SHERRILYN IFILL, PRESIDENT, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: And I think it`s incumbent upon us to really lift that up.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yes.
IFILL: And that means fighting for voting rights, that means fighting for our democracy, fighting for the truth in his name. And if you loved this man, if you admired this man, then fight. Don`t just, you know, shed tears, fight.
HAYES: Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Sherrilyn Ifill, thank you so much for doing that.
REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
It is almost impossible to believe that Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings has died. He was just a giant in the Congress, a giant in this era of American politics. At a personal level, I can tell you that he was one of the few, like, genuinely and humblingly inspiring people that I have ever personally interacted with from the world of politics.
I say humblingly, sort of inarticulately. Though what I mean by that is that it was humbling to meet him, to engage in conversation with him about his work, and about politics, and about the country, because he was just a consistently, deeply impressive, thoughtful public official and leader.
He had such gravitas, such a clear ethical core, he made you feel humble. He made you want to be better at your own work. He made you want to be a better person, when you interacted with him.
So, I will -- I will associate myself with the kind words that a lot of my colleagues and his colleagues have been making about him today.
I will also just mention as a grace note in the news today, as we learn about Congressman Cummings` passing and his last hours, one of the things we have learned tonight is that one of the final things he did before he died, what may have, in fact, been his last official act before he died, is that he signed a series of subpoenas from his hospice bed.
These were subpoenas to immigration agencies in the Trump administration, the agencies running this effort for kids receiving life-saving medical care in this country, to target those kids for deportation to countries where those kids couldn`t get the care that is keeping them alive. These targeted deportations at kids with life-threatening medical issues that would effectively be a death sentence for those kids.
This story about kids with cystic fibrosis, rare genetic diseases who`ve been getting medical care that`s been keeping them alive, these kids being singled out and targeted by the Trump administration for deportation is one of the stories we`ve covered here on his show fairly intensively. Chairman Elijah Cummings picked up this issue in Congress and ran with it. He held hearings on it. He demanded the reversal of this policy.
Well, in recent weeks, as we`ve learned that the Trump administration did announce sort of in name that they would be rescinding this policy, but we learned they might still be trying to get away with it in practice. As that has come to light, just over the last few weeks, it was Chairman Elijah Cummings of the Oversight Committee who demanded that Trump administration officials answer to him and answer to the Oversight Committee on this issue.
And yesterday morning, yesterday, he, from his hospice bed, signed subpoenas to Trump administration officials to answer questions on this policy. Those subpoenas were signed by him in the hospice yesterday morning. The subpoenas were delivered and served to those officials yesterday afternoon. And then, of course, Congressman Cummings died this morning.
When these immigration officials in the Trump administration presumably choose to do defy those subpoenas, which, of course, we expect they will, they were the final act of Chairman Cummings as head of the Oversight Committee. And, you know, keep in mind his tenacity in trying to get those answers literally through his dying days. You just watch. Those Trump administration officials are going to defy those subpoenas anyway. I`ll bet you dollars to donuts. But remember where they come from.
Chairman Cummings only 68 years old when he died today. His Oversight Committee has not yet chosen a successor for him as chairman. The committee will have to vote on that matter in the weeks ahead.
I will say in terms of that committee`s crucial role in this ongoing impeachment inquiry against the president, it`s almost bizarre to imagine that committee right now doing that work without this booming voiced ethical touchstone of Elijah Cummings at the helm.
But as a lot of people have noted today, one of the things Congressman Cummings has been known for, both as his time as back bencher in Congress and as his time in leadership and as committee chairman is that he has always had making up the most impressive staff of anybody in Congress. That committee that he leads that oversight committee is very able, more than almost any other committee I`ve ever seen in action. They do really have incredibly competent staff who did incredibly diligent, thorough, and unassailable work under his leadership.
Nothing obviously will be the same without him at the helm, but obviously the work of that committee will continue. Just very sad news to wake up to today.
And then, of course, it ended up being one of these absolutely insane days in the Donald Trump presidency, right? Today was the 1,001st day of the Donald Trump presidency. And even though the day started with this incredible news about Chairman Cummings, you thought that might be an indication for perhaps a more sober, somber, restrained, quiet -- no.
The news proceeded today on what we are starting to think of as its normal, insane, careening path. Since the impeachment proceedings against the president began in the House, the president lost his homeland security secretary, he resigned last week. Now, today, he`s lost another cabinet secretary. We`ve learned his energy secretary is resigning.
