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Trump holds up Ukraine military aid. TRANSCRIPT: 9/6/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Natasha Bertrand, Jared Higgs

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  That is "ALL IN" for this evening. 

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  That was spectacular.  So good with the live audience, with the whole crew.  So good, well done, my friend.  Thank you.

HAYES:  You bet.

MADDOW:  Well-earned.  Well done.

All right.  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Super happy to have you here. 

I actually want to start with one little matter of business that I want to attend to right off the bat tonight.  This is not about today's news.  But it's a thing I promised I would keep you apprised of, so I just want to do it right away. 

Because I am an insane person and because I forgot how absolutely impossible it is to write a book while having another job, I have a new book that is coming out in about three weeks.  In 2012, I wrote a book called "Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power".  I am in retrospect super happy that I did it, but it almost killed me.  I said at the time I would never ever do another book again. 

In the interim, I forgot that pledge.  That is why I have accidentally written this new book called "Blowout".  The full title is "Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth".  Cheery, right?  I know. 

This book, "Blowout" comes out in about three weeks, on October 1st, because you can't actually buy it yet, you can only preorder now, because you can't buy it yet, I'm not going to spend time telling you what it's about, and why I wrote it, I will do it some other time. 

The thing I need to tell you about now because it's time sensitive is that I'm going to do a little book tour right around the time that the book comes out.  I say it's a little book tour because I'm not going to a bunch of places.  It's a short book tour, mostly because I can't take time off work.  I have this other job.  It's hard to do these things at once.

But this is the book tour.  I'm going to these eight places that you see on the screen right now, and I said when I first announced that I was going to do this little book tour that I would keep you apprised in terms of getting tickets and stuff, just in case you want to come to one of these events.  That's what I'm doing now, because it has turned out that getting tickets to some of these events has been hard.  I'm sorry about that.  I have heard it has been difficult. 

But here is the update, and it is -- it has some good news.  Of the eight dates on the book tour, the venues are all sold out for Tulsa on October 5th; San Francisco, October 6th; Los Angeles, October 7th; Seattle, October 11th.  Also the western Massachusetts state on November 17th.  Those are all sold out, and I'm sorry about that.

But that's only five of the eight dates.  There is good news.  There are still tickets available for these other three venues and dates. 

You can still get tickets to come see me and hear about the new book that almost killed me on these occasions: New York City, October 3rd; Chicago on October 12th; and Atlanta on October 13th.  Those are all bigger venues and there are still tickets. 

So, five of the dates on the tour are sold out.  Three still have tickets, if you want to come see me, those three events are live, New York, Chicago and Atlanta all next month.  If you want to buy tickets to any of those events, everything is at 

Actually.  Can we just put that on the screen for a second?  Right,  You can preorder the book there or you can check out the tour dates and get tickets for those last three events that still have tickets available. 

OK.  I said I would keep you apprised.  I am.  I'm done with talking about that now.  Thank you very much. 

And it's good that I'm done because there's a lot going on tonight, lots to get to on tonight's show. 

In Washington today, we learned about new investigations that are being launched by the Oversight and Judiciary Committees into President Trump.  With the Judiciary Committee chairman saying explicitly today that this new inquiry is part of the committee's impeachment investigations into President Trump. 

And what this is all about is this.  Did you see this picture this week?  Did you notice that when vice president pence was on his overseas trip this week, even when he was having big, high level meetings, even when he was meeting as he is in this picture with the foreign minister of Ireland, it was kind of a drab look for an event of that stature, right?  I mean, it's proper, everybody's in a suit.  There's flags and stuff, but that's like, it's like a big shower curtain behind them.  What is that weird room? 

That's a weird looking shot, right?  What's going on in that room?  And why does it look familiar. 

It looks familiar because, oh, it's the same location in front of the same weird shower curtain thingy where President Trump also held a big, all for the cameras ceremonial meeting with the Irish prime minister earlier this summer back in June. 

Now, the reason for this hooptie, sad little setting for these big ceremonial meetings is because this is not the kind of place where meetings between heads of state or meetings between vice presidents and foreign ministers are supposed to happen.  What this little room is the VIP lounge at the Shannon Airport, which is on the west coast of Ireland, Shannon, Ireland, Shannon, County Clare, population 9,000 something. 

It's an unprepossessing little town on Ireland's west coast.  It is known mostly for, well, they have an airport there.  That's pretty much what they've got. 

I mean, to be clear, the Irish government knows what it's doing, right?  The Irish government officials are not in the habit of holding meetings with heads of states in dowdy, little carpeted airport lounges.  That is not something they are accustomed to doing.  They have plenty of fine and picturesque facilities, you know, castles and stuff for doing ceremonial meetings and press conferences and hosting heads of states, and important discussion.  They've got plenty of nice settings, official settings. 

