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.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Monday.
Welcome to the document dump part of the impeachment saga of President Donald J. Trump.
With all of the material that has been unsealed and published for the first time and made ump part of the impeachment saga of President Donald J. Trump.
With all of the material that has been unsealed and published for the first time and made newly publicly available over the past few days, you could spend every waking moment that you have speed reading through all of the new material that has just been foisted on the public and you would still be behind and you would not be through all of those transcripts. And I say that not as a hypothetical but because I have conducted this experiment on myself. And I am a pretty fast reader at this point, but wow, has a lot of stuff come out over the past day and, particularly, over the past several days. And eventually, we will get through all of it. It`s certainly better for the stuff to be public than not.
But, you know, as with any big job, you just got to start somewhere. And given all of the news that has come out today and over the course of the last -- this news cycle, I`m just going to suggest that we start here with my guys. Lev and Igor. Lev Parnas on the left. Igor Fruman on the right.
They`re out on bail right now awaiting trial. They`re charged with making illegal foreign campaign donations to various Republican candidates and campaigns and super PACs. The indictment of Lev and Igor also describes them using the influence that those donations bought them to, among other things, press for the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine to be fired.
And, you know, their criminal case remains really interesting. This interesting visible parallel proceeding in federal criminal court that`s running right alongside the ongoing impeachment proceedings against the president that are happening on Capitol Hill. And there`s all this overlap between the criminal case and the case against the president in Washington.
But with that criminal case, there remains this mystery about these guys which is that nobody is quite sure who they were working for or whose money they were playing with because in addition to trying to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine fired, which was ultimately a successful effort, she got fired, and in addition to helping President Trump`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, shovel this bogus theory that there was some big Biden scandal in Ukraine that could be unearthed there and would hurt the Democrats in 2020 and help President Trump. In addition to those things, Lev, if not Igor, appears to have been involved personally in setting up not only meetings for Giuliani to push the bogus line of argument but also involved in setting up conservative media interviews for various people who were involved in this scheme.
So that raises this interesting question, who was paying them to do all of that? I mean, I don`t think I`m going too far out on a limb to say that I doubt these guys were doing it out of the goodness of their hearts and as volunteers. I mean, whoever was paying them, we know put plenty of resources at their disposal. You know, hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions that these two made to various Republicans and Republican PACs. They also somehow happened upon $500,000 that they paid to Rudy Giuliani.
This part of the story has often been shorthanded in the press as if these guys were working for Rudy Giuliani but that appears to be backwards. I mean, if these guys were working for Giuliani, Giuliani would be paying them. Giuliani was paying them. Giuliani was being paid by them. Lev, at least, was paying Giuliani a half million dollars. So, Giuliani was working for them.
Well, where`d they get the money from to pay him? Where`d they get all this money from? Who were they working for?
The question of where their money was from, who was giving them orders, who they were working for, whose ultimate interests they were serving, has just gotten way more fascinating for a couple reasons. The first is this transcript that was just released from the impeachment committees today, a transcript of the deposition from that U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who Lev and Igor were trying to get fired and who ultimately did get fired.
One of the unsettling things about this whole saga, as random and sketchy as Lev and Igor might seem on the surface, one of the things that has emerged since they got indicted is that they were really throwing their weight around about their influence with the Trump administration. I mean, for some reason, they came up with $500,000 to pay Rudy Giuliani for some reason. They`re also said to have bragged repeatedly to a number of people about the fact that the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch was going to get fired. She was going to get removed from that embassy. They were bragging about that months before it ultimately happened, and then it actually happened.
I mean, they were showing off how connected they were in the Trump administration, how much power they might even have over what the U.S. government was going to do. It`s creepy, right? It`s unsettling. See these guy`s mug shots now, these guys under arrest. Right?
And, yet, they were close enough to what was going on in U.S. government that they had the president`s lawyer on their payroll and they were able to say months in advance about what the fate would be of an ambassador who they were working to get ousted. Well, one of the side hustles these guys appeared to be involved in, bragging about their influence in the Trump administration, bragging about their closeness to President Trump and his eldest son, bragging with their closeness with Rudy Giuliani, their advanced knowledge that that ambassador was going to get recalled from Ukraine, one of the side hustles in which they were playing all those cards was an effort by them to oust the head of the biggest natural gas monopoly in Ukraine.
Lev and Igor wanted to get the existing CEO out of there and wanted him replaced with their own guy. Well, why did they want that? What was their plan there? What was their interest there?
