IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Roger Stone trial set for November 5th. TRANSCRIPT: 9/23/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Elaine Luria

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thanks, my friend, much appreciated. 


MADDOW:  And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Happy to have you with us. 

What a time to be alive, right?  You will always be able to look back at this time in your life and say, you know, I was alive during that presidency.  I remember how crazy it was.

The campaign chairman for the sitting president of the United States is currently in jail.  Specifically, he`s in federal prison serving a seven- plus-year sentence for multiple felony convictions, while he is simultaneously awaiting the start of his state trial on similar charges.  That`s the president`s campaign chairman. 

The president`s deputy campaign chairman today just got happy news from the federal judge overseeing his case.  When she let him know that while he is awaiting his own sentencing on federal felony charges, from here on out after today, he no longer needs explicit permission from that judge every time he wants to leave the jurisdiction in which his case is being handled.  So, in Rick Gates` case, he`s still awaiting sentencing on federal felony charges, but the judge in his case trusts him enough now to let him roam around a little bit more than he used to be allowed, at least leading up to his sentencing.  That counts as a happy day for the president`s campaign alumni association. 

The president`s longtime political adviser is going on trial a little more than a month from now.  Today, we got the exhibits list from prosecutors for his trial.  It`s basically a list of evidence that prosecutors plan to use against him at his trial.  According to this new filing, among the evidence prosecutors plan to present, apparently, includes some sort of chart.  See number 167 there?  Yes, it`s a chart showing the number of written communications between this particular adviser and Trump campaign officials during the 2016 campaign. 

I think from the right-hand column there that list of objections, I think that means that the defense is apparently objecting to prosecutors using this evidence on multiple grounds including it being unduly prejudicial.  But we know, officially, as of today, that prosecutors say they want to use that and more than 150 others things against Roger Stone at trial. 

That trial in which the president`s political adviser is accused of lying to investigators about his contacts with the entity that was posting online, all the Democratic documents that got hacked and stolen by Russian military intelligence, his trial is scheduled now for November. 

Soon thereafter, we are expecting yet another federal sentencing date for the president`s first national security adviser who will be sentenced for lying to investigators about his secret contacts with the Russian government during the transition period between when Trump won the election and when he was sworn in as president. 

The president`s longtime personal lawyer also sits today in federal prison, but there`s a lot of anticipation now that there may also potentially be new state charges brewing related to the president or potentially his business entities that could derive from information provided by the president`s longtime lawyer to state prosecutors in New York.  The reason there is that anticipation, at least discussion of that possibility, is because in quick succession we recently learned that Michael Cohen had met with state prosecutors at the federal prison where he is currently serving his sentence.  The state prosecutors went up to o this Otisville, New York, and met with him in federal prison. 

He reportedly spoke to them on that visit under a proffer agreement which means he was basically seeking lenience for himself in the event that any state charges are brought based on the information that he`s given them.  Soon thereafter, we learn that those state prosecutors have also issued a subpoena for eight years of the president`s tax returns.  That subpoena is currently being litigated in court. 

That`s what led to the novel argument from the president`s legal team last week that not only can the president not be indicted while he`s serving in office, his new legal team claims now that the president can also not be criminally investigated for anything.  No matter what he does.  No matter the alleged or apparent crime, he can`t be investigated.  Let alone prosecuted. 

So, you`re alive right now.  This is one of the things that happened in your lifetime.  Nobody will ever be able to take that away from you.  What a time to be alive, right?  But, I mean, taking that sort of tour around the lazy Susan of the president`s indicted and convicted advisers and campaign aides, there is a piece of this that is coming back around now in the midst of this now-roiling controversy over the president essentially admitting that he and another one of his personal lawyers have been pressuring a foreign government to start an investigation into the front- runner in the Democratic presidential primary with the somewhat obvious hope that such an investigation by a foreign country might dirty up Joe Biden`s reputation enough to either prevent him from getting the Democratic nomination or at least hurt him in the general against Trump if Biden does, in fact, become his party`s nominee. 

Now, this controversy over Trump`s behavior toward Ukraine, enlisting them to help in his re-elect, this controversy has been bumbling for more than a week now, since we first learned about this unnamed whistleblower in the intelligence community who have gone through appropriate channels, who had registered an official whistleblower complaint about the president`s alleged behavior. 

It then later emerged first in the "Washington Post" and other news outlets that it was the president`s behavior specifically related to Ukraine that had spurred that whistleblower to come forward.  Still don`t know who is the whistleblower is, still don`t know the exact nature of the complaint.  A lot of this still has to come out, it likely will, I think, come out, over the next few days. 

