CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: 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.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
So, Lev and Igor have been freed from jail. It was a dramatic twist in the impeachment proceedings against President Trump last week, on Thursday morning, when we learned that these two gentlemen had been indicted by a grand jury and arrested Wednesday night at Dulles Airport as they attempted to board an international flight. The U.S. attorney of New York said that the two men had one-way tickets to leave the country. That apparently sped up the process by which they were indicted.
The indictment was filed by the grand jury on Wednesday. They were arrested on Wednesday night at Dulles. Thursday morning, that indictment was unsealed and soon thereafter we got these now indelibly memorable mug shots.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are charged with an illegal campaign finance in which they are said to have funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least some of which was from a secret Russian source that the indictment doesn`t spell out. Those donations were directed to the main super PAC supporting President Trump`s reelection campaign and lots and lots of Republican politicians and campaign groups. As spelled out in the indictment of Lev and Igor, one of the things they leveraged with those illegal campaign donations was an effort by Texas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions to pile on America`s ambassador in Ukraine, to get Marie Yovanovitch fired from her ambassadorship and brought back to the United States.
Congressman Pete Sessions, according to the indictment, basically took those donations that turned out to be illegal donations. He then took the meeting with the guys who had funneled him those illegal donations, and then thereafter he wrote the letter they wanted, demanding the resignation of America`s ambassador in Ukraine.
Well, after their initial court appearance on Thursday morning, in the same federal district where Dulles Airport is, the eastern district of Virginia, Lev and Igor, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman, were held in custody in anticipation of their formal arraignment in federal court in New York City later this week, on Thursday of this week.
But now, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting tonight that the two men have met their bail conditions. They apparently have each put up a million bucks. And so they are sprung. They are no longer in the federal jail where they had been being held since late last week. They`re out on bail.
According to the bail conditions, they are out wearing active GPS ankle bracelets. Also according to the bail condition sheets which we obtained tonight, they are not allowed to have any contact with each other about their case unless they`re in the presence of counsel.
Again, both men are expected in federal court in New York on Thursday to face these charges. But that "Wall Street Journal" reporting tonight about them getting out on bail as of this evening, that appears in this article in "The Journal" about the president`s personal attorney. Not that one. That one is already in federal prison. It`s the next one, Rudy Giuliani who has professed over the past several days to being just bewildered by these now multiple reports that the U.S. attorney`s office he used to run back in the `80s, the federal prosecutors office in the Southern District of New York, there have been these reports that Rudy Giuliani himself is now under investigation by his old office. He has professed to be just flabbergasted by these reports. He has no idea what that even means.
Well, multiple news organizations have now reported that in "The Wall Street Journal" advances that story considerably tonight with the news that not only are federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York investigating Mayor Giuliani, in part for his alleged role in the conspiracy that prosecutors allege against Lev and Igor, his associates, who are just out tonight on million dollars bail, but according to "The Wall Street Journal," prosecutors are also in addition to looking at whether he was part of that conspiracy that has already been charged, they`re also reportedly looking at his business dealings in the nation of Ukraine, including his finances, his meetings, and his work for a city mayor there.
This investigation in SDNY reportedly includes investigators looking at Mr. Giuliani`s bank records. And while Rudy Giuliani`s bank records I imagine might be a sort of scary place to get lost, "The Journal" does spell out a little of why federal investigators might want to be looking in those records. For example, "The Journal" tonight describes a 2017 deal that Mr. Giuliani`s security company did with a city in the pro-Russian eastern part of Ukraine. So, this was a contract Giuliani`s company did with the city administration, according to "The Journal", to, quote, streamline municipal emergency services. OK.
Weird thing about this contract that Giuliani signed up for with that city is that even though that contract was with that city, it wasn`t the city that paid him for it. The entity that paid Rudy Giuliani and his security firm for that contract was just a guy, a guy pictured here with President Donald Trump. His name is Pavel Fuks. His name has surfaced time and again in reporting about President Trump and the Russia scandal. President Trump`s reported business and financial dealings with Russia. He keeps turning up and again -- up -- he keeps turning in those reports, because Pavel Fuks had tried to negotiate a deal with Donald Trump in Moscow to put the Trump name on a new Trump Tower in Moscow City.