I think it`s fair to assume that there was no reason that the homeland security resignation should have been seen as anything to do with impeachment. He may have been just looking for a time when no one would notice his departure. But with the expected resignation now of the Energy Secretary Rick Perry, this does appear to have something to do with impeachment, at least it appears to be related news. Secretary Perry`s resignation may also significantly affect his own role as a potential witness, a potential target of this ongoing investigation. That remains to be seen.
But Rick Perry, as he announces his resignation today, he does seem to have been involved in the scheme for which the president is being impeached in a couple ways. And we`ll talk about those in both in turn.
The first one is one I will concede is a little bit fuzzy. The second one is one that seems quite clear. The fuzzy one is super interesting and I bet will turn out to be one of the most important things about all of this, but at this point, it`s yet to come into clear focus.
It has to do with these guys, these two gentlemen who were arrested last week in a criminal proceeding that increasingly seems to be a prosecutorial offshoot of the impeachment investigation. These guys were charged with funneling illegal campaign donations to the president`s re-election effort and to a number of other Republican politicians from sources that included apparently some Russian somewhere who was giving illegal foreign campaign donations through these two to Republican campaigns and PACs.
Their effort to funnel these illegal foreign campaign donations into Republican coffers appears to have been designed in part to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine fired because she was apparently in the way of some of the schemes that these two guys were involved in in Ukraine and in conjunction with the president`s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Now, reporting about these guys and their operations around these political donations and their operations in Ukraine has since suggested that one of the schemes these guys were involved in is sort of is sort of a side hustle alongside the effort by President Trump and his lawyer to get Ukraine to help Trump in his re-election effort. Alongside that, these two guys who were just arrested seem -- seem to be trying to oust the leadership of a big natural gas company in Ukraine. They were trying to get the curtain board of executives out to replace them with their own people.
NBC News reports that these two gentlemen were apparently carrying out that effort on behalf of a Kremlin-connected oligarch who`s been tied to Russian organized crime who`s wanted in the U.S. on corruption charges who is now fighting extradition. For some reason, though, this scheme also appears to have touched Rick Perry, the U.S. secretary of energy. He appears to have been somehow in on this game as well.
Rick Perry reportedly suggested not just that existing board members of that natural gas company should be removed from their positions, he specifically had replacements in mind. He wanted to replace them with at least one Rick Perry campaign donor from the great state of Texas.
So as I said, that part hasn`t yet come into sharp focus. I mean, what was going on there in that business deal to apparently benefit this wanted oligarch who`s linked to the Kremlin who U.S. prosecutors is linked to Russian organized crime? He`s in the natural gas business basically at the Kremlin`s behest in Ukraine. He`s clearly trying to pull off some -- he appears to be pulling off a scheme using these guys connected to Rudy Giuliani who have now been arrested.
Why is the U.S. cabinet secretary tied up in that too? Rick Perry`s involvement in that alleged scheme is still fuzzy. It may come into focus during the criminal case against those two who`ve been indicted. We shall see.
Secretary Perry has given a few statements to reporters, including to the "Wall Street Journal" last night, basically trying to explain away some of his apparent involvement in this scheme. But whatever was going on with him remains mysterious.
In addition to the criminal case against my friends Lev and Igor there on the left, "USA Today" and CNN have also reported in recent days that there appears to be not just this ongoing criminal investigation related to these guys in this overall matter in the Southern District of New York, there also appears to be a counterintelligence investigation into this matter, including one that touches directly on Rudy Giuliani, the president`s personal lawyer.
The basic question of most counterintelligence investigations is whether this might have been a foreign influence operations run by a foreign country or run by a foreign intelligence service targeting the U.S. government. Now, are there foreign agents involved here who`ve been secretly working on behalf of foreign countries when they appeared to be doing other work related to the U.S. government? I mean, we don`t know.
As I say, this whole thing about whatever was going on with this natural gas company in the middle of this scheme, this campaign donations, right, that were funneled to the re-election effort into Republican campaigns appear to have been funneled in part through something that appeared to be a natural gas entity.
Rick Perry, the secretary of energy, appears to have been involved in that effort somehow. But I will confess to you, whatever was going on there at this point doesn`t yet seem totally clear. I expect that it will become clear as we learn the results of those ongoing investigations. And now in the midst of this mess, Rick Perry, U.S. secretary of energy, is expected to resign.
So that`s one part of what`s going on with Rick Perry here. The other part is much more clear, not fuzzy at all. Rick Perry in this scheme for which the president was being impeached was also self-professed one amigo of the three amigos. The three amigos were the guys reportedly given the brief of working out in scheme in Ukraine for President Trump once they got that pesky U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed from the embassy and sent home.
After Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was pushed out, President Trump instead pushed these guys, the three amigos, to work on Ukraine instead of the U.S. ambassador. The three amigos were on the right, Kurt Volker, who was President Trump`s envoy to Ukraine. He has now quit his job and testified to the impeachment committees.
Amigo number two was Energy Secretary Rick Perry who has been subpoenaed to testify to the impeachment committees. He has not yet done so, but as of tonight. it is reported he will be quitting his job soon as well.
Amigo number three was a Trump inaugural donor named Gordon Sondland. He has no experience in government or diplomacy. He was nevertheless given the job of being the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Mr. Sondland testified to the impeachment committees today.
A long deposition that took roughly 9 1/2 hours, Sondland`s deposition, like all these thus far, was carried out behind closed doors. So we know very little about what about witnesses said in their testimony and how they responded to questions. In Gordon Sondland`s case, we got a big opening statement from him that was released to the public.
You can tell from reading through his opening statement, the basic idea was for Gordon Sondland to make himself look as good as possible, try to make it seem like he definitely didn`t realize he was in the middle of carrying out this scheme for which the president is going to be impeached. He nevertheless does basically cop to the whole thing, even in his written statement, which he distributed to the press today.
I mean, he spells it out. First thing he does is he says that he was acting on the orders of the president. Quote: On May 23rd, President Trump directed those of us present at the meeting to talk to Mr. Giuliani, his personal attorney, about his concerns about Ukraine.
Quote: We were also disappointed by the president`s direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani. Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the president`s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine.
However, based on the president`s direction, we were faced with a choice. And we chose to do what the president said and do this through Giuliani instead.
He says, quote: As I stated earlier, I understood from President Trump at the May 23rd White House meeting that he wanted us to talk with Mr. Giuliani concerning our efforts to arrange a White House meeting for the Ukrainian president, President Zelensky, taking direction from the president, as I must. I spoke with Mr. Giuliani for that limited purpose.
In these conversations, Mr. Giuliani emphasized that President Trump wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing Ukraine to look into anti-corruption issues. Mr. Giuliani specifically mentioned the 2016 election, including the DNC server and Burisma, as two anti-corruption investigatory topics of importance for the president.
So, I mean, as you can tell, this is written in the most -- forgive me -- the most CYA language possible, right? And this is from the one witness in the impeachment proceedings so far who was considered by Republicans to be their best hope to be the sort of most loyal, Trumpiest of them all. But here he is confessing to sort of both parts of this that you would need to prosecute as a criminal case, or to bring impeachment proceedings against the president.
I mean, it`s both parts, right? Here he is saying this was on direct orders from President Trump. President Trump said I`m not going to do this meeting unless you satisfy Giuliani that I`m going to get what I want from them first. They go to Giuliani and then Giuliani then spells out what it is that the president wants, which is an investigation that he can use against Joe Biden, and he wants an investigation into -- how did he phrase that exactly? What`s the other thing?
Quote: The 2016 election, including the DNC server, which is the weird conspiracy theory here that may maybe the DNC, the Democratic National Committee`s server that was hacked by Russia isn`t anywhere that you would expect it to be. It`s been secreted away to Ukraine because Ukraine invented the fact that Russia attacked our 2016 election and hacked the Democratic Party and all the rest of it. Something hidden in Ukraine can disprove that Russia actually committed that attack, right?
The basic idea here of this part of what President Trump was trying to get from Russia that she wants Russia to no longer be blamed for interfering in the 2016 election, for attacking the DNC servers, for hacking the Clinton campaigns and the Democratic Party`s emails, for releasing them, for running the social media operation that they did to benefit Trump. President Trump wants the U.S. government`s position on this to be that Russia definitely didn`t do any of that.
And that -- that`s from Gordon Sondland`s opening statement. We don`t know what happened in his deposition today after he made those opening remarks, but in his printed opening statement, he says the president did it. This scheme that the president and Giuliani were enacting using the three amigos, Gordon Sondland, Rick Perry, and this guy Volker, who has already resigned, the scheme was to hold up a White House meeting for this foreign leader unless he coughed up stuff could use -- coughed up stuff that Trump could use for his re-election effort against Joe Biden.
And in addition to that, interestingly, he needed something else from them. He needed help unblaming Russia for the 2016 election attack.
Why would they want to unblame Russia for the 2016 election attack? I mean, Russia`s having kind of an amazing run of it right now when it comes to stuff they`re getting from the Trump administration. I mean, this weird plot that`s emerging over the impeachment proceedings, we`ve got Trump and Rudy Giuliani with an amazing cast of supporting characters. They`re pressuring Ukraine to, yes, help President Trump against the Democrats for 2020, but they`re also pressuring Ukraine to help the U.S. government come up with some sort of alternate revisionist historical that suggests Russia didn`t actually interfere in the 2016 election.
