RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.
So what we are learning in this time in American history is that not everybody gets a soft landing. Some people do. Some people don`t. But you can`t necessarily predict it in advance. It really depends on the circumstances.
If you are going to get caught up on one of these Trump administration scandals, woe be unto you if you think you can see from the beginning how it`s going to end for you once you get caught. Take, for example, what happened on Friday when the president`s longest term political adviser Roger Stone was convicted on seven felony counts.
Now, under statutory guidelines, that means Stone could be facing literally decades in prison. He is not that young a man. And when you see on paper that he could be looking at like 50 years in prison, it kind of looks like the end of the world for somebody like Roger Stone, the end of his free life, right?
But the statutory maximum sentence, the sentence he might theoretically get on paper is nowhere near what he`s actually likely to get. The guidelines, for example, suggest a sentence much shorter than the statutory maximum, also it`s his first offense. It`s sort of a white-collar offense, although I`m never really quite sure what the dividing line is there. In any case, nobody really thinks he`s going to get decades in prison. But it is seven felony counts including witness tampering which is a serious one.
There`s an interesting thing that happened right at the end of the day in court on Friday right after the jury read out their verdict about Roger Stone in what was something of a surprise. The prosecutors in the stone case asked as soon as the judge was -- as soon as the verdict was read, they asked the judge to remand Roger Stone in custody, to put him in jail that day right then rather than allow him to go home again, as he`d been able to do during the course of his trial.
Here`s how it went in court. The judge: Does the government have a position with respect to the defendant`s release pending the sentencing date? Prosecutor: Yes, your honor. The government moves for the defendant to be remanded to custody.
The judge: All right. What would be the basis for that at this time? Prosecutor: Your honor, throughout the pendency of these proceedings, the defendant has shown an unwillingness or inability to abide by the conditions of release that the court set for him. The court has already held two hearings on that issue. As the court noted at the show cause hearing back in February, the defendant`s inability or unwillingness to abide by those orders affects the safety of the community.
In light of the jury`s verdict today, that presumption has now shifted. And I think that given the defendant`s failure to comply with these orders in the past, he cannot make the showing necessary to overcome that presumption. I would note also that the charges of which the defendant now stands convicted are serious. They include obstruction of justice and tampering with a witness.
So, that`s the prosecutors in Roger Stone`s case. On all seven felony counts for which he was being tried. That`s the prosecutors asking the judge to lock him up, to put him in jail while he awaits sentencing. Now that he`s been convicted. And the judge in the Roger Stone case, although she had repeatedly had to adjudicate these little crises where Roger Stone broke those orders about how he was supposed to behave while he was out on bail a awaiting his trial. Despite the fact that she had all that trouble with him earlier in his criminal proceedings, she nevertheless told the prosecutors she was not going to remand him to custody. The judge saying basically that at least for now, she is still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Quote: I believe that since the last time, I entered the order at least the third time that Mr. Stone has largely adhered to it. And we have not had to reconvene and we have not had to deal with problems of that nature. He has been here for every court appearance. I have no reason to believe that he`s not going to be here at his next court appearance.
And while there was a rough start, I will release him on his current condition pending the sentencing date. At which point, Roger Stone presumably exhaled learning that he would not be put in jail that day, right, to await his sentencing date, right? He was not going to go directly from the courtroom with the seven guilty verdicts right into federal custody.
But then the judge did go on to do one other thing, which is quite unusual. The court orders that Roger Stone -- the court orders that Roger Stone kept defying during his pretrial proceedings and during his trial. Those were largely related to this order that the judge had put on him, which we commonly call a gag order, which said that Roger Stone wasn`t allowed to make any public statements or statements to the media about his case.
That had been the rule that was supposed to govern his behavior in pretrial proceedings. And he broke it a couple of times and the judge kept yelling at him about it. Ultimately he cooled on that sort of. The prosecutors are saying he broke those kinds of rules often enough that you should lock him up now that he has been convicted. The judge says, no, I think he can continue to abide by these rules.
But even as she decided that she wouldn`t remand him to custody, she wouldn`t lock him up awaiting his sentencing date, she decided she was going to keep the gag order on him. She said, quote: Ordinarily, I would release the defendant from the media communication order at this time since it`s primary purpose was to ensure a fair and impartial jury.
If the purpose of a gag order in your case if you`re on trial and the judge gags you and says you can not speak publicly, you can not speak to the media, that is almost always so that you can`t mess up the ability to get a fair jury for your trial. Or you are going to somehow infect the public knowledge of your trial and your case that`s going to make it too hard to find a jury that`s going to be impartial about you. That`s going to mess with your ability to get a fair trial. That`s usually the basis for a gag order.
