LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
It`s going to be the "call me" deposition. It`s going to be all about the, when do you decide in a texting flow to say "call me"? Because that`s what the Sondland contribution to the texting flow is in what we saw last week.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": I will say, like if you are having a conversation with somebody by e-mail, or by text, and it occurs to you this is something we should not put in writing, the thing you don`t do at that moment is say, hey, let`s stop putting this in writing. You just stop writing and you call the person. You don`t say let`s talk about this on the phone and stop texting about it.
You think that, you don`t actually type it out. And I just, I don`t know - -
O`DONNELL: OK, good, that`s helpful. I will stop texting call me to you when we hit that spot in the conversation.
MADDOW: We should stop talking about this right now, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to do that. OK, all right, thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, dear.
O`DONNELL: Well, the Trump administration spent the weekend reeling from the effects of a single whistleblower report that already has the president on the road to impeachment in the House of Representatives.
And then on Sunday, a second whistleblower was confirmed in reports by ABC News and "The New York Times".
And tonight, the breaking Mitt Romney news of the night is from "Vanity Fair" where Gabe Sherman is reporting on Mitt Romney from a Romney advisor. A Romney advisor told Gabe Sherman Romney believes he has more potential power as the senator who will decide Trump`s fate in impeachment trial, he could have tremendous influence in the impeachment process as the lone voice of conscience in the Republican caucus, the adviser said.
In recent days, Romney has been reaching out privately to key players in the Republican resistance according to a person briefed on the conversations. Romney is the one guy who could bring along Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Ben Sasse. Romney is the pressure point in the impeachment process. That`s why the things he`s saying are freaking Republicans out and they are obviously freaking out Donald Trump who on Twitter called for the impeachment of the United States Senator Mitt Romney, which is, of course, impossible. There`s no such thing as impeachment for a senator.
The Trump administration was literally speechless yesterday on Sunday morning political television because no one from the Trump administration appeared on any of the Sunday shows to defend the Trump phone call to the president of Ukraine, soliciting the president of Ukraine`s help in the Trump reelection campaign by investigating Joe Biden.
But Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin took a Kellyanne Conway pill and went on "Meet the Press", and this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: Senator --
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Who leaked? You know, I -- I have -- I have my third letter into the Inspector General of the Intelligence --
TODD: All right, Senator --
JOHNSON: -- Committee, asking to just confirm -- just confirm, are you investigating those leaks that Peter Strzok talked about in that --
TODD: All right, Senator --
JOHNSON: -- text to Lisa Page --
TODD: -- I have no idea why -
JOHNSON: We`re getting -- no, that`s -- that`s --
TODD: -- why --
JOHNSON: -- a setup. It is entirely-
TODD: -- why a Fox --
JOHNSON: -- relevant to this point.
TODD: -- why a Fox News conspiracy, propaganda stuff is popping up on here.
JOHNSON: It is --
TODD: I have no idea --
JOHNSON: It is not. That is --
TODD: I have no idea --
JOHNSON: -- that is-- that is exact --
TODD: --why we`re going here.
JOHNSON: -- that is -- that is --
TODD: Senator, I`m asking --
JOHNSON: Because this is underlying--
TODD: -- about --
JOHNSON: --exactly why --
TODD: I`m as --
JOHNSON: -- President Trump is upset and why his supporters are upset --
TODD: All right.
JOHNSON: -- at the news media.
TODD: OK, this --
JOHNSON: You know -- you know, Chuck --
TODD: -- is not about the media --
JOHNSON: -- here`s the deal, here`s the deal --
TODD: -- Senator Johnson -- Senator Johnson, please!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: No one can explain what happened on "Meet the Press" yesterday better than Pulitzer Prize-winning author and reporter James B. Stewart who explains it all in his new book "Deep State", which comes out tomorrow. Mr. Stewart will join us later in this hour. I will show him more of what Ron Johnson said on "Meet the Press" yesterday and he will translate it all for you. It is the Trump deep state conspiracy theory that Attorney General William Barr is currently flying around the world to investigate.
James B. Stewart has already investigated it, and he already has all of the answers that Attorney General Barr claims he is looking for.
And former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal will join us in this hour, later in the hour, to bring us his expert legal analysis of a crushing legal blow Donald Trump suffered today when a federal judge in New York ruled on the president`s attempt to block a subpoena for his tax returns from the Manhattan district attorney, the judge found the Trump legal argument to be, in the judge`s words, repugnant to the nation`s governmental structure and constitutional values. Repugnant.
