CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That`s ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Much appreciated.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
As has been the case over this past -- really over the past week, the news again today seems to be developing by the hour. This has been a remarkable news day. There`s a lot to get to tonight. Let`s jump right in.
I want to start with the surprise news that I think nobody saw coming until it happened late this afternoon. It`s news from the State Department. Late this afternoon, there was an unexpected announcement from a number of committees in Congress that they had been alerted by the long time inspector general from the State Department that he believed he needed to come talk to them immediately.
The inspector general of the State Department, it`s a man named Steve Linick. He`s been there several years. He was there before the Trump administration came into office. He`s been a long time in that job.
And today, we think without warning, he told a bunch of key committees in both the house and the Senate that he needs to come see them immediately, tomorrow, because he needs to show them some documents that they need to see. Multiple congressional sources telling NBC News that the inspector general reached out to Congress with what the committees describe as a, quote, urgent request to brief the committees about documents related to the State Department and Ukraine.
Now, there are, of course, impeachment proceedings under way against the president right now having to do with his own involvement with Ukraine. Toward that inquiry, the State Department has been subpoenaed. State Department officials have been summoned to testify in those proceedings.
But the inspector general from that department coming forward on his own to say, uh, I`ve got something you should see here, urgently, that`s new and absolutely unexpected. The I.G. is expected to give that briefing to Congress tomorrow, again, at his request. It`s expected to be delivered in a classified setting, so behind closed doors. It may ultimately include a lot of people, though. The I.G. has notified the Intelligence Committee in the House and the Intelligence Committee in the Senate, the Foreign Relations Committee in the House, and the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate, the Oversight Committee in both the House and the Senate, the Appropriations Committee in both the House and the Senate. So that`s eight committees that he`s notified, four in the House, four in the Senate, he wants to brief the members of those committees plus committee staff.
Now, what does he have to tell them and why does he have to do it with such urgency and why in this why, we absolutely do not know. But it`s quite possible that he`s doing this on his own say-so with no permission from anybody else. "The Washington Post" points out tonight that as the State Department`s inspector general, he is independent. He specifically, quote, does not have to seek Secretary of State Mike Pompeo`s approval to approach the Hill with information, especially if the information is not classified.
Now, in terms of what these documents are that he`s going to hand over, the inspector general has reportedly told the committees that he obtained these documents he`s going to show them from the acting legal adviser of the State Department. The acting legal adviser of the State Department is a Trump appointee who has only been in that job since June. He was sort of a controversial hire because he was very inexperienced. Usually being the top legal adviser at the State Department is a really big deal, that you got to kind of have a Yoda in, like somebody who`s a real authority.
In this case, the person who is the acting legal adviser to the State Department, somebody who is quite junior, who hasn`t been -- who hasn`t been practicing law for very long at all and was therefore controversial for taking that job. These documents derive from that person. The inspector general says these documents relate to the State Department and Ukraine.
So that`s what we know. Beyond that, we don`t know anything.
I should also point out that the timing here is unusual and interesting. Congress is on recess right now, right? Most members of Congress are home in their districts. So, for the inspector general to come forward and say, hey, eight members, eight committees of Congress, I need to brief you on this stuff urgently right now, I`m coming to the Hill tomorrow, this has to be an urgent enough matter, according to the inspector general, that he believes it can`t wait until all the members of Congress return back to Capitol Hill after the recess is over.
So, in any case, this is going to happen tomorrow, even though Congress is on recess. If you are a member of Congress or a senator and you are on one of these eight committees in the House or the Senate that`s been notified today with this surprise announcement from the inspector general that he needs to talk to you immediately, if you`re one of the people on those committees, call your office. I know you`re home, but it sounds like you might unexpectedly have to be at work tomorrow.
One senator who sits on both the Foreign Relations Committee and the Appropriations Committee is going to be joining us in a moment, maybe we can figure out a little more about what`s going on here from him. But this was an unexpected twist in this story today. And it comes at a time when the head of the State Department, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is sort of sizzling under a very hot and very unflattering spotlight.
Last night, we got the revelation that was first reported in "The Wall Street Journal" that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was actually on the call. He was listening in on the call for which President Trump is now going to be impeached. It`s that call to Ukraine where President Trump asked that country`s government for help against his potential Democratic opponent in the next election. He`s going to be impeached for that. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was listening in on that call.
We learned that last night. It was first reported in "The Wall Street Journal." After we learned that last night, this morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent a letter to House Democrats, basically telling them to bug off in their investigation. The House had announced plans to depose several State Department officials who are potential witnesses to what`s been going on between the president and Ukraine, witnesses in this now- ongoing impeachment proceeding against the president.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo`s letter today essentially threatened Congress that he might not allow those State Department officials and ex- State Department officials to actually give those depositions, actually to give that testimony.
