THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Our main studios here at MSNBC are in New York City, hid town, New York City. And at this time of year with the Rockefeller Christmas tree all lit up, with this part of midtown Manhattan being sort of the biggest tourist attraction in the world, it can possibly be logistically a little overwhelming just coming to work or leaving work, just trying to get in and out of the building.
It`s a great problem to have, right? I`ve not complaining. It is -- it is awesome. It is a blessing. It`s incredible and still blows my mind that I work right here in the middle of it.
And the crowds at this time of year are a visual and physical, even sort of a visceral reminder of just what a great city New York is, what a world capital this is. But also it`s a great reminder of just how many freaking people there are here at any one time, how many one people can fit into this city all at once.
I mean, New York City is just massive. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and I grew up thinking San Francisco was the big city. Then I came to New York, right? There are 8 million residents in the city itself. More like 20, 22 million in the New York metropolitan area.
That, of course, makes New York the biggest urban area in this country, places like L.A. and Houston and Chicago, those are also massive urban areas in the United States, but New York is bigger than all of them. New York is the eighth largest urban mega city on the planet earth. It`s just huge.
That said, though, for as big as New York is and for as big as it feels particularly this time of year, when it feels like everyone on earth is here to see the tree and all the rest of it, it`s actually a bit humbling to realize even though New York is the biggest city in this country, New York is only the eighth largest mega city on earth. There are like at least 6 or 7 urban areas on earth that are even bigger than New York.
And interestingly none of them are in this hemisphere. They`re all in the east. Tokyo, Jakarta in Indonesia, Delhi and Mumbai in India, Manila in the Philippines, Shanghai in China, Seoul in South Korea. Those are all urban metropolises, all international mega cities that are even bigger than ginormous New York City.
Take Seoul in South Korea. Seoul in South Korea considerably larger that New York, by several million. New York is 20, 22 million people. Seoul is more like 25 million people, just massive.
Peter Bergen is a veteran national security reporter at CNN. I know CNN is our competitor so I shouldn`t say nice things about them, but Peter Bergen is awesome. He`s really good at this job. He does great eye-opening reporting for CNN and he`s written some pretty influential books, particularly on terrorism and Bin Laden and the Bin Laden family.
He wrote "Holy War Incorporated: Inside the Secret World of Bin Laden." That came out in 2001. It could have not been more influential at that time in U.S. politics and national security.
He wrote another really influential book about meeting and interviewing Osama bin Laden, "The Osama bin Laden I Know". Just a couple of years ago, he wrote a book called "The United States of Jihad", about homegrown terrorism in the United States.
Peter Bergen, national security reporter at CNN, is great. He`s just out with a new book called "Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos." And I will admit to you right up front I have not yet read this book. It just came out this week.
I bought it. I`m going to read it over Christmas. I`m super excited to read it. I read everything that Peter Bergen writes. But we are starting to get the first headlines from the new reporting that Peter Bergen includes in this book. And it was "The Guardian" newspaper in London who first grabbed and stuck a headline on one eye popping, newly reported detail from Peter Bergen`s new book.
I`m going to quote to you from "The Guardian" here. Quote, in his book, Bergen describes an Oval Office meeting on North Korea in mid-April 2017, after a string of North Korean missile tests. Trump`s top national security officials were present. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and even made a model of a secret North Korean facility, a model the size of a coffee table to illustrate the regime`s covert weapons programs.
According to Bergen, Trump was also at this meeting shown a satellite image of the North Korean peninsula at night. That satellite image showed the lights of China and the lights of South Korea and the blackness of North Korea in between.
Trump originally mistook the black void of North Korea in the satellite image for an ocean, presumably as these national security officials were explaining to him that that wasn`t an ocean on this imagery that he was looking that, that was an area without electricity and that`s why it`s dark. It`s not water, it`s land it`s just there are no lights there.
These national security officials in the Oval Office with Trump showed him it wasn`t an ocean and in order to make clear to him, no, this isn`t water, this is land. They showed him, quote, the bright lights of Seoul, South Korea, just 30 miles south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas.
Upon being shown the bright lights of South Korea and the bright lights of Seoul, South Korea, on that map, President Trump reportedly asked his briefers, quote, why is Seoul so close to the North Korean border? Trump had repeatedly been told America`s freedom of action against North Korea was constrained by the fact North Korean artillery could demolish Seoul, could demolish the capital city of South Korea in retaliation for any attack that sort of retaliatory artillery barrage against Seoul could inflict mass casualties on Seoul`s population of 25 million people.