And then a few years later, once Donald Trump is president, Rudy Giuliani signs a deal that on paper look likes some city in Eastern Ukraine is hiring him to do something, but in reality, it`s that same guy who was trying to negotiate a Trump Tower deal with Donald Trump in Moscow, that guy is now just sending checks to Rudy and making it look like it`s a city contract? Why did they do it that way? Why did that happen? Do you think the city of Kharkiv in Eastern Ukraine ever got its streamlined emergency municipal services out of this deal?
So, we will see where this is going, but the president`s personal attorney, the other president`s personal attorney, the one who is not in federal prison is reportedly now -- reported by approximately news sources now to be under serious federal investigation. And not to put too fine a point on it, if you kind oft put together this array, you`ve now got the president`s first personal lawyer in federal prison, in part for committing campaign finance felonies that federal prosecutors say the president not only participated in, he directed the commission of those felonies. He is individual 1 in those crimes.
The president`s subsequent personal lawyer is himself reportedly under investigation by that same federal prosecutor`s office that put Michael Cohen in jail. The president is in the middle of impeachment proceedings for having tried to enlist a foreign power to help him against the Democrats in 2020. Rudy Giuliani, the president`s personal lawyer, who is under investigation for a number of different strands of this scheme related to what the president is now being impeached for with the help of a clown car pull of upstanding citizens. Rudy Giuliani was working on this scheme for the president to try to get help from this foreign country in this next election with the help of Lev and Igor, who are now indicted for allegedly having funneled illegal Russian campaign donations to Russian politicians, including the pro-Trump super PAC.
Giuliani was also reportedly working with the campaign chairman who is now a federal prisoner to help put together this scheme for which the president is being impeached. Giuliani is also using material that he obtained from Dmitry Firtash, a Kremlin-connected billionaire who is currently fighting extradition to the United States where he is wanted on felony charges related to a gigantic bribery scheme. Federal prosecutors call Mr. Firtash an upper echelon associate of Russian organized crime.
And so that looks to be kind of the president`s team here. This appears to have been, like, his squad as he was trying to pull off this operation for which he has now been caught in which Ukraine would help him versus the Democrats and Joe Biden specifically for 2020. I mean -- so that`s the president`s side of the impeachment proceeding right now. Obviously, this is going great for him. Who wouldn`t want to be on this team?
If you`re having a hard time keeping track of the president`s squad for this operation, it is sort of easy to remember if you just consider them by their circumstances. The guys on the bottom are out on bail. The guy in the middle on the top is fighting extradition. The guy on the top in the right is already in prison, and the by on the top in left is under investigation by the U.S. attorney`s office he used to run, currently having his banking records read through by federal prosecutors.
That`s who the president was working on this thing. So clearly, as the more we learn about it, the better this is looking, right?
A key part of this scheme these guys wither trying to pull off with President Trump involved ousting the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. She was pulled out of the embassy, apparently with the consent of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the spring of this year. Ambassador Yovanovitch testified on Friday that she was told to get out of Ukraine, quote, on the next plane. In her opening statement before her nine-hour deposition on Friday, she spelled out how the number two official in the State Department told her it was on the president`s orders that she was being recalled from her ambassadorship, even though she was told she had done nothing wrong.
If that, in fact, was the conclusion of the State Department, that she had done nothing wrong and was being pulled out anyway just because the president wanted her out, it is all the more remarkable that the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo we now know was sitting there on the call between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine when President Trump apropos of nothing brought up the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and told the Ukrainian president that she was, in his words, bad news. President Trump then threatened the former U.S. ambassador, saying she was, quote, going to go through some things. Like Pompeo sitting there on that call, listening to that.
Last week, a senior State Department official Michael McKinley, a senior adviser to Mike Pompeo, resigned from the department in protest over Pompeo`s failure to support state department personnel, particularly that ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch. We now know that Pompeo not only had her fire on the president`s orders, he did sit there silently while the president threatened her on a call to a foreign leader, even though he and his own department knew she had done nothing wrong. It is hard to imagine that Mike Pompeo gets to stay on as secretary of state in these circumstances.
Well, tonight you can add plus one to that, because just before getting on the air tonight, we learned that that recently resigned senior adviser to Mike Pompeo, Michael McKinley, the one who reportedly stepped down in protest of Pompeo`s behavior, Michael McKinley is now scheduled to testify in the impeachment inquiry against President Trump. His deposition is scheduled for the day after tomorrow.
At the same time we learned that, we also learned that a current Defense Department official, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper has also been scheduled to testify in the impeachment inquiry on Friday of this week. We know that part of her area of -- sort of part of her remit within the Defense Department involved both Russia and Ukraine. We don`t yet know what the impeachment inquiries want Laura Cooper to testify about, but she reportedly has been called.