Well, from this deposition just released today, we get at least some explanation from Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. This is right toward the very end of her long, long deposition in the impeachment inquiry.
Question, you mentioned earlier, Naftogaz. Answer, yes. Question, what is Naftogaz? Answer, it`s the gas monopoly owned by the government of Ukraine.
Question, has it had corruption issues in the past to your knowledge? Answer, it has. You know, it has really cleaned up its act. I mean, we consider it to be one of the success stories in Ukraine. That doesn`t mean it`s done. There are still issues going forward.
Question, did the cleaning up occur in conjunction with the fact that they added a supervisory board to the company? Answer, I think that was important, but I think the most important thing was actually the head of Naftogaz, a guy by the name of Andre Kobalyev. Sorry, I`m not saying that right. Andre Kobalyev, I think that`s how you say it. K-o-b-a-l-y-e-v.
Ambassador Yovanovitch says of him that he is, quote you know, as clean as they come, and fearless and determined to sort of shake everything up and he really made some amazing steps forward. I mean, from a country that was getting the vast majority, something like 93 percent of its gas to Russia, to Ukraine importing zero from Russia. So, I mean, if you think of that from a security standpoint, those are huge steps forward.
Oh, so that`s what Lev and Igor were up to. Again, we don`t know who was paying them, don`t know in whose interests they were working. We don`t know where they were getting all this money from that they were throwing around. But the guy they were trying to force out at the Ukrainian government-controlled natural gas monopoly, this company, Naftogaz, the guy they were trying to throw out, specifically the individual person they were targeting to get out of there, was the guy who was determined to move Ukraine from importing 93 percent of its natural gas from Russia to importing zero percent of natural gas from Russia.
I wonder who wouldn`t like that. I wonder who`d be interested in stopping that kind of a guy and getting him out of the CEO job at the big natural gas company in Ukraine. I mean, Russia is pumping natural gas into Ukraine, I mean, they`re probably giving them 93 percent of what that nation imports.
And this -- this new guy, clean as they come, fearless, determined, anti- corruption guy, decides, actually, no, Ukraine is going to start importing zero natural gas from Russia. We`re going to zero that out. We`re no longer doing that with Russia. I wonder who might want to stop that.
Well, again, we do not know much about who they were working for but do know that Lev at least was being paid to work on the legal defense team of this Kremlin-connected oligarch who is fighting extradition to this country where he`s indicted on multiple corruption charges. Federal prosecutors say Dmytro Firtash is also a leading figure in Russian organized crime. Lev is working for him.
And we don`t know if this is the only guy who Lev is working for, but Lev does work for this guy, again, supposedly his job on the Dmytro Firtash legal team is that he is a translator. He is an interpreter for Firtash`s U.S. lawyers.
According to this great story from CNN a few days ago, that might not be the full extent of it. CNN quotes two sources that say that Lev Parnas joked to them, quote, I`m the best paid interpreter in the world.
Yes, I mean, this is nuts, right? These guys, these two guys, this is the criminal case that`s running alongside the impeachment of the president. These guys are under arrest, out on bail, facing theoretically decades in prison. At least one of them has been paying the president`s personal lawyer while the two of them have been touting their connections to president Trump and the Trump presidency and their influence in the Trump administration, while also trying to get stuff done in Ukraine that would really benefit Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.
I mean, I would love to hear the whole story here. How did we end up, America, 2019, with one guy simultaneously on the legal team of a Kremlin- connected Russian mob guy, he simultaneously is also somehow on the legal team of the president of the United States and is paying the president`s personal lawyer. I mean, how do you get one guy who says he`s the best paid interpreter on earth for the Russian organized crime Kremlin guy who also somehow has a whole bunch of money to pay the president`s lawyer while the president is facing impeachment. Or stuff having to do with Ukraine? I mean, I would love to get that whole story.
Well, as of tonight, "Reuters" is first to report maybe we`re going to get that whole story because our buddy, Lev, may be changing his mind now. He may now be becoming, if not a cooperator, at least more cooperative with the impeachment investigation. You will remember the timeline of how these guys got arrested, right?
On October 7th, they were told to appear for testimony in the impeachment inquiry. They said no, we`re not coming.
October 8th, they bought one-way tickets out of the country. October 9th, when they were attempting to board that one-way flight out of the country, they were arrested on the jet way at Dulles Airport.
