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Mike Flynn asks to withdraw guilty plea. TRANSCRIPT: 1/14/20, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Daniel Altimari, Jim Himes

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  I had my office door closed because I was freaking out and I wanted to be alone. And I heard you come down from your end of the hall to explain to my folks, is this what I think it is? I was like, oh, good, at least Chris is freaking out as much as I am. He can just do it with other people whereas I have to be alone.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Right, your staff.

MADDOW:  Presumably you hid your own freak out from your staff.

HAYES:  Yes, exactly. All right. Good night.

MADDOW:  Thanks, my friend. Good night. Yes, leave me with it.

All right. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

As Chris mentioned there, the news has taken a remarkable turn this evening, and I think it is fair to say it has taken a dark turn.

All right. It was late last spring, early part of last summer when we first started seeing press reports about the gentlemen we would all come to know affectionately as Lev and Igor. Two Soviet-born Russian-speaking businessmen who were apparently working with President Trump`s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on some sort of scheme involving Ukraine, and allegations that Giuliani was making about Joe Biden and what appeared to be sort of pressure on the Ukrainian government.

This would take awhile to unspool, but it, of course, would ultimately become in President Trump becoming only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. And, of course, we are right in the middle of that impeachment process right now. The House will vote tomorrow to appoint the members of Congress who will act as impeachment managers, effectively the prosecutors, who will try the case in the Senate against President Trump. The House will simultaneously vote tomorrow to formally convey the articles of impeachment from the House over to the Senate.

That means that at some point tomorrow, we expect some point after 5:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, we will see this dramatic ceremonial thing in which the House impeachment articles are literally walked across the capital grounds from the House side to the Senate side whereupon the impeachment managers will physically deliver those articles of impeachment to start the process of putting the president on trial. That is all about to happen. We are on the eve of that very dramatic stuff that`s supposed to start the Senate trial tomorrow.

But as the impeachment scandal has developed over these few months, out of the corner of your eye, you`ve been able to sort of monitor all of these recent -- in all of these recent months, this parallel story of Lev and Igor. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, associates of Mr. Giuliani, whose relationship with Mr. Giuliani has been vague at times. It appears that they were paying Mr. Giuliani. There is a record of them paying him half a million dollars.

On the other hand, at times, he appears to have been paying them, or at least employing them in some capacity. Fruman and Parnas have represented themselves as having been working forge in Giuliani`s capacity as President Trump`s personal lawyer, which would mean by the transit of property, they were working for President Trump. It`s never been totally clear what exactly the relationship of that -- what exactly the contours of that relationship were and how money factored into it. Presumably that will become clear at some point. But there has been this parallel case of these two unusual guys -- it`s been sort of chugging along in the news alongside and abutting the impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill against the president for this scheme in which they were apparently involved with Mr. Giuliani.

Well, now, today, most unexpectedly, that has just blown open. The impeachment inquiry in the House first sent a request for information, documents, testimony to Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman at the very end of September, the very beginning of October, right at the start of the formal impeachment inquiry in the House. It was October 3rd when impeachment investigators got a "no" from Lev and Igor, no, they`re not going to help. They got a letter from then lawyer saying those two gentlemen would not Cooperate with the request for information. They wouldn`t testify. They wouldn`t hand anything over.

That letter was from their lawyer at the time who was John Dowd. You can tell this because the typeface there is comic sans, which is like his signature. John Dowd, you`ll remember, was President Trump`s lawyer for a long time in the Russia investigation. He at the beginning was representing Lev and Igor as they were summoned to testify at the impeachment inquiry.

And stick a pin in that for now. We`re going to come back to that in a few minutes.

But October 3rd, John Dowd sends a letter saying, I represent Lev and Igor and they are not going to cooperate with your request for information for the impeachment investigation. Less than a week after that, October 9, Lev and Igor were arrested at Dulles Airport just outside D.C. They were about to board a flight to Vienna, first class tickets, one-way tickets.

