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Millions of young people urge action. TRANSCRIPT: 9/20/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Millions of young people urge action. TRANSCRIPT: 9/20/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now with Joy Reid, in for Rachel. 

Good evening, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST:  Chris, I don`t know you can hear me with all those applause behind you, but that was cool.  That was a cool show. 

HAYES:  Thank you. 

REID:  Thank you for doing that. 

HAYES:  I learned a lot from it.  Thank you very much. 

REID:  I texted my kids about it because this is their issue, climate.  So, thank you very much.  Appreciate you.

HAYES:  You bet.

REID:  All right.  Thank you. 

And thanks to all of you at home for joining us this hour. 

If you follow the news in the current political era, then you know by now that every day is like a kind of a treadmill of breaking stories that just continues to accelerate in speed throughout the day.  And by this time every evening, we`re more or less sprinting just to keep up.  It`s like -- it`s like a stress test that`s out of control, like, doc, please turn it off, now. 

And today is no different.  Just in the last few hours, we`ve gotten brand new, frankly astonishing reporting about a phone call between the president of the United States, Donald Trump, and the president of Ukraine.  A phone call that is reportedly at the center of a whistleblower complaint filed by a member of the Intelligence Community. 

This all started a week ago when the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, revealed that the inspector general for the intelligence community had received some kind of a whistleblower complaint.  An inspector general had deemed the complaint both credible and urgent.  But apparently, Donald Trump`s director of national intelligence was refusing to share it with Congress as required by law, something Congressman Schiff said had never ever happened before. 

It was a couple of days ago that we got the first inkling of why the Trump administration might be trying to keep the whistleblower complaint from Congress. 

"The Washington Post" was the first to report that the complaint concerned Trump`s communications with a foreign leader, including, quote, a promise that was regarded as something so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file the complaint.  Yesterday, it was reported that the complaint had something to do with Trump and Ukraine. 

The intersection of Donald Trump and Ukraine raises a whole bunch of troubling implications what we`ll get to a little later in the show.

But most immediately, people`s attention turned to a phone call Trump had with the president of the Ukraine a couple of weeks before the whistleblower complaint was filed. 

Quote: That call is already under investigation by House Democrats who are examining whether or not Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, sought to manipulate the Ukrainian government into helping Trump`s reelection campaign by digging up dirt on Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden, all while Trump was holding up $250 million in military aide to Ukraine. 

After that news broke last night, Rudy Giuliani made a -- shall we say -- colorful appearance on CNN.  He denied asking Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden, then like thirty seconds later. he admitted that he did.  Giuliani claimed that if Trump himself had pressured Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, that would have been totally fine, or certainly no worse than terrible things that Joe Biden has done anyway, right?  It`s all just a giant deep state media conspiracy.

But, today, Giuliani had apparently recovered enough from his shouting session with a coffee date with one of the Ukrainian businessmen who has been helping him dig for dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine.  "Reuter" spotted them, where else, at the Trump Hotel in Washington.

Anyway, sure enough, the scenario so heavily, heavily foreshadowed by Giuliani last night begin breaking across one news outlet after another after another today.  "The Wall Street Journal" had the first report.  Quote: President Trump in a July phone call repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden`s son, urging Ukraine`s leader about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani on a probe that could hamper Mr. Trump`s potential 2020 opponent.

"The Washington Post" then reported that that phone call is indeed at the center of the whistleblower complaint that the Trump administration is now withholding, in violation of the law from Congress.  "The New York Times" quickly matched that reporting bill going only so far as to describe that phone call as part of the whistleblower complaint.

Now, for the record, NBC News has confirmed only that the whistleblower complaint concerns a call that Trump had with a foreign leader.  It`s also important to note that all the reports today from "The Journal", from "The Post" , from "The Times", they all said in that call, the president did not discuss the military aid to Ukraine that was being held up around that time.

So, here`s how "The Times" put it today, quote: Questions have emerged about whether Mr. Trump`s push for inquiry into the Bidens was behind a week`s long White House hold on military aid for Ukraine.  The United States suspended the military aid to Ukraine in early July.  Mr. Trump did not discuss the aid in the July 25 call with the president of Ukraine and Kiev did not learn of the suspension until August, according to people familiar with the call.

And so, yes, as "The Times" says, questions have emerged.  We know the White House held up military aid for Ukraine which was intended by Congress to help Ukraine stand up to Russia.  We now have multiple reports today that the U.S. president pressured Ukraine to investigate a leading political arrival. 

On its own, either one of those two factors would be a huge story about an American president.  The question now, the question reporters are furiously digging into is whether anything connects those two ideas.  Now, that said, whether there is an explicit connection or not, the effect in Ukraine may be the same. 