I have never read a judge`s opinion more contemptuous of a legal argument presented to a court. We`ll see if Neal Katyal has ever read a judge`s opinion quite as crushing as this one is to Donald Trump later in this hour.
We begin tonight with the second whistleblower. The second whistleblower is represented by the same team of lawyers representing the first whistleblower, but the second whistleblower has what one of those lawyers describes as, quote, first-hand knowledge that supported the first whistleblower. "The New York Times" reports first-hand knowledge suggests testimony that might bolster the impeachment case against Mr. Trump and further undermine one of his main defense claims but the accusations against him are based on inaccurate secondhand information.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff urged other potential whistleblowers to come, forward telling "The New York Times", we thank them for their courage. We thank them for their patriotism and we hope others will follow their courageous example.
Today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Intelligence Committee and the House Oversight Committee subpoenaed the Department of Defense and the White House Office of Management and Budget for documents related to President Trump`s suspension of military aid to Ukraine while the president pushed Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. The subpoena orders the documents to be turned over a week from now.
Tomorrow, Gordon Sondland is going to be questioned under oath about his "call me" texts as Rachel and I were just discussing. Gordon Sondland texted call me to the acting ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, when Ambassador Taylor texted him things like this: are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?
And Gordon Sondland will be asked under oath what he said on the phone that made Ambassador Taylor text him this: As I said on the phone, I think it`s crazy to withhold security assistance or help with a political campaign.
Gordon Sondland will also be asked under oath why as the completely inexperienced Trump ambassador to the European Union, did he have anything to do with Ukraine, which is not a member of the European Union? Gordon Sondland will testify in an under oath deposition tomorrow to the House Intelligence Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Oversight Committee.
And leading off our discussion about all of this tonight are Ruth Marcus, she`s the deputy editorial page editor and columnist at "The Washington Post". She covered the Clinton impeachment for "The Post". This is her second impeachment to cover as a journalist. She`s an MSNBC contributor.
Also with us, Ezra Klein, editor-at-large at "Vox", and the host of the podcast "The Ezra Klein Show". And Rick Wilson, Republican strategist and contributor to "The Daily Beast". He is the author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies".
And, Ezra, I want to start with you on a point in the middle of what I just said, which is the subpoena to OMB, to the Office Management and Budget, about holding back the military aid to Ukraine while the president was trying to put this pressure on. That`s where the real facts of this story might be in that subpoena.
EZRA KLEIN, HOST, "THE EZRA KLEIN SHOW": Yes, there`s a ton in that potential subpoena. But the thing that frustrates me about the story is really pretending --
O`DONNELL: Really? It`s a frustrating (INAUDIBLE)? Really?
KLEIN: We`re pretending there`s something important that we don`t know, and I`m not saying there`s nothing we would like to know.
KLEIN: But like the whistleblower, right, we now have a first hand whistleblower.
KLEIN: Is he more firsthand than the White House has released the call record of Donald Trump`s call in which he did everything the whistleblower initially said that he did? It is all in such plain black and white, but isn`t that I am not excited to know what we find in the OMB subpoena. It isn`t that I`m not excited to see all the wrongdoing that is going to come out in all this.
But there is also this danger of it being over-complicated to the extent that we`re not waiting to learn if Donald Trump did this. He did it. He did it, the White House admitted he did it. He then tried to do it a national television.
And the question is what were Republicans in the Senate do about it.
O`DONNELL: Yes, that`s a good question.
And, Ruth, it seems that the only thing that these the fruits of these subpoenas could add is somewhere in the Defense Department, there`s an in an email, it actually says, we`re doing this because the president is holding it up because he wants Joe Biden investigated, that`s the most you could possibly hope for, because we know that this was withheld, that the word went to OMB, and to the Defense Department to withhold this aid.
So, as Ezra points out, one of the strange things about this investigation that we`re covering is that it began with the smoking gun.
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: It did start with the smoking gun, but the reality is that there`s still more smoke to be -- to come out from the gun, so that the Taylor testimony, the Sondland testimony, the testimony that we`re going to get from the ambassador, the returns on these subpoenas, because Ezra may be convinced that we`re already there, I may be convinced that we`re already there, but people like Senator Portman are not convinced that we`re already there, and many of his colleagues.
So, we need to figure out -- we need to get the information that will help break that very thin ice that I think the president is on with Senate Republicans.