The three House committee chairs who had asked for those depositions, who are overseeing this part of the investigation, they responded to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by basically saying, no, no, no, no, no, and especially not from you, Mike, no. They told him this today.
Quote; Secretary Pompeo, you were reportedly on the call when the president pressed Ukraine to smear his political opponent. If true, Secretary Pompeo, you are now a fact witness in the House impeachment inquiry. You should immediately cease intimidating department witnesses in order to protect yourself and the president. Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress, including State Department employees, is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry.
In response, Congress may infer from this obstruction that any withheld documents and testimony would reveal information that corroborates the whistleblower complaint. The committees are operating pursuant to our long-established authorities as well as the impeachment inquiry. We are committed to protecting witnesses from harassment and intimidation and we expect their full compliance and that of the Department of State.
So, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, himself now an important witness in the series of events for which President Trump is going to be impeached, he is threatening to block the State Department officials, these other witnesses, from speaking to the House about what they have seen. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has not been successful, at least yet, in blocking all the testimony that he apparently wants to block. It was confirmed earlier today that Trump`s former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, will appear as scheduled this Thursday, the day after tomorrow, for his deposition. Kurt Volker abruptly resigned from his envoy position last week after he was named in the whistle-blower complaint and just after he learned he wanted -- sorry, that the House wanted to depose him in this matter.
But he`s not the only State Department official that we are expecting to testify. We learned today that the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, she also reportedly plans to go ahead with her deposition despite threats from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today. Ambassador Yovanovitch was scheduled to be deposed tomorrow. We have since learned that she has made arrangements with the House, her legal time has made arrangement with the House that instead of testifying tomorrow, she will speak to the House committees next week, on Friday next week, October 11th.
So the news is sort of coming fast now. In terms of the logistics surrounding how the testimony from the State Department officials is going to be handled, what we believe is that they`re going to be staff-led interviews which means they`ll be conducted by probably staff lawyers on the Intelligence and Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees. That probably means the questioning will be a little bit better than if the questioning were led by just members of the committees.
No offense to the members of the committees. I`m just saying, when you have one person questioning somebody for a longer period of time with the ability to do follow-ups and they`re a trained lawyer whose only job is to do these things and not get reelected in the process, staff lawyer questioning tends to go better than questioning by members of Congress. Sorry.
Beyond that, House Democrats have declined to say whether or not the transcripts from these depositions will be publicly released at any point. They have not indicated whether these depositions will be taped or whether they will just be transcribed. So, lots of variables still at play here.
And if you step back from the immediate developments of the day, we`ve still got the broader question of what exactly the president was trying to get from Ukraine. We know that President Trump is likely to be impeached now for having tried to enlist Ukraine to help him in his 2020 reelection effort. But there was also this very live issue of the president, the Trump White House, we`re starting to learn perhaps a broader swath has been trying in part through this pressure campaign with the Ukraine, they`ve been trying to go not just forward to Trump`s reelection campaign in 2020, they`ve been going back to the 2016 election, to try to basically relitigate whether or not President Trump`s campaign chair really was taking secret money from pro-Russia interest in Ukraine and whether not the basic question is true of whether or not Russia interfered election.
The U.S. government, U.S. intelligence community, has confirmed, has decided, has declared in no uncertain circumstances that Russia interfered in our election. The Trump White House, President Trump himself and, we are increasingly learning, members of the Trump administration are trying to query that or trying to muddy that or trying to essentially undo that declaration by the U.S. government that Russia attacked our election to try to benefit Trump.
That`s part of what`s going on by this effort by Attorney General Bill Barr. Bill Barr and the president contacting world leaders to get them to participate in a Justice Department inquiry that the White House is hoping might essentially exonerate Russia for the 2016 election attack. It would undermine the U.S. intelligence community`s conclusion that Russia carried out that attack.
Yesterday, we got that stunning report from "The Washington Post" that Attorney General Bill Barr is handling this personally. That`s how independent this is from the president`s appointees, right? The president`s hand-picked attorney general is personally traveling the globe, trying to get foreign governments to give him help in this inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation which the White House hopes will discredit the U.S. intelligence agencies` examination of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
And what remains this sort of big question mark over this whole thing is that relitigating that, trying to make it seem like maybe Russia didn`t interfere in our 2016 election, it`s true that that does indirectly benefit President Trump, right? He would like history to say he won the 2016 election without an asterisk on it, without help from a foreign actor which he got from Russia.
