RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.
By this time next week, Congress will have completed the first two public hearings in the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. The first one is going to happen on Wednesday. I will tell you, one of the things I did today is I just cleared my Wednesday morning calendar.
We think these hearings are planned to start at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. So if you`ve got something you were planning on doing mid-morning on Wednesday, now`s the time to find that tiny bottle of liquid paper you keep in your third drawer to white out whatever else you had on your calendar that day.
We know the first hearing, that Wednesday hearing, is going to be dramatic if only because of the first hearing. I mean, there haven`t been very many public impeachment proceedings against a sitting president of the United States in our history. So, Wednesday is going to be exciting if only because it`s such a historic occasion. But in terms of the specifics, we know that day we`ll hear from Ambassador Bill Taylor and from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent.
Now, over the course of these past few days, we have received transcripts from each of the depositions that those officials gave behind closed doors in the initial phase of this impeachment inquiry, which took place behind closed doors. And we`ve talked a little bit on the show this week about the strength of Taylor and Kent`s testimony, the basic claims that Taylor and Kent are able to attest to as witnesses.
Because we`ve seen their deposition transcripts, we fully expect that their testimony is going to be strong and dramatic and will sort of set the broad frame for what the president is being impeached for. But after that first hearing on Wednesday, there`s going to be a second hearing on Friday. That one will have as a witness the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, whose firing as our ambassador in that country appears to have been part of the scheme that President Trump was trying to carry out in Ukraine, pressuring that country to gin up investigations that he hoped could help him in his re-election effort against the Democrats.
And we don`t yet know who the other witnesses will be that the house is going to call for public testimony at these public hearings. Nor do we know at this point how many public impeachment hearings there`s going to be. But today, they released two more transcripts from closed door depositions by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. We know that from public reporting Colonel Vindman has already offered to testify at a possible hearing if the House impeachment committees decide that they want him to do so.
Based on the transcript released from his closed door testimony today, it seems like a good bet they will want him to testify. We also got a very long transcript today from Fiona Hill. She is a very interesting character in this drama.
And now that we have seen her testimony, the testimony that we got released from her today, I am -- I don`t know if you`d call it desperate, but I am close to desperate to know whether or not the impeachment committees are going to call Fiona Hill to testify at a public hearing as well, because Fiona Jill was the top Russia expert at the National Security Council. As such, she was deeply involved in Ukraine issues. Russia is at war in Ukraine.
She has testified in detail about witnessing what should have been a normal policy process towards Ukraine basically getting hot wired and turned into this whole other thing that was apparently design said to benefit President Trump`s re-election prospects instead of benefitting what was supposed to be U.S. policy towards Ukraine. Fiona Hill is the one who give us that vivid, vivid account of what happened inside the White House when the three amigos, when the president`s agents in the scheme stepped in and tried to pervert the whole process of the U.S. government engaging with the government of Ukraine to pervert that process so that it instead would turn to benefit President Trump politically.
And I am starting to gather that the defense now will be -- the president`s defense, the president`s supporters in Congress, their defense is going to be that what the president did and what the president had these officials do on his behalf was totally normal, the kind of stuff that governments do all the time. Why are you trying to make this a bad thing now, now that it`s President Trump`s doing it, everybody does stuff like this.
Well, it`s Fiona Hill`s account of how this all played in the White House that absolutely gives lie to that, that shows this is not at all the way that normal government interactions happen with a foreign government, particularly a government like Ukraine. What the president did was both weird and shocking and objected to instantly by people -- by nonpartisan career folks who know how these things are supposed to work.
Here`s her talk about a meeting at the White House on July 10th. She said, quote, Ambassador Sondland blurted out, well, we have an agreement with the chief of staff, meaning White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, for a meeting if these investigations in the energy sector start. Hill said, quote, we all kind of looked up and thought that was somewhat odd, and Ambassador Bolton, then national security advisor John Bolton, immediately stiffened and he ended the meeting.
Question to Fiona Hill: Right then he just ended the meeting?
Answer: Yes, he said it was very nice to meet you. I can`t discuss a meeting at this time. She said it was, quote, very abrupt.
Question: Did you have a conversation with Ambassador Bolton after this meeting.
Answer: I did.
Question: Describe that.
Answer: Ambassador Sondland said to Ambassador Kurt Volker and also Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and the other people who were with him, including the Ukrainians to come down to a room in the White House, the Ward Room, to basically talk about next steps. That is also unusual.
I mean, he meant to talk to Ukrainians about next steps about the meeting.