O`DONNELL: And, Rick Wilson, you know Senate Republicans better than most of us. The Mitt Romney factor that the "Vanity Fair" is reporting tonight, the president spent the weekend enraged with Mitt Romney, attacking Mitt Romney, I interpreted the Romney tweets to be a way of not trying to scare Romney because it`s past that, but trying to scare other Republicans who might want to echo Romney in some way.
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Lawrence, I think that`s exactly right. He is doing his very best to intimidate all the weak sisters in the field here, and the folks that have a filing deadline in their campaigns coming up sometime in the next six months or so, because -- you know, he doesn`t -- he can send a message -- you know, Mitt Romney doesn`t care. Mitt Romney`s going to be in office when Donald Trump is out of the White House, even if he wins a second term.
But these guys that have a filing deadline next year, they don`t want a primary, they don`t want some -- Donald Trump to say, you know, we`ve got to endorse clown shoe whatever who`s my kind of Republican and ended up with Lindsey Graham or whoever else losing their seat because of it.
That`s why -- that`s why he`s hitting at these guy -- hitting at Romney and splashing over on these other guys, trying to intimidate them. But what I`m hearing from staff in the Senate and from members, there is a great degree of nervousness that that he`s skated way too close to the edge for way too long. Weirdly, the Kurdistan issue seems like it has angered more of them than almost any other law-breaking illegality or insanity the man is engaged in. But you know what, at this point, we take what we can get.
O`DONNELL: Ezra, about that, this is not the time for Donald Trump to be shaking in any way his relationship with Senate Republicans.
KLEIN: Yes, I think that`s actually a crucial point, the Kurdistan issue. So, there`s a deal that has been made with Donald Trump by Senate Republicans and it has two prongs, right? One is that he doesn`t turn on them directly, and that`s what Rick was talking about.
But the other is that he gets to be Donald Trump over here doing his crazy things being protected by Senate Republicans, but he gives them the things they really want. He cuts taxes on rich people, he follows a foreign policy that they find largely if not entirely defensible. Lindsey Graham, for instance, has been relatively upfront and things like in "New York Times" interview and others that he`s become effectively a public Trump sycophant in order to have influence with the president for the things that he cares about like Kurdistan. So, when Donald Trump betrays them on Kurdistan, it throws the entire rest of the question of the bargain into upheaval.
Now, whether or not any of them will actually move on this I think is a great question. To what Rick was talking about, I think the ultimate question to Senate Republicans is, are people like Rob Portman convincible, or how they just decided to ride this out. There`s a great line in a "Washington Post" story, the Republicans are trying to not make any sudden moves.
KLEIN: And that has been their entire approach for the entire Trump presidency, and I would like to see it changed and -- but I think the only ways if Donald Trump begins betraying them much more often on things like Kurdistan.
O`DONNELL: And, Ruth, Mitch McConnell is out there last week advertising - - online advertising about impeachment, saying he`s the one who`s going to be able to stop it the way you stop impeachment is with me, Mitch McConnell, as the Republican leader of the Senate. But the problem for Donald Trump tonight is that most Republicans in the Senate have said nothing about this. They`ve said nothing about his asking China to investigate the Bidens. They`ve said nothing really about his asking Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
What he -- what he would want to hear is 30 people, 30 Republicans in the Senate who sound like Lindsey Graham right now, but that`s not what you have.
MARCUS: Saying witch-hunt, witch-hunt, witch-hunt.
No, there`s the kind of blunt Rubio caucus in the Senate which are saying, oh, it was just a joke, and then there`s the Portman caucus of one right now, but they`ll probably be more saying this is serious but it doesn`t rise to the level of impeachable offense. And then there`s Senator Romney on his own.
I would say keep an eye on people like Lamar Alexander, who`s retiring but it is very, very well-respected by his colleagues. Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, of folks like that and that`s why new facts are really important as I was saying, even if they ratify what some of us already believe. If they start to crack, others will quickly follow.
I think that all there`s a number of Republican senators up for re-election this year who are already in very marginal states and know that this is just trouble for them.
O`DONNELL: And, Ezra, tomorrow, we have Ambassador Sondland, testifying under oath in a deposition. So, here`s the Trump presidency tomorrow depending on the under oath testimony of a rich guy who very literally bought his ambassadorship. He originally was going to try to buy one through the Bush for president campaign. When that didn`t work out, he eventually switched over to Trump, million dollars to the -- to the inauguration committee and there you go.
This guy has never been in a situation like he`s going to face tomorrow. There`s a lot that Donald Trump has riding on this tomorrow.
