CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
And I quote, Ambassador Sondland told me that he now recognized he made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelensky was dependent on a public announcement of investigations. In fact, Ambassador Sondland said, everything was dependent on such an announcement including security assistance, by which he means military assistance.
Sondland said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky in a public box by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.
President Trump wanted President Zelensky in a public box by making public statements ordering such investigations. You know, we knew after the first members of the impeachment committees came out and talked to reporters today in the middle of Ambassador Bill Taylor`s deposition and those members of Congress told reporters that what was going on in that hearing room was a sea change, that what was happening in that hearing room was likely to escalate the impeachment proceedings, perhaps to speed them up as well.
We knew from those initial reports from people who had been inside the room that something really serious was going on today with this deposition at the impeachment proceedings for President Trump. But it wasn`t until late in the afternoon when we got a copy of Ambassador Bill Taylor`s opening statement for his deposition that we could see what exactly that sea change was all about. And, honestly, just how bad this is now looking for President Trump.
Because this testimony today is so damning and, apparently so well- corroborated with notes and contemporaneous documentation, I think we should expect the president and his supporters will try to not just attack this testimony, but to attack the testifier. They`ll try to presumably destroy the reputation of Ambassador Bill Taylor, they`ll smear him as some sort of a Democratic partisan because we know that`s how I think they will have to respond to this. If past is any prologue, that`s what they`re going to try to do to him because it might be helpful to note how he introduced himself today, which gives a good sort of brief bio of who he is and where he`s been.
He says, quote: I`ve dedicated my life to serving U.S. interests at home and abroad in both military and civilian roles. My background and experience are nonpartisan and I`ve been honored to serve under any administration, Republican and Democratic, since 1985. For 50 years, I have served this country, starting as a cadet at West Point, then as an infantry officer for six years, including with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. Then at the Department of Energy, then as a member of Senate staff, then at NATO, then with the State Department here and abroad, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Jerusalem and Ukraine.
And we have seen from the initial response of this testimony from the White House that the president and his supporters are going to go after Bill Taylor nevertheless as if he`s some plant, some Democratic partisan, someone they can impugn personally. It is hard to see that working both because of who Bill Taylor is, but also just because of the gravity of what he has spelled out under oath.
Quote: On May 28th of this year, I met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who asked me to return to Kiev to lead our embassy in Ukraine. It was and is a critical time in U.S.-Ukraine relations. Volodymyr Zelensky had just been elected president and Ukraine remained at war with Russia.
As the summer approached, a new Ukrainian government would be seated, parliamentary elections were imminent and the Ukrainian political trajectory would be set for the next several years. I cared about Ukraine`s future and the important U.S. interests there. So when Secretary Pompeo asked me to go back to Kiev, I wanted to say "yes" but it was not an easy decision.
The former Ambassador Masha Yovanovitch had been treated poorly, caught in a web of political machinations both in Kiev and in Washington. I fear that those problems were still present. When I talked to her about accepting the offer however, she urged me to go both for policy reasons and for the morale of the embassy.
Before answering the secretary though, I consulted both my wife and a respected former senior Republican official who`s been a mentor to me. I tell you that my wife in no uncertain terms strongly opposed the idea. The mentor counseled, if your country asks you to do something, you do it, if you can be effective.
But Bill Taylor despite those conflicting feelings and that strong advice otherwise from his wife, he says yes to the posting, comes out of private life and rejoins essentially the diplomatic corps.
He says, quote: But once I arrived in Kiev, I discovered a weird combination of encouraging, confusing, and ultimately alarming circumstances. I found it confusing and unusual arrangement for making U.S. policy towards Ukraine. There appeared to be two channels of U.S. policy-making and implementation, one regular and one highly irregular.
As the chief of mission at the embassy, I had authority over the regular formal diplomatic processes, including the bulk of the U.S. effort to support Ukraine against Russian invasion and to help it defeat corruption. This regular channel of U.S. policy-making has consistently had strong bipartisan support both in Congress and in all administrations since Ukraine`s independence from Russia in 1991.
At the same time, however, there was an irregular, informal channel of U.S. policy-making with respect to Ukraine, one which included then-special envoy Kurt Volker, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, secretary of energy, Rick Perry, and, as I subsequently learned, Rudolph Giuliani.
