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US Sanctions on Russia. TRANSCRIPT: 9/30/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Raja Krishnamoorthi

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  That was awesome.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Thank you so much.

HAYES:  Come back anytime.

MADDOW:  I will.

HAYES:  You`re welcome in my television show whenever you want.

MADDOW:  I will just tell you that I have been -- I mean, I wrote this book, obviously, so I know what it`s about.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  But I`ve been super stressed about talking about it because it`s not easy to sort of bottle up.  That`s why it had to be a book instead of just talking about it on TV.  But the fact that knowing -- the fact of knowing that you were going to be my first interview, I think, like, scaled up my prep so intensively, I`m kind of ready for anything now. 

HAYES:  Well, that`s good. 


HAYES:  I`m glad.  Now, that was a great conversation.  The book is great and I`m excited for people to get their hands on it. 

MADDOW:  Thank you very much.  You`re very, very kind.  I really appreciate it. 

All right.  Thanks for being with us tonight.  Happy to have you here. 

It is day seven of the impeachment proceedings against President Donald J. Trump.  This story and the impeachment process itself are still developing just as fast today and tonight as they have been over the past week.  We`re going to get to all of that tonight, including the new news from "The Wall Street Journal", which NBC News just matched. 

"The Wall Street Journal", now NBC News reporting that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was personally listening in on the call that has now led to these impeachment proceedings against president Trump.  I mean, unless Mike Pompeo is himself the whistleblower, that means that he was aware in real time that President Trump had personally blocked military aid to Ukraine and then when that country`s president brought up the need for U.S. military aid in a phone call with President Trump, President Trump responded by saying I would like you to do us a favor, though.  That`s when he asked that foreign leader for help with items on his personal wish list, including some sort of law enforcement or legal proceeding against his potential 2020 Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. 

Now, tonight, we`ve got news that the secretary of state was listening in on that call while that ask from the president happened.  And that is remarkable. 

I mean, Pompeo`s own department, the State Department, had signed off on that military aid going to Ukraine.  He knows that, right?  And then he hears with his own ears the president essentially making that aid contingent on him getting this favor about what Ukraine can do to dirty up Joe Biden for the next election. 

The secretary of state knows that and says nothing about it?  Again, of course, unless, he`s the whistleblower.  I mean, he is CIA.  I don`t think he is the whistle-blower. 

But now, in addition, to the president, the secretary of state is up to his neck in this impeachment scandal.  He is there alongside this guy, the attorney general of the United States, William Barr.  "The Washington Post" has an actually shocking report tonight about the attorney general, William Barr, personally traveling around the globe, personally trying to get foreign governments to help him in an inquiry that the White House hopes will, quote, discredit U.S. intelligence agencies` examination of Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

William Barr himself, the attorney general personally has been working on that for the president around the globe.  Why is he doing that?  I mean, the impeachment proceeding is about President Trump trying to get help for his 2020 election. 

Why is Bill Barr traveling around the globe working on stuff with foreign governments that they hope will change the view that Russia interfered in the election that already happened in 2016? 

To understand that, I think it`s worth taking a step back.  And also, it`s worth taking a step back just because this is moving so fast now.  I mean, Trump`s envoy to Ukraine suddenly resigning within hours of him being notified that he`ll be deposed this week by House Intelligence Committee. 

Tonight, that Ukraine envoy is confirming that he will attend that deposition on Thursday of this week.  Oh, the stories he could tell.  The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was attacked and slimed by the president, by the president`s son, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who Mike Pompeo recalled early from office without explanation in the middle of this pressure campaign to try to get the Ukraine government involved in helping Trump for 2020, that U.S. ambassador to Ukraine is going to be deposed the day before the envoy has his deposition.  She`ll be deposed on Wednesday of this week. 

I mea, we`re breaking news by the hour still.  This sandal is still unfolding.  There was a bunch of important developments over the weekend, but to try to keep it in perspective and not get too overwhelmed. 

Also, I think to help stack up when something new happens, how important is this and how much does this change the story.  I think in order to keep perspective on it, it`s good to start with the basics, right?  Go back for a second to where this started. 

2014, halfway through Barack Obama`s second term in office as president, Russia invades the neighborhoods country of Ukraine.  Ukraine had been interested in orienting itself more toward the West, more toward Europe, the European Union, maybe even NATO someday. 

Russia and Russian interests had paid darn good money to install a pro- Putin, pro-Kremlin strongman leader in Ukraine to keep Ukraine oriented toward Russia instead of toward the West, but that pro-Putin, pro-Kremlin strongman was thrown out by his own people in part because of him reneging on commitments to ally Ukraine more with Europe and less with Russia.  Russia decided 2014, enough was enough.  They decided that they were just going to invade. 

They marched over the border.  They took part of that neighboring country for themselves.  They declared that that part of Ukraine was now part of Russia instead.  And this, to say the least was an unusual occurrence in the modern world. 