That`s what Democratic Senator Chris Murphy who met with the Ukrainian president a few weeks ago told NBC`s Andrea Mitchell today.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT):  Giuliani on behalf of the president has been very clear that he`s trying to get the Ukrainians to meddle in the election.  Now, Zelensky told me that he had no intention to do that, but he was also very concerned about why the security aid was being cut off.  And even if there wasn`t this explicit promise made that if you investigate Biden, we`ll give you your aid, that certainly was the impression amongst many in Ukraine, who couldn`t help but connect these demands they were getting from the president`s political representatives to investigate his opponents and the sudden, surprising cut off of security aid.


REID:  That scenario is scary and repugnant on its own terms, no matter who the president is and no matter which foreign country he`s allegedly putting the screws on.

But Ukraine is not just any country.  It is at the center of the political and geographical events that have defined the Trump presidency -- the events that gave this presidency in the first place, really.  And it feels like we can`t understand the full potential scope of this story without acknowledging the context here.

So, go back for a moment to 2014.  Ukraine was in chaos.  Protests designed to force out Ukraine`s Russia-friendly autocratic leader, Viktor Yanukovych, who had gotten elected in the first place with the help of one Paul Manafort, and perhaps with a bit of shady dealing.  Those protests turned into a full-on revolution. 

Yanukovych who happened to be quite the autocrat and who was pushing the country closer to Russia and further from NATO was forced to flee the country into the safety of Vladimir Putin`s arms.  Yanukovych`s ouster freaked Russia out so much, Putin decided to actually invade Ukraine.

Ukraine is the largest country in Europe after Russia.  It has more than a thousand mile border with Russia and it sits right between Russia and Western Europe.  And right after protesters tossed out their Putin-allied president, Putin seized part of Ukraine.  He seized Crimea on the Black Sea. 

It was the first time since World War II that the borders of a country in Europe were changed by outside military force.  In response to Russia invading and seizing Crimea and waging a low-grade war in Eastern Ukraine ever since, Western nations led by the United States under President Barack Obama took steps to punish Russia.  There were strict new sanctions against the Russian oil and gas industry, for example, that really hurt the country`s fragile economy eventually scuttling what would have been a very, very lucrative deal with ExxonMobil, Trump`s first Secretary of State Rex Tillerson`s old company. 

The G8 countries decided that they would become the G7 instead, kicking Russia and Putin out.  The U.S. Congress passed a military aid package for Ukraine to help them resist Russian military aggression.  All of that happened after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 under President Obama.

And Vladimir Putin really, really, really wanted those sanctions lifted.  They were really painful, really hurting him politically at home, which is a problem because even if you prevent anyone else from actually running against you, you can still only hold on to power for so long if your economy is in the tank and your people blame you for it.

Now, one of the things that we learn from open source reporting and then from the Mueller report is that just about every notable contact that the Russians made with the Trump campaign and the Trump transition was about sanctions.  The Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and the Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer, that was about sanctions.  National security advisor Mike Flynn`s phone calls with the Russian ambassador which he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about, those were about sanctions.  A secret so-called Ukrainian peace plan cooked up by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and his partner in planning Trump Tower in Moscow -- in planning Trump Tower Moscow, a guy named Felix Sater, which they reportedly hand- delivered to Michael Flynn at the White House, that peace plan was also basically just a plan to lift sanctions on Russia.

The mysterious meeting that happened between Erik Prince and the head of a Russian sovereign wealth fund in the Seychelles islands during the transition, that was a meeting about Russian sanctions.  Mike Flynn`s cockamamie plan that he tried to push through the White House to try to build nuclear power plants all over the Mideast, it was also a plan -- wait for it -- to get rid of sanctions.  Oh, who should pop up again the Paul Manafort now running Donald Trump`s campaign after a year`s long career working for the Ukrainian political party that wanted to bring Ukraine closer to Russia? 

And bringing Ukraine closer to Russia is the key here.  It is the flip side of the sanctions coin.  The sanctions on Russia are about Ukraine.  If Ukraine stops fighting with Russia or if the United States decides that it no longer cares if Russia invaded Ukraine, well, that is the path that leads to the sanctions being dropped.

Now, just generally, America`s posture toward Ukraine is all about Russia and Putin -- a strong, independent, well-supported, well-funded Ukrainian is a good partner in standing up to Putin.  A Ukraine that does not have good relations with the United States is what Putin would prefer. 

And all of that, that is the necessary context for understanding what it means that this whistleblower complaint scandal that has engulfed the White House may center on Trump`s communications with Ukraine, because this pressure that Donald Trump is reportedly putting on Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political rivals, it comes at the same time that he has appeared to be trying to reverse all of the measures that the United States took starting in 2014 to punish Russia for invading Ukraine. 