I mean, those guys didn`t just flee in the face of that demand to testify at the impeachment inquiry, they also through their lawyer at the time told the impeachment committees that they wouldn`t appear, they wouldn`t cooperate, they wouldn`t testify. That was the stance of Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman right up until they got arrested. As of tonight, it appears Mr. Parnas, Lev, has changed his mind and he`s now willing to tell the committees something.
Lev Parnas, quote: indicted Ukrainian-American businessman who has ties to President Trump`s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is now prepared to comply with requests for records and testimony from congressional impeachment investigators, his new lawyer told "Reuters" today.
"The New York Times" tonight adds this detail as to what might have led to this change of heart from Mr. Parnas. Quote: The turnabout occurred after Mr. Trump denied knowing Mr. Parnas when Parnas was arrested. Parnas` new lawyer telling "The Times" tonight, quote, Mr. Parnas was upset by President Trump`s plainly false statement that he did not know him.
So, Lev and Igor are under arrest awaiting trial. At least one of them, the one who was reportedly paying Rudy Giuliani while simultaneously working for a mobbed up Ukrainian oligarch close to the Kremlin, he`s now interested in cooperating with the impeach the inquiry, right? So watch this space. I mean, this is -- this is one of the news stories that -- this is one of a million different news developments over the course of what now feels like this endless always on news cycle. But, again, you just take it one piece at a time.
Today, for example, there was another federal appeals court ruling against President Trump. Again, on the issue of whether or not he can shield his taxes from investigators. This is one of yet another one of these cases in which the president`s lawyers walked into court claiming these totally expansive, unprecedented immunities for the president, not just that he`s immune from prosecution but he`s immune from investigation. He lost that in a unanimous appeals court ruling today. We`re going to talk about that a little later on this hour including a very, very ominous theme in that ruling which echoes several other recent rulings against the president, which may ultimately have dramatic consequences for the basic idea that a president can`t be indicted while he`s still in office. So, we`ll have more on that to come.
Also, thanks to some expert use of the Freedom of Information Act, "BuzzFeed" reporter Jason Leopold was able to pry loose from the Justice Department hundreds of pages of FBI interview notes from the Mueller investigation this weekend. This is just the first chunk of this kind of material that`s going to be released on a rolling ongoing basis now. But just this first chunk that just came out, holy cow, is there some astonishing stuff in there. We`re going to get to that coming up this hour, too.
All this stuff is just happening at once. The president announcing today that the U.S. is formally giving notice that we`re living the Paris climate accords. There`s a legal requirement to give a specific amount of notice for doing that. What this announcement means today is if the president is re-elected, we will leave the Paris climate accords the day after the election next year.
Whereas if the president is defeated for re-election, by a Democrat, we will not leave the Paris climate accords the day of the election next year. I mean, just in case you needed the next election to be any more high stakes, right, in terms of the future of the earth on which we live. That decision, alone, that Paris announcement today, alone, will make the decision as to whether or not we are helping or hurting in some major way in terms of climate within one day of the country going to vote at the next election.
Today, also a defamation case was filed against the president by a woman named E. Jean Carroll. She asserted in June that she was raped by Donald Trump in Manhattan years ago. She now claims President Trump defamed her when he responded to that allegation by calling her a liar.
She says that that`s defamation. She can prove it in court and she would like the opportunity to do so. Oh.
The president, himself, is in Kentucky tonight where there`s a gubernatorial election tomorrow. There is tomorrow in Mississippi as well. Deep red states like Kentucky and Mississippi, you shouldn`t need to have the sitting Republican president of the United States come down and campaign for Republican candidates for governor with what is going on in the Trump presidency right now, these are some of the only settings where the president can appear right now and expect a welcoming audience.
You will notice, for example, that the entire Virginia legislature, every seat in the Virginia House and Senate is also up in tomorrow`s elections. But despite the fact you can squint and almost see Virginia from the White House, President Trump has very carefully steered clear of doing any politicking in Virginia because his influence there is thought to be pure and toxic for Republican candidates across that state. So, yes, he`ll go to Kentucky and Mississippi but not showing his face in Virginia.
We`re also going to talk tonight about a bizarre and newly unfolding scandal in the U.K. where they`ve got a new whistle-blower of their own, who is claiming that the top adviser to the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the architect of the Brexit debacle, man named Dominic Cummings, has unexplained and unexamined ties to the Russian government. Oh. And this comes as a time when Boris Johnson, British prime minister, is apparently suppressing the release of a report on Russia`s potential involvement in the Brexit campaign and in British politics more generally.