But after being shown the location of Seoul on the map in relation to where the border was, President Trump decided he`d issue an order about how this problem could be fixed. According to Peter Bergen`s new book, Trump reacted to this lesson and to this visual aid he was shown by saying, quote, "They have to move."
Bergen says the national security officials in the room were unsure if President Trump was joking. But President Trump repeated the line, they have to move. What he meant was the city of Seoul must be moved farther away from North Korea. President Trump apparently believed that was an order he could issue and other people in the U.S. government would follow through on it. But, luckily, for us and in the course of world history, the Pentagon and these national security officials who received this order from President Trump, that they needed to move the city of Seoul, they decided to -- according to Peter Bergen`s reporting -- they decided they would ignore this order.
Bergen also reports that the president had ordered in that same thing that all U.S. civilians should be immediately evacuated from the entire nation of South Korea. His national security officials told him that that would be received as the first step towards a war which, of course, could be a nuclear war with North Korea. He nevertheless insisted that evacuation must happen.
Quote: Trump is reported to have ignored the warning from the briefers, telling his team, quote, go do it.
But at least -- I mean, logistically, you can imagine what it might mean to evacuate all U.S. civilians from South Korea. I mean, even if in the view of America`s national security professionals doing so could potentially start a nuclear war and therefore, it wouldn`t necessarily be a good idea. You can at least imagine how it would go. You can at least imagine the U.S. government trying to carry out a terrible idea like that.
How exactly did you think they were going to move Seoul? It`s 25 million people. I mean, just imagine New York City again, not quite as big as Seoul, but it`s the closest we`ve got in this country. Imagine how it would go?
Just like call Connecticut, hey, sorry, we`re scooching New York City, we have to scooch it like a few miles. So we`re going to bring over the Empire State Building first. We`re going to need some of those white load trucks to put on the inner state to let you guys know that it`s coming.
Do you have a spots for the Empire State Building and after that we`re going to bring a few of the avenues, maybe one at a time? Do you want Park Avenue First? Would that be easier to be dealt with for the first one?
Fifth Avenue would be on that one first because all the avenues, again, we`re moving the city, and then we`re going to bring the first million people, like on a shuttle, and then after that the 19, 20, 21 million people, we`ll phase them in. But they`re all coming because we`re moving all of New York City. You guys ready?
I mean, you call Connecticut, you call New Jersey. Where do you go? Where do you put it? How do you move a city of 20 million people plus?
Imagine you`re in the briefing with him, he`s not joking. Move that city. I mean, you`re -- you know, you`re an expert from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency who created a coffee table size model of North Korea`s secret nuclear facilities in order to give the president a nuance view of these actual threats, and he`s like, move Seoul.
What was the quote again? The exact quote was: Go do it, they have to move. And they repeated it again when they thought to see if he`s joking, the quote was they have to move. They have to move Seoul.
A lot of these lines I will also just mention that "The Washington Post" reported not long ago, earlier this year, that President Trump at one point phoned Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia to ask him how Putin wanted him, the American president, to start behaving towards North Korea. North Korea, of course, has a border with Russia. Russia has helped North Korea evade sanctions that we put on North Korea, as they have tried to shore up the North Korean dictatorship.
Why would an American president ask Vladimir Putin for direction in terms of how Putin wants the United States to start treating North Korea? Why would you ask that?
We still don`t know. We can only guess. But the record of that call in which President Trump is reported to have asked Vladimir Putin what he wants the U.S. to do towards North Korea -- I mean, maybe Putin have the idea for moving Seoul, we don`t know. I mean, the record of that call is reportedly one of the Trump presidential call records that`s been taken out of circulation effectively inside the White House and inside the national security apparatus of the United States of America. They locked up the record of that call on a code word level super highly secure server so almost nobody can access that record.
The Trump White House is reported to have done that with call records between President Trump and Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. The Trump White House has reported to have done that, to call records from multiple calls between President Trump and President Putin, including the one where he reportedly asked Putin what he wanted the U.S. policy to henceforth be towards North Korea, the one in which he asked Putin to set U.S. policy towards North Korea.