And we know that the White House has been trying to stop all sorts of different people from giving testimony as part of these impeachment proceedings, both current officials and former officials. But whatever they`re trying to stop people from testifying no longer seems to be working. Ambassador Yovanovitch`s testimony on Friday would have seemed to have been a key breakthrough on that point.
Early this morning, we saw Fiona Hill arrive at the Capitol for her testimony. She was the senior official at the National Security Council inside the White House with responsibility for Russia and Ukraine. That means she was President Trump`s top adviser on Russia and Ukraine. She was in that role at the Trump National Security Council when Ambassador Yovanovitch got forced out of her job in April.
Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos at "The New York Times" report that Fiona Hill expressed strenuous opposition to Yovanovitch being fired. They say she considered Yovanovitch`s firing to be, quote, an egregious abuse.
It is hard to figure out the extent of the White House`s efforts to try to block Fiona Hill from this testifying today. Ultimately, we know that she did testify. The committees did provide her a subpoena in advance of her testimony. It is exactly unclear the sequence of events, when the subpoena arrived, if she would have been able to testify without it what exactly that means, but she testified.
Unlike Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill today did not release an opening statement. Unlike the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, she did not hand over any documents from her tenure as a key Ukraine adviser to President Trump. That`s reportedly because she didn`t take any documents with her when she quit the National Security Council this summer. She quit in July, just less than a week before President Trump`s fateful call with the Ukrainian president that has now led to his impeachment.
According to "The Times" today, Fiona Hill was expected to confirm that there was a quid pro quo being demanded by the Trump White House, that the Ukrainian government was told by the Trump administration they wouldn`t get a White House meeting unless they made a commitment for some kind of investigations that the administration wanted, and we know that what the president wanted investigated was Joe Biden.
But while we`ve had a bunch of reporting as to what Fiona Hill was expected to have said today, she only emerged from her deposition immediately before I got on the air tonight, after ten hours of questioning. And so, we sort of are still waiting to find out what may have happened, what may have transpired over the course of those ten hours. Again, as you know, it was behind closed doors.
We expect that her deposition will eventually be made public. But as to what she said today, well we have only the barest sense. Republicans have complained that the witnesses in the impeachment proceedings thus far haven`t been testifying in public. They say they want public testimony. They don`t like that these things are happening behind closed doors.
Democratic Congressman Denny Heck was asked about that today by reporters after he stepped out of the Fiona Hill deposition this evening, after she had been going for hours and hours and hours. Denny Heck said Republicans are only complaining about the closed door nature of this testimony because they need some excuse to justify the White House not cooperating with the investigation.
But I wanted to play you what Congressman Heck said in part, because he also suggested that Republicans might want to be careful what they wish for in terms of this testimony becoming public. He is suggesting that they probably wouldn`t like if the American public got to hear what was being said behind closed doors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): You want to know what I think about that? I think the minority who is using this as an excuse du jour, and there shouldn`t be a single person standing here who believes for one second that if they these were open, they wouldn`t invent another excuse for the administration not to cooperate. I`m not done. They wouldn`t invent another excuse for the administration not to cooperate.
But here`s what I really believe. They are darned lucky these weren`t public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, Fiona Hill testified today. We are expecting another senior State Department official George Kent to testify tomorrow. We`ll have more on that coming up in few minutes in the show.
The recently resigned in protest senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a man named Michael McKinley is expected to testify on Wednesday. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who was basically sent in to handle Ukraine matters along with Rudy Giuliani after they ousted Marie Yovanovitch, he was reportedly involved in basically collecting on the quid pro quo in Ukraine. According to Republican Senator Ron Johnson, Sondland is the man who described the demanded quid pro quo to him explicitly. Sondland is expected to testify on Thursday of this week, and then on Friday, we`ll have the senior defense official Laura Cooper.
She, as I mentioned, is a new addition. She has been, interestingly, a part of the public face of the administration in assuring Ukraine that we will always stand by them, particularly when it comes to military aid. Military aid we now know is allegedly what the White House was withholding to try to leverage from them this help against Democrats for the president`s reelection.
So, Laura Cooper having been busy reassuring the Ukrainians we would always stand by them, and that that military aid is something they can count on, she is reportedly now going to be testifying at the end of this week in the president`s impeachment.