We have seen Trump repeatedly and insistently argue that Russia should be let back into the G7, even though the reason they were kicked out in the first place was Ukraine, and what Russia`s doing to Ukraine hasn`t changed at all.  We saw Trump block the delivery of that military aid that`s meant to help Russia to stand up to Russia, and only release the aid under bipartisan congressional pressure. 

We`ve also seen Trump cut funding for projects to shore up European defenses against Russia, an initiative that started by the Obama administration after the Crimea invasion.  Trump is using that money for his border wall instead.

Now, to the extent that Vladimir Putin wants things from Donald Trump, those things almost all in some way or another connect to Ukraine -- dropping sanctions, getting back into the G8, blocking money or weapons going to support Ukraine and its fight against Russia.  And so, yes, the whistleblower complaint in the intelligence community, the Trump -- Trump trying to get a foreign leader to do his domestic policy dirty work for him that is upsetting on its own terms. 

But it can`t be separated from the foundational scandal of this presidency, Donald Trump`s relationship to Russia.

Joining us now is Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Obama.

And, Mr. Ambassador, always great to talk with you.


REID:  So can we just go back because this Ukraine part like people think a lot about Russia and Donald Trump seeming fealty to or a strange relationship with Russia, but can you talk a little bit about Russia`s sort of obsession with undoing what President Obama did with Europe together to sanction them for invading Crimea?

MCFAUL:  Well, I thought you just did an excellent job.  That was a great contextual -- big paragraphs to put this in a bigger context, and I think it`s really important to understand that. 

Absolutely, the things that President Obama and Angela Merkel and our allies did are things that Vladimir Putin`s been trying to roll back ever since it happened.  So it`s sanctions, a support for NATO, and support for Ukraine.   Those are the three. 

We know that they`ve been trying to lift sanctions through various ways, it`s part of the reasons that he supported candidate Trump in 2016.  We know that they want to push back on that assistance to NATO, and you rightly pointed out that President Trump himself has now done that. 

And then this third piece of support for Ukraine -- and I want to say I was one of the people that gave credit to the Trump administration for not only sustaining a military support for Ukraine, but they even went further than our administration, the administration I worked in.  They provided lethal assistance and I gave them credit for that.  And so, that`s why this is such an ironic tragic twist that the one thing that I think President Trump did right vis-a-vis Russia, he is now using to trade for something for his personal gain.

But the bigger context is important.  All of these things are designed to punish and deter Russia, and on every single front, President Trump has been pulling back.

REID:  And can you draw a line?  I mean, I still recall that during the campaign, during the convention in Cleveland, the one change that was made to the Republican platform, we didn`t even add, that is where -- that was also about Ukraine, right?  And pulling back on the United States commitment to defend Ukraine. 

You add that to Donald Trump`s seeming disdain and distaste for you mentioned Angela Merkel and the other members of NATO, is this all one big Rubik`s cube that all you know fits together in some way in your view?

MCFAUL:  Yes, yes, I`m glad you brought that up because I allegedly Paul Manafort was behind that change.  It was then that they take out giving lethal assistance to Ukraine.  The policy that overrode the president.  I want to point that out, that his policy team back in the very beginning, they said, no, we got to go forward with this.  But there has been a tension from the very beginning between President Trump and his national security team with respect to Ukraine and with respect to Russia.

So, here, I see the president using one of those things as a chip to try to help him for something very personal and this is not -- I want to underscore -- not in America`s national interest to have the president of the United States to be trading things for his own personal gain.

REID:  And tell us a little bit about it.  We know other than the fact that he`s a former stand-up comedian, this new leader in Ukraine, which way does he fall on this meter of being closer at trying to cleave closer to Russia or trying to cleave closer to Europe.  I mean, how much leverage other than the money that was being held back for so long could Donald Trump have to actually get him if he were amenable to interfere in the election and hurt one of Donald Trump`s opponents?

MCFAUL:  Well, without question, President Zelensky leans towards Europe, leans towards democracy, leans towards free markets.  By the way, the things that Republicans used to always also support, that is another paradox here.  He also has a brand new parliament that was just elected. 

And this is a moment, a pivotal moment in Ukrainian history where they actually might breakthrough to move this way.  And that`s why when the president of the United States, instead of embracing that, instead of saying we support you a hundred percent, we support your sovereignty, says instead I want to do this little trade with you.

By the way, the little kinds of trades that we`ve been telling the Ukrainians to stop doing for years if not decades, it sends a very bad signal and even if it the military assistance was not directly connected as a quid pro quo to investigate the vice president`s son, remember, the United States is the biggest most important country in the free world and that in and of itself creates leverage vis-a-vis President Zelensky.  He can`t just dismiss a request from the president of the United States.

