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Russia's aggression over the last 5 years. TRANSCRIPT: 12/5/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Michael Carpenter, Mark Denbeaux

BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, REPORTER, "THE DAILY BEAST":  All the FBI and DOJ officials who were making these decisions about the inception of this case or acting under an intense time pressure and incredible levels of concern about what exactly the Kremlin was doing.  And Horowitz has spared that pressure.  It`s likely to be something he`ll consider but also something people reading the report should keep in mind. 

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Betsy Woodruff Swan and Frank Figliuzzi, thank you both for your time tonight. 

That is "ALL IN" for this evening. 

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thanks, my friend.  Much appreciated.

HAYES:  You bet.

MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Very happy to have you with us.

Today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gave a formal address to the nation in which she announced before a bank of American flags that the House of Representatives will proceed with drawing up articles of impeachment against President Trump. 

As we have been talking about in recent weeks and months as we started to see this day on the horizon, there just haven`t been that many impeachments in American history, especially presidential impeachments.  And so, there just isn`t a big historical record which we can extrapolate that tells us the public exactly how we can expect these things to proceed.  These things are so rare that pretty much each one of them is unique. 

But now we know for this one, according to Speaker Pelosi, the way this one`s going to proceed is that she`s going to ask the chairman and chairwoman of the various committees that have been involved in the impeachment investigation, she`s going to ask those chairs to start drawing up articles of impeachment against the president now.  And multiple news sources are reporting tonight that the first votes on articles of impeachment against President Trump could come within a couple of weeks, could come before Congress breaks for the Christmas holiday. 

So, tonight, we`re going to have more on those logistics, the timing.  More of what that means for -- what we should expect in terms of what might be in those articles of impeachment and how this is going to move forward.  We`ll have more reporting on that coming up over the course of this hour. 

This obviously is a fast moving set of proceedings.  It`s a fast moving story now.  We are, though, starting to get to the point where we can kind of see what the end is going to look like.  Some of those details are finally coming into shape.  Some more on that as I said. 

But do you remember when we first started covering on this show what would ultimately become the impeachment scandal?  Do you remember that obscure defense program we talked about here, kind of end of the summer, beginning of the fall, that was called the European Reassurance Initiative?  Is that ringing bells for you?

I mean, now we`re pretty sure this is going to end in the impeachment of President Trump, it`s interesting to look back now with the clarity of hindsight to see sort of where this started to go so wrong, where this started to go off a cliff for the president.  As you know, in 2014, Russia invaded a neighboring country, invaded Ukraine.  They seized a part of that country called Crimea for themselves.  They declared henceforth Crimea would be part of Russia, not Ukraine. 

Russia also invaded and started occupying big swaths of Eastern Ukraine beyond Crimea, a part that they just took.  And to this day, Russia still claims Crimea is there, and they are still waging a war and occupying the eastern part of Ukraine. 

When Russia first did that in 2014, it was seen as a really big freaking deal on the world stage.  It was the first time another country had seized another country by military force in Europe since the end of World War II.  And when Russia did that the world reacted as if it was that big a deal because it was.  The G8 decided they would kick out Russia and make the group of 8 instead the group of 7, the G-7. 

Russia got hit with serious international sanctions, sanction that got even more intense after the Russian occupied forces in eastern Ukraine slot a civilian airliner out of the sky.  That was a totally innocent, totally random commercial passenger, a Boeing 777, full of Dutch citizens and Malaysians and Australians, just civilians on a passenger aircraft, 298 people onboard all of them killed when a rush surface-to-air missile shot that passenger jet out of the sky over eastern Ukraine where Russia was occupying that part of the country. 

The international sanctions against Russia for what they did to Ukraine -- I mean, Russia`s done a lot of bad things over the last 20 years or so.  They are familiar what it means to be sanctioned, but after Crimea and the occupation of eastern Ukraine and the shoot down of that jetliner -- I mean, the sanctions got very, very serious, much worse than what Russia had been previously dealing with.  Serious enough that those sanctions stopped Western oil companies from participating in joint ventures in Russia to drill for oil and gas there. 

If you are looking for some light reading over the holidays this year, that is what I wrote this book about.  It came out a few weeks ago.  It`s called "Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth".  The industry in question there is the oil and gas industry. 

And one of the central points that made me decide to write this book.  One of the central points of the book, I think one of the central moments that explains the geopolitical situation we`re all in right now is when those sanctions came down against Putin and against Russia for what they did in Ukraine.  And there`s just this phenomenally important moment when the U.S. government basically picked up ExxonMobil by the scruff of its neck and said, hey, you guys stop drilling.  You are no longer allowed to work with Putin and Russia anymore because Putin has overseen a post-Soviet and now post-Democratic stasis in Russia where the only thing they have developed economically is their oil and gas sector.  That`s the tent pole that holds up their entire economy. 