That apparently is what moved up the urgency of arresting them right then and there because of fears by prosecutors that they might be fleeing the country. When Lev and Igor were arrested at the airport, an indictment was unsealed against them thereafter that showed multiple felony charges related to them allegedly funneling illegal foreign donations to various Republican candidates and campaigns. As part of that illegal donation scheme, the indictment spelled out allegations that the two of them tried to orchestrate the ousting of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

So, the day that indictment was unsealed, October 10th, the day after they were arrested at the airport, the impeachment investigators who had earlier sent a request to Lev and Igor that they testify and provide information, the day after those guys got arrested, there was no longer a please and a voluntary element to that request. Once those guys got arrested on October 10th, that request was turned into a subpoena.

So the impeachment investigation sent a legally binding demand that Lev and Igor provide information into the impeachment inquiry. After that subpoena, Lev and Igor each switched lawyers and Lev Parnas, at least, seemed to have had a change of heart.

By the end of that month, October 30th, he had told the impeachment investigators in Congress actually he would like to cooperate with them and he would respond to that subpoena. And he would start producing material that would be relevant to their impeachment inquiry and he would do so on a rolling basis.

So since then -- again, this has been sort of in the corner of your eye. This has been sort of proceeding alongside the impeachment investigation, and we know that this is an abutting case, but we never knew what this would yield. This criminal case against Lev and Igor and two of their colleagues has proceeded apace. It`s a real criminal case in the southern district of New York.

There`s been some drama in the courtroom around, for example, their bail conditions. Prosecutors at one point complained that they hadn`t known about a million dollar wire transfer to Lev from a Russian bank account. That made prosecutors request that Lev`s bail be revoked and he be put in jail to await his trial. Now, the judge disagreed, allowed Mr. Parnas to stay out on bail. He has remained at liberty awaiting the start of his trial.

But while he has remained at liberty at the start of his trial, something has been brewing there. His current lawyer, man named Joe Bondy has made frequent public statements about how much Lev wants to testify to the impeachment investigators, and how much he knows. He has used online #LevRemembers and #LetLevSpeak. And we haven`t known what exactly Lev remembered or what Lev wanted to speak about.

We`ve been asking about that. We`ve been trying to report on what information Mr. Parnas might have to convey to the impeachment inquiry, how significant that information might be. We`ve been trying to report it out for weeks now.

But, now, tonight, surprise, on the eve of the impeachment articles being conveyed from the House over to the Senate, and the Senate trial starting, the Intelligence Committee in the House tonight has released about 60 pages of material that they have, in fact, received from Mr. Parnas. And, boy, is this not what anyone was expecting.

I mean, maybe somebody knew this was coming, but this is -- I`ve been following this closely, and this to me is nuts. And there`s a few different elements here we`ll talk about over the course of the show tonight. There`s new doubts about the president`s emphatic public statements that he doesn`t know these guys and never had anything to do with them.

There`s the interesting multi-level involvement of some of the president`s defense counsel in the impeachment inquiry with these guys who appear to have carried out the scheme for which the president is being impeached. There is the involvement in the scheme of a figure who prosecutors say is an upper echelon associate of Russian organized crime. We`ve got further new detail about that.

But in terms of the craziness factor here, we have to start with what we have just learned about Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. I mentioned that in the criminal indictment of Mr. Fruman and Mr. Parnas, prosecutors described their illegal donations to names and causes including the main super PAC supporting President Trump.

But prosecutors also explained in the indictment that what Fruman and Parnas were trying to do with access to the donations was they were trying to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, fired. You will remember from the impeachment testimony that ambassador Yovanovitch was not just, you know, saddened or even just bewildered that she was inexplicably fired and called from her post by the Trump administration in the middle of her tenure as ambassador to Ukraine. You may recall from her dramatic testimony there was also an element of fear, or at least some kind of possible threat against her.

This moment where she describe at stood out in the impeachment hearings because, A, we didn`t know what this was about, and B, it was a dark and dramatic tale.


