JONATHAN ADLER, CASE WESTERN RESERVE: And certainly, I have many conversations with conservative students, you know, young members of the Federalist Society and the like, who have these concerns and who worry that being a legal conservative means exonerating or enabling this conduct.
And the point we`re trying to make is that`s just not so.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Charles Fried, Jonathan Adler, thank you very much for your time.
That is 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. Much appreciated.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
If you have a lawyer, particularly one that is representing you on a matter that is turning out to be a little dicey, maybe a little dangerous for you, maybe a little sketchy -- I mean, in theory, in that circumstance, it`s a good thing that you have a lawyer, that you have representation, that you are not facing this thing alone. However, if in the midst of that ongoing, sketchy/dangerous situation, you wake up to the news one morning that your lawyer`s other clients, the other people your lawyer is representing in this same saga, if you wake up to the news this morning that they have just been arrested and put in jail, that is not a good sign about either your situation or your lawyer.
But that is the situation that the president of the United States woke up to this morning. The personal lawyer of the president of the United States, not that one, the first one, he`s already in prison. That`s Michael Cohen. The second one is Rudy Giuliani.
And these two gentlemen who were arrested last night, they are, like the president, clients of Mr. Giuliani. They have been arrested on multiple felony counts for allegedly funneling very large amounts of illegal campaign contributions to various Republican politicians and political entities using straw men and a fake natural gas company and a number of other schemes to conceal the real origins of these illegal donations, including some of these funds that were given to them for this purpose by an unnamed Russian donor.
As of tonight these gentlemen are in custody in a federal jail in Virginia, although I believe if they post a million dollars bail each sometime tonight, they could be released with monitoring devices and some sort of third-party representing to the court that they promise not to flee the country. But I mean, bottom line here, when your lawyer`s other clients get arrested, that`s not good. You want to know what`s worse than that, though?
When CNN soon thereafter reports that your lawyer himself is also being scrutinized by the same federal prosecutors who just arrested his other clients today. That`s what CNN reported this afternoon. Rudy Giuliani says that he has not been contacted by federal prosecutors in New York. But if you watch closely the way this unfolded today, when the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York announced the indictment against Rudy Giuliani`s two clients today, these guys who have been directly involved in the Ukraine scandal for which the president is now being impeached, that U.S. attorney, Geoffrey Berman, did say explicitly and with a heavy portent that this investigation is ongoing. Meaning they might not expect these to be the only indictments.
And if in fact that CNN reporting is right, that Rudy Giuliani himself is now under scrutiny by the same federal prosecutors who just brought about the arrest of his clients last night, well, that would be a real kick in the pants, right, in terms of how Rudy Giuliani`s biography will ultimately read at the ending of all of this.
I mean, if you`ve been following Rudy Giuliani at all, it was one of the great landmark moments in Republican politics and Rudy Giuliani`s sort of downfall as a national -- a public figure of national esteem when his hand- picked police commissioner, Bernie Kerik, got arrested and had to get locked up at a downtown jail in New York that Rudy Giuliani had named for Bernie Kerik. I mean, it`s never good to go to jail. But when you have to go jail to the jail that`s named after you, that`s the kind of thing that people remember.
Well, now if that Bernie Kerik incident is book-ended by Rudy Giuliani, the former U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, being indicted by the Southern District of New York, being indicted by his own successor as U.S. attorney in that district, if Rudy Giuliani gets criminally charged by the U.S. attorney`s office that he himself used to run, which is apparently a real prospect here, I don`t -- that will be something. I don`t even know what to say about that prospect.
But that is a nonzero possibility at this point, at least if that CNN reporting bears out. And you probably notice that the news developed quite fast today. I do feel, though, that this is one of those days when instead of being hit by like a thunderstorm or, you know, buffeting winds sort of thing, we just kind of got hit by a fire hose today. It was one solid stream of information coming at us today that all really had to do with the impeachment, that all really had to do with one thing and it actually all fits together pretty cogently.
So, let`s just take this piece by piece. These two men are both U.S. citizens. One is -- was born in Belarus, one was born in Ukraine. That doesn`t necessarily matter. They are U.S. citizens. They have been working with Rudy Giuliani apparently for months on this scheme for which the president is now being impeached.
And that`s not a complicated scheme, right? The president pressed the government of Ukraine to provide him assistance in his next election against the Democrats and specifically against his potential opponent, Joe Biden. That is illegal. You can`t solicit a thing of value for a U.S. election from a foreign entity. It is plainly illegal. That is the grounds on which the House of Representatives is going to impeach President Trump.
And while that core criminal act, that core impeachable offense is something the president has already confessed to and the White House has in fact already provided evidence of, as the House continues to investigate this matter to try to nail down that article of impeachment, the details of how the president was trying to carry out this scheme has been coming into sharper relief.