But in this U.S. administration, they instead keep having to meet with the top officials in the U.S. government, including the president and vice president, in the lounge at the Shannon Airport, right by the duty free station, instead of any of those more normal places that would make sense for a government official visit.  And the reason this keeps having it happen, the reason they keep getting these photo ops in front of like the plant and the shower curtain and stuff is because the Shannon Airport is very close to President Trump's nearby golf course in Ireland. 

And in the Trump administration, that is where we the taxpayers pay to have the president and vice president, and all the staff, that is where we pay to have them stay.  When they go to Ireland, they stay in President Trump's property there.  So, the money that is spent by U.S. taxpayers on that trip is money that goes into the pocket of the president and his family and goes to the bottom line of their family business. 

Now, when Mike Pence was staying in Ireland this week, the problematic nature of the taxpayers paying for this was made crystal clear by virtue of the fact that in order to have the taxpayers pay the president's company to have Mike Pence and his entourage and the Secret Service all stay at the president's golf hotel thing, Pence had to commute back and forth 180 miles each way to the place in Ireland where his actual official meetings were held, which was Dublin, the capital of the country, which is clear on the other side of the Ireland. 

He didn't stay in Dublin.  He stayed on the other side of the country, all so taxpayer funds would go to the president.  I mean, this -- logistically, this would be the equivalent of me deciding to stay in Worcester, Massachusetts, if I have pressing business to attend to in New York City.  And trust me, all hail Worchester, Massachusetts, I've got nothing against you, I love you deeply. 

But honestly, if I personally, if I owned a Rachel Maddow hotel in Worchester, Massachusetts, and I told somebody on the staff of the show that while they were having meetings in New York for the show, they should stay at my hotel in Worcester, Massachusetts, and commute back and forth, and charge have the company pay their freight to stay in my hotel, if I did that, I would be fired.  Any of us in any job in the private or public sector would be fired for doing that. 

But that is what President Trump and Vice President Pence are doing with the president's property in Ireland.  And instead of them being fired for it, we have, A, elections and B, we have a Congress that now says they may try to impeach the president for it. 

Here's today's "New York Times" report on this new investigation.  Quote: Two committee chairmen acting in tandem sent letters to the White House, the Secret Service and the Trump Organization asking for documents and communications related to Vice President Mike Pence's decision to stay this week at Mr. Trump's resort in Ireland during an official visit, as well as Mr. Trump's recent statements promoting Trump National Doral as the possible site for the G7 summit of world leaders next year. 

In both cases, the Democrats argued Mr. Trump stands to benefit financially from American taxpayer dollars and in the case of the potential summit in Doral, from foreign funds as well.  The Constitution's emoluments clauses prohibit presidents from accepting any payment from federal, state or foreign governments beyond their official salary.

Quote: The committee does not believe that U.S. taxpayers fund should be used to personally enrich President Trump, his family, his companies, wrote Congressman Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Oversight Committee. 

Congressman Jerry Nadler, chair of the Judiciary Committee, raised what could be an even more troubling outcome for the president.  He said his committee was considering potential violations of the ban on profiting from the presidency as part of its impeachment investigation.  Quote: Potential violations of the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses of the Constitution are of grave concern to the committee as it considers whether to recommend articles of impeachment. 

So the president saying in the last week, wasn't that like a week ago, right, a week or so ago, that when the U.S. hosts the G7 next year, he wants that G7 summit to be held at his own Trump property in Florida, so foreign governments would actually be forced to pay money to the president and his family in order to participate in official diplomatic engagements with the U.S. government.  I mean, there's that. 

There's also the vice president diverting his official business by hundreds of miles to make sure the taxpayer money expended on his trip would go into the president's own pocket.  I mean, these things have just happened back- to-back within the course of a week.  This is a neon sign for what counts as an impeachable offense, right?

But I think an underappreciated part of this is that this is also kind of a cash for clunkers program because that Doral place, where the president is trying to make the U.S. government put the G7 summit, that is a property that used to be the president's largest source of revenue in his whole business world and that property is now tanking. 

Quote, Trump has listed Doral in federal closures as his biggest moneymaker.  But hotel room rates, banquets, golf and overall revenue are all done.  In two years, the resort's net operating income fell by 69 percent.  Even in a vigorous economy, the property was missing the Trump Organization's internal business targets. 

The company's own tax consultant telling county officials that the Doral result is, quote, severely underperforming other resorts in the area.  Quote, there is some negative connotation that is associated with the brand now.  Oh, the brand.