The Trump White House has also reportedly locked up the presidential call records in which President Trump is recorded to have spent a solid ten minutes on a phone call with then-British Prime Minister Theresa May, trying to talk her out of the idea that the Russian government was to blame for that assassination effort in Britain, where an ex-Russian spy was targeted with a Russian military-grade nerve agent. Trump apparently spent ten minutes on the phone trying to convince Theresa May that Russia didn`t do it, that it must have been somebody else.
The Trump White House also reportedly locked up the records of the meeting that the president took with the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office in 2017. Immediately after that meeting with the Russian foreign minister, in May 2017, a number of disturbing elements of that meeting leaked out, right? That`s where we got word that President Trump had shared super top secret information that he wasn`t supposed to give them and that our allies didn`t know he was sharing with anybody, let alone the Russians.
We also found out shortly after that meeting that he told the Russians that he had just fired the FBI director the day before and he believed that would relieve the pressure on him over Russia. We would only find out months and months later, this year, actually, that at that meeting, the president did something even more direct with those Russian government officials. We learned that Trump White House officials also locked up a record from that meeting, a memorandum of what happened during that meeting in the Oval Office and that memorandum indicated that one of the things the president told the Russian foreign minister that day in the Oval Office was that he was OK with Russia having intervened in the 2016 election, to help put him in the White House.
President Trump told two senior Russian officials in 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was, quote, unconcerned about Moscow`s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He was OK with it. He didn`t mind that.
The official White House record of that meeting, which showed the president making those comments, is another one of those records of the president`s calls and meetings and behavior that has reportedly been locked up in some sort of secure server or otherwise isolated in some way to restrict access to it, so, in the normal course of events, White House officials and American national security officials, can`t see that record. They can`t access the record of what President Trump actually did and said.
And, of course, we also learned first from the whistle-blower, from the intelligence community whistle-blower, who filed this report with the Intelligence Committee that one of the other things that Trump White House officials locked up and put in a super secure server to keep people from accessing that information was the initial record of President Trump calling Ukraine in July this year, the call in which he told the Ukrainian president that the Ukrainian government needed to announce an investigation into Joe Biden. That call record, too, was at least initially locked up by Trump White House officials to try to prevent anybody from knowing what President Trump had actually said on that call. They took the record of that call, they put it in a special, secure highly restricted computer server to try to prevent even President Trump`s own appointees, his own White House officials and his own national security officials from knowing exactly what he had done.
They`ve done this over and over and over again. And as much as the Trump White House and the president himself and his Republican allies in the House and the Senate and the conservative media, they all want to expose that intelligence community whistle-blower, they want to blame the whistle- blower for this scandal that`s going to lead to the president`s impeachment, there were three main claims made by that whistle-blower and they`ve all been born out by the evidence now, right? I mean, what the whistle-blower claimed, it all turned out to be true.
There`s three things, right? The whistle-blower claimed President Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to announce something that would hurt the political prospects of his Democratic rival Joe Biden. That happened.
The whistle-blower also said President Trump pressured Ukraine to support a Russian disinformation effort, to downplay what Russia did to interfere in our election in 2016 and instead play out this fantasy that it wasn`t Russia, it was Ukraine instead, right? And they weren`t intervening to help Trump, they were trying to hurt Trump, and that was the real 2016 intervention. That`s a Russian government disinformation operation the president pressured Ukraine to lend support to that.
And the third thing the whistle-blower claimed was that White House officials tried to hide the evidence of what President Trump had done by taking these unusual steps to restrict access to the records of the president`s words and behavior, by locking up the records of his behavior in oddly and inappropriately secure servers that aren`t designed for stuff like that at all. They used to those servers, they used to sort of hiding places for those records to keep people from being able to access the actual factual record of what he`d done, because they didn`t want it to get out, because they knew how bad it was.
Those were the three claims from the whistle-blower. That`s what the whistle-blower claimed. All of that has been borne out by corroborating evidence now.
And that ultimately has led to what is happening tonight in the House Judiciary Committee where, as we speak, they are continuing to mark up two articles of impeachment against President Trump, one for abuse of power, one for obstruction. The plan right now is for this Judiciary Committee markup and debate to stretch out over two days. It`s going to go very, very late tonight and they`ll pick up again early tomorrow morning.