For example, we have learned from the president`s recently resigned envoy to Ukraine that this effort by President Trump to get dirt from that foreign country to use against his opponent, it wasn`t just the president acting on his own, it wasn`t like a whim that the president expressed out loud, or a wish or a joke. It was actually a scheme, it was a plan. And he gave orders within the federal government for this scheme to be carried out. In order to do that, he needed multiple officials to take part in it.
By following that path a little bit, we have very quickly learned that one of the elements of this plan is that the president and other members of the administration who were in on this scheme, they pretty quickly realized that there were going to be some people in their way. And so, they had to get those people out of their way. Part of what we are now seeing happened on multiple levels. It`s that the president and the other people who took part in this scheme took steps to remove people in the U.S. government who they saw as standing in the way of enacting this scheme to benefit the president in the next election.
One of the people they took out of the picture, they removed from her post was the then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Her name is Marie Yovanovitch. She is due to give a deposition to the House of Representatives in the impeachment inquiry tomorrow. Ambassador Yovanovitch was removed from her post in Ukraine in the spring of this year after a campaign in the conservative media spearheaded by Rudy Giuliani denounced her as some kind of bad guy that had to be taken out of that embassy and replaced.
What we learned from today`s indictment, that these handsome men who were arrested last night were allegedly a key part of that plan, as was this gentleman, former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas. According to today`s indictment, the guys who got arrested last night, Giuliani`s clients, they illegally funneled more than $300,000 into a pro Trump super PAC that among other things was supporting the re-election campaign of Congressman Pete Sessions in Texas. They also committed to raise $20,000 for Congressman Sessions directly.
And then they met with him to make their big ask. Quote: At around the same time that Parnas and Fruman committed to raising those funds for congressman-1, who we believe to be Congressman Pete Sessions, Parnas met with Congressman Sessions in person and sought the congressman`s assistance in causing the U.S. government to remove or recall the then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
So, they give tons of money to this PAC that`s supporting Sessions` re- election. They also pledged to raise tens of thousands of dollars for Sessions` re-election. They get a meeting with Sessions and they say, you`ve got to help us get this ambassador out of there. And, in fact, Republican Congressman Pete Sessions makes good on his end of the bargain.
NBC News has obtained the letter that Congressman Sessions sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shortly after that meeting with these guys who have now been arrested. In that letter, Congressman Sessions, in fact, tells the secretary of state that he should, quote, consider terminating her ambassadorship as soon as possible.
So again, I mean, the scheme here for which President Trump is being impeached is a simple thing. But in order to enact this scheme where he`s going to get help from Ukraine against the Democrats, a lot of different people had to play their part. This is something he did on his own. He put the U.S. government to work to enact this scheme.
And once he did that, people who weren`t going to play their part had to be cleared out of the way. People who might squawk about this, people who might realize this was wrong, people who might pose resistance to this scheme, they had to be ousted. And it started to seem apparently very clear to them that one of the people that would need to be cleared out of the way was U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
I mean, those guys were making a lot of allegedly illegal campaign contributions and meeting with that Texas Republican congressman in order to try to enact that part of the scheme. They are also reportedly the guys who are arranging meetings with Ukrainian officials for Rudy Giuliani, again to try to put together this scheme where the Ukrainian government would help Trump by launching basically bogus investigations into Democrats, specifically into Joe Biden. And importantly, they specifically sought the U.S. -- they specifically sought from Ukraine a public announcement of those investigations into Joe Biden to make sure that they could cast maximum aspersions on Biden and the Democrats ahead of the 2020 election.
So, there`s a couple parts of the story that I think are still developing tonight that I`m super interested in. One is this report from reporter Elaina Plott at "The Atlantic" magazine. You see the title there: The mystery of Rudy Giuliani`s Vienna trip.
Now, you might have seen the news today about these arrests that when these guys who had been working with Rudy Giuliani on the Ukraine scheme, his supposed clients, when they were arrested last night, they were actually arrested at the Dulles Airport in the D.C. suburbs. According to the U.S. attorney who unsealed their indictment today, these guys were about to leave the country with one-way tickets. Those tickets were reportedly going to take them to Frankfurt, Germany.
Now, whether they were planning on just stopping in Germany or continuing on from a further flight from there, it`s not totally clear. But for his part, according to Elaina Plott, Mr. Giuliani says that Vienna is where his clients were going when they were arrested by the FBI last night. They might have had initial tickets to Frankfurt but their ultimate destination was Vienna, Austria.
Rudy Giuliani also told Elaina Plott from "Atlantic" magazine that he too was on his way to Vienna, Austria. I mean, this indictment was apparently drawn up by the grand jury yesterday, so these arrests could take place last night. It was then unsealed this morning so we could all see it.