Same situation apparently in the Ireland property to which they have been diverting taxpayer resources.  The Ireland property is also tanking, as you see in the headline there.  Doonbeg, Trump's money-losing golf course.  He bought this thing in 2014.  It has lost at least seven figures every year since, which we can see from public records filed in Ireland. 

So, I mean, cash for clunkers, right?  This president gig might not last all that long, but if you can make it work while you've got the job, if you can literally take millions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers to stuff into the coffers of your failing business, if you can force foreign governments to pay millions of dollars to your failing business, then maybe at least you can squeeze some personal profit out of the gig before you lose the gig. 

And, you know, Democrats have made noise about a lot of things this president has done.  We will see if they actually try to go the distance on this one.  They are formally making inquiries into this diversion of taxpayer resources to the president's own businesses as it pertains to the request to hold Doral at G7 and the sending of Mike Pence to the west coast of Ireland, instead of to Dublin.  I mean, this one, we'll see what the Democrats do with it.  This one at least has the benefit of 100 percent clarity in terms of the unconstitutional nature of the president's behavior. 

I will also say because the Ireland part of this inquiry also puts Vice President Pence on the block, in terms of his active and knowing participation in this Trump grift against the American taxpayer, this investigation also potentially has the chance to sort of find the seam, find any potential friction between the president and the vice president who at this point in their political careers might be thinking very differently about how their futures are going to go from hereon out, and how in fact they might diverge. 

But now, as I was prepping to talk about something totally different on tonight's show, another story broke along these same lines, which, I mean, this is the part of the evening where I get to the thing that's just truly bonkers.  This story just came out within the last hour.  If you have not seen it yet, you are going to want to sit down.  You are going to want to spend a little bit of time with this. 

This is the headline from "Politico" tonight.  Air Force crew made an odd stop on a routine Trump, Trump's Scottish resort.  Quote: In early spring of this year, an Air National guard crew made a routine trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies.  What wasn't routine was where the crew stopped along the way.  They stopped at President Trump's Turnberry resort, about 50 miles outside Glasgow, Scotland. 

Since April, the House Oversight Committee has been investigating why the crew on the C17 military transport plane made the unusual stay both on route to the Middle East and on the way back at the president's Scottish resort.  They stopped at Turnberry both ways. 

This congressional committee is investigating this.  This is previously unreported news something being looked into by Congress, since they have been looking into it since April, they have yet to receive any answers from the Pentagon. 

Quote: On previous trips to the Middle East, the C17 had landed at U.S. air bases such the Ramstein Air Base in Germany or the naval air station called Rota in Spain to refuel.  Occasionally, the same C17 would also stop at military bases in the Azores or in Italy, but stopping in Scotland? 

A senior Air Force official said choosing to refuel at the airport nearest to the president's Scotland resort and choosing for the airmen to stay at the president's Scotland resort a half an hour away from that airport, that would be unusual for such a mission.  Again, their mission is flying supplies to and from Kuwait.  Quote: Typically, the official said, air crews stay on a military base while in transit or at nearby lodgings.  The congressional inquiry is part of a broader previously unreported probe into U.S. military expenditures at or around the Trump property in Scotland. 

According to a letter the panel sent to the Pentagon in June, the military has spent $11 million on fuel at specifically the Prestwick Airport, which is the closest airport to Trump Turnberry.  They spent $11 million on fuel since October 2017.  And, yes, it would be cheaper to the military if that fuel had been purchased at a U.S. military base.  And again, a U.S. military base is where the C17s have always previously stopped before Donald Trump became president and suddenly they started stopping at his golf course and its nearby airport, which turns out has fallen on hard times and might need the money. 

Prestwick airport has long been debt ridden.  The Scottish government bought it in 2013, for one pound, but the airport has continued to lose money in the years since.  In June, the Scottish government announced its intent to sell the airport, which the panels letter described as integral to the success of the Turnberry property 30 miles away. 

Taken together, the incidents raise the possibility that the military has helped keep Donald Trump's Turnberry resort afloat.  The property lost 4 1/2 million dollars in 2017.  But in 2018, revenue went up by $3 million. 

I mean, this is just -- I mean, the implication in the brand new reporting from "Politico" is that Trump's, you know, got this money losing resort in Florida to which he now wants to direct the G7.  He's got this money losing golf resort in Ireland, which he has already directed Vice President Pence and his entourage, now in addition he has a money losing resort in Scotland that was about to lose the money-losing airport that serviced it. 

I mean, the golf course is already having really tough times.  If they lose the nearest airport, too. 

But now miraculously, now that Donald Trump is president, American military cargo planes have started refueling at that airport, at a significant price mark up, right?  It's much cheaper for them to get their fuel at military bases.  That's part of the reason they always stop at military bases. 

