Awaiting Ukraine-related documents from State Dept. TRANSCRIPT: 11/22/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Julian Barnes, Karen Bass

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  I want to thank my guest, Bill Moyers, Zephyr Teachout, Maya Wiley, Erin Banco and Congressman Joe Neguse for being with me tonight.  I want to thank all of you here with me in Studio 6A.  You guys are great.

That is "ALL IN" for this Friday evening. 

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.  Good evening, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  I love your Friday night live shows.  Well done. 

Hi, everybody. 

HAYES:  Thank you.

Say hi. 

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  I`m going to run up there one of these nights and surprise you. 

Anyway, thanks you guys.

HAYES:  Please.

MADDOW:  All right.  And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Happy to have you here.  Happy Friday. 

I don`t know how long we`re going to be a country where you can see -- sort of see where we are in history by scanning the front page of the newspapers in the morning.  I mean, I don`t know how long we`re going to have full- size print newspapers that we can look to for bench marks in terms of historic moments, but we are definitely still in that place now.  I think ten years ago, we might have thought newspapers would be gone in their physical form by now.  They`re not. 

Papers like the one that got thrown on your doorstep this morning, they`re just a big deal when we look at them on days like this.  And, you know, if you squirrel copies of this week`s newspapers, the front pages, we squirrel them away somewhere, someday, your kids and your grandkids will look at those newspaper front pages from this week and they will still have the same wow factor that they have for us today. 

Let me show you some of today`s front pages.  This was the front page of "The New York Times" today.  You see the big all caps headline there in the upper right.  "Expert condemns flow of fictions on Ukraine`s role." 

And then the other four columns on the top of the front page are dominated by this gigantic photograph of Fiona Hill, until recently the top Russia expert for the U.S. government.  That`s her being sworn in.  And you see the dramatic white on black caption there with Fiona Hill`s quote.  In the course of this investigation, I would ask you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.  That was "The New York Times" today. 

This was the headline in the "Arkansas Democrat Gazette" today.  Again another big dramatic photo of Fiona Hill at her testimony.  And there`s the headline: Expert, Ukraine meddling lie.  And you see the subhead there: Narrative furthered by Russia, she asserts. 

Here`s that "Tampa Bay Times" from Florida.  Hill, discord serves Putin.  Former security aid and expert Fiona Hill warns the GOP of fictions and dramatic comments on Thursday. 

Up in the great state of Maine, this was the "Portland Press Herald" today.  Witness: Fictions about Ukraine help Russia.  Testimony in the last scheduled public hearings reinforces the case that the president`s efforts work today the detriment of U.S. national security. 

This was "The San Antonio Express News" today in Texas: Election-tampering theory called a fiction.  And then you see the subhead there below the Fiona Hill photo.  Ex-White House aide says Moscow is behind the claim about Ukraine. 

This was "Washington Post" today.  Front page of "The Washington Post" today, multiple stories on the impeachment inquiry overall and again another big main photo taking up most of the front page.  Four columns wide in "The Post", Fiona Hill arriving for her testimony under the big headline, whirling week of testimony wraps up, a warning that conspiracy theories advance Russia and divide Americans. 

And there`s "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch" from Missouri.  They`re all column, all caps bold headline across the whole front page, it says: Fictional narrative, it`s in quotes, because Fiona Hill said that.  Fictional narrative, Hill says she predicted Ukraine efforts would blow up.  And then you`ve got the other bold headline there from Fiona Hill over the picture of her while she`s testifying, quote, in the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically-driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.  You see the headline below that for the self-supporting story with a warning about Russia, blitz of testimony in House wraps up. 

You know, it is -- it is one thing to watch these hearings live as we`ve been doing for these last couple of weeks and to also keep up with the roiling boil of developing news around the impeachment scandal and all the reporting that has supported and explained and put in context, the revelations and the documents and the description of the president`s behavior we`ve had from all these witnesses.  It is kind of another thing, right, to see reflected in these headlines from coast to coast all over the country, right, these dramatic words, this dramatic warning from in this case the U.S. government`s top Russia expert Fiona Hill. 

Her words, what she warned about is sinking in, right, it`s landing.  It`s the front page.  All across the country people are hearing what she had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. FIONA HILL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR ON RUSSIA:  Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps somehow for some reason, Ukraine did.  This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves. 

As I told the committee last month I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize the ultimate narrative that the Ukrainian government is U.S. adversary and that Ukraine not Russia attacked us in 2016.  These fictions are harmful even if they`re deployed purely for domestic political purposes.  In the cost of this investigation, I ask you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  After Fiona Hill testified yesterday in those words then being, you know, burned into our history of what it`s like to be alive as an American citizen at this time in our country`s history, her words you know bold and all caps on the front pages of newspapers in red states and blue states and everywhere in between. 