Those sanctions because of what Russia did in Ukraine, those sanctions hit Russia hard enough that they blocked Western oil drilling in Russia.  And that was like an existential thing for Russia.  That was an existential challenge to the Russian economy and to Putin and his ability to continue to rule that country the way that he has been ruling it now for 20 years. 

So, again, I know, right?  Light reading.  Breezy concept, but in terms of a window into my own thinking where we are right now that`s why I wrote this book.  That is a thing I think is really important. 

And those sanctions in response to Russia invading Ukraine and taking Crimea and shooting down that passenger jet and all the rest of it, those sanctions, it was sort of astonishing what they did, in part because of Russia`s big dumb single purpose economy.  But those sanctions were part of a major comprehensive international American-led response to what Russia had done.  There was this whole suite of serious consequences punishing Russia, pushing back at Russia for what they had done in invading Ukraine. 

There were those sanctions which hit them where it hurts.  They were getting kicked out of the G-8.  The U.S. also approved a huge aid package to Ukraine, which Russia had just invaded, including military aid to Ukraine. 

The U.S. also, President Obama also announced something called the European Reassurance Initiative, a big new defense program that was approved and funded by the U.S. Congress on a bipartisan basis, funding that was designed to basically stop the prospect that there might be another Ukraine.  That Russia might keep going and do that same thing to other countries on its borders as well. 

The European Reassurance Initiative was a defense program designed to show Western support, American support, NATO support for other countries on Russia`s border and at risk of Russian aggression.  The idea was to shore up those other countries militarily, to do things like making sure the runways at military bases in those countries were long enough and in good enough condition to handle NATO aircraft and NATO weapons systems, forward positioning, ammunition and fuel supplies and other stuff they`d need to maintain supply lines in case Western countries or NATO militaries ever needed to get into those countries quickly to push back against a potential Russian attack or potential Russian invasion. 

That was an Obama administration initiative supported on a huge bipartisan basis in Congress to say there will not be another Ukraine.  It`s funded by the U.S. Congress and implemented very quickly after what Russia did to Ukraine. 

Since Russia is still today holding onto Crimea and still today occupying Eastern Ukraine and waging their war there, that program continued for the last few years.  But then not long ago, about three months ago, we noticed this weird thing that President Trump very quietly had proposed scrapping the European Reassurance Initiative.  He didn`t announce it that way.  Nobodies in the administration put out any announcement about it. 

But quietly, with no words about it at all, the line items in the European Reassurance Initiative were just defunded without explanation.  They took the whole program and just sucked all the money outlet of it. 

And that was within a few weeks of Trump also starting to make public proclamations he believed Russia should be let back into the G-7.  Remember the reason they were kicked out of the G-7 because of what they`d done to Ukraine. 

Nothing they did to Ukraine was reversed.  They`re still there.  Why should they now have that punishment reversed?  Why should they be rewarded if the thing they`re being punished for they`re still doing?  Don`t know.  Ask President Trump. 

I mean, when it comes to sanctions put on Russia, that were international sanctions led by the United States, well, those had been under attack by the Trump administration from the very beginning.  As a candidate president Trump in 2015 said that he didn`t see the need for any U.S. sanctions on Russia.  Remember he was asked a question about Russia at a candidate event in July 2015 in Las Vegas.  That is where he, candidate Trump, first volunteered he did want think there should be any sanctions on Russia. 

We would later realize that the person who asked him that question at that event was Maria Butina, only recently released now from federal prison after serving a considerable jail term for having been operating in this country as a secret agent of the Kremlin.  She finished her prison term in October, flew home to a rapturous welcome in Moscow.  She has reportedly been given a fancy new job in the Russian government. 

She is the first person who elicited a statement from candidate Trump on the campaign trail in 2015imate he didn`t think the U.S. should be sanctions Russia at all. 

After he was elected president, Trump appointed Rex Tillerson to be his secretary of state.  Rex Tillerson until that moment had been the CEO of ExxonMobil.  As the CEO of ExxonMobil, he had negotiated a record breaking half trillion dollar oil deal between ExxonMobil and Putin`s state run oil company in Russia to have Exxon come in and help Russia drill its sort of hard to get oil and gas.  That`s what got cut off, that deal had to get stopped by the sanctions that were put in place by the Obama administration after Russia invaded Ukraine. 

It was Rex Tillerson who the U.S. government reached in and grabbed by the scruff of the neck and pulled out, told him that he needed to stop drilling thus bringing an end to that half trillion dollar deal.  Trump had never met him before.  Picked him to be secretary of state, and as the new Trump administration started work in 2017, with Trump in the White House and Rex at the State Department, the Trump transition landing teams moved immediately to try to unilaterally end U.S. sanctions on Russia.  They didn`t get away with it.  They repeatedly found themselves blocked by members of Congress from both parties. 

