Trump threatens whistleblower. TRANSCRIPT: 10/7/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Michael Carpenter

CHRISTOPHER WYLIE, AUTHOR:  So that you can buy time to remake the inside of it. 

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  The book, again, is "Mind F: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America", it is out tomorrow. 

Christopher Wylie, thank you so much. 

WYLIE:  Thanks for having me. 

HAYES:  Before we go, quick reminder, all you West Coast viewers, I am personally inviting you to come join me and director Adam McKay and author Omar El Akkad for a special stop on our "Why Is This Happening" world tour in Los Angeles, October 21st.  It`s going to be a blast.

Go to our website and get tickets.

Now, that is ALL IN for this evening.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thank you, my friend.  Much appreciated.

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  I know it has become this regular thing where I start the show by saying, whoo, boy, wow, there`s a lot of news.  But honestly, come on.  On a day like today, we could all admit that`s where we are, right? 

It does -- It does feel like we`re in just this kind of cycle right now.  There`s so much happening so fast, basically every day now.  The news cycle didn`t slow down at all over this weekend that we just went through. 

And today has been just remarkable.  We have a ton of really big developments either directly related to the impeachment of President Trump or sort of adjunct to that story.  One of the things we`re going to be talking about a little later on in the show is this sort of stunning ruling from a federal judge today in which the judge said that the president does, in fact, have to hand over his tax returns in response to a subpoena. 

And I know this sounds like Groundhog Day a little bit.  There have been a bunch of legal fights on this issue of the president`s tax returns and his financial records.  What`s notable and important about this one is -- well, first, that this one is being handled really fast.  The other ones have been tied up in court and it seems like it`s going to be indefinitely. 

Today, this federal judge`s ruling didn`t result in Trump`s -- the president`s tax returns, excuse me, being handed over today.  The judge`s ruling was immediately appealed to a federal appeals court.  But even that federal appeals court appears to be ready to move fast.  They already demanded a very demanding schedule on this.  They want their first briefs on this by the end of this week.  They expect to be holding their hearing on this within a couple of weeks. 

The judge`s ruling against Trump was not only scathing against the president and his lawyers for trying to argue that he is not subject to any aspect of the criminal law, that he has immunity to break any law he wants and presidential immunity not only from prosecution but also from investigation, no matter his crime. 

When the judge was absolutely scathing about that as a substantive matter, but this judge today went further and argued that the Justice Department policies which say that in fact a president cannot be indicted.  The judge today said those Justice Department policies themselves are kind of wack, and whose policies themselves should maybe be revisited.

So, at one level we`ve got this stark ruling against the president today which is about his tax returns, but at another level, this is an important step I think in what has become this president`s effort to try to evade all legal scrutiny, not just the prospect of being indicted but the prospect of being investigated.  So, that ruling today from a federal judge on one of the Trump tax cases that landed just like a thunderbolt today.  I think that`s going to end up being important and it`s going to play out quickly just over the course of what`s left of this month.  So that`s a big deal.

And I would stack that up in terms of its importance alongside the news that we got over the past couple of days that there is another whistleblower from within the intelligence community who has come forward and who has become a client of the same lawyers who are representing the initial whistleblower whose claims about President Trump led to these impeachment proceedings that we are now going through.  The second whistleblower is also reported to be an official within the intelligence community.  He reportedly is somebody who has even closer first-hand knowledge and experience of the president`s behavior that again has already led to this impeachment. 

We`ve already talked a little bit on this show and I think it`s become a matter, of sort, of building urgency, an increasingly urgent concern.  There`s a lot of speculation I think for good reason around the country right now as to how President Trump might react to being really cornered by this impeachment proceedings.  I mean, he`s never really gotten in trouble for anything in his life, all accounts seem to indicate that the president takes the prospect of being impeached very seriously and very negative.

What that means in terms of what we should expect from him in response to that threat, what we should sort of brace ourselves for in terms of his behavior, it`s an uncertain science.  But as this impeachment proceeding goes forward and does not slow down and continues to just -- continues to turn up more negative information about the president and his behavior, we are seeing some even weirder than usual behavior by the president.  I don`t like to focus on the president`s statements too much, especially his online -- online statements.  I think he uses Twitter basically to outrage people and get people talking about things on his terms rather than what otherwise might be driven by the news.  So I try to sort of steer clear.

That said, I do, you know, watch what he says, even if I don`t talk about it a lot.  And the president today online opining apparently in all seriousness about what he calls, quote, my great and unmatched wisdom. 

As I have stated strongly before and just to reiterate if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, considered to be off- limits.

I mean that just feels a little weirder than usual from the president.  What that statement from the president was about is something weirder than usual too.  Apparently on impulse or at least on zero notice after he completed a phone call with the president of Turkey last night, the president got off that call and basically immediately announced a radical change in U.S. policy in Syria, including what amounts to basically a complete abandonment of our allies in the country who we have been supporting financially and militarily to the point where we have sent lots of U.S. military advisers to serve alongside them. 