Question: The White House meeting?
Answer: Yes, the White House meeting. Meaning the White House meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky, which Gordon Sondland just blurted out that meeting could only happen if Ukraine started these investigations. He just said it explicitly and said it had all been arranged already through White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Hill says, quote: Bolton pulled me back after I was walking out afterwards and said go down to the Ward room right now and find out what they`re talking about and come back and talk to me. So I did go down. And Ambassador Sondland, in front of the Ukrainians, as I come in, was talking about how we had an agreement with Chief of Staff Mulvaney for a meeting with the Ukrainians if they were going to go forward with investigations.
My director for Ukraine, she says, quote, was looking completely alarmed. We believe the director for Ukraine in this context is Colonel Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council who sits at the Ukraine desk there. He`s looking, quote, completely alarmed.
Fiona Hill says, quote, I came in as this discussion was under way, and I said, look, I don`t know what is going on here. Look, I don`t know what is going on here, but Ambassador Bolton wants to make it very clear that we have to talk about how we`re going to setup this meeting. It has to go through proper procedures.
And Sondland started to basically talk about discussions that he`d had with the Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. He mentioned Mr. Giuliani, but then I cut him off because I did not want to get further into this discussion at all.
Question: So, it was you personally who heard Ambassador Sondland mention Burisma? Correct. In the Ward Room? Correct. And Mr. Vindman was also there and heard it? Yes, and Kurt Volker. Oh!
And then after that in her testimony, she gives -- you`ve probably seen it in a few headlines -- she says after this crime scene that she basically witnessed in the White House, she has instructed, went back to go to talk to her boss, national security adviser John Bolton. She says, quote: I went back to talk to Ambassador Bolton and Ambassador Bolton asked me to go over and report this to the National Security Council`s lawyer, to John Eisenberg.
He told me, and this is direct quote from Ambassador Bolton: You go and tell him -- you go and tell Eisenberg, I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this. And you go and tell him what you`ve heard.
So, this is -- I mean, this is already the kind of stuff that they`ve got from their closed door depositions, which they are now one by one releasing publicly, right? We`re getting hundreds of pages of these depositions released every day. That`s why I have these circles under my eyes.
But all this material that we`ve got, it shows you, as we`re heading towards public impeachment hearings next week, it shows you now ware seeing these transcripts, you know, among other things, how they put together their witness list. You saw what? And who else was there? They saw it too? Can we talk to them?
It`s like the world`s simplest detective novel. This is like clue where there`s only three cards. You already know who done it and when and why and in front of whom. We just have to figure out if they used a candlestick and who Professor Plum was. It`s done. It`s all there.
But there`s another piece of this that I now understand that I`m not sure I did today, before reading the Fiona Hill 400-plus-page-long transcript, and this thing is I think important to try to get our heads around just as members of the public are going to be watching this thing, I think it`s helpful to get our heads around this before those hearings start next week. And that point that I finally sort of figured out today, maybe everybody got this before me.
But what finally sunk in for me is the question of these hearings is going to be done by the committee chairman who`s leading the impeachment inquiry, by Congressman Adam Schiff. He`s a former prosecutor. He`s very sober and restrained. You have heard him in congressional hearings. You know what he`s like.
We also know that on both sides, they`re going to defer a lot of their question time to professional committee staff who are also well-trained lawyers who are going to be able to draw this out Perry Mason style over the course of continuous questioning that isn`t broken up into little blocks like we`ve seen with other dissatisfying hearings, where the questioning is all done by members of Congress. But it`s not going to be just majority members and majority committee staff, right? It`s not only Democrats that are going to be asking their questions here. Republicans will get their equal time, too, both their members and their staff.
And what I`m finally realizing is I think that might be the best part. And we know the Republicans are kind of panicking about who they`ve got on the impeachment committees. There`s a Republican congressman named Devin Nunes who`s become kind of a figure of fun. He`s like suing somebody who pretends to be his cow and maintains a Twitter account in that guise. He`s suing the fake cow on Twitter. It`s a little weird.
Devin Nunes ran for office, this last time saying he`s a farmer, he`s a farmer. If so, he doesn`t have a farm. He`s the one who ran up to the White House with that evidence at the beginning of the Russia investigation and said the whole thing about, you know, Trump Tower being wiretapped.
I mean, Devin Nunes is supposedly their top man on the main impeachment committee, which is House Intel. They appear to be swapping Devin Nunes out now for a different member of Congress, a different Republican named Jim Jordan.
