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Kurds turn to Syria and Russia. TRANSCRIPT: 10/15/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Kyle Cheney, Jackie Speier, Denny Heck

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST:  It`s always the answer, and it`s getting real hard to get people to stay on line, is in line to do what they want to do now, tell the truth.

Christina Greer, Tim O`Brien, thank you for joining me.

That is ALL IN for this evening. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now with Ari Melber in for Rachel.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Joy.  Thank you so much.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Rachel is off and will be back tomorrow.  I am Ari Melber. 

And we have a lot for you on this very busy evening in the impeachment probe on Capitol Hill.  It was exactly three weeks ago today that Nancy Pelosi announced Congress was moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry, sparked by the revelation that President Trump had pressured a foreign government to gin up dirt on one of his political rivals, and would go on to admit it. 

Today, lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill from a two-week recess during which most of them went back to their districts and began to hear what their constituents actually have to say with full-blown impeachment proceedings going on, announced.  What does everyone think? 

And this period of time has not exactly been static.  Members were meeting with constituents as this new and damning evidence has continued to come out about Donald Trump, about Ukraine, about Rudy Giuliani.  So, right now, this evening`s actually the first time that all of those House Democrats returned and met privately since all of this to discuss what do they do now, including discussing whether or not to hold a full house vote on triggering the impeachment inquiry.  That`s something President Trump has been taunting the Democrats to do.  Experts note it is not legally necessary to initiate any probe and that makes this all kind of a Washington debate over whether this thing that the Trump White House claims is the reason for their stonewalling should even be entertained. 

As we watch these Democrats, you see them here, just filing out late today, around 7:00.  That was part of the debate they were discussing.  Trump and his White House counsel insisting impeachment is currently illegitimate without a vote and thus they won`t cooperate.  But, of course, these Democrats you see on your screen and a heck of a lot of other people already know the White House has been resisting cooperation in all kinds of congressional probes regardless of any new vote or potential vote. 

Tonight, the vice president says he won`t comply with the document request, noting this is a, quote, purported impeachment inquiry.  Ditto from the White House Budget Office.  And then the Pentagon chief who said they would comply but is now, as you see here, rejects a House subpoena at this time.  Then there`s Rudy Giuliani, the focus of these new prosecutorial subpoenas late today.  Well, he also dispatched a lawyer to say that he, Giuliani, is rebuffing the house subpoena and then Giuliani`s lawyer promptly quit his job as Giuliani`s lawyer today.  More on that story later in this show. 

So, what you see is obviously a unified message.  But I can tell you right now, the facts show there are not unified results for the stonewalling.  As you may have noticed, while these letters are all flying around, many of the people who worked for Trump are going right ahead and showing up to Congress, and testifying.  And providing evidence in writing, documents, texts, and they`re telling stories. 

After tonight`s meeting of the Democratic Caucus, Speaker Pelosi said there won`t be any official vote soon.  Now, in just a moment we`ll be joined here on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW by two members of the House Intelligence Committee in the room for that meeting.  It will be interesting to see what they have to say about that, as well as the other drama unfolding on the Hill, this ever-growing parade of former and current senior Trump officials who are not defying subpoenas, who are appearing as witnesses in this very real impeachment proceeding, defying the administration`s attempts to block their testimony. 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who was the only other Democrat who spoke today in addition to the speaker, he came out, he is leading this impeachment inquiry, and listen to this brand-new update he gave on what he thinks they`re getting from those witnesses. 


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I wanted to give you a brief update on the investigation.  In the last couple of weeks, I think we`ve made dramatic progress in answering some of the questions surrounding that July telephone call between President Trump and President Zelensky in which the president of the United States sought to coerce a vulnerable ally into conducting I think what can best be described as sham investigations involving his opponent and involving a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election. 

We had learned that call was not in isolation.  There was a great teal of preparatory work that was done before the call.  There was a lot of follow- up work that was done after the call. 

And we have learned much of this thanks to the courageous testimony of State Department officials who have been put in an impossible situation by the administration, and that is urged not to comply with the law, urged not to comply with a lawful subpoena by the U.S. Congress.  And they are doing their duty. 

And people should make no mistake about that.  They are doing exactly what they are required to do.  And I think showing enormous courage.  So we`ve been bringing witnesses in at quite a furious pace.  That pace is only accelerating.  We`ve got a very busy few days and weeks ahead. 


MELBER:  Busy.  And the witnesses have a lot to say. 

You know, today, it was diplomat George Kent, a senior official in charge of Ukraine policy.  He left the capitol, you see here on our news cameras, the gentleman in the bowtie, after more than 10 hours of testimony.  He was part of the pushback inside state of the president`s actions, as well as the appeals of his allies that led to the impeachment inquiry. 