The president last night declared that as far as he`s concerned, those allies that we have been working with that us service members have been serving alongside and propping up and supplying and -- president considers them to no longer be our problem.  If Turkey wants to off all of them, who are we to say no? 

He said this immediately after getting off a phone call with the president of Turkey, apparently with zero consultation with the U.S. State Department, the U.S. military or anybody else in his government.  He only consulted with the president of Turkey who got President Trump to do exactly what he wants and to take a 180 in U.S. policy without talking to anybody in the U.S. government about it. 

And while I wouldn`t put that past this president at any of the time that he has been in office, it happening now alongside some of the president`s more unhinged public behavior and statements sort of starts to feel like a coherent thing.  So, we will talk in detail more tonight about this sudden radical change in U.S. policy, apparently dictated by the president without consulting anybody in the U.S. military, without even consulting any of his Republican allies who have sometimes been able to tell him what to do on foreign policy.  This one, he apparently just ripped on his own in the middle of the night at the direction of some other country`s president.

So we will have some expert help on that coming up in the show, but I also think it`s worth watching in the very short term like as of tonight whether that might get undone.  Part of the reason we`re going to talk about this big change that he just made in Syria is that I think it is worth watching whether or not the administration is right now in the process of trying to undo what the president announced last night.  I think that`s likely -- I shouldn`t say likely, I think that`s possible, maybe even likely because what the president announced with regard to Syria has brought out even Republicans like Mitch McConnell in the U.S. Senate, brought them out of the woodwork to stand up alongside the Democrats and on this one say, no, Mr. President, this is terrible.  You`re confining your -- you`re condemning our very dear allies to what is basically certain death here.

I mean there are very few things on which Republicans stand up against President Trump.  This appears to be one of those rare instances and what we`ve seen over and over again is whenever Republicans push back on President Trump at all, the president does tend to cave and quickly.  So I think this in particulars worth watching tonight because this was a new policy announced by the president in the middle of the night last night.  There is a possibility that new policy will not make it till tomorrow morning.  We shall see.  I expect this to continue to develop.

But, you know, I mean what they say, right?  What the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.  The going has definitely gotten weird over the last couple of weeks and over this weekend and into today stuff is happening very quickly.

Part of the reason though I think things might feel a little hard to follow right now is because of a little trick that is happening once again when it comes to the basic language that we`re using to talk about the impeachment proceedings against President Trump and this -- the core of the scandal that is not going away that is continuing to develop in ways that aren`t good for the president that aren`t good for the White House.  And these developments as I said -- I mean, armchair psychology is always dangerous but he does appear to be slightly driven up the wall as the scenario just gets worse and worse for him.

Back in 2014, a website called "The Verge" ran this story about the Ebola crisis.  This was at a time when the Ebola crisis in Africa and the international worries about the spread of Ebola some real panic about the ability of modern medicine to responsibly handle active cases of Ebola was really at its height.  And what "The Verge" reported on was a number of stories that were suddenly appearing on social media, mostly on Facebook, that were stories about the Ebola crisis but they weren`t real stories.

Here`s how "The Verge" put it back in 2014.  Quote: There`s a scary story bouncing around Facebook accruing hundreds of thousands of likes.  The story says that the small town of Purdon, Texas, P-U-R-D-O-N, Purdon, Texas, has been quarantined.  The whole town has been quarantined after a family of five there was diagnosed with Ebola.

Now, at the time "The Verge" reported on this in October 2014, so five years ago, that made-up story which was not at all true had been shared more than 340,000 times on Facebook.  I mean. the Ebola crisis was a real thing.  Purdon, Texas, is a real town, but there was no quarantine of that town.  There was no family of five in that town that had come down with Ebola.

Somebody just wholesale made this thing up to freak people out and to get clicks which the originators of that false story appears to be monetizing by collecting ad revenue off the site, where you would land if you clicked through on that story once you saw it on Facebook.  So, The Verge ran this piece five years ago.  Fake news sites are using Facebook to spread Ebola panic. 

"The Verge" covered this as essentially a sort of scary offshoot of the Ebola crisis itself right, both in terms of the -- you know, there`s the legitimate concern about Ebola and there`s the hysteria around the Ebola crisis.  They were basically covering this is another thing to be worried about when it came to Ebola.  This idea of totally made-up news stories being used to capitalize on those legitimate concerns and the panic.

But those legitimate -- excuse me -- but those illegitimate stories were designed not to convey any real information, but instead to freak people out and divide people, to make people believe the worst about their fellow human beings, right?  We started to see made-up news stories not just about particular health crises like that but made up new stories that were about supposedly horrific things done around the country around the world that people are getting away with, things that would make you feel particularly badly about the state of humanity, particularly about specific human beings so you might already be predisposed to think the worst about.

