CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Here`s the justice into the Chief Justice who can help deliver it. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Stick with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I could use some good legal advice. Do you have some good lawyers?
HAYES: The President names his legal team.
TRUMP: I could use some good lawyers, right?
HAYES: As the pressure for witnesses build.
LEV PARNAS, ASSOCIATE OF RUDY GIULIANI: Everybody was in the loop.
HAYES: Tonight, what we`ve learned during the Pelosi pause.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I`ll send them over when I`m ready.
HAYES: And how that could change the trial.
PELOSI: He has been impeached. He`s been impeached forever.
HAYES: Then, constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe on the Dershowitz defense of Trump.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, LAWYER: It is a game-changer.
HAYES: Plus exploring the Jeffrey Epstein connections to the Trump legal team.
TRUMP: Find out the people that went to the island.
HAYES: And new alarms over who the President`s Attorney General is choosing to investigate.
PARNAS: He became that powerful when he got William Barr. People are scared.
HAYES: Live from Studio 6A in Rockefeller Plaza, ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: Hello, everybody. How are we doing? Good to see you. Good to see you at home. Thank you. Great to be back here in 30 Rock for yet another historic week. For just the third time in U.S. history, a Senate impeachment trial of the sitting president has begun.
Chief Justice John Roberts who will preside over the trial of Donald Trump. He was sworn in yesterday. You may have watched it. All the senators got to sign the little book which seemed like a yearbook ritual or something. They had to pledge that they`ll be impartial. They`re now sitting as impartial jurors.
The beginning of the trial comes after basically a month-long pause was put on the process engineered by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. And remember, the House voted to impeach Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress way back on December 18.
And then Speaker Pelosi basically said I`m not sending them over. I`m going to hold on to these two articles of impeachment. She refused to give them the Mitch McConnell and the Republican-controlled Senate. And that strategy from Nancy Pelosi, it should be clear, has resulted in what was already a very strong case against the president getting much, much stronger in the interim.
During that month-long pause, of course, that was capped off by what we are unofficially calling her at MSNBC Lev Parnas week, as you probably know by now. You`ve seen a lot of him over the last few days. I keep seeing people in the street and thinking it`s him because he`s burning my eyeballs.
Lev Parnas is, of course, the indicted associated of Rudy Giuliani, a guy who is working at the direction of Rudy Giuliani, who in turn was working at the direction of Donald Trump. And there`s not a whole lot of space between those two.
Remember, this is the guy whose lawyer put in writing -- well, in Comic Sans, to be precise, that he was assisting Rudy Giuliani in his legal representation of the President. And this week, he just came out and basically spilled the beans about everything and everyone.
It started with Parnas passing along this enormous amount of evidence to the House Intelligence Committee, which they started to publicly release in these big document dumps this week, hundreds and hundreds of pages. Some of them including something tonight, we`re going to get into in a little bit. In fact, we just got a few about an hour ago.
And after that, Mr. Parnas gave what can only be described as an explosive interview to my colleague Rachel Maddow. And it`s been just wild to watch reaction from the president and Trump world.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, what is your response to Lev Parnas who says your referencing Ukraine were all about 2020, that you just wanted Joe Biden out? What`s your response?
TRUMP: Well I don`t know him. I don`t know Parnas other than I guess I had pictures taken which I do with thousands of people including people today that I didn`t meet, but just met them. I don`t know him at all, don`t know what he`s about, don`t know where he comes from, know nothing about him.
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HAYES: Now, it is funny you should mention photos because yes, there are photos. Like this one tweeted by Lev`s lawyer earlier this week, and this one with the whole gang, and all of these. There are a lot of photos. There is even this video. This is a video that Lev`s lawyer posted this clip on Twitter last night live. Lev with Trump at Mar-a-Lago. In fact, this is a recurring theme. No one will admit they know Lev Parnas and that Lev Parnas seems to have a photo with everybody.
Here he is with the president`s son, Eric, and with the president`s daughter, Ivanka, and son in law, Jared, and Vice President Mike Pence, and counsel to the president Kellyanne Conway. Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, sure why not, former Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, here he is with her dad for some reason, Mike Huckabee.
Everybody knew Lev or at the very least, everybody took a picture with Lev. And according to what he told Rachel this week, everything Lev did -- Lev did was done at the director of the president and everyone knew about it.
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PARNAS: President Trump know exactly what was going on. He was aware of all my movements. He -- I wouldn`t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president. I`m going to use a famous quote by Mr. Sondland, everybody was in the loop.
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HAYES: Everybody was in the loop. That is the theme of all the evidence that is accrued over the past four weeks. But here`s the thing, it is more than that, right? The operation, the scheme for which the President has been impeached for which he now faces trial where we learn from his perfect phone call that he tried to extort the Ukrainian government into interfering in American election, into targeting a U.S. citizen, into manufacturing dirt on his political opponent in exchange for aid that he had no legal right to hold up.
