CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now with the one and only Ali Velshi, in for Rachel.
Good evening, Ali, and have a great Thanksgiving.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: That warmed my heart, an economic discussion at the end of your show that I happened to just be listening to. I think that is -- that`s amazing.
HAYES: Those two are very sharp, and also, there`s a lot -- you know, everyone talks about the top numbers, but it`s wild when you dig down how little is happening at the kitchen to table for most people even in this economy.
VELSHI: If Martians came in and said, let me look at your economy they`d say fantastic. And it used to be unemployment was the intractable problem of our time and now it`s this wage growth thing. We`ve got unemployment down to 4 percent and people still can`t get better wages. I think something is broken.
Thank you for having that conversation, my friend. Happy Thanksgiving to you.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy almost Thanksgiving.
Just because the holiday season is upon us, do not expect the news to slow down. If anything it`s speeding up.
Late this evening, for example, the recently fired secretary of the U.S. Navy has published an op-ed for the ages. This man, former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, was pushed out by the president on Sunday over the disciplining of a Navy SEAL who had been convicted of posing with the corpse of an ISIS fighter, which is against military policy.
The president had intervened to stop the SEAL from being demoted and losing his status as a SEAL. In this remarkable new op-ed tonight in "The Washington Post", the former Navy secretary delivers his side of the story. Secretary Spencer calls the president`s intervention shocking and unprecedented. He continues, quote, it was also a reminder that the president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices, end quote.
Now, that`s not the usual Thanksgiving Eve message, but welcome to 2019. Today, we saw a slew of new impeachment related developments as well as new legal developments concerning the president`s advisers, both past and current.
This morning, the federal judge overseeing the case of President Trump`s first national security advisor Michael Flynn agreed to delay his sentencing. Flynn, you will remember, pled guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. He had scheduled to be sentenced on December 18th.
Now, today, at the request of both Flynn`s lawyers and prosecutors, D.C. District Judge Emmet Sullivan agreed to postpone Flynn`s sentencing date until after the department`s inspector general issues a report into the origins of the Russia investigation.
Now, the president and his allies have recently been hyping up that report and its potential to outline major wrongdoing by FBI figures who were tasked with looking into the Russia scandal. The president recently said the report`s conclusions may be, quote, the biggest scandal in the history of our country.
The biggest scandal in the history of our country. Except from what`s been reported publicly thus far, there seems to be little basis for that assertion. Today, we got a new headline on what to expect courtesy of "The New York Times." You see the headline here, Russia inquiry review is expected to undercut Trump claim of FBI spying.
According to a draft copy of the report, "The Times" reports that the inspector general, quote, found no evidence at the FBI attempted to place undercover agents or informants inside Trump`s campaign in 2016, as the president and his supporters have maintained.
We should note: NBC News has not independently confirmed this reporting, but it tracks with previous reporting that the inspector general`s report is likely to show no political bias on behalf of top FBI officials and that there was a proper legal basis for surveilling certain Trump officials during the campaign. And the inspector general`s report is due to land on December 9th, by which point Congress is already going to be waist-deep in the next stage of the impeachment proceedings.
And while the president and his defenders in Congress continue to stress that he did nothing wrong, new information continues to pour out eroding holes in his defense. Yesterday, "The New York Times" reported that the president had already been briefed about the whistle-blower`s complaint before he finally decided to unfreeze $391 million in military aid to Ukraine that he had ordered halted earlier in the summer. The release of the final remaining deposition transcripts, by this man, the House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, also led to the new, previously unreported bombshell that two officials at the White House`s Office of Management and Budget resigned over concerns about that hold on military aid to Ukraine.
Today -- today also brought new word about the possible motives of the president`s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who`s been at the heart of the campaign to pressure Ukraine. Dueling reports in "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" today alleged that Giuliani pursued business deals worth hundreds of dollars from the same Ukrainian government that was supplying him with damaging information about the Bidens. We`re going to have more on those reports and on Giuliani`s potential legal liability coming up in the show tonight.
But the new reports about Giuliani comes as President Trump seeks to distance himself from his lawyer, saying in a new interview that he did not direct Giuliani`s efforts in Ukraine. Now, that assertion flies in the face of public testimony by multiple witnesses in the impeachment inquiry who told lawmakers over the last two weeks that Giuliani was central to efforts by Trump to get the Ukrainian government to launch investigations into the 2016 election and his domestic political rival, Joe Biden, as a condition of receiving military aid, and a much sought after meeting with the president in the Oval Office. And a lot of people heard that testimony.