So, like, every single one of those stories is a showstopper. All of this news is just rolling out at once. But we`ve got reporter Eric Lipton here from "The New York times" tonight to talk about a piece of the scandal that we really have watched coming down this pike that appears to now be pretty well and truly confirmed.
Now, we highlighted this on the show on Friday night. It was this David Ignatius column in the "Washington Post" raising the troubling prospect that the scheme for which the president is now being impeached, this Ukraine scheme, for which he has basically been caught this year, might have been not the first time he did this. Might have been round two? Basically, that Rudy Giuliani and President Trump might have already done this once before in Ukraine with almost the same script, with the president who proceeded Volodymyr Zelensky.
David Ignatius was writing about it at "The Post" late last week. "New York Times" reporter Andrew Kramer had reported on pieces of this in an article "The Times" published in May of last year. But now, Mark Mazzetti, Eric Lipton, and Andrew Kramer have updated the story, and it sounds like, yes, what has happened in Ukraine ahead of Zelensky getting in there, the guy that had the infamous phone call with Trump, what happened there with the previous president seems very much like a first draft of what President Trump has been caught for in this impeachment inquiry now.
Quoting from "The Times" tonight, quote: Long before a telephone call with Ukraine`s president that prompted an impeachment inquiry, President Trump was exchanging political favors with a different Ukrainian leader who desperately sought American help for his country`s struggle against Russian aggression. Near the end of 2017, just as the Ukrainian government was trying to get final approval from the Trump administration on the sale of Javelin anti-tank weapons, the prosecutor general then working for the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, quote, had began freezing cases in Ukraine that were relevant to the Mueller investigation, including an inquiry freezing millions of dollars that Ukrainian political figures paid to Mr. Manafort.
In 2017, shortly after Mr. Giuliani visited Kiev, President Poroshenko`s prosecutor general took control from an anti-corruption bureau of a criminal investigation related to Mr. Manafort. The same prosecutor general took further steps to slow-walk the Ukrainian cases related to the Mueller investigation in November of 2017. He gave an official order to freeze those cases in April of 2018. That same prosecutor general would, quote, later coordinate closely with Mr. Giuliani to promote an investigation into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.
So, this year in 2019, President Trump is being impeached for demanding these bogus investigations of Joe Biden and other things he thinks will hurt the Democrats for his re-election campaign in 2020. The impeachment investigation also turned up evidence the president may not have just asked for those things, he may have conditioned official actions of the U.S. government on him getting those things. He may have conditioned the White House meeting on the delivery of those investigations. Not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid that he held up for months.
We know from the transcript of the president`s call with the new president of Ukraine, Zelensky, this year, that President Trump, excuse me, that president Trump raised the issue of those investigations immediately after Zelensky told President Trump he wanted to buy more javelin anti-tank missiles. That`s when Trump said, quote, I would like you to do us a favor, though.
Well, now, what "The New York Times" has nailed down is that before all of this happened in 2019, in 2017 and 2018, they did what looks like a dry run of this same dynamic. Some of the same people involved in this scheme, Giuliani, the Ukrainian prosecutor guy, they were also apparently involved in kyboshing the Paul Manafort cases and other cases that related to the special counsel`s investigation. And that, at least, from the Ukrainian perspective, there was some feeling that those kinds of actions would have kept the Trump administration happy and that that was a key thing to do if Ukraine was ever going to get those Javelin missiles.
Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly who participated in the impeachment depositions walked out of the impeachment hearing room last week and said this to reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you want to speak on camera briefly? Just what you told them.
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): If I were an enterprising reporter, I would spend little time on the issue of javelin missiles.
REPORTER: Why? Why?
CONNOLLY: Being an enterprising reporter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: According to "The New York times," we now know why Congressman Gerry Connolly said that after walking out of one of those impeachment depositions last week. Which is that one of the impeachment witnesses who testified last week, according to the "Times`", Catherine Croft who worked on Ukraine issues for the national security council, she apparently just testified the Javelin missile sales, first round of javelin missile sales from the Trump administration to Ukraine had actually been held up for a time by the Trump White House.
Croft testified that, quote, the White House Office of Management and budget briefly held up the weapons sale after the Pentagon and State Department have both approved it. And this is not this year. This is not the thing for which President Trump is being impeached for from 2019. This was last year.
Apparently, when they were writing the first draft for what Trump would get impeached for this year, when they appeared to have tried and succeeded at basically this exact same play, with the other Ukrainian president who preceded the one who`s there now.