There is some reporting today that suggests that the timing of the grand jury indictment, the timing of the arrest was driven by the fact that these guys were going to the airport to the international terminal and planning to leave on a foreign trip for which nobody knew if they would ever return. I mean, that`s interesting in its own right, just in terms of like the cops and robbers of this, right? Just in terms of the way the wheels of justice turn.
Oh, we`ve been working on this, better getting the indictment done, better get the arrests done tonight before they get on those planes, right? I think that detail may also go some distance toward dispelling any conspiracy theorizing about why this arrest happened right now and not any other day. It looks like why they happened right now and not any other day is because these guys were about to leave the country.
But if as Rudy Giuliani tells "The Atlantic" magazine, these guys were going to Vienna, if that`s where they were leaving the country to go, if Rudy Giuliani himself was on his way to Vienna, why Vienna? Well, I don`t know.
But Vienna has surfaced one other time in this scheme for which the president is being impeached. Do you remember this? A couple of weekends ago after the impeachment proceedings against President Trump were announced, Rudy Giuliani went on network television and started waving around this damning document, which he said was like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and he was the happiest leprechaun ever.
This was the much heralded dirt against Joe Biden that this whole scheme had been designed to elicit from the government of Ukraine. He was like this is it, I got it.
What that document was that Rudy Giuliani was waving around on TV was a sworn statement from a former Ukrainian official, who had sort of left office in a cloud of ethics allegations. That sworn statement is basically all the accusations that Giuliani and Trump have been wanting to make about Joe Biden. It`s the whole point of why they enacted this scheme. This is the thing they can smear Joe Biden to help Trump get re-elected in 2020.
Look, here`s all the terrible things we want you to believe Joe Biden did that Ukraine ought to be investigating, right? Well, that sworn statement which is all of this made up stuff about Joe Biden, that was obtained by Rudy Giuliani from a man named Dmitry Firtash. It says right on the front page of that document that it was obtained from Dmitry Firtash.
Dmitry Firtash lives in Vienna, Austria, and he never gets to leave. He always has to stay in Vienna, Austria. Why is that? Because that`s where he is under house arrest.
Dmitry Firtash is a Ukrainian billionaire, a favorite of the Kremlin who is a billionaire because of the Kremlin. He is described by U.S. prosecutors as an upper echelon associate of Russian organized crime. Firtash was arrested several years ago in Vienna after the U.S. government requested his arrest because they wanted him extradited to this country to face trial on a multibillion dollar bribery scam. He has been fighting that extradition, trying to avoid getting sent back to the U.S. to go to trial on those charges.
Within the last few months, Dmitry Firtash added to his legal representation team a couple of less known U.S. lawyers. People who are less known as lawyers and more known as people who go on Fox News and scream about the witch hunt. He has added these pro-Trump lawyers to his team. And as he is fighting this effort to have himself -- fighting this effort to have him extradited to the U.S. to face trial, Mr. Firtash has started generating these anti-Joe Biden documents apparently out of thin air, these accusations against Joe Biden, and they have been provided to Rudy Giuliani and company to use as, you know, PR ammunition against Biden.
The problem with getting this stuff from Dmitry Firtash, though, is that he is under house arrest. And so, it`s not like he can deliver. You kind of have to go to him to pick this stuff up. And I don`t know, maybe there are lots of other people involved in this scheme who happen to be in Vienna, Austria, who need in-person visits from Rudy Giuliani and his Tweedledum and Tweedledee as they try to effectuate this scheme on behalf of President Trump and to benefit Trump`s 2020 chances. Maybe Vienna is full of people helping out with this.
But if you step back from this just a second, right, to see who has been working with the president of the United States on this scheme for which he is now being impeached, I mean, Rudy Giuliani admits that he has been working on this scheme with Dmitry Firtash, this guy who is under House arrest, fighting extradition to the United States, labeled an upper echelon associate of Russian organized crime, wanted on multibillion dollar bribery charges. Giuliani admits he`s been working with him and getting his best anti-Biden stuff from him.
He also admits that he`s been working with Paul Manafort, who is a federal inmate. The president`s campaign chairman currently serving a seven-plus year sentence in federal prison on fraud and conspiracy charges. When Rudy Giuliani`s clients were arrested last night, turned up for their initial court appearance today in the Eastern District of Virginia, they were represented in court today by Paul Manafort`s lawyers. I guess they just happened to be in the neighborhood.
And we know from Giuliani`s own account of how this scheme has been run that the other people with whom he has been working the most closely on this issue are these two guys who are now under arrest and sitting in a Virginia jail. So, it`s the felon who`s in prison, the indicted guy who`s fighting extradition and the two guys who tonight are in federal jail in Virginia. That is who Rudy Giuliani has assembled as his dream team to work out this scheme for the president of the United States to enlist a foreign country`s help for his re-election bid.