But I want you to check this out because one of the things we now know in this case, in the Fiona Hill deposition, Jim Jordan`s top staffer is doing a bunch of the questioning in these depositions. And I think it ultimately epitomizes what the Republicans are going to try to do here, which is they`re basically trying to continue the scheme for which President Trump is being impeached. Apparently the way they are approaching this is they want to make the case, you know what, Russia didn`t interfere in the 2016 election. Actually it was Ukraine trying to help Hillary Clinton and you know what, they were all trying to help Hillary Clinton. And that`s why Hillary Clinton lost -- wait.
And Paul Manafort was framed. Paul Manafort definitely didn`t take all those off the books millions of dollars from pro-Putin political parties in Ukraine and not pay taxes on it here in the United States. He was setup. And the reason he was setup was to make Russia look bad?
I mean, it`s weird. Like the counter argument here is weird. But it`s apparently what they`re going for, including like the setting up Paul Manafort part. And I don`t know if they`re going to call Fiona Hill as one of the public hearing witnesses, but I just want you to see how she handled this. In the closed door depositions thus far, just check this out.
Here she is in a back and forth with a Republican committee staffer who works for Jim Jordan who`s presumably going to be the best Republicans have got at these public hearings.
Question: Are you aware of the allegation there`s been some reporting there was a big article in 2017 about the Ukrainians efforts to affect the outcome of the U.S. election?
Answer: I`m aware of the articles.
Question: And do you give any credibility to some of the basic charges in there, such as redacted, are you familiar with that? Would it be helpful if we marked this as an exhibit?
Answer: I`ve seen that article.
Question: OK. Answer: And I`m very confident based on all the analysis that`s been done and, again, I don`t want to start getting into intelligence matters, but I`m very confident the Ukrainian government did not interfere in our election in 2016.
Question: OK. But you`re aware of the reporting?
Answer: I`m aware of the reporting, but that doesn`t mean that amounts to an operation by the Ukrainian government. Fiona Hill, quote, "There`s no Ukrainian government effort to subvert our elections which is comparable to anything that the Russians did in 2016. And if we start down this path, not discounting what one individual or a couple of individuals might have done, if we start down this path ahead of our 2020 elections we are setting ourselves up for the same kind of failures and intelligence failures that we had before." Republican lawyer: OK.
Hill: Look, I feel very strongly about this.
The lawyer: Evidently.
Hill: I`m not trying to mess about here.
Hill: Yes, and so you should too in terms of our national security.
Lawyer: Well, let me help you understand here, I`m trying to understand.
Hill: It is a fiction that the Ukrainian government was launching an effort to upend our election, upend our election to mess with our democratic symptoms. Republican lawyer: OK.
Hill: I`m not sure where we`re going with this line of inquiry here. Lawyer: I`m just asking you about --
Hill: Because if you`re trying to peddle an alternative variation of whether the Ukrainians subverted our election, I don`t want to be part of that, and I will not be part of it. Lawyer: I`m not trying to peddle anything.
Hill: Well, it`s the thrust of the question you`re asking here. You know, what we are dealing with now is a situation where at risk of saying that everything that happened in 2016 was a result of Ukraine in some fashion?
Lawyer: Yes, I`m not saying that. I`m not.
Hill: Well, that`s certainly what it sounds like to me.
The lawyer: I`m not going down that path.
Hill: The Russians are the government that have been proven from the very top to be targeting our government systems.
Republican lawyer: OK, fair enough.
Hill: And I`m sorry to be very passionate. But this is precisely.
The lawyer: I didn`t say you did, I`m just trying to get your reaction to - -
Hill: This is precisely why I joined the administration. I didn`t join it because I thought the Ukrainians have been going after the president.
Lawyer: I didn`t say you did. I`m just trying to get your reaction to --
Hill: Well, my reaction is pretty strong because again --
The lawyer: I know. Again, I`m extremely concerned that this is rabbit hole that we are going to go down here -- that we are going to go down in between now and the 2020 elections. And it will be to all of our detriment. I am just trying to basically here that I have very obviously strong feelings about our national security and just want to -- if I have done anything, she says, if I have done anything, I want to leave a message to you that we should all be greatly concerned about what the Russians intends to do in 2020 and any information that they can provide, you know, that basically deflects our attention away from what they did and what their planning on doing, that is very useful to them.