And these two days of debate and write-up and -- of these amendments, this tracks roughly with the way we`ve seen impeachments go against President Clinton and President Nixon. In 1974, the Judiciary Committee took six days to mark up articles of impeachment against Nixon. Around this time in 1998, the Judiciary Committee took three days to debate and mark up articles of impeachment against President Clinton. It looks like with the President Trump impeachment, it`ll be two days of debate and markup in the judiciary committee, which we`re seeing part of tonight.
It`s ongoing tonight. We`re monitoring those proceedings. We`ll bring you that news as it happens.
But one of the things that, you know, for all the parallels to other impeachment proceedings, right, for all the ways this sort of tracks, the process, at least, for how they approached the Nixon impeachment and the Clinton impeachment, there is something that`s unusual, that is truly novel with the impeachment we have living through right now, and it is that this president is being impeached, but the investigation into him is ongoing, right? They`re impeaching him because they know the basics of what he did to Ukraine, the basic facts aren`t in dispute. The evident is basically uncontested, right?
The president abandoned U.S. policy towards Ukraine, not because he wanted some new U.S. policy toward Ukraine, but because he wanted them to do a domestic political errand for him in the words of his former top Russia advisor. He pressured Ukraine into providing him domestic political favors and he staked a White House meeting for their president and hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid as sort of additional leverage, additional pressure behind that demand. That`s all uncontested. They admit that that is what they did.
As to the second article of impeachment, the obstruction one, it`s also uncontested. All sides agree upon the facts that President Trump, unlike any president in U.S. history, has flat-out and completely refused to acknowledge the constitutional authority of the House to conduct an impeachment. And he`s refused flat out in any way to cooperate with it or provide any documents or allow any witness testimony like even other impeached presidents have, right?
They are impeaching him on those two articles for this narrow scope of his behavior that is factually uncontested to and admitted to by the president himself. There`s these two articles, they admit, that`s what happened, he admits, I did it. That`s what they`re impeaching him on.
But -- in a way that is novel, that is unprecedented, in a way we are not quite sure how to handle, as civilians as an citizens watching this unfold, while those articles of impeachment are about stuff that is not factually uncontested, the overall investigation into exactly what all he did and how all he did it and who else was involved, that investigation is ongoing. That rolls on, even as he`s being impeached now for what everybody agrees he did. I mean, we learned over the course of the impeachment investigation that the White House did, in fact, hide records of the president`s statements and actions on super secret highly restricted computer servers. Not because his actions or statements were highly classified, but just as an effort to keep even other White House officials from know what the president has done.
That was in the first instance of the whistle-blower, it was born out by testimony during the impeachment inquiry and since then public reporting has revealed all of these other conversations and meetings that the president has had that have been treated in that same way. And because of that, all of those records of the president`s behavior in those calls and meetings, all those records are still hidden. We don`t know what he did, including apparently in the call where Putin got to set our North Korea policy. I wonder if Putin told him that Seoul was somewhere else and that was the source of his confusion.
They`ve got to move it! I have it on good authority that Seoul is nowhere near North Korea. That can`t be right. Move that thing.
What happened on that call? They had to lock up the records of it. Just today, from a federal court in Washington, D.C., a judge who incidentally was appointed by President Trump, allowed a lawsuit to proceed today that is seeking the missing notes that the White House has hidden or locked down or otherwise disappeared, concerning president Trump`s conversations with Vladimir Putin.
That lawsuit by two watchdog groups, that lawsuit will be allowed to proceed. It accuses the administration of violating the federal records act by disappearing those notes of what happened in those calls and meetings by the president. A lawsuit aims to turn up evidence of what the Trump administration did with the records of those calls and meetings, but it`s also hopefully going to turn up the records themselves, so, we all can find out someday what actually he did. What`s in all of those records that they`ve tried to lock away and make sure nobody can get access to?
I mean, the unlocking, the unleashing of just one of those call records that they tried to hide has already resulted in the president being impeached. Just the Ukraine call being released has already resulted in his impeachment. What about all the others that are still locked up?
There`s also the ongoing investigation specifically into the Ukraine scheme. And the Ukraine scheme that the impeachment articles are narrowly focused on.
Just tonight, the Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff forwarded to the Judiciary Committee a classified statement from an official working in Mike Pence`s office, she notified the impeachment investigation after her initial testimony that she had come to recall some additional information about Mike Pence`s communications with the Ukrainian government. And while she believed that that information about Vice President Mike Pence and his interactions with Ukraine was relevant to the impeachment inquiry, Vice President Pence`s office has insisted that that information she testified about is classified and can`t be released to the public.