Since World War II, we have not seen countries using their militaries to just seize parts of other countries and make them their own, particularly on the edges of Europe.  But that`s what Putin did in 2014.  And the West was horrified, right?  The international order was shaken. 

For starters, the G8 group of countries kicked Russia out.  The G8 became the G7 instead because Russia was no longer considered worthy of inclusion in that group.  The Western world also united behind strong sanctions against Russia to punish their behavior, to pressure them to reverse course. 

After Russia did what it did to Ukraine, nobody was quite sure if that was all they were going to do or if they might try something else with some other country.  What else would they do next and to whom would they do it? 

So, in 2014, when all this happened, President Obama went over there.  He traveled to Eastern Europe on a trip that was designed to reassure our nervous allies, particularly our NATO allies, that they would be protected, that they had our support.  President Trump gave a speech in Warsaw in Poland behind a backdrop of F-16 fighter jets that were used in joint military exercises between the U.S. and Poland.  And Obama declared in that address that America`s commitment to the security of our allies in Central and Eastern Europe is, quote, sacrosanct. 

President Obama also announced a new billion dollar program named the European Reassurance Initiative to increase U.S. military presence in Central and Eastern Europe, to upgrade NATO`s ability to operate and defend the NATO countries in that region.  He also announced the expansion of joint military exercises there, all to show Russia this strong, unified U.S.-led Western backstop, basically, in case of any further Russian aggression. 

The fundamental idea was to use American resources, American prestige, American leadership, American might, not to fight Russia, but to stop them from fighting weaker countries than themselves, to bolster our NATO allies, to help them beef up their own readiness, their own ability to push back against Putin. 


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT:  Russian provocation will be met with further costs for Russia.  Today, I`m announcing a new initiative to bolster the security of our NATO allies here in Europe.  The United States will preposition more equipment in Europe.  We`ll increase the number of American personnel, Army, and Air Force units, continuously rotating through allied countries in Central and Eastern Europe. 

I`m calling on Congress to approve up to $1 billion to support this effort, which will be a powerful demonstration of America`s unshakable commitment to our NATO allies. 


MADDOW:  That was five years ago. 

And now, as we`ve been covering here for a while now, now that U.S. commitment as articulated by President Obama there, that is being quite dramatically unwound by the Trump administration.  In February of this year, President Trump declared a national emergency that he said required him to build a wall between us and Mexico.  Both the House and the Republican-controlled Senate have since voted the kibosh that declaration, which itself is something.

But the whole idea of that emergency declaration was to let the Trump White House conjure up money from somewhere else to fund the construction of this wall, specifically they wanted to take $3.5 billion out of U.S. military construction projects.  Even more specifically than that, close to $1 billion of what they wanted to take and what they still want to take is the budget specifically appropriated by Congress to fund that European Reassurance Initiative, that thing that President Obama announced, which the U.S. government started not because President Obama thought it was a great idea and he conjured it out of nowhere, it came from Congress.  It came from the administration.  It came in bipartisan fashion from the United States after Russia invaded Ukraine. 

The whole idea was that the United States would stand up in order to help our NATO allies push back against Russia`s new interest in invading its neighboring countries and taking over parts of them. 

Earlier this month, NBC News obtained an internal Air Force report which detailed 51 U.S. Air Force construction projects that will see their funding cut off and military readiness are adversely affect by this plan.  The document showed that, quote, projects to upgrade airfields in Germany, Luxembourg, Great Britain, Hungary, Slovakia, have all been shelved, leaving those bases unable to support U.S. and NATO airlines. 

Quote: Construction of storage facilities and fuel supply has also been postponed, directly limiting theater presence and impairing mission capability and readiness. 

So, it`s not like this was, like, just paint jobs and vanity projects that they were cutting.  This was the muscle in terms of what NATO could offer to backstop central and eastern Europe, right, that could backstop our NATO allies, backstop our NATO capability in that part of the country to try to push Russia back from what they were doing.  As for what President Obama described as that sacrosanct U.S. commitment to our allies` security, well, Trump`s new defense secretary has urged those allies to, quote, pick up the tab themselves for those projects. 

The new position of the Trump administration, including Trump`s new defense secretary is that our allies should pick up the tab for our upgrades to our U.S. military bases in their countries, even though the whole point of them in the first place was to show that we`re with them and will spare no expense to help them against Russia, as long as Russia is pushing against them. 

And that story, that`s what seemed like it was going to be this year`s big new, weird national security story about yet another thing the Trump White House was pushing to benefit Russia and to hurt and insult our exposed allies and to undermine western alliances.  Seems like that was going to be the big national security thing that we had to deal with in 2019.  Turns out that was just the appetizer, that was the amuse-bouche.  That was just the spinach dip, because that was about the countries that were frayed for themselves after they saw what Russia did to Ukraine. 