KLEIN: Can you imagine being a rich guy spend a million dollars buy an ambassadorship to the E.U.? And what you`ve got for your money -- what you actually ended up buying was the opportunity to ring-lead a Keystone Kops- like operation to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine that is now going to get you dragged (ph)? I mean, everybody who touches Trump ends up so infected by the contact, nobody comes for it unscathed. And just like this has to be the worst investment anybody has ever made, not just on Solomon`s part but also on Trump`s, who give this kind of responsibility to people who don`t know what they`re doing and this is to outcome you get.
O`DONNELL: Rick, Ezra just rewrote the title of your book there.
KLEIN: Yes, I apologize --
O`DONNELL: But, I mean, you know, I have -- at a certain point in the middle of the weekend, I actually spent a moment thinking, what if -- what if Donald Trump actually did hire the best people, where would they be if he actually appointed all of the best people to all of these federal offices on the White House? This would be a very different place.
But in fact he went as far as you could go in the opposite direction of the best people and those people have delivered him to this place.
WILSON: You know, it`s the old business cliche, Lawrence, A`s hire B`s, and B`s hire C`s, and Donald Trump hires people that he rounded up from behind the bus station after an all-night bender. These are not quality individuals who are doing this. These are guys who could stroke a check, but who can barely walk around the -- you know, and speak the king`s English.
These are not bright people. It`s like that -- it`s like the thing about the mob, these are not bright guys that got out of control and Watergate, they`re not bright guys and it got out of control. There`s just not a -- there`s not a devious set of masterminds behind all this. There are occasionally guys with like a flicker of evil genius like Steve Bannon or Stephen Miller, but for the most part, they are a bunch of clods, and it shows.
And this guy tomorrow, he`s going to probably spend more having the lawyer up on all this stuff that he did to buy the ambassadorship in the first place. It`s kind of glorious.
O`DONNELL: Rick Wilson -- it proves the title of your book once again. Rick Wilson, Ruth Marcus, thank you very much for joining us. Ezra Klein is going to stay with us.
And when we come back, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are considering extreme measures to protect the identity of the whistleblower who`s going to meet with them from Donald Trump`s Republican friends in Congress who want to reveal the whistleblower`s identity which is against the law. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: "Washington Post" is reporting tonight the House Democrats are considering extreme measures to protect the identity of the first whistleblower when that was the lower testifies to committees -- to the Intelligence Committee, which has not yet been scheduled. "The Post" reports House Democrats are weighing extraordinary steps to secure testimony from whistleblower whose complaint prompted their impeachment inquiry, making -- masking his identity to prevent President Trump`s congressional allies from exposing the individual.
According to three officials familiar with the deliberations, the steps under consideration include having the whistleblower testify from a remote location and obscuring the individual`s appearance and voice, these officials said.
Yesterday, 90 former national security officials signed an open letter to the American people, stressing the importance of protecting the whistleblower`s identity. The letter says whatever one`s view of the matters discussed in the whistleblowers complaint, all Americans should be united and demanding that all branches of our government and all outlets of our media protect this whistleblower and his or her identity. Simply put, he or she has done what our law demands. Now, he or she deserves our protection.
That letter was signed by some frequent guests on this program, Mieke Eoyang, Wendy Sherman and Ned Price. It was also signed by former Republican senator and secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel.
And it was signed by our next guest, Rosa Brooks, who`s a former counselor to the undersecretary of defense and a former senior advisor at the State Department. Also joining us now is Rosa Brooks, and Ezra Klein is back with us.
And, Rosa Brooks, I want to get your reaction to these steps that are now being considered to protect the identity of the whistleblower and the idea that the identity has to be protected from elected Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee.
ROSA BROOKS, FORMER COUNSELOR TO THE UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR POLICY: Yes, I don`t think the fear is so much that one of the Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee is going to actually try to throttle the whistleblower personally, but I do think that we`ve seen a pattern in this administration of threats from Donald Trump that turned into actual physical threats to people`s safety. We`ve seen it over and over.
And I don`t -- I don`t like to invoke a rival network, but ABC in August I think did a study of criminal cases in the United States where the perpetrator of threats or acts of violence invoked Donald Trump as their inspiration and found about 40 different cases where Trump`s words were used by people saying, that`s why I committed this act of violence, right? When the president of the United States says this is -- this guy is like a spy, remember what we used to do to spies. Essentially, it`s saying, we used to execute them, we kill them, there are people out there who take this seriously.