Now, though, apparently, enough time has passed or Trump has just consolidated enough sort of Trumpest power in the Republican Party, now things seem to be falling into place more so than they could make them go back in 2017.  It just seems there`s less resistance in the Republican Party to Trump doing what he wants now towards Russia.  It`s much like pushing on an open door. 

Part of what he got for on this impeachment scandal is, of course, his effort to dismantle the other punishments against Russia, the other support for Ukraine that characterized the U.S.-led international response to Russia invading its neighbor back in 2014.  When Trump tried to, excuse me, when Trump tried to hold up and block U.S. aid to Ukraine, right, part of the scandal that has led to this impeachment, he was trying to hold up both assistance to Ukraine directed through the State Department and the military aid directed to them through the Defense Department. 

I mean, those were really the last elements of the push back against Russia that were left for him to take a go at, right?  For him to try to dismantle. 

But those things, him trying to block the aid to Ukraine, it didn`t come -- that stuff didn`t come out of the blue.  It wasn`t like he invented that idea of hurting Ukraine that way just to give himself some leverage to try to get these investigations against Biden or to try to get investigations that helped Russia exonerate itself in terms of hurting our election in 2016.  I mean, all of the stuff that the U.S. government had done to punish Russia and to help Russia, he`s gotten all of that systematically. 

And it`s just -- what he`s getting impeached for is part of a larger group of actions that he`s taken consistently since he`s been in office that have all pointed in the same direction, that have all had the same aim.  And after Nancy Pelosi today made her formal announcement to the country that the House of Representatives would move forward in drafting articles of impeachment against Donald Trump for his actions towards Ukraine, if you saw her press conference today where she took questions from reporters about that historic decision and this historic action the House is now taking, I think this pattern here that I`ve just described is something maybe that Speaker Pelosi was kind of pointing reporters toward in terms of how to understand what the president got caught doing and what might have been his motivation and how it may fit into something larger that he is using our country to do. 

So the first question Nancy Pelosi got asked today from reporters was about how she had previously seemed cautious or hesitant for a long time about whether or not the House should move forward with impeachment.  She was asked, quote, was there an "aha" moment for you personally, a piece of evidence or testimony that swayed you now to this day?  That was the first question she got today, and Speaker Pelosi gave a long answer to that question.  She said she was pleased to be asked that.

But this is where she landed with that question. 


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Let me just say this, this isn`t -- we are saying Ukraine.  The Ukraine was the vehicle of the president`s action.  Asking the president of another country to make an announcement that he was investigating the president`s political opponent and withholding military assistance that was voted by the Congress of the United States. 

And the president did so.  This isn`t about Ukraine.  This is about Russia. 

Who benefitted by our withholding that military assistance?  Russia.  It`s about Russia.  Russia invading Eastern Ukraine. 

So, sometimes people say, well, I don`t know about Ukraine, I don`t know that much about Ukraine.  Well, our adversary in this is Russia. 

All roads lead to Putin.  Understand that.  And so, that was the "aha" moment. 


MADDOW:  As I mentioned, we`re going to talk this hour about how the impeachment process is going to move forward now, who`s going to be writing these articles of impeachment, the prospect that may be more than one committee writing articles of impeachment, how fast they`re going to go here, how soon we might see the first votes.  New reporting suggests that might be very soon. 

But stepping back a bit from that immediate process stuff, in terms of how this is going to go, in terms of understanding the meaning of this historic day, there are going to be articles of impeachment against this president and for what, right?  There is one overarching point that I think is really insight now quite clearly, now that we can look back with hindsight, with clarity to see how we got to the point of President Trump being impeached. 

And as Nancy Pelosi says, at one level, it`s not really specifically about Ukraine.  It`s about Ukraine being used as a vehicle.  And ultimately what it`s about, it`s about Russia, about rogue state behavior by Russia.  And I use that phrase "rogue state" in a considered sense, because with Russia, it`s not that they are a country with whom we have disagreements and country that has alliances and aims different than ours.  That`s true of countries all over the world that even you might consider our closest allies. 

I mean, Russia does consistently act in ways that we and most of the western world considers odious and reprehensible.  I mean, everything from them helping North Korea evade sanctions in ways that are specifically designed to prop up the despotic regime there, to Russian pilots and Russian planes deliberately bombing hospitals and civilians in Syria while the Russian government props up the dictator there. 

