RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes. I mean, for one thing, I want to talk about what he`s been doing for the year, but also -- I mean, talk about a voice that would be really nice to weigh in on what`s going on right now, that`s amazing.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yes, I`m really excited about it.
MADDOW: Well done, my friend. Thanks a lot.
HAYES: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
There`s a lot going on. Let`s just -- let`s just jump right in.
Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the intelligence committee, he is leading the impeachment proceedings against president Trump in the House of Representatives. Tonight, Chairman Schiff just sent this letter, a "dear colleague" letter to all members of the House. And among other things, he addresses in this letter the complaint that Republicans have been making and the White House has been making in which they`ve been saying that Republicans haven`t been allowed to ask questions of the witnesses who have been deposed so far in the impeachment inquiry.
Adam Schiff saying tonight that that is not true. He says, quote, in each session, I have made an opening statement and offered the same opportunity to a member designated by the minority, by the Republicans. Questions have primarily been asked by committee counsels for both the majority and the minority, but also by members of both parties. The majority and minority have been provided equal staff representation and equal time to question witnesses.
Schiff says, quote, it is necessary to point this out because the president and his allies made the false claim that Republican members and staff have been precluded from attending or asking questions. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Schiff also addresses the concerns and complaints that have been made, not just from Republicans, about the fact that the witnesses in the impeachment inquiry thus far have only been heard behind closed doors. All of these depositions have been taken in closed-door proceedings. And his argument about that here, I think, is quite interesting.
He says, quote: Unlike in past impeachment proceedings in which Congress had the benefit of an investigation conducted in secret by an independent prosecutor, we must conduct the initial investigation ourselves. This is the case because the Department of Justice under William Barr expressly declined to investigate this matter after a criminal referral had been made.
And you know that strikes me as a fair point, although I had not previously been thinking about it in these terms. If you think about the last two, you know, impeachments, almost impeachments, in the Nixon investigation, you had Archibald Cox, special prosecutor, right, then he got fired and his successor, Leon Jaworski. But the two of them won a professional secret grand jury investigation into Watergate then handed over that secret grand jury material to Congress which was then used as the basis for drawing up impeachment articles.
In the Clinton impeachment, it was good old Ken Starr who conducted an ostensibly secret but very leaky grand jury investigation. He and his staff then compiled that information into a shiny cover heavy breathing airport novel of a report, which was then handed over to Congress and that was used as the basis of drawing up those impeachment proceedings as well. I mean, that`s not how this is going, right, when it comes to the impeachment of Donald Trump.
It is going to end up being a very important part of this history that we are now living through that there really were multiple criminal referrals of the president`s behavior that were made to the Justice Department at the outset of this process. Reportedly from the top lawyer at the CIA, reportedly from the office of the director of national intelligence. Those offices made criminal referrals that the Justice Department should investigate. Should look into whether the president had committed a crime by asking a foreign government to help him out against the Democrats for his re-election campaign.
Those criminal referrals were made. Not only did the Justice Department under William Barr decline to bring any charges despite those criminal referrals, the way Barr`s Justice Department handled it was to refuse to even investigate the issue. I mean, usually with a serious criminal referral, particularly coming from, you know, not some partisan and not some Rando but from a serious part of the government with evidence to back it up, especially when there are multiple criminal referrals on the same point, you would expect, I would think, that at least the FBI would conduct a preliminary investigation.
You know, talk to some of the people involved. Look at some of the evidence. Under Bill Barr, instead, the Justice Department decided that they would not speak to a single witnesses -- a single witness and they would just from the get-go decline to open an investigation into these matters. I think their feeling was they just hoped this would go away.
They literally talked to zero witnesses. They had the FBI do no investigation whatsoever. The Justice Department decided, itself, nothing here, we are refusing to look into it.
And that maybe felt like a good idea in the first place, but it has now led to a whole bunch of different consequences which appear to be very much spinning outside of Bill Barr and the White House`s control. I mean, one of them is what Congressman Schiff explains in this letter tonight.
That decision by the Justice Department is what has led in part to this format we are now seeing for the impeachment investigation in the House. Schiff explains in this letter tonight that they would not have to do all the impeachment inquiry depositions and interviews in secret behind closed doors if this inquiry was being carried out following an FBI inquiry or grand jury investigation. But because those things didn`t happen they have to do the initial investigation by themselves and that means it has to happen in secret, it has too happen out of the public eye, and he explains why.