So, indirectly, the president benefits from that. But the entity this most benefits, obviously, is Russia, because Russia has been sanctioned for the attack on the 2016 election. If the U.S. government under President Trump is now going to announce that we no longer officially believe that Russia did it, we no longer officially conclude as a government that Russia carried out that attack -- well, then, there goes the basis for our government sanctioning the Russian government as punishment for that attack. Russia`s sanctioned for attacking us in 2016. Trump and Barr and others appear to be trying to undo the grounds on which those sanctions were laid.
The other grounds on which Russia is being sanctioned by our government and others is their invasion of Ukraine and their ongoing war with Ukraine. And it would appear that the Trump administration has been trying to make headway on that front for Russia too. "The New York Times" made kind of an offhand reference to that this weekend when they reported that President Trump has, quote, quietly been urging a deal that would pave the way for a removal of Western sanctions on Moscow over their ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Obviously, the removal of those Western sanctions is, quote, long a goal of President Putin`s.
I mean, President Trump himself said as much back in August when he was asked whether or not he planned to invite the Ukrainian president to the White House. He said at the time, quote, I think he`s going to make a deal with President Putin and he will be invited to the White House. Meaning, yes, I would like Ukraine and Russia to make a deal, I would like the Ukrainian president to go make a deal with Vladimir Putin. Then that guy can come to the White House.
Why does the U.S. president want Ukraine to make a deal with Russia over Russia having invaded them? Well, any deal between Ukraine and Russia that settled that matter would be the basis for U.S. and international sanctions against Russia being dropped. So this is something that the White House has been pushing for. Obviously, the way that President Trump has been behaving toward Ukraine means that any such settlement right now between Ukraine and Russia would be more on Russia`s terms than it otherwise would be, right?
I mean, Ukraine is in a newly weak position if they newly cannot count on U.S. military aid, if they newly cannot count on U.S. support and public shows of support, things like meetings with the White House, invitations to the White House. These are things the Trump White House has actively withheld from Ukraine repeatedly since Trump took office.
But Ukraine is further weakened by these now public indications that their new Ukrainian president is a sort of supplicant to the president of the United States and trying to get that support. That makes him look weak too. So, the United States in multiple ways has weakened Ukraine, put them in a weaker negotiating position than they used to be in vis-a-vis the United States, while Russia has been putting increasing pressure on Ukraine to come to the table right now to do a deal right now.
Well, today, the other big surprise news of the day, today the Ukrainian government took a major step toward doing a deal with Moscow, to settle the war that started when Russia invaded their country. Ukraine today signed accords that will allow the Russian-occupied areas in Eastern Ukraine to hold elections and potentially be granted a special status so that they`re different from the rest of Ukraine and presumably would have some ongoing Russian influence unlike the rest of Ukraine that has not been occupied by Russian-backed forces.
As "The A.P." puts it, quote: The election agreement was seen as the final hurdle between a summit between Ukrainian President Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of France and Germany who have helped mediate peace talks. There are already protests in the Ukrainian capital tonight, hundreds of people demonstrating against what they see as this new and unexpected capitulation to Russia after Russia has been waging war in Ukraine for five years. The Ukrainian president today was also put back on his heels having to defend against accusation that`s for some reason he`s suddenly making excessive concessions to Russia.
Resolution of the Ukraine and Russia war, especially on Russia`s terms, where they get to keep Crimea and they get to continue to exercise their own foreign influence over the whole eastern swath of Ukraine they`ve been occupying -- I mean, that`s Russia winning the war. That`s what Russia has been looking for, not only to win that war but to win it in such a way that it will end U.S. sanctions and international sanctions against them for their aggression against Ukraine because their aggression against Ukraine has now been settled, they got what they wanted and Ukraine gave in. And it looks like it`s happening sooner rather than later. It looks like it is happening as of today.
Joining us now is Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser under president Obama.
Mr. Rhodes, thank you for making time to be here tonight, I really appreciate it.
BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIIONAL SECURITY ADVISER UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me just ask you, first of all, obviously you`re a much better subject matter expert on these things than I am. Let me ask you if anything that I summed up today seems wrong or if you`d put a different cast on it.
RHODES: No. I think that`s right, Rachel. Essentially we are -- the Trump administration trying to dictate the terms of a solution that would be very much to Putin`s liking. Yes, there has been a framework in place for some time for there to be a resolution that could involve snap elections in regions, Luhansk and Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine that have been invaded by Russia that could involve special status for them.
But the context here matters. The context is you have the president of the United States and President Trump, who does not care at all about Ukraine`s sovereignty and does not care that Ukraine is part of a broader strategy by Putin to interfere in Western democracies, interfere in their politics, most acutely in Ukraine where they`ve had troops on the ground backing these separatist advisers, pouring in military equipment to Eastern Ukraine, where we should note thousands of people have been killed. This is a real war with real lives and real suffering on the ground.