I mean, even their less murderous but just maligned and pathetic stuff.  Like doping all the athletes for the Olympics, right, all their athletes, and then sabotaging the whole worldwide anti-doping infrastructure for sports.  I mean, doping in sports not the most important thing in the world, but, of course, it`s Russia that didn`t just get caught doping its athletes.  When Russia got caught doping its athletes they way it responded to getting caught they tried to blow up the whole system of policing doping in sports so they could try to get some little false advantage for their athletes and not be held accountable for the cheating they already did. 

Russia`s number one export to the world other than oil and gas is super high end organized crime.  As we saw today in a massive indictment handed down against Russian mastermind criminal hackers who the Justice Department says orchestrated the theft of more than $100 million from more than 300 banks, including a bunch of America banks.  And naturally, because they are specifically Russian criminal mastermind hackers, they weren`t just operating on their own with maybe the Russian authorities after them.  No, the Russian authorities weren`t after them at all.  The Russian authorities were working with them. 

According to today`s announcement from the Justice Department, these hackers were contracted to work for the Russian security services because that`s what Russia does with its best and most capable criminals.  It doesn`t put them in jail.  It puts them to work at the services of Vladimir Putin around the world. 

But when -- so bad behavior, yes, I got it.  But when it comes to true rogue state stuff, just over the past few years, off the top of your head, you could list things that Russia has done that`s unlike anything any other country in the world would even try.  At least when the comes to a country that, you know, is a big well-established country that extends its tentacles into Europe and purports to be a mainstream player on the world stage. 

Even just over the horizon of the last five years, I mean, you can do the invasion of Ukraine and the seizure of Crimea.  That is just nuts.  I mean, to imagine -- Russia and Ukraine may feel far away, but like imagine that the power ratio was reversed between us and Mexico.  Imagine Mexico was the much richer, bigger, more powerful country, we were the weaker country, and then imagine that Mexico marched over our border, declared as far as they were concerned, Texas had always been part of Mexico and from here on out, it would be Mexico again.

Mexico now has a different border and includes what you used to call Texas, that`s ours.  And then in addition to that, they sent tons of Mexican troops into New Mexico and Arizona to indefinitely occupy that part of the United States because they thought that part of the United States seemed kind of Mexican, too.  And those Mexican troops there shelled civilians and took over towns and shot down passenger airliners and killed thousands of Americans in an ongoing war there that had no end. 

I mean, that`s what Ukraine has experienced in terms of this Russian invasion, right?  That started in 2014 and that continues to this day.  They did that in 2014.  In 2015, 2016 right after that, you get this remarkable top down concerted effort by the Russian government and intelligence services to interfere in the American presidential election, to try to install their favorite candidate in the White House. 

In 2018, Russia dispatches agents carrying military grade nerve agent to go carry out an attempted assassination of a Russian ex-spy dissident guy who lives in Britain.  They go after him in a British cathedral town.  It very nearly killed him and his daughter.  They do kill a random civilian British passerby who got caught up in that nerve agent mess. 

This year, just a few months ago, they did it again.  This time broad daylight in a city park just a few blocks from Angela Merkel`s office, in the center of downtown Berlin.  A Russian assassin, according to U.S. and government officials, dispatched by the Russian government to assassinate another perceived enemy of the Kremlin.  Broad daylight in the middle of Berlin. 

That stuff is not just like normal bad country behavior.  That`s crazy town, right?  That`s not pushing the envelope a little bit.  That`s inventing a new type of paper enclosure entirely and then pushing that, too. 

And that`s why I use the phrase "rogue state Russia".  And, you know, I think it`s good to know, interesting to see and be aware of in terms of this large country and its influence in the world.  I mean, we live in a world where democracy is in decline, authoritarianism is on the rise.  Russian influence in this world is both super maligned and super insidious and getting more emboldened all the time. 

But here`s what`s on us, though, about this.  Can we just put -- yes, thank you.  Put those highlights up.  These are highlight items over the last five years.  Not just normal bad country behavior stuff.  Treating our citizens badly, not respecting human rights internally, you know, having bad alliances, behaving badly overseas. 

This is just like just the highlights in terms of stuff Russia`s done that other countries wouldn`t even try.  That`s their behavior just over the last five years.  Look at what`s changed over the last five years in terms of us, the first one of those things the invasion of Crimea, massive international response led by the United States. 

I mean, you know, no other country rolled tanks into Ukraine and went to war with Russia`s soldiers there.  But short of that, you get a strong multipart American-lead response and a big international response.  You get it almost instantly too, with weeks of Russia mounting that invasion, they`re out of the G-7, the sanctions are rolling out, the aid is approved to Ukraine, the military shoring up of other countries on Russia`s border starts. 

The other companies get pulled out of there, which is big blow to Russia economically, right?  It`s a fast, strong response.  That`s the first one, right?