New figures provided by Nielsen showed that at least 70 million Americans tuned into at least some of the hearings over the past two weeks. Those who did were treated to devastating testimony from a procession of fact witnesses who laid out the details of the president`s conduct and what they knew about a secret shadow diplomacy that undermined our ally Ukraine as it continues to fight a hot war against Russia.
Here is some of that testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM TAYLOR, ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: There appeared to be two channels of U.S. policymaking and implementation. One regular and one highly irregular.
LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: I was concerned by the column. What I heard was inappropriate and I reported my concerns. It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and a political opponent.
AMB. GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Mr. Giuliani`s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States.
DAN GOLDMAN, COUNSEL FOR DEMOCRATS ON INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: So you heard President Trump ask Ambassador Sondland, is he going to do the investigation?
DAVID HOLMES, UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Yes, sir.
GOLDMAN: What was Ambassador Sondland`s response?
HOLMES: He said, oh, yes, he`s going to do it. He`ll do anything you ask.
MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Ukrainians who prefer to play by the old corrupt rules sought to remove me. What continues to amaze me is that they found Americans willing to partner with them in working together they apparently succeeded in orchestrating the removal of a U.S. ambassador.
TAYLOR: As I said on the phone, I think it`s crazy to with hold security assistance for help with a political campaign.
GOLDMAN: And what did Ambassador Sondland say -- tell you that he told Mr. Yermak?
TIMOTHY MORRISON, SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS AT THE WHITE HOUSE IN THE CNS: That the Ukrainians would have to have the prosecutor general make a statement with respect to the investigations as a condition of having the aid lifted.
FIONA HILL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR ON RUSSIA: I refused to be part of an effort to legitimize an ultimate narrative that the Ukrainian government is U.S. adversary and that the Ukraine not Russia attacked us in 2016. These fictions are harmful even if they`re deployed for purely domestic political purposes.
AMB. KURT VOLKER, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO UKRAINE: I don`t think that raising 2016 elections or Vice President Biden or these things I consider to be conspiracy theories that have been circulated by the Ukrainians, particularly the prosecutor general are -- they`re not things we should be pursuing as part of our national security strategy with Ukraine.
SONDLAND: When you`re talking to the president of the United States, the secretary of state, the national security advisor, the chief of staff for the White House, the secretary of energy, I don`t know how that`s irregular.
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Was Mr. Giuliani promoting U.S. national interests or policy in Ukraine, Ambassador?
TAYLOR: I don`t think so, ma`am.
DEMINGS: Mr. Kent?
KENT: No, he was not.
DEMINGS: What interests do you believe he was promoting, Mr. Kent?
KENT: I believe he was looking to dig up political dirt against a potential rival on the next election cycle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That public testimony from the impeachment hearings is now being written up into a final report by the House Intelligence Committee led by Adam Schiff. Schiff says the report will be handed to the Judiciary Committee soon after Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess potentially as early as Monday.
The Judiciary Committee has already scheduled its first public impeachment hearing for next Wednesday. That hearing, according to "Politico", will feature a panel of constitutional experts and focus on the definition of an impeachable offense. The committee will reportedly use the hearing to analyze the evidence gathered by the House Intelligence Committee.
In addition, "Politico" also reports that the committee is expected to hold at least one more hearing in addition to the one next Wednesday which could come the second week of December. Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler extended an invitation to President Trump or his lawyers to appear at next week`s hearing alongside the constitutional experts on the panel. The White House is currently deciding whether or not to participate.
Tonight, "Politico Playbook" reporting the White House involvement in those hearings is unlikely. Quote: As of right now, people close to the President Donald Trump on the White House staff and on Capitol Hill do not believe he will send a lawyer to participate in next week`s judiciary impeachment hearings.
So what do we expect going for forward?
Joining us now is Kyle Cheney, congressional reporter for "Politico".
Kyle, good to have you with us. Thank you.
A lot of the reporting I just quoted is your reporting. So, let`s talk about first of all Chairman Nadler of the Judiciary Committee, the attention is now going to move to him from the Intelligence Committee. He`s given the White House until Sunday night to decide whether they`re sending Donald Trump, Donald Trump and lawyers or lawyers for Donald Trump to this hearing. It`s been a big part of the discussion amongst Republicans that you`re not letting us have -- you`re not letting the president have his say or any part in this.