That scheme was not some little backdoor thing with some weird guys you never heard of named Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman running around Ukraine freelancing. This was an obsession of the President. It was an obsession of his personal and unpaid lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. And it reverberated throughout the United States government, from cabinet officials to associates of the president, to frontline lawyers, to senior aides, to career civil servants who are blowing the whistle on it saying, hello, this is absolutely nuts, are we doing this?
This scheme the President was running to extort Ukraine, it was known by many people. Many of whom were complicit, and many of whom thought it was crazy and illegal. But everyone knew the thing was happening. It was an open secret.
Now, we knew this at the end of house impeachment. But what we did not know, what we learned over the last month is this, that on the day of the phone call the infamous Zelensky phone call, the Office of Management budget, send an e-mail to the Pentagon that said, do not release the Ukraine money. Hold the funding.
The following month, they sent another e-mail that said clear direction from the president to continue to hold. We learned that the folks inside the Pentagon thought behold was unlawful. We also learned there was a meeting, a staged kind of intervention with then-National Security Advisor John Bolton, the Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, where they tried but failed to convince the president to release the aid he was holding his leverage.
And during this time also, right, this is all just in this month, this pause, John Bolton also just popped up on Twitter to say, I will testify before the Senate if you subpoena me, which puts additional pressure on Senate Republicans. And everything that I just said, all that stuff that happened before Lev week, before Lev essentially implicating a number of people inside the President`s inner circle.
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RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: You believe that Vice President Pence knew what he was -- knew that his trip to the inauguration was contingent on those investigations being announced?
PARNAS: Again, I mean, I know he went to Poland also to discuss this on Trump`s behalf so he couldn`t have not known. Mr. Barr have to have known everything. I mean, it`s impossible. I saw Devin Nunes sitting up there and this -- there was a picture where Derek Harvey was at the back over there sitting. I text my attorney. I said, I can`t believe this is happening.
PARNAS: Because they were involved in getting all this stuff from Biden. And now Mr. Bolton was definitely involved in the loop because of the firing of Marie Yovanovitch.
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HAYES: That Nunes staffer he was just talking about, we just got new text tonight of Lev Parnas and Devin Nunes` staffer going back and forth trying to get dirt. All those people -- and we now know that the message of the heart of this corrupt extortion scheme the President was running that it was delivered through a variety of channels. But one of the first people that we`ve learned to deliver it was actually Lev Parnas himself.
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MADDOW: Did you meet with a Ukrainian official name is Sergey Shaffer?
PARNAS: Yes, I did.
MADDOW: Sergey Shaffer is a very senior aide to President Zelensky.
PARNAS: Correct. It has been reported as far as we understand from public reporting that you conveyed to Mr. Shaffer the exact quid pro quo, that you wanted Zelensky to announce investigations into Joe Biden, or military aid would not be released to Ukraine. Is that accurate?
PARNAS: It was a little bit more than that. Basically, the message that I was supposed to -- that I gave Sergey Shaffer was a very harsh message that was told to me to give it to him in a very harsh way, not in a pleasant way.
MADDOW: Who told you to give it to him in a harsh way?
PARNAS: Mayor Giuliani. Rudy told me after, you know, meeting the President at the White House, he called me. The message was it wasn`t just military aid, it was all aid. Basically, the relationships would be sour, that you would -- that we would stop giving him any kind of aid, that --
MADDOW: Unless --
PARNAS: Unless that there was an announcement -- well, several things. There was several demands at that point. A, the most important one was the announcement of the Biden investigation.
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HAYES: So that was all just from the one T.V. interview that he did with Rachel. But as I mentioned earlier, we also got hundreds and hundreds of pages of incriminating documents that Lev Parnas gave to the House Intelligence Committee, text message, letters, pictures, handwritten notes on paper from the Ritz Carlton Vienna that were pretty direct. This is a sample. Gets Zelensky to announce the Biden case will be investigated, writing to himself.
And what we`ve learned from all this stuff is that even more people were in on the scheme. Major Republican donors, lawyers for an indicted Ukrainian oligarch fighting extradition to the U.S. It even goes all the way up to the highest levels of the Republican Party. Lev Parnas was actually exchanging text messages with the co-chair of the Republican National Committee. Everybody is in on it on the open secret.
And to be clear, you don`t have to take Lev Parnas` word for it. I certainly am not. I mean, it`s true, as everyone points out, and has pointed out, the guy is under criminal indictment, he was involved in some almost comically shady stuff. He`s untrustworthy for sure. But almost everything he said lines up with the President`s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani has been actively bragging about four months. And also what the President himself said in what he calls his perfect call.