Quote: The special counsels in the Nixon and Clinton impeachments conducted their investigations in private and we must initially do the same. It is of paramount importance to ensure that witnesses cannot coordinate their testimony with one another to match their description of events or potentially conceal the truth. That, of course, is why grand jury testimony is secret, right? That you don`t want witnesses knowing what other witnesses have said, so they can`t line up their witness testimony to match other people.
Schiff says, quote: That said, let me be clear, as the investigation proceeds and at a time that will not jeopardize investigative equities, we will make the interview transcripts public subject to any necessary redactions for classified or sensitive information. We also anticipate at an appropriate point in the investigation, we will be taking witness testimony in public so the full Congress and the American people can hear their testimony firsthand.
So that`s a letter from Adam Schiff tonight, and that is one consequence of William Barr at the Justice Department having tried to kibosh any proper investigation into the president`s behavior. Having said at the outset, no, nobody`s talking to any witnesses, nobody`s engaging the FBI in this, we`re just saying no, no investigation. I mean, arguably, that decision by William Barr and the Justice Department may also have had something to do with the initial whistleblower in the case bringing the matter to Congress` attention, knowing that it wasn`t going to go anywhere inside the Justice Department, and it certainly wasn`t going to go anywhere once the White House was advised to look at it. That arguably is what led to the whistleblower`s complaint being brought to Congress.
And that has led to an impeachment proceeding where these witness interviews, these depositions are now being conducted out of the public eye. That also appears to have led, and this, I think, is the big news in these proceedings today, I don`t think it`s a direct connection or not -- it`s not a direct cause. William Barr saying this shouldn`t be investigated to what`s happening now. But I think it must have inexorably led to what happened today.
What we can see, this is being pursued as a criminal matter outside main justice, right? Bill Barr and Main Justice decide they`re not going to look at it. Clearly a crime has been committed here. It appears more than one crime may have been committed here and now that`s being pursued as a criminal matter by prosecutors and investigators who are not at Main Justice where Bill Barr wouldn`t look at it. Instead, its prosecutors and investigators associated with the Southern District of New York.
Now, lots of talk early on in the Mueller investigation, Russia investigation, about how independent SDNY might be. They like to call themselves the sovereign district of New York. They, in particular, more than any other U.S. attorney`s office in the country don`t like to take direction from Main Justice. Well, it appears now that they are pursuing this as a criminal and counterintelligence matter, essentially outside of what Bill Barr is running at main justice, right?
So we`re going to talk about that tonight because I think this has taken a really interesting turn. All right. Let`s talk first about the depositions that have been continuing every day, right? Today, we got a few interesting revelations from what`s been happening behind closed doors with these witnesses in the impeachment proceedings. Today`s testimony, for example, was from Michael McKinley, 37-year veteran at the U.S. State Department. He reportedly made clear in his testimony today that he resigned after 37 years in the department, including at its highest levels, specifically to protest this Ukraine scheme for which the president is being impeached and the way the State Department personnel have been treated inside this scandal.
Now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to explain away Michael McKinley`s resignation as it was like McKinley needing more time with his family or something. Honestly, did Mike Pompeo think the real reasons McKinley stepped down would not come out? Mike Pompeo has told reporters that McKinley quit because of family concerns.
Really? Nice try. It was not family concerns. McKinley making clear that he left in protest. We have not obtained the full opening statement Ambassador McKinley gave to the impeachment committees today but have obtained parts of it tonight from a former colleague who`s familiar with his testimony.
William McKinley`s opening statement today to the impeachment proceedings in the House says in part, quote: the timing of my resignation was the result of two overriding concerns. The failure, in my view, of the State Department to offer support to foreign service employees caught up in the impeachment inquiry on Ukraine, and second, by what appears to be the utilization of our ambassadors overseas to advance domestic political objectives.
Quote: I was disturbed by the implication that foreign governments were being approached to procure negative information on political opponents. Quote: Since I began my career in 1982, I have served my country and every president loyally. Under current circumstances, however, I can no longer look the other way.
That is why Michael McKinley quit his job after 37 years at the State Department. His testimony today follows what appears to have been two very provocative days of testimony from other senior national security and diplomatic officials. George Kent, senior State Department official who testified yesterday, and Fiona Hill who worked under John Bolton at the National Security Council at the top national security council expert on Russia and Ukraine.