And at the same time, we`ve seen this information war in the United States and Europe emanating from Putin. President Trump wants to basically whitewash that information war from history, as you said, and he`s literally pressuring, as we saw him do sitting next to the president of Ukraine when he said sit down with Putin and work it out, pressuring Ukraine to essentially accept the terms that Moscow I think would prefer for the resolution of this conflict.
MADDOW: In terms of those terms that Moscow would prefer, let me ask you about that, because I realize that the war in Ukraine has not been a hugely, you know, front page story for the American public for a long time. But it has been something for which there`s been some bipartisan accord in Washington and in fact some continuity between the Obama administration and the Trump administration, particularly in the way that Congress was reacting to this, in the way that Congress was trying to show support for Ukraine.
Do you think it`s fair to say that the U.S. government sort of until recently was essentially shoring up Ukraine`s position, they were bolstering them in terms of their negotiating position vis-a-vis Russia but that that turned under President Trump and that our lack of support for Ukraine of late may have put them in a worse bargaining position with Putin as they headed into this agreement today?
RHODES: Yes, Rachel. You have to understand, it`s very important, that assistance that President Trump was leveraging with the president of Ukraine, when he said essentially do me a favor if you want this assistance, is literally a lifeline to Ukraine. They depend on our economic and military assistance to be able to sustain themselves in the face of this Russian onslaught.
So, the first thing is, he`s taking taxpayer dollars and using it to pressure the president of a country that`s literally been invaded to do his bidding and investigate his political opponents.
The second thing that`s really interesting here, Rachel, is the officials that you mentioned, Volker the envoy and our previous ambassador, they were part of that kind of bipartisan consensus. Traditional Foreign Service officer and the ambassador, who the president of the United States agreed with the president of Ukraine, said she was problematic. Mike Pompeo removed her early from her position when she was carrying out that bipartisan policy. Volker is someone who`s been associated with John McCain in the past.
Those people are on the outs. Those people were clearly uncomfortable with that Rudy Giuliani was up to in Ukraine and what Donald Trump was up to in Ukraine. They represented that bipartisan policy and it`s not a surprise to me that they`re the first people who are going to testify in front of that impeachment inquiry.
The last thing, Rachel that`s really important is the Republicans used to be more hawkish about this. The criticism we got in the Obama administration from people like Lindsey Graham was we weren`t doing enough to support Ukraine. Now, all these Republicans have done a 180, saying there`s nothing wrong with this call transcript.
It`s a window into the cynicism of the Republican Party. How much they flipped on this issue just to protect Trump.
MADDOW: And, Ben, as we go forward and head into these next couple of days with Mike Pompeo essentially threatening that he`s going to try to block those officials you were just describing from speaking to Congress, we don`t exactly know how this is going to go with these depositions and when they`re going to happen and who exactly is going to show up and how much the State Department is going to do to try to block them from doing this.
How do you expect that that`s going to -- that that`s going to roll out over this next week or so as Congress tries to get testimony from those folks? Do you feel like the State Department is in a position where they can block their officials from showing up?
RHODES: I don`t think so, Rachel. And there are two things here. One is this is very important because it shows that the corruption of the Trump foreign policy wasn`t just in that phone call from President Trump. It was infecting the State Department like a cancer.
He was literally directing officials of the State Department, he or Mike Pompeo, to play ball with Rudy Giuliani, to set up meetings for Rudy Giuliani, not a U.S. official, but the president`s personal representatives, people who had his campaign interests, were aided and abetted by the U.S. Department of State which is supposed to work for the American people, not the Trump campaign. So, this gets at the fact of the broader corruption of our foreign policy in DOJ as you said with Bill Barr, and at the State Department with Mike Pompeo.
And I think what you`ll see is the State Department has officials who are uncomfortable with that conduct and perhaps the inspector general is one of those people if he saw, again, documents that he`s uncomfortable with, he`s gone to Congress. Certainly, the people who have already agreed to testify are uncomfortable.
But also, the State Department answers to Congress. This is a co-equal branch of government. The State Department is funded by congress. The State Department knows that Congress will be there after President Trump, whether that`s after an impeachment inquiry or an election or whenever it is.
And so, look, I`ve been on the other side of this. When Mike Pompeo was in the House, I testified in front of one of his endless Benghazi committee hearings, even though I was a White House official. When you have the power of Congress in an impeachment inquiry in particular, you can compel testimony. And I`m sure that there are a lot of people at the State Department who would like nothing more than to say their piece in front of Congress rather than go down with this ship.