Also, they're the military.  They're no longer stopping at military bases.  Instead, they're stopping at the airport that Trump needs to prop up to keep his Scottish golf resort going, and paying full freight commercial airport rates for that fuel. 

And then they're sending the air crews to go stay at the president's resort.  I mean, there is a U.S. military base in the U.K.  They need to stop in the U.K., they could go to the U.S. base in the U.K., but now, instead, they're going to the commercial airport that Trump needs to keep alive that's otherwise maybe going to go out of business because they need that airport, presumably, to keep afloat his nearby golf resort, which might also be going out of business. 

Unless you can funnel taxpayer money into it show.  I mean, not to put a final point on it, but it is bad enough when the vice president goes 180 miles out of his way to put taxpayer money directly into the president's pocket.  But if the U.S. military is being used to prop up one of the president's troubled properties, A, this is uncharted waters, obviously, in terms of presidential corruption, B, this implicates the president himself, obviously, and everybody else who participated in it. 

But this part -- this Scotland part with the C17s, flying into the airport at Glasgow, this implicates the military who apparently went along with this, didn't peep about it, and now isn't cooperating with congressional oversight committees that are trying to investigate it.  If the U.S. military is like in on it now, and has no compunction about going along with the scheme, when they know how weird it is, and they know the C17s flying from Kuwait have never done anything like this before, that tells us that one of the sort of red lines we thought we would have in terms of accountability and people blowing the whistle, one of those red lines is U.S. military and its integrity is also implicated here. 

Joining us now is Natasha Bertrand, national security correspondent for "Politico", who broke the story tonight, along with Brian Bender. 

Natasha, I really appreciate you being here on short notice.  This story just came out.  Thanks for rushing to the studio. 


MADDOW:  Let me ask you if I summed that up accurately.  I'm absorbing it myself.  Tell me if I got anything wrong. 

BERTRAND:  No, that was absolutely perfect.  I mean, I think we at "Politico" were still trying to absorb it as we finished the story.  I mean, it was probably one of the most remarkably brazen, you know, instances of this kind of self-dealing and grift that we have seen in the Trump era. 

What was really remarkable, though, I think, is what we reported about the crew's reaction itself.  The crew were so kind of confused by what was happening when they were rerouted to Scotland to refuel at this tiny airport outside of Trump's Turnberry because they had never actually done that before in the 50-plus trips they had taken internationally to do these kinds of routine, you know, supply trips.  They had never stopped in Scotland.  It was always in Spain or Germany, or if needed, you know, in Italy. 

But to stop in Scotland was strange enough and for them to drive another 30 miles to Trump's Turnberry resort, they didn't have enough money.  I mean, their per diem allowance didn't allow them to buy food and drinks there.  They did totally out of place because they weren't wearing the proper clothes.  I mean, these are the things we were told about their reaction, and I think it just really drives home how strange this was. 

MADDOW:  I don't know anything about how it costs to fill up a C17.  I don't know how big the gas tank is.  I don't know how much they pay per gallon.  But it struck me that's a large number, $11 million on fuel at that one airport. 

Do we know how many refueling stops might be implicated in an $11 million fuel bill? 

BERTRAND:  You know, that's a great question.  We don't know that.  And we also know from the House Oversight Committee that we have received similar reports about this kind of behavior by the military going to, you know, spending money in and around the Trump's resorts that they have been investigating. 

They wouldn't give us anymore detail on that.  But they did say that this incident that we described to them, and that they have been investigating is not isolated.  So it wouldn't necessarily be surprising if these refueling stops at places outside of U.S. military bases where, of course, the fuel is actually cheaper, were happening with more frequency. 

MADDOW:  And in this case, potentially propping up an airport that might otherwise close which would be a devastating economic -- which would have a devastating economic impact on the president's nearby property.  I mean, it just -- it rings like a bell. 

Let me ask you one last piece of this, Natasha.  One of the seemingly serious things to me is that according to your sources, the U.S. military is not cooperating with the oversight committees as they have been trying to investigate this.  They haven't been able to obtain material.  They haven't been able to get documents, the Pentagon is not commenting on any of this. 

In your story, you say that the committee is considering alternative steps in terms of getting material from the military on this if the Pentagon continues not cooperating.  Do you know what that means?  Is that a subpoena threat or do we know what else the committee is going to try to do to investigate this? 

BERTRAND:  We have asked for more information about that.  Our read on that was that it was going to be a subpoena and that it could come as soon as next week, the end of next week.  So, we're waiting to see. 

But they did send this letter back in June, when then Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan was still there, and they never got a response and they still a month later, haven't gotten documents from the Pentagon explaining what is going on.