Eric Lipton joins us live in just a moment. We`ve also got a member of the Intelligence Committee joining us, too.
I know there`s a lot of news. Today has been overwhelming in terms of the number of news stories that broke, but just take it one at a time. We`ll get there.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is from "The New York times`" new big piece on the relationship between President Trump and Ukraine that preceded the impeachment scandal in this current impeachment inquiry. "The Times" says, quote, an examination of the first year of Mr. Trump`s dealings with Ukraine shows how the White House also show the relationship as a transactional one that could help Mr. Trump politically. President Poroshenko so eager to gain favor as Russian-backed separatists were escalating a fight against the Ukrainian military did his part to encourage this belief. He helped plant the seeds for Mr. Trump`s July quid pro quo request to his successor to his successor, Volodymyr Zelensky.
Joining us now is Eric Lipton, investigative reporter at "The New York Times," one of the authors of this big investigative piece on Ukraine.
Mr. Lipton, I really appreciate you being here. Thanks for your time.
ERIC LIPTON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you.
MADDOW: So your reporting says that the White House did for a time, at least according to testimony in the impeachment inquiry, the White House did hold up the sale of Javelin missiles to Ukraine around the same time that Ukraine decided to freeze these criminal investigations into the president`s campaign chair, Paul Manafort. Both of those things happened. They seemed to have happened close to each other in time.
But does your reporting suggest those things were definitely linked?
LIPTON: Not necessarily. We don`t have evidence that demonstrates that convincingly. And the matter -- the holdup here was only a matter of weeks that OMB potentially was holding up the release of the Javelins. It was in December of 2017 that the State Department had announced that it was approving the sale and then in March was given final approval. By April 2018, the first of the Javelins had arrived. So, the holdup was not lasting that long.
The difference between the first go-round, second go-round, clear intention to influence political process in Ukraine. It was much clearer in the second round. In the first round, you had some of the same players. Giuliani was present in Ukraine and, you know, he was visiting with the President Poroshenko in June 2017 and November of 2017. We don`t know that Giuliani was, you know, very publicly suggesting political actions. He was there more clearly to actually pursue some foreign work and providing advice to a city that was trying to improve its own security.
So, there`s a lot of same characters. There`s a lot of chronological correlations, but the first go go-around, the quid pro quo part of it is not nearly clear cut.
MADDOW: And in terms of what Mr. Giuliani was over there talking to them about, clearly, some of the things you were describing there in terms of the business pursuits that he was having, the for-show meetings we know he was having at the time, certainly it was probably a prestige thing for a number of Ukrainian figures to be seen meeting with him, have their picture with him. Do we have any -- do you have any reporting or do we have any understanding about whether or not Giuliani might have been talking to this Ukrainian prosecutor about the special counsel investigation? About the Manafort prosecution? About whether or not Ukraine was going to offer cooperation and assistance to what was happening at the justice department at the time?
LIPTON: I mean, we do know that he did meet with that prosecutor at one point. As our understanding is, this was in June of 2017. Giuliani insists in a conversation that he had with Maggie Haberman, one of my colleague colleagues, over the weekend, that he was not bringing up Mueller at all and that he was not at that point working as the president`s lawyer and that his conversations and his work in Ukraine in that period was about his -- the private clients he had.
I mean, what we know for sure is that the President Poroshenko was trying to improve his relations with the United States and get military assistance from the United States. And he was doing that in part by offering things to Trump that he thought would appeal to Trump and that would be, for example, a deal of $70 million worth of the U.S. coal sales to Ukraine. Or a deal for GE to sell locomotives to Ukraine or Westinghouse to provide nuclear fuel to its power plants.
So those things were definitely happening. Giuliani was present during this, but the quid pro quo part of it relative to stopping the Mueller investigation is an open question. It`s an interesting and it looks like there`s some similarities between the later episodes. But it`s not as clear cut.
MADDOW: Let me also ask you about one other piece of it which I`ve been intrigued by ever since your colleague, Andrew Kramer, reported on this last May in "The Times" which was that sometime in this same framework, the Ukrainian government also made a decision to let a guy named Konstantin Kilimnik leave Ukraine and go to Russia, where, of course, he`s outside the reach of U.S. law enforcement.
Kilimnik was, of course, the right-hand man to Paul Manafort during his work in Ukraine. U.S. prosecutors have said they believed he`s linked to Russian intelligence. He was apparently the subject of Ukrainian criminal investigations as well related to some of these anti-corruption efforts.