Chronologically move down to the next one, the 2016 election interference.  What kind of push back do they get there from the United States?  Well, still a pushback but it`s more nuanced.  We get President Obama personally warning Putin to buzz off.  We get U.S. intelligence personally warning Russian intelligence to buzz off at the highest levels. 

The U.S. expels a bunch of Russian diplomats.  Remember the U.S. seized a whole bunch of physical compounds Russia had been using in this country and doesn`t give them back. 

That said, there is no whole of government push back because when the Obama administration came to Congress to ask for bipartisan show of force against what Russia was doing in our 2016 election, it was Senate Leader Mitch McConnell who said, no, he wasn`t interested, I won`t participate in that.  We still don`t know exactly why but since Vladimir Putin was just then in the midst of helping his own party`s presidential candidate win the White House, that one will resonate to the tune of Moscow Mitch as long as Mitch McConnell is in public life. 

And, yes, there were U.S. sanctions ultimately against Russia interfering in the U.S. election.  But you will recall once Donald Trump was in office, Rex Tillerson as secretary of state vehemently and opposing those sanctions and saying he was against them, and President Trump was, too.

President Trump tried to veto them.  He only couldn`t because Congress was so strongly in favor of them.  So they had to have the secretary of state and president saying they don`t want those sanctions.  That pulls the punch a little bit in terms of the impact of those sanctions. 

Chronologically the next one, the assassination attempt in U.K., well, in that one, it`s an even weaker response.  The messages get really mixed.  Yes, the U.S. did join in some additional international sanctions against Russia for what they did with that attempted assassination in the U.K. 

But the sanctions this time weren`t much.  The U.S. certainly didn`t play a lead role in organizing them.  And in fact, President Trump let it be known he was quite upset when he learned that the United States had accidently expelled more Russian diplomats than any other countries did in response to that assassination effort.  He made it clear that he wished he hadn`t been so harsh. 

Ultimately, the Trump administration would slow-walk the implementation of those sanctions for months.  "The Washington Post" reported on a call earlier this year with then-British Prime Minister Theresa May, President Trump spent a full ten minutes on that call trying to convince Theresa May that, hmm, maybe it wasn`t Russia that carried out that assassination in the U.K. 

Maybe she and her government was wrong.  Maybe it was a 300 pound guy in his bed.  Who knows? 

Well, chronologically, what`s the next one after that?  The next assassination after that, the one in Berlin, as we reported here last night, the U.S. government has reportedly concluded, yes, the Russian government was behind that assassination too, unnamed U.S. officials confirming to "The Wall Street Journal" months ago.  But the U.S. government has had exactly zero official response to that even though as the Germans have now let it be known they too have assigned blame to the Russian government and kicked out Russian diplomats in response. 

The U.S. has still done nothing, not even said anything officially even as the U.S. officials, the U.S. government has reportedly concluded that that was another example of Russia sending assassins to go kill somebody they wanted dead in a Western capital.  Broad daylight.  We can act and do whatever we want.  What are you going to do about it? 

That decline in seriousness of U.S. consequences for Russian bad behavior and indeed for stuff you would consider I think rogue state behavior -- I mean, at some point that is no longer a story about Russia being a bad actor.  That`s a story about us. 

And this administration is our country, because American push back against Russian bad behavior can be very important.  In fact, is very important.  Whether it`s a strong response or a weak response, either way, it`s very consequential. 

And now as this president is being impeached for his behavior toward Ukraine, his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, even this week, even as we speak is back in Ukraine working even now to continue to promote the idea that it wasn`t Russia that interfered in our 2016 election, it was Ukraine.  U.S. intelligence agencies have not only concluded that -- have not only concluded, they have briefed the Senate, that that story that it was Ukraine that did it not Russia, that story was concocted by Russian intelligence as disinformation, to take blame away from Russia for what they did in 2016. 

U.S. intelligence knows that`s a Russian disinformation operation.  They have briefed the Senate that this is Russian disinformation operation.  Clearly, the administration knows that this is a Russian op. 

Nevertheless, the president`s personal lawyer as we speak is still pursuing that and spreading that.  And increasingly, Republicans in Congress who support the president are joining in spreading that theory as well. 

Yesterday, Giuliani met with a former Ukrainian prosecutor now fired who is linked to Russian intelligence and specifically to the Russian militias occupying and waging war in Eastern Ukraine.  That`s the guy from whom he got his anti-Biden dossier that he`s been using trying to push the scheme for which President Trump is being impeached.  Hey, Ukraine, you have to investigate these allegations against Biden.  That`s where he got the allegations against Biden from, this guy linked to Russian military intelligence. 