So with all that on deck this week, I think we`ll continue to be just as nuts as things have been. That said, the impeachment of the president at its core remains a simple thing. You can`t ask a foreign power for assistance with your reelection campaign. You can`t even ask, no matter what they give.
The effort by the president to carry out that scheme, though, wasn`t as simple a matter. It turns out to have involved this amazing array of true crime all-stars, right? And because this was him trying to leverage a foreign power into doing this on his behalf, he wasn`t just demanding it, he was trying force them into doing it, it also involves the foreign policy and U.S. defense policy establishment. All of these elements of the national security apparatus of the U.S. government were all brought to bear on this illegal scheme to get that country to help the president get reelected.
And that part of what the president is being impeached for, his use of the national security apparatus, his use of military aid, his use of diplomatic pressure, his use of sort of shadow diplomacy working with all of these crooks working with Giuliani, that is all, coincidentally or not, coming to the surface right now while real American foreign policy and defense policy is collapsing into catastrophe.
We`re going to be speaking live with NBC`s Richard Engel from northern Syria in just a few minutes. The Kurdish fighters that the U.S. military was aligned with for years inside Syria, President Trump inexplicably last week told Turkey we would step away from them, and Turkey was essentially free to come into the territory that our Kurdish allies had been holding so Turkey could take it for their own purposes. With us abandoning our allies there, our Kurdish allies, predictably now as of yesterday have made a formal alliance with somebody else who they can count on more reliably. They`ve turned for support and protection against Turkey to their next best option, which is Russia and the Syrian regime, which is propped up by the Russian military.
Russia props up the Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad. The Kurdish fighters who had been our allies fighting against ISIS have now left us because we left them. They`re now instead switching sides. So they`re siding with Assad and the Russians instead, which leaves nobody fighting ISIS anymore at all.
It also means that U.S. troops are one of the stranded/abandoned parties here. U.S. troops in the region have been reportedly pinned down and bracketed by Turkish artillery fire since the president`s surprise announcement that U.S. troops would get out of the way and allow Turkey to advance. Them being bracketed by artillery fire means that they have been deliberately targeted by a foreign military that is supposed by one of our NATO allies.
I mean, there`s now a serious question, aside from everything else going wrong here, there is now a serious question as to the safety of these American troops, even while they are being withdrawn. The Defense Department has announced that President Trump has now ordered them all out, but we`re still not even sure how that all happens with Turkish troops and Turkish supported troops controlling a key road out of the region. The plans for withdrawing U.S. troops are very uncertain.
This is from David Stanger tonight in "The New York Times." Quote: President Trump`s acquiescence to Turkey`s move to send troops deep inside the Syrian territory has in only one week`s time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on that volatile border, and given an unanticipated victory to four American adversaries, Russia, Iran, the Syrian government they support, and ISIS. Rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests.
He says, quote, the drama is nowhere near over. Out of necessity, the Kurds switched sides on Sunday, turning their backs on America. At the Pentagon, officials struggled with the right response. If Turkish force, again, NATO allies, again open fire on any of the thousand or so Americans who are now preparing to retreat from their positions inside Syria. Those U.S. troops are trapped for now since Turkey has cut off the roads, removing them may require an airlift.
And in case that`s not unnerving enough, here is something I completely forgot to panic about. Quote, over the weekend, U.S. State and Energy Department officials were quietly reviewing plans for evacuating roughly 50 tactical nuclear weapons that the U.S. has long stored under American control at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. Oh, right.
Now that our supposed NATO ally Turkey is shooting artillery rounds at American forces, maybe we need to rethink the safety of us keeping 50 of our tactical nuclear weapons sitting inside an air base in their country, right? If we`re going have to send in an airlift to rescue U.S. troops out of a situation that the president precipitously created while U.S. troops were in danger, then maybe we should worry about the U.S. troops that are guarding our live nuclear weapons inside Turkey.
Don`t worry, though. Rick Perry and Mike Pompeo are tasked with figuring out plan to get all those nuclear weapons safely taken care of. I should mention that Mike Pompeo and Rick Perry are both facing subpoenas from the impeachment inquiry right now. And, you know, maybe you wanted troops, U.S. troops to not be in Syria in the first place. Maybe you wanted them brought home now or some time before now, but nobody has ever advocated for what President Trump has done, this reckless and bizarre sudden announcement that turned a previously basically peaceful at least stable part of Syria controlled by our allies into what is now the site of civilian massacres and journalists being shot at and everything else.