Well, now, in the wake of that testimony from Fiona Hill and the weight in which it landed, now we`ve got a remarkable advance on this story from "The New York Times," reporters Julian Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg at "The Times".  As dramatically as it landed with someone with the gravitas and credibility of Fiona Hill to issue this warning yesterday, right?  Her telling Republican members of the impeachment committee stop spreading this disinformation that it was Ukraine that attacked our election in 2016 and don`t try to rope me into it.  If you`re going to do that, it`s a falsehood created by the Russian security services.  They`re promoting that to hurt our country, do not do that. 

I mean, it is one thing to get that warning, that dramatic warning from Fiona Hill.  Now today in this New York Times scoop, now we know that`s it`s the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that that alternate theory that Ukraine attacked us in 2016, it is the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that that is a Russian disinformation campaign.  But also crucially that U.S. intelligence agency has briefed U.S. senators about it.  Oh. 

They have provided classified briefings specifically on this to U.S. senators, letting U.S. senators know that when you hear this whole thing about Ukraine meddling in our elections that is a Russian op.  That is something that is in Fiona Hill`s words perpetrated and promulgated by the Russian security forces to hurt the United States and help Russia. 

This is the headline in "The Times" tonight: Charges of Ukrainian meddling, a Russian operation, says U.S. intelligence.  Quote: American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia has engaged in a years-long campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as possible for Moscow`s own hacking of the 2016 election.  The classified briefing came as Republicans stepped up their defenses of President Trump and the Ukraine affair.  Republicans have sought for weeks amid the impeachment inquiry to shift attention to President Trump`s demands that Ukraine investigate any 2016 election meddling, defending that as a legitimate concern. 

That Republican defense of Mr. Trump became essential to the impeachment proceedings when Fiona Hill, respected Russia scholar and former senior White House official, added a hard critique of it at her testimony on Thursday.  She told some of Mr. Trump`s fiercest defenders in Congress they were repeating a, quote, fictional narrative and that it likely came from a disinformation campaign from Russian security services which themselves propagated it. 

Quote: The revelations demonstrate -- excuse me, the revelations demonstrate Russia`s persistence in trying to sow discord among its adversaries and crucially showed that the Kremlin apparently succeeded, as unfounded claims about Ukrainian election interference seeped into Republican talking points. 

We`re going to have more on this story coming up tonight.  One of "The New York Times" reporters who broke this story is going to be joining us.  We`ll talk about the main thrust of this story and also the specific news that "The Times" has broken here in this scoop tonight, including their reporting that President Trump himself spoke with Vladimir Putin himself about this Russian disinformation campaign to blame the 2016 election interference on the Ukrainians. 

It`s weird enough to know that the American president is actively and repeatedly and enthusiastically spreading disinformation cooked up by the Russian intelligence services designed to hurt us.  It`s another thing to have it reported that the American president has been receiving this information one-on-one directly from the president of Russia before he then repeats it to the American public.  That reporter Julian Barnes here in just a moment to talk about that reporting and more. 

But this -- I mean, the overall crime here is eye-popping stuff, right?  I mean, that`s literally the phrase used by veteran national security reporter David Ignatius at "The Washington Post." "The Times" competitor, right.  Ignatius reacting tonight to this scoop at a competing paper by saying, quote, eye-popping story from "The New York Times."  It says in essence Trump and GOP allies have been caught in a Russian intelligence deception in their 2016 conspiracy allegations about Ukraine. 

What`s interesting and important now, though, I think, is the question of whether Trump and his GOP allies really were caught in a Russian intelligence deception unwittingly, right?  Were they caught up in something that they didn`t understand?  I mean, clearly they`ve been promoting this conspiracy theory Russia didn`t interfere, Ukraine did.  They`ve been promoting this as something that they believe benefits them politically.  I think they also just like the sound of it in terms of what it means for the Trump presidency, right? 

But, I mean, if they are only unwittingly caught up in this, they`re only unwittingly promulgating this theory without knowing this is actually a Russian intelligence operation they`re helping, it`s like an oops, right?  Oops, no idea this idea I`ve been promoting is actually a disinformation op invented by Russian intelligence and promoted by them to advance the Kremlin`s interests at our expense.  I mean it could be an oops, right? 