AMB. MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE:  Around 1:00 in the morning, she called me again and she said that, there were great concerns. There were concerns up the street. And she said I needed to come home immediately, get on the next plane to the U.S. and I asked her why.

And she said she wasn`t sure, but there were concerns about my security. I asked her, my physical security? Because sometimes Washington knows more than we do about these things. And she said, no, she hadn`t gotten that impression it was a physical security issue, but they were concerned about my security and I needed to come home right away.

You know, I argued, this is extremely irregular. And no reason given. But in the end, I did get on the next plane home.

DAN GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL:  You said there were concerns up the street. What did you understand that to mean?

YOVANOVITCH:  The White House.

GOLDMAN:  Did she explain in any more detail what she meant by concerns about your security?

YOVANOVITCH:  No, she didn`t. I did specifically ask whether this had to do with the mayor Giuliani`s allegations against me and so forth. And she said she didn`t know. It didn`t even actually appear to me that she seemed to be aware of that. No reason was offered.

GOLDMAN:  Did she explain what the urgency was for you to come back on the next flight?

YOVANOVITCH:  The only thing that`s pertinent to that, there were concerns about my security. That`s all. But it was not further explained.


MADDOW:  That`s Marie Yovanovitch who had been the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. She was inexplicably fired and recalled to Washington in the middle of this pressure campaign on Ukraine that they needed to produce investigations into President Trump`s political rival Joe Biden, or they wouldn`t get their military aid from the U.S. government.

That was Marie Yovanovitch testifying in the impeachment inquiry in November. She was told to get on the next plane. There were concerns about her security.

We didn`t know what that was about during the impeachment investigation. Now tonight, we maybe know what that was about, because in the material from Lev Parnas that was just handed over to the Intelligence Committee -- that the Intelligence Committee has just released to the Judiciary Committee in conjunction with the impeachment and to the public so we can all see it, in the middle of this pile of evidence, these documents, there is a strange and legitimately alarming series of WhatsApp text messages, encrypted text messages between Mr. Parnas and a man named Robert F. Hyde who appears to still be a Republican congressional candidate in the 5th district of Connecticut. This is his campaign website.

He has been running for Congress on the platform that he`s very close to Trump`s world. He`s very controversial candidate. At one point, "The Hartford Courant" ran a blistering editorial about him that was titled "Robert F. Hyde, get out of the race." 

That was after Hyde posted online an almost unbelievably vulgar, sexist tweet about Senator Kamala Harris dropping out of the presidential race. It was a tweet that explicitly referenced oral sex. I`m not going to go further than that. Don`t look it up. You`ll thank me.

But apparently last spring, this gentleman was working with Lev Parnas or at least reporting to Lev Parnas about an effort that appeared to target, maybe even literally Ambassador Yovanovitch in Ukraine. According to these materials released tonight, this conversation, the series of conversations between Mr. Parnas and Mr. Hyde starts March 21st last year. Mr. Parnas sends Robert Hyde a series of articles and tweets that are basically in support of Giuliani and Trump`s conspiracy theory, that it was really Ukraine that interfered in the election and all the anti-Biden stuff and stuff smearing Ambassador Yovanovitch.

The first message that we see from Mr. Hyde is March 22nd, in which he says: F that five letter word that starts with B. And that`s in reference, apparently, to Ambassador Yovanovitch. F that.

The following day, Lev Parnas sends Mr. Hyde yet more Ukraine conspiracy stuff from the Fox News Channel. Hyde responds saying, wow, can`t believe Trump hasn`t fired this B word. I`ll get right in that.

He then sends Mr. Parnas some attachments that we can`t really tell what they are because of the way in which the materials have been produced.

But then on March 23rd, here`s the sort of dark turn. Quote: She under heavy protection outside Kiev.

She`s under heavy protection, and she`s outside of Kiev? How would this guy know that about Marie Yovanovitch if that`s who we`re still talking about? And why would it be important to this discussion that he`s having with Mr. Parnas? Within a couple of days, their texts continue along the same lines.