I mean, you couldn`t ask for a more impressive group of corruption fighters, right?
So that is one part of that that is still developing that we are watching tonight. I just can`t -- that`s your team? Really? Can you all share lawyers, would that be cheaper? Sorry.
So that`s one. The other part of this I`m very interested in now, which we now have a much clearer view of is this dynamic in which regular government officials, people just doing their job, career folks, non-politicized had to be pushed out of the way so this scheme could be enacted. And we actually got a brand new piece of news on that today, which we know from "The Wall Street Journal`s" reporting has already become a new part of the impeachment investigation into President Trump, and that is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: As today we saw the first arrests of people associated with the scheme for which the president is being impeached, one of the things that is coming into clearer view is that as the president tried to enact this scheme to get Ukraine to give him help against his Democratic opposition in the next election, he not only had to enlist friends of Rudy, including a number of whom are either in prison or on their way to it, he also had to move people out of the U.S. government who were in the way of that scheme, people who were doing their jobs and were either prone to raise the alarm about what was happening or just wouldn`t help carrying it out had to get pushed out.
We know, for example, that the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, a career foreign service officer named Marie Yovanovitch, was suddenly removed from her position as ambassador because people like Rudy Giuliani had started a campaign to denounce her and people like the president`s eldest son, Don Jr., soon joined in.
Here, for example, is a nice picture of Donald Trump Jr. on the left with the two guys who were arrested last night, that`s the two of them on the right. The guy in between them is the man who at the time was heading the pro Trump super PAC to which those arrested guys had just given a gigantic $300,000 plus illegal donation.
After Marie Yovanovitch was slimed by people like Rudy Giuliani and the president`s eldest son with bogus allegations against her that had been reportedly provided by these two guys who have now been arrested, after she was recalled from Kiev, one of the interesting things about this saga is that President Trump never made an effort to replace the U.S. ambassador in Ukraine. There`s no nominee for somebody to be the new U.S. ambassador since Marie Yovanovitch was sent home.
Instead, what the president did is put in a different guy in Kiev in a sort of unofficial role but it was definitely at the president`s personal request. And he was sent in apparently to handle this very special situation that the president was cooking up with Rudy Giuliani and his big band of corruption fighters in Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, concerning your title, you`re the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., but you have been spending a great deal of time in Kiev. Why is that?
GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Well, President Trump has not only honored me with the job of being U.S. ambassador to the E.U., but he`s also given me other special assignments, including Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He`s given me special assignments, including Ukraine.
That`s Gordon Sondland on Ukrainian television after our U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was sent home, apparently as part of this scheme for which the president is now being impeached. And Gordon Sondland does, in fact, seem to have personally directed by the president to oversee his interests in Ukraine, including now what we understand to be those interests. Sondland, for example, appears to be the one who pressed the Ukrainian government not only to open investigations into Joe Biden but to make sure that they made public announcements about the fact that they were doing so because it seems clear what the Trump administration wanted from Ukraine was the public impact of announced investigations into Biden. They wanted it to have a public impact and a political effect so it was important that it had to be announced out loud. Gordon Sondland apparently is the one who delivered that message.
Sondland also reportedly spoke directly to President Trump about the Ukraine scheme multiple times, including talking directly with the president on the phone immediately before the president made the phone call to the Ukrainian president, which is now the basis for the president`s impeachment.
Sondland also reportedly told Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson that, in fact, President Trump wanted a quid pro quo with Ukraine. That he was not planning on giving them promised military aid unless the Ukrainian government initiated investigations that the Trump administration was requesting.
In "The Washington Post" tonight, Gordon Sondland is described as having blurted out at a White House meeting that Ukraine needed to start up some investigations, an outburst at a White House meeting that caused alarm among other national security officials.
So, this ends up being sort of an important part of the dynamic for how they carried this thing out, right? Trump wasn`t doing this alone. He had to use the U.S. government to try to effectuate this scheme.
In order to do so, they had to get the normal Foreign Service officers, the normal law-abiding career officials out of there so they can instead de facto replace the Ukraine ambassador with this other guy who was apparently happier to be part of the scheme. I mean, in this case, Gordon Sondland was reportedly put in to take over U.S. relations with Ukraine, even though on paper what he was supposed to be was the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
Ukraine is not part of the European Union. Why would he be the ambassador to them and also have Ukraine tacked onto it?
He also has zero experience as a diplomat whatsoever. He`s a Portland hotel guy. He only got his ambassadorship after giving a million dollars to President Trump`s inaugural committee through a series of anonymous LLCs that were intended to conceal his identity as a million dollar donor.