Taylor arrived back at the Kiev embassy on June 17th. He says within ten days of his arrival amid efforts to set up a meeting between the new Ukrainian president and President Trump, Taylor tells Congress today that he got a call from one of the people operating this, quote, informal, irregular channel.
Quote, on June 27th, again, ten days after he`s arrived at the embassy, Ambassador Gordon Sondland told me in a phone conversation that President Zelensky needed to make the clear to President Trump that he, President Zelensky, was not standing in the way of investigations. Taylor says, I sensed something odd when Ambassador Sondland told me the following day, on June 28th, that he did not wish to include most of the regular interagency participants in a call planned with President Zelensky for later that day. Ambassador Sondland said he wanted to make sure that no one was transcribing or monitoring the call as they added President Zelensky to the line.
Before President Zelensky joined the call, Ambassador Volker separately told the U.S. participants in the call that he, Ambassador Volker, planned to be explicit with President Zelensky in a one-on-one meeting planned for Toronto on July 2nd. He planned to be explicit with President Zelensky about what he should do to get his White House meeting.
At that point, June 28th, just 11 days since Taylor`s been in the country, he says, quote, at that point it was not clear to me on that call what this meant. What this means, what exactly the president of Ukraine has to do in order to get his White House meeting, what exactly they`re going to make so explicit to him.
Within a couple of weeks, though, by mid-July, Taylor says that he`s starting to figure it out. He says, quote: It was becoming clear to me the meeting that President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 elections, and that`s what the irregular, informal part of U.S. policy towards Ukraine was trying to achieve.
This is where Taylor then starts to put it together that it`s not just a meeting with the White House that is conditioned on those investigations, it`s also the military aid from the United States that`s being made contingent on Ukraine coughing up these investigations that Rudy Giuliani was demanding.
Taylor says, quote, on July 10th in Kiev, I met with President Zelensky`s chief of staff and his foreign policy adviser who said they`ve heard from Mr. Giuliani that a phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky was unlikely to happen. They said they were alarmed and disappointed.
Days later in a regular National Security Council secure video conference call, Taylor says, quote, I heard a staff person from the Office of Management and Budget say there was a hold on security assistance, meaning military aid to Ukraine, but could not say why. Quote, toward the end of an otherwise normal meeting, a voice on the call, the person was off screen, said that she was from OMB, the Office of Management and Budget, and that her boss instructed her not to approve any additional spending of security assistance for Ukraine until further notice.
Taylor says, I and others sat in astonishment. The Ukrainians were fighting the Russians and counted on not only the training and weapons, but also the assurance of U.S. support. All the OMB staffer said the directive had come from the president, from the president to the chief of staff to OMB.
The following day, two senior National Security Council officers including Fiona Hill spoke by phone with Bill Taylor. Quote: They gave me an account of the July 10th meeting with Ukrainian officials at the White House. Specifically, they told me that Ambassador Gordon Sondland had connected investigations with an Oval Office meeting for President Zelensky.
Later that same day, I received text messages on a three-way WhatsApp text conversation with Ambassadors Volker and Sondland, a record of which I understand has already been provided to the committees. Taylor says: Ambassador Sondland said a call between Trump and Zelensky would take place soon. Ambassador Volker said that what was most important was for Zelensky to say that he will help with the investigation.
The following day, Taylor says, quote, I had a phone conversation with the Ukrainian national security adviser during which he conveyed to me that President Zelensky did not want to be used as a pawn in a U.S. re-election campaign.
Now, by this point, it`s clear that the answer to that, to Ukraine, is too bad, that`s what`s happening, that`s what we`re using you for. So that happens -- he arrives mid-June. We get this sort of time line of what happens in very short order through mid-June through end of June, through July.
The following month in August, with the military aid still not being released by the White House, Bill Taylor says he started calling Washington to express his concerns as to whether or not Ukraine was going to get that crucial military aid. He says he called the counselor at the State Department. He says he called Fiona Hill`s new replacement at the National Security Council because by that point she had left. Taylor says, quote, on August 22nd during a phone conversation with Tim Morrison, Fiona Hill`s replacement at the National Security Council, Taylor says I asked him if there was a change in policy of strong support for Ukraine. To which he responded, it remains to be seen.