Giuliani also reportedly met yesterday with another former prosecutor who has also been pitching the anti-Joe Biden scam.  He`s been pitching it as part of the legal defense of this guy who is named Dmytro Firtash.  He is wanted in this country for his alleged role in a multibillion dollar bribery schemes.  He`s fighting extradition to this country. 

U.S. prosecutors say he`s an upper echelon associate of Russian organized crime.  Forever, he has been seen as the Kremlin`s man in Ukraine.  He`s been the chief broker of natural gas in that country, as well as a major funder of pro-Putin political parties.  Which is why I wrote about him too from my "Rogue State Russia" book, right?  I`ve been obsessed with this stuff for a long time, and I make no apologies for it. 

But we`re at this moment now, this historic moment now where we`ve got all these arrows all pointing in the same direction consistently and none of them all pointing in the same direction consistently.  And none of them ever pointing in the other direction.  All of these actions all pointing in the same direction, all pointing towards exonerating Russia, advancing Russian claims, spreading disinformation that is of Russian origin, that is designed to serve the Kremlin`s interests. 

I mean, this isn`t the last scandal about Trump that he got away with in 2016 about Russia interfering on his behalf in 2016.  I mean, that`s this current scandal, too.  That is where this impeachment scandal comes from.  And even if he is going to get impeached for this stuff, and it looks like he is, it kind of makes you wonder if he stays in office like what comes next? 

This is an escalating pattern, right?  If he stays in office for this even after getting caught here, what does he do next?  How do you keep up in the ante?  I mean, it is gift-giving season.  What else might they possibly want given everything they have gotten thus far? 

Stay with us.  Lots to come tonight. 


MADDOW:  He served in the Pentagon.  He was the deputy assistant secretary of defense with responsibility for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.  He was the director for Russia on the National Security Council.  He served in the White House as foreign policy advisor to Vice President Joe Biden. 

Before that, he was a career foreign service officer who sit within the United States State Department. 

Joining us now is Michael Carpenter.  He`s currently the senior director at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. 

Dr. Carpenter, thanks so much for being with us.  I really appreciate you making time tonight. 


MADDOW:  I wanted to ask you given the historic events of today, the speaker of the House announcing that impeachment articles will be drawn up against President Trump for his actions in Ukraine, I wanted to ask you about her connecting that, her connecting the impeachment to President Trump`s overall relationship with Russia and his relationship toward Vladimir Putin which has been of such strong concern since even before he was elected. 

What do you make of her drawing those connections today on this historic day? 

CARPENTER:  Well, I think there is a Russia thread that runs through everything we`ve seen about how Trump tried to pressure Ukraine into delivering these sham investigations.  And in particularly when it comes to the investigation of the 2016 election, this notion that Ukraine interfered in our election as opposed to Russia is really not something that Trump needs as a narrative to further his legitimacy here in the United States. 

But this is something that Russia very much wants.  And this is a Russian conspiracy theory.  The very first person to articulate this view that Ukraine somehow interfered in our 2016 election was Maria Zakharova, the Russian foreign affairs ministry spokesperson. 

And then it was amplified and repeated by various pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs and politicians in the months that followed.  And by the way, Zakharova made this claim in November of 2016, so just weeks after the election. 

Here we are three years later and it`s still making the rounds. 

MADDOW:  In terms of that specific claim, and as you point out there, the Russians started making these claims, just want to exonerate themselves muddy the waters, distract from their behavior as soon as their behavior was exposed.  It`s been years now. 

  But now we`ve got not only the president pushing it, it`s part of the scheme for which he is being impeached.  His personal lawyer in Ukraine pushing it right now as we speak, but we`re increasingly seeing supporters of the president, including elected Republicans in Congress promoting it as well. 

I do actually have a bit of news that I want to put to you right now.  We have learned tonight that there is a Senate Intelligence Committee report that is complete but as yet unreleased that will specifically debunk this theory that`s being put forward by the president and his allies.  Apparently, the Senate intelligence report looked at this issue, specifically debunked it.  It`s been sitting in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for months awaiting declassification, but it hasn`t yet been released.  We`re told by a spokesperson for Mark Warner, the top Democrat on that committee, that that is what that concludes. 

Given the way this has been pushed, does debunking help, does debunking make a difference, putting the Senate Intelligence Committee on the record as apparently they will be as saying this is nonsense, do you think that can short circuit what the Russians and the president and his allies are doing? 

CARPENTER:  Well, I think it`s useful to have an authority like the Senate Intelligence Committee coming out with an authoritative view on this matter.  We already heard from Dr. Fiona Hill who had access to all the most sensitive intelligence in her job as senior director for Russia and Russia at the National Security Council, testifying that this conspiracy theory was nonsense. 

So, we`ve already heard from senior officials.  And, by the way, Dr. Hill also had a background on the National Intelligence Council.  So, she knows what she`s talking about.  But it`s still helpful to have the Senate come out with this report. 