So if Republicans don`t believe Lev, that`s fine. They should put them under oath. Put Mike Pence under oath, put John Bolton under oath, put William Barr under oath, put Rudy under oath. Let`s hear from the firsthand witnesses. Put them all under oath and then let`s see what they have to say.
Joining me here in New York tonight, a member of the House Democratic House leadership, Congresswoman Katherine Clark of Massachusetts. Hey, how are you? Good to see you.
REP. KATHERINE CLARK (D-MA): Hi, good to see you.
HAYES: Well, I guess I want to start with a question about the Pelosi pause as we have called it. Was there controversy inside the caucus about it leading up to it, during it, and what do you think about it now?
I think at this point in the impeachment process, our caucus trust in Nancy Pelosi. And really, the holdup here was not with the speaker but with Mitch McConnell. And we were in agreement with her decision to pause and make sure that we continue to get the truth and the facts before the American people. And the way we do that in the Senate is to have a real trial.
And people understand that, Americans understand that a trial needs witnesses and documents. And that`s what Nancy was trying to do. And what has happened is we`ve had all this further incriminating information come forward. And now it is going to be more pressure on the Senate to do the right thing to call these witnesses, and to have a fair and open trial.
HAYES: So I`ve heard of this from a lot of people, and I think, you know, we`re going to see how this happened, right? I agree with you, there`s more pressure, but it also occurs to me that the house doesn`t like -- the House has subpoena power or oversight capacity or investigatory abilities didn`t disappear the day that the Articles of Impeachment got transferred Senate, right?
CLARK: That`s right. That`s right.
HAYES: I mean, just now, I was just looking right before I came here, I was looking new evidence. So you got this guy Robert Hyde who seems you know, Lev Parnas called him a drunk, and that he was involuntarily committed at one point, and he`s texting back and forth with Lev Parnas about apparently monitoring, tailing the American ambassador in Ukraine, right? And they both play it down.
We`ll just today, we have some texts that Hyde was texting with a foreign number, with a Belgian area code who`s telling him about her movements. My question is, were they telling the ambassador not? It seems to me that whatever the Senate does, the House has some duty here to actually pursue some of this evidence.
CLARK: The House is going to keep doing what we have been doing since we took the majority. And that is we are going to do both things at once. We are going to live up to our obligation to investigate, to hold this rogue administration accountable, and we are going to continue to do the work for the American people in protecting their healthcare and rebuilding our infrastructure.
We`re going to make sure that at the end of this administration, we have a democracy to live in and a planet to live on.
HAYES: Well, but Mitch McConnell is not -- I mean, Mitch McConnell is not going to let you do the latter, right? I mean, he`s not going to -- he`s not going to bring any of those things up for a vote.
CLARK: Certainly if he remains true to the pass right here. And what we have in our corner is that we have a vote in 2020. And we are going to make sure that we continue to tell the story of how corrupt this administration is. And our Founding Fathers, they envisioned a rogue president, and that`s why we have the impeachment process, but only works when we have members of Congress, members of the U.S. Senate, who remember their oath of office is to the constitution and not to a president.
So we`re going to continue to give information, to seek the truth, and to work with the urgency that is needed to protect our election, so that when voters go into the voting booth, it is their vote and their will that is counted. And that`s it.
HAYES: Well, I mean, part of the issue here too is that the President has been attempting to run the same play, right? He wants foreign interference the way that he wanted foreign interference in 2016. He actively invited it. There`s news that the Russians have hacked actually the firm at the center of this whole thing Burisma, the Ukrainian gas firm that Hunter Biden was on the board of. How worried are you, I guess, about this year as you sort of like look down the barrel of this year and the election that we`re having and the president cornered and sort of backed up into a corner with his impeachment? What do you think about this coming year?
CLARK: I`m very concerned. We know from our intelligence, we know from reports from Senate Committees that every single day, Russia is trying to hack and interfere into this election. And what we have is a president who denies the facts, who continues to lie about the very small things to the very large things.
And what we have to do is make sure that we are keeping the pressure on. The first bill we passed was a bill about getting corruption out of politics and protecting our elections. And we are going to keep doing that. And these two things, the impeachment and the work that we`re doing in the House are so tied together because it is fundamental to a democracy that we do hold this president accountable, but that we strengthen that right to vote.
HAYES: You know, there`s a great book about Andrew Johnson impeachment called The Impeachers that came out last year. And one of the things that`s interesting in it is that you know, it`s the first presidential impeachment and it`s a huge event. I mean, there`s lines around the block. People are getting there like 2:00 in the morning to go watch it.
I`m curious, are members of the House enthralled by this? Are they wrapped -- like is the caucus going to be watching this? Is this the kind of thing that kind of work stops for in the Capitol starting next week?