That appears to be part of what they were trying to do in Ukraine. It also appears to be the goal of Attorney General William Barr, who`s been traveling around the world with his hand-picked supposedly independent prosecutor who`s been assigned by Barr to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation. And specifically, the intelligence community`s assessment that Russia actually attacked that election.
Barr and Durham appear to be traveling the world trying to both question and muddy up the intelligence community`s unanimous assessment that Russia did attack the election in 2016 to benefit President Trump. I mean, Russia did attack the 2016 election to benefit President Trump. If you don`t believe me, believe the bipartisan Senate intelligence report, which was just released a little more than a week ago in the middle of these impeachment proceedings.
I mean, that`s -- that`s a Republican-led committee. That`s a bipartisan report. Yes, Russia did it. The intelligence community was right in that assessment.
Even after that, why is the U.S. government, from the president to his kooky personal lawyer to the attorney general all bending over backwards, working triple time now, to try to say, no, Russia didn`t commit that attack after all?
Well, Russia is benefiting from that kind of incredible man power at the top levels of the U.S. government on their behalf, at the same time, Russia just got what it has been hoping for, wishing for, working for in the nation of Syria for years, just handed to them by the Trump administration. Vladimir Putin and the Russian military have been propping up their ally, the Syrian dictators -- Bashar al Assad, for years. Their stated goal has been to reestablish Assad`s control of all of Syria, out of all of its borders.
Well, about third of the nation of Syria, about third of Assad`s country has been out of control for years because it was controlled by the Kurds that we were allied with instead of Assad`s government, right? They had our support to do so. Until this past week when President Trump announced that the U.S. government would be turning tail and abandoning the Kurds, pulling out U.S. troops, inviting Turkey to come into the territory and wipe them out.
Turkey got what it wanted. The Syrian government backed by Putin and the Russian military, they were able to come in and seize back basically a third of that country, basically at the invitation of the U.S. government. Here, free play, here you go.
I know we`ve been supporting the Kurds who`ve been holding this territory for years now, but you can have it now. Anything else you would like?
At the same time, it hasn`t received as much attention, but after President Trump`s pressure on Ukraine to help him with his re-election effort, this thing for which he is now being impeached, President Trump also publicly pressured the same president of Ukraine that he needed to do a new deal with Putin, that Zelensky needed to do a new deal with Putin to settle the war that Vladimir Putin started in Ukraine when he invaded Ukraine and seized part of it, seized Crimea to make it part of Russia.
He thereafter sent U.S. -- excuse me, sent Russian proxies to start occupying the eastern part of Ukraine. This has been an ongoing five-year- long war, thousands of people have died. After Trump publicly pressured Zelensky to help him in his reelection effort, Trump publicly pressured Zelensky to do a deal with Putin to settle this ongoing conflict. Zelensky, in fact, signed up to a new deal with Russia, very much on Russia`s exact terms after Trump publicly pressured him to do it.
That has led, among other things, to these large protests in the main square in Kiev this past week, with Ukrainians asking why their new president is capitulating to Russia in that deal after five years of war. Well, maybe it has something to do with the fact that their strongest military ally, the United States, just told them to do it, after withholding money for military aid until President Trump could expect some favors from that government, having to do with his next re-election effort.
I mean, what might Putin want from the U.S. government that he`s not getting? In recent weeks, President Trump also advocated that Putin had to be allowed back into the G-7, but the G-7 should become the G8 again. Putin was kicked off after he invaded Ukraine and took Crimea. Putin is advocating for them to be let back in.
"The Washington Post" reports in a phone call to the U.K., President Trump argued and argued and argued and wouldn`t let it go that Russia shouldn`t be blamed for the attempted assassination in the U.K. about a ex-Russian intel guy who defected to the West, who was attacked in a British town with a Russian nerve agent by two Russian GRU officers.
President Trump has been arguing to the British government, we have now learned, that he`s not so sure Russia did that. Why is everybody blaming Russia for that?
Just today, a surprise announcement from the Russian news service, TASS, that according to the FSB in Russia, the U.S. government has now agreed to carrying out joint cyber operations with Russian intelligence. What?
Remember the disastrous joint press conference that Trump and Putin gave in Helsinki last year? One of the things the president proposed -- the president proposed a bunch of stuff at that meeting. He proposed his incredible offer in which he said he would let Russia come to the United States, Russian intelligence officers, Russian security services, let them come to the United States to interrogate Americans like former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul because Russia said that those Americans have been interfering in Russian affairs?