Well, once you`ve already gone on trial and the jury has already pronounced you guilty, that imperative is over, right? So, usually, once you get convicted, the gag order`s off and you can say anything you want about your trial, right? Once you are convicted.
In Roger Stone`s case, the judge decided that she`s going to keep the gag order on him even though he`s already convicted saying that in this case beyond the initial need to protect the fairness of the jury proceedings, beyond that and extending now even past his conviction, the judge said there was also a concern, quote, for the safety of members of the community. In particular, people who are connected to this case.
She is worried that, you know, listen, Roger Stone is already convicted of seven felony counts. She is not going to force him to go to jail right away. But this gag order, she is keeping it. He is still not allowed to speak publicly or speak to the media because the judge worried out loud in court that his public communications about his case might endanger people connected to that case.
So, with Roger Stone, it`s kind of a mixed bag, right? He gets multiple felony convictions. He gets seven unanimous jury guilty verdicts on seven felonies. But he gets something of a soft landing, doesn`t have to go to prison right away.
That said, he is still not allowed to speak on his own behalf so it`s kind of a soft landing followed by a few hard bounces. Not sure anybody could`ve predicted that`s exactly the way it would`ve gone for Stone and will still await his final fate when he figures out how much prison time he`s going to get.
But consider also the case of Maria Butina. Maria Butina was released from federal prison about three weeks ago after she served more than 15 months in federal prison for acting as a foreign agent secretly working on behalf of the Kremlin to influence Republican and conservative political entities in this country ahead of the 2016 election, particularly the NRA. She did serve more than a year in federal prison, three weeks ago she was released and deported immediately to Moscow. When she landed in Moscow, she was greeted with a hero`s welcome, flowers, throngs of well-wishers, tons of media greeting her at the airport.
Well, today we learned that while Maria Butina did have to serve more than a year in U.S. federal prison, her homecoming was this celebratory thing when she got there. And on top of that as of today we have learned that Maria Butina has been offered her pick of several different high-level jobs in the Russian government.
I mean, however we in the United States might view her Russian government mission to influence the Republican presidential primary in conservative politics and even President Trump`s choice of cabinet officials, all the things she was working on in conjunction with her Kremlin handler while she was operating in this country. Whatever we think of her success as a foreign agent operating on Moscow`s behalf here inside Republican politics, now that these home in Moscow, she is a hero. And not only is she being greeted as a hero. She is apparently destined for greater things in Russian politics.
But no sooner had we learned that today about Maria Butina in Moscow than we learned literally within hours of that news first crossing here. We learned that her American boyfriend, long-time Republican political operative Paul Erickson, who emerged in her criminal case as a key conduit for her as someone who helped steer her influence campaign with the NRA and with Republican politicians. Today, Maria Butina`s American boyfriend Paul Erickson himself plead guilty in federal court to wire fraud and money laundering charges.
Now, Mr. Erickson was never charged directly with anything related to his relationship with or his assistance to Maria Butina when she was operating as the Kremlin`s foreign agent here in Republican politics. But his funding of Maria Butina`s efforts and his facilitation of her efforts inside Republican politics, it just kind of get a wink in his plea agreement today in terms of what he has just admitted to prosecutors in exchange for what looks like it`s going to be a more lenient federal sentence.
See in this document that we just got tonight, United States of America plaintiff versus Paul Erickson, defendant, quote, defendant states the following facts are true and the parties agree that they establish a factual basis for the offense to which the defendant is pleading guilty.
Quote: My name is Paul Erickson. I am a resident of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I falsely represented to investors that I would use their money to purchase real estate in the construction of single-family homes in North Dakota, which I did not do.
On March 1st, 2017, I accepted a $100,000 wire transfer from D.G. that was deposited into my Wells Fargo bank account. This was supposed to be an investment in my business. I represented to D.G. that the money would be used for development of real estate in North Dakota and that the amount would be repaid no later than August 2017.
My representations to D.G. caused him to wire transfer $100,000 to my bank account. However, I did not invest the money from D.G., and I did not repay D.G. any of the money he paid me. Furthermore from the $100,000 I received from D.G., I conducted a financial transaction. I transferred $1,000 to M.B., as alleged in count eight of the indictment. All of this occurred in violation of U.S. federal law, statute number, blah blah blah.