He also told me during this call that the president doesn`t want to provide any assistance to Ukraine at all. That was extremely troubling to me because I had told Secretary Pompeo in May when he asked me to come back to the Kiev embassy that if America`s policy of strong support for Ukraine were to change, I would have to resign based on my call with Mr. Morrison, I was preparing to do so.
Taylor also says at this point he sent a direct cable, a, quote, first- person cable to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, directly relaying his concerns about what was going on with this military aid, calling it folly what the U.S. was doing holding up this military assistance. Taylor says he received no response from Pompeo to that memo.
Just days later on September 1st, there`s Vice President Pence in Warsaw. Sent to meet with President Zelensky of Ukraine in the place of Trump who had to stay home to monitor the hurricane response. But he did spend that weekend playing golf.
During that Warsaw trip, Tim Morrison from the National Security Council again called Bill Taylor to brief him on what was going on at the Warsaw meeting. Quote: During this phone call I had with Mr. Morrison, he described a conversation that Ambassador Gordon Sondland had with an assistant to President Zelensky in Warsaw. Ambassador Sondland told him that the security assistance money for Ukraine would not come until President Zelensky committed to pursue the Burisma investigation.
Taylor says, quote, I was alarmed by what Mr. Morrison told me about that conversation. This is first time I heard that security assistance not just the White House meeting, but also that military aid, was conditioned on these investigations. He says, quote, very concerned on that same day, I sent Gordon Sondland a text message asking, are we now saying that security assistance and a White House meeting are conditioned on investigations? Ambassador Sondland responded asking me to call him, which I did.
During that phone call, Gordon Sondland told me that President Trump told him he wants President Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Ambassador Sondland also told me he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting was dependent on a public announcement of an investigation. In fact, Ambassador Sondland said, everything was dependent on such an announcement, including the military assistance.
He said President Trump wanted President Zelensky in a public box by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.
It`s important that you say it out loud. If the whole point is to use against your re-election effort, then people have to know about the investigations, right? You need a public announcement.
Within a week of that, he says, disturbing conversation, Ambassador Taylor received another readout about the president`s behavior as part of this scheme. Morrison briefed Taylor on a phone conversation that took place on September 7th between President Trump and Ambassador Sondland.
Here`s how Taylor described how that went. He says, quote, Mr. Morrison said he had a sinking feeling after learning about this conversation from Ambassador Sondland. According to Mr. Morrison, President Trump insisted on that phone call that President Zelensky must go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference.
The following day on September 8th, Ambassador Sondland and I, meaning Bill Taylor, speak on the phone. He said he talked to President Trump. During our call on September 8th, Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said the businessman asks him to pay up before signing the check.
I argued that the explanation made no sense, the Ukrainians did not owe President Trump anything and holding up military assistance for our domestic political gain was crazy.
Gordon Sondland told Bill Taylor that after he spoke with President Trump, he then spoke once again with the Ukrainian president and with the Ukrainian president`s assistant. Quote: Ambassador Sondland said this conversation concluded with President Zelensky agreeing to make a public statement in an interview with CNN.
Quote, after that call with Ambassador Sondland, I expressed my strong reservations in a text message to him stating my nightmare is that they, the Ukrainians, give that interview, and then they still don`t get the security assistance. Quote, the Russians love it, and I quit. I was serious, he says.
So, Bill Taylor, 50 years in service to this country, was going to quit this job because this was selling out Ukraine to the Russians, right? Here, Putin, take Ukraine, take what you want. We no longer support them. You can have it. We`re not giving them military support anymore.
And, of course, along the way to that betrayal, Ukraine will be used to conjure up some politically useful thing for president Trump for his re- election effort, something that will be collected and used by the president and then maybe he`s going to screw them anyway and still not give them that military aid and the Russians will love it, quote, and I will quit.
It`s one thing to put people who are comfortable with this kind of scheme in charge of carrying it out. That is apparently what President Trump did. That`s apparently why Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the E.U., was in Ukraine. Ukraine is not part of the E.U.
That`s apparently what Volker was doing there as well as the president`s envoy to Ukraine. That`s apparently what Rick Perry, the secretary of energy, was doing inserted into all of this process. And that`s, of course, what Rudy Giuliani was there for, of course.