He was inviting the Russians to interrogate U.S. citizens. In addition to offering up Americans to the Russian security services on a platter, President Trump also suggested that the U.S. and Russia would join forces to fight cybercrime. As "Politico" reports in that headline, it was widely ridiculed at the time. This is a little bit like the New York Cit police commissioner announcing a joint crime fighting effort with a really excellent group of mobbed up bank robbers.
Hey, you know what? We`re interested in fighting crime, and these guys know crime. I mean, we`re going to do -- after what they did to us in 2016, we`re going to go in a joint cyber effort? Sure.
I mean, Trump was laughed off the stage for both of those proposals. But now, today, quietly, news from a Russian state media outlet that the U.S. government has agreed to do some sort of joint cyber operations with our Russian adversaries. Tell me more.
Not you, Russia. I don`t want to hear from you. I`d like to hear from our government about that.
So, Russia`s having, like, a bang up time right now. Like I don`t know what`s going on, but it`s like cashing in time for Russia. They seem to be getting everything they could conceivably want from the U.S. government. And somebody should go and keep an eye on Alaska. Someone lock the back door in Alaska, just in case we haven`t already.
If for some reason, all of a sudden, Russia does seem to be getting everything they might conceivably want from the U.S. government all in a rush. And that may just be coincidence. It may have something to do with the president`s fate looking increasingly dark in this impeachment proceeding.
But things do just continue to fall further apart every day, both in the impeachment proceeding and in the kinds of policies that are supposed to running alongside this investigation. I mean, the White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, gave this remarkable briefing today at the White House in which he sort of blithely asserted that, yes, in fact, the president didn`t do it. There was a quid pro quo with Ukraine. In order for them to get a meeting with the White House, in order for them to get military aid, they had to give the president some of what he wanted in terms of these investigations. Yes, he did it, there was a quid pro quo, so what?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE OF CHIEF OF STAFF: Did he also mention to me in passing that the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that`s it. That`s why we held up the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s it, that`s why we held up the money. We held up the money to Ukraine so the president could get this other thing he wanted from Ukraine for his own political purposes.
I mean, that led to these blunt headlines all over the country today, right? "The New York Times," Mulvaney says and then denies that Trump held back Ukraine aid as quid pro quo. "The Washington Post", after saying Trump held back aid to pressure Ukraine, Mulvaney tries to walk back comments. Mulvaney says holdup of Ukraine aid was tied to Trump`s demand for DNC server.
Whether Mick Mulvaney was told today to go out and say that so he could be blamed for this whole thing or whether he freelanced it in the moment, I mean, the response wasn`t good. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting today, quote, White House officials expected Mr. Mulvaney to repeat the administration`s message that the House inquiry had been unfair to Mr. Trump and that there was no quid pro quo.
One Republican lawmaker telling "The Washington Post," quote, totally inexplicable. He literally said the thing the president and everybody else said did not happen.
Soon enough, Mr. Mulvaney had taken back his comments and insisted he never said them in the first place. Quote: There was never any condition on the flow of the aid related to the matter of the DNC server.
Yes, why would we have ever thought you were implying today that the did you work server is why you were holding up the money? Why would we have ever believed that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MULVANEY: Did he also mention to me in passing that the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that`s it. That`s why we held up the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s it. That`s why we held up the money. I never said that`s why we held up the money. You fake news.
He put out a statement saying he definitely didn`t hold up the money because of the DNC server. He held up the money because of the DNC server.
I mean, this is falling apart and badly. As is U.S. policy on all levels. I mean, for what has just happened in Syria, the president today overtly endorsing the notion that the Turkish military will, in his words, clean out the Kurds from the area of northern Syria that the Turks just invaded. It`s almost literally an endorsement of ethnic cleansing from the president when one ethnic group needs to be cleaned out of an area. That`s where we got the idea of ethnic cleansing, the president endorsing that overtly today, right?
I mean, everything from that to the other thing that Mick Mulvaney was sent out to the podium to announce today, which is that the U.S. government will, screw it, will host the next G-7 summit at the president`s personal property in Florida. The U.S. Constitution just bluntly says you cannot do that. You cannot take foreign payments as president of the United States. You cannot profit from the presidency like that. You just can`t.
The president announcing, you know what? We`re going to hold the G-7 summit at Doral. It`s the only place in America that will work. And, no, I`m not going to tell you the other places we looked at, I`m just taking the money.