And I just think it`s a terrible tragedy for American national interest leaving out the legality and criminality I`ll leave that to people are more expert than I but this is not the way to conduct U.S. foreign policy.

REID:  Former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul -- I can`t think of anybody I would prefer to talk to about this to talk about this topic.  Thank you so much.  I really appreciate your time tonight.

MCFAUL:  Sure.  Thanks for having me.

REID:  Thank you.

More on this next, including what all the intrigue means for the whistleblower who came forward.  Stay right there.


REID:  If you had any doubt how high the stakes are for the whistleblower who sounded the alarm over the president and reportedly his dealings with Ukraine -- well, last night, right here, Rachel put a super fine, frankly chilling point on it.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS":  Somewhere out there right now in America is a whistleblower from the intelligence community who has gone through channels and done things by the book and sought whistleblower protection under law to alert Congress in good faith about a serious and urgent matter that reportedly involves the president, his communications with foreign leaders, some sort of promised that he has made to foreign leaders and potentially some shenanigans involve in the nation of Ukraine.  Bit by bit, the substance of the complaint seems to be coming to the surface, while hour-by-hour, the Trump administration appears to be fixing its crosshairs on the whistleblower.


REID:  Now, we still do not know anything about the identity of the whistleblower in this case.  But we do know that retaliation is a real concern for whistleblowers.  The Intelligence Committee Whistleblower Protection Act is supposed to protect them from that.  And the acting director of national intelligence had his general counsel point out how seriously they take the obligation to protect lawful whistleblowers from retaliation, promising that the intelligence chief, quote, will not permit the complainant to be subject to any retaliation or adverse consequence.

So, basically, hey, trust us.  Nothing will happen to the whistleblower.  Everything is fine, which the intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson basically said, yes, but hey trust us is not the usual way this goes.  The I.G. saying, quote: such personal assurance is not the legally enforceable statutory protection previously available to whistleblowers in the complaints situation.

Now, reportedly, the White House was consulted.  The White House was consulted on how to handle this whistleblower complaint, which is about the highest ranking executive in the White House. 

The president today said that even though he pinky swears, he doesn`t know the whistleblower is.  He, quote, hears that it`s a, quote, highly partisan person.  So, how much jeopardy is this whistleblower taking on?  Can another branch of government like Congress offer any protection?  And in terms of the president reportedly leaning on Ukraine to investigate a political rival, does anything stand in his way?

Joining us now is Matt Miller, former Justice Department spokesperson.

And, Matt, great to have you with us tonight.


MADDOW:  So that is the question.  As I`ve been watching Adam Schiff on RACHEL MADDOW SHOW and talking about it with other reporters, that`s the question I keep having, is can`t Congress protect this person?  There is a law in place that is supposed to protect them, but that is not being followed right now, the law that supposed to take this complaints during straight to Congress.

So is there anyone in your view that actually can protect this person?

MILLER:  No, not really.  I mean, look, if the president decides to retaliate against this whistleblower, it`s very tough for Congress to do anything.  Now, look, you can`t just fire someone without cause in the federal government, in the civil service, and presumably, this is a civil service member, although I suppose it could be a political appointee.  So, you know, the intelligence agency for whom this person works would have to have some reason to fire someone. 

But that`s not the only way in which a whistleblower can be retaliated.  They can be investigated.  They can be demoted.  They can be denied promotions.  They can see their job prospects dry up. 

So, I think when you have the president attacked the whistleblower publicly the way he did today with his attack that the whistleblower is highly partisan, it sends a signal throughout the bureaucracy of what he thinks about this person.  And you don`t have to look far into -- too far into the past to see how the bureaucracy has behaved when the president has attacked a member inside. 

Look at the Justice Department, where he attacked, you know, Andy McCabe and Pete Strzok, and Lisa Page, and all those people are gone from the FBI now.  One of them is potentially going to be prosecuted in the coming weeks.

So, I think if I were the whistleblower, I would be very concerned and I would hope that the DNI would protect me if possible.  I hope that Congress would look out for me.  But ultimately, that`s a very tough thing to ask of them.

REID:  Yes, I seem to remember someone losing their pension over Donald Trump`s displeasure.

Donald Trump did, of course, attack this whistleblower, calling of a highly partisan, et cetera, claim he doesn`t know who the person is.  Also on cue attacked Congressman Adam Schiff. 

Number one, do you have confidence that, you know, first of all, this whole situation should not have been taken to the White House at least that`s the protocol as I understand it, but it was.  Do you trust that no one has given Donald Trump access to information about this whistleblower given up this person`s identity?  And do you quite frankly trust William Barr not to be the instrument of retaliation and prosecute this person if their identity becomes known?