Earlier this year, President Trump, Rudy Giuliani and his associates were trying to oust the ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, because she was not playing ball with the efforts to get the Ukrainian government to go after Biden.  Now, about those documents that are hitting Congress, well, some from the state`s inspector general support that very account.  Showing Kent warning about the campaign all the way back in March, flagging internal emails about, quote, fake news driven smear out of Ukraine. 

Kent also writing then, and this is before he knew all this would spill out in public or he`d be telling Congress about it.  He was putting in writing that the smear of the ambassador was complete poppycock.  Today, Kent said that when his warnings where ignored he was also told to lay low.  "The Washington Post" reporting, and basically corroborating this idea from testimony that he was supposed to defer to people who look by any reasonable accounting like the Trump loyalists left in the plot.  Rick Perry, Gordon Sondland and someone they thought at the time was in on this, Kurt Volcker. 

In fact, at the time, those three refer to themselves as, quote, the three amigos.  Now, that`s their lingo.  That`s their terminology.  I`m guessing Sondland would be Steve Martin, Volcker clearly Martin Short and that leaves Perry as the fugitive Chevy Chase. 

Email chatter and lingo aside, there`s way more here because Kent is a current high-ranking State Department official and the stonewalling strategy would, of course, apply to him, right?  He got orders from the Trump administration to defy this very request to talk to these impeachment investigators.  Now stuck between that Trump directive and what became this lawful last-minute subpoena from the House, he spoke.  That`s why the stonewalling`s not working this week. 

And this is important.  He`s not alone in that.  When you just count up what`s happening, former Ambassador Yovanovitch still employed at state but she rejected the Trump requests and we saw her march in there complying with the House subpoena and gave blistering testimony Friday about how the president yanked her from her post. 

Same for Fiona Hill.  She was Trump`s, of course, top White House adviser on Russia and Ukraine.  Pretty key stuff. 

And while she`s still not an employee, she also got the request to stop or wait.  And I want to be clear here as you look at this, those are not automatically bankrupt requests.  When a White House argues that someone is a top adviser to the president and says there are issues of executive privilege, which is what they claimed here, in normal administrations when a White House says that, it buys you time immediately.  If not wiping out the entire deposition. 

And a lot of diplomats err on the side of respecting those kinds of requests from a sitting president.  Most of these diplomats are career public servants and they are proudly cautious. 

But these are not normal times.  Ms. Hill apparently saw where this was headed and made her choice.  She had her lawyers clap back at the White House, rejecting any argument that executive privilege would apply to the very things that she was going to discuss and pointedly noting that even if executive privilege could apply, which as I mentioned in normal times it could, she went to the heart of the issue and said that privilege would still, quote, disappear altogether when there`s any reason to believe government misconduct occurred. 

Adding, prior presidents have largely agreed that executive privilege operates differently in the context of an impeachment inquiry.  Wow.  That is spoken like someone more concerned about getting their evidence before the impeachment inquiry than trying to hold on to a government career. 

Hill`s deposition took place behind closed doors, but even from the little that we got through reporting about what she said, it is still reverberating all across Washington.  If her lawyer`s letter was abnormal and tough, her actual testimony blew the roof off.  And this is where we get to the talk of Giuliani as a walking hand grenade, pitching a criminal conspiracy inside the White House -- again, their words. 

"New York Times" reported out as follows.  Last summer, Trump`s then national security adviser John Bolton got into a tense exchange with Gordon Sondland, the Trump donor turned ambassador to the E.U., who was working with Rudolph Giuliani, the president`s personal lawyer, to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats, according to three people who heard the testimony from Ms. Hill.  Hill testified that Mr. Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the NSC about a rogue effort by Sondland, Giuliani and Mulvaney, of course, chief of staff. 

The rogue effort reportedly blurted out by Sondland at a White House meeting with Ukrainian officials in which Sondland told them the new Ukrainian president could secure a meeting with Trump if, look at this, if Ukraine opened up the investigations the White House was seeking. 

Bolton told Hill to tell the White House lawyers, quote, I`m not part of whatever drug deal Sondland/Mulvaney are cooking up, and further went on, quote, Giuliani is a hand grenade who is going to blow everybody up. 

Hill told lawmakers she considered what was happening to be a clear counterintelligence risk to the country, according to NBC reporting. 

Cooking up a drug deal.  It`s not every day that John Bolton sounds like he`s quoting Migos in the kitchen, wrist twisting like it`s stir-fry, a reference to twisting while one cooks cocaine.  But Mr. Bolton, a Yale educated lawyer, was trying to be as dramatic and clear as possible to his own Trump colleagues that he was worried about a crime here. 