What is likely to happen?
KYLE CHENEY, POLITICO CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: So, as my colleagues reported, it does seem unlikely at this moment the president is going to send his lawyers to Capitol Hill to participate in this hearing. They just don`t see a benefit at this moment because, first of all, we`re talking about the hearing about the constitutional definition of high crimes and misdemeanors. Not necessarily going to be riveting TV but it`s an important part of any -- launching any formal impeachment proceeding. They don`t know if there`s any value as having lawyers question a constitutional scholars.
And even Republicans on the committee are saying don`t bother sending your guys, this isn`t the time. What they want to know is when does the president get to call his own witnesses and will he be allowed to question those witnesses? And when we get to those sort of procedural elements, it definitely may see more interest in the White House sending its people.
VELSHI: It`s going to be a different flavor. The Intel Committee hearings were fact witnesses or people providing context about Russia, Ukraine and the United States and its history, you know, the strategic history. This is not what the Judiciary Committee is going to be doing. They`re going to be evaluating whether the facts are contrary to the constitutional requirements that the president has.
CHENEY: Right, and applying what we learned in those explosive hearings to this idea of, does this warrant the removal of the president from office? Does this meet the threshold of high crime and misdemeanors? It`s a very sort of academic argument, something you haven`t seen very much in this country, only like a couple of times in history. So, it will be fascinating but it all extremely high level.
VELSHI: This report that Adam Schiff is going to hand over to the Judiciary Committee maybe some time next week, he said after the Thanksgiving recess, is that a report you`re likely to see, we`re likely to see, our viewers are likely to see?
CHENEY: Yes, whenever that does come, we don`t know exactly when, we expect it to be a public report that will essentially be the framework of at least some portion of the articles of impeachment that the Judiciary Committee will ultimately draft. But you went through a litany of stories at the top here that suggests the facts are still in some ways coming out. So, that`s the one unusual piece we have here is this a fast moving situation where we`re learning new details about the actual investigation every day.
And so what those articles will look like and whether the facts will be completely different and new elements will come out and new witnesses will before they`re drafted is a big question mark.
VELSHI: There`s, in fact, development for people who consume this, and they, you know, it also sorts -- starts to sound the same and drip together, the very interesting piece of news that is being reported tonight by newspapers is that the president caught wind of the fact there was a whistle-blower complaint. He knew the gist of it, and then released the money and said to Gordon Sondland and others, no quid pro quo.
The idea that the money was released because they knew there was an investigation going to be happening.
CHENEY: Right. And in some ways there was already evidence of this. We know that the Democrats had announced an investigation of Ukraine matters on September 9th, two days before the aid gets released, but this tells you even more that the president and his team was aware at least in a broad way of what the whistle-blower had concerns about.
And so, we now know a new element of the timeline just gets introduced, usually these things are well-settled by the time, you know, you`re talking about drafting articles of impeachment. So, very fast moving situation.
VELSHI: Let`s talk about the articles of impeachment. Something you wrote tonight is that two articles of impeachment, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are virtually guaranteed to show up as features of impeachment against the president, but that Democrats are divided on whether to involve matters relating to Russia and the Mueller investigation into this. Tell me a bit about the dispute.
CHENEY: Right, so the Ukraine investigation clearly honed in on the abuse of power argument. Trump pressured a foreign government to help his own political prospects and obstruction. A lot of witnesses were blocked from coming. Congress still hasn`t had access to some of the top witnesses they`d like to see.
The Mueller report, which many people thought would initially be the basis for any impeachment proceedings we saw, has kind of fallen by the wayside in this discussion, except that we now have this ruling in the McGahn, Mueller star witness, former White House counsel Don McGahn who a judge said basically has to testify. And he`s been blocked, and he could provide very valuable information to Congress that could feed another article of impeachment on obstruction of justice if they go that route.
And so, this is something again very fluid and a lot of members would like to see that factored into any impeachment they move for forward with.
VELSHI: Kyle, it`s good to see you in person. Thank you for being with us tonight.
CHENEY: Good to be here, Ali.
VELSHI: Kyle Cheney is a congressional reporter for "Politico".