I mean, I don`t know if they`re trying to shoot the moon or goad the Democrats into moving even more aggressively on impeachment than they already are. I don`t know. But today, it felt like a turning point for a lot of reasons. It feels like this thing is coming off the rails entirely and fast and that nobody is immune.
It`s an alarming time in U.S. politics. I don`t take any glee in any of the stuff going so badly for these people who are screwing up so badly. This is serious stuff. But this just feels like a completely out-of- control process now.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: I know how to convert dog years to human years, but how do we calculate impeachment time? It has been only 23 days since Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump. That is a span in which the news has come down like snow in the blizzards your grandparents still talk about from when your parents were little kids.
I mean, as it happened, my guest at the night that the impeachment inquiry was first announced, my guest on September 24th was a first-time guest on this show, a dark horse presidential candidate who`s been -- who had been making a steady showing in the polls, qualifying for all the debates, building up a formidable donor base, putting out plan after plan.
That candidate booked here to be on this show the night that Pelosi announced the impeachment of President Trump, that candidate was tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
Well, Mr. Yang has tripled his fundraising efforts and raised nearly $10 million this past fundraising quarter. He`s the sixth top fundraiser for the quarter for the entire gigantic Democratic field.
Back now when the news is still white hot, back now and still in this thing, it`s my pleasure to say, is 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
Mr. Yang, thank you so much for coming back. It`s really good to have you here.
ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, thanks for having me back.
MADDOW: Sure, absolutely.
The last time we spoke, it was the day that Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry. And I do feel like these 23 days have been 23 years.
YANG: I`m sure it felt like that for you, Rachel, because you`ve been in the midst of it every single day.
MADDOW: Yes. Does it not feel that way to you?
YANG: It does. I think it does for the country, unfortunately.
MADDOW: Yes. I mean, we`ve learned a lot over the course of these last three and a half weeks. Obviously, we`ve learned a lot more about the president`s behavior toward Ukraine. You`ve said that you believed he should be impeachment for that.
MADDOW: We`ve also seen him make the same ask of China. It appears that he was not joking and it appears that he conveyed that in private to China as well. We also now have seen what happened in Syria.
I feel a little bit -- I said in the opening block like the wheels are coming off a little bit. Like things haven`t been good in a long time, but it feels like things are particularly bad right now.
What`s your feeling about that?
YANG: You get the same feeling. You feel like the limited guardrails have been in placed seem to be disintegrating before our eyes. We have to get him out of -- out of the Oval Office as quickly as possible.
MADDOW: This news today that he`s going to direct the G-7 conference to his resort in Florida, he floated this a few weeks ago and it was greeted with shock. Members of Congress, in fact, committees in Congress immediately started investigating that as a potential -- at least an intended violation of the emoluments clause. Presidents can`t take money from foreign governments. This will, in effect, be forcing foreign governments to pay him to participate in that event.
I don`t know -- I mean, obviously, the Democrats and the House -- and the House in general has to decide whether this should be folded into the impeachment, whether they should be handled differently.
MADDOW: What do you think?
YANG: To me, if you`re going to impeach him, you should definitely be considering different angles of approach and different charges. But that - - what I said at the debate stage, Rachel, is unfortunately the more we focus on Donald Trump, the more he wins. He`s like a creature that needs attention to grow.
And so, what we have to do is we have to shift America`s attention to what we`re going to do the day after he`s gone and start solving the problems on the ground. In the debate a couple nights ago, it was in Ohio, we lost Ohio by eight points. And we know Ohio is the ultimate bellwether in our country as to who wins national elections.
So, we have to say to ourselves, OK, we have to win Ohio and what does that mean? We have to get into the dirt and solving the problems that got Trump elected.
MADDOW: In terms of what it`s going to be like to take over the country the day after the Trump presidency ends, we do have a big new international crisis on our hands created by President Trump --
YANG: Yes, unfortunately.
MADDOW: Yes. And so, in a Yang administration, if you were -- if you were taking the reins right now in the midst of this conflagration, what would you do to try to salvage what we`ve just been through? I mean, I don`t know how much worse it`s going to be before the next president does take over, but if you were taking over right now, what would you do to try to fix it?
YANG: It`s tough because you can`t undo recent mistakes. What happened was our troops were there and it kept Turkey from taking certain actions. And as soon as those troops were moved, now we`re seeing the result.
But you can`t turn back time, and I do believe that our being in Syria indefinitely had to end at some point -- just the way it was done was unduly abrupt, pulled the rug out from under our allies` feet.
So, we have to come together with our allies and try and find a multilateral solution that will still work in that region. But there`s no easy answer.