So, Paul Erickson fraudulently coning somebody out of that money, right? Obtaining that money from somebody who he lied to about what he was going to do with it. That is part of what he plead guilty to in federal court today. But the other financial transaction that he pleads to, sending money to M.B., M.B. appears to be Maria Butina, the secret agent operating on behalf of the Kremlin to influence Republican and conservative politics ahead of the 2016 election. Sending her money is part of what he plead to today as well.
So, this guilty plea from Maria Butina`s boyfriend happened today in federal court in South Dakota. I should tell you, I showed you one of the documents that was filed with his plea today, alongside the documents that were filed publicly explaining what he`s pleading to. Prosecutors also filed a plea agreement supplement that we can`t see. It`s filed under seal. That means we the public are not allowed to read it.
Now what`s in that sealed document? We don`t know. Obviously, there is speculation that his plea agreement may have come with some sort of cooperation deal in which he agrees to provide information to prosecutors about other cases that commonly but not always happens with a guilty plea. Whether or not that applies here in the case of Paul Erickson, that remains to be seen.
I mean, the role of the NRA both in that Russian influence operation involving Maria Butina and more broadly in the 2016 campaign. I mean, the NRA remains a little bit of a dangling thread. And the NRA has had a lot of its own financial and internal drama over the past year that is basically consuming it as an organization right now.
But even so, Paul Erickson pleading guilty with this sealed supplement to his plea agreement as to potentially whether or not he is cooperating, that probably does not make the NRA a very happy place tonight knowing that that has just happened, given his role in facilitating this Russian agent to get to the upper echelons of the NRA and their Republican contacts during the 2016 campaign.
And again that guilty plea just happened tonight. The same day Maria Butina gets offered her jobs in the Russian government. And meanwhile the president`s being impeached.
And it is clear from the Democratic majority in the House, whenever you can get him to talk about their overall strategy for the Trump impeachment, it`s clear that they are trying to, you know, keep it short, keep it simple, get it done fairly quickly. But it`s funny. You know, the more witnesses come forward and the more we learn about the scheme for which the president is being impeached, it seems like there is more for the administration to worry about every day. And the more people associated with this administration are learning they may need to worry about whether they themselves are going to be on the hook here.
Take, for example, recently mysteriously resigned U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry. About a week ago, the "Associated Press" had what I think was an underappreciated bombshell, underappreciated big scoop about Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry. And what the "Associated Press" disclosed about Rick Perry was somewhere in the Venn diagram between sad and embarrassing and enraging in terms of what we are going to have to live down for the rest of our lives about how this administration has behaved on the world stage when they had the reigns of power.
It`s going to take a long time to undo the way we are viewed around the world. When the people of Ukraine elected themselves a young, new outsider reformist president earlier this year and the inauguration for that new young president was scheduled for May, we now know thanks to the White House releasing notes from the first congratulatory phone call from President Trump to that new president, we now know that that new president in Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, explicitly and somewhat insistently told President Trump that he really wanted President Trump himself to come to that inauguration, to show American support for Ukraine, to show that the American government would stand shoulder to shoulder with the new government in Ukraine, to bolster the standing of that new president, to make clear that Ukraine still had a rock-solid relationship with us, with their most important ally and their most important military benefactor in their war against Russia.
Despite those insistent and repeated requests from Zelensky that Trump himself should come to the inauguration, Trump said no to that. Trump administration decided not to do that. They originally scheduled Vice President Mike Pence to go to the inauguration instead.
We now understand from testimony to the impeachment inquiry that somewhat inexplicably sometime between late April and mid May, even though Vice President Pence had been scheduled to go to the inauguration and he was making plans to go and it all seemed like everything was on track for that, for some reason without explanation, President Trump changed his mind and cut that off and told Vice President pence that, no, he would not be allowed to go to that inauguration. We still don`t understand why.
I mean, ultimately, the best that the U.S. government could do to show its support for the new Ukrainian government, this new Ukrainian president was to send a lower-level delegation headed up not by the president and not by the vice president but instead by this guy, Rick Perry. And what the "A.P." reported a week ago about how Rick Perry comported himself on that trip and that inauguration, it is just one for the ages. Quote, two political supporters of U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry secured a potentially lucrative oil and gas exploration deal from the Ukrainian government soon after Rick Perry proposed one of the men as an adviser to the country`s new president. Ukraine awarded the contract to Perry`s supporters a little more than a month after Perry attended Zelensky`s inauguration.