All right. Tonight, we`ve got new reporting from "The Washington Post" that appears to contradict or at least cast doubt on one of President Donald Trump`s central defenses in the impeachment inquiry. You may remember that one week ago today, E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified to Congress that there was an explicit quid pro quo involving the announcement of investigations into Trump`s political rivals in exchange for a coveted White House meeting. At that hearing, Sondland also testified that he spoke with the president by phone on September 9th, two days before the hold on military aid was lifted. This is important because of what Kyle just said, September 9th, two days before.
The president took to the White House lawn to defend himself, using a set of talking points based on that specific call between Trump and Sondland. According to both Sondland and the president, when Sondland asked the president what he wanted from Ukraine on that September 9th call, Trump replied, quote, I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo.
Well, now tonight new reporting by "The Washington Post" casts doubt on those claims. "The Post" reports that, quote, no other witness testimony or documents have emerged that corroborates Sondland`s description of a call that day and that the White House has not located a record in its switchboard logs of a call between Trump and Sondland on September 9th according to an administration official.
You can see why every day, sometimes it feels like every hour new reporting makes this story that much more intriguing.
Joining us now Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor under President Obama and author of "The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House."
Mr. Rhodes, thank you for joining us tonight. Let`s first of all just get your reaction to this. The idea that Gordon Sondland`s testimony in large part was predicated on this phone call that apparently took place between him and Donald Trump, a phone call that feels like it might have been scripted. It was so good in what it had to say if you were Gordon Sondland.
What is -- what do you make of the fact there`s no record of this phone call?
BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well, look, first of all, Ali, the whole fact picture around this phone call suggests that there was entirely a quid pro quo, that Trump was leveraging this assistance to try to get an announcement of these investigations, and then this reporting kind of suggests what also seemed to parrot, which they knew they were going to be caught, and so this is someone who knows they`re being caught, calling someone and saying I am not committing a crime. You know, nobody says no quid pro quo. That`s not like something you say in casual conversation here.
So it seems very clear that this phone call is contradictory to the rest of the entire fact pattern and was motivated by their effort to get something on the record that could potentially obscure what they`d already been caught doing.
VELSHI: You were a deputy national security advisor under President Obama, and I think it has been years probably since Iran contra that the national security advisor role has been so public and people have understood how it all goes on. The people who populate that office in many cases the people we`ve heard testifying, they were not Democrats or Republicans. They were people who had been working inside the security apparatus either for a long time in government or outside.
Give me your sense of their impact on the impeachment process so far?
RHODES: Well, that`s a great question, Ali, because the points critical for people to understand is the vast majority of the national security staff in the government is apolitical. There are people who are civil servants who serve both Republicans and Democrats. Foreign Service officers at the State Department like people that we`ve heard from repeatedly, Bill Taylor comes to mind. People in the uniformed military like Colonel Vindman who comes to mind and then nonpartisan experts like Fiona Hill, all of these people are there to serve the national interests and that`s generally the national security community.
And you hear those people`s voices, you know, commitment to the Constitution and to a sense of what are the national interests of the United States and Ukraine? And the national interests of United States and Ukraine are to push back against Russian aggression, to help a country that has been besieged literally by a U.S. adversary.
And what`s so striking in this whole process is separate and apart from all those people, there was this distinct channel of people like Rudy Giuliani and Gordon Sondland. Rudy Giuliani who`s not even in the U.S. government. He`s a personal attorney for president Trump. And Gordon Sondland who`s a donor not even representing Ukraine. He`s there representative to the European Union.
And so, clearly, Trump created a parallel channel that would carry out his efforts to politicize for his own personal and corrupt gain, our foreign policy. And all the rest of the people were mystified and in many cases apparently horrified by this.
VELSHI: And we got some of this from some of this testimony. But there may be some who think that`s enough to impeach Donald Trump, that he was doing something for his personal enrichment. But national security experts are actually concerned it`s not actually -- the personal enrichment part is secondary to the fact that money was congressionally approved for a national security reason.
So doing something else that is of no consequence for personal enrichment or political enrichment is one thing. But this wasn`t a thing to play with. The support for Ukraine is not sort of a fun, charitable thing.
RHODES: Yes. This is not some trivial national security matter. This is one of the chief geopolitical hot spots in the world today, Ali. Ukraine literally depends upon this assistance as a lifeline as it is fighting an ongoing war with Russia that is occupying of part of its territory, that has killed thousands of people, right? So, this is a very pressing national security matter that was being made secondary by Donald Trump to his own personal interest.