MADDOW:  Natasha Bertrand, national security correspondent for, with just this incredible scoop tonight, along with coauthor Brian Bender, the headline: Air Force crew made an odd stop on a routine trip, Trump's Scottish resort.  It's remarkable reporting.

Thanks for hustling to the studio to help us understand. 

BERTRAND:  Thank you so much, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  It is just incredible. 

In terms of thinking about the geography -- so, you know, Glasgow, obviously, one of the major cities in Scotland, there is a main Glasgow airport which is right next to the city of Glasgow, this other airport that we're talking about is called Glasgow Prestwick airport, and they put in Glasgow in it, it's actually like 30 miles outside town.  It's easy to understand why that airport, which is sort of on the coast away from everything and, certainly away from the center of Glasgow might be in economic distress, and it has been in economic distress for years. 

The idea that under Trump, the U.S. military is flying into that little out of the way airport, that is basically otherwise going to close, and spending $11 million in fuel there at that airport to prop it up because that's the airport that services his golf course -- I mean, honestly if this were fiction, you would walk out -- you would walk out because this is too blunt.  Just incredible. 

We'll be right back. 


MADDOW:  So is out, you can see my marked up version of it.  This is what happens to news articles when they come out, and I can't believe them.  What? out with this jaw-dropping scoop tonight about a previously undisclosed congressional investigation into the U.S. military apparently diverting C17 cargo flights to stop at President Trump's golf course in Scotland, literally to have U.S. airmen stay at his golf resort so that revenue from that goes to President Trump, but also having the C17s fuel up at commercial rates at a struggling nearby airport that Trump needs to stay open if he's going to keep that golf course open. 

These flights, these routine flights from Elmendorf air base in Alaska back and forth to Kuwait, these supply trips, they always previously refueled at U.S. military bases, which makes sense, they are military flights.  But now, apparently, Congress is investigating the fact that in the Trump era, they have been refueling at Trump's struggling Scottish golf course, stopping there in both directions to and from Kuwait.  Just astonishing. 

So this is our life now, right?  We get this stream of stories every day now, some more astonishing than others, about the president using his office for his own personal gain.  Using it to line his profits, using it to prop up some of the worst-performing parts of his business empire. 

Here's another story along the same lines, it's the sort of darker it ration of it.  It is one thing to use the powers of the presidency to direct money into your property.  It is even a darker plot to use the powers of the presidency like this.  This is a story that was broken, interestingly, today on the editorial page of "Washington Post."

Last night on this program, we talked with California Congressman John Garamendi about how the Trump administration is raiding U.S. military funds and defunding a whole bunch of projects for U.S. troops and for the U.S. armed forces to instead divert that money to build his border wall, and that poses all sorts of problems for the president, right?  I mean, politically it's a problem in terms of his self-proclaimed support for the military as he takes their funds. 

It is going to cause him political problems and serious discontent and complaint all around the country where military projects that were promised, including things like elementary schools and daycare centers for the kids of U.S. troops, those things have been promised to U.S. troops and their families.  They have been funded by Congress.  They have been approved and they're ready to go.  Trump is now taking them away because he's taking that money for his own purposes.  That's going to be trouble for him. 

The plan is also going to cause the president some legal trouble which is a lot of what we talked to Congressman Garamendi about last night.  But there's also a specific problem, a specific plot in the way that money -- that Trump is raiding money from the U.S. military overseas.  A strikingly large portion of the overseas stuff that Trump is defunding in order to build the wall instead are projects that come under the heading of something called the European Deterrence Initiative or the European Reassurance Initiative. 

It's the same program, it's had those two different names.  This is something that was set up by the U.S. government to help our NATO allies that are being threatened by Russia.  It was set up basically as push back against Russian pressure on our NATO allies after Russia invaded Ukraine and took part of the country and started a war in the eastern part of that country. 

I mean, that program to pushback on Russia, that's the stuff that Trump is rescinding funding for overseas.  And that, of course, is a great gift to Russia and it's a very hard thing, I assume for the Trump administration to defend which is why they're doing it without saying that's what they're doing. 

One of the things we talked about last night is that that specifically targeted military funding that Trump is taking away, that supposed bulwark against Russia that Trump is taking away, that is one of four things that the U.S. government did to try to push back on Russia after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, took power to that country for itself and started a war there.  The U.S. set up this European initiative, the European Reassurance Initiative which Trump is defunding. 

Also, in addition to that, the U.S. took the lead in kicking Putin and Russia out of the G8, so the Group of 8 countries would instead become the Group of 7 countries because Russia was kicked out over what they did to Ukraine.  Both of those things, the European Reassurance Initiative and kicking Trump out -- excuse me, kicking Putin out of the G8, Trump is trying to undo both of those things, right?