In a meeting at the sidelines of that inauguration, Perry handed the new president of Ukraine a list of people he was recommending as energy advisers. One of the names was a long-time political backer of Rick Perry from Texas. A week later, that Perry donor submitted a bid to drill for oil and gas on property controlled by the Ukrainian government. Despite offering millions of dollars less to the Ukrainian government compared with their only competitor for those drilling rights, the entity created by Rick Perry`s Texas donor, quote, was awarded the 50-year contract by the Ukrainian government.
Yes. They were so concerned about corruption in Ukraine. We really wanted to crack down on them about their corrupt -- I mean, this is at a time when the U.S. is holding up and threatening hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. aid including military aid to Ukraine. It`s at a time when the Trump administration is demanding that the Ukrainian government needs to announce bogus investigations into Trump`s political rivals.
And then Rick Perry shows up and is like, yeah, the president and vice president both decided they didn`t want to come, but I`m here and I`m in charge, and, hey, can you give my guys a deal? I`ve got these guys who have given me a bunch of money for my political campaigns back home in Texas and they want to do some drillings here. You know what I mean? Here`s their names. Their bid will be in a week.
That was first reported a week by the "Associated Press." Mysteriously, Rick Perry has resigned as the impeachment scandal has broken wide open. He wants to spend more time with his, I don`t know, lawyers.
Anyway, now I have to tell you big advance in this story in the midst of all of these impeachment hearings that are about to happen this week, and everything we are learning there. Now that part of the scandal has just been borne out by testimony from a new witness who was one of these guys we have never heard of at the outset of the impeachment investigation. But this is just exactly what I am talking about in terms of how the impeachment investigation is about something specific and about something narrowly focused.
But the more we learn the story of how these Trump administration folks behave and how the president behaved, the more scandals and the more potentially criminal behavior is being spun out from that central story. And that is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, the "A.P." had this remarkable scoop just a week ago that when Trump`s Energy Secretary Rick Perry went over to Ukraine in May for the inauguration of the new Ukrainian president, while he was there, he recommended a couple of his top donors from home in Texas to be energy advisers to the new Ukrainian president.
At least one of those top donors then one week later put in a bid for a sweet oil drilling deal on land owned by the Ukrainian government. And he won that contract. A 50-year contract from the Ukrainian government right after Rick Perry had interceded on his behalf when he was over there doing official U.S. government business and attending that inauguration.
That story was broken by the "A.P." last week. Now we`ve gotten some official under oath confirmation of that story. It comes from David Holmes, a career service officer who is based at the U.S. embassy in Kiev and who testified in the impeachment inquiry on Friday. Mr. Holmes testified behind closed doors on Friday. We are about to hear from him in newly scheduled public testimony as well.
But here`s what he`s testified to already. Quote: In early May, we learned that Vice President Pence no longer planned to lead the presidential delegation to the inauguration in Ukraine.
The White House ultimately whittled back an initial proposed list of the inauguration from over a dozen individuals to just five with Secretary Perry at its head. The inauguration took place May 20th. And I took notes into delegation meeting with President Zelensky.
During that meeting, Secretary Perry passed President Zelensky a list, passed him a list of, quote, people he trusts from whom Zelensky could seek advice on energy sector reform. That was then the topic of subsequent meetings between Secretary Perry and key Ukrainian energy sector contacts, meetings from which U.S. embassy personnel were excluded by Secretary Perry`s staff. Well, why didn`t you want the embassy staff there?
Rick Perry is one of the handful of Trump administration officials who suddenly inexplicably resigned from his high position in government as soon as the impeachment scandal started breaking open. Rick Perry is one of these people for whom his own role is getting stickier and more problematic the more we learn.
We also learned from that same Foreign Service officer David Holmes in his testimony. We learned about President Trump personally inquiring as to whether Ukraine was going to do the investigations that he wanted. David Holmes overheard a phone call between President Trump and Ambassador Gordon Sondland after Sondland called the president on an unsecured cell phone at a public restaurant in Kiev. Their conversation was conducted loud enough so that people sitting nearby could hear every word the president said.
Remind me what they wanted to lock Hillary Clinton up for again? Oh, yes, oh, wait.
Just before we got on the air tonight, the impeachment committees just released the full transcript of David Holmes` closed-door testimony from this weekend which includes this about that phone call.
Quote: Let me move ahead to the call that you overheard at the restaurant. You said Ambassador Sondland placed this call in his mobile phone? Answer: Yes, sir.
Question: Did that cause you any concern about the security of the phone call? Answer: It was surprising to me that he -- well, yes. In my experience generally, phone calls with the president are very sensitive and handled accordingly.
Question, and making a cell phone call from Ukraine, is there a risk of the Russians listening in? Answer: I believe at least two of the three if not all three of the mobile networks are owned by Russian companies or have significant stakes in those. We generally assume that mobile communications in Ukraine are being monitored. Monitored by the Russians.