MADDOW: Who would be our allies at this point? I mean --
YANG: Exactly, unfortunately, because historically, the Kurds have been there for us. And now, you can understand why they wouldn`t trust our commitment.
MADDOW: In terms of how we got into this, President Trump made this call immediately after getting off a phone call with President Erdogan. Vice President Pence was in Turkey today and announced he brokered a new deal, right? The Turks wanted the Kurds out of that part of Syria, the president green lit them coming in and invading and making that happen.
The deal announced by President Pence tells the Kurds they do need to get out of that area of Syria. The president made remarks today suggesting they should be cleansed from that area, ethnically cleansed out of that part of the country.
YANG: Yes, it`s terrible.
MADDOW: I -- I mean, Turkey is our NATO ally. I don`t -- obviously, neither Russia nor Syria is our ally, nor can the Kurds ever be our ally again.
I mean, I -- should the United States essentially extract ourselves from that part of the world entirely, cede Western or cede foreign influence there to Russia?
YANG: You know, we have to look at the options based on the reality on the ground.
YANG: And as I said, eventually, we had to leave. And so, if we got pulled out prematurely and abruptly --
YANG: -- and the best course forward is to accept the reality on the ground, then unfortunately, I think it`s something we`d have to consider very strongly.
MADDOW: You just walk away and leave it as it is?
YANG: Well, again, you can`t turn back the clock. And so, if you`ve already pulled troops out, and then if you say, hey, if you put troops back in and we can undo -- the damage has been done, that may not be the case.
MADDOW: Would you do the same thing in Afghanistan? Pull troops out and see what happen?
YANG: I certainly wouldn`t pull troops out and see what happens. You know, we have to be judicious and do things in a very deliberate way, have transparency so that our allies see it coming.
But we also, I believe, need to live up to the Constitution and end this forever state of war we`ve been in, where in the Constitution, it`s up to Congress to declare war. And we`ve been putting ourselves into foreign theaters for the last 18 years and counting.
YANG: And that`s not the will of the American people.
MADDOW: It`s very hard to imagine how the U.S. regains some of our bilateral alliances, let alone our role in the sort of Western liberal order after this presidency.
Do you think that those ties are essentially dissolved and you have to sort of take them where they stand post-Trump? Or would you try to reassert, for example, the strength of NATO? Would you try to reassert the bilateral alliances that are really at this point broken because of this president?
YANG: To me, our foreign policy reflects what`s happening at home. What happens at home is that we were disintegrating. Our communities are falling apart. It got so bad that tens of millions of our fellow Americans decided to go for Trump in 2016. And now we have this erratic and unreliable foreign policy that`s making our allies throw their hands up.
And so, we have to rebuild here at home and then project a more reliable and sustained foreign policy. But I`m sure that our historic allies abroad are waiting with bated breath for a reasonable partner to get back in the White House and be able to live up to America`s commitments.
MADDOW: Oh, I hope that`s true. On good days, I think that`s true. On bad days, I don`t.
I want to talk to you some more about that idea about domestic renewal when we come back.
Andrew Yang is our guest.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YANG: We have to let Russia know, look, we get it. We`ve tampered with other elections. You`ve tampered with our elections, and now, it has to stop. And if it does not stop, we`ll take this as an act of hostility against the American people. I believe most Americans would support me on this.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to respond to Mr. Yang.
I don`t see a moral equivalency between our country and Russia. Vladimir Putin is someone who has shot down planes over Ukraine, who has poisoned his opponents. We have not talked about what we need to do to protect ourselves from Russia invading our election.
This wasn`t meddling. That`s what I do when I call my daughter on a Saturday night and ask her what she`s doing. Sorry.
This was much more serious than that. This was actually invading our elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`re back with Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
I want (ph) to ask you about that interaction, because you said your piece there in terms of Russia and the potential interference in our election in 2020 and pushing back against them. Senator Klobuchar essentially accusing you of making a moral equivalence between us and Russia from when you said we`ve tampered with other elections.
How do you respond to what she said there?
YANG: You know, I didn`t respond to her (ph) that night of (ph) because I think most Americans realized I was just making a point that -- that we know America has historically interfered in other countries` elections, at least in our past.
MADDOW: Like what?
YANG: There have been a number of -- I don`t want to go through the --
MADDOW: Do you have like a specific one that`s in mind that`s a -- one that bugs you?
YANG: There are a couple in the -- let`s say in our hemisphere that I think are relatively well-documented historical examples.
But I think most Americans realize that we do need to defend our elections against Russian interference, and that has to be the focus and the mission. And that acknowledging that America has done things in the past has nothing to do with that.