When it comes to Ukraine itself, of course they`ve had it considerably worse.  They got invaded, right?  They are still engaged in a war with Russia since Russia took Crimea from Ukraine.  Russia has since begun and continued an apparent endless occupation in another part of Ukraine.  And that war, that Russian occupation of big swaths of Ukraine has been grinding on for five years on Ukrainian soil.  It`s cost as many as 13,000 lives and counting. 

And while it is always an advantage to fight on your own soil, on our own home turf, the Ukrainian military is absolutely outnumbered and outgunned by Russia.  And here`s where we come back into the plot and where President Trump does too, because one of Ukraine`s most prized weapons to defend itself against this Russian invasion and occupation is a weapon they`ve only recently acquired.  It`s called the FGM 148 Javelin.

Looks like that kind of clunky oversized dumbbell, right?  Remember the shake weight, that infomercial?  That looks like a big menacing shake weight. 

But what the FGM 148 Javelin is, is one of the world`s premier anti-tank missiles.  For one thing, it`s light.  It weights just under 50 pounds.  You need only one person to operate it. 

In addition to that, when it is launched, it creates little back blast.  That means if you shoot one of these things at an enemy tank, the lack of back blast from the weapon makes it hard for the other side to spot you, to identify where you launched the missile from.  Because it has little back blast, you can also fire it from enclosed spaces, which can help you avoid return fire, right? 

And unlike most long-range anti-tank missiles, the Javelin is what they call a fire and forget system.  Fire and forget -- which means that it requires no further input from you after the launch.  It`s got infrared technology to guide the missile, which means after you shoot it, you don`t have to stand there doing stuff to make the missile land where it`s supposed to.  You can just shoot it and immediately run to find cover. 

So, the Javelin missile is a formidable weapon.  It is precise.  It`s effective.  It`s got good range.  It`s sort of imminently usable.  It can destroy tanks and armored vehicles and helicopters. 

The Javelin is primarily used by U.S. soldiers, but as of last year, it has also been used by the Ukrainian military as a way of fending off Russian forces and Russian-backed forces pushing further into the eastern part of Ukraine, which Russia has been occupying.  Ukraine got those missiles from the United States last year. 

But there was something a little bit hinky about that last year.  Last year, while President Trump`s campaign manager, campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was on trial here in the U.S., he was also the subject of four separate criminal investigations in Ukraine, stemming from his work for that country`s former pro-Russian leader.  Those investigations into Paul Manafort dovetailed into some of the work that special Robert Mueller was doing.  He ultimately charged Paul Manafort.  Paul Manafort was ultimately convicted and sent to prison for more than seven years. 

But last year, while all of this was pending, the Ukrainians had actually reached to special counsel Robert Mueller`s office to offer to coordinate their law enforcement effort, since they also had this multiple open investigations into Manafort.

As Andrew Kramer reported last year, last May for "The New York Times," and this is picked by Dan Friedman and David Corn at "Mother Jones" today, those Ukrainian investigations into Paul Manafort last year, those investigations that were proceeding alongside our special counsel`s investigation here, those Manafort investigations last year got spiked by the Ukrainian government.  They got shut down. 

The order from the government, quote, blocked prosecutors for issuing subpoenas for evidence or interviewing witnesses.  The prosecutor told "The New York Times," quote, we have no authority to continue our investigation. 

So why did the Ukrainian government spike those Paul Manafort investigations last year?  Well, at the same time that they did so, Ukraine was finalizing plans to finally acquire these Javelin missiles that they really wanted from the United States.  The State Department had issued an export license for the Javelin missiles at the end of 2017, December 2017. 

On March 2nd of last year, the Pentagon had announced final approval for the sale of the Javelins to Ukraine, as well as their launching units.  But still, the missiles didn`t come and the Ukrainian government apparently came to believe that the missiles were not going to come unless they did something to please the Trump administration.  Unless they did something that the U.S. government wanted them to do.  And they came to believe what they needed to do in order to get those missiles was stop those live investigations into Paul Manafort. 

In early April, Ukrainian officials gave the order to halt the investigations into Paul Manafort and halt Ukrainian cooperation with the Mueller investigation.  On April 30th thereafter, Ukraine announced that they had finally received those missiles, which they had been waiting on for months. 

And from Ukraine`s perspective, there didn`t seem to be mystery as to whether there was a connection between those two things.  One Ukrainian member of parliament telling "The Times" bluntly that their government was trying to, quote, avoid irritating top American officials, saying, quote: We shouldn`t spoil relations with the Trump administration. 

Excuse me.

Another member of parliament said that Ukrainian investigations into Manafort, quote: Put at risk vital American aid to Ukraine.  Quote: Everybody in Ukraine is afraid of this case. 