Robert Hyde telling Mr. Parnas, quote, they are moving here tomorrow. The guys over, they asked me what I`d like to do and what`s in it for them. He says, wake up, Yankee`s men.

And he says, she`s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off. And he says, she`s next to the embassy, not in the embassy. Private security. Been there since Thursday.

Parnas responds, interesting. Then Hyde says, quote, they will let me know when she`s on the move. Parnas says, that`s perfect. Hyde responds, I mean, where if they can find out? That address I sent you checks out. It`s next to the embassy.

Quote, they`re willing to help if we/you would like a price. He says, guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money, what I was told. Parnas responds, LOL, as in laugh out loud.

Hyde responds the next day. Update, she will not be moved. Special security unit upgraded force on the compound. People are already aware of the situation.

My contacts are asking, what`s the next step? Because they cannot keep going to check. People will start to ask questions.

Then a new text from him. If you want her out, they need to make contact with security forces.

Following day, he says, quote, nothing has changed. She`s still not moving. They check again today. And then moments later he says, quote, it`s confirmed. We have a person inside.

Two days later, hey, brother, do we stand down or do you still need intel? Be safe.

Then, Hyde says moments later, she had visitors. It`s confirmed. We have a person inside.

Hey, broski, tell me what we`re doing, what`s the next step?

What this appears to be is Lev Parnas in communication with somebody who purports, at least, to have the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine under physical surveillance in Ukraine, down to where exactly she is, her exact address, who she`s with, and whether her phone and computer are turned on or off.

If you want her out, they need to make contact with security forces. And it`s confirmed. We have a person inside.

The people who he has doing this surveillance he says are, quote, willing to help because in Ukraine you can do anything with money. Would you like a price?

As I mentioned, Lev Parnas is the one who handed this material over to the impeachment inquiry. The person he was in discussions with here is this Republican congressional candidate from Connecticut. He was reached for comment tonight by "The Daily Beast."

Robert Hyde told reporters Sam Brody and Betsy Swan at "The Daily Beast", quote: Bull Schiff is a giant B word. That was his response to comment on this material.

But if this was the reason that the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was told to get out of that country on the next flight for her own safety, if this is the reason she was told, there are concerns about your safety -- I mean, those warnings, that urgent warning, get on the next flight, that warning from the State Department happened about a month after -- almost exactly a month after these guys were having these detailed WhatsApp text message exchanges about when she was on the move and what her security is like, and these guys who can help out if there`s a price.

What did the State Department know about this? What did the White House know about this? When the State Department conveyed its concerns to Marie Yovanovitch that she should get on the next flight, it was purportedly about concerns about her safety that were -- or concerns about her security from up the street, meaning up the street at the White House.

Did they know about this? I mean, if that`s what this is about, this story has taken a very, very dark turn.

Now, we had known, because Lev Parnas` lawyer has been talking about it publicly. We had known Lev Parnas was turning over material to impeachment investigators, to the House Intelligence Committee and Mr. Parnas through his lawyer said the material he was handing over was relevant to the impeachment inquiry. We hadn`t before tonight heard anything from Congress as to what the content was of this material that Lev Parnas was handing over.

But in addition to the stuff that`s been released publicly tonight, it`s not only been shown to the public. It`s been formally conveyed to the Judiciary Committee, which of course is the committee that wrote the articles of impeachment which passed against President Trump, the articles that are being conveyed tomorrow to the Senate. In a joint statement tonight, the chairs of the Intelligence, Judiciary, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees, the four committees that investigated the impeachment scandal, a joint statement from those four chairs says tonight that they want this new evidence that they have released tonight publicly considered by the Senate in the Senate trial of president Trump that is due to start tomorrow.

They say in their joint statement tonight, quote, since the House voted to impeach President Trump, we have continued our investigation so the House managers can present to the Senate the most complete factual record possible before the trial on the articles of impeachment. Today, additional new evidence will be provided to the House Judiciary Committee for its transmittal to the Senate along with the articles of impeachment.

