CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: House Democrats vote to send the Articles of Impeachment over the United States Senate tomorrow. It`s going to be a historic day. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes, of course, starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have information on your opponent. Oh, I think I`d want to hear it.
HAYES: Democrats release an impeachment bombshell.
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: Tonight, House Democrats unveiled a trove of new documents provided by Rudy Giuliani`s indicted associate. What we`re learning from handwritten notes by Lev Parnas, what looks like a plan to tail the American ambassador to Ukraine, and what all of it means as Democrats and the White House prepare for the trial of Donald Trump.
TRUMP: The whole thing is a hoax.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. We`ve got very big breaking news tonight. On the eve of a House vote to send President Donald Trump`s articles of impeachment over to the Senate, the House Intelligence Committee, that would be of course the committee that held the impeachment inquiry that interviewed the witnesses. That committee just released an incredibly incriminating cache of documents from Rudy Giuliani`s indicted associate Lev Parnas.
And we told you yesterday that those documents were transmitted over the House. And tonight, just in the past couple hours, really, we had a small group of them, and we`ve been going through them and digesting just how explosive and wild the stuff in there is. They include the following, handwritten notes from Lev Parnas on a Ritz Carlton Hotel notepad from Vienna, the first of which reads -- I`m not making this up -- get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.
Those are presumably directions he got from someone or his agenda was remarkably similar to the president stated agenda. The documents include an absolute crazy, and I mean, just crazy text conversation between Lev Parnas and a new character, a guy who we did not know before tonight named Robert hide. We think he appears to be running for Congress in Connecticut`s fifth district.
And these texts conversations, again, if there could be read correctly, are absolutely chilling. They basically have a conversation about the security of the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. And the texts appear to suggest that Robert Hyde, a guy who is running for Congress in Connecticut, who was a big Trump supporter, who`s been photographed for the president multiple times, that Hyde was tracking every movement of the ambassador.
I`m going to quote a few of them here. "She`s talked to three people. Her phone is off, computer is off." How does he know that? "She`s next to the embassy. If you want her out, they need to make contact with security forces." We`re going to have a lot more of those texts on that particular topic because it`s really almost unbelievable.
The text and the documents also includes an e-mail from the President`s current lawyer Jay Sekulow whose set to be representing the president in the well of the Senate to the President`s old lawyer, John Dowd, telling him explicitly "the president consents to allowing your representation of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
If all the photos of Lev Parnas and Donald Trump side by side were not enough proof for you, this e-mail basically shows the President knows exactly who Lev Parnas is, and he knew that his former war was going to represent him. Those are just the highlights.
But in order to sort of understand what these documents show, and we`re still making sense of them, we just got them. We don`t have the full contact for all them so we`re sort of piecing it together. We got to remember again, who Lev Parnas is. He`s one of the two guys who were arrested in October on the way to Vienna, just hours after they ate lunch with Rudy Giuliani at Trump`s DC hotel.
Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman were charged with working to get the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Maria Yovanovitch removed partly through illegal campaign donations. Their lawyer who was Trump`s lawyer, John Dowd, actually said that they were part of Trump`s legal team in a letter to Congress, like Giuliani and Parnas and Fruman, and they`re all part of the team. That`s what he told Congress.
And then when the Congressional impeachment investigation was heating up, Donald Trump went out in the White House lawn and denied knowing them at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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?
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. You have to ask Rudy. I just don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Remember, we just reported on an e-mail the President`s personal attorney, telling their attorney that it was OK to represent them as directed by the President. It was reported at that moment outside the White House, that denial. That was the moment that Lev Parnas turned on Trump. And it was the moment he started wanting to cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry.
And for the past few days, in fact, for the past few weeks, even months, there`s been a kind of drip, drip, drip, from Parnas` new non-Trump lawyer, promising to deliver thousands of pages of documents to Congress. What we got today, just in the last few hours again, was 38 of those pages.
And the document dump comes against the backdrop of an impending Senate impeachment trial set to start on Tuesday, with an unanswered question about what that trial is going to look like. And crucially, are we going to hear from witnesses, and are we going to see documents that the Senate Democrats are seeking? Every time every single time for the saga that we get more evidence, things look worse for the president.
Joining me now Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, a member of the House Intelligence Committee that reviewed and release these documents. First, Congressman, just tell me, how did this happen? What am I looking at here in terms of how these came from Parnas` lawyers to your committee?
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Yes. So basically, Parnas, as you mentioned, has been indicted by the Southern District of New York. And they had to give permission for Parnas and his an attorney to produce these documents to the Intelligence Committee, which then transmitted it to the Judiciary Committee, which will then transmit it to the Senate tomorrow, along with the articles of impeachment.
HAYES: Do you have a sense of the context of this? I mean, obviously, you`ve got, for instance, him writing on a notepad, the Ritz Carlton Vienna like, you know, get Zelensky to announce an investigation on Biden. Now someone who`s skeptical could say, look, this guy`s untrustworthy. He`s under indictment, he`ll say whatever. Like, do you have any sense of the validity of the actual things that we`re seeing?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that the issue is that they are all internally consistent in terms of the messages, the WhatsApp records, the phone records, and so forth, as well as with the evidence that we developed as part of the impeachment inquiry. You know, Parnas was part of two schemes, Chris. The first game was to try to get Zelensky to announce publicly investigations of Biden. But the second scheme was to help remove Ambassador Yovanovitch from her post in Ukraine.