In addition, third thing the U.S. did, the U.S. led the Western World in instituting harsh sanctions against Russia, and we know the Trump administration and the Trump transition all the way back to the Trump campaign, they have been scheming quite aggressively to try to undermine or even unilaterally reverse those sanctions. 

So, you look at all the things the U.S. government did to try to push Russia back after it invaded this neighboring country, Ukraine, Trump has tried to undo them all.  He's right now trying to undo funding for military projects in Europe.  He is trying to undo Putin getting kicked out of the G7, he has long been trying to undo the sanctions against Putin and Russia.

And there's one other thing.  There's a fourth thing that the U.S. did in response to Putin invading Ukraine and taking part of that country for itself.  I mentioned it last night.  We didn't talk about it in detail. 

The fourth, one of those things that the U.S. government did, that Trump is now apparently trying to undo, is that after Russia invaded Ukraine and took part of the country and started waging this ongoing war there, this ongoing occupation effort in another part of Ukraine, the fourth thing the U.S. government did in response to that, in addition to sanctions, the G7, and the European military projects, the other thing we did was the U.S. government started giving a whole bunch of assistance to Ukraine, aid to Ukraine to help them push back against Russia.

And I mentioned last night that President Trump is also trying to take that away.  He has put on hold U.S. assistance, including military assistance to Ukraine this year.  He said that that funding, that assistance to Ukraine has to be reviewed. 

Well, the Pentagon apparently reviewed it and decided it's fine, it checks out, we should give them that money.  But Trump still won't release it against the Pentagon's wishes.  If he doesn't release by the end of the month, it goes away.  Ukraine won't get it at all. 

Well, now, tonight, what "The Washington Post" is reporting is that aid to Ukraine that's being held by the Trump administration, it's not just being withheld by Trump as a favor to Putin, which it is, but according to "The Washington Post" tonight, Trump is also holding back those hundreds of millions of dollars for Ukraine for another very specific purpose. 

Quote: Mr. Trump has suspended the delivery of $250 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine, a country still fighting Russian aggression in its eastern provinces, some suspect Mr. Trump is once again catering to Mr. Putin who is dedicated to undermining Ukrainian democracy and exception.  But, says "The Washington Post," but we are reliably told that the president has a second and more venal agenda.  He is attempting to force the new leader of Ukraine to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. 

What?  Mr. Trump is not just soliciting Ukraine's help with his presidential campaign, he is using U.S. military aid that country desperately needs in an attempt to extort it. 

The news tonight is bananas.  I mean, we have known that President Trump is holding up the aid to Ukraine.  We have known that is dodgy, right, given how much of a favor that is to Vladimir Putin and Russia, and given that the president is contradicting the Pentagon in insisting holding back the money, given that the Trump administration hasn't said anything about the fact they are doing this, they just hope no one will notice.  It's been obvious that something dodgy and worrying is going on here. 

But if "The Washington Post" is right that Ukraine is not getting its military aid unless they do something to try to hurt Joe Biden's presidential campaign, they're trying to get Ukraine help Trump beat Joe Biden, his expected rival for the 2020 presidential campaign.  They want Ukraine's help with that.  They want Ukraine to cook something up against Biden or they don't get their money. 

I mean, if that's really what's going on here, I honestly am going to walk out of this movie.  And although this is being newly asserted by "The Washington Post" editorial board, there's actually a whole lot of reporting that bolsters every part of this case, and we've got more on that including some expert help to try to figure it out coming. 

Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Joining us now live is Jeremy Bash.  He is the former chief of staff at the CIA and at the Department of Defense under President Obama. 

Mr. Bash, thank you very much for joining us on a Friday night.  There's a whole bunch of breaking news stories I'd like your help with tonight. 


MADDOW:  First, I have to ask you, as a former senior Pentagon staffer, I want to ask you about this breaking news from "Politico" tonight.  It is -- I think the technical term is bonkers, this bonkers story about an Air National Guard crew taking what were routine supply flights between their base, Elmendorf, in Alaska and Kuwait, but instead of stopping to refuel at a military base as they always had before, they apparently have been making stops at Donald Trump's golf resort in Scotland and refueling at the commercial airport there. 

Is this something that just sounds crazy but kind of happens?  Is this a normal thing? 

BASH:  No, not at all, Rachel.  This is totally unheard of.  I mean, the reason we have these military installations in Western Europe, in Ramstein in Germany, as you referenced, in Rota, Spain, in Sigonella, Italy, in the U.K. as you referenced, is precisely so that there will be a logistics hub for military operations in Europe, in the European theater, in North Africa and in the Middle East, in the CentCom area. 