MILLER:  No, I don`t have any confidence in any of those questions or any of those issues being handled appropriately.

Look, the DNI was not supposed to take this to the Justice Department or not supposed to take this to the White House.  Or if he did, he at the end of the day, he should have followed this statute and transmitted the complaint to Congress within the seven days as the statute called for him to do.  He hasn`t done that. 

And I think you have to have real concerns about the fact that according to "The Washington Post", the president`s counsel is involved in this, is looking at.  There`s no reason that the White House counsel should be involved in this.  You have the Justice Department giving forth advice, I think we all know, you know, what Bill Barr`s first orders, first priority, as we`ve seen the way he handled the Mueller investigation.  He`s there to protect the president, first and foremost.  I think that`s what we -- how we should expect him to handle this.

You know, look, if everything were being handled by the normal -- you know, the way things were normally handled, then you wouldn`t have these concerns.  But when you start to see the process messed up, when you see the process not being followed the way it`s supposed to be and the way it`s always been followed in the past, then you have to look at the people involved. 

And when you look at the people involved in this, they are the same people, Bill Barr and the White House counsel who are obstructing Congress`s investigations in other areas.  So, you see a pattern here where they`ve obstructed Congress and Congress`s investigations over and over about the Mueller report and other reports of misconduct by the president and the you see I`m doing it here, and you stand there`s a good reason why you should have no faith either in -- why they are making the decisions that they are or that ultimately they will prevent any kind of retaliation by the president against the whistleblower.

REID:  And if you -- a couple of tweets I want to point out to you today from yourself.  You said that if Donald Trump was promising U.S. government action in exchange for foreign government targeting a political opponent, that is about as high a crime and misdemeanors you can imagine on the impeachment front.  And you also wrote that he`s telling the world that he will abuse the levers of government in every possible way to get reelected, looking the other way just encourages him to keep at it.

Is it doubly troubling for you that he isn`t being stopped, that he seems to have so undermined or perhaps some might say corrupted the elements of government within the executive branch that no one is willing to stop him and the judicial branch is sort of stalled in a kind of pre-impeachment period?

MILLER:  It`s deeply concerning -- 

REID:  I mean, legislative, sorry.

MILLER:  Yes, it`s deeply concerning.  I think, look, any normal person would look at the experience of the last few years, the Mueller investigation, and the outcome of that, and one takeaway you would have would be, I should not be seeking assistance from a foreign government. 

Donald Trump seems to have taken the opposite lesson.  He`s lesson he took is -- I took -- I took assist -- I sought and received assistance from a foreign government in the last election, I tried to obstruct the investigation into it, and I got away with that.  So why shouldn`t I do it again?

And I think there`s a pattern here.  It`s not -- you know, if you think about the next fourteen months until Donald Trump is up for re-election, you know, we see him trying to you know abuse the levers of government here to benefit his campaign, to help himself get reelected.  But it`s not just here.

Look at the reporting that "The Washington Post" has done over the last month or so about the border wall, where he`s diverted money as we all know from the military to fund the border wall, and then he`s reached down into the process and told people to ignore eminent domain laws and seize land.  He`s told people to ignore the federal contracting rules, and he says, look, if you break the law, I`ll pardon you.

And I think what you see is a pattern of a president who is willing to -- you know, use every lever of government, feels completely unconstrained by rules, by norms and law, and doesn`t think there`s anyone can stop him.  And so for that -- you know, if you think we still have over a year to go to the until the election, it is a very, very dangerous time.

And there`s really no oversight that can fix it. There`s no judicial you know judicial means to stop him.  The only way is through impeachment.

I think this report just puts, you know, it puts the onus really front and center in front of the house of representatives to take those articles up.

MADDOW:  Yes, he`s even said that -- his lawyers even said he can`t be investigated.  There`s a type of government in the world that operates that way.  It`s generally called an autocracy.  It`s generally not what happens in United States.

Matt Miller, former Justice Department spokesperson, thank you very much.  Really appreciate your time.

MILLER:  Thank you.

REID:  Thank you.

And coming up, we are warming up the poof machine because the 2020 Democratic field just got smaller.  That`s next.


REID:  For a lot of Democrats in 2020, there`s been a growing frustration with the party establishment, specifically with the back and forth and seeming reluctance of party leadership to outright back the impeachment of Donald Trump.  And at the same time, there`s a frustration that polls continue to show that the most establishment candidate for the Democratic nomination, former Vice President Joe Biden remains firmly in the lead.

Well, today, those two stories sort of merged.  The leadership in the House has made it clear in so many words that what`s standing between them and impeaching this president are conservative Democrats who won midterm elections in Trump districts who are against impeaching Donald Trump.  And if you can imagine a sale that could be made to those conservative Democrats, something that might actually move them on impeachment, you`d think the obvious pick is national security.