So if I were that whistleblower -- yes, I would want extreme measures. I would -- I would want -- I would want Donald Trump`s moat full of sharks between me and any of the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee who might leak my identity.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Lindsey Graham said about the whistleblower`s -- the whistleblower`s identity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If the whistleblower`s allegations are turned into an impeachment article, it`s imperative that the whistleblower be interviewed in public under oath and cross-examine. Nobody in America goes to jail or has anything done to them without confronting their accuser.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ezra, that`s actually perfectly reasonable if the whistleblower`s allegations are turned into an impeachment article, which they won`t be because they have the transcript of the phone call. It`s not the whistleblower anymore.
KLEIN: Donald Trump --
KLEIN: This is -- I just want to note for the record that what Lindsey Graham has been doing throughout this is disgusting, and like his fall into this kind of loyalty to Trump over loyalty to country, whatever he thinks a four-dimensional chess he`s playing is, it`s a real shame. Like you actually need people to be who he was pretending to be a couple of years ago.
KLEIN: I want to note something Rosa said, which I think is really important. It has been treated in the media, on Twitter, by me at times, when Donald Trump goes out and says, yes, of course, Ukraine and China should investigate the Bidens, when he goes on and does it publicly, it`s treated sometimes like, oh, isn`t that strange how he`s confessing the crimes in public? Like, oh, look how bad he is at this.
But like in populist authoritarian countries, that is what you do. You go in front of the public and say that my enemies are the enemies of the people are so corrupt and dangerous. That we need to suspend that the normal laws of rule -- I`m sorry -- the normal rule in law and the normal norms of our system in order to investigate them, stop them, take down the corruption.
So, there`s a real way in which he escalates stakes continuously. He`s also talked about this being not impeachment but a coup, and people take that seriously. We see this -- we would understand very well what this was if we saw it in another country. The fact that it is in our country where we believe in our system so much, I think sometimes obscures help banal a dangerous what is really going on is.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and, Rosa, Ezra`s important is so important about the way Donald Trump says these things publicly. Does it feel deliberate to you that he says these things publicly?
BROOKS: Oh, sure. I mean, Donald Trump is not a constitutional scholar obviously. He thinks Mitt Romney should be impeached. You can`t impeach a senator and he thinks that the impeachment process in Congress is like a coup. Well, the impeachment process is what our Constitution creates as a mechanism for removing a president, and it`s our Constitution that gives the president that describe.
So, we know -- we know that he`s not -- he is not a stable genius but I also think he`s sort of crazy like a fox a lot of the time and he knows exactly what he`s saying. He`s saying won`t somebody get rid of these guys for me, do what you have to do, I don`t really care how you do it. That message comes through loud and clear, you know?
And I do also think that going back to a point that Ezra made earlier, it`s really important for us not to let these smokescreens -- we`ve been using you know smoking gun metaphors -- but this let`s think about smoke screens because all the talk about the whistleblower as Ezra said, we have the report of that phone call that the White House itself released and yet we`re still talking about whether or not the whistleblower is going to tell us anything new, as if the foundation of the complaint has to do the whistleblower as opposed to what President Trump has already admitted doing, which is on it its face is a crime.
O`DONNELL: Rosa Brooks, Ezra Klein, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate.
And when we come back, Donald Trump`s Attorney General William Barr has been flying around the world to investigate a deep state conspiracy theory. That`s what the attorney general is doing right now. We are going to save him a lot of time because James B. Stewart has already investigated all of that and he has put it in the book that comes out tomorrow, "Deep State". Pulitzer Prize-winner James Stewart will join us next.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: When Chuck Todd asked Republican Senator Ron Johnson yesterday if he trusts the CIA and the FBI now. Ron Johnson threw out a bunch of names of people who no longer work at the FBI.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Do you trust the CIA and the FBI now? None of them have come to any other conclusions you`re trying to come to. Do you trust them now?
SEN. RON HOHNSON, (R-WI): Who are you talking about?
TODD: The CIA and the FBI.
JOHNSON: I don`t trust Andrew McCabe. I don`t trust James Comey. I don`t trust Peter Strokz. I don`t trust. I don`t trust John Brennan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is the essence of the Trump deep state conspiracy theory that insists that would have eventually became the Mueller investigation was started by FBI officials who were deeply prejudice against Donald Trump while he was running for President.
Attorney General Barr is now flying around the world investigating that himself, something we have never seen an Attorney General do. William Barr could save a lot of time by picking up a copy of deep state when it goes on sale tomorrow deep state includes a thorough investigation of how the investigation of Russian influence in our election began inside the FBI.