That is useful to them. That is useful to the Russians. What year doing here with this disinformation and these conspiracy theories that just happen to exonerate Russia for what they did, I mean this is -- this is portrait of Fiona Hill, but this is portrait of Republican members of Congress and these top Republican staffers and the way they`re going to approach the impeachment inquiry. They`re trying to talk Fiona Hill, this Russian veteran intelligence officer, trying to talk her into the idea really wasn`t President Trump onto something here? Don`t you agree maybe Ukraine is the one who intervened in our election, not Russia and they should cough up these investigations that will make Hillary Clinton look bad and Joe Biden and all that? I mean, Dr. Hill, wouldn`t you say?
And she just destroys them. Right? And also puts into context authoritatively and with some passion why it`s so bad for the United States that the Republicans are approaching it this way. What is so dangerous to our national security and who they are helping by doing this, which is not the United States of America, it`s our adversaries who seek to do us the most harm, and they are playing that game for those adversaries.
So, that`s what it`s been like behind closed doors so far. The public impeachment hearings start next week, which means it`s, you know, show time in terms of his presidency and the possibility that the House will impeach him and the Senate will be asked to consider whether to remove him from office. We know heading into next week that the list of witnesses the House has assembled even with those first two hearings is a serious and formidable bunch. If Fiona Hill is any indication from her closed door deposition, the Republican questioning of these witnesses is going to be a thing to behold.
Now, in addition to the Republican members of Congress and their own committee lawyers and committee staff they`re going to be asking these questions. And again, we`ve got a preview of that already. The president`s also drafting his own legal team in terms of who he will have on his side, his defense in the impeachment.
And there`s reporting today that Rudy Giuliani is still on the president`s legal team. He says he is still the president`s lawyer. He has also simultaneously just lined up his own team of criminal defense lawyers for himself.
And we`ve talked about this a little bit already this week, but now we`ve got a little more detail on one of the additional criminal defense lawyers Rudy Giuliani has just brought onboard. Do you remember this guy who was Trump`s acting attorney general for like five minutes after Trump fired Jeff Sessions but after he hired Bill Barr? This guy isn`t working for Giuliani, but if you remember him -- I`ll give you relevant context here. You might remember one of many controversies in almost sort of unbelievably pathetic trailing ends in Matthew Whitaker`s career before Trump inexplicably named him acting attorney general, one of the weird things we very quickly learned about Matt Whitaker is that Whitaker had been involved in a company called World Patent Marketing.
And World Patent Marketing was shut down as a massive criminal fraud scheme. This was one of the real doozies when it came to Trump administration personnel vetting. They named this person to be attorney general when nothing in his career suggests he would ever approach that level of job title, or anything close to it. Literally, six months before they named him attorney general of the United States, that scam he`d been associated with, World Patent Marketing, was fined $26 million by the FTC for running a fake invention promotion grift. They got shutdown and fined $26 million. That was like the next thing on his resume.
Now, if World Patent Marketing isn`t ringing a bell for you, I will tell you what you will remember. One of the most prominent, protuberant -- that`s not the word. One of their most pendulous, memorable promoted inventions was what they called the masculine toilet. Remember this? You remember this because regular toilets don`t work for really big guys. Yes, that was one of the inventions they were promoting at the Matt Whitaker World Patent Marketing Company that got shutdown.
That company, the big guy toilet company, that criminal fraud scheme that was associated with the man who Trump appointed attorney general of the United States also had to have a legal representative through their ultimately unsuccessful fight to avoid paying tens of millions of dollars in fines and getting shut down as a criminal fraud scheme, their legal representative in that unsuccessful fight, the big man toilet company, their legal representative through their whole shutdown is a scam, that is now Rudy Giuliani`s defense lawyer. While we`re told Rudy Giuliani is still himself on the president`s legal defense during impeachment.
Also on the president`s legal team, well, here again for context -- remember yesterday`s news the president had to pay $2 million and agree to shutdown forever his fraudulent fake charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, as part of a settlement in the New York court? One of the things President Trump had to stipulate to was the fact he used his charity to illegally give $25,000 to a state attorney general who was considering at the time whether or not she would have her state join a case against one of the president`s other big fraud schemes -- the Trump university scam, for which the president ultimately had to pay a $25 million fraud assessment just before he was sworn in as president.
The president sent her a $25,000 illegal donation from his fake charity. And immediately thereafter, that attorney general decided that, oh, no, actually her state wouldn`t join that lawsuit against Trump University. Within 24 hours of having to pay that $2 million fine and shutdown his fake charity and admit to that illegal payment being made through his fraudulent charity, President Trump also announced within 24 hours that that former state attorney general to whom he had made that illegal $25,000 payment, she`s also going to be on his impeachment legal team, just as soon as she unregisters as a foreign agent for Qatar. According to the associated press tonight, that is in process.