It`s also apparently why they got rid of the previous Ukrainian ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch. But they did have find a real person to hold down the ambassador after they fired her. Unfortunately, for them, they picked a nonpartisan 50-year veteran diplomat who not only knows how things are supposed to run in U.S. policy, he knows something about the country in which he`s operating, and he could see not only what a disaster this was in terms of President Trump directly soliciting something from a foreign country that he wanted to use in his re-election campaign, which is a crime, he could see what he was doing to that country for this craven and illegal U.S. policy action to put that country in this position.
And so today, with this remarkable testimony, we get this belated, but robust, sort of cry of conscious from Bill Taylor. And we get the news that he apparently took notes and filed memos every step of the way along this entire process.
So, this is really proceeding, I think, along three different lanes here. I mean, this investigation in Congress has basically filled out the narrative about how this scheme worked and what they were trying to do and who was involved. I mean, the secretary of state clearly knew about it. He was not only listening in on the infamous phone call between President Trump and Zelensky that led to this impeachment, he was involved in the firing of the previous ambassador.
He knew why she was being fired, right? He was the recipient of that whole stash of documents from Giuliani laying out the scheme, that stash of documents that was ultimately provided to Congress by the inspector general of the State Department. We now know from this testimony today that the top official representative of the U.S. government in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, the man in charge at the mission, at the Kiev embassy, we know he wrote to Secretary of State Pompeo directly and personally to inform him about what was happening in Ukraine, to inform him about his grave concerns about it, to inform him about what this White House informal cabal appeared to be forming there.
So, the secretary of state knew about it. The secretary of state was part of the scheme. The secretary of energy, Rick Perry, who announced his relaxed, also appears to have been part of it. The vice president, who went to Warsaw and told the Ukrainian president there that he wasn`t going to get his military aid, he appears to have been part of it as well.
I mean, despite the involvement of those very senior cabinet officials and the vice president, they all kept it quiet. We also know that the attorney general knew all about it. He was cited multiple times by the president in that phone call between the presidents of the United States and Ukraine. He was cited multiple times by President Trump as one of two people, the other being Rudy Giuliani, who the Ukrainian president should work with to give him his deliverables on this scheme.
Bill Barr and his Justice Department not only saw the transcript of that call, they also received multiple criminal referrals about the president`s behavior in this scheme. So Barr knew about it and Barr kept it quiet, and Barr, in fact, try to intervene to make sure Congress would never learn about it. Barr tried to make sure that the Justice Department would never investigate it.
But these efforts at the top of the Trump administration, right, three cabinet officials, including the top law enforcement official in the country, plus the vice president, and, of course, the president himself, they were all in on it. They were all part of it, they all kept it quiet or overtly tried to cover it up.
The efforts to keep everybody else quiet about it, though, have failed, spectacularly. And I don`t know in what form the impeachment committees are going to ultimately compile this information and report it to the rest of Congress. I don`t know how fast they`re going to do it. I don`t know how many depositions they`re going to take and whether they want to get people like Ambassador Gordon Sondland back under oath if it appears that he may have lied or evaded the truth in his earlier sworn testimony.
But the consistent narrative now told by all these people who are coming forward as witnesses to this scheme, who are defying the efforts by the White House and the State Department to stop them from saying what they know, the consistent narrative from all of them is that this was an illegal effort involving people inside the government and outside the government that, at its correspond, was directed in detail by the president of the United States. And it was not only a crime scheme, a criminal scheme directed by the president, it was also something that was deeply injurious to somebody who was supposed to be a good ally of ours in a very important part of the world.
And so, the congressional investigation has now produced this damning indictment of the president and the other people who he involved in this who didn`t blow the whistle and who helped to cover it up. The impeachment proceedings against the president remain sort of a question mark in terms of how exactly they`re going to prosecute this case against him, how much more they will need, how they may try to tailor these charges to try to achieve his removal in the Senate, not just his impeachment in the House.
When the first members of Congress heard this deposition, came outside and said to reporters this new information may accelerate the time frame in terms of when the president gets impeached, you can see why, right now that we know at least in part that Bill Taylor testified to. I mean, how much more do they need after this? How much more do you need to hear? How much more evidence is anybody going to need to see?