And for all the rhetoric, let`s be clear, he was worried about a crime far worse than drug dealing.  That`s why he ordered the top national security lawyer be brought in.  Now, big picture these witnesses, this evidence, it`s also giving these impeachment committees brand-new leads to follow as Congress returns to session.  Lawmakers now considering whether to call in, of course, Mr. Bolton as a witness, so they can get his own words that have been memorialized and that are so damning about the hand grenade and the drug deal. 

Then there is, of course, Mr. Sondland.  He`s slated to testify on Thursday.  And there are reports already that he`s planning to say -- to say to the Congress under penalty of perjury that Trump told him directly there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine, exchanging say military aid for dirt on Biden, but Sondland quick to emphasize he doesn`t know whether that`s true.  He doesn`t know whether the president was lying.  He`s distancing himself from that one written defense. 

And while the Pentagon and the Office of Management Budget are refusing to comply with some of these subpoenas, the House committees expanding their witness lists deep into those departments which suggests that the military aid quid pro quo theory is a focus.  They`ve asked two Pentagon officials to testify.  One scheduled to appear Friday.  They`re also asking for Trump`s budget director to appear. 

So, this is all about what Mr. Bolton and these other witnesses have said they saw going on in real time, and the Congress is saying, forget your stonewalling, as Adam Schiff said tonight, the witnesses are still coming in and at a furious pace. 

There is a lot happening on the Hill.  I`m thrilled that we have Kyle Cheney, congressional reporter for "Politico" here who has been all over this. 

Good evening on a busy night.  Thanks for making time for us. 

KYLE CHENEY, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO:  Great to be here, Ari.  Thanks for having me. 

MELBER:  Absolutely.  As we see these witnesses come forward, including Mr. Kent from the State Department today, we`re also seeing the stonewalling from Giuliani and some of the other entities that we mentioned.  When you look at all of this and the evidence coming forward through the cooperative witnesses, what does that tell you and is that advancing the ball enough? 

CHENEY:  I mean, there are a lot of Democrats in particular who say they`ve already got enough evidence.  They can move to the floor with articles of impeachment today if they want to.  But I think, actually, the conundrum they have now is how much evidence do we need and is there a point where we`ve actually crossed a line where we have enough to say, look, this could take us years to get to the bottom of every single lead that we have that`s emerging, so should we put a lid on it and actually draft articles of impeachment based on what we know? 

MELBER:  What do you think is the significance of what sounds like John Bolton seeing around the corner, perhaps earlier than other individuals there.  We don`t know all the details around his departure.  He and the president got into a war of who was telling the truth about just that issue.  This is a more important one. 

But does your reporting and what you`re hearing on the Hill suggest that Mr. Bolton thought it`s only a matter of time before this all, to quote him, blows up? 

CHENEY:  Well, absolutely.  And I think the importance of Fiona Hill`s testimony is that she placed John Bolton at the center of this controversy.  She puts it for the first time at a level that`s not just senior ambassadors, but people in the president`s inner circle really having personal, you know, personal qualms about what`s happening here and raising concerns to a National Security Council lawyer. 

I mean, she expanded what was already a really devastating scandal for the White House to the people that were, you know, one degree remove from the president.  So it gave the House investigators so many more avenues to pursue and Bolton is almost surely going to get called. 

MELBER:  Yes, you say that she placed him there.  I don`t know if you ever played the board game clue -- have you? 

CHENEY:  Oh, yes.  Absolutely. 

MELBER:  It sounds a little bit like that.  Like Mr. Bolton in the Oval Office with the telephone.  You`re placing different figures and then especially if they`re out of government, do you expect him to then have to testify?  Because there aren`t a lot of arguments left, as we`ve just reported, if they`re talking about what he himself called a drug deal. 

CHENEY:  Well, what we`re seeing is, you know, Fiona Hill and, you know, Marie Yovanovitch have laid out a template for officials who want to testify to essentially override the White House, the State Department, trying to get them to stop.  And so where in the past witnesses who have been unwilling have used that as a shield, witnesses who are really motivated to talk to Congress can now look to what they`ve done and say, well, you can try to stop me, but I have away around that and I have a way to at least get the pertinent information to the impeachment inquiry to lawmakers who will do something about it. 

MELBER:  What will be important to hear from Mr. Sondland? 

CHENEY:  Well, first of all, so much of his testimony has been previewed in news reports.  He`s going to suggest essentially, if the reports are correct, that there was a quid pro quo.  In fact, he`ll say apparently it was not a corrupt quid pro quo, but that`s not really up to him to decide. 