So, whenever we're flying aircraft all the way over to Kuwait, or to support our troops operating in the Gulf, for example, we stop routinely in those Western European military bases.  There's absolutely no reason to stop at a Trump Hotel or an airport, a struggling airport near a Trump hotel. 

And I have to say, Rachel, I find this highly unusual because in the Pentagon, you can't go 30 feet without an ethics lawyer following you.  Everything is written down.  Everything is by regulation. 

The military is actually a highly regimented, highly ethical culture.  And so, clearly, there was a directive from elsewhere, outside of the Pentagon, outside of the chain of command to do this. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the military's silence on this, obviously, they're not commenting on this.  "Politico" has a legitimate scoop with this, the fact that Congress was looking into it was previously unreported, in addition to the incident or incidents themselves being previously unreported.  But I will admit to being sort of troubled by what "Politico" is reporting tonight about the Pentagon not cooperating with the congressional investigation into this, refusing to hand over any documents or information about this incident that the Congress is investigating. 

That to me is almost more worrying, not just that they would follow the order to do it, but then when it was being looked into, they would stone wall.  That also seems a little bit nuts to me. 

BASH:  Yes, highly concerning, and I actually think it won't stand.  Congress, the Armed Services Committees, the Appropriations Committees, and Oversight Committees, have numerous levels over the Pentagon.  There are nominations pending for two of the key services in the Pentagon.  There are obviously key personnel jobs to fill that the Senate has to review and confirm.  And, of course, there are the annual authorization and appropriation bills. 

Congress has a lot of leverage here, and I expect they will get to the bottom of this. 

MADDOW:  Jeremy, let me also ask you about a story that is being advanced interestingly on the editorial page of the "Washington Post."  We have been following this strange story first broken by "Politico", important follow up from CNN.  There's been some interesting reporting, and interesting concern about it in Congress ever since.  That Trump is insisting on holding up a bunch of military aid to Ukraine, military aid that's essentially supposed to bolster Ukraine's ability to stand up for itself against Russia. 

But "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight is that they believe this military aid is being held up basically to try to force Ukraine to cook up some sort of negative story about Joe Biden that they can use in a presidential election campaign against Joe Biden.  It's very hard to believe that that might be happening at the highest levels, but I have to ask your reaction. 

BASH:  Yes, the warning signs for interference in 2020 are blinking red.  And here we have the White House, which, of course, requested support in the 2016 election from the Russian Federation, they received that support.  They benefitted that support, they welcomed that support, and they rewarded that support. 

Now what they're doing actually is using the apparatus of the U.S. government.  They're using taxpayer money.  They're taking taxpayer money and holding it over the head of a vulnerable European country, Ukraine, which is, of course, in a war with Russia and saying, we won't come to your defense.  Despite the fact that our Congress has approved in funding on a bipartisan basis, we won't give it to you for your defense unless you actually help Trump's reelection effort. 

It is absolutely astonishing and the crazy way they're doing it is by saying they're going to ask that Ukrainians to cook up a bogus investigation of Joe Biden.  Again, I didn't think 2016 could get worse, but this is significantly worse, Rachel, because it's using taxpayer money to commit the fraud and the illegal election interference. 

MADDOW:  Jeremy, briefly, would you expect that there are people in the national security apparatus that could whistle-blow on something like this if this is the decision tree, that they are holding this stuff back from Ukraine, literally disadvantaging Ukraine in a war in order to try to get something for Trump to use in his campaign?  Are there people along the chain in the national security and diplomatic corps who would be able to whistle-blow on this if this were happening? 

BASH:  There ought to be, Rachel.  I mean, the ostensible go between here was Rudy Giuliani and according to the reporting, Giuliani checked in with individuals at the State Department.  So I expect to hear from individuals at the State Department, including career professionals who are knowledgeable about the way the White House is using this funding as leverage over Ukraine. 

MADDOW:  Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff of the CIA, also at the Pentagon -- Jeremy, thank you.  Really appreciate you being here. 

BASH:  Thanks. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Like I told you, the news tonight is nuts. 

Stay with us.  We'll be right back. 


MADDOW:  This enormous white cloud on your screen here is Hurricane Dorian as seen from space this hour.  It stretches from North Carolina, ultimately up to Nova Scotia.  Hurricane force winds, heavy rain. 

This is Ocracoke Island in North Carolina's outer banks.  These boats are racing through what are -- look like canals.  They're streets. 

Residents reported seeing a wall of water, houses shaking as the hurricane and storm surge came through in Ocracoke.  There is a real concern for hundreds of people trapped and needing help on that island.  The Coast Guard and local law enforcement have been air lifting people out, prioritizing the sick and the elderly. 

Dorian hit the outer banks including Ocracoke Island as a category 1 storm.  It, of course, hit the Bahamas as a category 5.  And in the Bahamas, the death toll just keeps going up. 