Now that whole swath of Syria will likely end up being controlled by Assad and Russia in some sort of deal that they will likely work out between themselves and Turkey. The president`s decision leading to this reckless and again bizarre risk to American troops there, without support, with their supply lines cut off, with no clear way to retreat, without any clear indication of what they`re supposed to be doing, without any clear indication that the president knew they were there and that they would be at risk if we suddenly green-lit the second largest military in NATO coming in and taking over that territory from our allies.
I mean, U.S. troops stuck there at the site of our abandonment of our allies that the soldiers spent five years working with and supporting and promising to stand by. It`s what "The Times" described tonight as, quote, a fast unraveling situation.
Meanwhile, a 30-plus year veteran of the Foreign Service, William J. Burns has come forward to say that what the president is doing now in total should be seen as more of a danger to Americans` international influence than anything in the past 70 years, calling President Trump, quote, for dictator, the gift that keeps on giving.
We`re going to speak with Bill Burns here live tonight. Also, Richard Engel live from northern Syria. We`ll also be watching for the continuing development of lots of these stories that are still rolling tonight.
Stay with us. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Well, this is direct and to the point. Quote: In my three and a half decades as a U.S. Foreign Service officer, I have never seen an attack on diplomacy as damaging to both the State Department as an institution and our international influence as the one now under way.
Quote, the contemptible mistreatment of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was dismissed for getting in the way of the president`s scheme to solicit interference in U.S. elections is just the latest example of the president`s dangerous brand of diplomatic malpractice. His is a diplomacy of narcissism, bent on advancing private interests at the expense of our national interests.
Quote: For dictators, Trump is the gift that keeps on giving, a nonstop advertisement for Western self-dealing. So much for enlightened self- interest. So much for the power of our example. So much for our credibility.
To clean up the institutional wreckage in the State Department will take many years. The damage to our influence and reputation may prove to be even longer lasting and harder to repair.
That`s from Ambassador William Burns, former deputy secretary of state, former U.S. ambassador to Russia. He`s got more than 30 years of experience in the U.S. Foreign Service.
Joining us now is Ambassador Burns. He is currently the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is also author of "The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal."
Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for being here.
WILLIAM BURNS, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Rachel, it`s great to be here.
MADDOW: So, this is not very diplomatic. You were speaking in very blunt terms.
BURNS: Yes, no. And I didn`t write those words lightly either. We`ve seen a lot of highs and lows over three and a half decades as U.S. Foreign Service officer, and I`m deeply worried today. Not just about the hollowing out of my old institution, but about the fact that the United States is digging a deep hole for itself in a very competitive and complicated international landscape.
MADDOW: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appears to be quite enmeshed in this scandal that has led to these impeachment proceedings against the president. I am sort of -- it sort of struck me. I wasn`t reading it at the time. I wasn`t -- I wasn`t thinking -- I didn`t even think I was thinking about the impeachment scandal when it finally occurred to me that Mike Pompeo was on the line listening, when the president said to President Zelensky of Ukraine, that ambassador, that woman, she was bad news. She`s going to go through some things.
Mike Pompeo did not allow it to be known for a couple of weeks that he had been on that call. He professed ignorance about what had happened there. And then when we found out he had been on that call, we know that`s one of the things he sat through.
How -- what does that do to a secretary of state for everybody who serves in the Foreign Service, everybody who serves in the State Department to know that he abided that?
BURNS: Well, it does a lot of damage for at least two reasons. First, you know, you expect the leadership of the State Department to stand up for its people --
BURNS: -- in the face of unfair and unfounded accusations.
And second, you have another obligation to the Constitution. You know, when you have the president of the United States clearly trying to use public office and the leverage of the United States not to promote the national interests, but to promote private political interest, that`s also a big problem.
MADDOW: We`ve learned just tonight that a senior adviser to Secretary of State Pompeo, Michael McKinley, who is a career diplomat, very well- respected, has served ambassador posts all over the world, on Thursday, he resigned. And according to "The Washington Post," he resigned in protest about the way that Secretary of State Pompeo has behaved towards State Department employees through this process. We have now learned he is going to testify as part of these proceedings.
First of all, do you think there is any technical reason that they could block him from testifying if they tried to?
BURNS: Yes, I think they could try, but I think Mike McKinley, like Masha Yovanovitch is a terrific professional, an honest, honorable person. So, I suspect he is going to do just what Ambassador Yovanovitch did.