And, you know, again, sort of put -- raise questions about the narrative that the White House has been putting out there partly based on Sondland`s own text messages.  So, he`s going to sort of take away the bludgeon the White House has been using to defend against the arguments that the president was doing something corrupt. 

MELBER:  "Politico`s" Kyle Cheney, thank you so much.  This is quite a story. 

CHENEY:  Great to be here. 

MELBER:  Appreciate you, sir. 

This is a busy news night.  Up ahead we`re going to speak to, as I said, two House committee members who were there when Mr. Kent testified and when Ms. Hill testified yesterday.  They join us live next.  Stay with us. 


MELBER:  Since we went on the air tonight, we have now brand-new reporting courtesy of "The New York Times" and I`ll give you the headline, quote, "White House is said to open an internal review of Ukraine call" and the lead from "The Times" in this breaking story is: President Trump for weeks has sought to unmask the whistle-blower who shed light on his Ukraine dealings.  Instead aides have fixated on another: advisers began a fact- finding review that some fear is a scapegoat according to some White House aides and other people familiar with it. 

Even as the impeachment inquiry intensifies in Congress, White House lawyers leading their own review, the people say, and they`re seeking to understand fish actions around Mr. Trump`s July 25th call with President Zelensky of Ukraine.  "The Times" reported tonight in this new story that the lawyer`s inquiry centers on why one of their colleagues, deputy White House counsel John Eisenberg, placed a rough transcript of the call on a computer system typically reserved for the country`s most closely guarded secrets. 

Now, that is quite a story.  You may remember it was anonymous -- this anonymous whistle-blower, now two, but initially one that reported that the reconstructed transcript of that July conversation was moved, many thought suspiciously, to the standalone server that would be reserved for other things, for highly classified information.  Now, "The Times" reports that Eisenberg reacted, quote, angrily to suggestions that he is under scrutiny.  That`s according to two sources. 

"The Times" also reports tonight that while it`s unclear who sought the review, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has, quote, encouraged it, and Mulvaney aides are helping the White House counsel`s office, which is lead by Pat Cipollone, to conduct it.  Again, according to this new story, quote: The review is among multiple efforts inside the White House to learn more about the president`s July 25th call and the events surrounding it, these people say.  Other lawyers in the White House counsel`s office have interviewed staff members about how Mr. Trump`s calls with foreign leaders are typically handled. 

In addition to this breaking story, we are tracking everything coming out of the Congress tonight after Speaker Pelosi`s press conference. 

And I`m joined now by two Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California and Congressman Denny Heck of Washington. 

Good evening to both of you. 

Congressman Heck, we will get to everything that happened on the Hill today, but your reaction to this breaking news and what does it mean that "The New York Times" says the White House is conducting the review in this manner? 

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA):  Well, as we`ve feared all along, we think that the White House is engaging in an attempt to discover the identity of the whistle-blower, Ari.  And the fact of the matter is that the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act affords the right of anonymity to the whistle-blower.  And let`s remember why that is --

MELBER:  Well, let me stop you there just to understand.  If you`re saying federal law -- you`re both lawmakers, you write laws.  You`re saying federal law is to protect the identity.  If the White House counsel`s office, the White House lawyers are doing something to try to expose the identity, are you suggesting then the story means that the White House lawyers may be trying to break the law? 

HECK:  Add it to the list, Ari. 

But, again, let`s remember why it is that anonymity is extended to the whistle-blower, because it makes us safer.  We want people within the national security environment and within the intelligence community to reveal, to point out, to disclose, to put a spotlight on wrongdoing so that we can stop it, and if we make them feel safe that they can come forward with the identification of wrongdoing, they`ll be more likely to do so.  Ergo, we`ll be safer. 

MELBER:  Congresswoman? 

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA):  Well, I think what we`re really seeing is a witch hunt undertaken by the White House.  He wants to find out who is the whistle-blower for one reason and one reason only, so he can besmirch that individual, can tear that person down and can do what he does to so many other people who challenge him, and that is to destroy him. 

We want to make sure that doesn`t happen.  That`s why we were very clear with the inspector general that we wanted to make absolutely certain that the identity of this whistle-blower would be protected because reprisals are commonplace when whistle-blowers come forward, and yet they are true heroes and sheroes in this country. 

MELBER:  And, Congresswoman, turning to the reason why we requested both of you, this dramatic meeting today.  We heard the speaker debrief on it afterward, but walk us through what happened in that caucus meeting.  We then expect there will be no vote until and unless there is ultimately a vote on the articles of impeachment themselves? 