CLARK: Work won`t totally stop but we all watch it. And you know, it`s yet another disturbing element of this that we are also seeing Mitch McConnell trying to limit press access and saying don`t come near the senators. You know, try to not have pictures, not really trying to keep the truth from the American people.
But the truth is sneaky. It comes to light. And I am just grateful that we are continuing to have the overwhelming evidence that came out during the impeachment hearings in the House, continue to be supported, and that we are learning more information. The stakes are so high for us going into 2020. And I am grateful for the House majority that is really able to be the backstop on this rogue administration.
HAYES: Is there a sense of relief -- final question to you. Is there a sense of relief? I mean, this was such a contentious issue inside your caucus for so long, and I know that. I know that from on the record conversations, I know that from off the record conversations. I mean, there was a real split in the caucus. Nancy Pelosi was doing her absolute best to stop the momentum for impeachment. She thought it would be a mistake. She wanted to protect the frontline members. Eventually, the Ukraine whistleblower complaint comes out, we start to hear, and there`s unity. At the end of this arc, is there a sort of relief almost that you guys in the House have passed through that crucible?
CLARK: I don`t think -- first of all, we are so grateful of the incredible leadership of Nancy Pelosi. And after watching her over the last year, it does really make me wonder why we`re having any discussion about whether we need women leaders in Washington. I think that there is a sense of such a serious time for our country, and that our democracy is in such peril, that we are really watching this with great concern.
HAYES: Do you still feel tense about this?
CLARK: I really do. And I think that`s the sense of the caucus. There is a pride that we got our work done, that we follow the truth, that we have tried to live up to our oath of office, and to remember this is about the Constitution, and we can lose a republic, we can lose a democracy. And we have to keep doing our work, whether it`s seeing families at home, making sure their needs are top priority in Washington, and watching out for the Republic, for the United States and making sure that we get through this with a flourishing democracy where we still have justice and opportunity.
HAYES: It`s not guaranteed. Congresswoman Katherine Clark, thank you very much.
CLARK: Thank you.
HAYES: It`s good to have you here.
CLARK: It`s really nice to be here.
HAYES: As the Congresswoman and I were discussing, the trial Donald Trump starts in the Senate next week. Today, we learned Trump`s got one of O.J.`s lawyers on his team. We`re going to talk about that next.
HAYES: Earlier this week, we found out that seven impeachment managers will be prosecuting the case against Donald Trump. Today we learned just who will be defending the president in his impeachment trial. There`s Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who went after Bill Clinton filing a massive report to Congress that recommended Clinton`s impeachment. There`s Alan Dershowitz, retired Harvard Law Professor and Trump TV regular who`s famous for defending accused murderers O.J. Simpson and Claus von Bulow. There`s former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi seen here with Lev Parnas. And there`s Robert Wray who succeeded Ken Starr`s independent counsel who was charged with stalking in 2006. And leading Trump`s defense team, his personal attorney Jay Sekulow along with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.
Here to talk about what kind of defense they might mount, I want to bring in Laurence Tribe, Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, the author -- co-author of To End the Presidency: The Power of Impeachment. So, Professor, I want to -- Alan Dershowitz has appeared on my colleague`s Ari Melber show to sort of preview the argument he`s going to make. And I want to play you what he said, because I`d like to get your response to it. It strikes me that it`s going to be a focal point of the President`s defense. So take a listen to what your longtime Harvard Law colleague Alan Dershowitz had to say.
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DERSHOWITZ: Abuse of power, even if crude is not an impeachable offense. That`s exactly what the framers rejected. They didn`t want to give Congress the authority to remove a president because he abused his power. They have to prove treason, they have to prove bribery, but they have to prove other crimes and misdemeanors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What do you think about this idea that abuse of power is not impeachable even if you establish on the facts that he abused his power?
LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, I almost don`t know where to start. My colleague has it upside down. I knew that the Trump defense was going to rely in large part on alternative facts, but I didn`t know they were also going to use alternative law. There is no -- there is no legal principle that says something has to violate a federal criminal statute in order to be impeachable.
When the impeachment power was put in the Constitution, there were no federal criminal statutes. And besides, you know, as the House report, accompanying these articles of impeachment says explicitly what is being charged against the president happens also to be a federal crime. It`s called felony-bribery.
And on top of that, yesterday, we learned from the General Accountability Office, that the President is indeed breaking the law, the Impoundment Control Act. So that`s why I say, I don`t know where to start. Alan is just completely wacko on this. I don`t understand why the President thinks it will help him to have this kind of bizarro defense.
HAYES: Well, here`s why it occurs to me they might go with it. Reince Priebus said something similar the other night, the so what defense. So there`s two things they can argue, and they can argue in the alternative because they`re lawyers and they like to do that. They can argue that the facts don`t amount to an abuse of power. And then they can argue even if the facts do show an abuse of power, an abuse of power is not impeachable.