"The New York Times" was first to report today that Fiona Hill`s testimony to the impeachment inquiry included observations that she was qualified to make both because of her subject matter expertise on Russia and Ukraine, but also because of her life experience as a former intelligence officer which is what she did before this phase of her career.
Quote: In her testimony, Fiona Hill described fears that Ambassador Gordon Sondland represented a counterintelligence risk. In addition to the earlier reporting that Fiona Hill and John Bolton were so concerned that the president`s scheme in Ukraine was a crime that Bolton told Fiona Hill she needed to speak to White House lawyers about it and she did on at least two occasions. In addition to that reporting, that Hill and Bolton believed the scheme involving Ukraine was criminal, according to this new report in "The New York Times", Fiona Hill also believed there was a national security risk here and she brought these concerns about the counterintelligence risk of this scheme to intelligence officials inside the White House.
So, this looks like a crime. It gets referred by multiple Trump-appointed officials to the Justice Department for criminal investigation. Bill Barr shuts that down.
Inside the National Security Council, they believe it is a crime. They talk to White House lawyers about it. That doesn`t appear to go anywhere.
But now, we have learned that inside the National Security Council, they also believe this was a national security risk and a counterintelligence danger. And that was reported to intelligence officials inside the White House. And that appears to be the new plot that is opening up now.
I mean, if the House wants to impeach Trump for trying to wheedle a foreign government into giving him help against his Democratic opponents in the next election, they got that already, right? That is done and vested. To the extent there was a cover-up, an effort to cover-up that crime in the White House, a lot of that evidence is already fairly clear as well. You could imagine they could very easily draw up an article of impeachment about the crime of trying to use a foreign government to help in his election. That`s one article.
Another article can be the cover-up, right? The hiding of the notes from the president`s call to Ukraine, hiding them in this super secret seven server so few people could access those notes. The effort to keep the whistle-blower`s complaint about the call from being passed on to Congress or investigated at the Justice Department. I mean, all of that stuff is fairly clear as well. You could see them impeaching, you know, tomorrow, on the crime, itself, and the effort to cover it up.
But now it is clear that something else is evolving out of these initial claims. And I don`t know what the Democrats will do with this in the House. I don`t know what the House will do with this in terms of their overall impeachment proceedings here. But we can see it start to happen, right? We can see this start to unfold, when you watch the cast of characters that were involved in this scheme.
Today, as far as we can tell, the gentleman on the left side of your screen here, who was arrested last week and charged with funneling illegal foreign donations to President Trump`s re-election effort and a number of Republican candidates in a scheme that was designed in part to get the U.S. government to fire the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the gentleman on the left, we believe as of tonight, is still in federal custody in Alexandria, Virginia, but we believe the gentleman on the right, who was arrested at the same time on the same charges, we believe he has now been bailed out on a million dollars bail.
Now, these two were not the only two arrested, right? You`ll remember from this indictment that there were four men who were charged all together in this alleged campaign finance scheme. Those two guys whose mug shots we`ve got, Lev and Igor, but also one of their alleged co-conspirator who was arrested in San Francisco. As of this evening we believe he, too, has been bailed out on a million dollar bond in advance of what`s expected to be his first federal court appearance in Manhattan in the jurisdiction where he`s been charged tomorrow.
We also got word today that the fourth man who was charged in this indictment, a man who -- until yesterday was at large, he now has been picked up by federal agents reportedly while arriving from an international flight at JFK Airport. And we do not yet have a mug shot for him, but we do have this handy picture of him posing with Donald Trump. Just as we have a number of other pictures of Donald Trump posing with the defendants in this case.
We had initially expected Lev and Igor, the two Giuliani associates who were arrested at Dulles Airport last week, the guys for whom we have the mug shots, we were originally expecting them to be arraigned tomorrow in federal court in New York as well. As I mentioned, one of them, Igor, is now out on bail. Even though we believe the other one is still in custody. That`s interesting that their fates may be taking different directions here.
I should also note that their arraignment had been expected to be tomorrow in federal court in New York. It`s now been moved to Wednesday of next week. We`re not sure why that happened, but the federal judge who`s going to be hearing their case set a new date for Lev and Igor to be arraigned in court. We expect the other guys to be arraigned tomorrow. Lev and Igor to be arraigned next week.