Now, who created the impression in Ukraine that if that government wanted military aid, if they wanted those Javelin missiles to fight back against Russia, they needed to stop investigating Paul Manafort?  Who conveyed that information to them?  Why did that government come to believe that they wouldn`t get those missiles unless they stopped investigating Manafort and they stopped helping with the special counsel`s investigation? 

Well, a handful of senators tried to follow up after that reporting from "The Times" last year.  They tried to get information from the Ukrainian government.  "Mother Jones" posted online a copy of their letter today.  It includes this blunt question: Did any individual from the Trump administration or anyone acting on its behalf encourage Ukrainian government or law enforcement officials not to cooperate with the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller? 

But as best as we can tell, the senators were never able to get a reply or any other information out of Ukraine, so the matter was essentially dropped.  Until now, hello, Ukraine is once again trying to get more of those Javelin missiles.  And in the phone call that is leading to President Trump`s impeachment, in the phone call that took place in late July between President Trump and Ukraine`s new president, according to the notes of that call released by the White House this past week, there`s a remarkable moment where the Ukrainian president asked specifically about those missiles. 

President Zelensky, quote: We are ready to cooperate for the next steps, specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from United States for defense purposes.  President Trump immediately responds with, quote, I would like you to do us a favor, though. 

You want the javelins?  I`m in need of a favor.  Right.

Last year, they were under the same impression that they had to trade some kind of favor in order to get those Javelins, and it was a favor related to the investigations of Paul Manafort.  This year, you get your Javelins.  Well, the president wants a favor.  A few favors. 

We now know that the president and his emissary, Mr. Giuliani, are pressing Ukraine basically for three things. 

And one of them has to do with the 2020 election.  Apparently, they want Ukraine to give Trump something he can use against Joe Biden in the 2020 election.  Either to keep Biden from becoming the Democratic nominee or beat him in the general or maybe both, right?  So, that`s one thing.  That`s what president Trump is going to be impeached for. 

But then there`s these other two things that they`ve been asking Ukraine for.  Rudy Giuliani has been telling Ukraine they need to open some sort of investigation into what happened to Paul Manafort.  These revelations in Ukraine in 2016 not only resulted in Manafort getting fired as Trump`s campaign chairman, they resulted in some of the prison time Manafort is now serving, because he didn`t pay taxes on that secret coming.  Rudy Giuliani and President Trump have been pressuring Ukraine to investigate those revelations about Manafort from 2016, to try to get Manafort off the hook for what he did over there, for what he got caught for in 2016. 

Trump has also told Ukraine that he wants them to investigate the security firm that first determined it was the Russian government that hacked the Democratic Party and started the attack on the 2016 election.  Which is -- I mean, just step back from this a second, right?  I mean, you look at this in terms of what Trump is going to be impeached for, he`s definitely going to be impeached, at least it looks like he`s definitely going to be impeached for what he was asking for from Ukraine for 2020.  He went to Ukraine to ask for help with 2020, went to Ukraine for help with beating Biden, if he is Trump`s Democratic opponent.  That, of course, would help President Trump. 

But there are also simultaneously asking for help with the 2016 election too, with the election that`s already over.  We, the United States, have not been supporting Ukraine for these past five years out of some inherent love for Ukraine.  Lovely as they are, right?  There isn`t some terrifically spiritual bond between our countries that supersedes the bonds we have with other countries. 

The only reason we`ve been supporting Ukraine the way we have for the past years is because they were freaking invaded by Russia, right, which is a very unusual thing.  Right? 

Up until now on a bipartisan basis, we, the United States had helped support that country because they were invaded by Russia and Russia is occupying part of them.  We have been helping them keep their country intact while Russia is trying to take it. 

So, to the extent we are now no longer supporting Ukraine or we are making our support for them contingent on these political favors for President Trump for his re-election campaign, right, it`s a radical change in a very short period of time in terms of what the U.S. is doing and what are when a our attitude is toward that world-changing event from 2014. 

And I think now it`s -- it`s becoming clear why or at least it`s becoming clear how this all fits together.  "The New York Times" this weekend published a long, excellent rundown about this big change our country has gone through toward Ukraine, and how it hasn`t been run through any normal policy process.  It hasn`t been publicly articulated at all.  It`s been sort of off the books odd process involving people who were not sure who they worked for and maybe in Giuliani`s case, he`s doing energy deals on the side.  Just this mess in terms of not knowing who`s acting as a lawyer, who`s being paid by who. 

One of the things "The Times" slips in in literally paragraph 75 of this 85-paragraph article is the bigger thing at work here, which is that, according to "The Times", president Trump has quietly been working to get Ukraine to settle with Russia to end this war.  Quote, Mr. Trump has quietly been urging a deal to reduce tensions between Ukraine and Russia that would pave the way for a removal of Western sanctions on Moscow, long a goal of Mr. Putin`s.