MADDOW: Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser under President Obama -- Ben, I really appreciate you making time to be here tonight. Thanks for your time.
RHODES: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Miles of news ahead, piles of news ahead. Senator Chris Murphy will be joining us tonight, lots to ask him.
Also, I`m going to show you the part of my day that made me laugh out loud to the point of giddiness, I was very grateful. I`ll share it with you, coming up next.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": As I`ve said to you many times before, that I think that you are America`s premier explainer.
COLBERT: Something complicated going on in the day, you come out --
COLBERT: And you -- and as I said before, you lay the story out like parts on a lawn and then put it together and say this is how the engine works. Are you at all frustrated that the present scandal is so damn simple?
Let me lay out the parts. Trump called Ukraine, and I`m done.
MADDOW: Yes, exactly. Yes, you can`t even like, you can`t even sleuth your way through it too, because in order to find out that Trump called Ukraine what we had to do is ask Trump, did you call Ukraine? And he said, yes, here`s the evidence.
So, there wasn`t even like a whodunit, how can we prove it. It`s over. I mean, there is stuff to explain, like why did this happen in Ukraine and why did he think he could get that and what`s going to happen to Ukraine? I mean, there`s other contextual stuff that I could make long segments about.
But in terms of whodunit, he done it and he admits it and now he`s going to be impeached for it.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
COLBERT: That`s interesting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So I`m going to be on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" later tonight. It went great. Stephen Colbert is very, very good at his job. It was very kind of him to have me on tonight, I was super happy to do that. You should watch that.
I`m also going to be on the "Today" show on NBC tomorrow morning. And then I`m also going to be on "The View" on Thursday. Pray for me. I`m doing all of these interviews in other places on other people`s shows, which is not a thing I typically do.
But the reason I`m doing them all is because this book that I wrote has just come out today. I have spent more than the last year writing it. It is finally out. And I promise to you as a viewer of the show that I will not spend every waking minute on TV talking about it.
You can get the book if you want. It`s all right if you don`t. I promise I will not harangue you about it. But today on the occasion of the book coming out that conversation with Mr. Colbert tonight made me realize that there is actually one thing that is in the book that I feel like I should put on TV just as news because I think it explains some of what`s going on with the Trump impeachment right now and it`s something that is probably worth knowing in the news as it is developing right now.
So this is it. As I talked about with Stephen Colbert tonight, it is just unavoidable that the thing for which Trump is going to be impeached is a sort of open and shut case. He called Ukraine, he asked them to provide him some help with this Joe Biden problem he thinks he might have for 2020 for his reelection. He admits doing it. The White House has provided us the proof that he did it. It`s kind of open and shut.
And you can`t solicit help from a foreign government for your reelection campaign, and that`s what he did. So, the core thing here is very simple. He did it, he admits it, we have the proof, he is going to be impeached for it.
And to a certain extent, maybe that is all any of us will ultimately need to know. But if you have wondered at all why it is that Trump thought he could get something from Ukraine to use against Joe Biden in the 2020 election, it turns out there is a funny story there that might get more important as this goes on.
So the president`s lawyer, I guess, Rudy Giuliani goes on TV now and he says, look, I`ve got this document, I`ve got the evidence against Joe Biden, what Trump was asking Ukraine for to help in his reelection, I`ve got it now, I`ve got the dirt on Joe Biden from Ukraine.
Well, this is the document that Giuliani has been waving around. It is a statement and as it says on the first page, it is a statement, quote, made at the request of lawyers acting for Dmitry Firtash for use in legal proceedings in Austria. This is the document. This is the stuff. This is the allegations they want to use against Joe Biden, they`ve got it.
It`s a statement that says Joe Biden definitely did terrible things that have all been disproven, but nevertheless they should be definitely mainlined right on to the Fox News channel and other news organizations should spend a bunch of time looking into them with front-page stories and the president should definitely base his re-election campaign around these disproven allegations the same way he based his election campaign in 2016 around the documents and materials stolen on his behalf by Russian intelligence and posted online by WikiLeaks.
So, that`s how they are running, this right? It`s not just that the president solicited help for the 2020 campaign from Ukraine. His personal lawyer says, I`ve got it, I`ve got what we were asking for and this is what we`re going to run our campaign around.
Factually, as I say, these claims against Joe Biden have not just been debunked. They have been revealed as outright lies. They`re constructed lies that have been created for the purposes of trying to give Trump something to use against Biden and the Democrats to get reelected next year.
But why is it that the form they`re coming in is this statement that has been provided to this guy, Dmitry Firtash? Why is this manufactured smear against Joe Biden, which is now going to lead to the president`s impeachment, why has it been provided to President Trump and Rudy Giuliani by, quote, lawyers acting for Dmitry Firtash?