So I mean, man, get ready. This is the world`s most serious thing, right? We`re the most powerful country on earth and our elected representatives are considering the awesome and very seldomly used prospect of removing the commander-in-chief from his office against his will for high crimes and misdemeanors. This is very serious thing and it is being fought seriously on one side with very, very serious witnesses lined up in their corner. And then there`s the other side, too.
We will be right back.
MADDOW: Just one little bit I want you to hear from Fiona Hill`s transcript we got today. This is her responding to questioning from a New York Republican congressman named Lee Zeldin.
Zeldin is again one of these -- one of these Republican members who the Republicans are thinking about trying to insert belatedly into the impeachment committees because they think he`s so good, because they think his questioning is so powerful and they want to get rid of their existing members and put a guy in who`s so great. Well, listen what happens between Fiona Hill and Lee Zeldin here.
Hill says, quote: Remember, I`ve been the national intelligence officer for Russia before this for 3 1/2 years so a lot of the information I have is classified. And I don`t know from my previous position about how many people were trying to gain influence into our politics and it`s very much the Russians who want to show in fact it wasn`t them that were involved in 2016.
Lee Zeldin: So I don`t misunderstand your answer, based on your personal knowledge you`re not aware of, redacted, being involved in Ukrainians attempting to interfere with the U.S. election? Fiona Hill: Correct. And I also just want to point out there that our intelligence agencies were pretty thorough about a lot of the investigations and things here. Look, and I`m sorry to get testy about, you know, this back and forth because I`m really worried about these conspiracy theories, and I`m worried that all of you are going to go down a rabbit hole, you know, looking for things that are not going to be helpful to the American people and to our future election in 2020.
You just had a Senate report coming out informing us all yet again, a bipartisan, nonpartisan Senate report about the risk that there is to our elections. If we have people running around chasing rabbit holes because Rudy Giuliani or others have been feeding information to "The Hill or "Politico", we`re not going to be prepared as a country to push back on this again. The Russians thrive on misinformation and disinformation, and I just want to say that was the reason why I went into this administration.
We are in peril as a democracy because of other people interfering here. The Russians who attacked us in 2016, and they`re now writing the script for others to do the same. And if we don`t get our act together, they will continue to make fools of us internationally. Whereupon Lee Zeldin disappeared into a poof of smoke.
Joining us now is Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the Oversight Committee who sat in all eight of the depositions released this week.
Sir, thank you very much for joining us. It`s good to have you here.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So you guys have released more than 2,600 pages of testimony. I feel it in my bones because we`ve been trying to keep up here. Tell me about how this works structurally, releasing this testimony, almost completely unredacted so we can see the narrative, see the questioning that all of these witnesses have given before you head into the public hearings part of this.
Why structure it that way?
RASKIN: Well, we want the public to see everything that we saw except for tiny bits of classified information. We want to obviously refute the Republicans who said there was anything untoward going on behind closed doors. In fact, they have 50 percent of the questioning, we had 50 percent of the questioning. And I see no sooner have we begun to release all of these deposition transcripts for the public to read that the president is now saying he`s opposed to public hearings and he doesn`t want to go forward with the public having access to this.
And I think the reason for that, you touched on just before in a perceptive way really their last remaining argument is that in fact everything that Rudy Giuliani and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and their team was up was in fact leading to the truth and that it was not Russia that engaged in a sweeping and systematic campaign to subvert our election as special counsel Mueller found, as the FBI found, as the CIA found. It was the Ukrainians. And in fact, the whole Ukraine operation was really trying to get at the truth of some corruption that had been buried about Joe Biden.
And all of that has been completely and utterly discredited by the witnesses here. So they don`t really have anything left. They may double down on all of the right wing conspiracy theories, or the alternative is they just kind of go with the truth, and they say, yes, but it`s not an impeachable offense because there`s nothing particularly egregious about it.
In fact, no president in the history of the United States of America has ever done anything remotely close to this, that is to shakedown a foreign government to get manufactured political information to go after a domestic political rival and withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance in the process that Congress had voted for a besieged foreign ally resisting Russian aggression at a time when part of their country is being occupied.
So, they don`t really have many places to go, and I think you correctly identified how embarrassing it was for the Republicans who just could not lay a glove on any of these witnesses who are war heroes, people who have devoted their lives to the State Department. They are experts on Russia. They are experts on the Ukraine. They`re experts on Europe.
And the Republicans really don`t know what to do at this point.