And as we talked about at the impeachment, public hearings, this was to allow basically Rudy Giuliani to swoop in and commandeer foreign policy in Ukraine, not necessarily to do what is in the best interest of the United States, but to do what`s in the best interest of his clients, including Donald Trump for his personal political benefit.
HAYES: Are there more documents and are those been chosen not to released or are they still under review?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I believe they`re still under review. There`s a lot and I think that these are just a portion of the documents that have been reviewed and released. As you can tell, there`s a lot of Russian in there. There`s a lot of translation that has to be done as well. And so that`s happening as quickly as possible.
HAYES: OK. So I just want to be clear here, because again, we`re trying to sort of assess. We have these documents that come officially from your committee. We`re trying to assess the validity of the information we have, and we don`t have full context for some of this information. And I think people are understandably skeptical about maybe the source has an agenda here.
I just want to make sure I`m hearing you that like, this isn`t just you got them and you turn them over. They`re being reviewed and they`re being -- I don`t know if they`re being vetted or at least there`s some confidence that these are not fabrications or these points of things that the committee believes actually happened. Is that correct?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And this is consistent with what we heard from witnesses as well as saw and other documents. It`s just that we haven`t had some of these issues fleshed out the way that you described. I mean, as you talked about this, this note is just precious, you know, get Zelensky to announce a public investigation of Biden. You know, that is something we didn`t come across.
Also, all the messaging about the menacing communications about Yovanovitch we didn`t see before. It just leads to the fact that we need witnesses, we need more documents now more than ever.
HAYES: OK. You just mentioned to me what is -- if I were writing up the headline of this story is the headline of the 38 pages that were released by your committee. And that`s the text exchange between Lev Parnas and a man named Robert Hyde, in which hide appears to be representing to Parnas. And I don`t know if it`s true or not, I just want to say that I have no way of knowing that.
He appears to be representing to Parnas that he is has people in Ukraine who are actively surveilling the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, unbeknownst to the diplomatic security staff, unbeknownst to her. There are some unspecified Ukrainians that he has a tail out on the U.S. ambassador. This is remarkably concerning if true. What is your response to that?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think this potentially inherits a separate inquiry. You know, we learned at the public hearing that she was asked to leave, I believe, within hours of receiving a phone call, that there were security concerns with regard to her. We tried to develop in our questioning what that was, but we weren`t really sure at the end of the day exactly what those specific security concerns were. But now we`re seeing all these messages that suggests that people were surveilling her, spying on her, trying to locate her, and that`s menacing, to say the least.
Again, just to remind all your viewers, Yovanovitch is a famous corruption fighter within the diplomatic service, especially in Ukraine, OK. So when Donald Trump talks about the need to fight corruption in Ukraine but then wants to remove Yovanovitch, the corruption fighter, I think that absolutely puts the lie to the rationale for removing him and exposes the truth, which is they want to put Giuliani in there to commandeer foreign policy and basically do what`s in the best interest of Donald Trump`s political benefit.
HAYES: Here`s my final question for you. I mean, there`s all this question now. The documents -- the article impeachment you voted on, managers can be named, the articles will be transmitted to the Senate. I think they`re actually like physically walked over there. There`s a question about what the Senate trial will look like. But, you know, the House still has subpoena power. I mean, it just seems to me like there`s like possible smoking gun stuff lying all over the place. Can you in the Intelligence Committee, get your hands on it?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, is it is a great question. But what`s interesting to me about this is that we are seeing a lot of information come to us voluntarily through Lev Parnas, but also through Freedom of Information Act requests. And what they point out to us is that, you know, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the information that the White House is concealing from us.
Chris, you know, the article, two of the articles of impeachment talk about obstructing this congressional investigation, and I think that what we`re seeing tonight is proof positive, that such an obstruction actually occurred.
HAYES: All right, Congressman --
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Can I just say one last thing?
HAYES: Go ahead.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: There are there are a lot of pictures of Donald Trump with Lev Parnas, a lot, OK. And you know, that they had conversations, they had communications, personal ones. And so, you know, what Donald Trump said to these people is very, very -- is of great interest at this point.
HAYES: Yes, it sure is. We`d like to hear it on the road. Congressman Raha Krishnamoorthi, thank you very much for making some time in the last minute.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, sir.
HAYES: I want to bring in Michelle Goldberg, op-ed columnist for the New York Times and an MSNBC Political Analyst and Barbara McQuade, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and MSNBC Legal Analyst.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, I think the first thing to point out is that these text messages don`t just indicate surveillance, they indicate a plan to go beyond surveillance, right. There`s one point when Robert Hyde text Lev Parnas talking about Ambassador Yovanovitch being in this secure location and basically says, if you want to get her out, you know, here`s what we have to do. So why did they want to get her out, right? What were they planning?
HAYES: What does that mean?
GOLDBERG: That is -- that is an urgent question, and it is a matter of urgent national security concern that Lev Parnas testify at this Senate impeachment hearing. I mean, what possible excuse can there be for not calling him?