It strikes me in some ways, the second argument is cleaner and neater and easier because the facts are so damning. What do you think?
TRIBE: Well, I think the facts are damning, and it`s cleaner, neater, easier, and dead wrong.
TRIBE: I mean, it`s very nice to say that it doesn`t matter what the facts are when the facts are so damning. You know, in Alan`s book about this, he gives a hypothetical. He says, suppose the way Putin retook Crimea, suppose our president were to tell Putin, you can retake Alaska, if you want. That would be pretty bad, says Alan Dershowitz. But it`s not a federal crime so unfortunately it wouldn`t be impeachable. I mean, that -- you know --
HAYES: That seems --
TRIBE: It would be funny if it weren`t so sad.
HAYES: Yes, that seems to prove too much.
TRIBE: Well, in fact, the whole thing proves too much because the whole point of the impeachment power is, since under current rules, you can`t indict a sitting president. What you want to do is figure out if what you`re charging involves using presidential power in order to benefit the president personally. He`s not supposed to be governing for his own private benefit to get reelected, he`s supposed to be governing for the people of the United States.
And when he uses his power, not for us, but for himself, and when he takes Congress` appropriated money to do it, and tries to shake down our ally to benefit our adversary with whom is kind of buddy-buddy, namely Putin, that`s the remarkably classic abuse of power. And so if the Republicans want to argue in the Senate that we can`t really deny the facts, they`re undeniable, and even more so now with Lev Parnas and, you know, all of the new stuff coming out, we can`t really deny the facts.
What we say is, it doesn`t matter what he did, we are happy living with a precedent that any president of the United States can abuse his power, or her power, in order to benefit that President`s Personal welfare and endanger our national security, that`s OK as long as they don`t violate a particular federal criminal statute.
Now, our country would really be in terrible shape if we had that principle. And I don`t now count enough votes to convict this guy. But if the evidence comes out as now it`s bound to because these guys are not going to take the risk that Bolton`s book will reveal it all after they`ve closed their own books on impeachment. If the evidence comes out, as I expect it to, even if these Senators do not live up to their oath, and perform in a way that takes account of the evidence, but basically go along with McConnell with a big whitewash, then, it seems to me we`re going to be in a situation where the Senate will have been on trial and will have been convicted.
This Senate may lose its control in 2020. That`s why Nancy Pelosi whose leadership I think is really quite marvelous, did a wonderful thing by holding back for awhile so that the light could shine on all of this new stuff. And at this point, he`s impeached forever, and even if he is not convicted, it`ll just be a whitewash, he won`t be exonerated.
HAYES: All right, Laurence Tribe, professor at Harvard Law, thank you very much.
We have plenty more coming up. Former CIA Director John Brennan will join me to talk about what the Department of Justice is up to and why they may be talking to him.
Before we get to that, there`s one thing about Trump`s legal team I feel the need to talk about, and I`ll explain right after this.
HAYES: So we got some Jeffrey Epstein news this week, on a variety of fronts. The government of the U.S. Virgin Islands filed suit against his estate, claiming he`d used his private islands there as a base to traffic and abuse under-aged girls, some only 11 or 12 years old, for almost two decades. That`s in that filing.
Now, Jeffrey Epstein, as you know, is dead. He died in federal prison in New York last August while he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, but the truth about what he did, I think, I hope fervently, is going to come out eventually. And as for his death, it`s -- well, you`ve probably noticed, become something of a fixation for people in certain quarters who are just adamant that Epstein did not commit suicide as the federal government said he did.
"The phrase Epstein didn`t kill himself" became a viral meme in the months after his death. And the conspiracy theory keeps popping up both in real life and online, including amazingly on the Twitter feed of a member of congress. And it`s gotten a boost from some legitimately disturbing facts about what actually did happen inside that prison.
Epstein was taken off suicide watch in the days before his death, despite a previous suicide attempt. There are reports that video footage from outside his jail cell is missing or unusable.
What I find particularly strange and remarkable about this conspiracy theory that he was murdered is that it has become a right wing conspiracy theory despite the conditions of Epstein`s death. Remember, he was in a federal prison when he died, a prison that`s run by the Justice Department, which is overseen by Attorney General William Barr who answers to Donald Trump, that`s who had custody of Epstein when he was taken off suicide watch, who was in charge when the guards didn`t check on him and when the camera footage went missing. It was all on William Barr`s watch.
Also, Trump was friends with Epstein for years. The two men repeatedly partying together in the presence of young women. Trump even told New York Magazine back in 2002 that Epstein was, and I quote him here, "a lot of fun to be with. It is even said he likes beautiful women as much as I do and many of them are on the younger side."
