on this. I understand why they`re sort of limiting it to this incident, because it is crystal clear, and he is dead to rights. We have the call transcript.
GREER: And he also said it.
HAYES: Right, he said it.
To hear Bill Taylor talking about the irregular channel, the front page of The New York Times has an article about the irregular channel with Turkey that involves a Trump business partner a day before Erdogan comes and does a victory lap after the president gives him everything he wants, and we know that his personal attorney was representing a Turkish client. Do we think this was just Ukraine?
SEDER: I go back and forth on this as well.
HAYES: I do too, as well.
SEDER: The idea this was a one off -- this is the one time we use this methodology and the rest of the time we`re -- I mean, I think there`s also an argument like you get Al Capone on taxes, and that`s the way you do it.
I mean, so -- it could go back and forth.
I mean, I think there`s been a little bit of a lack of strategy about impeachment broadly speaking as to how it`s supposed to fit in place, because I think in part for a long time Nancy Pelosi was very reluctant to do this. And so there was a lot of catch-up that was happening at this point, and I still think there is to a certain extent. But I think, you know, it`s hard to argue with the success that they`re having now.
HAYES: Yeah, I was just about to say -- like today looked like a well thought out and presented hearing. I mean, honestly the way it was run by Schiff and the testimony was like, these are the facts and this is what we got.
GREER: But the difference is, one for the Trump base, they will -- I mean, whatever Trump says, fine. But I think the Republicans are better at spin and they`re better at sort of essentially lying to you with a straight face and moving the goal posts, like they have been moving the goal post back and forth for this president, since day one.
HAYES: There`s also the epistemic -- there`s also the bubble, this is the Fox News graphic today with Bill Taylor which is just get in before we leave here. It`s like all about how President Trump dismissed him as a never Trumper. The White House called his -- calls during testimony triple hearsay, this is what you need to know about this guy.
Christina Greer, Sam Seder, thank you both for being with me tonight.
That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
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