So there`s the investigation, there`s the question about the impeachment of the president, but alongside those two proceedings, there`s this third lane, right? That`s proceeding alongside and adjacent to this idiotic spy movie that is such a simple plot, it doesn`t even have time for a twist, right? And that other lane is the criminal proceedings here.
I mean, Bill Barr and Brian Benczkowski, the head of the criminal division of the Justice Department may have decided at Main Justice that definitely nobody should look into this. But that`s not holding everywhere. I mean, when it came to carrying out what Bill Taylor described today as the highly irregular channel of U.S. policy-making that was running this scheme on behalf of the president, I mean, everybody involved in that is, like, in jail or going to jail or fighting going to jail.
This was a scheme in which Rudy Giuliani consulted with the president`s imprisoned former campaign chairman. He employed some mysterious services of two men who are now under criminal indicted for funneling illegal foreign campaign contributions to the president`s reelection effort and various Republican campaigns. They`re due to be arraigned in federal court in New York tomorrow.
We learned tonight at Politico.com that at least one of them will be using one of Paul Manafort`s lawyers at his arraignment. The two of them also used Paul Manafort`s lawyers in Virginia at their initial court appearance after being arrested at Dulles Airport trying to leave the country.
The Kremlin-linked Ukrainian oligarch who funded Paul Manafort`s old pro- Putin work in Ukraine back in the day, to whom Paul Manafort is still reportedly had financial ties while he was serving as Trump`s campaign chairman, who was reportedly, according to "Reuters", financing the operations of these guys who were working with Giuliani on this scheme, that Ukrainian oligarch himself is under federal indictment in this country as well. He`s fighting extradition to the United States to face charges in a huge bribery case.
And the president`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is now being described as person of interest in two federal investigations, one of which appears to be potentially a counterintelligence investigation.
So, everybody involved with Rudy Giuliani in this scheme, the irregular outside the government part of this scheme that Ambassador Bill Taylor described today in his sworn deposition, everyone involved in the Giuliani part of this is either already modeling the latest in GPS ankle monitors, or is nevertheless looking forward to a future career as a fine distiller of prison wine made from toilet water and old fruit packets of sugar.
I mean, those guys are a piece of work, right, from Manafort on down. The administration officials who are involved in this are either coming forward now and telling what they know, or they`re hiding from subpoenas or some combination thereof. Of course, the president himself is basically perfectly exposed at this point.
I mean, all these claims about the president being immune from investigation and nobody who`s ever worked in the government is ever allowed to testify about any behavior of the president, well, that only works as far as you can throw it, apparently. This is going fast now. But I think that these depositions are very important on their own terms.
They`re also incredibly important in terms of who they`re in front, the credibility of these people giving these depositions, and the fact that they are all thus far mutually enforcing. The only people who have testified anything differently than the way it`s been described by every other witness are the people who are most implicated in the scheme as being closest to the president while he was trying to carry it out.
Lots more to get to tonight. We`ll speak with a member of Congress who was there for this deposition today.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): You could hear a pin drop, literally, as the ambassador has laid out in his opening statement.
REPORTER: You ever seen anything like this while you were at the State Department?
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): No, oh, my God, no. This is completely outside the furthest boundaries of what any career diplomat would have thought possible.
REP. ANDY LEVIN (D-MI): All I have to say is that in my 10 short months in Congress, it`s not even noon, right? This is my most disturbing day in Congress so far. Very troubling. Thanks.
REPORTER: Do you have anything to share about why it`s disturbing?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, cannot share it.
Members of Congress emerging from the testimony today at the top American diplomat in Ukraine appearing to be somewhat shaken by what they heard. Ambassador Bill Taylor spent the better part of ten hours in his deposition before the impeachment committees today.
Joining us now is Val Demings. She`s a law enforcement veteran, longtime police chief. She`s now a member of Congress with a seat on the intelligence committee.
Representative Demings, thanks for making the time tonight. I know today was a long day.
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): It`s great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, some of your colleagues did seem to be sort of shaken by Ambassador Taylor`s testimony today. What was your reaction?
DEMINGS: Well, I tell you what. Ambassador Taylor`s testimony was refreshing. Let me say that, number one. But his testimony was powerful.
This weekend, I had an opportunity to visit the Vietnam War memorial, and to be in that room today in the presence of Ambassador Taylor, a Vietnam veteran who has already had 50 years of public service, who came today, respected a lawful subpoena, came in with one purpose, Rachel, I believe on his mind, that is, to tell the truth.