Sondland was due to testify about his role in this scheme earlier this week. That was blocked by the State Department. Ambassador Yovanovitch, the person he effectively replaced after she was pushed out for not being willing to go along with the scheme, she is due to testify tomorrow before the impeachment committees.
As yet, that testimony appears not to be blocked because she is still a State Department employee. She`s still a serving Foreign Service officer. Some observers have raised the prospect that she might have to quit the State Department if she wants to in fact give this testimony tomorrow morning. That is if Secretary of State Mike Pompeo takes steps to block her from showing up.
But I want to point out this article that I think otherwise got a little bit overshadowed today just because of all of the hullabaloo around these arrests. "The Wall Street Journal" today also reports on another instance that looks just like this within this scheme -- this dynamic where they have to get the real public official, the career public official, the technocratic person out of the way so they can instead replace that person with someone willing to be part of the president`s scheme.
According to this, I think, very important article today in "The Wall Street Journal", Trump and Giuliani appear to have not only done that with the U.S. ambassador, they appear to have done that inside the White House itself when it comes to military aid to Ukraine. According to "The Wall Street Journal", they replaced career staffers inside the White House who worked on budget issues after those career officials raised concerns about the legality of the president blocking this military aid. Quote: After career budget staff members questioned the legality of delaying aid funds to Ukraine, the White House gave a politically appointed official the authority to keep the aid on hold. Quote: After career staff began raising their concerns, political appointee Michael Duffey was given the authority for continuing to keep the aid retained.
According to "The Wall Street Journal", quote, the involvement of a political official like Mr. Duffey in the apportionment process is unusual. According to several former OMB officials, career staff have historically overseen the apportionment process, people with years and sometimes decades of technical knowledge of the funding process.
All right. But that`s the problem, see? People with years or decades of technical knowledge about the funding process, and the legal standards necessary for holding up congressionally approved money, those, of course, would be inconvenient people in the process if you were, in fact, trying to enact a criminal scheme to withhold money from Ukraine until they coughed up dirt that you could use in your re-election campaign against your opponents.
And so after, according to "The Wall Street Journal", career technocratic expert officials expressed concerns about the illegality of what the White House was trying to do, the White House took those people out of the process and instead installed this guy, Michael Duffey, to be in charge of Ukraine`s military aid.
Now, what`s his background that might make him a better fit inside this scheme? He`s the former executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party. So maybe that`s enough. That`s perfect.
They have got to get the real people, the career people, especially the people who know what`s illegal, they have got to get them out of the way so they can instead install the million dollar inaugural donor and the guy from the Wisconsin Republican Party to be in charge of what is otherwise to be the professional workings of the U.S. government. You have to get those guys into these key positions if what the new purpose of the U.S. government is, is extorting foreign countries that are supposed to be our allies into participating illegally in the president`s re-election effort and taking these wild swings at Democrats, just to make Trump`s re-election effort a little bit easier.
The problem with this is that because they actually tried to enact this scheme using the U.S. government and moving in inconvenient people out of their way, there`s a paper trail. You idiots.
I mean, "The Wall Street Journal" tonight describing a public document indicating the change inside the White House once they ousted the career people who thought this was illegal and instead installed their own guy. With Gordon Sondland being shoved to run things in Ukraine after they ousted the real ambassador, there`s a paper trail there too. We`ve seen the text messages, right? As I said on the phone I think it`s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.
This stuff is all written down, because they tried to do these things through the U.S. government. There is a paper trail for all of these things. And you know what else there are?
Witnesses. Including the un-disappear-able true life stories of the real public officials, the normal, nonpolitical, technocratic career staff people who were at multiple levels pushed out after raising the alarms about this illegal scheme that the president was carrying out or just refusing to take part in it.
Marie Yovanovitch is due to testify to the impeachment committees tomorrow. Fiona Hill, top Russia aide on the National Security Council, is due to testify on Monday. NBC tonight reporting on her intentions for that testimony. Both of those career apolitical officials will now, of course, come under disgusting attack from conservative media and from the president`s allies in Congress and from the White House. They will come under incredible pressure to try to prevent them from testifying tomorrow and Monday.
In terms of what happens next here, we`ll presumably get efforts from the president and his eldest son to explain away their photos with the guys who have just been arrested in this scheme. "The New York Times" reports that the fourth of four men who were charged in this scheme today is expected to surrender himself to authorities.
There were four people in total charged in this illegal campaign donation scheme today. Those two guys I showed the mug shots of, they were arrested last night at Dulles. The third one was arrested in San Francisco and has already appeared in court. The fourth one has been at large all day but "The New York Times" is reporting that he is expected to soon turn himself in.