SPEIER:  So both Denny and I were still in the hearing, the interview with the individual, Mr. Kent, and so I was not part of that caucus briefing.  That hearing that we were engaged in went on for, as you know, ten hours, so I can`t really speak to the caucus except to say that I think the speaker is doing what she does best.  She is protecting the caucus and making sure that the Constitution is protected as well.  And that`s why we are pursuing this particular investigation with the kind of -- that it deserves. 

MELBER:  And, Congressman Heck, these witnesses coming forward, Fiona Hill and George Kent, and we`ve seen Giuliani, OMB, DOD and the vice president`s office on the other hand refuse to provide information to your committees.  How do you view that distinction and what did you learn today that you can tell us about? 

HECK:  Well, first of all, let`s acknowledge the bravery, the profiles in courage of the individuals who have come forward and complied with the legally authorized subpoena, Ari.  These people are true American heroes and they`re doing a great service to America.  So that`s the first and most important thing.

Secondly, with respect to the president ordering his employees to refuse to participate or to comply with a legally authorized subpoena, the chairman has made it very clear that he is going to take that as an act of obstruction of the United States Congress and their lawful discharge of their Article I responsibilities.  And number two, as a tacit acknowledgement of guilt because clearly they`re hiding something.  It only adds to the case against them. 

MELBER:  You say what is a tacit acknowledgement of guilt, just the fact that they won`t come in? 

HECK:  They`re hiding something.  The fact that they won`t provide the documents, the fact that they won`t come in, the fact that they won`t comply with a legally authorized subpoena means to us that they don`t want to share information that they think would be incriminating.  And they don`t have that right. 

MELBER:  And, Congresswoman, what are you learning from these witnesses?  We went over some of the highlights tonight.  And some of them, as is always the case, boil down to what has come out from reports and what is dramatic, and certainly in the case of Mr. Bolton, but what else can you tell us are your takeaways? 

SPEIER:  I think what we are most concerned about is the shadow government that was being run by Rudy Giuliani and the president.  Not placing the interests of our national security or our diplomats and Foreign Service officers who I think in the end are going to be seen as pursuing one approach, which is, in fact, what our consistent approach has been with foreign countries.  And then you have this rogue operation with Rudy Giuliani and the president. 

I`m deeply concerned that what we have here is a major crisis in the state department, in our foreign service, and I think as we heard from Ms. Hill yesterday, it becomes a situation where if you cannot rely on your ambassadors overseas to be trusted because the president is undermining them or has a shadow operation running, then we really have a problem. 

MELBER:  And, Congresswoman, would these have been famously closed-door sessions and we`ve heard about the precedent for that and how that provides evidence gathering without the glare of the lights and television and the rest.  I wonder from what we haven`t learned yet, when and how do you see that coming out?  If your committee refers to judiciary or there are articles of impeachment, will that underlying material see the light of day? 

SPEIER:  It would be my -- certainly my hope that we will make those transcripts available.  I think the reason why we`ve held these closed sessions for these interviews is so that we can independently interview each of these individuals and not have their testimony somehow coordinated.  And that is in the best interest of making sure that the truth comes out.  So in the end I`m sure that most of this will be made available to the public. 

MELBER:  Congressman Heck? 

HECK:  Well, Ari, first of all, these are depositions, these aren`t hearings.  We`re going to follow the rules of best practices for investigation.  We`re after the facts.  We`re not after having a circus. 

We don`t want witnesses coordinating with one another.  And I need remind you, Ari, that even though this is unclassified, it`s held in a secure facility and everybody in the room has a security clearance. 

MELBER:  Uh-hmm. 

HECK:  Because of the sensitive nature of the discussion that we`re having, it`s possible that there might be an accidental release of classified information just within the context of the conversation.  We don`t want that to happen. 

But let`s back up here and understand this is a perfect analogy to the criminal justice system.  With investigation is step one, a charging decision or indictment step two and a jury is step three.  We`re in the investigation portion.  And if we get -- if we get to the part where the Judiciary Committee takes up articles of impeachment that will be public, all the underlying material will be made available, their deliberations will be made public. 

Same on the floor if there is a vote taken, and then if that passes to the Senate, the same in the Senate.  So we`re in the investigation phase not the circus phase. 

MELBER:  I understand that.  Your reminders, your expertise on how it works on the inside I think is really educational to all of us. 

Congresswoman Speier, Congressman Heck, thanks to both of you. 

SPEIER:  Thank you, Ari. 

HECK:  Thank you, Ari. 

MELBER:  Appreciate it. 

Up next, tonight, there is more breaking news we got in the last few minutes, the concerns the president`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and new details what he was reportedly asking the president to do on behalf of another foreign government.  That`s next. 


MELBER:  More breaking news in the criminal probe of Rudy Giuliani and how the U.S. attorney in New York continues what they call an ongoing investigation.  We have a lot more on that in this show. 