We also got word today that the investigation that led to the indictment of these four men is not over. Now, that had been suggested by the U.S. attorney when these charges were first announced, that this was an ongoing investigation. But we`ve got concrete evidence of it now in the form of these reports that former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions has received a federal grand jury subpoena in conjunction with this investigation. This is not a subpoena for him to come talk to Congress. This is a subpoena for him to go talk to the grand jury.
And the way it works with the grand jury is that federal prosecutors can`t get new subpoenas from a grand jury. They can`t give new evidence to a grand jury and ask a grand jury to take more actions in a case if all the charges in that case have already been filed. Prosecutors can only keep working with the grand jury if there are new charges planned or expected in the future.
So the fact that former Congressman Pete Sessions got a federal grand jury subpoena in this case after these four gentlemen were already charged and arrested, that implies that more charges are expected or at least possible. Now, initial reports about Pete Sessions getting this subpoena have suggested that the president`s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, appears to be a focus of what investigators are looking for from Mr. Sessions in that subpoena. There, of course, have been multiple reports that the president`s lawyer is under active criminal investigation right now in the Southern District of New York, which is awkward because he used to lead that U.S. attorney`s office, himself.
But in addition to those reports that Giuliani`s under investigation by prosecutors at SDNY, we`ve now got this somewhat amazing reporting that was first from "USA Today" then followed up today by CNN. Both of these outlets are now reporting that in addition to the basic questions as to whether or not Giuliani was involved in this criminal campaign finance conspiracy that`s been alleged in that indictment of his buddies for whom we`ve got the mugshot, in addition to "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that Giuliani`s bank records and business interests are the subject of investigation by SDNY, now on top of that both "USA Today" and CNN are reporting that Mayor Giuliani appears to be the subject of a counterintelligence investigation as well.
A counterintelligence investigation? I mean, what we assume that means, to put it in layman`s terms, is that Giuliani appears to be part of an ongoing investigation as to whether this whole gig is some sort of foreign influence op. Something that a foreign government or foreign intelligence service is running here, to influence or compromise or hurt the United States of America.
Now, the main source for that reporting is a lawyer who says he was interviewed by FBI counterintelligence agents months ago, like, February and March of this year about Giuliani and his connections and his business dealings abroad, and any potential counterintelligence implications of that. We`re going to speak with that lawyer tonight here live in just a moment. He has very unique insight into the relevant part of the world here and specifically into someone who appears to be one of the most important parts of this whole scheme.
I mean, there is, you know, an incredible clown car of characters here, right? Giuliani, himself, says he`s been getting strategic advice and information on this scheme that he and the president were trying to pull off in Ukraine from Paul Manafort who was the president`s campaign chairman who is now in federal prison. In addition to Manafort, "The New York Times" just yesterday published an eye-popping profile of the specific guy in Ukraine who has fueled this whole effort by Trump and Giuliani by writing up a seven-page English language dossier of disproven allegations against Joe Biden which has given rise to this whole scheme.
According to reporters Andrew Kramer and Michael Schwartz at "The New York Times", the guy who wrote up that anti-Biden stuff that has given ride to this whole scheme, this whole idea that Trump could get something from Ukraine that might help him with his re-election effort -- well, he`s a guy who seems like a real peach. According to "The New York Times," he, quote, has been indicted three times, himself, on corruption charges and has been accused of bringing politically-motivated criminal cases against his opponents. In a security clearance forum, he admitted to having ties to a warlord in eastern Ukraine who`s accused of working for the Russian intelligence services. What?
One nice follow-up detail there is that part of the way people sussed out that he might be linked to this warlord who`s believed to work for Russian intelligence services is that when they were investigating this guy in one of the corruption cases against him, they found that he somewhat inexplicably had possession of a really expensive Toyota SUV that he would not seem to have been able to afford on his government salary. Hey, who gave him that car? Turns out that car was registered to the father, the dad, of the Eastern Ukrainian warlord who`s believed to work for Russian intelligence.
And I guess that`s how it works, right? When the Russian intelligence guy gives you his dad`s car and lets you take it home, I don`t know what the right "thank you" present is for that. But you might start with a seven- page English language dossier of false accusations against the family of the leading Democratic opponent who`s going to be up against Donald Trump in his re-election effort in 2020? I mean, is that a nice way to start your thank-you note to Russian intelligence?
Dear kind sirs, first of all are you using synthetic motor oil or regular? Because I need to get the change and I don`t want -- also, please enclose - - please.