We don`t know who the Russian national is who the indictment says put up a considerable amount of money that Giuliani`s clients started spreading around to lots and lots of Republican entities and candidates over the course of this alleged illegal donation scheme. We do know that many of these entities and candidates, including the National Republican Campaign Committee, which is the Republican Party`s national House election campaign committee, we know that the NRCC, the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, we know Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others have made announcements that they will returning those funds or donate them to charity.
So the news is coming in fast now. The energy secretary, Rick Perry, just got subpoenaed by the impeachment committees. The whistleblower who set off this impeachment proceeding has communicated that he wants to give his testimony in writing because he is so worried about his identity being unmasked by Republicans or by the White House.
For their part, the impeachment committees now say they may no longer make public announcements about which former officials they are asking to come in and give depositions and provide documents. That`s an effort to shield those former officials from pressure by the president and by the conservative media to try to intimidate those people out of providing their testimony.
I mean, I don`t know exactly what to do with this but after all the big headline news yesterday that the president had retained former Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy to come back to Washington to lead his impeachment defense team, it appeared that fizzled out and maybe Congressman Gowdy won`t be doing that at all. I don`t know if it`s too late for him to get his Fox News gig back in the meantime, but it appears that he may not be going to Washington.
The impeachment saga remains at its core as simple as it has been from the very beginning. The involvement of all these other people in the scheme is now proving to be a fascinating story and a criminal one as well. But this is basically the story of the people who tried to implement the president`s scheme to get help from a foreign country for his election.
As criminal charges start to be brought here, as other people start to fear legal jeopardy and career jeopardy here let alone exposure and shame, more will shake loose. But the central allegation at the heart of the president`s impeachment remains as simple as it ever was.
Just a landmark day today. One of the reporters who helped unravel this thing from the very beginning by doing the first "follow the money" reporting that appears to have led to this indictment today, he`s going to join us tonight as will Congressman Adam Schiff, who is the lead on the impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.
Big night tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`ve got Congressman Adam Schiff of California standing by. We`re going to speak with him in just a moment. He, of course, is the head of the intelligence committee and is essentially taking point on the impeachment proceedings at this point.
Just before I bring in Congressman Schiff, I just want to tell you about some breaking news that has just been posted at "The Washington Post" website. The headline is: Senior advisor to Pompeo resigns.
Michael McKinley, a career diplomat and senior advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has resigned his position amid rising dissatisfaction and plummeting morale inside the State Department over what is seen as Pompeo`s failure to support personnel ensnared in the Ukraine controversy. McKinley is a senior officer who`s held a range of diplomatic posts, including ambassador to Afghanistan, Colombia, Peru and Brazil. He was ambassador to Brazil when Pompeo recruited him to come to Washington and be his senior policy advisor.
According to "The Washington Post", like many others, McKinley was disappointed in Secretary Pompeo`s lack of public support for diplomats who have been named in the Ukraine controversy. Concern has been especially high for Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, whom Pompeo recalled from her post when a right-wing media campaign accused her of disloyalty.
Yovanovitch had questioned Giuliani`s efforts TO press Ukraine to investigate Trump`s political rivals. That, of course, is the scandal for which the president is now being impeached. Yovanovitch is scheduled, of course, to give a deposition to the investigating committees tomorrow morning.
Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff of the great state of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and point man essentially on impeachment at this point.
Congressman, thanks very much for being here.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Great to be with you.
MADDOW: So I want to ask first your reaction to this breaking news. This is a senior career diplomat at the State Department advising apparently in protest of Secretary of State Pompeo not supporting the diplomats caught up and in some cases demoted because of this Ukraine scheme.
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I think it`s a reflection of the fact that morale at the department has really plummeted. A lot of the career people who are devoted to furthering the best interests of the United States, devoting themselves to upholding the values of the United States feel that those values are being undermined by the way the department is run, that the career people, the real professionals are being undermined and people are making a decision they`re not going to put up with it anymore.
This is -- you know, there are a lot of story lines running through this investigation and certainly one of them is about the effort of career professionals not just in the State Department, but throughout the government who are trying to do the right thing and running into this political interference of the White House, this corrupt influence of the White House and, you know, I think this resignation may very well have to do with the fact that people are deciding they`re simply not going to put up with this anymore and can`t look the other way.
MADDOW: Let me ask you, sir, in kind of a big picture way right now. Obviously, we`ve been covering the impeachment proceedings since they were initially announced by the House speaker a few weeks ago. We`ve been covering it as intensively as anybody.
And as you know, the whole national media is very intently focused on what`s going on, wondering if this is going to become a more complex inquiry than the relatively simple allegation against the president that started this, that the White House essentially has already admitted the president committed. I just want to ask in a big picture way if you feel like we in the media are accurately understanding the way it is that you are pursuing this. If you feel like the national public understanding of what you are doing is accurate or if there`s something else about the way you are proceeding that you feel like you want people to understand?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, look, I think that the challenge for the country and challenge for the media, and this is a challenge for our investigation as well is that developments are breaking so fast and furious. I mean, there were probably more than a dozen significant developments just today alone that it`s hard to be able to put them in context.