Right now, a breaking story from "The Washington Post" that we`re going to show you.  We had "The Times" moments ago, now, "The Post" with this.  Quote, Giuliani pressed Trump to eject Muslim cleric from the U.S., a top priority of Turkish president.  That`s the headline. 

"The Washington Post" sources this to multiple former administration officials saying Giuliani told Trump to extradite the Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, a permanent U.S. resident living in Pennsylvania.  Turkey`s President Erdogan blaming him for an attempted coup in 2016 and was hoping to put him on trial.  We should note, Gulen denies any involvement. 

Now, in the new story "The Post" reports, Giuliani brought the case up so frequently with Trump during visits to the White House, and one former official described the subject as Giuliani`s hobby horse.  "The Post" reports Giuliani`s now under scrutiny for his efforts to press Ukraine to investigate Trump`s political rivals.  His earlier appears to have been pursuing what they call a, quote, shadow foreign policy from his perch outside government.

"The Post" also reporting that Trump`s first national security adviser Michael Flynn, and you might recall this, made a similar effort on behalf of Turkey over the very same request.  Now, Flynn got money to lobby for Turkey.  Giuliani in a new reaction to this story denies he got that money.  And it`s important to remember while we don`t know if these two stories are linked, we do know that Mike Flynn confessed to lying to the feds about this very issue with Turkey. 

The news about Rudy Giuliani continues to pile up and we have more on that just ahead. 


MELBER:  Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are still in federal custody right now ahead of a formal arraignment that`s going to happen in New York this Thursday.  Now, as they wait for that, federal prosecutors drilling down on this associate Rudy Giuliani. 

New reporting in "The Wall Street Journal," quote, a grand jury`s issued a subpoena related to the investigation into Giuliani seeking documents from former Congressman Pete Sessions about his dealings with Trump`s lawyer and associates.  "The Journal" noting Mr. Sessions` knowledge of Mr. Giuliani`s dealings a primary focus of the subpoena.  That news comes amidst reporting that federal investigators may have been focused on Giuliani for some time. 

A Manhattan attorney that represents high-profile Ukrainian clients telling the "USA Today", U.S. counterintelligence agents have been examining Giuliani`s business dealings with two indicted businessmen since early 2019.  The attorneys say that those agents, quote, contacted him in February or March.  They asked whether Giuliani, who was Donald Trump`s attorney, had business dealings with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and this president says he was asked a lot of questions by FBI and other counter intel investigators looking at Giuliani`s comings and goings in Ukraine and business dealings. 

Giuliani`s dealings with Mr. Parnas were also apparently lucrative, because Giuliani himself is confirming to "Reuters" he was paid half a mil for work done on behalf of that company, even though Parnas is accused of funneling foreign money to get influence with U.S. politicians and candidates, including donating to a Trump super PAC.  Giuliani telling "Reuters" he`s confident the money he receives from a, quote, domestic sources,  was using But he won`t say more. 

Here`s the quote: The money did not come from foreigners.  I can rule that out 100 percent, he says.  Despite all this scrutiny on Giuliani, he is now writing on Twitter, quote, at this time, I do not need a lawyer. 

Behind the scenes, though, there are reports that others who like Giuliani, who want him to be OK think that`s a bad idea.  Quote, people close to Giuliani are advising him to hire a criminal lawyer as questions linger about his connections to two of his associates.  CNN reports adding, Giuliani has been resisting that advice. 

I`m joined now by Maya Wiley, who served as a civil prosecutor in the office that Rudy Giuliani once ran and that`s now investigating him, the Southern District of New York. 

Thanks for being here. 

MAYA WILEY, THE NEW SCHOOL PROFESSOR:  Thanks for having me, Ari. 

MELBER:  What do these new clues about the investigation tell you? 

WILEY:  These new clues are pretty big.  What they make very clear is that federal prosecutors believe that there`s reason to delve deeply into Rudy Giuliani`s role with these two indicted individuals, and that includes -- that could mean many, many different crimes, by the way.  Let`s be clear. 

There`s one whether he registered as a lobbyist for a foreign entity, but there is also campaign finance violations.  And as they made clear when they announced the indictments of continuing investigations, we don`t know where it will end. 

MELBER:  Then beyond Rudy Giuliani`s liability and whatever it may mean, he is also still on record the lawyer for the president of the United States who has an impeachment probe that has been accelerating.  He`s not the only lawyer.  He for a while was the loudest one. 

The other one that is known publicly that also is on TV like Mr. Giuliani is Jay Sekulow.  And I had a chance to interview him and this was before some of this news broke, but he didn`t seem to want to have anything to do with Mr. Giuliani`s Ukraine business.  Take a look. 