But the legal and ethical bottom line here appears to be fairly contested and already quite clear, which is the president, once again, has gone and solicited foreign help for his election effort, right?  That`s the sort of legal and ethical bottom line.  The political bottom line here is even if Republicans decide they don`t care about that, this does appear to be bridging any pre-existing Democratic divisions over the question of whether or not they should pursue impeachment proceedings against Trump.  It is starting to look like if nothing else, Trump is going to get himself impeached in the House for doing this with Ukraine.  We`ll have more on that coming up on the show later tonight. 

But aside from that legal and political -- legal and ethical bottom line, and that really big political bottom line which I think is going to change the way the whole rest of this next year goes, here`s the other thing that I think is worth keeping an eye on and sort of maybe even worth keeping in the center of the frame here, which is the question of why this is happening specifically in Ukraine, right?  There`s lots of countries around the world, including lots of countries who have leadership that is very inclined toward Trump, that likes Trump, or that at least wants to flatter him and do him favors.  Why is this Ukraine?  Why are we back to that country in particular? 

We`ll go back to the president`s campaign chairman, the one who is now in federal prison awaiting word on whether he will also subsequently someday have to do time in state prison.  When Paul Manafort was hired to run the Trump campaign, it was an unusual hire, right?  Paul Manafort was not a totally anonymous figure, but -- I mean, what he was known for wasn`t the kind of thing that would stack you up to be the next presidential campaign chairman. 

I mean, he had been a business partner of Roger Stone, who is the president`s political adviser who`s going on trial on felony charges in November.  He had been implicated in a big criminal fraud scheme involving federal housing funds during the Reagan administration.  That`s one way to be famous.  He was known basically as a gun for hire who would represent the most odious dictators in the world, guys who other hired guns in Washington would be ashamed to be associated with, Paul Manafort was your guy, right? 

So, he did have a reputation, but it was the -- it was not the typical resume for a presidential campaign chairman.  He was a strange choice to come in and run not just a presidential campaign but the presidential campaign for the de facto nominee of the Republican Party, which Trump was basically at the time that Manafort came onboard.  And in part it`s because of his background, in part, it`s also because he hadn`t been working in Washington very much at all for more than a decade at the time that Trump picked him. 

Manafort had been primarily working in Ukraine.  He was the political brains behind a pro-Russia, pro-Putin political party in Ukraine called the Party of Regions.  Paul Manafort famously took the leader of that party who was previously known as a kind of inarticulate, menacing, thuggish guy.  He was an organized crime figure.  His real claim to fame was in chicken smuggling, I kid you not. 

But Paul Manafort gave Viktor Yanukovych an extreme makeover, where he basically donated his own haircut to Viktor Yanukovych and own stylish shiny suits.  He remade this guy in his own image and he built this pro- Putin political party under Yanukovych into the ruling party in the fractious and very corrupt country. 

Now, eventually, Manafort would get kicked off the Trump campaign after "The New York Times" first reported on documents that were discovered in Ukraine which showed Manafort being paid more than $12 million off the books by Yanukovych`s political party.  So, he lost his job running the Trump campaign in August of 2016.  But even then, like from there on out, like it was clear that he was going to sort of leave a trail behind him, right, even long after Manafort was gone from the Trump campaign and Trump was already serving as president but before Manafort was indicted, right? 

His ties Ukraine were still periodically making national news in this country because it was weird that Manafort got picked to be running a presidential campaign in the United States in 2016.  And his Ukraine ties, the more we learned about them, even after he was fired, they really did seem like real liabilities for somebody who had brought in at the top to run an American presidential operation, let alone one that resulted in actually putting a candidate in the White House. 

There was, for example, this article in "The New York Times", July 2017, by Mike McIntyre, which showed that right up until Manafort came out of nowhere to take the job running the Trump campaign in 2016, he was in debt, massively in debt, to business entities linked to two Kremlin-linked oligarchs.  One of those two Kremlin-linked oligarchs was Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch reportedly close to Putin, a guy with lots of interest in Ukraine.  He reportedly entered into a $10 million a year contract with Paul Manafort for Manafort to promote the interests of the Putin government around the world including in the United States. 

Over the course of the Russia scandal and the Mueller investigation and all the open-source reporting around that, it would emerge that Manafort tried to use his position on the Trump campaign to, quote, get whole with Deripaska.  Remember, he owed Deripaska a lot of money.  He offered Deripaska private briefings on the Trump campaign during the course of the campaign. 

As the Mueller report laid out in detail, Manafort also repeatedly used encrypted apps to send detailed polling data from the Trump campaign to an associate who the FBI assessed to be an asset of Russian military intelligence.  That Russian military intelligence source is then thought to have passed that detailed polling information from Manafort on to Oleg Deripaska.  The GRU asset incidentally was also indicted by Robert Mueller, that`s him in the blue shirt on the left.  He has not been arrested.  He is believed to be in hiding and at least evading U.S. justice in Russia. 