I also think that, you know, given the fact that the President and his henchmen were putting an ambassador in danger in this way, there should be a widespread call from the -- from the diplomatic community for Mike Pompeo to step down for not protecting this ambassador.
But beyond that, I think, you know, we were three years into this nightmare. It`s this constant -- we kind of constantly get used to completely shocking, appalling circumstances. They -- we kind of revert to this equilibrium because you can`t live your life in a constant state of alarm. And then every so often something happens and pulls back the veil and we realize what a truly bizarre and lawless situation we`re living under.
HAYES: That was my response. We got these documents two hours ago, Barbara, and we`re all scurrying through. And you know, if you`re reading -- you`re entering into a text chain you haven`t seen before, you have a letter, you have handwritten notes. There`s references to people, some of it as -- was previously indicated by the Congressman was in Russian, so we had to -- either they translated it or we were looking for translations. I mean, all it although the picture here is just incomprehensibly shady, sketchy, possibly unlawful undertaking by people directly tied to the President of the United States.
BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it`s really explosive. And you know, as a prosecutor, sometimes when cooperators would come to us with explosive information, I think one of the first things we wanted to do is be a little bit skeptical to try to assess the accuracy of it --
MCQUADE: -- whether it`s admissible evidence. And so I think that we would want to talk to Lev Parnas as quickly as possible. And as you point out, there is nothing that would stop the House from taking his deposition tomorrow. And that might be the best way to get to the bottom of it.
Is that even his own handwriting? Who wrote that? When did he write that? Did he write it last night or did he write it a few months ago when it was -- they were in the midst of these negotiations? What on earth is going on with these text messages sounding like they`re surveilling the ambassador to Ukraine?
And this letter to Rudy Giuliani is a really interesting one from Rudy Giuliani. That one, actually, of all of these, might be the easiest to authenticate. Presumably, he would have kept a copy of that letter for his own files, and a copy of that letter could determine whether it is authentic.
And that one also I think, is very interesting in that he says he is representing Donald Trump in his individual capacity, not as President. And there he is seeking a meeting with the president-elect of Ukraine. So a lot of questions and I would be racing to get his deposition to try to get some answers.
HAYES: So you just mentioned something that I -- that all of us are sort of dealing with is due processes, which is this comes from Parnas` lawyer. It has been let free by SDNY and the judge in that case. And it also seems to show things are incriminating for Parnas. And I guess like as a -- as a prosecutor yourself, well, how do you evaluate the fact that they voluntarily turn this over and the trial judge essentially let it go to the House, and that we`re seeing publicly with what appears to be contained therein?
MCQUADE: Well, I think that the judge probably has no sense -- any more sense than we do of whether it`s authentic and accurate and valuable, but I think likely doesn`t want to sit on this because it potentially is. And so I think agreed to share this, the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York thought the same thing. Let`s just turn this over. And if they want to make use of it, then they can do that.
It is interesting, of course, that Parnas does have an incentive here to provide valuable information. He is facing prosecution. And if he provides valuable information, he could perhaps get a break on his own sentence. And so there is some skepticism I think that would be healthy here in assessing this information. But nonetheless, I think sitting him down and asking him questions to try to elicit answers about the accuracy would be prudent.
HAYES: This seems to me the final point here. Like I don`t want to just go -- you know, there`s no certainty after getting 38 pages of documents in the midst of context you don`t have.
HAYES: What there does seem to be is to be pointing an enormous arrow towards a part of the factual record that we don`t have access to.
GOLDBERG: Right. And there are questions that we need to answer and there`s a person who could be -- who could answer then and who should be put under deposition at the very least. And let`s go back. The only -- the excuse that he made in the past for not testifying to Congress was that he was part of -- that he was working with Rudy Giuliani in connection with Giuliani`s representation of Donald Trump.
HAYES: That he`s part of the President`s legal team.
GOLDBERG: So if the President wants to make an executive privilege claim for why Lev Parnas can`t testify, that in itself tells us a lot about who was Lev Parnas was working for and what he was doing in Ukraine.
HAYES: It`s a great point. Michelle Goldberg and Barbara McQuade, thank you so much. Up next, those newly read text messages show that weeks before Ambassador Yovanovitch was pulled from Ukraine over fear for her safety, Lev Parnas and his associate were it seems apparently tracking her every move. What they could have been up to after these two minutes.
HAYES: So, as you might recall, in April of last year, there was serious concern by at least one State Department official about the safety of the then-American Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Now, thanks to those text messages turned over the House just a few hours ago, we now have documentary evidence of a person who`s close to Rudy Giuliani texting back and forth with a guy about Yovanovitch`s movements, her security and more.
The messages are between Lev Parnas who we just told you about and Robert Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate in Connecticut. We don`t know much about him. We know he`s a Republican donor. A guy who promotes his DC public relations firm with photos of himself and high-profile politicians, most of them Republicans according to the Connecticut Post. Here a few of those messages with Parnas in blue and Hyde in green.
"OK, they are moving her tomorrow." That`s Hyde. "The guys over they asked me what I would like to do and what is in it for them," and then not getting a response apparently, he says wake up Yankees man. OK, now this appears to be more about Yovanovitch. "She`s talked to three people. Her phone is off, computer is off." Which again, how does he know her phone and computers off? Then, "she`s next to the embassy."