And those made-up stories, that phenomenon of made-up stories tailor-made for getting lots of clicks on social media, that spread from the money- making fringe of social media in 2014 and 2015, into ultimately a really big part of the foreign operation to influence our presidential election in 2016.

Craig Silverman and Lawrence Alexander at "BuzzFeed News" had a landmark story on that phenomenon in the 2016 election.  They published it at "BuzzFeed News" less than a week before voters went to the polls to cast their vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  This was the headline: How Teens in the Balkans are Duping Trump Supporters with Fake News.

That story, that landmark story described purely made up out of whole cloth stories on topics that were designed to generate likes and clicks, and yes, ad revenue.  But also the tailoring of further online information with made-up stuff about how Hillary Clinton had secretly been indicted already, and if she was elected, that indictment would be unsealed after the election.  Also, the pope had endorsed Donald Trump for president or a different fake story built around a fake quote from Hillary Clinton in which she supposedly praised Donald Trump as honest and as a man who can`t be bought.

The story was that Clinton in 2013 had said that she would like to see a man like Donald Trump run for president because he`s such an upstanding man, that it`s not something that Hillary Clinton ever said but the quote was fake and the story was fake.  But, boy, did that circulate in the lead- up to the 2016 election, as did so many other of these false stories that were designed to freak people out and/or drive people toward one of two candidates in the general election. 

I mean, during our 2016 election, there were a lot of foreign entities.  There were Russian government propaganda entities but also hidden authorship entities like bots and trolls that literally created untrue news stories out of thin air.  Stories that were designed to exploit and exacerbate existing divisions in the United States to turn Americans against each other, to turn people generally toward the Trump worldview, to especially enhance divisions among Democrats or make Democrats feel like it wasn`t worth it to vote. 

These made-up stories were also just sort of brutalizing, made-up, outrage stories, stories about terrible barbarism that were just designed to make you feel like we were at the end of the line in terms of human beings being able to live alongside one another.  When we came to understand what Russia did in 2016 election, those made up false stories designed to have a politically useful effect on their audiences, we came to realize that that was part of what Russia did in their attack on us.  It wasn`t the biggest part of what they did, but it was an alarming thing that they radically up scaled over the course of 2015 and 2016, this sort of counterfeiting of the news process.

And so, that became part of our national discussion about what Russia had done, what Russia had sort of harnessed, to try to interfere in our election in order to benefit Donald Trump, in the term that was most easily and specifically and conveniently applied to that phenomenon, the phrase fake news, because these were in fact fake news stories generated for political purposes, that phrase fake news was soon adopted by President Trump and his campaign and then ultimately by all Republicans, basically so that that phrase became theirs. 

And the way they used it, the phrase fake news no longer described the thing for which that phrase had been coined.  It no longer described this very specific aspect of the foreign interference in our election, the Trump campaign and ultimately Republicans converted that phrase so instead it would be used as an epithet against all journalists, right?  Any real journalism, particularly journalism critical of President Trump would be fake news. 

It was also just an easy undermining epithet for all types of reality based journalism, all real media is fake news, all journalism is fake news, all reporters do fake news.  And that had two effects.  I mean, number one, it undermined journalism and the whole idea of objective facts being the basis for political discussion and policymaking. 

But it also took away that phrase for a specific and legitimate use.  I mean, them taking that phrase fake news and using it this new way sort of rendered mute, rendered kind of linguistically impossible any analysis of that very real, very specific initial problem for which that phrase was coined.  That`s what they did with fake news.  That is what they`re doing now with the word "corruption".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Everything to me is about corruption.  I do care about corruption.  Corruption.  Corruption. 

We are looking for corruption.  Tremendous corruption.  Beyond corruption.  We are looking at corruption. 

So again this doesn`t pertain to anything but corruption and that has to do with me.  I don`t care about politics.  I don`t care about anything, but I do care about corruption.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  You know, corruption is actually a real thing.  I mean, corruption has a specific meaning in English usage.  I mean, if a U.S. president intervenes in the U.S. government selection process for the next venue for the G7 conference and insists that the best venue in America for holding that conference is his own property which, of course, would result in him being paid by all those foreign governments and the U.S. government for him hosting the G7 Conference at his place, I mean, that is corruption if, for example, the president intervened in the decision-making process around whether the FBI`s headquarters would be rebuilt on site in Washington or moved out into the suburbs. 

If he changed the U.S. government`s decision-making process on that subject in such a way that would result in a better business environment and less competition for his own Trump Hotel, which is right across the street from that construction site -- I mean, that would be corruption.  Corruption is an actual thing. 