Deripaska, right, one of the Kremlin-linked oligarchs to whom Manafort reportedly owed a ton of money at the time he took the job running Trump`s campaign.  Deripaska for years has been denied a visa to visit the United States reportedly of what the U.S. government believes to be Deripaska`s ties to international organized crime.  Deripaska was also sanctioned by the U.S. government in response to the Russian attack on the 2016 election, although thanks to the intervention and largesse of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Oleg Deripaska was recently relieved of much of the burden of those sanctions. 

But that`s one of the two guys to whom Manafort owed millions of dollars when he took over the Trump campaign.  The other guy was this fellow, guy with the three-piece suit there in the nice red tie.  His name is Dmitry Firtash. 

When Paul Manafort was running the political operations of the Party of Regions in Ukraine, Firtash was funding that party.  He is rich almost beyond believe, specifically because Vladimir Putin made him so.  One of the mother lode corruption stories of Ukraine and Russian foreign influence is for years, Kremlin insisted their guy in Ukraine, Dmitry Firtash, would be given a cut of every cubic inch of natural gas that Russia pumped through Ukraine on its way to Europe. 

Ukraine is full of pipelines that start in the east and carry toward the west, right?  And to the extent that Russia has a stranglehold on European energy policy, because they are an almost monopolistic supplier in Europe in terms of their gas supply, all of that gas transits, a lot of that gas transits through Ukraine and Firtash got a cut of every inch of it. 

Firtash did not do anything to earn that money.  He was literally just the artificially installed middleman who got paid literally billions of dollars a year in pure profit just at the Kremlin`s direction.  You want Russian gas to transit your country, you will have Dmitry take a cut of all of it. 

So, Firtash was making billions of dollars a year for that.  As a sort of hostess gift "thank you" for that arrangement, Firtash in turn used some of his money to prop up pro-Russia political parties in Ukraine, pro-Kremlin political parties in crew Ukraine, pro-Kremlin politicians, including paying for Paul Manafort to run the Party of Regions and get Viktor Yanukovych installed as Ukraine`s president, right?

So, Manafort reportedly owed millions of dollars to those two guys and the reason he owed them money is because of various business entanglements.  He got involved with each of them.  He had separate business deals with each of them. 

But there was one deal that they had in common.  A supposed plan to spend almost a billion dollars turning a Park Avenue hotel site into a new Bulgari Tower in New York city.  That one actually involved Manafort and both of those Kremlin-connected oligarchs.  Jackpot. 

Now, that deal never came to fruition but it was the source of huge controversy in Ukraine because it was seen as basically a way, an effort, to launder hundreds of millions of dollars of ill-gotten gains through New York City real estate. 

But as with Deripaska, it`s not just the money and the Kremlin connections and the unexplained financial ties to Trump`s campaign chair.  With Firtash, it`s also the mob stuff.  It`s also the organized crime. 

In 2014, right after Manafort`s client, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted in Ukraine, ousted in a popular uprising and he fled first to eastern Ukraine and Moscow for his own safety, three weeks after Yanukovych was ousted from power and fled the country, Russia`s man in Ukraine, Dmitry Firtash, this billionaire they created by giving him all that natural gas money, Dmitry Firtash was arrested at the FBI`s request. 

The FBI said they wanted him arrested for alleged involvement in a multibillion dollar bribery scheme.  Firtash was living in Vienna at the time that this FBI request to arrest him went out.  Authorities in Vienna were willing to arrest him at the FBI`s request.  But they have not been willing to ship him over to the U.S. to face trial on these bribery charges. 

First thing they did is they let him out on bail.  Guess what he paid his bail?  He paid $174 million as his bail.  Hey, if you got it, why not?  Literally wrote a check, $174 million. 

That $174 million bail payment has kept him out of jail for I think, like, five years now.  But they also haven`t sent him abroad to face trial.  He has been fighting his extradition from Austria with the help of some of the most expensive lawyers that money can buy.  And, again, if you got the money to spend, why not spend it on that? 

Well, in 2017, around the time "The New York Times" is reporting on Manafort`s mysterious financial ties to Dmitry Firtash and Oleg Deripaska, federal prosecutors were arguing in court about why it was important to get their hands on Firtash, why Firtash`s case shouldn`t be dismissed, why they needed to have him extradited to the United States, why he needed to go on trial in this country.

And their claims to the court in the summer of 2017, including this startling assertion from Justice Department prosecutors.  Quote: Dmitry Firtash has been identified by U.S. law enforcement as an upper echelon associate of Russian organized crime.  His prosecution will disrupt this organized crime group and prevent it from taking further criminal acts within the United States.  This prosecution, therefore, seems to protect this country, its commerce and its citizens from the corrupting influence and withering effects of international organized crime.