And that he did. His testimony was credible but it was extremely powerful.
MADDOW: I know there`s -- you can`t tell us about what happened. This was a closed-door deposition for reasons and these proceedings are being handled that way to for reasons that have been articulated by the committee. But it`s clear to us from the opening statement that we`ve seen that as a professional with five decades of experience in this field, one of the things he was trained to do is take a lot of notes to make memos to file, to memorialize things in writing.
Was the committee able to obtain notes and documentation from him today? Or was all that material given to the State Department and you guys don`t have it?
DEMINGS: Well, you`re absolutely correct. I tell you, Ambassador Taylor, I`ve interviewed a lot of people, of course, in my former life, but he`s definitely the kind of witness that any person conducting an investigation would want to talk to.
We did not -- I did not have an opportunity to review any of his documentation or notes, but clearly he`s very meticulous. He obviously took extensive notes. His recall today, different from some other witnesses, was near perfect.
He`s a consummate professional. There`s no doubt about that, but someone who really, Rachel, gave me hope about the state of our country right now. Obviously, Ambassador Taylor remembered the oath, multiple oaths he`s taken having served with several administrations since 1985.
His testimony today was, as I said, just extremely powerful and really critical to this investigation that we`re involved in.
MADDOW: Are you getting different stories about the same set of circumstances from different witnesses? Clearly some of what he described today, at least as far as we can tell on the outside, did not seem to line up with the kind of testimony that we heard described from Ambassador Gordon Sondland, for example. Are you hearing conflicting stories where the committee will be responsible essentially for figuring out who`s telling the truth or you may need to recall some witnesses who already testified?
DEMINGS: One of the things I can tell you, and I know you already know that this impeachment inquiry, we`re being very methodical, we`re being very thorough. We`re going to interview witnesses who can provide critical information.
The answer to your question is "yes." There was some testimony that was given today that that was in direct conflict with some things that we`ve heard earlier, some of the things that Ambassador Sondland said. So I know this is a decision that I certainly would not make, but I would love to see the ambassador and perhaps some others come back before our committee and give them an opportunity to clear up the statements that they gave, earlier testimony that they gave.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Val Demings, member of the House Intelligence Committee -- ma`am, I really appreciate you making time for us tonight. Thank you so much.
DEMINGS: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight, I have been advise of breaking news we just got in. I`ll know on the other side of this commercial, I swear.
MADDOW: Because it`s the 9:00 p.m. hour on a day that ends in "y," some new breaking news from "The Washington Post." Quote, prosecutors flagged possible ties between Ukrainian gas tycoon and Giuliani associates. Tell me more.
The Ukrainian gas tycoon in question here is the subject of chapter 19 of my new book. Boy, I didn`t know it was going to be this relevant. He`s a man named Dmytro Firtash. He`s a Putin-connected oligarch who federal prosecutors say has high level ties to Russian organized crime. He has been indicted in the United States, is fighting an effort to extradite him here, to face charges in the criminal bribery scheme.
Firtash also turned up in the impeachment story because he also appears to have connections, including financial ties, with these two guys who Rudy Giuliani was apparently working with to dig up dirt for President Trump in Ukraine to help him get elected. We have these pretty pictures of these gentlemen because they have been charged on criminal campaign finance violations. They are due to be arraigned in federal court in New York tomorrow.
Now, it had been reported that one of these guys had been hired as a translator for Firtash`s lawyers. But now, this new scoop from "The Post" that has just gone up tonight furthers this part of the story in kind of a big way. According to "The Post" tonight, the federal prosecutors in Chicago who`ve been investigating Dmytro Firtash, who have charged him, who are trying to get him extradited to that court, those Chicago prosecutors, quote, had previously come across the two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, as they pursue their longstanding case against Firtash.
Parnas had been working as an interpreter for the lawyers for Firtash since late July. Chicago prosecutors suspect there might be a broader relationship among Firtash, Parnas, and Fruman. Chicago prosecutors reached out to their counterparts in New York where the foreign money charges had been brought to offer their assistance.