What I find just amazing is that somehow this conspiracy theory keeps being repeated by folks especially on the GOP side who then later say, well, you know, I`m not sure but everyone is entitled to their opinion.  They kind of traffic in this, and then they disavow perhaps for a short while but then they come back at it a couple of days later. 

So, clearly, this suits the purpose for the Republican Party at the present moment, but it really suits Vladimir Putin`s interests, and that`s what`s most disturbing about all of this.  And a lot of -- I mentioned already that Maria Zakharova from the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry spread this conspiracy originally.  But a lot of the stuff coming out of Ukraine that`s being fed to Mr. Giuliani and other people in President Trump`s inner circle is coming from people who have ties to either Russian intelligence agents or to pro-Russian groups, pro-Russian political parties inside Ukraine. 

So, there`s a pro-Russian element to all of this even if it`s not coming directly from Russians. 

MADDOW:  Michael Carpenter, former policy advisor to former Vice President Biden, now senior director at the Penn Biden Center.  Dr. Carpenter, thank you so much for being here.  I really appreciate having you here tonight.

CARPENTER:  My pleasure.

MADDOW:  All right.  Much more ahead tonight.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  This was the front page of "The New York Times" today.  Big headline on the front of course is about the big story we`re all living through right now.  "The Times" lead story on the first judiciary hearing on impeachment, tension as scholars debate if case was made to impeach.

But the front page of "The New York Times" also has just a remarkable and even formatically striking and strange story of a kind that I`ve never seen before and I think none of us have ever seen before.  Look at the other side of the front page. 

You see that left-hand column?  "Captive of CIA sketched agony of his torture."  This is unlike anything we have ever seen, I mean literally seen. 

Well, "The Times" has published today, remarkably, are sketches drawn in captivity by the Guantanamo Bay prisoner known as Abu Zubaydah, self- portraits of the torture he was subjected to in the four years he was held in secret prisons by the CIA.  And I`m going to show you some more of these sketches.  I will warn you even though they were only sketches, they are detailed and gritty so please be advised especially if you are watching with your kids. 

But here they are.  These are again the first images like these we have seen.  Here`s Abu Zubaydah rendering of probably the most infamous of the torture techniques employed by the CIA and their black sites, waterboarding.  Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times.  This shows in a way we haven`t seen before that apparently he says that on the plank that he was strapped to, there was a hinge designed to force his head even further back to apparently augment the torture. 

This is something called large confinement box.  Yes, this is the large one.  In it, he says he was shackled so he couldn`t stand up, he was in total darkness.  The bucket you see him sitting on there was meant to serve as his toilet.  That was the large one. 

This is the small confinement box.  "The Times" reports that Zubaydah was, quote, immobilized and shackled in the fetal position as he described it for countless hours.  He described it as being unimaginably painful saying, quote, there was very strong pain.  He said the very strong pain made me scream unconsciously. 

Zubaydah said that he was kept in this stress position for hours at a time.  Look at his feet.  Stretched out in such a way he`s forced to stand on tiptoe with his hands tied to bar above his head. 

In this next drawing, Zubaydah depicts something called short shackling.  That`s on the top there.  As well as a sleep deprivation induced by tying him in positions on the floor, that`s the bottom half there, positions too painful to allow him to sleep. 

  The U.S. torture memos authorized Abu Zubaydah sleep deprivation for up to 11 days at a time.  He said it went even longer.  This is how he depicts walling in which an interrogator repeated held him by the neck.  You see something wrapped around his neck there and then slammed his head against the wall, let him collapse to the floor.  Stand him up and slap him and do it again and again. 

The black bar over the face of his interrogators, the one redaction made by the government before these materials were released as part of Zubaydah`s legal case.

After officially approving the use, officially approving the use of all these techniques, all of them against Abu Zubaydah specifically, the U.S. government eventually determined that Zubaydah was not a member of al Qaeda.  He did not have any information about the 9/11 attacks.  He`s still being held at Guantanamo today.  He was never charged with a crime and the government never intends to charge him with anything. 

Our government tortured people systematically in an overt program approved by people who have gone on to be like federal judges in the days after 9/11 and that is something that we know.  Nobody was ever charged or held accountable for what happened. 

Beyond the formal accountability for government misbehavior, misbehavior of government officials, something we are grappling with as a country all over again in this impeachment proceeding, right, on the other side of this front page in terms of how much trouble people in high levels of government should get in when they commit crimes and do terrible things in office, I mean, beyond that what we`re going through right now in this administration, we`re still at a basic level new today newly confronted with things wave never seen before.  Now we can see it. 