MADDOW: It does seem like there`s one other -- there`s sort of a door number three they could choose here. We have seen as I mentioned the Republicans very quickly at the very last minute trying to change the membership of the Intelligence Committee because they want some of their members out who they don`t think would be effective in that room and they want others in who they think would be more effective.
NBC News is reporting tonight Republicans on the Hill are looking at the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings as a model, which would suggest we`re in for some, forgive me, sort histrionics, some sort of carnival tactics, some sort of disruptive tactics.
Have you and your colleagues prepared amongst yourselves about how you`re going to deal with that kind of potential disruption?
RASKIN: Well, I think you`re always right. That is always the Hail Mary Pass by our GOP colleagues. It`s just to engage in circus diversions and character assassination.
You know, they teach you in law school if the facts are against you, you pound the law. If the law is against you, you pound the facts. If both the law and facts are against you, you pound the table.
And we already saw them conduct their faux civil disobedience, where they became the first sit-in protesters fighting for high crimes and misdemeanors. So, it`s just an embarrassment and a disgrace. I suppose it works only in a media environment where you`re speaking to people who have no access to the facts and no access to the truth, and you`re able to engage in these cult-like antics and provocations.
MADDOW: I just -- to that point, I mean, I don`t know how this is going to go, but I feel like my worry here reading so many hundreds of pages of these transcripts and seeing what the story has been laid-out and having a lot of respect for the experience and sacrifice of these witnesses you guys are bringing forward, I feel like there`s a risk that Democrats are sort of prepared to win the argument and to lay out the facts and to bolster in a prosecutorial way their understanding about what has happened.
And that works on paper, but if you are up against another side that is determined to make this not about those facts and not about this argument and instead about something that is made for TV and crazy and disruptive and discrediting to the whole process, I don`t -- I don`t know the best way to fight against that. And I`m not sure I`ve ever seen Democrats effectively do it.
So I guess there`s not a question there. Just sort of just positing it to you.
RASKIN: It moves now into the public hearings where the public is going to get a real education into what happened and what this shadow campaign was to subvert the U.S. foreign policy by the president and by his, you know, appointed private deputies. But then it`s going to go to the Judiciary Committee. And the Judiciary Committee is now filled with people who are battle scarred veterans of these circus-like provocations and I think you`re going to find a majority on the Judiciary Committee that`s ready for them.
The other thing is people in the majority have been very bolstered by this testimony. If you read Dr. Fiona Hill, for example, she`s someone who cut through all the nonsense and basically said you guys should cut this out because what`s at stake is democracy. I mean, all over the world we`ve got the despots and dictators and strong men and tyrants on the march for authoritarianism, anti-Semitism, racism. They`re scapegoating people.
They`re demonizing George Soros and so, and she`s basically saying you`re playing along on their side. You`re playing along with the authoritarians, and we`ve got to stand up for democracy.
And I think you`re going to find that the Democrats are going to be very tough and serious about just this point, because if we let it all go now, we`re not just throwing away our Constitution and our Bill of Rights and everything that our forefathers and foremothers fought for in the revolution, in the Civil War, and Civil Rights movement, and the labor movement, and women`s movement, but we`re throwing away the chances for a lot of chances for a lot of people around the world to have democracy and human rights too.
So we understand the stakes of the struggle and we`re really ready for the battle to come.
MADDOW: Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, sir, thank you for your time tonight. I hope you get a good night sleep for next week. Thank you very much.
RASKIN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a lot more to get to. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Sometimes being a journalist requires you to be fast on your feet literally. This was outside the Roger Stone trial today. Watch what happens as the afternoon star witness, Steve Bannon, leaves the courthouse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Are you actually reluctant witness, Mr. Bannon?
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE STRATEGIST: Yes, I was compelled to testify. Like I was compelled to testify, I was under subpoena by Mueller. I was under subpoena by the House.
I got a handwritten subpoena in my House testimony. I was force today go to the grand jury. And I`m forced and compelled to come here today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Steve Bannon speaking to reporters today about he`s a reluctant witness. Yes, I`m a really reluctant witness. I was under subpoena. I was forced to be here. He said in court today he would not have been there if he`d not been forced to be there.
He neglected to mention in that answer, in fact, before he was subpoenaed, he voluntarily spoke with prosecutors in this case. And even though he was under subpoena by Robert Mueller to speak with the grand jury, he also without a subpoena spoke to Mueller`s investigators for hours and hours and hours.
He doesn`t want to talk about that, though. He wants to talk about seeming very reluctant to testify. I definitely wouldn`t be doing this.