Mr. Trump himself hinted that was his goal when asked about Ukrainian President Zelensky two weeks after the July 25th call.  President Trump told reporters, quote, I think he`s going to make a deal with President Putin, and he will be invited to the White House. 

He makes a deal with Putin and that gets him an invitation to the White House? 

The U.S. president is quietly and maybe not so quietly too trying to get Ukraine to make a deal with Russia, on Putin`s terms.  Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.  They shouldn`t get to settle this on their terms, but that`s what President Trump is trying to arrange.  I mean, obviously, to the extent that we`re no longer standing with Ukraine, we`re denying them military aid whenever we feel like it, that doesn`t put them in a good position for negotiating into their five-year long war with Russia, where Russia is trying to take over part of their country and keep it. 

But President Trump is apparently trying to arrange that, which, of course, would result ultimately in the dropping of U.S. and international sanctions on Russia for what it did to Ukraine.  And those sanctions were in place when President Trump took office.  He`s been trying to get rid of them ever since he got to Washington. 

The additional problem for President Trump is because of the means by which he took office, because of the means by which he was elected, beyond just the sanctions on Russia for what they did on Ukraine, there was the additional round of sanctions against Russia too, really bad, really tough sanctions that hurt them in ways that are important to their economy.  I wrote a book about it that comes out tomorrow.  I`ll tell you more later.

But those additional sanctions that happened after Trump got in -- or as Trump was coming into office were from Russia messing in our 2016 elections.  So, there`s the first sanctions for what they did this Ukraine.  Trump is trying to drop those.  There`s the second round of sanctions, which is Russia messing with our elections, right?  Those sanctions can`t be dropped as long as the U.S. government still official attributes the attack on our election to Russia. 

And so, we see the president and Rudy Giuliani and apparently now, Attorney General William Barr traveling the world trying to undo the U.S. government`s attribution of the 2016 election attack to Russia, trying in "The Washington Post`s" words tonight, to discredit U.S. intelligence agencies` examination of Russian interference in the 2016 election.  Well, that`s the other thing Russia needs in order to free itself from sanctions, right? 

Russia is sanctioned for what they did in Ukraine.  Trump is apparently working to undo that so those sanctions can be dropped.  They also interfered with our elections and have been sanctioned for that.  Trump is also apparently working very hard to undo that. 

Trump is working very hard on both of those things.  Yes, he`s trying to get help for 2020, but those two things about Russia invading Ukraine and Russia helping him get elected, he`s working on those just as intently.  And both of those things have bank shot, knock on, indirect benefit to him in terms of helping his reputation for how he got elected, but both of those things have direct benefit to Russia because they need those sanctions dropped desperately, because their economy cannot function with those sanctions in place. 

Dropping those sanctions is the most important foreign policy goal that Russia has.  And Trump is working double time to get it done before he gets impeached. 

We`ll be right back. 


MADDOW:  Tell me if you are sensing a theme here.  When President Trump`s first national security adviser Mike Flynn was indicted for lying to investigators, what he lied to them about was his secret conversations with the Russian government about U.S. sanctions on Russia. 

The Obama administration had instituted sanctions against Russia.  Flynn was telling them not to be worry about that now that Trump was getting in. 

Soon after Trump arrived in Washington, Michael Isikoff was first to report that the first order of business for the Trump landing team at the State Department was also to try to come up with a way to unilaterally relieve U.S. sanctions on Russian. 

Well, now, in this impeachment proceeding against President Trump, it emerges that what President Trump has been trying to do in Ukraine is not only to get that country to help me him with his 2020 re-election effort, but he`s been trying to undo the U.S. government`s conclusion that Russia attacked us in the 2016 election, something for which we sanctioned Russia.  He`s also reportedly been trying to pressure Ukraine into settling with Russia over Russia`s ongoing war and occupation in that country. 

"The New York Times" reporting this weekend that Trump has, quote, quietly been urging a deal to remove Western sanctions on Russia for what it did in Ukraine as well. 

So, secret talks about relieving sanctions on Russia during the campaign, it was secret talks about relieving sanctions on Russian during the transition, it was secret talks about relieving sanctions on Russia when they first got to Washington.  Apparently, now, it is secret talks about relieving sanctions on Russia between the president and various foreign governments. 

For a scatter-shot administration that can`t seem to hold a single idea in its head for more than 15 minutes, boy, do they seem focused here on relieving sanctions in Russia, working on it in every possible way, including this breaking news tonight about not just the president`s involvement in this but what Attorney General William Barr has been traveling around the world trying to do himself. 

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

Mr. Ambassador, it`s nice to see you.  Thanks for coming back. 

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA:  Rachel, thanks for having me.  Hey, and congratulations on the release of your book tomorrow, "Blowout". 

MADDOW:  Thank you.

MCFAUL:  I know how hard it is to write books.  Congratulations. 

MADDOW:  Thank you.  It has basically killed me.  I am basically dead. 


MCFAUL:  Doesn`t seem that way to me. 