And now, we have a national security story that involves the potential next Democratic nominee, Joe Biden.  "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that a Trump pushed the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden`s son eight times in just one July phone call. 

Meanwhile, Biden is also the source of anxiety among younger Democrats, young black Democrats and progressives across the board who feel that even when there`s nothing to be found in the Trump-Giuliani dumpster-dive for Ukraine-based dirt on the former vice president and his family, Biden just might be the most target-rich environment for Trump in 2020, given his long history in politics.  And that Democrats might not know how to prevent a repeat of 2016, with Biden playing the role of Hillary Clinton and her emails.

Well, all of that unfolded today.  We also got the news that there is one less person in the race for president.  New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio launched his campaign in May, saying then -- saying that he has had trouble getting enough traction to pick up speed in the race.  He did not manage to meet the polling or fundraising threshold to get into the last debate and he was not going to make it into the October debate either, something he acknowledged today when he officially ended his run for president.

Out of the more than 20 candidates who initially threw their hat to the ring, five had already left the race before him.  And today, he became the sixth to go.  So, ready?  You know how we do it here. 

Three, two, one -- poof.  Mayor Bill de Blasio, thanks for playing.

Joining us now is Karine Jean-Pierre, chief public affairs officer at and MSNBC contributor.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Now, you get me started, poof!

REID:  The way that they get me to come in and fill in is both I love Rachel and because I get to do a poof.

JEAN-PIERRE:  Right, it`s so awesome.

REID:  It`s a huge incentive.  It`s like a bonus. 

JEAN-PIERRE:  It really is a bonus.

REID:  It`s like a bonus.

So, let`s talk about both of these two. 

JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, boy.  Yes.

REID:  The first is that the impeachment fight is in a sense at least one - - I don`t know if you get the same feedback, that it`s kind of stalling momentum for Democrats in 2020 because a lot of the base of the party just frustrated that isn`t happening.  But if you just think about Nancy Pelosi, she`s got to count the votes and she just may not have the votes, national security feels like the thing that can maybe get her closer.

JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, I don`t know how any lawmaker regardless of which side of the aisle that you sit in that you don`t look at what happened this week with Donald Trump, clearly, it seems to me as the stories of "Wall Street Journal", "Washington Post", "New York Times" continue to reveal every time where every hour we`re learning something new, that he called the Ukraine president to ask that president to eight times, right, according to "The Wall Street Journal", to please help him investigate or investigate Biden - - 

REID:  Yes.

JEAN-PIERRE:  -- Hunter Biden to help him with his election, right?  Reelection basically a political opponent, and I don`t know how you don`t hear that or look at that, and I think we need to move forward with impeachment, not even impeachment inquiry at this point.  We`re beyond that, impeachment period, impeachment hearings, and that`s where we should be.

But they`re so stuck on procedure and the procedure is not doing a thing if anything.  And I`m being very kind here, they`re muddling the strategy and the message, and it`s just not making sense, and they`re not acting -- and it`s going to be -- it`s infuriating for many people and they heard from their constituency back during the summer recess. 

And so, they are losing the argument and what they`re doing is ineffective, and we also have to put the blame on Republicans because Republicans are silent and they are enabling him. 

Why do you think he continues to do this, Donald Trump?  He continues to do this because that what Democrats are doing oh not effective and Republicans are being silent.

REID:  I mean, you are from a grassroots organization,, one of the oh, gee, really great grassroots organizations.  At some point, would it make sense for Democrats to start turning to the conservative and moderate Democrats who are refusing to move on impeachment and say to them, you`re a national security Democrat, you`re the one who claims that national security is a top thing for you because that`s your sort of right leading positioning, where are you on the president of the United States asking for us a help out from a foreign country?

JEAN-PIERRE:  Right, and I think that`s -- I think that`s what a lot of these candidates in these -- you know, in these red districts that are running for a reelection that might have a problem -- a general election, right, from the other side or these senators and in these are vulnerable Democratic senators that are running, or going after the vulnerable Republicans, like that`s the thing that they`re going to -- if you`re thinking about Colorado and North Carolina and Maine, those are the questions those candidates should be asking I think they are making that contrast. 

Where is the party of patriotism?  Where`s your patriotism?  I thought you cared about national security.

And because they`re being silent, those Republicans, then that means they`re not -- they`re not caring about the things that Republicans care about.  So, I think that`s right.  I think that`s one way to go, but also, it`s like we have to make sure Democrats act.  There`s a reason they were given -- at least in the House, the majority, is to act -- in part is to hold this president accountable, and they`re just not doing that.