In terms of moving forward in the way the Democrats are running this primary, it does seem a little crazy to me that we are this deep into the year and Iowa is barreling down on us. I just saw the spending figures in Iowa. I think you spent the third most of any candidate in Iowa in this past month. Obviously, you`re making a real play for Iowa.
Iowa is really soon and there were 12 candidates on the debate stage this week. It just feels like the process has not done any winnowing down, it hasn`t done much winnowing down in the field.
Do you feel like the Democrats have been running this process properly?
YANG: Well, I`ve been on the record saying I think the DNC`s requirements to make the debate have been very open and clear. And to me, they`ve done the best job they could with very objective criteria. And it`s up to the voters to determine who makes the debates.
And there are many candidates that are in the race that did not make the debate stage, and I think that`s the way it should be.
MADDOW: In terms of your plan for universal basic income, obviously, other candidates have not been killing you on that.
YANG: I think I got some endorsements on the stage, didn`t I? A number of people said, hey, we should do universal basic income.
MADDOW: Do you feel like if you don`t get the nomination that that is thing you would fight to make part of Democratic Party politics?
YANG: Well --
MADDOW: Try to get it in the platform, try to get the party to work on it?
YANG: A hundred percent. And I said -- said it on the stage. We`re in the midst of the greatest economic transformation in our country`s history. In my mind, it brought us Donald Trump. We blasted away 4 million manufacturing jobs in the swing states, and that is now transpiring in retail, call centers, truck driving.
And so, if we don`t get in front of that curve, it`s just going to continue to accelerate to the detriment, the devastation of many American communities.
MADDOW: And how does the universal basic income attack that as a problem?
YANG: So, if let`s say you`re a trucker and you have five years of your job, you got a universal basic income of $1,000 a month, you save at least some of it because President Yang is being very clear saying, look, this job is not forever. And then when you do lose your job, it`s not an existential threat. You have tens of thousands of dollars in additional savings, you have another $1,000 a month coming in.
And you go home to a town -- let`s say it`s a town in Missouri with 10,000 adults. There`s another $10 million in discretionary spending in your town, which supercharges not just main street businesses but also nonprofits, various volunteer organizations, so that you have a much more robust network of opportunities to plug into when you go home.
In the absence of a universal basic income, Rachel, that trucker is going to go home to very, very little. We saw that happened with the manufacturing workers that brought us Trump. We cannot wait until what happens to several million truckers.
MADDOW: Andrew Yang, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate -- it`s great to have you here, sir.
YANG: Thanks, Rachel. Great to see you.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I mentioned at the top of the show that President Trump is about to lose yet another cabinet secretary, Rick Perry, the secretary of energy, been reported for several weeks to be on his way out. Those questions and expectations became much more acute as he appeared to be multiply bound up in the scandal for which the president is being impeached. Now even though there were reports that Perry was on his way out, he himself had been denying those reports and telling reporters that they were getting ahead of themselves and they`d know when he was finally going.
He`s just posted this video, which makes it clear he`s out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK PERRY, ENERGY SECRETARY: Many times that I have the coolest job in the world and a big reason for that has been you, the men and women who serve alongside of me, at one of the most innovative places on earth, the Department of Energy. You know, from my first day on the job in March of 2017 --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There you go.
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry now resigning as secretary of energy, and it`s clear that this was in the works for some time, if only because he had a four and a half minute long "I`m resigning" video apparently in the can and ready to go, calling it the coolest job he`s ever had, which he is now quitting.
Again, Secretary Perry still apparently subject to subpoena in the impeachment proceeding. We do not know how his resignation will affect his likelihood to testify or the prospect of him being potentially a subject or a target in this probe.
Stay tuned, but this means officially he is out.
MADDOW: A couple of last things before we go. Number one, I`m going to be a guest on "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" coming up a little later on this evening. I will see you there, very much looking forward to that.
Also tomorrow morning, we`ve been expecting the first deposition in the impeachment inquiry from a Pentagon official. First time a Defense Department official was going to be testifying. Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, had accepted the request to testify to the impeachment committees.
That date of her deposition has been changed, though. It was going to be tomorrow morning. It`s now been moved to next week.
And one other last thing I need to tell you before we go. Earlier tonight, I was talking about the deposition today, this nine and a half hour long deposition at the impeachment inquiry from the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, and I showed a quotation from the opening statement he gave. The first time we showed that quotation, apparently, the picture we put up on the screen was the wrong dude, that was yesterday`s star witness, former State Department official Michael McKinley.
We should have showed a picture of today`s dude, Gordon Sondland. I apologize to both gentlemen and to you for the error. It`s inexplicable, obviously.
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