MADDOW:  If you get a chance to read the Russia chapters of it, I would -- I would absolutely love to hear it. 

MCFAUL:  Of course I will.  Looking forward to it.

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about the latest developments here in terms of this breaking news tonight about what Attorney General William Barr traveling the world trying to get foreign governments to help him in an investigation that the White House hopes will undo the U.S. attribution that Russia attacked our election.  That`s just one of the developments that`s being reported in this fast-moving story. 

What`s your take on that one in particular? 

MCFAUL:  Just outrageous.  I just can`t believe it.  I have to tell you honestly, I think that we get to the end of the craziness and then there`s a new revelation. 

And Attorney General Barr of all people should know better about doing this.  It does underscore to me what happens when people get close to President Trump and how he pulls them into his way of doing things, his way of conducting foreign policy if we can even call it that. 

And it really saddens me as an American.  This is not in America`s national interest.  This damages our reputation around the world. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the way Russia has suffered with U.S. and U.S.-led sanctions, obviously, they were sanctioned aggressively in a U.S.-led international effort after they invaded Ukraine.  They were sanctioned additionally by the U.S. because of their 2016 election interference.  There have been other actions by Russia, including the attempted assassination on British soil for which there were both U.S. and international sanctions. 

How tough have these sanctions been on the Russian economy and on Putin?  And how much of a priority is it for them to get these sanctions lifted? 

MCFAUL:  Well, you know, we academics debate how to exactly measure the percentage of how much damage it`s done to the economy.  Some say 1 percent, others go up to 2 percent.  And remember, it`s compounded because the sanctions have been in place for several years.  So, that`s one part of the argument. 

The second are the actually people on the sanctions list.  Believe me, I know some of them.  It hurts them and some of them are very close to Putin.  One of them that we discussed before, for instance, Oleg Deripaska, spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get off the sanctions list and invested in Kentucky to try to do that.  That shows you the level of effort that he was putting in.

But I think the most impressive evidence for how important it is to get the sanctions lifted is how much time and attention Vladimir Putin has put to the issue.  As you very rightly described in your opening remarks today, it is a central talking point that he does all the time, and they`ve always thought that some day, some way, President Trump would finally deliver on what he promised during the campaign in 2016. 

MADDOW:  In terms of how Barr is approaching this in particular, this new news, that I found -- I mean, not very much surprises me anymore.  I was legitimately surprised to see this report in "The Washington Post" that the reason that William Barr was mysteriously in Italy for this past week is apparently because he has been personally working the Italian government try to get them to cooperate in this investigation, that again they`re hoping will undo the attribution of Russia attacking our election. 

He apparently, according to "The New York Times" today, asked President Trump to make this call to the leader of Australia, to ask for Australian cooperation in this probe as well.  How unusual -- obviously, when there are law enforcement investigations with an international cast, it`s not unheard of to have international cooperation and to have it asked for by the U.S. government.  But this with the attorney general personally showing up in foreign countries asking for help on this incredibly politicized thing, I mean, as a former ambassador, how unusual is that?  How will foreign countries react to that? 

MCFAUL:  Well, I think -- you made a great point.  It`s not unusual for us to cooperate with the Italians or the Australians about an intelligence matter or national security matter.  But we`re usually doing it to deal with countries like Russia, with Vladimir Putin.  We`re not usually negotiating our own intelligence agencies.  And that`s what is so extraordinary and sad to me about this reporting. 

And it just underscores how obsessed President Trump is with trying to unravel the facts that are overwhelming from 2016.  And in the call with Zelensky, as you rightly noted as well, he brings up CrowdStrike.  Why is he doing that?  Because he`s trying again to undermine the evidence that we have about what the Russians did in intervening in our 2016 elections. 

MADDOW:  Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia -- sir, appreciate you being here tonight.  Thank you. 

MCFAUL:  Thanks for having me. 

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


MADDOW:  I know I seem flustered tonight.  I am flustered, as I have been freaking out about for the last several weeks. 

My new book comes out tomorrow, comes out actually just over like a couple of hours from now.  The title is "Blowout."  The subtitle is, "Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth". 

This book has been killing me actively for more than a year.  It`s been my pet project for this past many, many months.  And it turns out much to my surprise, I guess, timing-wise that all of this stuff that I have researching and writing about, in terms of the oil and gas industry around the world, particularly the oil and gas industry as it relates to Russia and Ukraine and Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump -- all of that is like hot in the news right now because that`s the kernel of the Trump impeachment, it turns out.  I didn`t know it was going to time out this way, but it has. 

The book comes out midnight tonight.  I start the book tour later this week.  You can find out more about it at  If you do want to see me talk about the book, if you want to see me in person, you want to see me on my crutches on a stage somewhere, I checked tonight and I think at this point, there`s only one stop on the book tour that is not sold out, and that is the one stop in Atlanta. 