Quote: We will continue our investigative work and will make available to the Senate and the American people any additional evidence of the president`s misconduct as it is revealed.

So there`s a lot more to get to here tonight in terms of what was just released by the Intelligence Committee tonight. Again, so it can be conveyed to the Senate tomorrow along with the articles of impeachment. We`re going to talk tonight about some of this new material, including Lev Parnas` handwritten notes about the core allegations in the impeachment scheme in which he says bluntly, get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.

I mean, there`s a lot more here. There`s intriguing stuff about the president`s personal involvement with Lev and Igor case. But in order to help us with this unbelievably explosive information about what appears to have been some sort of plot, some sort of physical plot against the U.S. ambassador, I want to bring into the conversation now a reporter from "The Hartford Courant" who has covered the somewhat strange political saga of Robert F. Hyde, this Republican congressional candidate who has been excoriated by "The Courant`s" editorial page for other things, his crude comments about Senator Kamala Harris.

It is his text messages with Lev Parnas tonight released by the Intelligence Committee which appeared to show a potential physical threat to this ambassador as part of the intimidation and smear campaign that forced her out of office and ultimately led, in part, to the scandal for which President Trump is currently being impeached.

Joining us now is Daniela Altimari. She is a statehouse reporter at "The Hartford Courant". She is in the middle of reporting this herself.

So, Daniela, I appreciate you making time to be with us on short notice.

DANIELA ALTIMARI, REORTER, HARTFORD COURANT (via telephone):  Sure. Thank you.

MADDOW:  Let me just ask you about Robert Hyde. Twenty-four hours ago, he certainly was not a national figure. I know that you have covered him in his congressional campaign in the fifth district in Connecticut. I just want to get your reaction to the top line of his surfacing in this dramatic way in this material just released tonight by Congress.

ALTIMARI:  Yes, I mean, it was interesting you read these messages that were released in the House Intelligence Committee documents and the language is certainly very on point of what we`ve heard from him in the past on his own Twitter feed and just comments that he`s made to various reporters about various public figures. He`s using sort of the same tone, especially as it relates to women in, you know, positions of power.

MADDOW:  In terms of the implications of his exchanges with Mr. Parnas here, I found myself reading this feeling that I wanted to know more about Mr. Hyde`s credibility. Is it possible that he is a fabulist, and he is imagining or fantasizing that he`s got resources or contacts of people who could be surveilling a U.S. ambassador in a foreign country?

Is he somebody who -- forgive me for asking it this way, but is he nutty enough that this might have all been in his hid and might not have actually been happening in real life?

ALTIMARI:  I don`t have enough information to know that specifically. I do know that he is not a sort of -- what we would call a mainstream figure in Connecticut politics. He`s somebody who really hasn`t held elective office before. He wasn`t very well known.

He`s one of several Republicans who are running for the seat. He doesn`t appear to have a lot of support. In fact, most of the establishment Republicans have actually called on him to step aside certainly after those tweets about Senator Harris were publicized.

MADDOW:  We`re showing a picture on the screen right now of Mr. Hyde with president Trump. He`s obviously got that picture front and center on his campaign page and has made claims to be connected to the Trump inner circle.

I -- in sort of looking up his background, trying to understand more about him today, I noticed that there was an incident last may where he was actually arrested at the Trump Doral in Florida and told police that he believed a hit man was out to get him?

ALTIMARI:  Yes, he was escorted offer the property. As far as we could tell from the redacted report, it wasn`t clear that he was arrested. There was no mention of an arrest in this incident report. He was removed from the property. They did identify him as trespassing at the Trump resort.

So he was asked to leave by police. That`s as much as we could glean from this redacted report, incident report.

MADDOW:  Daniela Altimari, hard at work on this right now as we speak. Thank you for taking time to talk with us tonight. I appreciate it.

ALTIMARI:  Thank you. Thank you so much.

MADDOW:  All right. Appreciate it.