Steve Bannon was Donald Trump`s campaign chief, later his chief strategist in the White House. Roger Stone is the president`s longest serving advisor. Today, Steve Bannon testified against Roger Stone. He was a witness for the prosecution.
On the stand today, Bannon drew a straight line between the Trump campaign and Stone as the campaign`s access point for WikiLeaks which, of course, was distributing Democratic documents and e-mails that had been stolen by Russian intelligence.
Bannon said on the stand, quote, the campaign had no official access to WikiLeaks or to Julian Assange but Roger would be considered if we needed an access point, because he had implied or told me, he had a relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.
In the last few weeks of run up to the election of 2016, you might remember WikiLeaks teasing an October surprise. It was going to be a terrible thing to hurt Hillary Clinton`s campaign. The group said they`d unleash that October surprise on October 4th at a press conference.
They held a press conference but didn`t actually release anything that day. After the press conference, we now know Steve Bannon e-mailed Roger Stone. He said in an e-mail, what was that this morning?
That e-mail was entered into evidence in Roger Stone`s trial. Prosecutors asked Bannon today why he sent that after the WikiLeaks press conference. Bannon responded, quote, he told me he had a relationship with Assange. Quote, it would be natural for me to reach out to him.
That`s the president`s campaign chief from that time testifying under oath that as far as the Trump campaign was concerned, when they wanted to communicate with WikiLeaks to obtain information from them that had been of course stolen by Russian intelligence, they used Roger Stone as their effort to do that. They used Roger Stone for that purpose because he said he could get to Julian Assange.
Roger Stone was their access point, and by extension he was their access point to the stolen material that was weaponized against Clinton in the 2016 election.
The reporter who chased down Steve Bannon as he was leaving court today, as Bannon turned to say, I`m only here reluctantly, that reporter joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Are you actually reluctant witness, Mr. Bannon?
BANNON: Yes, I was compelled to testify. Like I was compelled to testify, I was under subpoena by Mueller. I was under subpoena by the House.
I got a handwritten subpoena in my House testimony. I was force today go to the grand jury. And I`m forced and compelled to come here today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Are you actually a reluctant witness, Mr. Bannon?
The reporter who asked that question, that got Steve Bannon to stop in his tracks, stop getting in that car and wheel around and make that, yes, I don`t want to be here, I`m forced and compelled to make that statement, the reporter who asked that question of Bannon today was "Politico`s" Josh Gerstein. He`s been in the courtroom for this Roger Stone trial. He was there for Bannon`s testimony. Josh is a senior legal affairs contributor at Politico.com, and he joins us now.
Josh, thanks very much for being here. I really appreciate you making the time.
JOSH GERSTON, SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR, POLITICO: Hi, Rachel. Good to see you again.
MADDOW: So, why did you ask Bannon that? I mean, he was already to getting in that car and bogey (ph), but your question really stopped him in his tracks and he wheeled around to give you that answer.
GERSTEIN: Well, as you alluded to Rachel, he`s been pretty much putting out word on the street for the last day or two that his arm has been twisted to participate and show up in the Roger Stone trial as a prosecution witness. And it`s never been totally clear to me how much his arm has been twisted. As you mentioned he did cooperate pretty extensively with the Mueller investigation, he even cooperated with these prosecutors who questioned him today.
But when he got on the witness stand, he not only publicly but to the jury seemed to want to make clear he was a very reluctant witness. He kept using those words, compelled, forced. He said if it was up to him, he wouldn`t have shown up voluntarily unless he`d been subpoenaed. So this seems to be the message he wants to put out.
I don`t know why precisely why I suspect it has to do with his audience for his current ventures. He`s doing something defending the president, a media venture on impeachment and I think some of his other projects, if he was seen sort of in track with the Mueller team or the deep state, I don`t think it would be a very good look for him with the Breitbart crowd.
MADDOW: And just to put a fine point on this, when identify say he cooperated extensively with Mueller and these prosecutors who brought this case against Roger Stone, what you mean is even though he did get a subpoena to testify to the grand jury and today, those other elements of his prosecution, the hours of interviews he did with prosecutors for Mueller and prosecutors in the Stone case, that was all without a subpoena.
GERSTEIN: Right, you`re not compelled to do interviews with the FBI. You`re not compelled to do a pre-interview with prosecutors. If you want to go strictly by the book and what`s legally required, you can say, I won`t show up. You can demand immunity for example is another thing you can ask for. And I didn`t hear anything from him that he asked for that.