So, in classified form, it went over to the judiciary committee tonight for them to consider this new information, this new classified information as they debate and markup these articles of impeachment, tonight, as we speak. And -- but wait, there`s more. I mean, just tonight, I kind of can`t believe this one, as well, but in addition to that federal court ruling today, trying to get the records of all his calls with foreign officials, and the fact that the impeachment investigation is still turning up new information that`s being handed over to the investigative committees, in addition to all that, just tonight, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have dropped their own bombshell right in the middle of all the rest of this, have you seen this yet?
We`ve got that story out of SNDY, next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Tonight, the Judiciary Committee is marking up the two articles of impeachment against President Trump. They`re going to continue this debate and markup through the night, and then they`ll reconvene tomorrow morning with the expectation that ultimately they`ll vote as a committee on these impeachment articles by the end of the day, sometime tomorrow.
But even as these proceedings are under way tonight, just a couple of hours ago, we got a jaw-dropping bit of new news in the criminal case that is proceeding through federal court in New York, a case that is sort of adjacent to and abutting these ongoing impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill. Because when President Trump tasked his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to basically take over the U.S. government`s interactions with Ukraine so the president could get these political favors from Ukraine, the scheme for which the president is now being impeached, when President Trump sent Rudy Giuliani to work on that scheme, Mr. Giuliani had helpers.
Beyond the Trump administration officials and ambassadors who were all told to call Rudy and coordinate anything they were doing with Ukraine through Rudy Giuliani, he also had a couple of helpers outside the U.S. government, a couple of guys we`ve come to think as a sort of trendy boy bands duo named Lev and Igor. Lev and Igor not only became apparently constant companions for Mr. Giuliani as he carried out this scheme on the president`s orders, they also, for whatever reason, seemed to have turned up a lot in the company of president Trump himself.
President Trump insists he`s never met these guys and doesn`t know them, but there`s a lot of pictorial evidence to the contrary. Shortly after the impeachment scandal started to break out into the open, and right after Lev and Igor`s lawyers told Congress that those guys would not comply with demands for their congressional testimony in the impeachment inquiry, Lev and Igor were both arrested at Dulles Airport in the Washington, D.C. area. They were attempting to board one way flights out of the country on one way tickets.
And the criminal case against them lays out allegations they funneled illegal donations including foreign money to various Republican candidates and causes including to the main super PAC supporting president Trump`s re- election. And the relationship between these two indicted gentlemen and president Trump remains murky, but at least in the case of Lev, he`s the one on the left of your screen, the guy whose eyes are slightly closer together, at least in the case of Lev, he has maintained in court that, effectively, he works for President Trump. His lawyer explained to the judge overseeing his case in the Southern District of New York that Lev was working for Rudy Giuliani in Giuliani`s capacity as the president`s personal lawyer.
So the president has Rudy Giuliani working for him as a personal lawyer. In that capacity, the president has Rudy Giuliani go to Ukraine and mount this pressure campaign against Ukraine to deliver these political favors for the president, right, that`s what President Trump is now being impeached for. But as part of that work for the president, Rudy Giuliani has another guy working for him, Lev Parnas.
And it`s not just some, you know, public bragging puffery like social media claim, oh, I`m working for Rudy Giuliani in his capacity as the president`s personal lawyer. This is actually Lev Parnas`s quite serious lawyer telling a federal judge that during a federal court proceeding. My client worked for Rudy Giuliani in Mr. Giuliani`s capacity as President Trump`s personal lawyer.
Well, tonight, just a couple of hours ago, federal prosecutors in this case have now written to the judge that`s overseeing the Lev Parnas case to say that they, the prosecutors, no longer believe it is safe to allow Lev Parnas to be out on house arrest with an ankle monitor while he`s awaiting trial on these felony charges. As of tonight, prosecutors now say that he is a, quote, significant flight risk and he should be remanded to custody immediately. They say, quote, it is difficult to overstate the extreme flight risk that Mr. Parnas now poses.
Why did they change their mind on whether he needed to be in jail or not? Before, they were fine with house arrest on ankle monitor. Why now do they say, oh, no, you got to put this guy in jail?