REID:  Well, look, on the other part of this, both of us read, and we were talking about and praising this Astead Wesley`s piece in "The New York Times". 


REID:  But that`s the other thing that I hear out in the world, and I don`t know if you do as well, that people are concerned that yes, people like Joe Biden.  He`s one of the most likable sort of candidates on the Democratic side.  But there`s a lot there that could be real or not even real, because, you know, we learned with Senator Clinton -- with Secretary Clinton, it doesn`t matter if it isn`t true.


REID:  As long as Donald Trump can paint his opponent as being just as bad and just as corrupt as him, he levels out with them, he can use that to win again.

JEAN-PIERRE:  So one thing that we are learning very quickly and this is very much a repeat of 2016, is Donald Trump is going to do anything to win, right?  He`s going to not follow the rules.  He`s doesn`t care about the rule of law.  Clearly, he`s calling the president of Ukraine to help him out with his race.

And that`s incredibly dangerous because he`s going to do that with any candidate.  It doesn`t matter if it`s Biden.

REID:  Right.

JEAN-PIERRE:  Whoever is the nominee, this is what Donald Trump is going to do.  He`s going to do what he did in 2016, which was raised the negatives of his opponent.  So it is going to be a gutter, lowest of the lows type of election that Donald Trump is going to run.  So, what Democrats have to figure out is how do we -- like how do they really compete against Donald Trump.  What is it?  Is it the contrast? 

You don`t want to get down in the gutter with him --  

REID:  Right.

JEAN-PIERRE:  But you have to make the contrast and show that this is a president that doesn`t care about our democracy.  Look what he`s doing, he`s abusing his power, he`s obstructing justice, he`s obstructing Congress, and that`s kind of the message that they`re going to have to hammer.

REID:  Yes, we`ll see if they`ve learned anything in 2016, and had a respond back.  We`ll see what happens.

Karine Jean-Pierre, nice talking to you, chief public affair officer of, and MSNBC contributor, thank your time.


REID:  Appreciate it.

And much more ahead, including Trump`s plan to get yet more billions for his border wall.  Hooray.

Stay with us.


REID:  Tonight, the Trump administration says it will soon be sending an undetermined number of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, following cruise missile attacks last week on Saudi oil facilities that the administration has blamed on Iran.  Tonight`s announcement was made at a joint press conference by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Dunford. 


MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  In response to the kingdom`s request, the president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense.  We will also work to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to enhance their ability to defend themselves. 


REID:  As for how many troops will be sent to the region, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called it a moderate deployment.


JOSEPH DUNFORD, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF:  I`ll talk to CentCom over the weekend.  We`ll talk with our Saudi partners, and we`ll work the details of the deployment.  We`ll be able to share that with you next week.

REPORTER:  So, there`s been no decision on specific numbers?

DUNFORD:  We haven`t decided on specific units broadly capable -- as the secretary said, will be capabilities to enhance their air and missile defense.

REPORTER:  And on troop numbers?

DUNFORD:  I would say, at this point, the moderate deployment, Phil.  And we`ll have more details for you next week.  But not ready to share the details.

REPORTER:  But not thousands, thousands would be not moderate? 

DUNFORD:  That`s fair to say, not thousands.


REID:  Not thousands, but some unspecified number of American troops will now be going to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Tonight`s news about troop deployments follows other news that we`ve gotten from the Department of Defense, recently, about the money the Trump administration cut from the Pentagon budget in order to pay for the president`s border wall with Mexico.  Earlier this month, the Trump administration raided $3.6 billion from the Pentagon`s 2019 military construction budget in order to pay for a wall, you know, the one that Mexico was supposed to pay for.

A full half of the $3.6 billion in Pentagon money that the administration has taken to pay for Trump`s wall is being diverted from military projects, ranging from upgrading military training facilities, to improving schools on military bases.  The Pentagon has already warned of the dire consequences of this decision, including the potentially hazardous living conditions for U.S. troops and their families as a result of this reallocated funding.

But now, it turns out the president is not done taking money from the military for his wall, because as "The Washington Post" reports today, Trump officials are considering a plan to divert billions of dollars in additional funds for Trump`s border wall.  According planning documents obtained by "The Washington Post", Trump`s wall will require over $18 billion in funding through 2020, far more than the administration has publicly disclosed.

So, how does the Trump administration plan to make up for this new funding shortfall?

As "The Post" reports, the lawmakers refused to allocate more funding, quote, the administration plans to dip into the Pentagon`s construction budget for the second consecutive year to get another $3.6 billion.  "The Post" reports, this plan was discussed at a White House meeting last week chaired by Trump`s son-in-law Jared Kushner. 