David Holmes also testifies that despite this line that we are now getting from the White House for the president`s supporters and Congress, even sometimes from the president himself, that his pressure on Ukraine to deliver these politically useful investigations was somehow OK because he was very interested in anti-corruption efforts. Not only did we get the "what Rick Perry was doing on behalf of the Trump administration in Ukraine" counter-example for that, he is literally there hooking up his donors with oil and gas drilling contacts while he is there being an official U.S. government envoy.
In addition to that, we get new testimony from David Holmes that when the U.S. embassy in Kiev when that stuff there at the embassy put together a package of actual anti-corruption efforts to pitch to the Trump White House to try to persuade President Trump that he should schedule a White House meeting with the Ukrainian president. Turns out those generic nonspecific not individually targeted anti-corruption efforts that they were preparing and that they were pitching to the president, those were of no interest to president Trump.
Quote: Within a week or two, it became apparent that the anti-corruption efforts on which we were making progress were not making a dent in terms of persuading the White House to schedule a meeting between the presidents. Turns out the Trump White House wasn`t interested in pursuing the anti- corruption stuff. They just wanted investigations into Joe Biden, right? And that is very damning testimony if the defense of the president relies on the idea that he really is all about anti-corruption efforts, and that was really what he was trying to get done there.
When the people who actually worked on those things couldn`t get their calls returned, couldn`t make a dent, couldn`t get anywhere with the Trump White House while they were working on all anti-corruption because the Trump White House did not care about that. They only cared about getting specific investigations into the president`s domestic political rivals.
Well, tonight that career Foreign Service officer David Holmes whose close door testimony we can now access as of this evening, he has just been added to the list of witnesses. He will be testifying on Thursday afternoon alongside veteran national security official Fiona Hill.
Now, tomorrow morning, starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time, we are going to have testimony from two side-by-side witnesses. It will be Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who`s the top Ukraine official on the National Security Council. He will testify alongside Jennifer Williams who is a career foreign service officer who worked in Vice President Mike Pence`s office. You will recall that Colonel Vindman`s testimony made headlines for days after he gave his closed door deposition.
What he recounted and turns out to be quite dramatic testimony was his reaction to listening in on the call on July 25th between President Trump and President Zelensky what he thought was so wrong about that call and what he did immediately after that call wrapped. He went immediately to the National Security Council`s top lawyers with concerns that he might not have just heard something improper but potential illegal on that call.
Colonel Vindman also explained in his deposition that he took detailed notes on that call about exactly what the two presidents talked about. He said some of the detailed corrections he proposed to the White House notes from that call weren`t made, even though he took notes and was asked to give corrections, suggested those corrections and then they were just not accepted. The official he is going to be testifying alongside tomorrow Jennifer Williams and her deposition, she corroborated that from Alexander Vindman. She corroborated that there were specific things discussed on that call that for whatever reason weren`t included in the official White House notes that were released of that call.
Jennifer Williams, like Colonel Vindman, said that the Ukrainian president specifically mentioned this one company, Burisma. That`s the specific investigation that President Trump was demanding about Joe Biden. Jennifer Williams in her testimony in her deposition corroborates Colonel Vindman`s claim that the Ukrainian president mentioned that company by name and she made a note of it specifically even though the White House call notes don`t reflect that the Ukrainian president ever mentioned that company.
Now that may have just been an oversight by the White House note-takers. But it`s weird that they didn`t take the correction on that when they were told that they missed it. And substantively, if the Ukrainian president did specifically mention that company, what Colonel Vindman has suggested is important about is that it may indicate that the Ukrainian president wasn`t hearing for the first time on that call that the president wanted investigations. It would indicate that he knew exactly which investigations President Trump was asking for because that call was just part of what had been an ongoing campaign where the specific investigations of Joe Biden, Burisma, were being demanded of the new Ukrainian president and his government.
I should tell you that Jennifer Williams` deposition is also just in broad terms just going to be really difficult for the White House to get around. Again, she is a career foreign service officer. She`s been detailed to the vice president`s office. In her deposition just a selection here, quote, during the July 25th call, did you have any concerns about the conversation that you heard between President Trump and President Zelensky? Jennifer Williams was also, like Colonel Vindman, listening in on that call.
William`s answers, quote: I certainly noted that the mention of these specific investigations seemed unusual as compared to other discussions with foreign leaders. I believed those references to be more political in nature. And so that struck me as unusual. Williams says, quote, I believe I found the specific references to be more specific to the president in nature, to his personal political agenda as opposed to a broader foreign policy objective of the United States. She says, quote, it struck me as unusual and inappropriate.