According to this filing from prosecutors tonight, they say they have just realized that Mr. Parnas lied to them about his financial situation and his assets after he was arrested, when they were going through the process of setting his appropriate bail terms, he lied to them about something big. What specifically?
Well, according to prosecutors, he neglected to mention to them, among other things, that in September of this year, so, right in the middle of him working on this scheme with Rudy Giuliani at the direction of President Trump to pressure Ukraine into giving president Trump political favors and pressuring Ukraine into supporting this weird Russian disinformation thing that Russia didn`t interfere in the 2016 election, it was Ukraine instead. In the middle of Lev Parnas running that scheme in Ukraine with Rudy Giuliani at the president`s direction, in September of this year, September 2019, he neglected to mention to prosecutors that, quote, he received $1 million wired to him from a bank account in Russia. Oh.
Prosecutors say he also neglected to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars he received as a kind of pass-through from a Kremlin-connected oligarch who has hired Trump-connected lawyers who then hired Lev to work from them. That Kremlin-connected oligarch who prosecutors say is an upper echelon associate of Russian organized crime is one of the people in Ukraine who has been providing Giuliani with fodder for the impeachment scheme. Lev didn`t mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars he got through that guy. And he didn`t mention that someone in Russia wired him a million dollars last month.
While he was working for Rudy Giuliani in Giuliani`s capacity as President Trump`s personal lawyer. I mean -- so, Lev`s working for the president and somebody in Russia is sending him a million bucks, really? The impeachment proceedings are under way literally as we speak in the Judiciary Committee. They`re marking up and debating these articles of impeachment right now.
There`s no factual agreement for the specific things on which the president is going to be impeached, but the overall story of what he was up to, and this new question tonight on why somebody in Russia wired a million dollars to one of the guys who was carrying out this scheme for him in the middle of the scheme, I mean, that`s all still rolling out literally tonight. I mean, it`s rolling out in the ongoing investigation by the Intelligence Committee, it`s rolling out in the federal courts as various oversight groups start to pry loose these records of the president`s behavior that they have tried to hide inside the Trump White House and tonight, it is rolling out in the Southern District of New York where federal prosecutors tonight are asking a judge to lock up one of the key players who carried out these orders from the president.
Man, we are just getting started, apparently. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: President Trump goes through national security advisers like most people go through tissues in hay fever season. Mike Flynn plead guilty, he`s now awaiting sentencing. He but replaced by H.R. McMaster. H.R. McMaster was then fired. He was replaced by John Bolton.
John Bolton was then fired under circumstances that aren`t clear but appear to have been immediately coincident with the events of the impeachment scandal, which is why such a big deal that Bolton won`t testify about what he knows about the impeachment scandal.
But after Bolton was fired, he did get himself a book deal and he did sign up to start doing speaking engagements and at Bolton`s first public speaking engagement after he was fired, he gave a shocking warning. He said, if President Trump is re-elected and gets a second term is he thinks he`ll pull the United States out of NATO.
NATO, of course, is the transatlantic alliance set up at the end of World War II to, among other things, provide a unified Western counterweight and unified Western check against what was then the Soviet Union. NATO has shaped the Western world since World War II. That alliance is, arguably, why there has never been a World War III.
But the first thing John Bolton said after he got fired as Trump`s national security adviser is if he gets a second term, he`s going to destroy NATO. He`s going to pull the United States out of it. And as crazy as that might sound, last week, when Trump was in London for the NATO summit, NATO leaders, world leaders at that summit came to that summit prepared to do damage control should he announce at that summit that, in fact, the U.S. was pulling out of NATO. World leaders literally had a plan amongst themselves, a plan ready in the event that Trump announced on a whim that the U.S. was ditching NATO because that seemed to them like a realistic prospect.
Well, now, today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did something sort of remarkable. They passed a resolution on a bipartisan basis that requires congressional approval if President Trump were to try to withdraw from NATO. This is Democrats and Republicans, a bipartisan vote here. Democrats and Republicans essentially making defensive maneuvers here, playing defense about what the president might do next. Just a remarkable move today on a resolution sponsored by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine.