"Not in the embassy," another text from Hyde. "Private security, been there since Thursday." "Interesting," comes a response from Lev Parnas. And then Hyde again. "They know she`s a political puppet. They will let me know when she`s on the move." "Perfect" replies Parnas. "I mean, if they can find out," another text. "That address I sent checks out."
Another one from Hyde, "It`s next to the embassy." And then this. "They`re willing to help if we, you would like a price." And then this one. "Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money, what I was told." OK. So that appears to be a series of texts in real-time from this individual Robert Hyde, about the movements and security situation of the ambassador, where she is, what she`s doing, who she`s talking to?
And then it concludes with him asking if Parness wants a price from the unspecified individuals, presumably in Ukraine who are doing the tailing, a price for what, I don`t know. But him saying half-jokingly, maybe get serious, maybe completely jokingly that you can get anything in Ukraine for a price.
OK, that`s the text exchange. Now, back in November, you remember, Yovanovitch testified to the House Intelligence Committee there were concerned for her safety. That`s not speculation, OK. This is under oath testimony from a former U.S. Ambassador was pushed out. And there were enough concerned for her safety, she needed to leave the country immediately.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Around 1:00 in the morning, she called me again and she said that there were great concerns, there were concerns up the street, and she said I needed to get home -- come home immediately. Get on the next plane to the U.S. And I asked her why. And she said she wasn`t sure, but there were concerns about my security.
I asked her my physical security because sometimes Washington knows more than we do about these things. And she said, no, she hadn`t gotten that impression that it was a physical security issue, but they were concerned about my security and I needed to come home right away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So this is the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. She`s been targeted by Rudy Giuliani publicly and privately and Lev Parnas. All it appears the President`s direction to remove her from her position so that the President can go on with his plan to extort that government into manufacturing dirt. And she`s told to leave because there`s concerns about her security, not physical security, security, OK.
So that`s Yovanovitch`s testimony. Then we have these text messages about what appears to be a surveillance of this ambassador. And then there`s this part of the story. In the memo of that call, the infamous call Ukrainian president, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, he discusses Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador and he says this. "Well, she`s going to go through some things." What does that mean?
Joining me now, Politico National Security Correspondent Natasha Bertrand. Natasha, I know you`ve been sort of digesting all this as we have. I -- my mind sort of rebels against the implication that appears to be in the plain language of the text. And that`s partly because we don`t know the context, because of the new character. But like, what were you thinking when you were -- you were reading the text exchange between Robert Hyde and Lev Parnas that appear to show real-time surveillance of Yovanovitch?
NATASHA BERTRAND, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean, my mind obviously went to the worst possible scenario, which is that they might have been planning to harm her in some way. That`s really when you read the text messages, and they say that they`re willing to do things for money and that in Ukraine, they can just do these things, I mean, that kind of lead you to the logical conclusion that perhaps they`re planning some kind of attack on the ambassador.
But stepping back for a moment, you know, Hyde is kind of outlandish, to say the least. He was kicked out of a Trump Doral -- of Trump Doral last May about two months after he waged this kind of op against Yovanovitch because he was saying and he was, you know, kind of out there saying to people at Doral that he was being surveilled by the Secret Service and that there was a hitman out to get him and kind of making a scene and he was almost arrested for it.
So this is someone who seems to have a very big imagination. And it`s possible that he was just doing all of this in order to try to impress Lev Parnas who if you note from the text was actually very reticent in his responses. He really didn`t seem to engage much with what Hyde was saying.
So if there was a plot to even surveil the ambassador, and even an attempt to get access to computers and her phones, obviously that would be a major, major security breach that the State Department will have to address at some point.
HAYES: Yes, I just want -- yes, it`s very well said on your part. So in terms of interpretations, again, these texts are actual evidence, right? These texts exist. They`ve been -- they`ve been vetted by the House Intelligence Committee that were released to the public. They were turned over by Parnas in the -- in the context of a proceeding, right? He`s been indicted, and there`s evidence seized.
The context of them, we do not know. And I think that the most sort of anodyne interpretation, right, like the best-case scenario, is that like, Hyde is just nuts, or we`re full of it, or delusional, and is making all of this up completely, which is a possibility, right? I mean, we don`t know. That is one possibility.
But the other possibility is that Parnas and him had some business relationship in which Hyde was running surveillance of an American ambassador in Ukraine.
BERTRAND: Sure. And I was talking to a U.S. official earlier about this just trying to gauge the reaction from inside the government. And they said, you know, it`s possible that Hyde was working in connection with, you know, local criminal gangs in Ukraine with local law enforcement even in Ukraine to you know, pay them off to try to surveil the Ukrainian Ambassador, that this -- the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, that this happens.
But at the same time, it`s, you know, she`s heavily, heavily protected. She lives in a very highly fortified building inside Kiev. So it would have been very difficult for them to actually get access to the embassy as Hyde alleged in those texting that we have someone on the inside. We know that her phone and her computer are off, etc.
So leaning towards this kind of being hyped up with the possibility of course that you know, Ukraine is, in some ways, kind of the Wild West. I mean, we don`t really know who Hyde would have been working with on the inside on this.