So, this is like a remarkable thing in American politics, right?  Once again, like, you`re alive now.  You`ll always be able to tell this story.  I mean, here is the campaign chairman for U.S. presidential candidate who`s actually the nominee of the Republican Party for president of the United States, that campaign chairman is revealed to have extensive, unresolved financial liabilities to two different billionaire oligarchs, both of whom are assessed by the U.S. government to be seriously tied to international organized crime.  Both of whom are very tightly and financially connected to the Kremlin. 

And at the same time, this guy brings all that baggage over here with him from Ukraine to inexplicably start running a U.S. presidential campaign, at that same time, the Kremlin starts intervening to help the candidate who that guy is working to elect president of the United States, to help him here in this election in the United States, to help get his candidate into the Oval Office. 

So how does it work out in the end for all these guys?  Well, one of them gets to be president.  One of them goes to jail.  Paul Manafort is in jail in part for not paying taxes on any of the secret payments that he received from the Party of Regions. 

One of the Kremlin-connected oligarchs to whom Manafort was indebted initially got himself sanctioned by the U.S. government which looked like it might be financially devastating for him, but alas, he was rescued from those sanctions at the last moment by Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky whereupon Deripaska`s firm somewhere found it in its heart to invest hundreds of millions of dollars building a new aluminum plant in Mitch McConnell`s home state. 

But that still leaves Firtash.  Dmitry Firtash who`s still in Vienna, still fighting extradition to the United States against these bribery charges, still fighting because he does not want to face federal prosecutors who have said formally and in writing to the court that they believe him to be an upper echelon associate of Russian organized crime.  In June of this year, the Supreme Court in Austria ruled that Dmitry Firtash, indeed, could be extradited to the U.S.  He still hasn`t been, though.  He is using his infinite financial resources to pay for a battery of U.S. lawyers to prevent that from coming to fruition. 

But now in the midst of this whole kerfuffle, right, this whole roiling boil of a scandal about Trump and whatever it is he`s doing with Ukraine, now today in the middle of all that, we get word that Dmitry Firtash, Paul Manafort`s old business partner, the guy who paid Paul Manafort to elevate a pro-Putin government in Ukraine, reported by the U.S. government to be an organized crime figure who`s been indicted and wanted by U.S. law enforcement, today we get word that Dmitry Firtash has hired new lawyers.  And they are not like the rest of his A-list lawyers.  They are very different than his very expensive A-list lawyers. 

They are, in fact, these people who are husband and wife and they are fixtures on the Fox News Channel.  They are part of the "Trump is being framed, it`s all a witch hunt" chorus in the Fox News greenroom. 

And I don`t mean to be rude and I do not mean this in an ad hominem way, but Dmitry Firtash is like the richest dude in Ukraine, right?  Dmitry Firtash already has really accomplished, really expensive, really fancy, really shameless U.S. lawyers.  He does not need to beef up his representation in that regard. 

The only reason you would need the people from TV, the only reason you would need these particular new lawyers would not be to, like, add to your intellectual firepower, the only reason you would need the lawyers from the TV would be to get the attention of the president, presumably by having favorable statements about your case appear on "Fox & Friends" or on select Fox News shows that air in primetime. 

And I think part of what may be going on here is that the Manafort part of our lives, the sort of scummy Paul Manafort universe that came into view through him inexplicably being elevated to run that presidential campaign, and then ultimately through his firing from the campaign then ultimately through the Russia investigation and through the prosecution of Paul Manafort that has put him in federal prison this night, as I speak, the scummy universe of Paul Manafort appears to still be operative here. 

I mean, right now, there`s lots of attention, I think, rightfully, being paid to the fact that the president and his personal lawyer, Mr. Giuliani, have told Ukraine that Ukraine needs to produce some sort of dirt on Joe Biden that could be helpful in the president`s 2020 re-election campaign.  But Giuliani isn`t just asking for dirt on Biden, right, he`s also reportedly telling Ukraine they need to open an investigation into what happened to good old Paul Manafort.  They need to investigate the revelations from those off-the-books payments to -- those revelation of those off-the-book payments to Manafort which, again, not only resulted in Manafort getting fired from the Trump campaign, it resulted in some of the prison time he is now serving because he didn`t pay taxes on that income. 

I mean, the president has waded deeply into impeachment liability here by apparently seeking foreign assistance to help him try to win the next election, too.  Part of what is also going on here is some sort of effort to undo the downfall of Manafort, to rehabilitate or resurrect the guys who were the funders of Manafort, for all his pro-Putin political work in Ukraine. 