Now, the House is casting its impeachment actions basically along the same lines, saying they`re moving with speed, they`re moving with alacrity, because they need to defend the country, they need Congress to move to act to defend the country from what the president is trying to do next in this context, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The president`s misconduct goes to the heart of whether we can conduct a free and fair election in 2020. It is bad enough for a candidate to invite foreign interference in our political process, but it is far more corrosive for a president to do so and abuse his power to make it so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As the House gets ready to vote now and the impeachment articles will head over from the house to Senate for the president`s trial, what happens to this dynamic, this sort of awkward principle we`re seeing quietly at work, even in bipartisan ways, to basically try to protect the country from the president`s actions and from what the Congress is worried he might do next?
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. He`s a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Sir, it`s great to have you here tonight. Thanks for being here.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): You bet. Great -- glad to be back, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, let me ask you about this NATO provision. This was a remarkable vote today in the foreign relations committee on NATO, bipartisan support for your legislation to essentially block the president from unilaterally busting up NATO.
Are you seriously concerned that he may be angling to do that?
KAINE: Rachel, I am worried about it, and, in fact, this bill, it was one of the last bills that John McCain introduced. He and I introduced it together shortly before he died and we introduced it then because we were so worried that all the president`s bashing of NATO suggested, A, that he might leave and that he clearly believed he could do it on its own.
As you know, NATO is a treaty that was ratified by the Senate. So, the president thinking, I can get out of it on my own, worried us both. We introduced it and over time this year, it`s the 70th anniversary of NATO, we see the president continues to say negative things about NATO.
There was reporting in "The New York Times" recently that they`ve actively discussed pulling out of NATO and at the NATO meeting last week, you saw French President Macron saying that NATO is brain dead because of the lack of U.S. commitment from the president to NATO.
So, we just slowly built a consensus among Democrats and Republicans that the alliance has value, that the only benefactor if the U.S. pulled out of NATO would be Vladimir Putin and Russia, and we want to make clear to our allies and to the president and especially to Russia that the Congress supports the U.S. staying in NATO and we`re not going to let a president back out of it on his own.
MADDOW: Because of the disruption or the disillusion of NATO or even just the U.S. pulling out of NATO, would be such an apex goal for Vladimir Putin and for Russia, it is -- it is remarkable. I mean, I know there`s a lot going on right now, but it is remarkable to see you get this bipartisan vote in your committee. Obviously, the Senate is controlled by Republicans. You got a Republican chairman. To see Democrats and Republicans agreeing that Russia needs to not get what it`s going for here, and if the president tries to give it to him, we`ll get in the way and we`ll stand up.
I wonder if you see that as sort of room to grow, or something to grow from, sort of a toehold for bipartisan way to move forward on some of these very scary issues.
KAINE: I do. And I think, really, the bill is about two things. Bipartisan support in both the Senate, and we know it`s there on the House floor, the continuing viability of NATO. It`s so very important. Bipartisan agreement, a president should not be able to torch an alliance that`s lasted for 70 years on his own whim or say-so, and significant bipartisan concern about the activities of Russia that are ongoing today.
The Foreign Relations Committee today passed a number of other resolutions that were directly about Russian attempts to strong-arm neighbors, to use their oil to basically hold European nations hostage. We`re taking a lot of actions to check Russian bad behavior. And if we`re going to do that, we have to make clear that the NATO alliance will stay strong regardless of what this president thinks about it.
MADDOW: That bipartisan dynamic that you`re describing, does that factor at all into the way you`re thinking about how the Senate is going to consider the impeachment articles when they somewhat inevitably end upcoming over to the Senate very shortly?
KAINE: Well, you know, Rachel, I`m hopeful, but I`m also realistic. We`re seeing news from the Republicans that suggests what they want to do on this impeachment trial is as little as possible. They don`t want to do very much at all.
But we owe the president, as well as the American public, a really full and fair trial in the senate, so that people know what the facts are. In the House, the president didn`t participate. He told witnesses not to show up. He didn`t produce any documents.
As you pointed out earlier in the show, they never attempted to rebut the main claims that the president carried out this campaign to get dirt on a political opponent using his office for a personal purpose that was illegitimate, hurting an ally by doing so, violating the will of Congress that mandated that funds be spent to help Ukrainian defense, and all of this helped an adversary Russia. They didn`t deny any of it. They just chose not to participate.
But a trial in the Senate, the president and his team need to participate. We need to see the documents. We need to hear from folks. We need to make sure it doesn`t have to be long, but it has to be thorough so that the facts are out there and American public knows what happened.
MADDOW: Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, of Foreign Relations Committee -- sir, thanks for making time for us tonight. I really appreciate it.