So, if you`ve got questions about Jeffrey Epstein`s death, those questions should really go to William Barr, who works for Donald Trump.
And then, amid all of this, who does Donald Trump pick as his defense lawyers in his impeachment trial? Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr, these two famous attorneys represented Epstein more than a decade ago, and helped him get a sweetheart deal back when he was facing a federal indictment for the sexual abuse of underage girls back in 2007.
You remember the deal, right? Because it was under that deal that Epstein only served 13 months and was regularly allowed to leave jail before he was set free to, apparently, return to his decades long systematic abuse of girls and young women.
And Alan Dershowitz was not just Epstein`s lawyer. Flight logs show he flew on multiple occasions on Epstein`s private jet, which was known informally as the Lolita Express.
Dershowitz has also been accused of sexual assault by two of Epstein`s alleged victims, who say they were directed to have sex with Dershowitz. Now, Dershowitz vigorously denies both claims. He even counter-sued one accuser for defamation.
And as for Kenneth Starr, well, he was removed as president of Baylor University in 2016 after a scathing report found that on his watch Baylor effectively ignored accusations of sexual assault against the university`s football players.
These are the people the president of the United States has chosen to represent him, to defend him, to appear before the nation in the high stakes, high visibility impeachment trial he now faces in the senate.
I say you can judge a person by the company they keep. In that case, Donald Trump is continuing to make clear exactly what kind of person he is.
HAYES: William Barr`s Justice Department is going after yet another person the president views as an opponent, an enemy who he says should be tried for unspecified crimes, former FBI director James Comey.
According to The New York Times, Comey appears to be the focus of a Department of Justice investigation into leaks from three years ago, an inquiry The Times described as, quote, "highly unusual."
And this is the second time the DOJ has investigated Comey related leaks. And he`s not the only Trump critic under investigation by the department. ex-CIA Chief John Brennan is also under scrutiny as part of John Durham`s investigation into the origins of the Russian inquiry.
And John Brennan joins me now.
HAYES: I want to start on the reports, public reporting that the inquiry into the origins of the Russia counterintelligence investigation that is being undertaken by John Brennan (sic) inside the Department of Justice has looked at you and has been in contact with you, and I`m curious what your reaction to that is.
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I think you meant John Durham inside the Department of Justice. I am not inside of this Department of Justice.
HAYES: Yes. Yes. No, you are not, right.
BRENNAN: I don`t know really what to make of it. It is clear that this administration and this attorney general is trying to investigate individuals who may have annoyed Mr. Trump in the past. I have spoken to congressional committees in open and closed sessions. I have agreed to be interviewed by anybody in the Department of Justice. I have nothing to be afraid of and I will share all of my experiences.
And so I believe that Mr. Durham has conducted himself over the years as a very competent Department of Justice official. And I`m hoping that he is going to continue to conduct this investigation with the professionalism that he has been known for throughout his career.
HAYES: The news about James Comey -- I mean this is now the second time that he`s been investigated for leaks, the first time he was cleared. This is a 3-year-old article. The Times saying it`s very rare. How do you interpret this news?
BRENNAN: Well, to say it`s highly unusual to initiate an investigation three years after the fact is a vast understatement. If there are any leaks in the media about classified information, there will be a criminal referral made to the Department of Justice and the department then will investigate it. But I have never heard, in my experience, something that would be resurrected after three years` time.
And again the fact that it has Jim Comey in the cross-hairs really does raise questions about whether or not this is being done for political reasons as opposed to being done for appropriate Department of Justice purposes.
HAYES: I want to play you something that Lev Parnas said about the Department of Justice and investigations, about why Republicans -- one of the reasons Republicans are scared of the president. Take a listen to what he had to say to Rachel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARNAS: There`s a lot of Republicans that would go against him. The only reason -- if you take a look, you know very well, because you`ve been following, the difference between why Trump is so powerful now, he wasn`t as powerful in `16 and `17. He became that powerful when he got William Barr.
PARNAS: And people are scared.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What do you think of that?
BRENNAN: Well, I tend to agree. In many respects I think Donald Trump has taken a page out of the authoritarian`s playbook, which I have seen unfold so many times over the course of my career overseas when you get a dictator, or authoritarian leader, who first of all fills the parliament or legislature with political toadies, a person who then will control the fundraising for those political sycophants, but then also to capture and to co-opt the instruments of power, which are intelligence, security, and the justice system, so that they can prosecute, then, individuals who have the audacity to challenge them.
And so unfortunately, I think what we`ve seen so far with Mr. Barr, it`s clear that he is acting as Donald Trump`s own personal defense attorney and not conducting the affairs that an attorney general is supposed to, which is protect the interests of the United States.