Is there any reason to believe that these decisions about freezing the Manafort prosecutions and this decision to let Kilimnik go to Moscow, essentially, that those things might have been linked or might have been decisions made by the same people?
LIPTON: There`s reporting by Andrew Kramer who is, you know, gotten the best information on this that suggests that if there is a linkage, it`s, perhaps, a linkage between the willingness to provide the Javelin missiles and Poroshenko`s willingness then as president to, perhaps, help shut down the Mueller investigation and to -- to make it harder to go after Paul Manafort. There appears to be more of a clear linkage in that area, but it`s not necessarily clear that this was something that the president was asking.
The United States president was asking in exchange for the missiles. And so that`s the part that`s less clear. Whether or not it was just something that Poroshenko was offering.
MADDOW: So we can see all the dots but we can`t connect them and we certainly can`t draw causative arrows at this point.
LIPTON: Not yet.
MADDOW: Got it. Eric Lipton --
LIPTON: Not yet.
MADDOW: -- investigative reporter at "The New York Times." sir, thank you for -- this is both a complicated story and a fascinating story, but having you help us get through it is very helpful. Thank you.
LIPTON: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got still much more of today`s overwhelming amount of news to get to. So stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, a federal appeals court ruled that a grand jury subpoena for eight years of the president`s tax returns is a valid subpoena. And he can`t claim immunity as president from that kind of an investigatory step. The president has been waging this battle for months fighting multiple subpoenas, multiple lawsuits in multiple courts to try and keep his financial records and tax returns a secret.
It`s a fight that he`s continuously been losing, in every court with every judge. He has a perfect record so far. He`s lost every single ruling. In this new 34-page appeals court ruling today, it`s the second circuit U.S. court of appeals, they affirmed a lower court`s ruling that President Trump has to turn over his tax returns or at least that the subpoena for them is valid and so, therefore, his accountant must hand over those tax returns. This ruling was unanimous.
Because this was an appeals court, the president`s legal team is sort of running out of courts where they can keep trying to fight this thing. I mean, once you`re at the appeals court level, the only other place you can go is to the Supreme Court. That is presumably where this will go.
So this ruling has tons of interesting implications including potentially setting up the Supreme Court to look at this stuff. But there`s something else worth paying attention to in these rulings one after the other that President Trump doesn`t have the kind of immunity that he thinks he has. The way the president has been fighting these subpoenas for his financial records, the reason he says his taxes should say secret, is because he says that presidents are immune from investigation.
And that fairly radical argument from the president`s lawyers is being based by them fundamentally on a set of memos that live inside the Justice Department. Office of Legal Counsel memos which say a sitting president can`t be prosecuted while he`s in office.
Well, it`s one thing for a president not to be prosecuted while he`s in office, if that`s the OLC rule on these things, but does it derive from that that a president can`t be investigated, either? Kind of seems like a big leap. That`s what these courts keep saying one after the other.
But the other thing that keeps happening in all of these cases is that the judges keep questioning the underlying assertion here that the president can`t be prosecuted. Not just that he can`t be investigated, which is what these cases are about, they`re also -- these judges keep questioning the OLC memos that are the basis for that claim. Quote: The president claims to find support for his position in two memoranda from the Justice Department`s office of legal counsel which concluded that the president may not be prosecuted.
The judges write today, quote: Neither OLC memo concludes that a sitting president may not be investigated. We, therefore, find it unnecessary to consider whether OLC`s reasoning is persuasive.
This isn`t the first time that a court has told the president that these OLC memos either have no bearing on the question here or they might seem a little suspect. I mean, this is from last month -- the different judge weighing in on this same tax issue. Quote: The court is not persuaded that it should accord the weight and legal force the president ascribes to these OLC memos. The court considers such popular currency for the categorical concept of the memos and its legal support as not warranted.
This was just last week in D.C. district court. The legal conclusion from the OLC memos, quote, has never been adopted, sanctioned or in any way approved by a court.
So, the courts over and over again are going out of their way to say, Trump lawyers, you`re saying that all of these incredible immunities for president Trump derive from those OLC memos, these OLC memos which say that a president can`t be prosecuted. We`re not so sure that we believe in those OLC memos and we`re certainly not sure that we think that those are binding on the court.
When judges one after another start questioning the Justice Department`s assertion that a president can`t be prosecuted, when a president is up against what this president is up against right now in this impeachment proceeding, one might imagine that`s causing some agita in the White House.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I plant a tree in your honor today, and in my own and for all of us.