So I think that there are still tickets available in Atlanta even though every place else in the country is sold out.  I`m sorry about that, but happy for Atlanta.  If you want to see me there, that`s the one spot you can still do it.  Tickets still available there. 

While I am getting ready for this launch, though, while I`m getting ready to spend a couple weeks out in the world talking about Ukraine and corruption and U.S. politics and Russia and where this impeachment scandal came from in the first place, which is kind of what the book is about, there is also tonight some new news about the president`s envoy to Ukraine, the envoy who just suddenly quit the day after the whistleblower complaint came out.  He quit just hours after he found out he was about to be deposed in this investigation. 

We just found out that that deposition is going ahead.  There`s important stuff you should know about that, and that`s next. 

Stay with us.


MADDOW:  Before anybody knew about President Trump pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political rivals for 2020, a good month before that story broke open, two journalists in Ukraine sat down with the U.S. special envoy to that country.  They sat down with Kurt Volker, which was in August, and asked him about the president`s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani and why it was that Rudy Giuliani was being spotted in Ukraine so much and what exactly he was doing there. 


KURT VOLKER, THEN-U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO UKRAINE:  He is not representing the U.S. government.  He is a private citizen.  I just think that we need to get anything that people have any concerns about anywhere off the table because the U.S./Ukraine relationship is too important. 

REPORTER:  Just the final question to this topic, Mr. Ambassador.  If hypothetically this investigation is done here in Ukraine about meddling in the U.S. elections in 2016, would it be considered again as a meddling in the U.S. elections, at least by the Democratic Party? 

VOLKER:  I think it`s important that we make sure there is no interference or no effect on U.S. elections.  That anything that is, you know, investigated or anything would have happened in the past should be treated as a matter of looking at what happened, not trying to influence anything happening today. 


MADDOW:  Nothing trying to influence anything happening today. 

Again, at the time that have interview, Kurt Volker was the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine.  Now, he is the former special envoy because last Friday, he abruptly resigned, just after he was named in the whistleblower complaint that has given rise to this impeachment investigation. 

And really, even with the seemingly nonstop flow of breaking news about this whole impeachment scandal, there is a ton we don`t know.  It is unclear whether U.S. special counsel envoy Kurt Volker may have been part of this scheme to pressure the Ukrainian government.  He showed up meeting with the Ukrainian government right after President Trump pressured them in a phone call to hand over dirt on Biden as a condition of getting military aid. 

Was Volker part of the scheme?  Part of enacting that pressure campaign by president Trump?  Or was he not part of this scheme but rather an important witness to it who might be able to shed light on what was done wrong? 

We may be about to get some answers.  The House of Representatives as part of the their inquiry has now announced they`ll be deposing five key State Department officials who are named or referenced in the whistleblower`s complaint.  They include Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine.  Mr. Volker tonight says he will be there, he will show up for that House deposition on Thursday, which raises all kinds of interesting questions in terms of the prospect of really unraveling some of the mystery and intrigue that continues to surround this situation. 

I mean, Congress has to start somewhere.  They are starting with the State Department depositions this week.  They appear to be planning to move fast. 

Joining us now is Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.  He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which is currently the leading the impeachment proceedings.  He also serves on the Oversight Committee. 

Congressman, I really appreciate you being here.  Thanks tonight.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL):  Hey, thanks, Rachel.  And congrats on your book. 

MADDOW:  Thank you very much.  I`m very embarrassed. 

Let me ask you about your committee and its plans and the speed at which this is proceeding.  As far as I can tell, we`ve got the slate of five depositions coming up, five State Department officials who would have had knowledge of Trump`s engagements with Ukraine.  Those depositions are scheduled to begin this week. 

Do you think you`re going to get all those people to come in for the depositions? 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  I hope most of them come in.  Certainly, it`s important that Mr. Volker comes in as you mentioned.  He is mentioned in the complaint several times by the whistleblower, and, you know, he has some interesting potential conflicts of interest that might shed light on whether he actually helped to pressure the Ukrainian president to actually do what President Trump wanted him to do. 

In any case, he`s an important witness to some of the events that unfolded in Ukraine at that time. 

MADDOW:  Having him resign basically very shortly after you announced -- 


MADDOW:   -- your committee announced that you wanted to depose, you raised some interesting questions as to the timing of his resignation.  I wonder if that has an effect, though, on the White House`s ability to try to block this deposition if they`re going to try to do so?  We`ve seen them say, basically, no to request for information. 


MADDOW:  We`ve heard them saying no to subpoenas.  Do you think they`re going to try to block any of these depositions and does it make a difference if these are current or former employees if they`re going to try to do that? 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  Yes, if they are not currently employees of the administration, so to speak, in his case he was never an employee.  He was kind of some kind of unpaid volunteer adviser in any case.  But, yes, if they are no longer employees of the administration, they have a little more freedom to testify. 