We are confronted in a new way with what we did, what our country did, and it brings up anew again what it is we as citizens are supposed to do about it.  Tonight, I will tell you we have obtained more sketches by Abu Zubaydah that were not published by "The Times."  I will show you those and talk to the man who got these sketches next. 

Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  On the front page of "The New York Times" today, it`s just a remarkable story in which the paper has published images we`ve never seen before of the torture program the U.S. government carried out after 9/11.  The images aren`t photos.  They`re sketches by a prisoner at Guantanamo named Abu Zubaydah. 

In the sketches, he depicts what he says are the array of tortures he was subjected to in the CIA prisons.  But there are more sketches that were published in "The Times" today.  I will show you those now.  Again these are upsetting and graphic like the ones we just showed, so be advised.

But here are two sketches we`re showing here for the first time tonight that weren`t published by "The Times."  In this sketch, Abu Zubaydah depicts himself shackled to a chair and hooded.  He says he`d be kept in this position tightly chained for hours or even days at a time. 

And in this drawing, Zubaydah shows various standing stress positions he was kept in.  Again, sometimes for days at a time.  He describes being repeatedly beaten and doused with cold-water and forced to go to the bathroom while chained in that position.  We have blurred some of that because, well. 

But these sketches allow us to see what our country did in a very visceral way we haven`t really encountered before.  Artwork by prisoners isn`t allowed to be released from Guantanamo.  But this isn`t artwork.  Zubaydah created these sketches as legal material for his lawyer. 

A law professor at Seton Hall University named Mark Denbeaux, who has included these sketches in a new report written with his law students which is called "How America Tortures" and Professor Denbeaux joins us now here on set. 

Sir, thanks for being here.  Nice to you have back. 


MADDOW:  First of all, let me ask you if I got that right.  These have not been leaked.  These are not something you smuggled out of Guantanamo.  These were releases part of this case.

DENBEAUX:  They were released and cleared, so they were not classified in any way, shape or form. 

MADDOW:  There was one redaction that we showed.  The sort of box over the face of --


MADDOW:  -- the person distorted, which is his captor in that situation.

DENBEAUX:  Right, which proves it was -- it was cleared by them. 

MADDOW:  And your -- what was the purpose of your client drawing these sketches?  Did you ask him to do these? 

DENBEAUX:  Well, not really.  He has been drawing sketches of very similar events for a very long time.  And there are many sketches he spent much more time on that are much more shocking than these, partly because of the detail, partly because he`ll put several on one page and set them up so there`s an aesthetic almost into how the pieces fit together, and they`re very detailed. 

They had not previously been allowed to be released.  He constantly hoped they would be.  These were sent to me because he knew of the report we were coming. 

My students decided to make a study of the details of how each of the techniques was done.  And everybody in America doesn`t like to think we tortured, but we did.  But they don`t like to think of how horrible torture is.  So, we now they kind of -- it`s sort of sanitized. 

When you looked at the details of it, they were horrible.  And when the pictures came through, it suddenly had an impact on everybody who saw them.  It was far greater than we ever expected. 

MADDOW:  Carol Rosenberg, excellent reporter now at "The New York Times", has been covering Guantanamo forever. 


MADDOW:  The way that she put these in context today was to stress the fact these torture techniques were specifically approved for use on Abu Zubaydah in combination.  They were all approved for use on him, including specific references by the people who wrote the torture memos approving these things, referencing how flexible he was and specifying the number of days he could be subjected to sleep deprivation. 

This was all designed to be used on him not just as individual one off things.  They weren`t freelancing here.  This was authorized in specific and in detail by government lawyers. 

DENBEAUX:  Right.  It`s pretty shocking.  Our torture memos to torture one person, Abu Zubaydah.  So, he is the entire torture program as approved by the Department of Justice. 

MADDOW:  Never charged with a crime. 

DENBEAUX:  Never charged with a crime.  Indeed they admit that every fact they used to justify making him the poster child for torture is false.  Probably the most shocking thing about the Senate Select Committee Intelligence report`s evaluation of the torture program is not just the that they were wrong, it didn`t work, it was terrible.  What is missing from that is how did it happen? 

The question nobody asks is how did they come up after holding him for five months and conclude he was al Qaeda, number two, number three, or number four, when he was never al Qaeda?  How could they conclude -- all these facts are false and no one`s ever bothered to say, how could it be that we would make up facts proven to be false and nobody has ever said, how did this happen?  And, of course, he`s still there uncharged because none of the facts they tortured him on were true. 

MADDOW:  Professor Mark Denbeaux, Seton Hall University School of Law -- thank you so much for being here.  I really appreciate it. 

DENBEAUX:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Thank you for being with us tonight.  That is going to do it for us for now but I`ll see you again tomorrow. 


Good evening, Lawrence.

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