HAYES: We also don`t -- I mean, I did not -- Hyde has -- am I right, as someone who`s followed this story fairly carefully, Hyde was new to me. I mean, right? I mean, the first we`ve ever gotten a sense that this individual was in any way involved in this crazy sort of back-channel operation that was being run by the President`s Personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani and his indicted associates were these texts released today. Is that your understanding?
BERTRAND: Absolutely. There was no indication whatsoever that he was involved in this prior to that. And I actually had to double-check that with Hill colleagues just to make sure that I hadn`t missed something, but no. I mean, even them, even they who`ve been following this impeachment saga very, very closely said this is a brand new character, no idea where it came from.
He is a big Trump donor. Like I said before, he hangs out at Trump properties. He was recently hanging out with you know, Jim Jordan at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. He`s close to Giuliani, he`s close to Parnas. So this is someone who`s clearly on their radar, clearly on the ends with these people.
BERTRAND: At the same time, he wants to inflate his reputation and try to get on their goods. And that might explain those texts as well.
HAYES: Yes, he -- there appears to be documentary evidence of him being in the circle of prominent Republicans even after that incident in Doral. He appears to have been at the baseball game, the World Series the president attended with Kevin McCarthy. There`s a video I think I saw about that.
We should also -- just one more thing is that Yovanovitch, we do know, was on his radar screen. He tweeted this when she was testifying, "we elected President Trump to drain the swamp of traitors like this. Maria is a huge POS. She has so much dirt on the Clintons and Bidens, such a scumbag, #draintheswamp. Maria is a traitor. #Trump2020. #hyde2020."
So, he knew who she was and was tweeting along with her testimony. Natasha Bertrand, thank you so much for your time tonight.
BERTRAND: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: All right, ahead, new evidence of Rudy Giuliani`s effort to get a meeting with then president-elect Volodymyr Zelensky in his capacity as the president`s personal attorney. What he was doing at the behest of Donald Trump after this.
HAYES: So we already knew that Donald Trump`s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was enmeshed in the Ukraine scheme that led to his impeachment, but tonight we have a new document that reveals more about Rudy`s actions on behalf of the president.
A letter he wrote in May of last year to the newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he takes an incredibly disingenuous frontal approach to requesting a meeting, assuring Zelensky how just completely normal it is to do what he`s doing, quote, "I am private counsel to President Donald J. Trump. Just to be precise, I represent him as a private citizen, not the president of the United States. This is quite common under American law, because the duties and privileges of a president and a private citizen are not the same. Separate representation is usual process. Anything I can do to help you or your country would be a great honor."
Joining me now for more on the developments today in these documents, Betsy Woodruff Swan, political reporter of the Daily Beast and an MSNBC contributor.
I want to talk about the Giuliani letter and Giuliani`s role in this, but my understanding is the new person who has been introduced into this, Robert Hyde, that you`ve got a chance to speak to him earlier this evening. Is that correct?
BETSEY WOODRUFF SWAN, THE DAILY BEAST: That`s right. I`ve been texting with him throughout the evening after getting in touch once the Parnas documents posted, and I think the big takeaway, at least based on our limited communication, is that this is a guy who`s totally unapologetic about the materials that have now come out.
In one of the texts that he sent me, he made a joke about Adam Schiff in the context of a sex act. In another, he used an obscenity to refer to Schiff who, of course, is the chairman of the House committee responsible for this impeachment investigation and which secured these documents from Lev Parnas and his legal team. And then in another message he said that he believes he`s currently winning in the polls. Of course, he`s running a long-shot campaign against Congresswoman Jahana Hayes in Connecticut`s 5th district. He told me he thinks he`s going to win, and that Schiff is trying to distort, you know, his text messages to try to harm his political prospects.
And the big picture, of course, is that this is not someone who was trying to apologize for or walk back the text messages that came out that I think every reader found to be quite chilling.
HAYES: Yeah, one of them was "bullschiff is a giant b-i-t-c-h" was one of the things...
SWAN: That`s correct.
HAYES: ...is one of the things he said to you.
I mean, this is sort of his deal, he`s like -- if you look at him on Twitter, this is his shtick.
I guess my question is, like, did he say, no, we weren`t considering -- we weren`t surveilling the U.S. ambassador? No, we weren`t considering doing harm to her? No, I made all that up? Like, was there anything on that?
SWAN: You know, I pressed him multiple times on that. I said people are reading these text messages and viewing them as having, you know, sinister overtones and he never responded to any of those questions.
My understanding is that there maybe a reporter at another network where he pushed back slightly on that.
SWAN: From having been in touch with him for, you know, over an hour now, and having given him multiple opportunities to clarify those comments, I have yet to get that clarification.
Of course, if I do -- you know, we`ll be staying in touch with him in the coming days. If I do get clarification, we`ll update. But thus far, despite the opportunity, you know, he has yet to say that those texts are anything other than what they appear to be.
HAYES: All right.
Let`s talk about Rudy Giuliani who, obviously, we`ve all known was a central player in this saga, but we`ve never seen this letter before, right? Am I correct? This letter is new. And it`s a letter -- I mean, that first paragraph, I want to read it again, because in some ways this -- the fiction that is embedded in the first paragraph is literally what the president`s been impeached over. And what the president`s being impeached over is abuse of power in which he confuses his private political interests with the interests of the United States, and here`s Giuliani saying "this is totally normal that I, the private counsel, who represents him as a private citizen, not as president of the United States, it`s quite common under American law, because the duties and privileges of a president and a private citizen are not the same, separate representation is usual process. Anything I can do to help you or your country would be a great honor."