Maybe.  Even if you`re being very generous to the president and his supporters, it`s hard to believe that the president and his supporters and the conservative media, they really are totally unwitting in terms of how much they`ve been helping out Russian intelligence with this operation every time they get on TV or get up in a congressional hearing room and say it was Ukraine that really meddled in the 2016 election.  I mean, there`s been these warnings, right, that this walks like a Russian up and talks like a Russian op, it smells like a Russian op.  I mean, these warnings have been blaring for a long time. 

Did they really not notice the warnings, not believe them?  I mean, yes, it was Fiona Hill`s testimony emphatically we saw echoed in newspaper headlines across the country today.  But it wasn`t just Fiona Hill`s testimony.  We heard essentially the same warning from Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as well. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL GOLDMAN, COUNSEL FOR DEMOCRATS ON THE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  How would this theory of Ukraine interference in the 2016 election be in Vladimir Putin`s interest? 

MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE:  Well, I mean, President Putin must have been aware that there were concerns in the U.S. about Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and what the potential was for Russian meddling in the future.  So, you know, classic for an intelligence officer to try to throw off the scent and, you know, create an alternative narrative that maybe might get picked up and get some credence. 

GOLDMAN:  An alternative narrative that would absolve his own wrongdoing? 

YOVANOVITCH:  Yes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Yes.  Intelligence committee counsel Dan Goldman you saw questioning Marie Yovanovitch there, he repeatedly over the course of the impeachment hearings, raised this issue that the Ukraine did it lie is something that Vladimir Putin himself has publicly promoted. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOLDMAN:  Colonel Vindman, were you aware of a theory that Ukraine had intervened or interfered in the 2016 U.S. election? 

ALEXANDER VINDMAN, NSC OFFICIAL:  I was. 

GODLMAN:  Are you aware of any credible evidence to support this theory? 

VINDMAN:  I`m not. 

GOLDMAN:  Are you also aware that Vladimir Putin had promoted this theory of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election? 

VINDMAN:  I am well aware of that fact. 

GOLDMAN:  Ambassador Yovanovitch, are you aware in February of 2017, Vladimir Putin himself promoted this theory of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election? 

YOVANOVITCH:  You know, maybe I knew that once and have forgotten, but I`m not familiar with it now. 

GOLDMAN:  This an excerpt from a February 2nd, 2017, news conference with President Putin and Prime Minister Orban of Hungary where Putin says, second, as we all know during the presidential campaign in the United States, the Ukrainian government adopted a unilateral position in favor of one candidate.  More than that, certain oligarchs certainly with the approval of the political leadership funded this candidate or female candidate to be more precise. 

Mr. Holmes, you spent three years as well in the U.S. embassy in Russia.  Why would it be to Vladimir Putin`s advantage to promote this theory of Ukraine interference? 

DAVID HOLMES, UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS:  First of all, to deflect from the allegations of Russian interference.  Second of all, to drive a wedge between the United States and Ukraine, which Russia wants to essentially get back into its sphere of influence. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So at these open hearings, we have this dramatic warning from Fiona Hill that makes headlines nationwide, right?  She`s warning Congress, particularly warning the Republicans on the impeachment committee, that this theory that Ukraine is the real entity that interfered in our 2016 election, that theory is not only false, it is a false piece of information being presented by and promoted by Russian intelligence.  Don`t spread that fake theory.  Do not try to rope me into spreading that fake theory.  If you do so, you are helping Russia in a campaign they designed to hurt us, to hurt us.  Do you want to hurt the United States and help Russia, if so keep spreading that?

We get similar warnings from the top Ukrainian expert on Trump`s national career and from the top Foreign Service officer in the Ukraine embassy and President Trump, and from the ambassador to Ukraine who was put there by President Trump. 

We get the intelligence committee counsel spelling out over and over again citing publicly available and checkable information, hey, you know?  Putin is the one who`s been spreading this from Moscow as well. 

In addition to that, if you`ve been closely watching as this scandal has been unfolding, there have been other signs of this, too, right?  The FBI interview recently unsealed from Trump`s deputy campaign chair Rick Gates as he awaits sentencing on felony charges.  He told FBI agents in an interview for the Russia investigation that the main person in the Trump campaign who started spreading this falsehood that it was Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election and not Russia was Paul Manafort, the president`s campaign chair who`s now serving a long federal prison term in part for him laundering and not paying taxes on millions of dollars he got from pro-Putin interests in Ukraine. 

More specifically than that, though, where did Manafort get that theory from?  He got it from his long-time associate in Ukraine, a man named Konstantin Kilimnik, who was assessed by the FBI to have active ties to the Russian intelligence services. 