Today was one of those days in terms of sheer tonnage, in terms of sheer paper to plow through. I mean, you had the opinion from the second circuit ruling that the president can`t block state prosecutors from getting his tax returns. It`s 34 pages. Right there.
Then you got deposition transcripts from former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and Michael McKinley, former senior State Department official who resigned in protest of the way the State Department is churning up and spitting out their own personnel in part of the impeach the thing. That`s just shy of 500 pages between the two of them.
Also, the fascinating complaint from E. Jean Carroll who is suing President Trump for defamation after she alleges that he raped her. She -- he responded to that allegation by calling her a liar. She says that that`s defamation. She`s not lying and she can prove it. That was another 28 pages today.
Thanks to "BuzzFeed" and CNN, we then got the interview notes, the 302s, FBI interview notes from the Mueller investigation, for a bunch of key witnesses in that investigation. That`s another 278 pages. That`s literally north -- I`m going to hurt my back if I try to pick it all up.
Hold on. Scooch it over. OK. Now inhale. North of 800 pages of reading before we even got started on anything else that might be in the news today, right?
This is our life now. We measure the revelations about the president`s behavior in tons. It`s almost -- it is too much to absorb in one sitting. I`ve been sitting all day. Ask me about it.
But I have to tell you, there`s a couple things that jumped out at me that I still can`t believe we just got ahold of them and in any other circumstance with less paper being dumped on us today, this would be the headline story around the country. It`s two revelations that are both from the FBI interviews of Rick Gates, the president`s deputy campaign chairman. We`ve got the notes from those FBI interviews for the first time. And there are two jaw-dropping revelations there, and that`s next.
MADDOW: President Trump is a very singular president. He not only has a campaign chairman who`s sitting in federal prison, his deputy campaign chairman is currently awaiting sentencing after also pleading guilty to felony charges.
Well, in a newly released FBI interview notes from President Trump`s deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, we learned a couple things I`m absolutely flummoxed by. The first has to do with the National Republican Party, the RNC. Rick Gates told the FBI that the RNC was energized by the announcement from WikiLeaks in June 2016 that they plan to release more stolen emails from Hillary Clinton.
But according to Rick Gates the folks at the RNC were not just energized by these announcements from WikiLeaks, they were also in the know. From the interview notes: The RNC indicated they knew the timing of the upcoming releases. Hmm. According to Gates, the timing was, the only nonpublic information the RNC had about upcoming releases but he apparently said Republicans did have enough of a heads-up to know the timing, to know when more of these materials that were stolen by Russian intelligence and distributed by WikiLeaks, the RNC knew in advance when those distributions were going to happen.
They did? How`d they know that? That`s one. Here`s the other one. Rick Gates also told the FBI that Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman who`s now a federal inmate, had said that the hack on the DNC was, quote, likely carried out by the Ukrainians. Not the Russians. According to the FBI interview notes that, quote, parroted a narrative that Konstantin Kilimnik had often supported.
Konstantin Kilimnik, of course, was Manafort`s right-hand man in Ukraine. He is also assessed by the FBI to have ties to Russian intelligence.
So, this whole idea, the whole origin of this idea that Russia didn`t do it in 2016, it must have been Ukraine, this alternate reality conspiracy theory that was being voiced by Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, it didn`t originate with Manafort. It came from Manafort`s pal Konstantin Kilimnik, who, again, according to the FBI has tied to Russian intelligence.
So, by the transitive property, this means this is Russian intelligence promulgating this false narrative that exonerates Russia, right, that it was really Ukraine who did the election interference, not Russia. That`s from the Russian intel guy. That`s his story. He`s the one who started that. Now, of course, we`re living through that as the core weirdness at the center of the president`s impeachment in 2019, these allegations now from Rudy Giuliani and President Trump that just like Russian intel says, it wasn`t Russia that messed with our election. It must have been those dastardly Ukrainians.
Joining us now is Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He is member of the intelligence in the House.
Sir, thank you for being here tonight. I appreciate it.
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: So I`m buried in paper, as I know you and your staff are as well. But these interview notes, the FBI interview notes that were released, thanks to his FOIA request, this weekend, those are the two items to me that I find jaw-dropping. I want to get your reaction to each of those, to see how you see them and whether I might be misfiring here.