He then requests a meeting and he says he`s going to bring Victoria Toensing, who is a famous right-wing lawyer who is on Fox News a lot, and you`ve done reporting on that as well.
SWAN: That`s right. I`m so glad we`re talking about this letter, because I have spent all day trying to get detail on it. I obtained a copy of it before it became published, but went to sources in the Zelensky administration and asked if they were able to confirm that President Zelensky ever actually received this document, and despite reaching out to multiple folks there, nobody has confirmed that the president, himself, you know, then the president-elect received it.
And in fact, one source close to the Zelensky administration told me that it was addressed to a person who was not associated with the Zelensky campaign or the Zelensky administration at that moment. Of course, it was addressed to Ukraine`s minister of the interior. And that source, again, someone close to the Zelensky administration, said it would be similar to sending a letter to somebody`s mom and hoping that it ended up with the correct person.
Victoria Toensing, meanwhile, is mentioned in that letter, and in a New York Times story from I believe May of last year, Giuliani talked about reading her in on his travels in Ukraine; however, I chatted just recently this evening with a spokesperson for Toensing`s legal firm, this is somebody who worked with her for many years, who is a credible spokesperson on her behalf, this person said that Toensing didn`t know that she was mentioned in the letter, and was not involved in Giuliani`s outreach to Zelensky. It certainly appears that either Giuliani told The New York Times or what Toensing`s spokesperson told me this evening, one of those things it appears has to be incorrect.
What`s really important right now is that Toensing appears to be distancing herself from the entire Giuliani fiasco, which on its face appears to be no small thing.
HAYES: The final point here is just the sort of fundamental fiction and disingenuousness embedded in that first paragraph, when you get a letter from a person who says he represents the president, but in a private capacity, he`s still representing the president. When he`s going to come to you -- you know, this is not -- this is an international approach to a head of state. If he says, you know, I`m representing the president privately and not the president, but maybe we can do a Trump Tower in your country, like, that would obviously be corrupt and it`s not much different here.
SWAN: No, it`s certainly not. My colleague Asawin Suebsaeng was in touch with Giuliani about this earlier this evening and Giuliani told us that he thinks the letter is very good for him and that it`s exculpatory...
HAYES: Perfect probably.
SWAN: ...because he says it shows he was acting in his private -- in his capacity for Trump as a private citizen. But the notion that the president of the United States, through an intermediary, can reach out to an incoming foreign head of state even remotely in any mode in his capacity...
SWAN: ...as a private citizen, on its face just makes no sense.
HAYES: Exactly correct. Excellent reporting tonight. Wonderful to have you on. Betsy Woodruff Swan, thank you.
SWAN: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Coming up, all this new evidence we`re learning about a head of the Senate impeachment trial was already in possession of the Department of Justice under Attorney General Bill Barr. We`ll talk about Barr`s role in all of this, next.
HAYES: All right. As we continue to follow the breaking news that the House Intelligence Committee has released new evidence ahead of the upcoming impeachment trial of President Trump, here`s a very important detail about the evidence -- the documents that we saw today have been in the possession of the United States Department of Justice in the Southern District of New York this whole time. And you`ll remember, SDNY indicted those Rudy Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, got them at the airport on their way out of the country. And when Parnas decided to cooperate, he got a court order to get the evidence from SDNY and share it with the House Intelligence Committee.
Now, Lev Parnas appears, and we don`t know, he could be making a lot of stuff up. He has got an incentive here to cooperate, but, you know, grain of salt, but he possibly holds the president`s fate in his hands, possibly Giuliani`s. And all the while, he was being prosecuted by the institution that is run by the Attorney General of the United States, William Barr.
Barr described in an expansive new profile in the New Yorker as attempting to maximize executive power and, quote, "like no attorney general since the Watergate era, he has acted as the president`s political sword and shield."
Joining me now to discuss whether the Department of Justice`s independence can be trusted in the age of William Barr, David Rhode, contributor at The New Yorker and executive editor at The New Yorker website. Great to have you here. It`s a fantastic profile.
DAVID RHODE, CONTRIBUTOR, THE NEW YORKER: Thank you.
HAYES: In this context, right, I mean, to me, the thing that you just don`t want to break ever is you do not want the president`s handpicked attorney general reaching down into the frontline of assistant U.S. attorneys around the country, U.S. attorneys and assistant U.S. attorneys, who are doing their cases...
HAYES: ...making cases against people, what you cannot tolerate is an attorney general who says investigate that person, prosecute that person, don`t prosecute that person. And the $64,000 question is like can we trust William Barr with that power?
RHODE: And I don`t think we can because he has this belief that a president can do whatever he wants, and a president in a way than prosecute who he wants and go easy on who he wants.
HAYES: Right, that that would be lawful and constitutional.
RHODE: Under his -- yes, his belief in like the president`s unlimited powers under Article 2 of the constitution. And I guess in his mind maybe if the president abused that power, he would lose an election and that`s how he would be held accountable.