The thing that worries me, Ali, is if Donald Trump is not held accountable for this, the message that will be sent presumably by the Republican Party is that we`re OK with this. We`re OK with presidents essentially putting the personal interests over the national interests even in matters of extreme national security importance. And think about how that could be applied going forward. What is the message going forward to other countries around the world if we`re basically going to say it`s a country and it doesn`t matter if a president prioritizes the interest of his political opponents over the national interests?
And I think that`s why you saw such uniformity of opinion in all those fact witnesses today.
VELSHI: Can you remember when you were deputy national security advisor whether there were congressional Republicans saying we`re OK with this, we`d be OK with President Obama doing something like this? Those were simpler times, Ben. Good to see you, my friend.
RHODES: Yes. Well, not only did they try to make President Obama out to be someone who was an out of control executive when he absolutely wasn`t. But importantly, they were huge supporters of Ukraine.
VELSHI: Yes, of course.
RHODES: But we were constantly attacked by Republicans for not doing more aid to Ukraine.
RHODES: And really said to watch them flip to suddenly have no problem to treating this ally like a second class citizen, a country only a form for their own personal political efforts to obstruct or attack Democrats.
VELSHI: Ben, we`re always grateful for your analysis. Thank you for joining us.
RHODES: Thanks a lot. Good to be with you.
VELSHI: Ben Rhodes, national -- deputy national security advisor under President Obama.
All right. Just ahead, new details about Rudy Giuliani`s dealings in Ukraine.
We`ll be right back.
VELSHI: We heard this testimony, we heard this yesterday from a former top official. Not testimony, we heard him talk. A former top official from the Justice Department and a prosecutor who served on the Mueller investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW WEISSMANN, NBC NEWS ANALYST: What you just covered about the Peter Carr announcement and Brian Benczkowski fraud section, very unusual because what it signals is there clearly is an investigation into Rudy Giuliani. That tells you and in fact we now know there is an investigation. And one of the ways it could be -- there could be a real overlap and this is speculation, we don`t know what the Southern District is doing. But one way you could do that is if you have a case on bribery involving the president -- well, the president under the DOJ policy cannot be indicted while he`s in office. That does not apply to anyone else who`s involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Right, you cannot indict the president some people believe under Justice Department policy, but that protection does not apply to the people around the president like the president`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
This week, we learned that federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Giuliani`s consulting firm and a pair of Giuliani`s associates. The already indicted Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
And then today we got this from "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post." Both papers reporting that while Rudy Giuliani was working to find dirt on the Bidens for the president, he was also pursuing business interests with Ukrainian officials. They focused on a draft proposal calling for Ukraine`s top prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko to pay Giuliani at least $200,000 to represent him and another proposal calling for the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice to retain Giuliani`s firm for $300,000.
Now, Giuliani told the papers he rejected both offers. It`s hard to see how this has been a fun thanksgiving week for Rudy Giuliani. Yesterday, the president told a former Fox News host that whatever Giuliani was doing Ukraine, he wasn`t doing it at Trump`s bidding.
Meanwhile, Mr. Giuliani is apparently scrambling to patch things up with the president especially over the matter of insurance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: I`ve seen things written like he`s going to throw me under the bus. When I say that I say he isn`t, but I have insurance.
(EDND VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: I have insurance. Now, a lawyer for Mr. Giuliani tells "Reuters" Giuliani, quote, at my insistence had called Trump in the last day to emphasize he had not been serious when he said he had an insurance policy if thrown under the bus. This is good.
Giuliani`s lawyer says, quote, he shouldn`t joke. He`s not a funny guy. I told him 10,000 comedians are out of work and you make a joke. It doesn`t work that way.
Joining us now, former U.S. attorney and MSNBC contributor, Barbara McQuade.
Barbara, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.
What do you make of this whole -- I mean, he went on national television. He was speaking to Ed Henry at Fox and he said this thing about, I`ve got insurance.
You`re a former prosecutor. I don`t know who in real life uses that kind of language, but there seems to be a message.
BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. What`s strange about it is he made that statement twice when he talked about he`s not concerned about President Trump throwing him under the bus because he has insurance. And then when he was asked about it, instead of saying, you know, that`s just a joke, I meant sort of the literal if I were injured by a bus, I have health insurance type of thing would have been easy to explain it. But instead, he had some cockamamie theory about in a safe, he`s got information about the Bidens and a RICO chart.
It really does seem like what he was trying to say there is, I know where the bodies are buried and so President Trump would not dare to turn on me, which is a very strange thing for a lawyer to say about his client.