That being said, I wouldn`t put it past this White House to assert all kinds of privileges with regard to information that these folks may or may not possess.  Certainly, we`ve seen that in the case of Don McGahn in our demands for him to come before Congress to testify on any number of issues. 

MADDOW:  Obviously, there`s going to be a huge amount of public interest in what Kurt Volker might have to say.  The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who was recalled early from her post in sort of suspicious circumstances, seemed suspicious at the time.  It seems particularly suspicious now in retrospect, now that we know what was going on at that time. 


MADDOW:  Do you expect the public will ever know what happens in these proceedings?  Are these going to be taped or transcribed?  Is this committee council who`s going to be carrying them out or members of Congress?  Are we ever going to see any of this stuff? 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  Sure.  I think with regard to former Ambassador Yovanovitch, I don`t think that you`re exactly right.  I think she`s going to have a lot to say about what occurred with regard to the allegations in the complaint. 

I think that we should have maximum transparency with regards to the proceedings.  That being said, if classified information is shared or something that can`t be, you know, displayed in open setting, it makes sense to have them in closed setting and perhaps later on, Chairman Schiff will decide whether to publish the transcripts as he has in other situations. 

But in any case, we`re trying to get exactly what`s what and make sure that we get to the bottom of the complaint ASAP. 

MADDOW:  With the exception of classified information which, of course, goes without saying -- 


MADDOW:  -- people like me and a lot of people in the public will be banging down the door trying to get the transcripts of these depositions, if not the tapes.  I can tell you now.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee -- sir, thank you for being here tonight. 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  Thank you.  Thank you, Rachel. 

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


MADDOW:  They were first Republican members of Congress to endorse him, Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California.  Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter both came out in support of Donald Trump for president on the same day, on February 24th, 2016, they were first. 

Even so, they were not exactly profiles in courage.  They signed on for Trump only after Trump had already won three of the first four primaries and caucuses.  Still, though, they were the first members of Congress.  And being first makes you stand out. 

So does being indicted.  Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, the first members of Congress to proclaim themselves Trump supporters were both criminally indicted in August 2018 in two unrelated felony schemes.  Duncan Hunter was charged for allegedly misusing more than a quarter million dollars in campaign funds on his personal expenses.  In some cases, very personal expenses.  His trial starts next year. 

Congressman Collins was indicted for alleged insider trading.  He used his position as an early investor in an Australian biotech firm to tip off his son and other family members about a failed drug trial in order to help them avoid over three quarters of a million dollars in losses.  According to his indictment, Congressman Collins actually tipped off his family members from the White House grounds while he was attending a White House picnic. 

You can actually see the video of him there on the White House grounds making phone calls.  Prosecutors say that at that moment, he was basically saying son, you need to sell.  You need to sell. 

Those indictments landed in the middle of the run-up to the congressional midterm elections.  And President Trump took that coincidence of events to opine about exactly how he believes the rule of law should be employed and enforced as long as he`s in power.  The president publicly attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions for those two members of Congress being indicted, saying it would hurt Republican chances of holding control of the House of Representatives. 

The president said, quote: Two long running Obama era investigations of two very popular Republican congressman were brought to a well-publicized charge just ahead of the midterms by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department.  Two easy wins now in doubt because there`s not enough time.  Good job, Jeff. 

Rule of law, rule of law! 

As it happens, Congressman Collins and Congressman Hunter each plead not guilty at the time.  Remarkably, after pleading not guilty, both Collins and Hunter did win re-election in their deep red districts in 2018.  That`s where we left this story until today. 

Ahead of an expected change of plea to guilty in federal court tomorrow, Congressman Chris Collins today resigned from Congress today.  He did so effective immediately, in a letter to the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which means that Congressman Collins part of this story is over. 

But we do still have Donald Trump, the real Donald Trump on the record with one of his most brazen attacks on the rule of law, attacking the indictment of those two Republican members of Congress, one of whom has now resigned is reportedly about to plead guilty.  It`s not the first time President Trump revealed how he thinks the rule of law should be applied to the red and blue teams while he`s president and for what purpose.  But it was perhaps one of the bluntest and most shocking and it will come to its most abrupt end tomorrow when Congressman Collins walks into court and pleads guilty. 

That`s going to do it for us tonight.  Again, thanks to everybody for being so nice about my new book which comes out in hour, in a couple hours.  It`s called "Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest Most Destructive Industry on Earth." 

I`ll be book-touring starting later this week.  There`s one location on the book tour for which tickets are still available and that is at Atlanta.  So, if you`re within reaching distance of Atlanta, hope to see you there.  In any case, I`ll talk more about what`s in the book over the course of this week.  I`m so freaking exhausted and like post-adrenaline about having putting it out there in the world as of tonight, that I don`t think I can speak about it yet. 

See you again tomorrow. 


Good evening, Lawrence.

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