I mean, there aren`t serious questions about whether or not Manafort secretly took millions of dollars for his political work in Ukraine.  That ledger that showed those payments to him was rigorously authenticated both by journalists in the United States and by authorities in Ukraine.  It was also further validated when the payments were cited in his federal court case in Virginia where he was convicted on financial crimes in part related to those payments. 

So, why on earth would the president and his personal lawyer now be going back to Manafort, right?  Shouldn`t they be saying, oh, Manafort, we had no idea he`d done this bad stuff before he got on the campaign, bad guy, sorry about that.  I guess they`d never say sorry about that.  But you at least think they`d want people to forget him. 

They`re going back to Manafort now and trying to retroactively justify, or at least muddy the waters over whether or not what Manafort did in Ukraine was illegal and corrupt and bad for that country.  Why would they be going back to the case of Manafort here?  I mean, we don`t know yet.  A lot of the story remains to come out. 

But whether or not Paul Manafort, himself, is going to spend the rest of his days in prison, personally, what happened around the time that Paul Manafort was the campaign chairman for the Donald Trump for president campaign in 2016 is that however weird it seemed that the Trump campaign was hiring a guy like Manafort to come basically from Ukraine, come back to the U.S. and work on a political campaign here, I mean, what he brought with him were contacts and business partners and secret funders and organized crime-linked Kremlin connections in Ukraine.  That was the cartful full of baggage that Paul Manafort brought with him as a presidential campaign chairman for Trump in 2016 at a time when the Kremlin wanted to use lots of different levers of power to try to get Donald Trump elected president. 

And now, four years later, for the re-elect, Trump is going back to Ukraine, directly asking for their help against their likely Democratic opponent this year, but also making clear that, you know, as far as they`re concerned is looks like Manafort may have gotten a raw deal, trying to vindicate Manafort`s tenure in Ukraine, trying to make it seem like it maybe wasn`t a bunch of illegal payments and a massive corruption scandal tied to these Kremlin-linked oligarchs.  Maybe Manafort got a raw deal.  Maybe Manafort was all right.  Maybe the whole scheme that was propping up Manafort was not a scandal at all. 

Meanwhile, Deripaska is getting a sanctions relief.  Dmitry Firtash is successfully fending off extradition and now, he`s got his Trump lawyers to make sure his case gets piped right into the president`s ear.  It`s working out for everybody. 

If 2016 had been a movie, you could not sell this as a sequel.  You would have to sell it as a remake because apart from Paul Manafort being in prison this time around, it`s basically all the same stuff happening all over again involving all the same people. 

More ahead.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  We have some breaking news just within the past few minutes.  "The Washington Post" has published this op-ed.  It -- you see it`s got a big, long byline there.  It`s because it`s is co-authored by seven members of Congress.  These are seven Democrats, each of them freshmen, each of them in their first term.  And each is a veteran of either the military or one of the defense or intelligence agencies. 

So, this is seven freshmen Democrats speaking in one voice in this short new op-ed that`s just been posted about this new explosive scandal about Trump seeking, apparently seeking assistance for his re-election campaign from the government of Ukraine. 

Quote: These allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect.  Quote: We call on our colleagues in Congress to consider the use of all congressional authorities available to us, including the power of inherent contempt and impeachment hearings to address these new allegations, to find the truth and to protect our national security.

I should say that one of the signers of this op-ed who has never previously before called for impeachment is going to be joining us here live in studio in just a moment.  I can also tell you we have learned just before we got on the air tonight that Speaker Nancy Pelosi tomorrow called a meeting of the full Democratic caucus for 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  Apparently, this is a meeting of all the Democrats in the House to focus at least in part on their response to this ongoing scandal. 

So, there`s a lot happening.  Before we end up talking about the potential consequences for the president, though, I do want to spend a little bit more time talking about the substance here about what`s actually being alleged here. 

And joining us now to help us with that is Michael McFaul, who`s former U.S. ambassador to Russia. 

Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for being here.  I really appreciate it. 

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA:  Sure.  Thanks for having me, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  One of the reasons I really wanted to talk to you tonight is because as I laid out at the top of the show, I really feel like we`re seeing something that feels a little bit like a rerun, something that feels a little bit like not just the same type of misbehavior in terms of enlisting a foreign government in trying to effect our presidential election, but also going back to some of the same characters and some of the same entities. 

Do you feel like that deja vu is warranted? 

MCFAUL:  Especially after listening to your first segment, I do, yes, you`re right.  They`re all the same players. 

I don`t exactly remember what Mayor Giuliani played in 2016 but it`s the same techniques, it`s the same leaning on people to help.  But this time it`s the president of the United States doing it, it`s not just candidate Trump, and he`s doing so at the expense of American national security interests.  And that`s the one piece that is different, right? 