And I think that, you know, you do a masterful job of that and did so in the open of your show today. But let me just, I guess, frame it this way for people. We know based on the call record that the president pressured his Ukrainian counterpart essentially to investigate his rival, to investigate this debunked conspiracy theory in 2016 to engage in political investigations designed to help his re-election.
We know that he did that in the context of the Ukraine president asking for more military assistance. That alone is an egregious abuse of the president`s office and one that endangers our country. But we also know that it goes beyond that one call, that indeed there was a lot of groundwork laid before that call and a lot of work after that call. And I think these text messages make it pretty clear that there were a couple of things that the Ukraine president desperately wanted from Donald Trump. One was a meeting in the White House.
Now, there`s been a lot of focus on the military aid that Ukraine also desperately sought to fend off Russian aggression. But the meeting was really important to this new president of Ukraine, to show that the relationship between the two countries was strong, that he had a relationship with the U.S. president, that on all of the legitimacy that goes along with a White House meeting. The White House understood how important that was to Ukraine.
What`s more -- career diplomats understood how important that was as a showing of U.S. support for Ukraine and its struggle for democracy and its struggle against the Russians. And so, these text messages I think make clear that that meeting was being conditioned on the deliverable they wanted from the president, that they wanted from Ukraine, which was basically these two investigations.
And so, we are investigating obviously that whole constellation of issues, what went on before it and after it, but also the withholding of this military support. The irregularity of how that was done. The fact that even Mitch McConnell couldn`t find out from the secretary of state or secretary of defense why that was being done.
And so, what we already know is damning, but there may be far more to come. I think that the country should have the full picture, indeed the Congress should have the full picture before it makes a decision on something as weighty as articles of impeachment. But if indeed the administration is determined to try to stonewall that effort, that even as they prevent us from getting some information about the president`s misconduct on Ukraine, they will be building the case against the president for obstruction of Congress.
MADDOW: Very briefly, sir, may I just ask you if you do expect Marie Yovanovitch to testify tomorrow, and if you have any response to the apparent request, the reported request by the initial whistle-blower that he`d like to give his testimony in writing?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I would say with respect to both, and I don`t want to get into the specifics, that on the whistleblower, we want to protect that whistleblower. We want to protect the whole whistleblower system. And the threats that the president has made, the way the president has talked about those who reveal wrongdoing being spies and traitors is designed to intimidate not just this whistleblower but others as well.
And our paramount priority is to protect this whistleblower and others that may want to come forward. With respect to any particular State Department or other witness, I`m going to demur tonight. We also want to do what we can to protect those witnesses and their ability and willingness to come forward without their own form of intimidation or threat coming from the White House or the president`s allies.
So, our first priority, protect these courageous people that are stepping forward and then make sure that we can put the facts before the American people.
MADDOW: Chairman Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee -- sir, thanks for taking the time. I know it`s a really, really busy night. Thanks.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. There`s much more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Among all the other things that today, it was a remarkable journalism day. And here`s why. July last year, July 2018, a "Daily Beast" reporter named Lachlan Markay posted this snippet on his weekly pay dirt newsletter. Who`s behind this six-figure donation to a leading Trump PAC?
It was a donation that was over $300,000 to a Trump super PAC and appeared to come from a company called Global Energy Partners. As Lachlan Markay noted at the time, there`s very little indication of what the company does or who`s behind it.
The end of that month, Markay had sleuthed out the company was founded, at least, by two Soviet-born businessmen. OK? But the other details like what sort of business this was, and where all its money came from, why they`d be giving more than $300,000 to a Trump PAC, it all remained unclear.
He kept at it. By November last year, Lachlan Markay felt confident enough to repot that this mysterious company might have illegally hidden the true source of the money that it had used to make this big donation to the Trump super PAC and also other Republican candidates. That post from Lachlan Markay at the "Daily Beast" led to ferocious pushback both from the company that made the donations and also from Trump world.
But he kept at it, and by June of this year, that same tenacious reporter still writing at the "Daily Beast", he finally had what he suspected all along, he said he had was proof that this mysterious company that had made these gigantic donations was, in fact, just a straw donor, that it appeared to be basically a fake, a front.
Well, today, that reporter`s hunch dating all the way back to last summer of 2018, it was proved right. At least it was proved to be in line with what the Justice Department has concluded. Today, the two men behind Global Energy Partners, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas were arrested for violating campaign finance laws.