VELSHI: Not just a lawyer, a former prosecutor, a former attorney general. A former -- you know, this guy was a D.A. -- not attorney general. A D.A.
Rudy Giuliani knows the law. He knows people who talks like this. He knows what he means when he says it, but he must be gaining a great deal of interest from prosecutors who are looking at him and his firm and their work in Ukraine because he keeps leaving breadcrumbs.
MCQUADE: Yes, he`s been really reckless I think in his public statement. He has to know -- he most certainly knows anything he says publicly, anything he says on Twitter can be used against him. So he really is beginning to paint himself into a corner because when you`re talking to people casually, you can make inconsistent statements and they don`t get used against you. But down the road, he may find himself in a position where statements he made have really locked him into a position that could be harmful to him legally.
VELSHI: Now, there`s two Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. They`re under indicted for campaign finance violations. They`re expected back in court on Monday.
Now, according to ABC News, Parnas has turned over audio and video recordings and photographs that include Giuliani and Trump, he`s given this to the House Intelligence Committee. I don`t know what that means.
What do you glean from that? What kind of photographs and -- what could we possibly be talking about?
MCQUAE: I don`t know. And, you know, I`m a little bit skeptical of what Parnas has to deliver because he`s been so public, and his lawyer has been so publicly lobbying for his testimony. You know, practically begging to testify perhaps in hopes of getting leniency in that New York deal.
So I don`t know what to make of it. I look forward to seeing it, seeing what it is. But if he had something in which President Trump and Rudy Giuliani were discussing, the work that Giuliani was doing on President Trump`s behalf in Ukraine, that could be of great value, especially now as President Trump seems to be distancing himself from the work of Giuliani with regard to Ukraine.
VELSHI: Barbara, good to see you as always. Thank you for joining me. Barbara McQuade is former U.S. attorney and MSNBC contributor.
Stay with us. We`ve got more news just ahead.
VELSHI: The Trump administration policy of separating families at the border sparked international outrage in 2018. We all know from watching in real time the stories about the children, infants being sent around the country, kept from their parents for weeks and months at a time.
A new report today from the Department of Homeland Security inspector general says the department anticipated taking 26,000 kids from their family. In court, DHS has said they ended up separating about 3,000 kids with about a third of them still separated from their families. Now, this report, this I.G. report now calls that accounting into question.
The inspector general`s office says that because the department lacked the right technology because of, quote, I.T. deficiencies, the office could, quote, not confirm the total number of families that DHS separated. The I.G. says the Department of Homeland Security went ahead with the policy of taking kids from parents even though they knew they did not have the technology they needed to keep track of the families and eventually reunite them.
Quote: Without a reliable account of all family relationships, we could not validate the total number of separations or reunifications.
And so, yes, the policy of separating kids was an outrage to the point the administration was forced to backtrack just a month after going public with the plan.
The policy was also chaos. On both counts the administration left a paper trail that people are now following.
Hold that thought.
VELSHI: The response in the room was immediate. That`s how Pentagon official Laura Cooper describes the moment in late July when she understood very clearly, she says, that the White House was holding up nearly $400 million in aid for Ukraine.
Quote: In that meeting immediately, deputies began to raise concerns about how this could be done in a legal fashion, because there was broad understanding that the meeting -- from the meeting that the funding from the State Department and the Pentagon was specific to Ukraine security assistance. So, the comments in the room at the deputy`s level reflected a sense there was not an understanding of how this could legally play out.
Laura Cooper told Congress that White House budget official Mike Duffey was in the room when those red flags went up. Those immediately concerns about how the White House could legally hold back money that Congress had appropriated to help Ukraine.
The summary of a new report from the House Budget Committee suggests that the White House Budget Office and the same budget official, Mike Duffey, got a number of warnings that holding back the Ukraine money was illegal. On August 3rd, a week after meeting Cooper -- the meeting Cooper described, Duffey signs a letter withholding those critical funds. Three days later on August 6th, Duffey signs off on another letter for the White House Budget Office withholding the Ukraine funds.
Then on the 9th, Democrats on the Appropriations Committee in both the House and Senate warn that withholding funds could be illegal. Then Duffey signs another letter withholding those funds.