So the criminal case against Firtash, those prosecutors are now working with the criminal case against Giuliani`s guys. I mean, this is Lev and Igor, the guys trying to dig up dirt for Giuliani in this scheme for which the president is now being impeached, they are turning up in the Dmytro Firtash legal fight with the U.S. Justice Department in that gigantic bribery case, prosecutors in Chicago offering to help the prosecutors in New York who brought these criminal charges against these two guys earlier this month.
Yes. The most important stuff always comes from following the flow of money in these things, always. It`s the most surprising stuff and the most important stuff. Toward that end, I will tell you, tomorrow is going to be one of the biggest days we have had in the entire Trump presidency when it comes to following the money. That story is flying under the radar right now because of all of this impeachment stuff, but I will tell you what it is next. You will want to see this.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: All right. Here is why you are going to be up tomorrow morning listening to streaming audio on the C-Span Website starting at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. I don`t know if any TV network including ours is going to be broadcasting the audio live as it happens, but I do know the C-Span website is going to have it. And we just learned tonight, NBCnews.com also got permission. C-Span website, NBCNews.com, both have received permission from the court to stream this audio tomorrow morning.
And so, I`ll tell you, that`s what I`m going to be doing on the stationary bike at the gym while everybody else is going fast and concentrating, I`ll be in the corner with headphones, going slow, taking notes, not actually getting a workout at all.
All right. What this is about is -- it`s kind of a thing we`ve been waiting for. I mean, the impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill are riveting right now, even just what`s able to seep out from behind closed doors like this Bill Taylor deposition today. The criminal case that`s unfolding alongside and adjacent to the impeachment, that too is turning out to be fascinating, this rock `em sock `em robots, fast-developing story. The whole thing is nuts.
But alongside all of that, we are really coming to pay dirt right now on what has been an absolutely desperate effort by the president to keep his financial records and his taxes out of the hands of investigators. As you probably know, there`s a bunch of legal cases on this now. The president has hired a whole stand-alone team of lawyers just to fight all these cases to try to keep his taxes and his financial records secret. So far, that legal team is doing terribly. The president and his keep my taxes and financial records secret legal team have lost every one of these cases so far, as they continue to win their way through the courts.
President`s legal team has, thus far, lost at every step of the process, even though he now has William Barr and the U.S. Justice Department to start weighing in on these the cases on his behalf, which is something that dropped jaws in legal circles all over the country when the DOJ agreed to do that. That, frankly, should have shook loose a whistle-blower or two at the Justice Department itself, even though we haven`t seen evidence of that.
But tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, streaming live on c-span and NBCnews.com, this is really the one that those of us observing the process so far have been waiting because what`s going to happen tomorrow is about this particular ruling, which is going to the appeals court level tomorrow. Just listen to this. This is from the ruling that went against the president that is going to the federal appeals cowardly level tomorrow, first time any of these cases has gone that high.
Quote, the president asserts an extraordinary claim in the dispute now before this court. He contends in his view of the president`s duties and functions, in the allocation of governmental powers between the executive and judicial branches under the Constitution, he contends the person who serves as president while in office enjoys absolute immunity from criminal process of any kind.
Consider the reach of the president`s argument. As the court reads it, presidential immunity would stretch to cover every phase of criminal proceedings, including investigations, grand jury proceedings and subpoenas, indictment, prosecution, arrest, trial, conviction, and incarceration. That constitutional protection presumably would encompass any conduct at any time in any forum, whether federal or state, and whether the president acted alone or in concert with other individuals.
Hence, according to this categorical doctrine as presented in this proceeding, the constitutional dimensions of the president shield from judicial process are virtually limitless. Until the president leaves office, his exemption from criminal proceedings would extent to not only to matters arising from performance of the president`s duties and functions in his official capacity, but also to one`s arising from his private affairs, his financial transitions, and all other conduct undertaken by him as an ordinary citizen both during and before his tenure in office. Such immunity would operate to frustrate the administration of justice by insulating from scrutiny not only matters occurring during the president`s tenure in office, but potentially also records relate to go transactions and illegal actions the president and others may have committed before he assumed the presidency.