KAINE: Absolutely, glad to.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: As the House marks up the impeachment articles against President Trump tonight, we`re following a bit of thunderbolt development in the criminal case that prosecutors are pursuing in the Southern District of New York against some key participants in the Ukraine scheme for which the president is being impeached. It relates to the case of Lev Parnas, who was apparently working with Rudy Giuliani, the president`s personal lawyer, to enact this scheme in Ukraine.
Tonight, prosecutors have sent this to the federal judge in his case, quote: The government respectfully writes in opposition to defendant Parnas` motion seeking modification of the terms of his pretrial release. The government opposes Parnas` request to lighten up his bail conditions because, quote, Parnas made materially misleading and false statements regarding his assets and income.
Quote: There is no set of conditions that will reasonably ensure his appearance and compliance with the terms of his release. The government now moves to revoke Lev Parnas` bail and seeks his remand, meaning his jailing, pending trial. Among the things Lev is said to have lied to prosecutors about include a $1 million wire transfer payment that was sent to him in September, a month before he was charged, while he was busy working on this scheme with Rudy Giuliani. That $1 million payment was sent to him, according to prosecutors, from a bank account in Russia.
Joining us now is Joyce Vance. She`s former U.S. attorney for the northern district of the great state of Alabama.
Joyce, thank you so much for being here to help us sort through this filing.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Glad to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, originally, prosecutors did not seem bothered by the prospect that Lev Parnas was going to be on house arrest with an ankle monitor. To those of us that aren`t lawyers, that seemed a little crazy, given with the way they arrested him, he was on a jet way getting on a plane with a one- way ticket out of the country.
Now, they`re saying, oops, we were wrong actually to say that he could be trusted to be on house arrest. Among other things, he had tons of money coming into him from places like Russia that he lied to us about and that means we think he`s a flight risk.
Tell us how unusual this is, if you`ve seen patterns like this before in other cases.
VANCE: You know, I think that this is a pretty familiar pattern. Initially, the prosecutors in Southern District thought that they`d be able to work some sort of cooperation deal with Parnas. That, I think, is why we saw those relatively modest conditions of release, given the fact that he was found, as you say, almost on the tarmac. And what we`re seeing now is prosecutors who realized, as they evaluated his motion for lighter conditions, that he had actually lied to them.
They found he`d given three different accountings of his financial status to three different people. And ultimately, he submits this under an oath, under penalty of perjury, an affidavit talking about his financial assets and he just is way off the mark.
Here`s what that tells prosecutors. That tells them that this is a guy that doesn`t feel constrained to play fair with them and also that he has the resources, if he makes it out of the country, to be able to survive.
So, at that point, their radar goes up and they`re really worried about him. They`ve decided he`s a flight risk and he needs to go into custody.
MADDOW: Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Alabama -- Joyce, I really appreciate you being here. I didn`t see this coming at all. Clearly, advance -- experienced prosecutors did. But thank you for being with us, Joyce. Much appreciated.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Amid everything else going on in the news right now, midnight Eastern Time tonight is the deadline for candidates to qualify for the next presidential debate. There are seven Democratic candidates we know are going to be on the stage next week already. Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Steyer, and Yang -- Andrew Yang just yesterday met the polling criteria to get on the debate stage.
California Senator Kamala Harris also had also qualified for the December debate when she decided earlier this month she would end her candidacy, so she won`t be there. Interestingly, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, he`s been in each of the previous debates, he has met the donor requirement for this one, meaning the number of people who have given him the right amount of money, but he hasn`t yet met the polling requirements in any of the national or early state polls and again, the deadline is midnight tonight.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, she has also made all the previous debates. As of tonight, she is one poll shy of qualifying for the next debate. But her campaign says she`ll skip it even if she does qualify for reasons they refuse to enumerate.
Again, deadline is midnight tonight. Barring some very late breaking news, it looks like this is going to be the field of candidates in next week`s debate.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The Judiciary Committee is still working right now. All 41 members of that committee still giving their opening statements, one after another, before the committee takes up the two articles of impeachment against President Trump. No matter how late this goes tonight, and it is still going, that committee is expected to be back in that same room in those same seats at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. They`ll start with debating article one, abuse of power, then move onto article two, which is obstruction.
MSNBC, of course, will have live coverage of that. We will see you then.
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END