So Russia intelligence services cooked this up.  They have every incentive in the world to spread this idea that it was Ukraine, bad, bad Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election against Trump.  Not Russia interfering in the 2016 election to help Trump, right?  They had every incentive in the world to do that. 

And you can see how they sprinkle it around.  It`s not just remarks from Vladimir Putin and supportive propaganda from Russian media outlets also been spreading this.  You also have people associated with Russian intelligence seeded around in convenient places like say with the campaign chairman for Donald Trump who`s already sort of inclined toward pro-Putin causes. 

And now, thanks to this "New York Times" scoop tonight, we`ve got this characterization of what U.S. intelligence agencies have figured out about that specific Russian disinformation campaign and how the Russians have been running it.  Quote: Mr. Putin began publicly pushing false theories of Ukrainian interference in the early months of 2017 to deflect responsibility from Russia.  Quote: Russian intelligence operatives deployed a network of agents to blame Ukraine for its own 2016 interference.  Starting at least in 2017, the operatives peddled a mixture of now debunked conspiracy theories, along with some established facts, to leave an impression that the government in Kiev, not Moscow was responsible for the hacking of the Democrats and Moscow`s other interference efforts in 2016. 

Quote: The Russian intelligence officers conveyed the information to prominent Russians and Ukrainians who then used a range of intermediaries like oligarchs and businessmen and their associates to pass that material to American political figures and even some journalists who were likely unaware of its origin with the Russian security services.  Quote, that muddy brew worked its way into American information ecosystems, sloshing around into parts of it reached Mr. Trump -- and then here`s the kicker -- comma, who has also spoken with Mr. Putin about allegations of Ukrainian interference. 

So, again, we`ll talk with "New York Times" reporter more in just a moment about that specific allegation that Trump was, you know, getting this right from the horse`s mouth as it were, while he was also getting it from multiple sources who were kicking it upstairs to him because Russian intelligence designed their disinformation campaign in a way that was designed to do that, right?  This is just a remarkable advance of this story, right?  This thing that we`ve been wondering about that national security professionals have been warning everybody to be very careful about, according to this reporting, it has been verified enough by U.S. intelligence agencies that this really is a Russian operation. 

That we`ve got this time story confirming what the intelligence agencies know about this disinformation operation work, how Putin`s been running it and, of course, the really big advance for us Americans in this country and for where we are with impeachment and everything else is the revelation that U.S. intelligence agencies haven`t just figured this out.  They haven`t just concluded this that the Ukraine interfered in our election thing is Russian operation, they haven`t just figured this out for themselves, they have briefed it in a classified setting to United States senators. 

So U.S. senators have been told basically, hey, anytime you hear somebody saying that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election that is Russian disinformation campaign directed by Vladimir Putin.  It`s a false claim promulgated by Russia to help the Kremlin and hurt the United States.  And here`s how that campaign works, here`s how we`ve followed it back to its origins.  That`s what U.S. intelligence agencies have briefed to U.S. senators. 

And given that, it kind of turns your stomach, right?  It makes it all the more difficult to hear the president and his defenders in the House impeachment inquiry just spout this stuff anyway. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA):  They turn a blind eye to Ukrainians meddling in our elections. 

What was the full extent of Ukraine`s election meddling against the Trump campaign?  In these depositions and hearings, Republicans have cited numerous indications of Ukraine meddling in 2016 elections to oppose the Trump campaign. 

What is the full extent of Ukraine`s election meddling against the Trump campaign in 2016? 

You understand that Ukrainians officials were cooperating directly with President Trump`s opponents to undermine his candidacy. 

President Trump had good reason to be worried if Ukrainian election meddling against his campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  It is remarkable thing that the Republican defense of President Trump in his impeachment inquiry is for them to keep trying to advance this theory that it`s Ukraine that`s the entity that really meddled in the 2016 election, right? 

The theory that Ukraine is really the entity that meddled in the 2016 election, it`s the invention of Russian security services.  They invented it and promulgated it to benefit Russia and hurt the United States. 

So, to see the Republicans use that, participate in that effort as their way to defend the U.S. president against impeachment, it`s just -- I mean, like I said what a time to be alive.  You know, there`s the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee hammering away, pushing that line for the Kremlin over and over again. 

There`s also the top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy.  He was asked yesterday after Fiona Hill`s testimony, she explicitly warned that this Ukraine election interference theory is being perpetrated and promulgated, in her words, by Russian security service.  Kevin McCarthy is asked about that warning yesterday from Fiona Hill.  He tells CNN`s Manu Raju in response, quote, I think they did, meaning I think Ukraine did meddle in the 2016 elections. 