So, he`s letting his narrow, private interests, Trump, the public interest, the one he also took an oath of office to protect, just like those seven members of Congress that you just mentioned. 

MADDOW:  How do you think this is going to end?  Obviously, there`s process questions here involving Congress.  There is what feels like a real ground surge from Democrats in terms of thinking quite differently about impeachment than they were even several days ago.  There`s also questions about whether or not the acting director of national intelligence will say anything useful or provide any useful information to the intelligence committee on Thursday.  There are demands that the president should release the transcript of his call with the Ukrainian president. 

How do you imagine this might unfold? 

MCFAUL:  Well, I would like it to unfold with the complaint being given over to the U.S. Congress like the law says.  And I got to remind you something else that`s deja vu for me, when I was a U.S. ambassador, Mr. Snowden came to Russia and I went on the record many, many times as a U.S. government official and said Mr. Snowden should have used the whistle- blower procedures and laws to do this the right way. 

Now, when this whistle-blower is not allowed to use those procedures and law the right way, I fear it`s going to come out through the leaking of secret information.  What else can happen, right?  What other recourse does the whistle-blower have? 

And that is a tragedy, not only because it makes it -- you know, it should be done according to the law, but I think it suggests to other future whistle-blowers that the system doesn`t work.  And we`re going to have more leakage as a result of that.  So, I think that`s a long-term unintended negative consequences against all the other negative consequences, let`s be clear, in the short term.

But my prediction is that`s where we`re going to end and I do not believe, by the way, that this one phone call is the whole story.  I just can`t believe that somebody would go through all the trouble of filing a whistle- blower complaint that could probably be career-ending for whoever this individual is because of one phone call?  I think there`s more to this story to come. 

MADDOW:  Do you think it matters whether or not there`s ultimately a public release of the transcript of this call?  Or do you feel like the whistleblower`s full complaint is really the only way to put it in context? 

MCFAUL:  I`m 100 percent against releasing the transcript. 

MADDOW:  Hmm. 

MCFAUL:  I worked for President Obama.  I was part of making those transcripts.  That is a really bad precedent. 

But I`m 100 percent for the rule of law being implemented here and the whistleblower`s complaint being transferred.  Part of that is I like the rule of law.  I think it`s a good idea.  I think it`s good for our country, but second, my prediction is that that whistleblower`s complaint will have much more material in it than simply the transcript. 

MADDOW:  Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, sir, it`s great to have you here.  Thanks for your time tonight. 

MCFAUL:  Thanks for having me. 

MADDOW:  All right.  We got more news ahead.  As I mentioned, "The Washington Post" has just published an op-ed by seven freshmen Democrats, all of whom are military, defense, or intelligence veterans.  They`re all calling for impeachment in one voice, including members who have never called for that before. 

One of the co-authors of that op-ed who, again, has previously never called for impeachment, is going to be joining us here live next.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Last year, a Republican Virginia congressman who`s running for second term, guy named Scott Taylor, got himself into little bit of trouble related to election fraud.  Up one of his staffers was indicted on federal election fraud charges.  The scheme was about forging signatures to try to get a third-party candidate on the ballot. 

I mean, he was the Republican incumbent, why does he want a third-party candidate on the ballot?  I think it was an act of desperation.  I think the thinking was if there was a liberal third-party candidate on the ballot, that might split off liberal voters and have a spoiler effect on the chances of the Democrat who was running against him in the general election. 

So, at least one of Scott Taylor`s campaign staffers is maybe going to prison because of that fraud scheme, which is lurid and crazy and also reflects how much of a long shot they`re willing to take to try to get him re-elected, right?  This convoluted fraud scheme to get a third-party candidate into the race to split the Democratic vote.  It seems like it really wouldn`t be worth it, but you can see why Scott Taylor might have been nervous. 

The 2nd district in Virginia is a district that in many ways is dominated by the presence of the U.S. Navy.  It includes Virginia Beach and the naval base at Norfolk.  Scott Taylor`s a Navy veteran, himself, but look who he was running against. 


REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA):  I was one of the first women to serve my entire navy career on combatant ships, deployed six times.  I`m Elaine Luria.  When this is your office, your only option is to work together.  Congress could learn a thing or two at sea.  Partisan politics can`t protect Social Security and Medicare or fix our broken health care system. 

I approve this message because it will take leaders from way outside Washington to bring a sea change to Congress. 


MADDOW:  Sea change, right?  You and I can`t make that claim, but she earned it.  Elaine Luria graduated from the Naval Academy with a physics degree.  She became literally an engineer running nuclear reactors, in charge of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, eventually commanded an assault craft force of 400 sailors, just incredibly accomplished military veteran. 

Ultimately, Democrat Elaine Luria goes on and she beats Scott Taylor in the general.  He had reason to be worried, it turns out. 