MELBER:  When did you learn that Rudy Giuliani was asking these foreign governments to investigate Joe Biden? 

JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY:  You know, I -- I learned I guess when you did because that was not in my jurisdiction --

MELBER:  You don`t know when I did.  I`m asking you when you did.  You don`t know when I learned it. 

SEKULOW:  Well, I didn`t know anything about this until it got public.  I mean --

MELBER:  Spilled into the public reporting? 



MELBER:  That the impeachment co-counsel wants nothing to do with this.  Does this bring into question Mr. Giuliani`s ability to represent Donald Trump here? 

WILEY:  I certainly think that brings that into question.  Rudy Giuliani potentially if there is a conspiracy potentially a coconspirator.  What I see Jay Sekulow doing is saying I have one client and one client only, and that is Donald Trump.  If Rudy Giuliani has any engagement in any activity that my client, Donald Trump, may be implicated in, we may not be -- have shared interests --

MELBER:  So that`s fascinating, Maya --

WILEY:  -- and I can`t speak for him. 

MELBER:  -- because that means you can have a meeting or a conference call where Rudy and Jay and the president are all on the same -- same conversation but you`re suggesting Mr. Sekulow`s advice might be we need a smaller call.  We need to get rid of that guy. 

WILEY:  Yes, in short.  Now, remember, as long as Rudy Giuliani is saying but I too am an attorney for Donald Trump, Donald Trump still has the argument for attorney/client privilege.  But, again, I would say that one of the problems is that everyone has in this case is whether or not there was a waiver of that privilege --

MELBER:  Uh-hmm. 

WILEY:  -- based on any number of issues, including the crime/fraud exception.  Meaning if you`re having discussions with an attorney to commit a crime, you don`t get to assert attorney/client privilege. 

MELBER:  And finally, what does the financial piece of this tell you, that are digging into the business dealings, the financial records, this account that Rudy says in fairness he claims was a completely domestic payment?

WILEY:  Well, it says that they`re looking at whether or not he should have registered as a foreign agent, number one.  Because if he had been hired by a -- remember, that these two -- the two indicted people, Parnas and Fruman, are Americans, if but if the money is coming to them from Russia or other foreign sources, that means he should have registered.  There are also questions about the campaign finance violations and, you know, we don`t know where else that leads.  Whenever prosecutors start following the money, typically you may find additional crimes. 

MELBER:  I feel like I`ve heard that somewhere before. 

Maya Wiley from the southern district, among other work you`ve done, really appreciate your expertise tonight. 

WILEY:  Thank you for having me. 

MELBER:  Always good to have you. 

We have a lot more news ahead.  Stay with us.


MELBER:  It is been a week since Turkey started the military operation against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria which happened two days after the president decided to with draw U.S. troops, which according to national security experts and many people in Congress, including Republicans, abandoned many former U.S. allies.  The United Nations says this conflict has now displaced 160,000 people, including 200 forced to flee this refugee camp here that you see in northern Iraq. 

Mike Pence traveling there tomorrow with Turkish President Erdogan.  The meeting`s goal is to tell the Turkish president to stop the military assault and try to reach a cease-fire or face economic sanctions.  In a signed of a geopolitical stakes for the entire region, take a look at this.  Tonight, the Kremlin releasing a statement saying President Erdogan has agreed to make a working visit to Russia in the coming days, invitation accepted. 

Now, Turkey did not show signs of letting up, they are hammering the border towns with heavy rocket fire tonight.  There`s this reporting that Turkish forces bracketed U.S. troops with artillery rounds.  A U.S. official tells NBC, Turkish-backed forces put U.S. troops at risk again begin when they came dangerously close to another coalition base. 

This official saying U.S. troops had to fend them off using aircraft and a show of force with the goal of de-escalation.  But the Trump administration has been moving the troops out of the region.  Russian and Syrian flags, you see here, have been coming in. 

This is the border in northeastern Syria, patrolled territory vacated by the U.S., they`ve even taken over a base left behind by the Americans. 

I want to turn to an expert now, Ambassador Michael McFaul, served in the Obama administration as U.S. ambassador to Russia and knows these issues well. 

Thank you for being here, sir. 

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR:  Sure, thanks for having me. 

MELBER:  Obviously, I think people understand this is an extraordinarily important story, and yet there`s a lot of other things happening in the United States.  If we`re just coming back and refreshing ourselves, what did the Trump administration do here and how much what we`re seeing in the reporting is a consequence of that? 