And we know, of course, the president himself has continued to advance this theory including a long call in interview to a Fox News Channel this morning.  We know incredibly that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has himself advanced this theory from Russian intelligence.  That Ukraine is the real entity that meddled in the election.  I mean, he himself not that long ago was the freaking director of the CIA, and here he is helping the Kremlin with its disinformation campaign to hurt the United States and help Russian interests at our expense. 

But you know, he`s not CIA director anymore, so maybe that`s a defense for him.  Maybe he doesn`t know.  Maybe it`s a defense for these House Republicans that they don`t know that they`re advancing Russian disinformation that`s designed to hurt our country.  I mean, we know they`re disinclined to believe any of these witnesses at the impeachment hearing because they`re witnesses at the impeachment hearing, you know?

And hey, it`s not them, it`s not House Republicans or House anybody as far as we can tell that`s been briefed on this from the intelligence community.  It`s only senators who have reportedly received this classified briefing laying out according to "The New York Times" that the Ukrainian interference theory was cooked up by Moscow and designed to hurt the U.S. 

So, maybe, you know, maybe in the House, on the House side of things, maybe they just don`t know.  Maybe they are unwitting.  Maybe they`re just being used and they don`t know it.  Hard to believe but possible. 

But we do know as of tonight that U.S. senators have no such excuse, right?  U.S. senators have been briefed on this by U.S. intelligence agencies.  I mean, look again at that key line in "The New York Times,".  Quote, American intelligence officials informed senators their aides in recent weeks Russia had engaged in a years-long campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow`s own hacking of the 2016 election. 

And so, who`s promoting that Russian disinformation?  The president himself is obviously a lost cause.  The president`s campaign?  OK.  By extension them too. 

The wrong thing is highlighted there.  But they sent out this e-mail in the middle of Fiona Hill`s testimony talking about the Ukraine election interference. 

Mike Pompeo -- don`t get me started, but Mike Pompeo appears to be hand in glove on the worst of the president on this stuff, and the scheme for which the president is being impeached.

House Republicans, they`re doing it, too.  It`s hard to stomach but maybe they`re unwitting.  Maybe they don`t believe the warnings this looks like a Russian intelligence op.  They just don`t believe the evidence that it is.  Maybe they haven`t received that same classified briefing from U.S. intelligence agencies that senators have, but senators have been briefed.  They know. 

So, what`s the explanation for this?  Two Republican U.S. senators, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, now sending this to the National Archives, demanding documents from the National Archives about Ukraine meddling in the 2016 election.  Quote: To the Honorable David S. Ferriero, archivist to the United States.  Dear Mr. Ferriero, we write to request records of White House meetings that took place in 2016 between and among Obama administration officials, Ukrainian government representatives and Democratic National Committee officials. 

They`re demanding documents here about the DNC reportedly working with Ukrainian government officials to undermine the Trump campaign.  The DNC working to get dirt on Trump from the Ukrainians. 

I mean, this is the disinformation campaign that Russia has been running globally and in the United States to try to create and promote this false narrative that it was really Ukraine that meddled in our election.  Here they are advancing it for official requests for documents to try to prove this thing.  And it`s one thing to see the president`s campaign and conservative media and all these other entities including House Republicans promoting that Russian disinformation campaign, right, which is cooked up by Russia and designed to hurt the U.S. and help the Kremlin.  It`s one thing like -- at least in their case, you could maybe generously posit that it could be unwitting. 

But thanks to this new reporting tonight, we know in the case of Senator Ron Johnson and Senator Chuck Grassley, it is not unwitting.  They are doing this knowingly, because U.S. senators have received at least one classified briefing on the fact this is a Russian disinformation campaign cooked up by the Russian security services.  And nevertheless here they are today doing their part to help that Russian disinformation campaign succeed, knowing full well what it is they are doing and who is the author of this conspiracy theory they`re promoting at America`s expense and to the benefit of Vladimir Putin.  They know it. 

What do we do with that? 

Julian Barnes from "The New York Times" joins us next.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  So, "The New York Times" is out with important new reporting tonight that has now been confirmed by NBC News, I should tell you that U.S. intelligence officials in recent weeks briefed U.S. senators on the false claim that that was Ukraine that meddled in the 2016 election and not election and not Russia.  Intelligence agencies informed senators in recent weeks that claim is the output of a, quote, years-long campaign by Russia to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow`s own hacking of the 2016 election.  That, of course, puts a whole new shine on the president and his Republican supporters further promoting that falsehood as they try to defend the president in the impeachment context. 

"The Times" reporting as part of this scoop as well President Trump has spoken directly to President Putin on this issue.  That`s new.  We have not previously known that. 