So, you certainly can be a more recalcitrant witness then Bannon was today.
MADDOW: And, Josh, it is -- just my personal sort of bias or my personal restrictions in covering the Stone trial, it`s really hard for me to summon the energy in terms of Roger Stone`s own fate just because of his theatrics and how much attention he wants. I am interested in whether this trial is essentially answering this core question as to whether Trump`s campaign was trying to work with, trying to make contact with, trying to engage with the people who are releasing the documents that Russian intelligence stole during the campaign. I mean, it seems that core question of whether that happened during the campaign and really being addressed substantively in the case.
GERSTEIN: It is. And it does seem that Roger Stone was trying to cover up at least some of his interactions with people close to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. You know, he eventually owned up reluctantly to his contacts with Randy Credico, who`s a New York talk show host who had some ties with WikiLeaks. But he never really admitted -- he had another reporter friend, a very conservative, right wing sort of conspiracy-oriented writer named Jerome Corsi, who he`d also dispatched to London to try to get information from Assange at that Ecuadorian embassy, and it seems like Mueller`s investigators were always a bit puzzled about why Stone was being so secretive about his dealings related to WikiLeaks, why he seemed to be lying about some of those dealings.
And they seem to have suspected maybe he had another kind of, quote, back channel to WikiLeaks. But it seems they were never able to really nail that down.
MADDOW: Josh Gerstein, senior legal affairs contributor at "Politico", Roger Stone trial watcher, you do it so we don`t have to -- Josh, thanks a lot for being here tonight. I really appreciate it.
GERSTEIN: Thanks, Rachel. Anytime.
MADDOW: We`ve got one last story for you this Friday night, and it is a good one. Stay with us. That`s next.
MADDOW: In the spring of 1864, in the heat of the U.S. civil war, an ironclad Confederate gunboat started an assault on Union-controlled garrison in the coast of North Carolina. The attack by that Confederate gunboat sunk a Union ship and damaged another. Within a few days, the Confederate Navy had fully overtaken that union strong hold. It was an important battle. Plymouth, North Carolina, the Battle of Plymouth.
Today, Plymouth, North Carolina, is a small town of less than 4,000 people. It`s nestled right up alongside the Roanoke River, with really nice maritime museum. Look at that. it has a historic lighthouse. It`s a beautiful spot.
That said, the government in Plymouth, North Carolina, has never really reflected the population that lives there, at least not recently. The majority of the people in Plymouth are African-American. The town`s about 70 percent black, and it`s been that way for a long time.
Plymouth has never been represented by a black mayor. And the city council has always been majority white. Plymouth forever has been a mostly black town with a mostly white government.
Well, this week, Tuesday, Plymouth, North Carolina, held an election like a lot of towns and states did this week. And this week on Tuesday in Plymouth, North Carolina, elected themselves as brand new mayor.
His name is Shawn Hawkins. He was born in Plymouth. He served on the Plymouth city council before he decided to run for mayor this year. And he won. He ousted the town`s current mayor who had been in the job for 18 years.
As of Tuesday this week, Shawn Hawkins is the first African-American ever elected mayor in Plymouth, North Carolina. We talked to Mayor-elect Hawkins after his victory this week. He told us he decided to run because he wanted to try to bridge the gap between the local government and the people they represent.
He told us, quote: So many people have felt left behind and excluded in a lot of what`s taken place in Plymouth. After the outcome of the election, there were a lot of individuals really excited and they`re looking forward to the change.
That change was reflected in the city council, too. For the first time in Plymouth, North Carolina, history, three of the six members of the city council are people of color. This is Mayor-elect Hawkins with two of the newly elected members. These elections this week brought big change to little Plymouth, North Carolina.
These elections this week brought big change to Virginia where Democrats flipped the whole state legislator and to Kentucky where Democrats flipped a governor seat. And we look to off-year elections for signs what might happen in the really big votes next year, for the House, the Senate, the White House.
Those also loom with an impeachment inquiry currently working its way through congress. And these election results next week you don`t want to oversell them. But they may call the question a little bit what Republicans are going to do in Washington, in the House and especially the Senate, because deciding how much you`re willing to standby the president while he`s going to be impeached is honestly going to be a decision both of conscience and of political calculation for Republicans.
Do the election results we saw this week change the results at all for Republicans who have to think about their conscience and they have to think about their futures? Do they change their mental math at all when they think about it, thinking about how this next year is going to go and their own seats being at risk?
Open hearings in the impeachment inquiry start Wednesday morning.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again Monday.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ali.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END