So there`s Paul Manafort in federal prison. In large part for not paying taxes on the millions of dollars he took from pro-Putin political parties in Ukraine. There`s the guy who wrote up the supposed dirt on Joe Biden who`s linked to Russian intelligence. There`s Lev and Igor arrested by the FBI when they were reportedly on their way to Vienna with one-way tickets out of this country.
Who`s in Vienna? Well, both of them have reportedly been financed in their recent activities by a Ukrainian billionaire named Dmytro Firtash. If you want some chatty back story on Dmytro Firtash, how he got to be important in that part of the world, and why he might factor into all of this now, I should mention I did just write a book about it. I wrote this new book, "Blowout," that is just out.
Chapter 19 in my book is kind of about this which is weird and uncanny, but it`s true. And the basic story of him is that the Putin government installed Dmytro Firtash in Ukraine in the middle of a series of deals that were designed to make him into a billionaire, designed to make him the dominant player in the Ukrainian energy business which is very handy for Russia that the guy who they installed in that job would be running the you Ukrainian energy business right next door.
U.S. prosecutors said he`s an upper echelon associate of Russian organized crime. Dmytro Firtash is in Vienna. He`s fighting extradition to the United States where he`s wanted on bribery charges in conjunction with a huge corruption case.
Just tonight, NBC has fascinating new reporting that when Lev and Igor, Rudy Giuliani`s guys, these guys who have now been arrested, when they were trying to do this sort of side hustle in Ukraine alongside the "get Biden" plan, when they were trying to replace the top guy at the head of a big Ukrainian natural gas company and instead install their own people to run that firm, NBC reports tonight that it appears that deal was being sought by Lev and Igor, specifically to benefit this guy for whom they were apparently working, Dmytro Firtash, trying to get back into that part of the natural gas business with help from Giuliani`s buddies.
Dmytro Firtash, meanwhile, has been providing sworn statements to Rudy Giuliani, that Giuliani has been waving around on television saying this is the evidence against Joe Biden, this is why Biden must be investigated.
I mean, what makes -- what makes this all so nuts, right, I mean, impeachment thing is very simple. And then this is the -- what`s emerging out of the investigation into it. What makes this all so nuts, what may make this particularly galling and upsetting to the White House to learn that there`s a live and professional counterintelligence investigation into what happened here, is that this cast of characters is really familiar. We didn`t know Lev and Igor before, but we kind of knew everybody else.
When then-candidate Donald Trump picked Paul Manafort to be his campaign chairman back in 2016, we soon learned that Manafort had gigantic outstanding financial obligations to a couple of pro-Putin billionaires in the part of the world where he used to work before Trump brought him onboard to run his own campaign. One of the guys who Manafort appeared to have a large financial obligations to is this guy, Dmytro Firtash.
Firtash was one of the major funders of the pro-Putin political party that paid Paul Manafort all those millions of dollars that Paul Manafort received while he was working in Ukraine. Dmytro Firtash also at one point tried to go in on a big business deal with Manafort. They were going to build a big new luxury tower in New York City, a Bulgari tower. That deal never happened, but it led to court proceedings that produced many of those lurid details about Manafort and his business dealings and his partnership with Firtash and the accusations that New York City real estate were being used by this crowd essentially as a Laundromat of dirty money from the former Soviet Union.
I mean, U.S. prosecutors say Firtash is an upper-echelon associate of Russian organized crime. He denies that, but that is what U.S. prosecutors say. For years, he has been the primary economic and political agent of the Kremlin in Ukrainian politics and economics.
And looking back on it, it`s sort of insane that somebody, Paul Manafort, financially links to a guy like that, would be hired to become the campaign chairman of a presidential campaign, at a time that we now know Russia was doing everything it could to try to help his candidate get elected president of the United States. Well, now, it appears that same guy appears to be a key figure in this scheme to get Donald Trump re-elected in 2020. A foreign billionaire linked to the Kremlin, according to U.S. prosecutors, linked to Russian organized crime, who is currently fighting extradition to this country on very serious corruption charges that kind of appear to be stalled.
Interesting, Austria approved Firtash being extradited back here to face charges in the middle of this summer. Who knows if William Barr`s Justice Department will ever figure out to get him here to face charges.
But in the Southern District of New York, a counterintelligence investigation is reportedly under way into whether or not this was a foreign influence operation designed to influence or harm or leverage the U.S. government. That counterintelligence investigation appears to, in part, be about the president`s personal lawyer who was sort of running point on this scheme. It would also appear to be touching on some of the people who were involved in the last scheme to have foreign influence in our election to elect a very, very, very special candidate.