But it`s extraordinary, and I hate to say this, and we all need to be cautious, but, you know, this is reminiscent of John Mitchell, who was Nixon`s attorney general. Later on, he committed the crimes in Watergate as the head of his re-election committee. But when he was attorney general of the United States, he did things, he oversaw a separate, you know, slush fund that was used to help President Nixon politically in his re-election effort, and that was when he was attorney general.
When he left the Justice Department and ran the campaign, it was even worse, that`s when the Watergate break-in happened. And I`ve had experts, you know, talk about the eerie similarities here.
And it`s -- people will not -- this is supposed to be equal justice under law, not, you know, more equal justice for the president`s friends.
HAYES: Yeah, you write, and this is one of the things that I thought was fascinating about the profile, it`s -- we tend to think of it as, like, oh, these people around the president, maybe they`re corrupt or they don`t -- fundamentally don`t understand there`s a distinction between what he does as a citizen and a president, which is the fiction that you saw Giuliani talk about.
But you say, no, this is actually a theory of the constitution. Barr maintains that Article 2 of the constitution gives the president control of all executive branch agencies without restriction. In practice, this means Trump would be within his rights to oversee an investigation of his own misconduct or, say, go -- like, literally walk into the Department of Justice and say, you should go prosecute Joe Biden and William Barr appears to believe that is constitutional and lawful.
RHODE: That`s what he said. It was one of the statements he made before he was attorney general, he was interviewed by Peter Baker of The New York Times. And he said, you know, the president does within his rights can call for Hillary Clinton to be investigated in this uranium scandal that never really existed., and he thinks this is within the president`s power, and that`s what`s so disturbing.
This is turning over all of the sort of safeguards put in after Watergate to stop this. It`s altering the balance of power. Barr has backed the president also on him blocking subpoenas from congress. He`s blocked the efforts by prosecutors in New York City to get the president`s tax returns. He`s blocked the efforts of congressional committees to get those tax returns. And this is all this belief that the president is essentially above the law.
He also thinks that congress doesn`t have the right, there isn`t a right to create special counsels, that would be like -- that`s only the president`s ability to carry out all prosecutions. It`s this enormous concentration of power.
HAYES: And in this case, I mean, the rubber hitting the road here is that there`s some, a, USA overseeing the Parnas and Fruman cases. They report to Geoffrey Berman, who is the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and he reports up to the deputy attorney general and the attorney general, like, this case seems pretty important.
RHODE: It`s very important. And the history here is you have Andy McCabe, who was fired as the director -- the deputy direct and then the acting director of the FBI and lost his pension. And I had Justice Department lawyers who`ve since left the Justice Department saying they watched this happen and they think they can do that to me.
RHODE: This is very, you know, it`s intimidation -- that don`t investigate the president or you`ll be investigated yourself, and then separately, you see this happening with the Durham probe, which is an effort to investigate the FBI`s look at Trump Russia in 2016, it`s also an investigation of the also an the CIA assessment that the Russians wanted to help Trump. That`s a piece of analysis. That`s their best judgment about what happened in 2016. That`s being investigated by a criminal prosecutor. It`s all a chilling message, you know, challenge of this president, you know, at your peril.
HAYES: All right, David Rhode, it`s a fantastic piece. It`s in the New Yorker, a profile of William Barr, thank you very much.
RHODE: Thank you.
HAYES: Ahead, how these new revelations changed the landscape of the impeachment trial, which is now expected to begin just one week from today. And Marie Yovanovitch`s lawyer weighs in. We`ll have that when we come back.
HAYES: All right. We`re coming to breaking news of the documents released by the House Intelligence Committee, included, as I said earlier in the show, is this text exchange between Lev Parnas, who is the individual whose lawyer transmitted the documents to the House Intelligence Committee, and a man named Robert F. Hyde, who is a Republican congressional candidate, represents himself as a kind of D.C. PR guru and fixer. And they`re having a text exchange that appears to be Hyde representing to Parnas that he has -- and I don`t think he`s in Ukraine, I think he`s in the U.S., although it`s unclear, that he has some folks in Ukraine who are like tailing the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, that reporting in real-time about her movements through these third-party intermediaries that Hyde has presumably hired.
We don`t know if any of this is true, it could be completely a figment of Hyde`s imagination, but the texts are unnerving. And we have now a statement from the former ambassador of Marie Yovanovitch`s lawyer, Lawrence Robbins, who says the following: "needless to say, the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch`s movements for unknown purposes is disturbing. We trust that the appropriate authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened."
That seems like just about the least of what can be expected.
Now, with all this new remarkable evidence about the extortion scheme that led to President Donald Trump`s impeachment, it`s likely to play a huge role, you would imagine, in the upcoming senate trial of the president.
Today, we learn that trial will likely begin just one week from today. In a statement this morning, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that after a nearly month-long standoff, the House will vote tomorrow to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate. And at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, Pelosi will also announce the impeachment managers, those are the members of congress, Democrats, who will prosecute the case against the president during the Senate trial.
In response to Pelosi`s announcement today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that if all goes according to plan, he expects the trial to begin next Tuesday.
But the reason for that month-long standoff is we don`t know what the trial will look like. It remains a totally open question. One thing we do know is that it does not appear to be shaping up the way the president hoped, for one thing. Top Senate Republicans are making clear there is no appetite within their own caucus to simply dismiss the charges as Trump recently called on them to do.