We don`t even need to make up fake examples to show the worst and most blatant corruption you could possibly imagine from a U.S. president.  We`ve lived through all these already.  I mean, diverting the vice president`s trip to Ireland so he had to stay on the other side of the freaking island from where all his meetings were, just so U.S. taxpayers would have to put up the vice president and his entourage and the Secret Service and all the rest, at the president`s west coast of Ireland resorts while Vice President Pence took his east coast of Ireland meetings -- I mean, plus paying all the extra money to shuttle him back and forth across that entire country back and forth across that entire island simply so the money paid for that trip from the U.S. taxpayers would find its way into the president`s pocket. 

I mean, that is corruption.  Corruption is a real thing.  That`s a word that has a real and specific useful meaning. 

Similarly, the corruption of American foreign policy so that instead of serving the national interest, U.S. foreign policy is diverted to serve the president`s personal political ambitions.  That is a form of corruption, and the reason we`re having these impeachment proceedings now is because the president has now been caught for that.

Now, that there is no question by the president`s own admission by the evidence provided by the White House, by one and now it looks like two whistleblowers who appear to have nailed him for doing that, now that the president is being impeached for doing that, the president`s response is just to say the word "corruption" over and over again -- corruption, corruption, corruption, corruption, corruption, corruption. 

All I care about is corruption.  I`m here to work on corruption.  I`m not corrupt.  You`re corrupt.  Joe Biden`s the corrupt one, Nancy Pelosi`s the corrupt one, impeach me, impeach Adam Schiff, he`s the corrupt one.   All I care about his corruption.  All these people coming after me, their corruption.

But when it comes to the accusation that he has been flinging against Vice President Joe Biden, the broader circumstance there is that Joe Biden as vice president was the American government`s point person working with the government of Ukraine to try to combat actual corruption in that country.  And so, therefore, you`ve now got the president and his allies pointing at Joe Biden and yelling corruption, corruption, look how close he is to that corruption in Ukraine, he`s the corrupt one, can`t you tell?

I mean, it`s the same dynamic that we went through around this phrase the fake news, right?  The media tries to expose and fact-check these fake stories that are being circulated to try to benefit Trump -- well, that effort itself, that fact-checking effort, that`s fake news.  Oh, you`re the fake news, everything you do is fake news.  The whole news media is fake news.

I mean what they`re trying to do is take this word away from their accusers to try to make any reference to the president`s corruption seem like a sort of muddy crossfire where there`s allegations of corruption on all -- on all sides, and who can say, right? 

As with their adoption and perversion of that phrase fake news, they are trying to make us basically linguistic incapable of characterizing the very real and very simple thing for which the president is being impeached, right?  The president saying corruption, corruption, corruption as if he is a force for anti-corruption now, it seems hilarious to hear him say it, given what he`s been like as president and given what he`s being impeached for right now.

But I do believe that we are on a very short timeframe now before which we will not be able to really use the word "corruption" anymore to talk about this scandal, for which the president is being impeached because by his sheer repetition of it, and the adoption of it by his supporters and by the conservative media for to mean the opposite of the real English use of that word the word will become meaningless, will become something that is no longer available to us.  It will become something that means both its real meaning and its opposite.  It`ll be an unspeakable unusable part of this political drama.

I am in Los Angeles tonight because I`m in the middle of the book tour for my new book "Blowout", and I feel oddly like writing parts of this book prepared me more than I might have expected for this moment in the news, for trying to understand what`s going on because one of the things I wrote about in the book is that one of the real benefits for Russia being an oil and gas power is that Vladimir Putin has very much enjoyed using oil and gas as a weapon against other countries.  He has used oil and gas to directly threaten and coerce other countries into doing what he wants.  If he can shut the lights off in neighboring countries, if they`re dependent on Russian gas.

And that`s very true in the immediately neighboring countries of the former Soviet sphere.  It`s also true by extension in two big parts of Western Europe, including the NATO powerhouse with Germany.  I mean, Russia is not that strong a country.  They don`t have a strong economy, they don`t have a strong military, they don`t have that much to offer in terms of things other nations might want, let alone what to emulate.  But if they can turn off your source of heat in a given January, you might nevertheless have to do what they want. 

The other way Russia has used oil and gas, particularly in the nation of Ukraine which Putin would really like to have become part of Russia again - - I mean, I don`t know if he wants to rebuild that the Soviet Union on a smaller scale, minus the Soviet, but he`s been taking parts of Ukraine for himself.  And what has been handy about Russia`s oil and gas power in Ukraine as Putin tries to dominate and disassemble it for his own purposes is that he`s used his huge influence over the energy sector in Ukraine to corrupt Ukraine, to keep Ukraine corrupt, to keep it corrupt on purpose so that Ukraine`s government stays weak, so that Russia can manipulate public institutions and politicians who it has corrupted by cutting them in on oil and gas deals.