MCFAUL:  Well, let me back up, Ari, because it is a confusing story, and remind everybody watching what the Kurds did for us.  There was something called operation inherent resolve.  We went in to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but we didn`t do it alone.  In fact, the Kurds did most of the fighting for us.  They were our alleys in that fight against a terrorist organization that is a threat to the United States of America. 

And what president Trump did was basically abandoned the Kurds in that telephone call with President Erdogan and said, OK, you want to go after them, you want to come in?  We`re going to step out of the way.  And now, you`re seeing the consequences of us just basically giving up and moving away from one of our most important alleys in this region of the world, and it`s not just a fight about the Syrian border as the president has sometimes said.  It`s a fight against a terrorist organization, ISIS, that the Kurds have been fighting with us for many, many years now. 

MELBER:  And so how much is then caused by these choices, these foreign policy choices? 

MCFAUL:  Well, Trump said, OK, go ahead.  He just capitulated.  He just pulled away from our allies.  And he had many other options, by the way.  He could have said no, we could have taken it to the U.N. Security Council and tried to vote against this operation instead of siding with the Russians and allowing it to happen.  We are retreating and the symbolism, as you just said, of the Russians taking over an American base, I think, kind of sums it up.  Who runs from us, Assad, the Syrian regime, Russia and Iran. 

MELBER:  So you lay it out very clearly, and it goes beyond, of course, the flags, the symbolism, and all the people, which we`ve been reported affected by this, even above and beyond that.  "The New York Times" says an U.S. State and Energy Department officials are reviewing plans to evacuate 50 tactical nuclear weapons that are stored under U.S. control but at a Turkish air base near Syria`s border. 

They quote an official who says because of these policy choices, they are effectively President Erdogan`s hostages.  Can you walk us through that aspect of this, because I don`t have the diplomacy and international experience you do.  But it sounds like a bad thing if there`s talks weapons if the U.S. has to move on a last-minute basis or that might not be movable? 

MCFAUL:  Well, definitely, it`s a bad thing, although I think it`s prudent to explore all the options of getting those weapons out of that base.  I do think it underscores the breakdown we`ve had in our bilateral relationship with Turkey.  And, you know, we should have been working that for years and years before we got to this crisis moment that we`re in today. 

MELBER:  Yes.  Well, it seems like anything that you would do that would land you in this situation having to worry about those nuclear weapons is something worth thinking harder on whether it needs to shift.  Really striking stuff out in the Middle East, so much going on.  Appreciate you bringing us up to speed with your expertise, always, Ambassador McFaul. 

MCFAUL:  Sure.  Thanks for having me. 

MELBER:  Yes, sir.  Thank you. 

MCFAUL:  We have a big night still ahead right here on MSNBC for several reasons, and another story for you in this hour. 

Stay with me.


MELBER:  If I asked you to do a Frank Pentangeli, do you think what that meant? 

Federal prosecutors say that is what Trump adviser Roger Stone asked an associate to do in the middle of very important probes into the Russia issue and Donald Trump.  And Stone then told an associate to, quote, do a Frank Pentangeli before the House Intelligence Committee to avoid contradicting Stone`s testimony. 

Well, if you have seen Francis Ford Coppola`s mafia classic, "The Godfather II", you know there`s a character who very famously and blatantly lies to Congress, pretending to know way less than he did about a criminal conspiracy.  But if you haven`t seen the movie or you don`t remember every reference, what the federal prosecutors are saying here is they`re asking a court to let them play that very clip from "The Godfather" when they put Trump adviser Roger Stone on trial next month. 

Lawyers for Roger Stone say it would be unfair.  This is a real live debate about what to do with this "Godfather" clip.  Well, the courts will ultimately decide.  We don`t know whether the jury will hear it, but I did get to speak with the father of "The Godfather" himself, famed director Francis Ford Coppola, and I asked him if they think so prosecutors should be allowed to play the clip in the Roger Stone trial. 


FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA, FILMMAKER:  If it`s relevant to the case, "Godfather" has become part of the culture.  From my point of view, anyone who would take a stuff from a fictional gangster picture and put it in real life, that`s not behavior -- the behavior in "The Godfather", not behavior I recommend.  I always thought people who would use intimidation and violence and cruelty are below my lowest regard for another human being, so I don`t recommend that kind of behavior. 


MELBER:  There it is from Francis Ford Coppola himself.  "The Godfather" is not recommended as a model for any human behavior. 

Back in the real world, looks like federal prosecutors and Roger Stone`s defense team are getting ready to go to the mattress on this one.  The trial starts November 5th with or without the godfather. 

I wanted to give you that update.  Don`t go anywhere.  I should tell you, Rachel will be back tomorrow.  You can always find me at 6:00 p.m. on "THE BEAT".


Good evening, Lawrence.

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