And now that she`s a member of Congress, she has the distinction of having served longer on active military duty than anybody else in the House Democratic caucus.  It was a big deal when Democrats took back the House.  There`s a lot of interesting people in the Democratic freshmen class that just took over. 

Elaine Luria stands out for a lot of reasons but she represents a district that went not just for Trump, it went for Romney before that, went for McCain before that.  She`s not one of the lefty leaders of the progressive caucus from this new crop of Democrats.  But she`s obviously got national security chops like literally nobody else in Congress right now. 

That`s why in the midst of this current national security crisis that has arisen around the president basically admitting that he pressed a foreign leader to dig up dirt on his political opponents while withholding military aid to that leader in the meantime, it is making people sit up and take notice tonight that Elaine Luria has now joined six of her fellow freshmen Democrats to call those actions, quote, an impeachable defense. 

Congresswoman Luria and her colleagues write tonight on "The Washington Post", quote: We call on our colleagues in Congress to consider the use of all congressional authorities available to us, including the power of inherent contempt and impeachment hearings to address these new allegations, find the truth and protect our national security.

Joining us now is Congresswoman Elaine Luria. 

Congressman, thank you so much for being here. 

LAURIA:  Thanks.  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  It`s weird to talk about you right next to you.  So, I`m sorry about that social awkwardness. 

This is a serious step, though, this op-ed that you`ve written with your colleagues tonight.  Can you tell me about your thinking process leading up to this? 

LURIA:  Well, my thinking process is if this particular instance that`s happened with the president of the United States, enlisting a foreign leader to assist him in conducting an investigation that will smear and damage his potential political opponent in the upcoming election and in the process of doing that potentially withheld foreign aid to that country, if this isn`t impeachable, what is? 

So I feel like this is a clear and concise instance that the American people can understand where the president of the United States has tried to enlist foreign influence in our election process and also threaten our national security by withholding foreign aid.  And this is a game changer. 

MADDOW:  Threatening national security.  Can you expand on that some? 

I mean, obviously, whenever you`re talking about relations with foreign country, whenever you`re talking about military aid, wherever you`re talking about potential private interests trumping the public interests in terms of our international relations, it`s easy to invoke national security. 

But given your background, how do you specifically think this is dangerous to us as a country? 

LURIA:  Well, in your earlier segment you spent a lot of time talking about background related to Ukraine in position with the 2014 invasion of Russia into Crimea, and Congress has appropriated funds, $250 million, specifically, to the security assistance of Ukraine.  And the fact that that money was withheld and to me, whether it was explicitly stated or not, I believe that the president and leadership within Ukraine would understand in the case of these demands the fact that this money be withheld was meant to coerce their actions towards conducting this investigation. 

In this case, it`s different because in this case the president and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani have stated, yes, we said this during the conversation, we asked a foreign leader to investigate a political candidate in the United States and their intent could have been nothing other than to try to smear him, to find dirt, or malign him, in order to influence the outcome of the next election. 

MADDOW:  In the Russia investigation, in the course of the Mueller investigation and the Mueller report, all of the revelations about the president`s behavior and, indeed, his inviting Russian interference in the election, to the extent that that was proven by Mueller`s investigation, through all of that you didn`t call for impeachment proceedings even as many of your colleagues did, and I know -- I hear you when you say this is a clear and concise and direct problem in terms of what the president has done here. 

Do you worry about the political consequences of you endorsing impeachment proceedings over this?  I mean, you are from a narrowly Republican-leaning district. 

LURIA:  Yes.  Well, as you mentioned in the intro, I spent 20 years in the Navy.  I spent my entire career in a position that was nonpartisan.  If you think about the fact that, you know, operating nuclear reactors on an aircraft carrier, we`re simultaneously conducting strikes into Iraq and Afghanistan, I`m supervising the operation of eight nuclear reactors, I didn`t turn to the reactor operator next to me, say, are you a Democrat, a Republican?  We had a mission to accomplish. 

And I think that that idea of, you know, this is not a partisan issue.  I think it is an issue of doing the thing that is right and I understand for myself, this could very well be a political liability, but I came to Congress to do what was right.  The people in my district sent me to Washington to make hard choices, and I think that they did that in part because I`ve been making hard choices my entire career in the Navy. 

I commanded a combat unit of 400 sailors.  I served as executive officer on a guided missile cruiser.  I did six deployments on ships in dangerous circumstances and operating nuclear reactors and weapons systems.  There are a lot of hard choices had to be made during my career.  I think that very background is why the voters in my district sent me to Washington.

So I think I`ve made a choice that is clear and I`m doing this because I think it is right.  And there really doesn`t need to be a political calculus in this situation.  There is not for me. 