I mean, well, before this current scandal, I was writing this freaking book in part on how Russia basically created a sort of La Brea Tar Pit of corruption in the energy sector in Ukraine in a way that is politically handy to them because any politician that brushes up against that mess, that mess that they have deliberately created there, even if that politician has brushed up against it because they`re trying to clean it up, those politicians can themselves be called corrupt.  They can be prosecuted even, because look at their proximity to that notoriously corrupt Ukrainian energy sector.  You`re trying to clean up the corruption here, no, you`re the corrupt one.

Before Paul Manafort became Donald Trump`s campaign chairman in 2016, running those kinds of operations against politicians in Ukraine was kind of one of his political specialties.  I mean, he was a real political Svengali in Ukraine. 

He would run these types of ops against politicians who he wanted out of the way.  He would accuse them of corruption, even if they`re only proximity to real corruption was the fact that they were the ones trying to clean it up.  That was Manafort -- that was a Manafort special in Ukraine, back before he became Trump`s campaign chairman.  It`s what they`re trying to do to Joe Biden in Ukraine today and we have since learned in this current scandal for which the president is being impeached that his lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been regularly consulting with Paul Manafort from prison on how best to make this accusation against Joe Biden and how best to leverage the Ukrainian government into helping Trump slime Joe Biden with it. 

They`ve been consulting with Manafort on that from Manafort`s prison cell. 

Well, now, over the weekend, we have learned that in addition to trying to put together these backwards words have no meaning accusations against Joe Biden, right, to try to turn his anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine into some sort of evidence of his corruption, we`ve since learned in the last few days that the other thing Giuliani and his guys on the ground in Ukraine have been working for trying to do themselves is that they`ve been trying to do their own little deals.  They`ve been trying to cash in themselves in some Ukrainian natural gas opportunities.

"The A.P." today telling this lurid story about Giuliani`s guys on the ground in Ukraine siding up to a Ukrainian natural gas company and making an offer that nobody should refuse, touting their advanced knowledge that the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was about to be fired and replaced, which in fact was true, and they did have advanced knowledge of it, touting their inside track on forthcoming U.S. government policy about Ukraine, touting their connections to both Giuliani and Trump.  And with those connections saying to an executive at a Ukrainian natural gas company, hey, wouldn`t you my friend like to find yourself becoming the new CEO with the biggest natural gas company in this country?  We can make that happen all you got to do is hook us up thereafter with the kinds of contracts that will make us not just henchmen but oligarch henchmen. 

Did I mention that we`re working for Rudy in this and that we`ve got inside information about what`s about to happen with U.S. policy?  Watch.  We`ll make it happen.  They`re fighting corruption, remember?

The "A.P." has incredible reporting on this today.  "Politico" had some incredible reporting on this over the weekend.  Rudy Giuliani`s comments to "Politico" on this is one for the ages.  He told "Politico" and I quote, I may or may not know anything about it -- which you got to give it to Mayor Giuliani, that is undoubtedly true, he may or may not know anything about it, zero Pinocchio`s for that.

But as the president is getting impeached for this scandal, for trying to get help against the Democrats and against his potential 2020 opponent from a foreign country, the effort that we are going to see here, what we have already started living through here is an effort to, you know, I`m rubber, you`re glue his way out of this, to turn the behavior for which the president has now been caught not just into some amorphous and unnecessarily complicated thing that doesn`t really have any inherent meaning, but also to try to make his sins our sins, right?  To try to absolve himself of his own crimes by putting what he did and what he and his sort of henchmen in Ukraine have been doing to try to put those crimes on everybody else`s rap sheet. 

And I know it is hard to follow the twists and turns of the story as it continues to develop right now, but just heads up on this part of it, right?  We are in the middle of them trying to redefine this whole thing, to try to make this simple case as messy as possible, and to try to make it seem like whatever the president did must have been done by his accusers first and worse.  We`ve seen them do this before with language and with the no puppet, no puppet, you`re the puppet argument.  If it works against this impeachment thing, there`s no grounds on which factually based accusations can ever be brought against this president. 

If it doesn`t work in this impeachment thing, we will have taken giant steps forward as a country part not being manipulated this way again the way we have so badly for the last three years.  Luckily, we have as our first guest tonight a person who I have somewhat desperately wanted to get on this show ever since this story first broke.  Tonight is the first time we have been able to get him. 

Stay tuned.  We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  He was a career diplomat in the State Department before serving in the Obama administration first as deputy assistant secretary of defense, with responsibility for Russia, and then in the White House as a foreign policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and on Obama`s national security council as the director for Russia. 

His op-ed in "The Washington Post" today is titled only in Trump`s world, could what Joe Biden did in Ukraine be considered corrupt?

Joining us now is Michael Carpenter.  He`s currently the senior director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.