MADDOW: As Ambassador Yovanovitch testifies as we expect Mr. McKinley to testify, Fiona Hill testifying today, she`s an ex-intelligence officer at the National Security Council, I wonder if you -- if you see that testimony as something they`re required to do and they don`t have a choice and it`s just part of the job? Or do you think it does take bravery? Are they taking risks?
BURNS: It does. It reflects a sense of decency that is sorely lacking right now in a lot of the political appointees in this administration that you`ve been talking about.
MADDOW: We`re also seeing foreign policy blow up right now under the Trump administration. Not only in terms of the way it`s being misused, but whatever is happening with northern Syria, whatever happened between President Trump and President Erdogan with this sudden decision, this U- turn. Obviously, it`s an ongoing and very dangerous situation there. But I wonder with the State Department having a crisis of credibility, the type of hollowing out they described.
MADDOW: Facing a political crisis around this impeachment and the implication of the secretary of state in that while also facing these very real disasters --
MADDOW: -- caused by U.S. misuse of our foreign policy power. I mean, who is going to do the cleanup? Who is going to be the steady hand?
BURNS: Oh, it`s a mess. And it`s chaos right now. And you`re going to see other adversaries and rivals I think tempted to test us, because one crisis oftentimes multiplies as well. And there are no shortage of places around the world today where you could see that as well.
MADDOW: We`re going to speak with Richard Engel live from northern Syria in just a moment. Before we speak with him, I just wonder if you have any insight that you could share, any thoughts that you have on why the president did what he did in that phone call with the president of Turkey. We don`t know his motivation. We certainly -- I can`t imagine this is what he intended to happen, including U.S. troops being in grave danger.
Do you have any way for to help us think about why he did this?
BURNS: No, I mean, I think he is impulsive. He is dismissive of expertise and he doesn`t pay attention to consequences, whether intended or unintended. The Middle East is the land of unintended consequences. And so, not to handle this carefully and think through what is a very complicated choice to make I think is a huge embarrassment, and it`s going to cost us in a lot of ways. It already is.
MADDOW: Do you agree that the ultimate beneficiary of this chaos right now is Russia, Syria, Iran?
BURNS: And ISIS, right. That`s quite a foursome.
MADDOW: Ambassador William Burns is former deputy secretary of state, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, long-time U.S. Foreign Service veteran -- sir, thank you. It`s an honor to have you here.
BURNS: Nice to see (ph) you, Rachel. Thanks so much.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I am honored and impressed and more than a little worried to tell you that Richard Engel, NBC News` chief foreign correspondent, is live in northern Syria tonight where he joins us from on the ground.
Richard, my friend, I am happy to be talking to you. I`m a little bit sorry that you`re there. But thank you for doing what you`re doing to cover this story.
Get us up to date in terms of what you know as of tonight.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s good to be with you. And what we`re seeing right now, it may sound very, very complicated with all of these different factions. We`re talking about the Kurds and the Syrians and the Russians and the Turks, but what is actually happening, if you break it down is fairly simple.
What happened a few days ago, it seems like a long time ago, was President Trump in this phone call gave Turkey a green light to invade northern Syria. They say they didn`t do it. President Trump is going on and on, says he didn`t do it. The White House issued a statement after their phone call saying that U.S. troops would be pulling back, and that the Turks would be moving in. So, that`s the green light.
The Turks moved in. But as you said earlier, this is a major NATO country. Turkey has an enormous army, but it is not using its army entirely. It is also using these Arab militias, and the Arab militias are critical to this story, because part of these Arab militias, these shock troops that have been coming in, attacking the Kurds here in northern Syria, they include ISIS and al Qaeda members, according to multiple U.S. officials.
And it was these shock troops, as they`ve been moving through this area, killing civilians, that is what caused the Kurds to panic. That is what caused the Kurds to change sides.
So in this panic, as these atrocities were taking place, they reached over and they made a deal with the Assad government, which is backed up by Russia and said come in and help us. And as they were making this deal, the U.S. is leaving. So the Kurds saw shock troops coming in, militias, backed up by extremists. They see the Americans are leaving, and they made a deal. They reached out to Assad and said come and help us.
And right now, tonight, we`re seeing this land grab with the Assad forces trying to take as much territory and the Turks trying to take as much territory so that they can come up with some sort of deal, but each have something in their hands to negotiate with.