MADDOW:  Looking at this from the outside, it does feel like things are different to see your name on this op-ed.  The names of the other people who signed on to this with you, Mikie Sherrill, Abigail Spanberger, Elissa Slotkin, Gil Cisneros, Jason Crow, Chrissy Houlahan.  To see people who have not only been banging the drum for impeachment but who have been reticent on this issue, really not willing to be out ahead of other people on this, taking a sort of moderate line on all of these things, it feels different.  It does feel like something`s broken and that the Democrats are going to move forward in a different way. 

Does it feel that way to you, too? 

LURIA:  It definitely feels that way.  I made this decision on my own, but I very quickly consulted with my colleagues who I found were all on the same page and you can see that seven of us came together with a national security background and shared our thoughts with the public as to why we`ve made the decision that we`ve made.  And I truly can`t speak for every colleague within the House and, but I just definitely feel that the tide is changing.

And truly for those of us who`ve signed onto this op-ed, we took this oath many times in different capacities, either in the military, serving in intelligence, CIA, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.  I took that oath the first time when I was 17 years old and went to the Naval Academy, and took it again upon every promotion in my 20-year Navy career and most recently now serving in Congress representing my district. 

So, I take it very seriously.  I think all of us come at it from that perspective that we were sent there to uphold the Constitution and that this is clear and concise evidence to the American public that wrongdoing has happened and that we need to take the next step to follow through, get to the bottom of that information and let the American public know all the facts. 

MADDOW:  Elaine Luria, representative from Virginia, thank you so much for coming in to talk to me about this.  It`s good to have you here. 

LURIA: Thank you so much.  It`s great to be here. 

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  OK.  Here`s something else to keep an eye on.  And I know you are not going to believe me on, this but I swear this is happening.  One of the myriad legal disputes the president is tangled up in right now involves this incident from 2015 when the president`s bodyguard allegedly punched a protester outside Trump Tower during the presidential campaign.  It`s on film, so I`m still going to say allegedly, but there it is on film. 

OK.  After that incident a few of the protester in that video filed a lawsuit against the president`s bodyguard and they sued Donald Trump personally since those bodyguards were working for him.  There`s a trial in that case that is scheduled to start this week in state court in New York.  The trial`s supposed to start on Thursday.  As part of this lawsuit involving the Trump bodyguard, president Trump has just been ordered by a judge to deliver a sworn deposition on camera.  I kid you not. 

His lawyers just got this notice about it.  Quote: Defendant Donald J. Trump has been ordered to appear for a videotaped deposition to be used as trial testimony prior to the commencement of trial.  Please advise what date, time and location Mr. Trump will be made available to appear for said testimony.

Now, there is some precedent for this, for a sitting president being deposed.  In his second term then President Bill Clinton was told by a federal court and ultimately the Supreme Court that he had to give a deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.  It was in that sworn deposition that the president first lied about his relationship with a White House intern, and we know how that turned out. 

So there is some procedural precedent here, but never minding that, Donald Trump`s lawyers are fighting this order from the judge for the president to give sworn testimony on tape in this state court case.  The president`s lawyers have told the judge they will be in court tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. Eastern seeking an emergency halt to her decision.  And emergency is the key word there because the president really is running out of time to fight this thing. 

I mean, the judge`s order, which is operable at this point, says the president has to sit down in front of a camera and deliver testimony before the trial starts.  And again, the trial starts on Thursday. 

So, stick a pin in this.  This is about to light up. 

Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Today the Democratic national committee announced new criteria for its candidates to make it into the November presidential debate.  The November debate criteria including both polling numbers and numbers of donors is going to be more strict than the criteria for any debate thus far.  They`re trying to winnow down the number of people in the debate. 

Well, tomorrow night on had show, I`m going to interview one of the candidates who qualified easily for this next debate and for the last two as well, but this is a candidate with whom I have never spoken before.  I have never interviewed this person.  I have never been in the same room with this person. 

Do you know who it is?  Do you know who I mean?  Door prizes and tacos if you figure it out before I`m back after the next commercial. 


MADDOW:  Tomorrow evening, my guest here in studio is going to be 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang.  We will have him live here in studio.  This will be my first opportunity to interview Mr. Yang one on one.  I have never spoken with him before. 

The only time I`ve ever been anywhere near him before was at the debate that MSNBC and NBC and Telemundo moderated.  I saw him across the stage. 

He`s 44 years old.  He was a confounding candidate for much of the beltway press and the political media from the outset, but he is turning out to be a slow and steady climber and a solid performer in the Democratic presidential field.  I am totally looking forward to that interview tomorrow.  Andrew Yang here live.  I will see you then. 

That does it for us tonight. 

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL" with Ali Velshi filling in for Lawrence tonight. 

Good evening, Ali. 



                                                                                                                THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END