And the follow-up question, well, how did it make you feel? And Williams answers, quote: I guess for me it shed some light on possible other motivations behind the security assistance hold.
It should also be noted that Jennifer Williams is the only official from Vice President Mike Pence`s office who`s been called to testify in the impeachment proceedings thus far, at least that we know of.
To the extent that the Vice President`s own implication in this scandal really hinges entirely on his assertions and assertions of unnamed people around him that he was totally ignorant of this whole campaign, he didn`t know what was going on, he had no idea that President Trump was holding up military aid and making White House meetings and other things contingent on Ukraine, coughing up specific investigations, Vice President Pence was directly involved in this pressure campaign. His defense is that it was unwitting that he didn`t realize what exactly he was pressuring Ukraine to do when he told them they weren`t getting their military aid.
Jennifer Williams says in her testimony that, well, she worked in Vice President Pence`s office advising him on this part of the world. She says that she specifically flagged for Vice President Pence in his daily briefing not only the notes from Trump`s call with Zelensky in which Trump pressed for investigations and repeatedly mentioned Joe Biden. She says before that she specifically flagged for Vice President Pence that Rudy Giuliani was making these public claims saying that he wanted the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and to investigate the 2016 campaign because that would benefit his client President Trump.
So, Jennifer Williams is saying Vice President Pence was advised that this campaign was going on according to Rudy Giuliani and that this campaign was being carried out by the president on his calls with the Ukrainian government. So, Vice President Pence wants to say he doesn`t know that stuff was happening. He has to pretend he doesn`t read, I guess?
Jennifer Williams` testimony and Alexander Vindman`s testimony tomorrow should be fascinating. They both start at 9:00 a.m. In the afternoon, it will be Tim Morrison and Kurt Volker. Interestingly, both Tim Morrison and Kurt Volker have also resigned their positions in the government just as the impeachment inquiry got underway.
Kurt Volker was the U.S. envoy to Ukraine. He likely tomorrow will have to clean up some of his earlier closed-door testimony that has been contradicted by multiple other witnesses, including issues about his own involvement in pressing Ukraine to announce these investigations if they wanted to get a White House meeting. To Morrison`s testimony behind closed doors was described by at least one Republican member of the impeachment committees as, quote, alarming. Among the things we learned from Morrison`s testimony was that President Trump and John Bolton, the national security adviser who was fired from his job right as the hold on Ukraine military aid was released, President Trump and John Bolton apparently had a one on one meeting in the White House in which Tim Morrison says those two men discussed the president`s reasons for not wanting to release the military aid to Ukraine.
Tim Morrison tells us that -- tells us that that meeting happened that involve it involved John Bolton and the president, the two of them together. Of course knowing what happened inside that meeting would depend on testimony from either the president himself, yes, right, or from John Bolton himself. And the question of Bolton`s testimony is still up in the air and very important. Morrison`s appearance tomorrow afternoon at this public hearing will further raise the stakes on the question of whether John Bolton himself will come testify.
But alongside all of this that has been revealed in these impeachment proceedings and all of this that`s been revealed just since the impeachment proceedings have been conducted in public for this past week, alongside all of that -- you know, it`s open source reporting that continues to break some of the most interesting stuff here on a day-to-day basis. I mean, yes, there is this inquiry in congress, but then there is also your morning paper. I mean, "The Wall Street Journal" this weekend reporting on emails about the pressure campaign on Ukraine which appear to be some of the communications that were subpoenaed from the State Department. But the State Department hasn`t been releasing any of that stuff.
Well, the State Department may be trying to hold all that stuff in confidence. They may be trying to keep all that stuff from impeachment investigators. But that paper trail can`t be hidden by the State Department alone. Not if all the people involved in this scandal are going to start leaking those emails and communications to the "Wall Street Journal" so they can report them on the front page.
Similarly, "The Washington Post" reporting this weekend that not only was the pressure campaign on Ukraine putting at risk their military aid and their aid from the State Department and their White House meeting which Zelensky still has not had. According to "The Washington Post" this weekend, Rudy Giuliani reportedly communicated to Ukrainian officials in the middle of this whole mishegoss that they weren`t even going to get any phone calls with the Trump White House moving forward unless they coughed up those investigations that were being demanded of them. That`s new this weekend from Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe and Paul Sonne at the "Washington Post."