So here is the part that I think is helpful in the book because it`s about that guy, all right? It`s from page -- sorry, from page 231, chapter 19. Quote: Putin`s team in the Kremlin was delighted to utilize a man with Dmitry Firtash`s special skills and talents to shape Ukraine to its liking, to turn it from its increasingly worrying flirtation with the West, with the European Union, with oh god, maybe even NATO.
They cut Dmitry Firtash a sweetheart deal in Ukraine. Firtash was given the exclusive right to buy gas from Russia to sell to Ukraine, at a very large profit, about $800 million a year, clear profit in 2007 alone. Firtash`s company wasn`t making anything, it wasn`t even necessarily moving anything, it wasn`t really doing anything at all except getting paid.
Ukraine could just as easily have bought the gas with no middleman and no markup. But Putin wanted both the middleman and the markup because Dmitry would turn out to be handy, and so would the assurance of fantastical corruption at the very heart of the Ukrainian state and so would the prospect of all the richest and most powerful and influential people in Ukraine being dependent on Russia`s every whim. It cost the Russian gas company Gazprom a pretty penny straight out of Russian government coffers. But it was worth it. Firtash would have plenty of cash to spread around to shape Ukraine in ways that Putin would appreciate.
Some of that cash went back to Moscow as tribute. But even more of it went to prop up a pro-Kremlin political party, the Party of Regions, which meant that a whole bunch of that money ended up in the bank accounts of the mercenary American political operative Paul Manafort.
And then the next few pages, 232, 233, 234, are about how not that long ago, before he was in prison, before he was running President Donald Trump`s campaign, Paul Manafort cooked up a scheme in Ukraine where a politician came in and said, hey, this gas deal where this guy is being paid all this money to sell gas between Russia and Ukraine, this is a corrupt deal. That guy doesn`t need to be there. Why are we paying this middleman $800 million a year in pure profit when we could instead just buy the gas directly without him in there taking all that money?
There was a politician who came into office promising to get rid of that deal. In response, Manafort engineered an elaborate effort in Ukraine to smear that politician for that. It`s the woman there in the white coat. They literally got her locked up in Ukraine for her efforts to try to undo that corrupt deal which the Kremlin had set up for this guy Dmitry Firtash.
She ran for office saying she would clean up that corruption. She went right at that deal, she undid that deal, and then they prosecuted her for some vague allegation that she had something to do with the famously corrupt business of importing natural gas into Ukraine from Russia.
Yes, that is fantastically corrupt, and she did have something to do with it. She tried to clean it up. So they prosecuted her and said she was the corrupt one.
And that`s how corruption can be really useful. Corruption isn`t always a cancer. Corruption isn`t always a stain. Corruption is something they sometimes make happen on purpose.
It can be really useful to unscrupulous and predatory political figures. That`s why you might want to create it on purpose and why Russia, in fact, has gone out of their way to do so in Ukraine, which has led to the situation in which our president is now going to be impeached for his dealings with Ukraine.
I mean, the basic idea is if you`ve created a tar pit of corruption somewhere, one of the things that gives you is not only the ability to control the people who are in that tarry mess. It`s the ability to make new allegations of corruption against anyone who even brushes by that mess that they`ve deliberately created, right? You can weaponize that against anyone.
So, I think this is helpful to see, that before they ever tried to throw corruption charges at Joe Biden for the great crime of him standing up on behalf of the U.S. government against corruption in Ukraine, before they ever tried running this playbook that they`re trying to run right now against Joe Biden in Ukraine, they ran it the exact same way in the exact same country against another politician who posed a threat to a pro-Putin politician who had been advised by Paul Manafort. It`s the exact same play.
And then, as now, they used the Kremlin`s guy in Ukraine, Dmitry Firtash. They used him to run the play the first time against that Ukrainian politician who they locked up. And they are using that same guy, Dmitry Firtash, again to try to sell this same playbook, this time against Joe Biden.
When we found out a couple of weeks ago that Dmitry Firtash had signed up two lawyers who are potted plants, fixtures on the Fox News Channel, who have Trump`s ear but otherwise don`t provide much of a legal service to anyone, it was weird, right? Why is Dmitry Firtash signing up those two Trumpy lawyers? Oh, it`s because they`re going to try to Tymoshenko Joe Biden. They`re going to do that exact same thing they did to that politician in Ukraine, except this time they`re going to do it to Joe Biden. They`re running the exact same plot using the exact same people.
Honestly, it`s uncanny. It is a total rerun. The second time they`re running it is now. The first time they ran it is in the book that I nearly killed myself writing over this past year which finally came out today. And I will not bug you about it any more than this.