While we've been on the air tonight, the death toll jumped from 30 up to 43.  Officials expect it to go up even more and soon as responders make their way through the wreckage and go door to door.  There are reports of hospitals overwhelmed by the sheer volume of injured patients. 

Today, the Trump administration formally requested that the Pentagon provide air lift and logistics but the flooding is slowing everything down.  We're seeing a real logjam of people, at ports hundreds of people lining up overnight in the hopes of finding some way to get off the island. 

We're going to talk with somebody who has been on the ground in some of the hardest hit areas here next. 

Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  The office of the prime minister of the Bahamas has just told us within the past hour that the death toll from Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas is now up to 43.  It was 30 as of last night.  Rescues continue and searches and now there is a large scale effort to try to get people out of the areas just destroyed by the storm, including the very hard hit Abaco Island. 

Joining us now is Jared Higgs, a reporter for the "Nassau Guardian" in the Bahamas. 

Mr. Higgs, thank you very much for making time to talk to us.  I appreciate your time.

JARED HIGGS, REPORTER, NASSAU GUARDIAN (via telephone):  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  I know that you've seen some of the destruction particularly in Abaco Island first hand.  Can you walk us through what you've seen? 

HIGGS:  It is absolutely devastating scenes.  The only thing we know to compare it to and I've never visited a war zone but I imagine it must be something similar. 

People are -- the literal definition of desperate.  They are desperate to leave the island, desperate for water, desperate for something even as simple as using the bathroom.  It is such a terrible situation in Marsh Harbour. 

Thousands of people displaced.  You know, it's heartbreaking.  As a matter of fact, just now you announced 43 as the most recent death toll.  That is the first I'm hearing it. 

So, you know, again, it breaks my heart every time I hear the death toll increase. 

MADDOW:  In terms of trying to get people off of Abaco, trying to get people out of places that have just been destroyed where there are not conditions for people to live for any amount of time, what have you been seeing in terms of the evacuation effort and where people are being brought to? 

HIGGS:  People are being brought to New Providence and being housed at gymnasiums and community centers.  I've also recently learned that they are being taken to other islands.  I mean, I'm just on New Providence, Nassau, Bahamas, this is the capital.  This is where a lot of our infrastructure is. 

But evacuees are also being taken to other, less populated islands that have less infrastructure just because, I mean, there are so many -- Abaco is the island with probably the third highest population in the Bahamas.  And so, with such a massive demand for evacuations, New Providence can't meet that. 

MADDOW:  What about hospitals?  We are seeing reports about hospitals being overwhelmed.  What do you know about that? 

HIGGS:  I haven't heard much about -- let me say this.  I can't speak specifically to that.  I know I visited the morgue in Marsh Harbour, Abaco.  They have a large trailer, a container, large container outside that is supposed to be used to store bodies and, again, the morgue in Abaco -- it's such an overwhelming situation.  There are so many bodies out in the migrant villages in Abaco to collect. 

MADDOW:  Jared, in terms of what you imagine happening next we have been reporting on the resources we can see mobilized -- the Coast Guard resources, the naval resources, the air lifts we're able to describe.  On the ground there, does it feel like the international effort is scaling up, that the resources are at some point going to approach the need? 

HIGGS:  I believe so.  I'll also make a note that, you know, there are the resources, the aid, such as food, water.  But then there's also the search and rescue teams that have come in from the United States, search and rescue teams from different cities in the U.S., and, of course, the British have sent their military personnel over, too, because there are still people in communities in Abaco, not just Marsh Harbour, who are still trapped, who still need people to come in and save them.  There is so much work to do. 

This isn't just Abaco.  This is also in Grand Bahama, which is another island where many people are still trapped and there are still search and rescue missions ongoing at this time. 

MADDOW:  Jared Higgs, reporter for "The Nassau Guardian" in the Bahamas, I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us.  Such a dire situation.  Thank you for your time tonight. 

HIGGS:  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Just again, a remarkable situation there.  I want to reiterate the news we've just received within the past hour from the office of the prime minister in the Bahamas.  As of this time last night, we had the very sad news that there was a rise in the death toll to 30, as of this time last night.  We are just hearing within the last few minutes the death toll in the Bahamas has risen to 43. 

The rescue efforts there continue.  People still do need rescuing and evacuating and the resources that are going to need to be devoted there not just in the long term in terms of rebuilding but in terms of right now getting people out of what are still desperate situations.  It's pretty overwhelming story. 

That's going to do it for us tonight.  We will see you again on Monday. 

Now, it's time for "THE LAST WORD" where Joy Reid is sitting in for Lawrence O'Donnell tonight.

Good evening, Joy. 


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