"The Times" also reporting intriguingly that as part of the same effort, the Russians have also promoted a theory essentially that the president`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort was framed.  That the so-called black ledger that showed him taking millions of dollars in illicit payments from Ukraine is not new information and that he somehow shouldn`t be in jail. 

Joining us now is Julian Barnes, national security reporter with "The New York Times".

Mr. Barnes, thanks for making time for us tonight.  I know it`s a very busy environment. 

JULIAN BARNES, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  Thanks have having me on the show. 

MADDOW:  So, let me ask you about some of the things I see within your reporting below the main headline that struck me as new.  Am I right this is the first reporting that we`ve seen that President Trump spoke directly with Vladimir Putin about this false claim that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election?  I`d never seen that anywhere before I saw it in your piece tonight. 

BARNES:  Well, we`ve seen indications of this before.  You`ll remember when we had a pretty robust report about Trump`s talk with Putin back after the Mueller report was done.  And there we know that Ukrainian interference came up in that conversation. 

But American officials tell me that it had come up even earlier than that, that this is a theme that Putin has raised with Trump before. 

Now, what we don`t know is when Putin first spoke to Trump about this.  You know, a lot of those notes from the translators has been torn up and the reconstructed transcripts of those have been put in the most secure server.  So, there`s not a lot of people who have access to the sort of full histories of the conversations between Trump and Putin. 

But this is a theme that Putin has been talking about since February 17, that he`s been deflecting, he has been saying it`s the Ukrainians not the Russians that did the interference campaign. 

MADDOW:  In terms of -- this is almost incredible news.  I mean, I do think this is really important reporting.  That U.S. intelligence agencies have not only come to this conclusion that claim about Ukrainian election interference has been promulgated by Russian intelligence for purposes of benefitting the Russian government -- they`ve not only concluded that, but they`ve briefed it to U.S. senators. 

From your reporting, do we understand anything about why intelligence agencies have briefed this to senators, which senators got this briefing, whether this was meant to be a sort of a protective briefing in terms of senators being targeted as people who could potentially promulgate this disinformation themselves?  Do we know anything about what the I.C. was doing when they decide -- why do I.C. decided to brief this to the Senate? 

BARNES:  That`s an excellent question, because what we can`t say is were intelligence officers upset by this coming so forcefully into mainstream discussion, into political debate in Capitol Hill.  The timing suggests -- maybe the timing suggests that this was -- this was not new information.  The United States has known about this interference, this disinformation campaign for quite some time. 

So why is information being pushed now?  One theory is because it has come so forcefully on display in the impeachment proceedings.  However -- however we don`t know -- my reporting does not say definitively that the intelligence officers who gave the original material to the Senate made that link. 

MADDOW:  Julian Barnes, national security reporter for "The New York Times," congratulations on this story.  I feel like this has been the big missing link that we didn`t know if some of the people who have been promulgating this theory might have reason to believe they`re sort of doing the Russian government a favor by doing so.  And you`ve really helped us advance our understanding about this as a country.  Thanks very much for being here tonight. 

BARNES:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  All right, we`ve got much more ahead tonight.  Busy night.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Ticktack.  I can`t really believe it is coming down to the wire like this, but it`s late, right?  It`s Friday night, and the deadline is midnight tonight.  I don`t know if they`re going to make it. 

Before midnight Eastern Time tonight, we are expecting something that could potentially be really important.  A federal judge last month ordered the U.S. State Department to hand over documents by midnight tonight in response to a FOIA lawsuit that was asking about documents and communications that related to the firing of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.  It`s a central issue of this impeachment inquiry that the ambassador to Ukraine recalled inexplicably after this smear campaign by Rudy Giuliani and the conservative media that seems to be related to this effort to try to get investigations out of the Ukrainian government. 

An oversight group called American Oversight FOIA-ed documents from State Department about the firing of Yovanovitch.  And a federal judge ruled that those documents need to be handed over by the State Department, and they need to be handed over by tonight. 

This is not like the other things we`ve seen in the impeachment, right?  You know, we`ve seen over and over again documents requested by the impeachment committees or even subpoenaed by the impeachment committees.  And then the White House or some other agency refuses to turn over the documents anyway.  We`ve seen a lot of those fights, as troubling as those are. 

This is totally different thing.  This is an order of magnitude more serious.  This is federal court order from a federal judge at the State Department must comply with. 

We have defied a lot of norms and broken a lot of norms in terms of oversight responsibilities and presidential behavior and the ways the branches of government are supposed to deal with each other over the course of the Trump presidency.  Nobody has yet defied a court order at least in a direct way like this.  That is a Rubicon that the Trump administration has not yet crossed. 