We got much more ahead on this tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Criminal investigations tend to be opaque from the outside by nature. I mean, you might get an old-fashioned leak to the press, a hint. But sometimes we heard from someone who has honest-to-goodness firsthand experience with the investigators and can talk about what they`ve been asked.
Quote: U.S. counterintelligence agents have been examining Rudy Giuliani`s business dealings with two men indicted last week on campaign finance charges since at least early 2019 according to a Manhattan lawyer. The lawyer, Kenneth McCallion, who represented several Ukrainian clients, including former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in U.S. court cases, said the agents contacted him in February or March of this year. They asked whether Rudy Giuliani had dealings with Lev Parnas or Igor Fruman.
Parnas and Fruman are the two Giuliani associates arrested last week on conspiracy charges related to an alleged scheme to pump foreign money into Republican campaigns and super PACs.
But this investigation is apparently not just about campaign finance. Quote, Mr. McCallion says he was asked a lot of questions by FBI and other counterintelligence investigators who are looking at Giuliani`s comings and goings in Ukraine and business dealings.
That first report was in "USA Today". It`s now been confirmed and added to by CNN. Federal investigation of Rudy Giuliani includes counterintelligence probe. Lawyer Kenneth McCallion telling CNN, quote: I was just asked if I or any of my clients knew of dealings these two guys had with Giuliani. They were on the radar with regard to possible counterintelligence issues.
Any view inside the reported investigation of the president`s lawyer is obviously going to be fascinating at this point. But when the view seems to indicate not just a criminal investigation, but a counter counterintelligence one, I want to know more about that.
Joining us now is the attorney, the FBI counterintelligence agents have reportedly been speaking with on this matter, Kenneth McCallion. He`s also the author of the book "Treason and Betrayal: The Rise and Fall of Individual-1."
Mr. McCallion, thanks for coming in. I appreciate you being here in person. Thanks a lot.
KENNETH MCCALLION, AUTHOR, "TREASON AND BETRAYAL": Thank you very much.
MADDOW: So, "USA Today" and CNN have both reported on your interactions with counterintelligence agents. What kinds of questions were they asking you, how did you know they were counterintelligence agents?
MCCALLION: Well, I`ve been talking with FBI agents and these particular agents going all the way back to 2013 and the start of the investigation of Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Dmytro Firtash, money laundering operations. Certainly, I had been providing information which we had gathered in Ukraine as well as here in New York. We also gathered some information relating to the activities of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman in Sunny Isle, Florida, in that they were directing former Soviet businesspeople, money sources, to the purchase of condominiums in the Trump -- two Trump tower condos in Sunny Isle.
So it`s not unusual for these same FBI agents who I had worked with and spoken to in the past and I`d provided information for, to ask me what I was hearing about what Parnas and Fruman were doing in Ukraine. They really did a 180-degree turn, fairly low-level organized crime type guys. Started asking questions and talking about political issues, disinformation issues relating to -- relating to the Bidens and D.C. servers, possibly hiding out in Ukraine, which was very atypical of them and they started throwing around a lot of money.
So it was not unusual when I advised the FBI agents about what I was hearing about Parnas and Fruman`s activities in the Ukraine that they would speak to me about that.
MADDOW: And so, you said that they did a sort of a 180, that you had -- you had perceived them to have organized crime associations to be fairly low-level operators and then sort of on a dime, they started talking about a lot of political things that had implications in the United States.
Do you know what may have occasioned that turn?
MCCALLION: Well, that`s an area for investigation, but it sounded somewhat like Groundhog Day in that back in 2016, Paul Manafort, Konstantin Kilimnik and others were beginning to talk about Hillary Clinton`s, for example, the Clinton Foundation`s sale of uranium to the Russians, national intelligence, disinformation, talking points that really came out of the Kremlin.
So when Parnas and Fruman started talking about Bidens and political issues which they had really no known political interests or affiliations since then, it was clear that they had been told or directed by some source, either most probably organized crime but behind that, Russian intelligence sources to both talk about these talking points, which related to the U.S. political scene, as well as a -- they decided they were going to get into the natural gas business which only can be done in Ukraine or Russia with the highest political backings.
MADDOW: "Reuters" has reported that Dmytro Firtash was financing the activities of these gentlemen in recent years. Does that seem credible to you? Does that seem to line up with what you`ve observed?