Quote: If the administration carries out the plan, the White House will have defied Congress to divert a total of $7.2 billion of Defense Department funds over two years, money that would otherwise pay to repair or upgrade U.S. military installations. 

The White House is proposing to double the funding cuts to U.S. military bases, both overseas and right here in the U.S.  But, hey, no one supports the military like Donald Trump.

Watch this space.


REID:  In August 2018, Great Thunberg decided she was not going to go to school.  Instead, she was going to sit outside the Swedish parliament and demand action on climate change.  So, Greta hand-painted a sign on a piece of old wood.  It said: school strike for climate, off she went. 

And at first, Greta did not have a lot of support in this endeavor.  Her parents tried to dissuade her.  None of her classmates wanted to join her.  Even members of parliament who passed by and saw her sign said they agreed that her protest had merit but she really should not be playing hooky.

And to be honest, Greta was fairly used to being alone.  She was a painfully introverted fifteen-year-old.  At the time, she says nothing really was happening in my life.  I have always been that girl in the back who doesn`t say anything.  I thought I couldn`t make a difference because I was too small.

Despite feeling that way, Greta kept showing up at the Swedish parliament with her sign.  She showed up every school day for three weeks in order to raise awareness about climate change.

And eventually, she was not alone.  People started joining her.  The movement spread so far and wide, student staged mass demonstrations in Germany, in Switzerland, in Belgium. 

By January of this year, Greta was invited to speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.  She arrived at Davos with her sign and this message.


GRETA THUNBERG, CLIMATE ACTIVIST:  Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope.  But I don`t want your hope.  I don`t want you to be hopeful.  I want you to panic.

I want you to feel the fear I feel everyday, and then I want you to act.  I want you to act as if you would in a crisis.  I want you to act as if the house was on fire, because it is.


REID:  I want you to act as of the house is on fire, because it is. 

That speech is part of what has catapulted Greta Thunberg onto the national stage.  Ahead of the upcoming U.N. Climate Summit being held in New York, Thunberg decided to bring her message to this country.  A few weeks ago, she set sail from Europe on a solar-powered boat, preferring to come here that way in order to lessen her carbon footprint. 

In the last week, she`s joined protests outside of the White House, has testified before Congress and has met with former President Barack Obama. 

It turns out, that was just a warm-up for the main event.  Today, millions of kids and teens in more than 150 countries joined Greta`s call and skipped school to demand action on climate change. 

In Germany, more than 1.4 million took to the streets with 100,000 demonstrating before the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.  Hundreds of thousands marched in Australia, making it one of the largest in that country`s history. 

In Mumbai, children stood in the rain, chanting, oxygen is free because of trees.  In Tanzania, marching bands cleared the way for school kids as they carried signs through the streets.  In Warsaw, in Rio, in Athens, and in L.A., the message was there is no planet B. 

There were protests in tiny islands in the South Pacific, as well as scientific outposts in Antarctica.  In this country, kids took part in protests in all 50 states, including in New York City, where it`s estimated that over a quarter of a million turned up.

Greta Thunberg was right there at the center of it all, the young woman who once thought she was too small to change anything is changing the entire conversation. 

More ahead tonight.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  The western meadow lark is a medium size, stocky kind of bird.  You can recognize it by its bright yellow tummy and a little bib thing that`s going on in a shape of a black "V."  They`re striking not only for their look but also for their sound. 

The Audubon Society described it as a kind of rich, flute-like jumble of gurgling notes, usually descending the scale. 

The western meadow lark, if you`re not familiar with these little fellows, if you`ve never seen one in the wild, well, it might be because a lot of them have gone missing.  Not just like the western, not just the western meadow lark, also the warblers, and the thrushes, and swallows and blackbirds, according to a brand-new study from bird experts this week. 

Three billion birds have essentially disappeared from North America in the last five decades.  Since 1970, the numbers of birds in the United States and Canada has declined by 29 percent, which is a huge problem.  Birds just don`t look pretty and fly, and I know not all of them fly, but the point is they can actually be the lynchpin for the entire ecosystem. 

Common birds control pests.  They pollinate flowers.  They spread seeds, and help forests grow.  When these birds disappear, the habitats they helped build start to fall apart. 

Researchers think the habitat loss and the wider use of pesticides are at least partly to blame for the 3 billion birds that have disappeared from our corner of the globe, because of the scale of this problem, 3 billion birds going poof and not fun MADDOW SHOW election poof, like actual poof. 

Researchers say stopping this apocalyptic decline would take a huge amount of effort.  So, yes, there`s a new thing to worry about.  This is for the birds. 

That does it for us tonight.  I`ll see you here tomorrow, 10:00 a.m. for "A.M. JOY."


Good evening, Lawrence.

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