Mr. Carpenter, it`s a real pleasure to have you here.  I`ve really been looking forward to talking with you.

MICHAEL CARPENTER, PENN BIDEN CENTER FOR DIPLOMACY AND GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT SENIOR DIRECTOR:  Thanks.  Good to be here. 

MADDOW:  The reason I have wanted to talk to you since this scandal first broke open is because of your -- your subject matter expertise here.  There are very few people who have recently served in government at the kind of levels that you have, focusing on that part of the world, knowing all the players involved, knowing all the dynamics, almost in -- almost in real time in terms of your -- the recent nature of your government service.

So, because of that, can I just ask you your reaction generally to the prospect that the president is going to be impeached based on how we know he has behaved toward Ukraine?  What sure what`s your attitude toward that seeming eventuality itself?

CARPENTETR:  Well, of course, that`s a political call, and I`m less well placed to speak about the politics of the impeachment vote in the House and the Senate.  But, of course, it is a gross abuse of power by the president to withhold security assistance to a prime U.S. partner that is engaged right now, in fact, in an ongoing war of attrition with Russia in order to pressure that country`s leadership to concoct false evidence to smear his political opponent.  I mean that is the definition of abuse of power.

So, the predicate certainly seems to be there but then the politics I don`t know how it will play out frankly.

MADDOW:  In terms of the way that this is being fought over on the sort of political battlefield, right now, what you`re seeing from the president, from the White House, increasingly from the president`s allies to remain in Washington, is that they are using the word corruption as both a shield and a sword, denying that it applies to the president`s behavior, saying that we he`s within its rights, and accusing everybody from Vice President Biden to his accusers in the -- in the Congress, to the media who`s talking about it -- calling everybody else corrupt, trying to I think sort of take the meaning out of that word so that it no longer lands with such a sting when applied to him.

I have to ask how you feel about the accusation of Vice President Biden having been sort of spotted alongside the notoriously corrupt Ukrainian oil and gas industry and that being a reason to call him -- to say that he`s the one who has the corruption problem here?

CARPENTER:  Well, you`ve hit the nail on the head.  This is really a sort of Orwellian inversion of reality where black is white and white is black.  And, in fact, you know, Vice President Biden in 2014, 2015, after the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine was pushing for Ukrainian reformers to be able to fight corruption and to take on those entrenched interests that had dogged the country since its independence in 1991, and pushing for the removal of Viktor Shokin, a prosecutor who was accused not only of shielding corrupt scandals and corrupt players but also of being part of one with reference to subordinates who were engaged in a shakedown scheme that was investigated by two of his deputies or one of whom was fired, the other of whom resigned in disgust, just sort of shows you how the narrative has been completely inverted.

I mean, this is a guy who everybody in the international community, the IMF, the E.U., our own government had been repeatedly calling in the fall of 2015, for this prosecutor`s removal, and then Vice President Biden when he travelled to Ukraine in December of 2015, amplified those calls and demanded that the prosecutor general`s office be thoroughly reformed.  If that`s corruption, then we`re living in a sort of a parallel universe.  That is called fighting corruption and standing up for reformers who want to do the right thing.

MADDOW:  Michael, if you wouldn`t mind holding with us for just one second, there`s a new twist in this story that`s been developed by "Politico" and the "Associated Press" over the past couple of days, which is an allegation that while trying to cook up these accusations against Joe Biden that the president`s allies in Ukraine may have themselves been trying to do some sort of natural gas deals, I`d like to talk to you about that just because of your subject matter expertise here if you don`t mind when we come back.

We`ll be right back with Michael Carpenter right after this.  Stay with us.

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MADDOW:  As the president is going through impeachment proceedings over his efforts to get a foreign country to help him concoct accusations against former Vice President Joe Biden that he can use in his 2020 reelection campaign, the "Associated Press" has now broken this sort of as the worm terms story about the president`s efforts to concoct these accusations in Ukraine. 

Can we put up that "A.P." story?  Put that on the screen.  Thank you.

Profit, not politics: Trump allies sought Ukraine gas deal.  Why not seek your own Ukraine gas deal while you`re trying to get Ukraine to cook up accusations against Joe Biden related to gas deals?

Joining us once again is Michael Carpenter, who is currently the senior director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, formerly a deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Mr. Carpenter, thank you again for sticking with us.

CARPENTER:  Sure.

MADDOW:  As this story does sort of take these twists and turns, we`ve now got this "Associated Press" reporting that centers on how, the president`s lawyer, Mr. Giuliani, and his sort of accomplices on the ground in Ukraine, in addition to trying to come up with some negative story about Joe Biden, they were simultaneously also trying to make money by getting their own political allies onto the board of Ukraine`s biggest public natural gas company and then trying to get gas contracts for themselves.