So I do think that, you know, Mr. Parnas makes a good point that what Mr. Trump is able to do now is to intimidate others the way he has done for many years when he was a businessman in New York. He would pursue litigation. He would threaten to sue. He would go after them, his opponents, with whatever he has.
Now he has these instruments, again, of government power, which are tremendously powerful and can be tremendously intimidating of individuals which I think is what we have seen over the course of the last several years.
HAYES: Yeah, I wonder what -- I mean, I`m thinking about being -- putting myself in the shoes of someone who`s a civil servant in any of the federal government right now, but particularly at Department of Justice or in the intelligence community, having seen the president saying the whistle-blower should be named, going after and attacking the whistle-blower, watching the reports of investigations of leaks into James Comey and the Durham investigation. If you are an FBI agent who saw something wrong or you were a CIA analyst who saw something wrong, I mean, do you think that hangs over your head when you think about whether you`re going to report wrongdoing?
BRENNAN: Well, I think you have to be concerned about that if you`re a civil servant right now, because look what happened to the whistle-blower. The whistle-blower was following appropriate procedures in raising concerns about what he or she thought was wrong. And now Mr. Trump and others have gone after that whistle-blower with a vengeance.
So, I think a lot of these civil servants, these public servants, these individuals that are fellow citizens of ours, who are doing their best every day to keep us safe, they really have to be concerned that the president of the United States, or someone who purports to be the president of the United States, will stoop to any level to be able to try to hurt them. And it`s clear that he has a vindictive streak in him and he`ll go after him.
So, I`m very concerned about this corrosive effect that it`s had on our governance system in terms of stopping these public servants from carrying out their duties with a responsibility and a dedication that they need to without fear of reprisals.
HAYES: Final question for you, there`s a remarkable reporting in The Washington Post from, an excerpt from a new book, about a scene in his first year in which the president has taken to this sort of situation room at the Pentagon called the Tank and he ends up yelling at all the generals and he calls them I think dopes and babies and losers. And it brought to mind this question: do you think people should work in the Trump administration?
And it seems like there`s two -- there`s two competing arguments. One is, it`s better to have good people inside the administration trying to restrain the president`s good impulses, and the other is that at the end of the day you`re working for this man and furthering his project. What do you think?
BRENNAN: If the reports are true in terms of what he said to our generals and military officers, it is obviously appalling, disgraceful, and Mr. Trump continues to defile the office of the presidency.
I do believe it`s important that we have people, women and men, to serve in military and diplomacy, intelligence, law enforcement, because our country needs that. It`s the people around him, the ones that will give him a pass for the things that he does, his impulsiveness, his recklessness, the way he refers to, you know, real dedicated Americans.
They should not remain silent. And again, reading excerpts of the book when Rex Tillerson spoke up against him, look what happened to him, he was cut off at the knees. But I think more people at the senior levels, need to speak out and speak up against Mr. Trump because he is in fact, I think a disgrace to this country.
HAYES: John Brennan, former CIA director, thank you very much.
One of the things we`ve learned this week is more about the just extremely shady cast of characters that Lev Parnas was doing business with and in contact with. And one of the reporters who knows that world best is going to join me next.
HAYES: The Ukrainian government has been one of the world`s most corrupt for a pretty long time, according to watchdog groups that track that sort of thing. Lev Parnas, who was negotiating the corrupt backwaters of Ukraine on the president`s behalf to make it even more corrupt, describes it this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARNAS: Listen, it`s a different environment over there. And it`s -- unless you live it, unless you do business there, unless you visit there and understand it, bribery is just a way of life. I mean, regular people at the store do it, they will bribe the butcher to get a better piece of meat, and it`s normal, you know, or to get better seats at a concert. So, it`s like a way of life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: One of the things that has become clearer and clearer is that rather than the U.S. trying to make Ukraine less corrupt, our president got in cahoots with more corrupt elements of Ukraine to make both the U.S. and Ukraine more corrupt.
I wanted to talk to someone who knows this is terrain extremely well, a reporter who has spent five years on and off reporting in Ukraine and Russia, speaks fluent Russian, and who was in Crimea when it was invaded by the Russians. He was then kidnapped and held by Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists. His name is Simon Ostrovsky, a special correspondent for PBS NewsHour. Good to have you here, Simon.
SIMON OSTROVSKY, PBS NEWSHOUR: Good evening.
HAYES: First, I guess that assessment. I mean, I always feel a little weird talking about how corrupt Ukraine when like Donald Trump is our president. And like, so it always feels a little like I`m not sure we should be in this glass house. But in terms of that characterization of corruption in Ukraine, like, do you feel like that is a fair characterization?
OSTROVSKY: Definitely. It is a very corrupt country. And I think with the changes here, compared to the last administration that we had here in the United States, is that now we sort of see the Russification -- Ukrainification -- of the United States government under Donald Trump.