And then there is the "Associated Press." As I mentioned earlier in the show, the "Associated Press" had that initial just absolute bombshell scoop about Rick Perry going to the inauguration of the Ukrainian president. And while he`s there on the sideline of the inauguration handing the new president a piece of paper with his donors` names on it.
And then magically, one of those donors gets a gigantic contract from the Ukrainian government one week later, right? Odd that, especially while we are working so hard on stopping corruption in Ukraine.
But I got tell you, that same reporting team at the "Associated Press" that broke that incredible story about Rick Perry which has now been borne out by sworn testimony, that same reporting team at the "A.P." was also how we learned for the first time that David Holmes, this important new witness, had overheard that phone call at a restaurant in Kiev between Gordon Sondland and President Trump himself inquiring about those investigations.
The "Associated Press" was first to report that in addition to David Holmes overhearing that call, there were other witnesses. There were at least one other official who could corroborate Holmes` account because more than one person sitting at that table could hear what Trump was saying on that call. And now, that same reporting team at the "Associated Press" has a new scoop that absolutely guts the latest defense that Republican defenders of the president in Congress have been relying on in these public impeachment hearings. The thing they have been arguing is their strongest case for why President Trump did nothing wrong here. That is right in the bullseye of what the "A.P." just reported in their latest scoop today.
And that reporter and that scoop are here next.
MADDOW: On September 25th, the same day the White House released the summary of the July 25th Trump/Zelensky phone call where President Trump pressured the new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he needed to investigate Joe Biden, that same day, Trump and Zelensky sat down face-to- face in front of horde of cameras on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Asked by a reporter at that meeting whether he felt any pressure coming from President Trump who was at that point the man sitting directly beside him. The Ukrainian president told that horde of reporters at that public meeting that he was not pushed. You might remember President Trump immediately jumping in to interject, in other words, no pressure.
Ever since that weird moment before the cameras, the president`s allies in Congress have used those public comments by Zelensky as a central talking point in their rebuttal of the impeachment allegations. There`s been this constant refrain the impeachment hearings by Republican lawmakers.
You know, if President Zelensky himself says he was not pressured, then what are we impeaching someone for? There was no pressure, he was not pressured, he said so. Are you calling him a liar?
There are a couple of problems with that defense from the Republicans in Congress. First, it flies in the face of testimony by multiple administration officials, witnesses like Bill Taylor who have said, yes, the Ukrainians definitely felt pressure here.
The other problem is this brand-new reporting today by the "Associated Press", by a reporting team at the "Associated Press" that keeps generating scoop after scoop on this scandal. This new reporting from the "Associated Press" says that not only did Zelensky feel pressure. He and his staff actually notified U.S. officials about that pressure and about Mr. Zelensky`s concerns about that pressure as early as May, even before he was inaugurated as Ukraine`s new president.
Quote, U.S. State Department officials were informed that the Ukrainian president was feeling pressure from the Trump administration to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden even before the July phone call that has led to impeachment hearings in Washington. That`s according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
In early May, the "A.P." reports officials at the U.S. embassy in Kiev including then Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch were told that Zelensky was seeking advice on how to navigate the difficult position he was in. State Department officials in Kiev in Washington were briefed on Zelensky`s concerns at least three times according to these two sources.
And then there`s this. Not only were U.S. officials aware about this pressure and these concerns about the pressure coming from the incoming president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky. Not only did they hear about it, did they have briefings about it, but, quote, notes summarizing Zelensky`s worries were circulated within the department. At which point you mark in the -- you note in the margins of your impeachment note pad here, this means there is a paper trail and this means there are other witnesses to subpoena.
Joining us now is "A.P." investigative reporter Desmond Butler who, along with his "A.P." colleagues, broke this story.
Mr. Butler, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate you making time.
DESMOND BUTLER, ASSOCIATED PRESS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So, I`ve been running down a few of the different stories that you have broken over the course of this scandal. And you and your colleagues at the A.P. have really done some seminal work here.
Let me just ask you if I summarized accurately this latest reporting about the pressure that the incoming Ukrainian president was feeling. Did I get the basic gist of it right?
BUTLER: You sure did. Now, what do I have left to say?
MADDOW: I bet I can draw something out of you. You described something that sounds like it does have witnesses that may have a paper trail that could back it up, what sort of evidence might the impeachment investigators be able to find to document how early the Ukrainian president knew that this pressure was on him?