And then there is the big outstanding question of calling witnesses and introducing new documents. Today`s news pretty much puts to rest any remaining doubts about just how important that evidence could be, even before today`s revelations. The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, had called for witness testimony from at least four individuals, including, crucially, former National Security Advisor John Bolton, who famously, according to testimony, characterized the Ukraine scheme as a drug deal, and who says that he will testify if he is subpoenaed by the Senate.
Whether Bolton and other witnesses ultimately appear is up to a handful of Senate Republicans. Under McConnell`s plan, senators are going to vote on whether to hear witness testimony and review new evidence after both sides make their opening arguments. So trial starts, opening arguments, votes on witnesses.
And while there remains a lot of uncertainty, at least six Republicans have suggested they might be willing to break with their party and vote to allow new witnesses and documents. Today`s news would seem to make such defections even more likely.
The response from Trump`s allies was to say, well, if you do that you`re going to open a Pandora`s box. We`re going to call our own witnesses.
Listen to an exchange between McConnell and MSNBC`s Kasie Hunt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Some in your conference have suggested that if Democrats are calling witnesses like John Bolton, they may also want to call witnesses such as Hunter Biden. Would you support calling Hunter Biden?
MCCONNELL: Well, I think we`ll be dealing with the witness issue at the appropriate time into the trial. And I think it is certainly appropriate to point out that both sides would want to call witnesses that they wanted to hear from. So, when you get to that issue, I can`t imagine that only the witnesses that our Democratic colleagues would want to call would be called.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Here with me now to talk about what comes next in the senate impeachment trial, congressional reporter Siobhan Hughes of The Wall Street Journal, and Adam Jentleson, former deputy chief of staff for former senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
Siobhan, let me start with you on -- my read of the situation is that the chances of witnesses are still not likely, but more likely now than, say, three or four weeks ago. What is your read of that?
SIOBHAN HUGHES, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think that`s a fair read of it. And there are two hurdles that have to be crossed, because initially there is going to be just a general vote on should we call in witnesses and get more documentation. That vote could fail, in which case we don`t get to a debate on whether to bring in John Bolton. And then after that, you would have debate on the individual witnesses.
It`s also worth noting that a lot of the Republicans who have negotiated this deal with Mr. McConnell for a guaranteed vote on witnesses have said they don`t necessarily want to see witnesses, they want to see what the opening arguments are and then they will decide. So it is not clear yet that there will be witnesses. But you`re right, more possible now than before.
HAYES: You know, Adam, there are two ways to think about the revelations tonight if you`re Mitch McConnell. One is that this puts more pressure on your vulnerable members, your Cory Gardener or Susan Collins, right, who are both up in states not carried by the president in this year because it looks like there`s more there.
The other is the exact opposite, which is, no, you have got to cover it up all the way, because if you start letting stuff come out, you`re only going to make life more difficult for everyone. What do you think?
ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO THEN-SEN. HARRY REID: Yeah, I think the problem, though, is that those senators do have to maintain -- it`s critical to their political identities and their political fortunates to actually maintain some semblance of credibility.
I mean, at this point it`s sort of a punch line that Senator Collins is always expressing concern about this or disappointment about that and then never actually doing anything. But there is a reason that she continues to express that, which is that she needs to present herself to the voters of Maine as somebody who is trying to do her job based on the issues and based on the substance.
And I think the problem with not getting any witnesses is -- how can you not want to know more and have people who can speak to the kind of revelations that are dropping right now? And I think it`s very hard to credibly say that you don`t want to hear from anybody on these incredibly important breaking news that is happening since the House concluded its side of the impeachment process.
HAYES: Siobhan, do you have a sense of how they`re gaming out the timeline here? I think I saw Blunt of Missouri talking about four weeks, which is longer than the initial reporting had been from McConnell`s camp that they were looking at two weeks. What have you heard?
HUGHES: I`m hearing other Republicans also question how it is possible that this trial can last for only two weeks. John Thune today told a bunch of reporters he thought it would likely extend past the February 4 State of the Union Address, and in part that`s because there is this built-in understanding that there could well be witnesses.
HUGHES: And if you have witnesses that`s just going to take time.
HAYES: Adam, it just seemed to me that the pressures you indicate are why it`s going to be harder for them to knock down witnesses. But what do you think about the sort of two-step procedure, which is interesting to me, Siobhan just she said about one vote, will there be witnesses, and then the idea that the Republicans can respond by being like, well, let`s call Hunter Biden.
JENTLESON: Well, I mean that`s tricky for Democrats, but I think at a certain point -- I mean, calling Hunter Biden would be a stunt. And I don`t think they would gain much -- Republicans would not gain much new information from that, and in some ways might by contrast show how serious the Democratic side of the case is, that all Republicans can resort to are these kind of stunts.
Obviously, it could be tricky in the context of the 2020 election. But I think if you`re Senate Democrats, you have to just put one foot in front of the other and do the right thing here and call the witnesses that the American public needs to hear from.
HAYES: Yeah, put one foot in front of the other and do the right thing, always good advice from Adam Jentleson and Siobhan Hughes.
Thank you both for sharing your time on this very, very crazy, insane news night.
So, that`s ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
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