And so you`ve got to understand that even the United States has had a lot of foreign policy mistakes out there, the one thing that they`ve done pretty much right since Ukraine got independence is supporting Ukraine and its democratic changes. And this is a country that always looked up to the United States, whose people wanted to emulate our country. And then suddenly you have this president, Donald Trump, and everything changes.
So when I met with new president of Ukraine, Zolodymyr Zelensky, during the campaign before he was president, the question that everybody was asking him, was that -- you know, he was a new leader, inexperienced, potentially a new leader at that point, how was he going to face up to the diplomatic and military challenge that somebody who has been running his country for 20 years is putting him up against, Vladimir Putin, right?
And then, what happened instead was that you have this ostensible ally, Donald Trump, he gives Zelensky his first serious diplomatic test by behind the scenes for months and months, unbeknownst to us reporters and just the general public, putting pressure to try to get him to announce this investigation into Joe Biden.
HAYES: It`s remarkable in the Parnas texts that we got in his interview with Rachel was -- I mean, two things, one is how intent Zelensky was on that inaugural, the delegation to the inauguration. I mean, we focused a lot on the aid, for understandable reasons, but Parnas says that who showed up to the inauguration was in some ways a bigger deal. It was going to be the first thing they did to show the backing of the U.S. as Zelensky tried to essentially start negotiations with Russia.
And when they don`t listen to Parnas`s message that you need to open investigation, Pence gets yanked. How big a deal is that? How much does that reverberate over there to Zelensky?
OSTROVSKY: Well, I think Parnas really makes that point for us, right, because he`s saying that it was so important for the Ukrainians to have this ceremony, this pomp, this sort of presentation of support of the world`s biggest superpower standing behind Ukraine. Because you`ve got to understand that Ukraine`s been in a war with Russia for the last four or five years at the point that Zelensky is elected.
And the Ukrainians are out there listening for signals from the United States, just like the Russians are out there listening for signals from the United States about whether that support is flagging, weakening, or remaining strong. And so, the Ukrainians want to be able to show I think the Russians primarily that they have this steadfast support. And that`s something that just didn`t materialize at all because of this quid pro quo that was, you know, playing out behind the scenes. There was the quid, but there wasn`t the quo.
HAYES: Right. Well, and in some ways everyone is sort of playing other people. I mean, one really fascinating element of the stuff we`ve gotten from the text messages of Parnas is this character Lutsenko, who is a fascinating character. There`s a great New Yorker profile. He`s sort of a hero one of the sort of revolutions, the civic uprising, and then he kind of has a -- does a heel turn as he`s kind of co-opted by the system. He is viewed as corrupt. He`s the one who`s basically making a quid pro quo demand.
OSTROVSKY: He`s a very compromised figure in Ukraine. Ukrainians know that you really can`t believe a word of what Lutsenko is saying.
But, unfortunately, Americans have been dealing with him for a much shorter period of time, and so a lot of people, especially those who want to believe what he`s saying, just take his word as gospel.
HAYES: Well, that`s what`s happening. He is basically promising Parnas, Giuliani and the president dirt on Biden if and only if they get rid of the U.S. ambassador.
And when it`s not happening, he`s getting frustrated. He says, "and here you can`t even get rid of one fool, frownie face emoji."
Parnas: "she`s not a simple fool, trust me, but she`s not getting away."
Like, what -- explain the context of how much he hates the U.S. ambassador and wants to get rid of her.
OSTROVSKY: And, you know, that`s some of the more vanilla stuff that he said in those text messages, because he was using a lot of swear words as well, which we can`t say on TV.
But I think the thing for Lutsenko was that the Ambassador Yovanovitch, she was in line with longstanding U.S. policy trying to reform the justice system in Ukraine. And he was the head of the prosecutor`s office so he sort of was the target of some of her ire.
And she did a speech in March where she publicly called for the dismissal of one of his subordinates saying that they were corrupt.
HAYES: I mean, that`s really calling the guy on the carpet.
OSTROVSKY: It really made him angry. And this is why he wanted to get rid of her.
And I think out of this whole thing, that`s the scariest thing for me is that there`s got to be authoritarians or corrupt officials all around the world taking note here and realizing that all it takes to get rid of an inconvenient ambassador or an inconvenient U.S. official of some kind who`s going against your policy and your interests is you need to spread rumors to Donald Trump`s supporters, and he`ll to it for you.
HAYES: That`s an incredible lesson. If you dangle that you have dirt, you can get anything.
Simon Ostrovsky, thank you so much for your time.
HAYES: Thanks to you for watching, you at home, everyone here in 6A. That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show, whose interview with Lev Parnas was just made part of the official impeachment record by the United States congress is up now. Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END