But as of today, it is finally out there. You can see for yourself if you want to just skip to this part, the dry run for what they`re doing to Joe Biden right now. You can start at chapter 19.
All right. Lots more to come tonight. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: When the whistle-blower complaint was released to the public last week, we got, of course, the whistleblower`s allegation that President Trump was abusing the power of his office to try and enlist a foreign country to help him against his potential Democratic opponent in the 2020 election. But we also got this surprise sort of bonus allegation from the whistleblower that the White House had been hiding records of the president`s calls and meetings, including on high security computer systems that are very restricted and that are only supposed to be used for things like records of top secret covert actions.
Well, if the White House has been submarining or potentially destroying records of the president`s troubling calls and behavior in order to try to keep him from getting in trouble for those calls and that behavior, that may become a problem for the Trump administration in federal court tomorrow.
This was a surprise today. This morning, a watchdog group called CREW requested an emergency order in federal court in D.C., this related to a suit they filed back in May. But the emergency order they were looking for was pursuant to recent revelations about the behavior of the Trump White House. CREW asked the court to compel the administration to preserve all records of President Trump`s calls and meetings with foreign leaders, because suddenly now there`s a question as to how those records are being treated, right?
Well, this afternoon they got a hearing before a federal judge in D.C., Judge Amy Berman Jackson. And check this out, at that hearing a lawyer for the Justice Department told the court that she couldn`t immediately commit to assuring the judge that the administration would preserve records of the president`s conversations or any records about how they handled those documents. But the judge, according to reporting from Zoe Tillman of "BuzzFeed News", appeared to be somewhat displeased if not startled by this -- the inability of the Justice Department lawyer to give that kind of assurance.
The judge gave the Justice Department until exactly tomorrow to commit to not destroying any of the records of the president`s calls and behavior or risk the judge making a formal ruling on the request for an emergency order in a way that, quote, one side might not appreciate. The judge is hinting that unless the Justice Department gives assurances that no records will be destroyed and all records will be preserved about how these things are being handled, she will produce an order tomorrow in federal court in Washington that the administration is not going to like.
I mean, we will find out for sure tomorrow. But like I said, this growing pile of breaking news has just kept growing over the course of the day. We have the perfect guest to help us shovel out from some of it. Senator Chris Murphy is going to join us live, next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: I want to go back to our top story tonight, the surprise news breaking late in the day today that the inspector general from the State Department today, surprise, reached out to multiple congressional committees with what those committees described as an urgent request to come up to "The Hill" and brief those committees about documents related to the State Department and Ukraine.
Again, this is a request to Congress by the inspector general of the State Department. This is an independent official. He does not need anyone`s permission to do this. But we really don`t know what it is that he so urgently thinks Congress needs to see what he`s got, and they need to see it right away despite the fact that Congress in fact is on recess right now.
Joining us is Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He`s a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, also the Appropriations Committee, two committees that have been alerted by this inspector general he has stuff he believes they need to see.
Senator, thank you for your time tonight. I appreciate it.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: I know that you are away from Washington yourself. I know that you`ve also been able to follow this news a little bit. Can you tell us anything else about this request from the State Department inspector general that he wants to show documents to your committees?
MURPHY: Yes, no, I can`t, unfortunately. I`m waiting to receive that briefing just like everyone else is. I mean, listen, this is a moment for patriots to step up to the plate. This is a moment for people who have information inside the administration who can give us a fuller picture as to how broad and deep this corruption was, to come to Congress.
And so, I think we all will be eager to hear what this new information is. Maybe it helps us to fill out a picture for us as we head into this inquiry.
MADDOW: On the Foreign Relations Committee, of course, you have keen interest in the behavior of the State Department and the secretary of state. Mike Pompeo is trying to block State Department officials and even a recently resigned State Department official from giving depositions to the impeachment inquiry even though those officials in most cases would seem to be direct fact witnesses to some of what`s gone on here.
I mean, I know that you`re an institutionalist when it comes to these agencies and these parts of our government. I just -- I wonder if you believe that Mike Pompeo is within his rights to try to block these officials from giving testimony given particularly the fact that he himself may be a fact witness to what happened here?
MURPHY: So, he absolutely is not within his rights to block this testimony. The House or the Senate has the ability to compel testimony from these individuals because of the wrongdoing that they may have been a part of or witnessed. It is frankly rich for the secretary of state to be making these totally un-based claims about intimidation of State Department employees given the fact that the inspector general has issued a scathing report of Secretary Pompeo, making clear that for years, Secretary Pompeo and before that Secretary Tillerson, have been engaged in a campaign of trying to root out and punish civil servants inside the State Department that are not political supporters of President Trump.