The characters here are -- a lot of them are mysteries to me, but this dynamic I find somewhere between very funny and very tragic.  I wondered if you could shed some light on it for us.

CARPENTER:  Well, Rachel, this is truly a remarkable story of how political corruption and economic corruption intersect.  You have these two operatives reportedly work for Mr. Giuliani, who traveled to Ukraine in the spring of this year in order to try to pressure Ukrainian prosecutors to launch some sort of an investigation of Vice President Biden to smear him in the upcoming presidential campaign.  Then, these very same operatives are trying to lobby for a change, a stacking of the board of directors of Ukraine`s largest natural gas company, Naftogaz. 

And if that weren`t bad enough, then we find that the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, the U.S. representative to Ukraine, Ambassador Kurt Volker, and the Energy Secretary Rick Perry, all travelled to the inauguration of the new Ukrainian president, President Volodymyr Zelensky in May, and literally right after he is inaugurated and sworn in, they are pressing him to change the board so that they can in place more friendly people on to what has hitherto been an independent supervisory board for this company. 

And one of the folks was a campaign donor to Mr. Perry`s presidential campaign.  The other is a man who worked directly for the former energy minister in the Yanukovych government, that is the government -- the kleptocratic government of former President Yanukovych for whom Paul Manafort worked and who likely has ties to Paul Manafort himself.  These are the sorts of people they wanted on the board of this Ukrainian gas company and they wanted to remove the independent Europeans and Americans who sit on the board today.

I mean, it`s just an amazing story.

MADDOW:  An amazing story, particularly for an administration that is trying to make the case that they`re over there just trying to clean up corruption, and anybody who thinks there`s anything untoward here as a partisan axe to grind.  It`s just incredible.

Michael Carpenter, foreign policy advisor to Vice President Biden, now senior director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement -- sir, thank you for your time.  It`s real honor to have you here.

CARPENTER:  My pleasure.

MADDOW:  All right.  Much more to get to.  Busy night.  Stay with us.

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MADDOW:  The last time President Trump got off the phone with the president of Turkey and immediately announced, I am pulling all American troops out of Syria, the last time he did that, he lost both his defense secretary, James Mattis, and soon thereafter, his administration`s point person on the fight against ISIS, Brett McGurk.  They both basically resigned in protest against the president`s decision.

Now, Trump eventually walked back that decision, but now less than a year later, the president has done it again, again after a phone call with the president of Turkey.  And although former Defense Secretary James Mattis refuses to say anything about President Trump at all, Mr. McGurk had some choice words for the president today. 

Brett McGurk served as senior director for Iraq and Afghanistan in the George W. Bush White House.  He then was, as I mentioned, the special envoy for the campaign against ISIS under President Obama then that`s a role that he continued under President Trump until he resigned in protest at the end of last year.

Mr. McGurk writes today, quote: Trump twice abruptly reversed course after, one, a foreign leader call, and, two, without consulting his own military advisors.  If anyone still believes Trump cares about Syria, they`re mistaken.  He doesn`t and his erratic swings heightened risk to our personnel on the ground.  The U.S. leads a coalition that includes over 80 countries and nearly two dozen contributors to the military and/or stabilization mission in Syria.  Leading a coalition requires consultation with coalition partners before major decisions are taken. 

This is elementary.  The consequences of such unreliability from the Oval will reverberate well beyond Syria.  The value of an American handshake is depreciating.  Trump said today, we could crush ISIS again if it regenerated, with whom?  What allies would sign up?  Who would fight on his assurances?

Bottom line: these are matters of war and peace, life and death.  Our military personnel, friends and allies deserve deliberation and thought before decisions are made.  That`s the essence of command.  Erratic swings favored far more patient adversaries in Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran.

Joining us now is Brett McGurk, former special presidential envoy to the global coalition to defeat ISIS. 

Mr. McGurk, it`s a real honor to have you here tonight.  Thanks very much for making time.

BRETT MCGURK, MSNBC FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST:  Thanks for having me.

MADDOW:  So you wrote today pointedly that a move like this one from the president which you clearly think is very -- very problematic both in its substance and in its process, you said that it would favor adversaries, more patient adversaries from Moscow to Beijing to Tehran.

Why did you single out Russia and China and Iran?  And why does this benefit them?

MCGURK:  Well, the essence of foreign policy decision-making and matters of war and peace, presidents do a lot of things but this is the most important thing they do -- make decisions about our military personnel.  And we know from history that if those decisions are not made with deliberation, with thought, with analysis, with facts, we can get ourselves into some trouble.

We face in the world, our competitors and adversaries in Beijing and in Moscow in particular, that have very long-term time horizons.  They are patient.  They are deliberate.  They`re implementing a long term plan.