So that`s where we are. The Americans are stuck between these two colliding forces, trying to figure out how they carry out what they call their deliberate exit. They don`t want the get into a fight. They want to get themselves safely out of the country in a slow and dignified way. But they want to do it and not leave their allies behind totally stranded. So, now their allies have made the deal with Assad.
So, everyone here is saying President Trump started this. The Turks moved in with this brutal force that I think really shocked a lot of people, and now there is potentially some effort from the Trump administration to fix this. Just in the last few hours, we hear that Vice President Pence is going to come here on a diplomatic mission, and he is going to save the day and work out some sort of agreement between now the Kurds and the Syrian government and Turkey.
So that`s what happened. And that`s how it`s unfolding, and we are seeing the map that the lines in the sand, the map of the Middle East redrawn as we speak.
MADDOW: And, Richard, so in terms of those two on marching forces in which both the Kurds and U.S. forces are in trouble, do you anticipate that actually the Turkish military and the Arab militias that are fighting with them and the Syrian army with the Russian forces that are backing them up, that they will actually come into military conflict in terms of trying to figure out where the border is between Syria and Turkey? Or do you feel like between the Syrian and Russian side and the Turkish side, they`ll actually negotiate something that prevents a war between those two very well-armed sides?
ENGEL: It`s very hard to know. On one level, they shouldn`t come in to contact with each other because both are aligned with Russia. Russia, as the U.S. is pulling out physically from this area is the new power broker. So in theory, they shouldn`t come into conflict because they have both this Russian interest, but their long-term interests are very different.
Syria wants to regain control of all of its territory. Syria lost control of this region because of the civil war and then because the Kurds were helping the Americans and the Kurds managed to carve out an autonomous zone where I am right now.
So, Syria`s long-term goal is to regain control of all of its territory. Kurdish areas included. And now, the Kurds have said fine, we`ll do that. We`ll go along with the program. Just don`t let these Turkish militias carry out ethnic cleansing and genocide against us.
Turkey, however, has a different agenda. You have President Erdogan, who effectively wants to become the great leader of Turkey. He wants his name to be more remembered than Kemal Ataturk. He wants to be the person who conquered a new province for his country and regained Ottoman glory and correct the wrongs that he sees were imposed on his country after World War I.
So, Turkey`s objective is to carve all a little piece and to put about 1 million to 3 million Syrian refugees in the pocket that it captures. And therefore, Erdogan would be able to go home and say that he`s a hero. He`s a national leader, and he got rid of the refugee problem.
And that`s the way Turkey is selling this. They`re selling this around the world as they`re doing a service to the world, not using a terrorist- aligned militia to carry out atrocities against the Kurds. They say they are doing a service to the world by allowing Syrian refugees to go back to their own homeland.
So, will their mutual alliance with Russia keep them from fighting right now in the short-term? Perhaps. But long-term, they both have very different interests.
MADDOW: Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent live for us at o dark 30 in northern Syria -- Richard, stay safe. Thank you, my friend, for being with us. I really appreciate it.
All right. We`ve got more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The former top adviser on Russia and Ukraine to President Trump, Fiona Hill, answered questions on Capitol Hill today for more than ten hours. Ms. Hill did not release a public statement, but she reportedly had high praise for former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was fired by the president earlier this year, reportedly, because she was in the way of his plan to leverage Ukraine into helping with his reelection effort against the Democrats.
A CNN source said tonight that Fiona Hill in today`s testimony, quote, made her opinions known about Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch`s removal.
Now, in advance of her testimony as she was heading into that testimony today on Capitol Hill, "The New York Times" had reported that Hill would confirm that the administration leveraged a White House invitation for Ukraine`s president in exchange for a commitment by Ukraine to investigate corruption, which was seen as code for investigating Democrats. In other words, "The New York Times" reported in advance of her testimony that Hill would confirm that the Trump White House made it a quid pro quo that they could not get a White House invitation for Zelensky unless he went along with the scheme for election help.
Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland came out of Fiona Hill`s testimony tonight and said that Fiona Hill and Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch will be remembered as the heroes of this story in U.S. history.
Well, tomorrow, a new deposition is scheduled for a man named George Kent. He is a current high level State Department official with responsibility for Ukraine policy. Documents turned over to Congress by the State Department inspector general last week included emails from George Kent where he pushed back against Rudy Giuliani and the president`s conspiracy theories in real-time.
You can see George Kent doing that in emails like this one, a rundown for other State Department officials of the, quote, daily update of the fake news driven smear out of Ukraine. The fake news driven smear was what Giuliani and Trump were trying to leverage Ukraine to do in exchange for a White House visit and potentially military aid.