August 19th, Democrats on the House and Senate Budget Committees in the House and Senate again warn the White House that withholding the aid for Ukraine is illegal. On the 29th of August, Duffey signs another letter holding back the aid. In mid-September when the State Department moved to release its part of the Ukraine funding at the urging of National Security Advisor John Bolton, even then the White House Office of Management and Budget held onto the office for another two weeks plus even though they had been ordered multiple times in writing that withholding the money, the congressionally approved money is illegal.
This is all documented. In a summary of a new report from the House Budget Committee the committee writes, quote, after a careful review of the materials provided to the committees, the chairs have become more concerned the apportionment process has been abused to undermine Congress` constitutional power of the purse, specifically the time line of OMB actions, actions taken by OMB as seen in the provided apportionments which are legally binding documents suggest a pattern of the abuse of the apportionment process, OMB`s authority and current law.
So that is what the House Budget Committee is saying happened there, a pattern of abuse with a paper trail. The question now is what the House Budget Committee intends to do about it.
Joining us now, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Democrat of California and a member of the House Budget Committee.
Congresswoman Lee, thank you for joining us.
REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): Thank you. My pleasure. Glad to be with you, Ali.
VELSHI: This is -- the House Budget Committee is learning details something we`d had the broad strokes of, right? The Office of Management and Budget which is an executive branch operation, a White House operation, sort of had some strong sense that holding back this $391 million in congressionally approved aid might not only be the wrong thing to do but is probably illegal.
LEE: Certainly, Ali. Let me first say I serve on the Budget Committee and the appropriations committee. And both of our chairs wrote a letter in September questioning what was taking place. And, of course, they responded with documents but not the full complement of what we needed.
Secondly, there was as you indicated and I`m glad you gave the time line because there was a pattern of abuse, and in fact during this process, can you believe this two career individuals who were just doing their job, they were removed from the process, and a political person -- an appointee was placed in that position. And they went on and withheld the $400 million in security assistance. This was very dangerous.
First of all, they`d attempted to circumvent the congressional authority. This president has -- I guess he has no clue about the fact that this is a democracy, not a dictatorship and there are three branches of government, because they continue to try to usurp congressional authority and once again, we see this in what has taken place as it relates to the $400 million security assistance.
VELSHI: So, it`s possible the president may have no clue about understanding congressional authority. Not likely, but possible. It`s not at all possible that his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, a former member of Congress who was very, very preoccupied with congressional authority when Barack Obama was president, it is absolutely not possible that Mick Mulvaney can have an understanding of what congressionally approved aid means.
LEE: No, he doesn`t. I served with Mick Mulvaney, and he knows good and well what has taken place. And in fact, what they were trying to do is bribe the Ukrainian government.
I have to tell you I was in Ukraine earlier this year and I know the risks and the fact they need security assistance. I`ve served as vice chair of the subcommittee that funds all of our foreign assistance, and believe you me this was wrong, Mick Mulvaney knows it`s wrong, and it was really used to try to bribe the Ukrainian government in an attempt to undermine future elections, mind you, the 2020 elections.
And this is a very serious, a serious moment in our history, and this was quite frankly unconstitutional.
VELSHI: So, Ben Rhodes was on with me a little while ago. He was deputy national security adviser under President Obama, and he was making the point that Republicans traditionally would not have accepted this. Not just interference in congressionally approved money which is its own issue but perhaps the more important issue that the $391 million was approved by Congress on a bipartisan basis because it was an important thing to do from a national security perspective.
Our ally, Ukraine is in hot water with Russia.
LEE: Well, there`s clearly a double standard, and it`s obvious to me that this administration is a lawless administration. And in fact, they as -- remember, Senator Mitch McConnell said they were going to do everything they could do to stop President Obama`s agenda regardless of what it was.
So believe you me, this double standard is very evident, and in fact when you see two individuals who actually have resigned over this $400 million security assistance, they were doing their job. They were patriotic and I tell you the Republicans need to follow suit and do their job, try to at least show the public they understand the constitutional responsibilities of being a member of Congress and do their job. And they`re just not doing that.
Why? It`s beyond me.
VELSHI: Congresswoman Barbara Lee, thank you for joining me. Good to speak to you again.
LEE: My pleasure. Thank you very much.
VELSH: Still ahead, if you think we`re living in divided times, as we enter this Thanksgiving holiday, you`re right. But I promise you, it could be worse. We`ve dug up the old newspaper clippings to prove it.
Stay with us.
VELSHI: Do not adjust your screens. These are cows in Russia wearing virtual reality goggles. It`s no joke. This is real experiment in Russia right now.