In the region the Middle East, Iran is doing the same thing.  And we have President Trump who these wild swings in policy I think is really increasing the risk not only to our personnel on the ground most importantly, but devaluate our ability to really exercise leadership and power in the world.  And when I say devaluing the value of an American handshake, you know, American diplomats are on the front lines all around the world.

We`ve seen this most recently in Ukraine with what our diplomats are doing in Kiev, trying to manage this most difficult situation, and the value of an American handshake used to really mean something.  I was part of the process that built this global coalition against ISIS, almost 80 countries, one of largest coalitions in the world, and we were there from the United States and we needed help and we need your support, and we needed your troops and we need your forces and your money.  And the country signed up because they trusted us and that is becoming much, much more difficult because diplomats aren`t speaking for the country because nobody knows what Donald Trump will do from day to day.

So I think it`s dangerous and I would just really encourage him and anyone who can influence him to get back to a deliberative process before these most consequential decisions are made because the consequences can be quite far reaching.

MADDOW:  The prospect of a deliberate process on national security matters or in any policy matters in this White House feels farther and farther -- feels more and more remote with each passing day.  The policy process as it would be recognized in any other administration just doesn`t seem to exist in this administration, especially matters that have the president directly involved. 

I am struck by the fact in light of that that when you resigned and when Secretary Mattis resigned over the last time the president made a sort of rash and erratic and unexplained decision on Syria that was also right after he got off the phone with the Turkish leader Erdogan.  And I just -- James Laporta at "Newsweek" today has a scary story in which he has a National Security Council source who tells him that on that phone call, the person heard the phone call, the president just got rolled, that Erdogan just basically manipulated him into making this rash decision.

Is there something about the president and one-on-one conversations with foreign leaders like Erdogan or others that he`s particularly susceptible to?

MCGURK:  The president -- it`s a lot of bluster and then when the plans and policies meet friction in the real world, which any policy does, he tends to just totally back down.

So, we`ve seen this on Iran, in which he`s implementing a maximalist policy on Iran which we`re trying to just strangle their economy, and Iran is going to react, and then onus is on President Trump how are you going to react.

When it comes to Turkey, two calls in a row, the president just completely backed down.

I`ve been on a lot of foreign leader calls with multiple presidents and these calls are usually -- I was in the Bush administration in particular, as in the Oval Office, President Bush, a number of calls with Erdogan and others, they`re very well-prepared.  Mr. President, here`s what you`re likely to hear.  Here is that we think you should answer that.  If he says this, take it back, say that we`ll consult and advise.

It`s -- for the president to make a major decision which involves matters of war and peace immediately after a foreign leader call I think is almost historically unprecedented, because there`s no consultation with the national security team, with military commanders, to think through the costs and consequences of different courses of action.

So, it`s very odd.  You`ve seen the administration as you reported, Rachel, are trying to walk back the decision today and we might get into a place again which I think is the worst place to be, in which the president is making very clear to the world that he wants out of Syria, but the national security team is trying to find a way to stay in Syria, and he just buy enough time until you have another crisis with Trump.

So, it`s a dangerous situation.  But I hope Americans are in their thoughts -- we have Americans on the ground in Syria.  I spent a lot of time in Syria in this war against ISIS.  I used to go in there every couple months.

And we have people on the ground tonight who are there under President Trump orders and they really have no idea what they`re supposed to do.  And that is just unacceptable if you`re the commander-in-chief.  This is the most solemn obligation for a president and what he did last night just through this entire a policy process into disarray and left our people out there totally exposed.

MADDOW:  Brett McGurk, former special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, you have a choice about whether or not to speak about these matters given your government service and I really, really appreciate and think it`s a real service to the public that you`re willing to do interviews like this and talk about what you know.  Thank you for being here tonight.

MCGURK:  Thank you, Rachel.

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

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MADDOW:  Tomorrow is going to be another busy day. 

A senior State Department official, State Department counselor whose name Ulrich Brechbuhl, forgive me if I`m pronouncing it wrong, he`s due tomorrow for a deposition tomorrow in the House impeachment inquiry.  He is the State Department official who was mistakenly identified as having been on that -- on the president`s July 25th call. 

It was like a big deal in the whistleblower complaint that somebody as senior as him was in on that call.  It turns out he wasn`t on that call, but the actual secretary of state, Mike Pompeo was.  We don`t know whether or not Mr. Brechbuhl will show up for that deposition tomorrow but he is scheduled. 

Also tomorrow, the president`s ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, is expected to show up, but we`ll see.  He`s the Trump donor and novice State Department official who appears to have been directly involved in the scheme to pressure the Ukrainian government into helping President Trump somehow with dirt against the Democrats for 2020.

In advance of that deposition, NBC News tonight is reporting that a dozen House Democrats are already calling for Gordon Sondland`s resignation from the State Department.  But he is due tomorrow for a deposition.  So, we shall see.  Stay with us.

That does it for us tonight.  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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