There is also this email in which George Kent dismisses the false allegation that Ambassador Yovanovitch had given prosecutors a "do not prosecute` list. George Kent in this email calls that idea, quote, complete poppycock. So, it seems like George Kent was one of those inside the State Department, again, a veteran career official, who was not going along with what they were trying to do with Ukraine.
Barring any late changes, we`re told by an official working on the impeachment inquiry tonight that George Kent is expected to show up tomorrow morning to give his version of events. If so, he will just be the latest witness to show up and offer testimony that is expected to be deeply unhelpful to the president and to, increasingly, members of his cabinet, as this unfolds.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last week, this ad started appearing on Facebook. It says: Breaking news, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook just endorsed Donald Trump for reelection. You`re probably shocked and you might be thinking, how could this possibly be true? Well, it`s not.
That Facebook ad was paid for by Elizabeth Warren`s presidential campaign. What they`re doing there is essentially goading Facebook into doing something about its ad policy.
As that policy now stands, Facebook says politicians are allowed to run totally false ads, anything they want, as long as the checks don`t bounce when Facebook goes to cash them.
Last week, former Vice President Biden requested that Facebook delete a Trump ad that falsely accused Biden on this Ukraine nonsense. That ad was viewed more than 5 million times. It was totally false.
But Facebook refused to take it down. They told Biden in a letter that under their new political ad policy, false is fine with them. It doesn`t matter.
That letter, interestingly, was signed by Katie Harbath, public policy director for global elections at Facebook. Prior to her time at Facebook, she was chief digital strategist for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Before that, she worked for Rudy Giuliani`s presidential campaign.
But I am sure she has everyone`s best interest in mind when it comes to the 2020 election. No reason to worry about that.
I mean, the dark and increasingly partisan truth at the heart of Facebook`s political influence is that Facebook`s algorithms, obviously, favor engagement, right? Whether positive or negative, they favor engagement, which means the most controversial, most provocative, most offensive material will circulate the most widely on the site.
Now, Facebook is telling politicians that not only will they continue to get awarded for posting provocative, offensive content, which drives the most engagement, they also have nothing to worry about when it comes to pushing overtly provably false claims.
And this comes, of course, at a critical time. President Trump is going wall to wall with ads over why impeachment is horrible, and he never asked Ukraine to do anything, and if he did, it was good, not illegal. The president and the RNC have already launched a $10 million ad campaign telling those points.
There is nothing to match that on the Democratic side thus far. Democrats have been completely outspent on this issue. There are the first signs, though, that Democratic interest may be trying to change that a little bit. Progressive groups like Indivisible and Move On are among those considering media campaigns to try to counter Trump`s narrative on impeachment.
A progressive group called Acronym was also out with a million dollar online ad buy. Right now, it`s focused on five swing states, Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It`s targeting users of Facebook in those states with ades like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president admits that on a phone call with the president of Ukraine, he requested that the president of Ukraine investigate his 2020 political rival Joe Biden. Is that a crime?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a crime for the president to solicit aid for his campaign from a foreign government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that to which the president has admitted is in and of itself a crime?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s the very first Democratic ads just starting to air on Facebook on the impeachment issue. Again, the Trump campaign is launching $10 million worth of ads. The Democratic campaign thus far is about this big. You can see why they might see Facebook as contested territory which to even try this, but they have started trying.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We are just about done for tonight but I have to make a correction before we go. This is interesting. At the very top of the show, I cited "The Wall Street Journal`s" reporting tonight that Lev Parnas and Igor Furman had been released on million dollars bail. Parnas and Fruman are the allies of Rudy Giuliani who arrested last week on conspiracy charges related to a campaign finance scheme.
"The Wall Street Journal" reports tonight that they had both been released on $1 million bond. I cited that at the top of the show. That said, it turns out not to be correct. We are told by the Southern District of New York just moments that despite the fact that they have had the conditions for their bail set, they`re not out. "The Wall Street Journal" reported they have been released on bail, but the Southern District of New York tells us that Parnas and Fruman are still in federal custody and have not yet met the requirements for getting out of jail. A spokesperson for SDNY telling us that directly tonight. Quote, they remain in federal custody.
So, "The Wall Street Journal" still as of right now as their story the way we reported it. We`re told that`s incorrect. I`m sorry for any confusion but it`s kind of intriguing all the same.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Sorry I went into your time.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END