The President is on his way to impeachment tonight because of his obsession with that very question which was included in what he was pushing the President of the Ukraine to investigate. Deep state is James Stewart`s 10th book he is Pulitzer Prize winning Reporter who has worked for "The Wall Street Journal" now a Columnist for "The New York Times".
In deep state James Stewart delivers kind of a bountiful harvest of important coupes that we have come to expect from his investigative journalism including the names of the two members of the Trump cabinet. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein believed would be in favor of invoking the 25th amendment to remove Donald Trump from the Presidency.
For that and more we turn to James B. Stewart who joins us for his first cable news interview about deep state. It is very hard for a book that you have spent a couple weeks with to land dead center in today`s news and yesterday`s news with what was Senator Johnson doing on the "Meet the press". What was, can you explain to the audience what Senator Johnson was trying to do on "Meet the press"?
JAMES B. STEWART, AUTHOR, "DEEP STATE": Well, he has done what I`ve explored in deep state. It was so terribly destructive to the Democratic institutions of this country which is to attack the Law Enforcement Agency of the United States. The Department of Justice, the FBI, the traditionally independent investigative and judicial branches of government and accuse them essentially of being filled with traitors and spies and being part of a deep state that is trying to protect its own powers and eject a Democratically elected President to preserve those powers.
And that is so far from the truth. I mean, as you see in the pages - there is in a sense a deep state in this country. There is a very large bureaucracy that is sworn to uphold the constitution and to protect the people of the United States. They do not work for the White House. When the White House violates the constitution or does not act in the interest of the people of United State and it`s their obligation to step forward and investigate that.
And as we`ve now seen what the whistleblower it`s the obligation of the whistleblower also to come forward with information that needs to be investigated.
O`DONNELL: So Attorney General William Barr is flying around the world trying to do what your book does. He is trying to figure out how did the investigation of Russian interference start? How did - what became the investigation of Donald Trump by Robert Mueller how did that all start? It is all right here. He could save a lot of time in the sky.
STEWART: And taxpayer money I might add. God only knows how much this cost him.
O`DONNELL: Was it started by FBI officials prejudice against Donald Trump was that the animating force in starting that investigation?
STEWART: Absolutely not. They - the last thing they wanted was to have to investigate another candidate for President. They were already investigating Hillary Clinton which put them in an extremely awkward and uncomfortable position. Now for the first time in history, they were forced to investigate the other candidate as well. Both at the same time. They didn`t want to do that.
By the way, they didn`t begin an investigation of Donald Trump himself. This is very important point though I think many people don`t realize. He was not the subject of the investigation until he recklessly and impulsively fired James Comey and lied about the reasons for it. That is what caused Trump himself to become the subject of obstruction investigation.
Some o his campaign workers were - some investigation but Trump himself was not. And by the way, it did not begin with the salacious Steele dossier either. That FBI people and I`ve talked to many of them, they didn`t put much store in it and I`ve read it very carefully as well. It has no you would call actionable intelligence.
It didn`t say they be meeting next month to have further discussions of this or they`re plotting another release of faked tapes of the President. So that they could perhaps insinuate that, disrupted, why are people get further? No, it is all stuff that happened in the past. It is very odd, although some of it does ring true. That wasn`t the basis for it.
And even the Australian Ambassador, now, you know Trump has been trying to unless the Australians could join them threatening Barr offline the Australians trying to say oh what really was going on there? I mean the Australians; they are one of the closest allies of the United States and the Intelligence Community.
Australia has the information that the Russians had hacked e-mails from Hillary Clinton. They didn`t do anything about it until it actually became demonstrably true that yes, these things did exist, and only then did they bring this to the attention of U.S. Intelligence agents and it was perfectly responsible and appropriate and reluctantly the FBI plunged into this.
O`DONNELL: This book is filled with movie drama, dramatic movie scenes including you just mentioned after James Comey was fired. Rod Rosenstein in this book is in tears with Andrew McCabe says some extraordinary things. I want to squeeze in a commercial break here. When we come back you can tell us who those two Trump cabinet members were. Who Rod Rosenstein believed were ready to join him in an attempt to remove the President with the 25th amendment. We`ll be back with James B. Stewart right after this.
O`DONNELL: We`re back with James B. Stewart, author of the new important and stunning new book, "Deep State". It comes out tomorrow. I want to go to one of the major coupes in this book and you have more than we can cover tonight.