BUTLER: Well, so, we a few weeks ago wrote about the meeting that Zelensky called. And he called in a bunch of advisers, and one of them was the head of the state-run gas firm Naftogaz which you were talking about earlier. And another was an American former Obama administration official, Amos Hochstein, who was on the supervisory board of Naftogaz. He flew into this meeting to give advice because clearly the newly elected but not yet inaugurated President Zelensky was concerned and didn`t know how to navigate this strange situation.
MADDOW: In terms of? So sorry, go ahead. Don`t let me interrupt.
BUTLER: No, no, it`s OK. So he -- Hochstein then briefed at least three officials in the embassy, and some of them took notes. In the notes apparently which were circulated in email, they called -- they said that the meeting had been called to discuss energy matters as a sort of cover story so that Zelensky could actually ask about these political issues.
MADDOW: Do we know whether these notes remain in the possession of the individuals who took them? Do we know if they`re being held by the State Department? Obviously that`s important since the State Department isn`t responding to subpoenas and it seems like everything that anybody -- any of their employees handed over to them, they are just keeping and locking down.
BUTLER: Yes, so far. I don`t know what the status of those emails are.
MADDOW: In terms of Mr. Hochstein, he is not a State Department employee, as far as I know. Do we know whether the impeachment investigators have pursued him as a potential witness here?
BUTLER: I`m not aware that they have.
MADDOW: Let me ask you also about a thread that you and your colleagues reported that I think -- I think is a really big deal, and I`m very interested to see how it`s all going to flush out, and it`s about the behavior of Energy Secretary Rick Perry when he was over in Ukraine for the Zelensky inauguration.
We got corroboration of your reporting when we got the testimony of David Holmes, foreign service officer who`s working in the U.S. embassy in Kiev, who says, indeed, as you reported, while Perry was there for the inauguration, he handed a piece of paper to the incoming Ukrainian president telling him, here`s my guys, here`s my campaign donors from Texas. You might want to talk to them about energy issues. Holmes didn`t further address the issues that you reported how at least one of those donors went on very shortly thereafter to receive a rich contract from the Ukrainian government and an oil and gas drilling lease.
Is there any concern inside Ukraine, or do you know of any concern among people involved in that process as to whether or not that process might have been corrupted by Rick Perry`s influence?
BUTLER: I haven`t heard that concern, but I do plan to go back and do more reporting on that issue.
MADDOW: Desmond Butler, "A.P." investigative reporter, I`m going to let you go so you can keep churning out more scoop, so that I could keep talking about them. Thank you for taking time to be here tonight.
BUTLER: Thank you. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot.
More to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In federal court, there are no cameras. In federal district court, trial court, there`s not even audio. You never get any sort of recording whatsoever.
But in federal appeals court, sometimes you do get audio of the arguments. And because of that today, we learned from a federal appeals court, and we can hear ourselves, that Congress is officially investigating whether President Trump lied under oath in the written answers that he provided to the special counsel. They`re doing what now? This is part of it?
Yes, this is apparently part of it. They confirmed today in court, surprise, but we can hear it on tape. Check it out.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HOUSE COUNSEL: We have at least two people who have already been convicted of lying to congress, and lying about this. And what are they lying about? They`re lying about things that go directly to the Mueller report. Did the president lie? Did the president -- was the president not truthful in his responses to the Mueller investigation?
The impeachment inquiry is in part focusing on the -- what I`ll call the Ukraine matter, but it is also absolutely clear, and this is what I said to Chief Judge Howell, is looking at the Mueller report, the Mueller report`s discussion of did the president carry out obstruction of Justice and related possible bad acts.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Did the president lie? Did the president lie? Was the president not truthful in his written responses to the Mueller investigation?
Surprise! The House impeachment committees are also looking at whether President Trump lied to the special counsel in the written answers he turned in almost exactly one year ago today.
Now, why is this coming up now? Well, it`s worth noting that in those written answers, President Trump claimed to have no recollection whatsoever of Roger Stone, his long-serving political adviser, communicating with WikiLeaks or the president talking to Roger Stone about that or Roger Stone communicating anything about WikiLeaks to anybody on the Trump campaign.
Well, it`s also worth noting that 72 hours ago, Roger Stone was convicted on seven federal criminal counts, including lying to Congress about his communication to WikiLeaks and the way he communicated those things to the Trump campaign.
Late today, the D.C. Court of Appeals decided not to hand over secret grand jury information from the Mueller report that might pertain to this issue, at least not right away. They scheduled oral arguments for early January. But now we know what the stakes are.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: That`s going to do it for us tonight. I`ll see you again tomorrow from here in Atlanta where we are burning the midnight oil preparing for Wednesday`s Democratic presidential debate -- because there`s not enough going on?
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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