Today`s indictment states that despite its huge donations, their supposed company, the supposed natural gas company they had invented, had no income or significant assets. It was not engaged in energy trading. Rather, the indictment states that these contributions were made for the purpose of gaining influence with politicians so as to advance their own personal financial interests and the political interests of Ukrainian government officials, including -- it also contains this amazing quote.
When media reports about the contributions first surfaced an individual working with Parnas remarked, quote, this is what happens when you become visible. The buzzards descend. To which Lev Parnas responded, quote: that`s why we need to stay under the radar.
If only they`d stayed under the radar.
Thanks to aggressive follow the money reporting by the "Daily Beast" and others, that scheme didn`t stay below the radar. Tonight, multiple high- ranking Republicans are scrambling to return the funds from these indicted accomplices of Rudy Giuliani. Told you it was a great journalism story.
Joining us now is the hero of that story, "Daily Beast" reporter Lachlan Markay.
Mr. Markay, congratulations on being right from the start here. Thank you for being here.
LACHLAN MARKAY, DAILY BEAST REPORTER: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me ask you. I mean, that was a quick summary of what has been a lot of detailed reporting. Let me ask you if I said anything wrong there.
MARKAY: No, that was all right. I mean, it started off as what I thought was kind of an in-the-weeds campaign finance story. That`s sort of my kind of pet issue. That`s what I love covering.
And, you know, we just kept turning up more and more public records involving these guys, they were involved in very shady legal dealings in Florida and as more kept coming out, the picture really sort of crystallized and that indictment today spelled it out if tremendous detail. But, you know, the general thrust we had known for months. We had known this was pretty clearly a donation being made in someone else`s name under campaign finance law, that is simply not legal.
MADDOW: And you had hat tipped the Campaign Legal Center which is a nonpartisan ethics watchdog that filed a complaint on this this year. I wonder given what they turned up with that complaint, what you turned up with your reporting, once you saw the indictment today, was there anything in there that really popped for you as new, or was it simply just vindication of what you`d found? Did the Justice Department make any allegation today that surprised you?
MARKAY: You know, a lot of the stuff involving America First Action, this pro-Trump super PAC, was stuff that was pretty evident from the public records we`d been looking at for months. What was very new was this sort of separate business deal that Parnas, Fruman, and their crew was involved in, having to do with cannabis dispensaries in Nevada, donations to state- level political candidates to secure licenses.
And, in fact, one of the gentlemen who we`d been writing about, David Correia (ph), a longtime business partner of Lev Parnas, actually circulated a spreadsheet internally including to this unnamed Russian who they were using this guy`s money to donate to political candidates, they had sent the spreadsheet around sort of detailing all the people they were going to have to essentially pay off to advance this separate business venture of theirs.
MARKAY: That wasn`t on anyone`s radar but they were in the legal marijuana business, so I was really interested in that.
MADDOW: It helps when they make a menu. Now, these are the people that were going -- I mean, I doubt it`s labeled bribe, but somebody should check the metadata just in case.
I know that you received a lot of pushback during your reporting of this story from this supposed, now apparently, fake gas company and from prominent folks in the Trump world. I wonder what your reflections are on that now that this has been vindicated with the indictment.
MARKAY: You know, in retrospect, it was sort of a preview of the more general strategy when it comes to all things Ukraine and all things impeachment. And that is to say every bit of criticism, even criticism based on public records and documents clearly showing that something happened are the products of the deep state or a conspiracy by the media or Democrats or Joe Biden. And, you know, I mean, it`s really sort of, you know, I see two different worlds as this scandal plays out, reacting to it from two different sides.
And when I think back to that conversation, that was in November of last year, you know, the person that I was speaking with was really just -- you know, the things they were saying were so divorced from the reality, it was jarring in the moment, and, you know, looking at everything that all of the president`s allies are having to say these days in reaction to the spiraling allegations and revelations coming out about Ukraine, it strikes me as sort of a microcosm of that.
MADDOW: Right. Seeing that they had to go that wild, that early, kind of gave you a signal, or at least in retrospect it now looks like where this was heading all along.
"Daily Beast" reporter Lachlan Markay -- thank you for your time tonight. Thank you for doing this kind of reporting. I know it doesn`t always feel like it pays off along the way. People see this as interstitial stuff. But, boy, when it pays off, it really does. We really owe you a debt of gratitude. Thanks.
MARKAY: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That`s going to do it for us tonight. I want to say thanks to everybody in L.A. who`s been kind to us hosting THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW here for the last four days. We`re going to do the show tonight -- tomorrow night live from Seattle. Very much looking forward to that. Got book tour events in Seattle and in Chicago and in Atlanta. There`s still a few tickets left for the Atlanta event, if you`d like to come see me talk this weekend.
It`s been a great week here in L.A. Thanks to everybody, including you guys in the studio for being so good. Thanks a lot, you guys.
All right. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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