The James Comey is fired by the President, Rod Rosenstein is thrown into an emotional tizzy, he is in discussions with Andrew McCabe in this book. He is crying and it is in those moments where Rod Rosenstein says maybe I should wear a wire to record the President, and as reported in this book of course we didn`t before he said it twice.
And in one of those meetings someone was taking notes, so Rob Rosenstein public claim was, well, that was a joke, or his friend says it was a joke, and your witnesses say there was no evidence that was a joke. That was serious.
STEWART: That`s correct. He said it was a joke, he sort of said he didn`t really say it but if he did it was joke. No one thought it was a joke. And there were two occasions when he said, as you said there are notes of this conversation, there was more than one set of notes documenting that, there is nothing in those notes to suggest it was joke.
He also denied saying that he wanted to invoke the 25th amendment but there are also witnesses to that conversation. He even named two cabinet level people who would support that, namely John Kelly, the Chief of Staff, and Sessions the Attorney General.
O`DONNELL: And the 25th amendment requires a majority of the cabinet plus the Vice President. So he was going to begin with Jeff Sessions and with John Kelly to get the cabinet to vote to remove the President.
STEWART: Well, for people here this has sounded like he had already discussed it with them and have gotten some encouragement on that front. Now that is an extreme step. I do think that people who heard it did not really take it all that seriously. They took it more as a measure of how unnerved Rod Rosenstein was by the fact that Trump was trying to set him up as the person who said fire James Comey.
He made him write that memo about Clinton which really was not the reason, he was fired. And then he wanted Rosenstein to come out and give a press conference saying I`m the one who told you to fire Comey which was to blatantly untrue. So it was the combination and not so much the fired in but then that he was lying about it and then admitted that it was really Russia which races the whole obstruction issue.
O"DEONNELL: There are two scenes in this book that are not together but they kind of in our minds come together. One is Rod Rosenstein goes into the White House under tremendous pressure after it is been revealed that he wanted to wear a wire, and he is going in and everyone believes Donald Trump is going to fire him, and you remind us that there was split screen coverage of the Cavanaugh confirmation.
And Rosenstein going into the White House we expect him to be fired and he is not fired. So the question in your book which remains a question is what did Rod Rosenstein say in the Oval Office to keep his job? And then, another scene that that jams up against is, Rod Rosenstein standing right there beside Bill Barr when the Mueller report comes out in affect demolishing the Mueller report as much as they can.
STEWART: Well, there you`ve seen the transformation in front of our very eyes of Rod Rosenstein who started out as a very respected independent prosecutor who like many people came into contact with Trump. And the price he paid for surviving was essentially to become the foot soldier for Trump and stand there mutely while he heard Barr make demonstrably untrue characterizations of the Mueller report.
So those meetings with Trump are critical. The Justice Department was drafting the press release that he was fired when he went over there. He was being taken to the woodshed everybody knew "The New York Times" reported it was going to wear the wire. Trump has prepared to fire him somehow he comes out with his job intact. What did he say to keep his job and reassure Trump?
And then in turn what did he do to keep Mueller in the job? He was Mueller`s boss. What did Mueller have to do or not do in order to keep from being fired by Rosenstein. Now Rosenstein`s colleague said to me in his defense that his soul mission was to protect Mueller. He did what he had to do to get Mueller over the finish line.
If the price of getting over the finish line was to clip his wings, to not let Mueller insist on getting testimony from the President, as every prosecutor I know believes that he should have and then for Mueller to ignore the whole story of Rosenstein in his report, which I reported in my book but he didn`t put in the report.
And I know he knew it, because Rosenstein is one of the first people he interviewed. Why that wasn`t in there remains very baffling. And I think it leads to genuine suspicions that Mueller was influenced to pull some punches there
O`DONNELL: James B. Stewart, thank you very much for joining us today.
STEWART: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: A real honor to have you here the amazing reporting we`ve come to expect from you. Thank you very, very much for joining us. "Deep State" is the name of the book. Trump, the FBI, and the rule of the law. This is must read material if you want to understand what the Trump Administration is still up to right now and what Attorney General William Barr is trying to do?
When we come back, a Federal Judge delivered a crushing and humiliating blow to Donald Trump in court today using language that I, for one, have never seen a judge use about a legal position taken by anyone, certainly not the President of the United States. Neal Katyal will translate it all for us, that`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: Today a Federal Judge did not just rule against Donald Trump, the judge stomped on Donald Trump`s legal arguments. Judge Victor Marrero`s dismissed a lawsuit filed by Donald Trump to block a subpoena from the Manhattan just returning for eight years of his personal and business tax returns from the accounting firm Mazars USA.