Of course, though, Rachel, this testimony is important. Eventually, the courts, I think, will require these State Department officials to come before the House, but it is not necessary given that we have a confession of guilt. We have the president in a transcript admitting to doing something that is likely illegal, that is fundamentally corrupt, and that should subject him to impeachment.
And so, what we`re trying to get through all these witnesses coming before the House is a fuller picture of how big this scandal is that may, in the end, convince Republicans to come on board and support a process that right now has been started by the Democrats in the House.
MADDOW: Beyond what the president did, and it seems like now the likely prospect he will be impeached for it, the bigger lens picture on what he was doing vis-a-vis Ukraine is he was really weakening Ukraine, that the U.S. has stood up for Ukraine since they got invaded by Russia 5 1/2 years ago. That we have been a real stalwart ally for them as they have tried to resist Russia, not only taking part of their country but occupying another big swath of their country. The president`s actions have been seen as weakening them and putting them in a worse negotiating position with regard to Russia.
Now, there is news today that the Ukrainian government is moving ahead with a deal to basically -- I mean, I`m sure there`s lots of different ways to look at this, but it seems like to sort of reify what Russia has done, to let them settle with Ukraine and letting them keep Crimea and with elections scheduled in Eastern Ukraine so that those parts of Ukraine may ultimately be subject to permanent Russian influence as well.
This was a surprise to me today. I don`t know if you`ve been following this so closely that you knew this was coming?
MURPHY: Well, I mean, it`s no secret that Zelensky in his campaign ran on two promises. One, that he was going to continue the fight against corruption, and two, that he was going to try to seek to bring peace into Eastern Ukraine.
The problem with the timing of Trump`s announcement that he was suspending aid to Ukraine was that it came right at the moment where Zelensky needed Trump to play bad cop. Zelensky needed Trump to be tougher than ever on Russia so that Zelensky could reach out and try to get some accommodation, to try to provide a path forward to settle accounts with Russia in Eastern Ukraine and push the Russian army out.
Trump fundamentally weakens Zelensky`s hand by telegraphing to Putin that we may be pulling up stakes. So, Zelensky needed, after the election, to deliver on his promise of sitting down and having some discussion with Russians. But there is no way he got an optimal deal with Putin because Putin saw that at this moment, this critical moment for Zelensky, the United States was pulling away.
MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut -- sir, thank you for your time this evening. I really appreciate it.
MURPHY: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Programming notes -- programming notes, plural. First thing I`m very excited to tell you about is that former Democratic presidential nominee, former secretary of state, former senator, former first lady, Hillary Clinton, is going to be here tomorrow, here live in studio for the interview. I am very much looking forward to this conversation. It is always interesting to talk with Secretary Clinton.
At this moment, there is almost nobody I would rather speak with since the House opened impeachment proceedings into President Trump over what he has done with Ukraine to try to enlist them basically in helping his re- election effort against the Democrats in 2020. Hillary Clinton has been pretty outspoken about President Trump`s behavior and what she describes as her support for the impeachment proceedings against him. That was not a given. But she supports those impeachment proceedings and she has been articulate and raised very interesting issues about that.
Secretary Clinton, of course, has also herself been central to the story about Trump and Russia and Ukraine from the beginning. She, of course, is the one who Russian President Vladimir Putin meant to disadvantage in her run for president in 2016. Yes, Vladimir Putin tried to install Donald Trump as president of the United States, but more than that, the Russian effort in the 2016 election both boosted Trump and boosted anybody who was in the running, running against Hillary Clinton who would have the chance to either beat her or undermine her chances of winning the White House or effectively governing once she was there.
Hillary Clinton is now also the target of a reinvestigation that has newly been ratcheted up by the State Department under President Trump. They literally have started investigating her e-mails again. They started doing so last month, or I guess in August, which is roughly the same time the Trump administration found out about the whistle-blower complaint, about President Trump`s behavior toward Ukraine.
The response of the State Department was to start to reinvestigate Hillary`s e-mails. And they`re doing that right now. But I`m delighted to say she will be with us in studio tomorrow night. I`m really looking forward to that.
I also want to tell you that, as I mentioned earlier, I`m going to be a guest on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" tonight. That`s 11:00 p.m. Eastern on CBS.
And then because who needs to sleep, I`m going to be on the "Today" show tomorrow morning on NBC, I think around at 8:30 Eastern.
But that Hillary Clinton interview tomorrow night would be keeping me up overnight anyway in terms of prepping for it.
All right. It`s been a big day. Thanks so much. Thanks for being so nice about the launch of my book. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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