MCCALLION: Oh, absolutely. We had an investigation of Dmytro Firtash, he was a defendant in the civil RICO case I had. The government, obviously, he`s subject to investigation in the northern district of Illinois, but Dmytro Firtash has been much to his chagrin pushed out of that middle position. He had ROE, as you know, which was a middleman that made billions of dollars between a Russian Gazprom and Ukrainian Naftogaz.
There was a more or less honest board replaced with Naftogaz and there seems to be a concerted effort by Firtash and others, with the assistance of Parnas, Fruman, and maybe some folks down in Texas, Sessions and so forth, to replace otherwise honest board members with Trump-friendly and we believe Russian-friendly members of Naftogaz.
MADDOW: To get Firtash back in the game.
Kenneth McCallion, author of "Treason & Betrayal: The Rise and Fall of Individual-1", former attorney for the previous prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, thanks very much for talking to us about this. I know this is -- these are choppy waters. Appreciate you being here in person. Thank you.
MCCALLION: Thanks so much.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Here`s something I did not see coming in this week`s news. "Bloomberg" today is reporting today President Trump intervened to try to protect a Turkish bank from being prosecuted in the United States. It was for alleged involvement in a multibillion dollar scheme to get around sanctions on Iran.
Quote: In an April phone call, Trump told Turkish President Erdogan that William Barr, attorney general, and Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, would handle the issue.
Handle it? That Turkish bank actually did end up getting indicted in U.S. court but not until this week, not until everything went completely haywire with us and Turkey following President Trump`s weird invitation to them to invade northern Syria and attack our Kurdish allies there.
So, that`s one thing I did not see coming. Why was president Trump assigning two cabinet officials months ago to handle the issue of that criminal prosecution? And then why did it finally go through now?
That might seem to go along with this other thing that has appeared in this week`s news. "The Washington Post" reporting that the president`s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pressed President Trump to send Turkey a cleric who was living in the United States whom the Turkish president wants to put on jail -- excuse me, put on trial.
Rudy Giuliani denied he has ever lobbied for Turkey. He calls these reports that he campaigned for that cleric to be extradited to Turkey, called them, quote, bull. Well, "The Washington Post" says Giuliani brought the case of this Turkish cleric up so frequently in the White House that subject was considered to be Giuliani`s hobbyhorse.
If you look at these back-to-back reports, it does start to seem like maybe has -- Turkey has longer tentacles reaching into the upper echelon operations of the Trump administration than we knew before. And, again, this happens at a time when things between us and Turkey have gone haywire. Puts kind of a different spin on this otherwise sort of crazy act the president has just taken at Turkey`s request that resulted in us turning against our allies in Syria and handing over that country to people who we were previously fighting.
We`re going to have more on that story in just a moment, but clearly this is still developing.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So this isn`t a good sign. The U.S. military launched air strikes today to bomb one of its own bases in Syria. The U.S. military spokesperson describing, a, quote, preplanned precision air strike to destroy an ammunition cache and reduce the facility`s military usefulness.
"The Wall Street Journal" reporting the space had been used by U.S. forces to train Kurdish fighters. The Kurdish fighters who until about five minutes ago were our allies in Syria and main force fighting against ISIS. That was until president Trump decided a week ago to suddenly pull U.S. troops out.
With Turkish-backed forces moving in on that facility yesterday, the U.S. military decided it would be wiser to just bomb the whole thing rather than allowing it to fall into another military`s hands. Today, the House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the president`s withdrawal of U.S. troops in Syria. It passed 354-60.
Despite that rebuke, today the president went beyond just abandoning our Kurdish allies on the battlefield. At the White House he gave a statement in which he verbally attacked them, suggesting that the Kurds, our allies in the fight against ISIS for those past several years are, themselves, worse than ISIS.
Joining us now is Brett McGurk, former special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Mr. McGurk resigned from the Trump administration last year after President Trump said that the U.S. would be pulling all troops out of Syria.
Mr. McGurk, thank you for being here. I appreciate you making the time.
BRETT MCGURK, FORMER SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, I`m a layman and civilian and an observer of these things. It strikes me as both a sober and practical decision for us to be blowing up our own base in Syria rather than allow it to fall into other`s hands. It also strikes me as a very, very bad sign as to what`s happening there.