HIMES: Yes, well, certainly the early percolations of the Ukraine has the server thing, of course, you know, a completely debunked conspiracy, and let`s step back for a second, Rachel. Not just debunked, but the Mueller report, for those who actually bothered to read it and all of the associated indictments of specific people at specific addresses at the Internet Research Agency at a specific place in St. Petersburg, Russia -- I mean, again, we`ve got the receipts on this thing, right? You know. All kinds of people under indictment, the actual IP addresses that were used by the Russians to hack into the DNC, it`s all out there for people to read.
And yet the president of the United States in a conversation with a new president of the Ukraine brings up this wild theory that Ukraine was somehow responsible. And look, I think you`ve got the intriguing angle on it here, which is if you are the Russians and of course you know that you did it, but you want to create a little bit of uncertainty, why not have somebody like Kilimnik, which by the way you didn`t even mention, remember at this point Paul Manafort is actually sending Trump campaign polling data to Kilimnik, but why not have Kilimnik just muddy the waters a little further? And lo and behold, the president brings it up with the new president of Ukraine in July of this year.
MADDOW: That`s -- I mean, the time, the elapsing of time here between somebody like Kilimnik cooking this up, Paul Manafort amplifying it and starting to say, yes, let`s posit this alternate view of what might have happened in terms of foreign election interference, I mean, that`s all happening in 2016. Here it is 2019, three years later, and not only is that theory as ridiculous as it seems and as contrary to U.S. government`s own findings as it seems, not only is that still around but it`s now being voiced by the president himself and seems to be the basis on which he wants to construct this new relationship with Ukraine, where they only get their White House meetings and their military aid as long as they support this craziness.
I mean, that -- that development over the course of three years with it never going away and in fact only rising higher and higher just -- I`m absolutely bewildered by that.
HIMES: Well, I mean, yes. And, you know, you got two transcripts today of the depositions that have been held in my committee. As additional transcripts are released, you will see that this is still alive, that senior members of the Republican conference in those depositions are probing people about servers in Ukraine.
Rachel, if we had more time, it wouldn`t be hard and people who understand this sort of thing would validate it. It wouldn`t be hard to explain why folks that are looking at hacks don`t take the server. What they do is they mirror a server. They download every bit and bite in a server and they take it away and they -- you know, until all hours of the morning, they look at it.
So, this notion that a server got removed from the DNC -- by the way, this is the president of the United States` notion in a conversation with the president of Ukraine that the server got removed from the DNC. And by the way, remember, the president`s previous thing was why didn`t they take the server. But now the story is they took the server to Ukraine. I mean, this stuff is just fantastical. And it is the president of the president of the United States holding up military aid to a country that is under attack by Russia.
So it would all be very comical if it weren`t for the fact that the president`s actions challenged Ukrainian security and our own national security.
ROMANS: Congressman Jim Himes, member of the House Intelligence Committee. I know that we`re going to be buried in yet more paper tomorrow as more of these transcripts come out. Thanks for helping us understand this first tranche.
HIMES: Thank you, Rachel.
ROMANS: All right. One note before we go to break, and this is a sad note, sort of a personal one for those of us on the show. What you see of the show most of the time is the news of the day plus me talking about it. But if you could see just outside the periphery of my desk, you would find the skilled and lovely people who magically manage to get the show on TV every day. They are always here with me. They are always part of the show, pulling us through the inevitable chaos.
On Friday night, we lost one of those colleagues. His name is Simon Kerns, and he was killed in a motorcycle crash on Friday night. It appears that a car crossed into his lane.
He`s 39 years old. He was magnetic and fantastic, a wonderful colleague. By title, he was a technical associate for the show and for the network, but he was our friend, and we saw him every night here over seven years, most often running one of these cameras.
So that makes this a hard day for all of us here.
Simon, we`ll miss you.
MADDOW: As if this news day were not already insane enough, yet more new news tonight out of the impeachment proceedings. We have the first request for testimony as of tonight from somebody in the vice president`s office, from Mike Pence`s office.
NBC News tonight is reporting that Jennifer Williams, who is the special adviser for Europe and Russia in Vice President Pence`s office, she has now been asked to testify to the impeachment committees on Thursday. Again, this will be the first official from Mike Pence`s office to be called to testify. You`ll recall that the vice president has a key role to play in all of this. He appears to have been the one dispatched by the administration to go over to Ukraine and tell the Ukrainian president in person that he wasn`t getting his military aid unless he coughed up those investigations.
Well, now the vice president`s office for the first time will be asked formally to weigh in the form of staff testimony. Get your steps in. It`s going to be a nutty week.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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