Because of that, we fully expect that the State Department will comply, but they are running out of time.  Again, midnight tonight is the deadline.  If we get them while we`re on the air, we will bring them to you.  It`ll be interesting to see if and how those documents change the conversation going forward, and they raise the really interesting question of how Democrats in Congress on these committees that are handling the impeachment, how they`re going to handle it if new information, new witnesses or new documentation like we`re expecting tonight comes out even though they`ve already wrapped up their public hearings. 

We`ve got more on that with a member of the Judiciary Committee coming up. 

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  "The L.A. Times" reports today that the House Intelligence Committee, which has been leading the impeachment inquiry thus far, that committee has according to "The Times" already started to work on their impeachment report.  The report on the evidence that they have collected, which they plan to hand-off to the full house ultimately after a week of blockbuster public testimony.  Once the Intelligence Committee completes that report, the focus will turn to the Judiciary Committee.  It`ll be the Judiciary Committee in the House that will be responsible for considering that evidence that been gathered in that inquiry.  And that committee will have to decide if that evidence warrants them drafting articles of impeachment against President Trump. 

If they draft those articles of impeachment against President Trump, the committee then needs to consider those impeachment articles.  They need to vote as a committee on those impeachment articles, voting effectively to forward those impeachment articles against the president to the full house for a full house vote.  We don`t know exactly how the Judiciary Committee is going to approach those responsibilities.  That all remains to be seen. 

But while all that is under way, even just tonight, we are still watching for the State Department to release a heap of documents tonight before midnight that are directly germane to the central allegations at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.  They`re documents about the firing to the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. 

These documents, again, get to the heart of the impeachment inquiry.  A federal court, a federal judge has given the State Department only until midnight tonight to turn these documents loose. 

So, I mean, step back for a second.  Just as the intelligence committee has wrapped up its depositions, wrapped up its public hearings, they`re rounding the curve to pass the baton to the Judiciary Committee, here comes more evidence not only we the public but the Congress are about to get. 

Joining us now is Congresswoman Karen Bass.  She sits on the Judiciary Committee. 

Congresswoman Bass, I really appreciate you making time for us tonight.  Thanks for being here. 

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA):  Thank you for having me on. 

MADDOW:  I said that we know very little about how your committee is going to approach its responsibilities. 

BASS:  Right.

MADDOW:  Can you shed any light for us how you guys are going to work through that part of the process? 

BASS:  No, not much.  I think we`re all waiting to receive the report, and then we will have to decide. 

But the point you`re making that there`s more information coming forward, I wouldn`t be surprised if there weren`t more people from the State Department or from the administration because I kind of feel like once that crack happened with the whistle-blower, that there`s going to be a lot more people coming forward. 

But at some point, we have to say enough is enough.  And so I am certainly anxiously awaiting that report.  I imagine that we will see it as soon as we come back from break, and then we`ll determine where we go from there. 

MADDOW:  And if more facts do develop in the inquiry, if as you say more witnesses decide to come forward either of their own volition their ordered by a court or any other reason or if more important factual documentation comes out, I don`t know what will be in these State Department documents we`ll see tonight but if there is more important stuff there, will it be the intelligence committee that continues to compile the fact basis for the inquiry, or at some point will that rollover to you as well? 

BASS:  I think it`s possible it would rollover to us.  But, you know, just like you said, I mean, will they actually comply?  I don`t know.  You know, this is an administration that`s been pretty lawless.  I would not be surprised at all if this deadline passes and they don`t comply with the release of the documents. 

MADDOW:  It is -- puts a little shivers down my spine to say that I am -- maybe I`m naive.  I am one of these people who believe the term "constitutional crisis" is overused, that actually our constitution is a very capable document that anticipates all sorts of terrible things.  And a lot of times when we just have harsh political conflict or bad terms in policy or personnel we consider that to be a crisis but it`s not. 

I would consider it to be a constitutional crisis if any element of the executive branch started defying a lawful court order.  Not appealing it, not complaining about it.

BASS:  Right.

MADDOW:  But actually defying it. 

You`re saying that you think that`s a possibility here? 

BASS:  I absolutely think that`s a possibility because everything you said about the Constitution when it comes to the president, I have no doubt that he`s never even picked a document up.  And so, I think if he felt threatened by it, I wouldn`t be surprised at all. 

MADDOW:  You serve, ma`am, as head of the judiciary subcommittee on Africa, global health and human rights organizations.  Part of the reason I wanted to talk to you tonight because I know you were at the border at San Ysidro, in California today, to hold an unusual field hearing on the treatment of immigrants, specifically African immigrants at the southern border. 