MCGURK: Look, I don`t say this lightly and I worked two years in the Trump administration, he doesn`t know what he`s doing or talking about. He made this decision on Sunday night, and without any contingency plan for our troops on the ground. And to make it worse, he cut our force, the president did, by 50 percent earlier this year for no reason and we already had a very small force there.
And when Turkey came in, very predictably, the unraveling began immediately. And our forces now on the ground don`t even have enough manpower to deal with an evacuation. You know, Rachel, when you`re in these areas, I`ve been to this facility. I used to go into Syria every month, every two months. I have a very good feeling for the situation.
And you always have an evacuation plan. This is the extreme scenario, an emergency evacuation, where we have to bomb our own facility. This is a disaster.
And it shows a national security process that is totally broken down. Decision-making by the commander in chief with no consultation, no thought, no consideration of consequence, with Americans on the ground in harm`s way.
It`s a very serious situation, and as the Americans were evacuating that base and bombing the facility as they left, the president was saying this was a strategically wise decision and everything was going well. It`s totally incoherent.
MADDOW: Mr. McGurk, I`d like to ask you to stick with us for just one second. I have to take a quick break here, but I want to ask you about a couple other things the president said today that caused a lot of consternation in national security circles. Hoping you can explain to us what the concern is about -- if you can stick with us, sir.
MCGURK: Sure, thank you.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back with Brett McGurk. He`s the former presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. You`re going to want to hear what he has to say about my next question.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Back with us is Brett McGurk, he was the former envoy for the Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
Mr. McGurk, thank you again for sticking with us.
In the president`s remarks today, there was some consternation that national security circles when he did a couple things. One, when he confirmed that the U.S. has nuclear weapons at a U.S. air base in Turkey. That is something that`s sort of an open secret that officially politicians and the U.S. government doesn`t talk about.
He also appeared to have given out the exact number of U.S. special forces who are in the border region in this new conflict zone that`s been created by his recent decision. I don`t want to ask you about things you can`t talk about, but I wanted to ask why there -- why both of those things are something that wouldn`t typically be done and why there might be worries about the president having made those remarks today?
MCGURK: I`m not sure what president is getting at. And I can speak to Incirlik air base, it`s a Turkish facility that we have been on for decades. When we began the counter-ISIS campaign in September of 2014, it took 10 months of negotiation for the Turks to allow us to fly mission off that base to strike ISIS. So, I think that tells you something.
We could not use that facility to strike ISIS, even as ISIS fighters were flowing through Turkey into Syria. So, that was a pretty -- that was a significant development early on in the campaign.
The president instead of talking about the numbers in Syria should be concerned about the wellbeing and safety of our personnel on the ground in Syria who are now dealing with a maelstrom surrounded by hostile actors trying to evacuate facilities, sometimes at the risk of coming under fire.
And as we evacuate these facilities, the Russians are taking them over and putting everything up on YouTube in a major propaganda windfall. He seems to have no concern for the safety and wellbeing of the Americans on the ground. How they`re going to get out. How they`re going to get out safely.
And this goes all the way back to his decision on Sunday night with no thought about what this would do to Americans on the ground. So, again, a very serious situation.
The most important thing for a commander-in-chief is to think about the Americans who are wearing the sacred cloth of our nation serving the country in harm`s way on his orders. And I, again, I`ve been to Syria probably 20 times or so. I know these guys. I know Americans who`ve been killed. I know Iraqis, Syrians, Kurds, Arabs, who have been killed by the thousands fighting ISIS, and the president and his cavalier attitude brags about the success in his political rallies but seems to have no care for the consequence of his decisions on our personnel in the field.
And for your viewers, I think the hope tonight, and our thoughts, have to be with those Americans who are in Syria who are dealing with the consequences and the aftermath of this decision. Trying to get out of Syria safely. And I think we have to hope that they do. It is a very difficult situation and it`s being getting worse by the day.
MADDOW: Brett McGurk, former envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS -- sir, thank you so much for your time tonight.
MCGURK: Thank you.
MADDOW: It`s so great to hear you talk about these things. Thanks.
All right. We will be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So we`re wrapping up, but "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" have both just reported since we`ve been on the air tonight that in a meeting with Republican senators, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told them tonight, they must get ready for an impeachment trial as soon as Thanksgiving. That`s next month.
Quote: Armed with a PowerPoint presentation, McConnell said he expected the process could be completed by Christmas and that the Senate would meet six days a week for the proceeding.
Six days a week? No, say it isn`t so.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END