The Ministry of Agriculture in Moscow just announced their scientists created special virtual reality engineered to fit, quote, the structural features of cow heads. In order to show the cow scenes of, quote, a unique summer field simulation program. In other words, warm weather and green pastures.
The thinking goes, a more pleasant, a virtual reality, will calm the cows down and calmed cows produce more milk. Now, if you`re a cow, Mother Russia is happy to tweak your reality for optimum results.
And it`s not just cows. Next time you`re in Russia, try pulling up the forecast or a map of the region on an Apple device and you`ll notice something odd. Crimea, the region that was part of Ukraine until it was illegally annexed by Vladimir Putin in 2014, a move that got Russia kicked out of the G-8 and got them sanctioned, that Crimea now appears on maps and weather forecasts not as part of Ukraine, not even as disputed territory.
If you`re inside Russia looking at that map on an Apple device, Crimea appears as a Russian territory. Despite the fact that for the rest of the world beyond Russia, Crimea appears on maps as what it is, disputed territory.
This tweak to the maps, this alternative reality, if you will, is straight from Vladimir Putin`s wish list. Putin`s government lobbied Apple to reconfigure the maps to Putin`s liking and Apple acquiesced. Happy Thanksgiving, Vlad.
Or as a Russian senior official put it, quote, there`s no going back. Today with Apple, the situation is closed. We have received everything we wanted.
You can say that again. For the record, Ukraine has denounced Apple over this, and no surprise, changing the map to show Crimea as part of Russia when that is one of the most contentious third rails in geopolitics today move the goal posts on what is fact and what is reality.
Ask yourself, how does it help anybody now your Internet spits out different facts depending on where you live and the political leaning of your president. Not even cows need that kind of virtual reality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: And the first thing we do is to disfigure the spinach which we`re all so fond of. And then we proceed to do that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a good time to get the speeches over first and then get down to the real business of the day which is to make short work of the bird. This is what the children do displaying no shyness in the presence of the president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt loved Thanksgiving, often celebrating the holiday alongside children who like himself had suffered from polio. But on November 23, 1939, while FDR was busy carving his bird, only half the country celebrated along with him.
You see for decades the holiday was observed on the final Thursday in November. But in 1939 the last Thursday fell on November 30th. Now, at the time, the country was still dragging itself out of the Great Depression and Roosevelt, a Democrat, feared that a shortened holiday shopping season would be bad for retailers, so he decided to issue an executive proclamation moving the holiday one week earlier.
Now, although the move was designed to help the country, it divided it instead. Small businesses threw a fit, claiming the shift did nothing to help their bottom line, that it benefitted only large retailers. College football coaches were livid. Many schools had scheduled big homecoming games for an original holiday only to discover the games would now be played on a random weekday that was no longer Thanksgiving and everyone would be at work.
The move so angered one Arkansas coach he threatened to change parties and vote Republican. FDR`s political adversaries pounced. Maine`s governor refused to carve a banquet turkey at a banquet scheduled on the new earlier day. He whipped a can of sardines out of his pocket and proceeded to eat them instead.
The president`s critics refused to call the new day Thanksgiving, instead referring to it as Franksgiving. Only 23 states went along with the switch. The other half remained opposed, sticking with the original Thanksgiving date.
Some states like Texas couldn`t make up their mind and ended up celebrating the old and the new Thanksgiving.
The whole thing was a mess. So much so that the Three Stooges even took to mocking it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody home in that house later (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is everybody?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe it`s the Fourth of July.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Fourth of July in October?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never can tell. Look what they did to Thanksgiving?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: The controversy continues from 1939 until 1940, until 1941 when Congress passed and Roosevelt signed a resolution setting Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November.
So, Thanksgiving has always been steeped in political controversy, whether it be the holiday`s origins or the brouhaha with FDR or the even the polite disagreements we see at our own Thanksgiving tables. But this year, we are seeing a first. After claiming victory over the war on Christmas, President Trump has moved to the idea that there is some sort of grand campaign to change the name of Thanksgiving.
So, now, we have the great war on Thanksgiving. Seriously, there`s no evidence of that. No one is looking to change the name or change the date or do any of that. And at the end of the day, here`s one thing we can all maybe be thankful for, there`s never a dull day around here anymore.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with my friend Steve Kornacki, in tonight for Lawrence O`Donnell.
Good evening, Steve.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END