Can you tell us about the decision to hold that field hearing and what you found today? 

BASS:  Sure.  Actually, we did two things today.  I also chaired the Congressional Black Caucus and we took members of the Black Caucus across the border, went into Tijuana and met with a group of African immigrants.  They were from Cameroon, several different African countries, Jamaica and Haiti. 

And we met with them about the asylum situation.  And what is happening in this administration it`s so important that we go down and see them, because in the entire debate, there are thousands of Africans and other black immigrants in Mexico but they`ve been invisible through this whole process.  So, we really wanted to raise the visibility.

Now, in terms of the hearing that we held, I did that under the auspices of the subcommittee.  But we were looking at the fact the general border crisis is really a humanitarian crisis.  But unfortunately, this administration is addressing it as though it is a law enforcement problem. 

And the trauma that these people have gone through, it`s really just shameful.  And because these immigrants do not speak Spanish, they are essentially stateless because there`s no way for them to really get in line to participate in the asylum process.  There is information that is written on paper, but frankly these people have fallen completely through the cracks.  And they`re being discriminated against horribly in Mexico. 

There were several people we met.  We met one woman who was trans, and she felt completely not only stateless but also very vulnerable.  She has been beaten, she`s been abused, and several of the people that we spoke to have been in that situation. 

MADDOW:  Congresswoman Karen Bass of the Judiciary Committee, thank you for helping us understand that situation, for holding that hearing.  We`ll have you back to talk more about that in the future.  Thanks for being with us tonight.  I appreciate it. 

BASS:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  All right.  Coming up next, we have something we haven`t done in a long time on this show, but it is very, very much overdue. 

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  I`m so excited for this.  All right, are you ready?  Best new thing in the world.  It starts right here. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ANDRE CARSON (D-IN):  Now some in Ukraine probably disliked her efforts to help Ukraine root out corruption, is that correct? 

GEORGE KENT, AMERICAN DIPLOMAT:  As I mentioned in my testimony, you can`t promote principled anti-corruption action without pissing off corrupt people. 

CARSON:  Fair enough. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  It`s like, did that really happen?  Yes, it did.  You can`t promote principled anti-corruption action without pissing off corruption people.  Fair enough. 

Now, I do not know how to sew let alone cross-stitch, but, boy, did I want to learn how after that impeachment theme song we got from State Department official George Kent.

That night that he said that at the impeachment hearing, our excellent graphics department whipped this up as kind of the wallpaper for our show that night.  It was quite frankly perfection until it started to get even more perfect. 

My friend Nick who works on Brian Williams` show, "The 11TH Hour", he promptly showed up at our offices, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW`s offices with this, which is fantastic.  Look at that.  He got it put on a mug. 

I was so excited that I considered packing up and going home right then and there because how could today be better after getting handed something like this?  But then we checked the mail.  Check this out.  You ready?  Look. 

Uh-huh.  Look at this absolute bundle of joy.  The beautiful handiwork of Julie from Rockford, Illinois.  And look, it has a back.  George Kent, U.S. State Department November 13, 2019. 

I love it.  It is perfect.  Thank you, Julie. 

But wait, there`s more.  Oh, yes.  Tammy in Toms River, New Jersey, sent us this.  Tammy put her own spin on this one.  Do you notice the difference and the color between the two of them? 

This one is hand-died with tea and coffee before she did the cross-stitch by hand.  She wanted a more vintage look.  Thank you, Tammy. 

Oh, but wait there`s more.  Look at this one.  This one is from Barbara in -- can I get the reflection off? 

Barbara in Garden City, New York.  Barbara, I love what you did here.  See, instead of stitching the full kind of long quote from Mr. Kent, she got right to it.  You can`t fight corruption without pissing off corrupt people. 

True that, Barbara.  True that. 

You guys, we love this more than anything.  We will cherish them forever and ever.  We`re planning to build a small museum for them in our office.  Fantastic, I will say if anybody else out there was inspired to actually make this in real life, the way these awesome folks were, if there`s a basket of thread calling your name on something like this, I hereby suggest you share the cross-stitch you love with someone special in your life. 

We have -- don`t send us anymore.  We love the ones you have.  If you are making these, you have to gift them around and spread them around the country.  Give them to somebody you like.  Even better, perhaps give them to someone you disagree with.  Could be a conversation starter, right?

Best new thing in the world. 

That does it for us tonight.  See you again on Monday. 

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD."  Ali Velshi filling in for Lawrence tonight. 

Good evening, Ali.

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