This court cannot endorse such a categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process as being countenanced by the nation`s constitutional plan, especially in the light of the fundamental concerns over excessive irrigation of power that animated the constitution`s delicate structure and its calibrated balance of authority among the three branches of the national government. The expansive notion of constitutional immunity invoked here to shield the president from judicial process would constitute an overreach of executive power. As articulated, such sweeping doctrine finds no support in the Constitution`s text or history or in germane guidance charted by rulings of the Supreme Court.
Bared to its core, the proposition the president advances reduces to the very notion that the founders rejected at the inception of this republic, and that the Supreme Court has since unequivocally repudiated, that a constitutional domain exists in this country in which not only the president, but relatives and persons and business entities associated with him and potentially unlawful private activities are, in fact, above the law. This court finds aspects of such a doctrine repugnant to the nation`s governmental structure and constitutional values. Repugnant.
So, that was the somewhat clarion ruling of the district court -- the federal district court, that is getting reviewed on appeal tomorrow. It`s going to be an hour-long argument before a panel of three federal judges. This is a federal appeals court, so they`re sitting in a court just one level below the Supreme Court, 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, streaming live on C-Span and NBCNews.com. This is an appeal of this federal court ruling calling the president`s claim to executive immunity from crimes he committed while in office or before, calling that, quote, repugnant to the nation`s governmental structure.
I wonder how the appeal`s going to go. If you are able to check it out, I will say the thing to listen for is not only whether the subject of this case is going to get resolved, whether the president`s financial records and his tax returns are finally going to be handed over in response to the subpoena. Obviously, that`s a significant public interest and that will be something to watch for in terms of listening to those hearings -- listening to that hearing tomorrow.
But beyond that, the other thing to really listen for is that this ruling against Trump that is being appealed tomorrow, it not only smacks down the president for this incredible executive overreach in terms of what he says he can get away with, it also basically dismantles the internal memos at the Justice Department that say that is a president can`t be indicted. I mean, the president`s lawyers and Attorney General William Barr basically hinge their case that the president can`t be investigated on these internal Justice Department memos which, in fact, say that a president can`t be indicted. These are the same memos that supposedly constrained Robert Mueller from recommending any charges against president Trump in his report, right? So that the DOJ policy that a president can`t be charged.
Well, the judge in this case that smacked down Trump for trying to say that he is immune from any investigation, the judge in this case in this ruling also says those Justice Department memos shouldn`t be seen as having, quote, substantial legal force. It says those memos, quote, do not constitute authoritative judicial interpretation of the Constitution concerning these issues.
The ruling says those DOJ memos are, quote, flawed by ambiguities if not outright conflicts. The ruling says that in short, quote, the court rejects the Justice Department memos` position. By which the justice means specifically that this ruling rejects the position those memos take, which is the position that a president can`t be criminally charged while in office.
That whole idea that we have that the president can`t be indicted, that comes from those DOJ memos, part of this ruling that is being appealed tomorrow is a ruling that says actually those DOJ memos shouldn`t be enforced here. There shouldn`t be a rule that says the president can`t be indicted. That`s crazy. That`s what that fight is going to be about at the 2nd Circuit tomorrow.
So, bring your headphones to work. You could pretend you`re listening to an important conference call or something, 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. C- Span`s website, NBCNews.com. I`ll be the one on the stationary bike in the corner with the clipboard scribbling down by notes listening.
MADDOW: Laura Cooper is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. She`s also the first Pentagon official who`s been called to testify in the impeachment proceedings.
Part of the impeachment scandal, of course, is that the military assistance that was supposed to go to Ukraine, that is legally obligated for that purpose and so the White House blocking it for months to try to get dirt on Joe Biden from Ukraine and sort of leveraging that military aid, that was arguably an illegal act by the White House.
So far, we haven`t heard anything from the Pentagon side about this, but we are about to. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper blew off a subpoena from the impeachment committees that told him that he needed to hand over documents from the Defense Department. But this Defense Department official, Laura Cooper, is due to testify tomorrow morning presumably I`m guessing the Trump administration will try to block her from testifying as well, but we`ll see.
The precedent has now been set by these career State Department officials that if you do get subpoenaed, you can go, you can give your testimony even if the Trump administration is trying to stop you. So, watch this space.
MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight. Whew. This has been a busy day and a busy night. I feel like we haven`t even kept track of the news even just in terms of what has developed over the course of this hour, but we`ll just redouble our efforts to try to do better tomorrow. See you again then.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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