Donald Trump`s lawyers argued that he "Cannot be subject to criminal process for any conduct of any kind while he is serving as President" but Judge Marrero said that would constitute an overreach of executive power. Judge Marrero noted that the President`s claim of immunity would also extend to his family, his businesses and associates implicated in any misconduct "Potentially enabling both the President and any accomplices to escape being brought to justice".
The judge said that he found the Trump legal argument, "Repugnant to the nation`s governmental structures and constitutional values". Within minutes of the judge`s ruling, Donald Trump`s lawyers appealed the decision. Neal Katyal will explain to us all what happens next in this legal battle over the Trump tax returns. Neal Katyal joins us after this final break.
O`DONNELL: As promised, we are joined now by Neal Katyal, Forming Acting Solicitor General who has argued dozens of cases before the United States Supreme Court. He is also an MSNBC Legal Contributor. Neal, I want to get your reaction to this judicial opinion today. I`ve never read language like this in condemning the argument presented by one side of a case.
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Yes, so on one side, Lawrence, it`s an obvious ruling, and it`s obvious because President Trump has made really silly and preposterous legal arguments that he can`t be investigated at all, and indeed no one around him can be investigated. Really, there is no responsible legal scholar who beliefs anything that he`s been putting forward.
So it`s not surprising that he lost, but it is surprising the way in which he lost and the language that you were pointing out, Lawrence, before the break. About the judge calling these theories repugnant. I think there is two really bad things that have happened here, one for this case because this subpoena is about Michael Cohen and Trump paying him, using business deductions and other things and the New York prosecutors are looking into whether or not that was some sort of fraud, tax fraud, something else.
But I think there is a much deeper significance to the ruling today. This is one of the very first rulings about all of these Trump immunity claims. And he has been peddling this in court after court that you can`t touch him, you can`t subpoena him. You can`t subpoena the agencies and the like. And what this judge today was really put a knife in that stuff and say look, you guys are making really preposterous, repugnant arguments, and that`s bad news for him, not just for this case, but for all the suite of immunity cases that he`s been advancing in the courts.
O`DONNELL: So the President`s lawyers obviously immediately appealed the case. So it goes to the Federal Appeals Court in Manhattan. They are going to handle it they said in an expedited way. What do you think the timetable is for the appeals court?
KATYAL: It`s super fast. I think the court of appeals for the second circuit, and that`s a place I worked a while ago, they`ve already said that they`re going try and hear argument in about three weeks, which is a very fast timetable.
Now the President`s lawyers have gone out on the cameras and said oh, well, the second circuit has already tipped their hand in our favor because what they did was stay, which means stop the district court decision from taking legal effect.
And so right now the tax returns can`t be turned over to the prosecutors, but that is a standard routine thing in a case like this. It doesn`t at all mean that the court of appeals thought that the district court`s decision was wrong.
Three judges are going to hear this, Lawrence, in about three week, and they`ll be free to decide what they want. But I think it`s going to be incredibly hard for the Trump Administration to win, given the preposterous arguments that they`ve been advancing.
O`DONNELL: And then it goes from there to the Supreme Court?
KAYTYAL: Then the loser can ask the Supreme Court to hear it. It`s by no means a fore gone conclusion that the Supreme Court would hear it, and, you know, I suspect that if the second circuit says that the court decision today is right, I think that`s going to be the end of the matter.
I mean, I do think that the Supreme Court does want to hear cases involving presidential privileges and powers when they`re really important, but actually, this case isn`t that important because the theories are just so ridiculous. And so I`d be surprised if the court took this one.
O`DONNELL: Yes, the judge points out that the Nixon case already established that the President was subject to a subpoena within a criminal investigation.
KATYAL: Exactly. I mean, when you read the President`s legal brief, you just have to wonder like is this just creative writing or something? Are they in English class? Because they`re not citing precedents. They`re not citing legal arguments. What they`re doing is - I mean, I guess the one President they cite is like King George III.
And if you want to go back to that, fine, but we had a revolution about this. And the idea that we can have an American President who according to them can`t be indicted, can`t be investigated, and indeed can`t even be impeached because that would be a coup, well, that is effectively what a king is. And that`s exactly what our American system rebels against.
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal gets tonight`s last word. Thank you so much.