We have much more to get to on the story and believe it or not, some big legal news that has broken within the last hour. It`s going to be a busy hour.

Stay with us.



REPORTER:  What conversations have you had with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don`t know those gentlemen. Now, it`s possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody. I have a picture with everybody here.

But somebody said there may be a picture, something, at a fund-raiser or somewhere, so -- but I have pictures with everybody.

REPORTER:  Have you talked with them?

TRUMP:  I don`t know there`s anybody I don`t have pictures with.

I don`t know them. I don`t know about them. I don`t know what they do. But I don`t know. Maybe they were clients of Rudy. You`d have to ask Rudy. I just don`t know.


MADDOW:  It`s possible I have a picture with them. I have no idea. Oh, Mr. President, would that it`s only one picture.

Let`s call these one through eight. There may be more. At first glance, these are eight of the photos I know of featuring Lev Parnas currently under indictment, currently featuring in the darkest, most salacious turns of the impeachment scandal and President Donald Trump. Eight different photos of Mr. Parnas with Mr. Trump in all sorts of different circumstances.

Also, here`s a bonus one, number 9, which shows neither Mr. Parnas nor Mr. Trump, but it does show their name cards at some sort of arranged seating event and they are right next to each other, which is cute.

Given that Mr. Parnas is under indictment for allegedly funneling illegal foreign donations to Republican candidates and campaigns, and given the information we have about Mr. Parnas` involvement in the scheme for which Mr. President Trump was impeached, you could understand why Mr. Trump would pretend he`s never met Lev Parnas. To say he`s never heard of the guy, maybe there`s one picture somewhere, definitely not two or three, certainly not nine.

But now in these new documents released tonight by the Intelligence Committee, here`s a new kind of direct connection we didn`t know about before. It appears to be an email sent from the president`s counsel Jay Sekulow. It`s dated Wednesday, October 2nd, which is just after Lev and Igor got contacted by the impeachment inquiry to ask for their testimony.

The letter from Jay Sekulow, counsel to the president, to another reporter John Dowd, says, quote: John, I have discussed the issue of representation with the president. The president consents to allowing your representation of Mr. Parnas and Mr. Furman. It`s Fruman, not Furman, but you see the point he`s making. And it is signed Jay Sekulow, counsel to the president.

If Mr. Sekulow can be taken at his word and there`s no reason not to, this would imply that the president personally gave his consent for Lev and Igor to have the lawyer of their choosing, John Dowd, representing them as they were fighting a request for testimony from congressional investigators looking at the impeachment scandal. The day after that email was apparently sent from Mr. Sekulow to John Dowd, that`s when Dowd told congressional investigators on his client`s behalf that they wouldn`t be cooperating with the impeachment investigation.

Now, Lev Parnas eventually changed his lawyer, dropped John Dowd and also changed his mind and started cooperating with the impeachment investigation. That`s how we got all these new documents tonight. But in these documents released tonight, we also get another surprise about the president`s legal representation and his involvement with Lev and Igor. In text messages between Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas in which Mr. Parnas is complaining they haven`t been able to secure a U.S. visa for Ukrainian official they want to bring to the U.S. to help them as part of their smear Joe Biden campaign, Rudy Giuliani tells Lev Parnas at one point, quote, I gave Jay your number.

They`re talking about how they can get a visa for this guy who has been turned down for a visa to visit the United States because he is viewed as a corrupt foreign official. Rudy Giuliani says, I`m working on it, though. I got number one, presumably the president working on it.

He says, I`ve given Jay your number, and we know who he`s talking about. We know it`s Jay Sekulow because he then sends Lev Parnas Jay Sekulow`s contact information, presumably so Lev Parnas currently under indictment can speak directly with the president`s legal counsel in the White House about trying to get a U.S. visa for a corrupt Ukrainian official who the U.S. government is otherwise not letting travel here. Only the best people.

I mean, the president`s legal representation is turning out to be a very weird factor in this impeachment. Jay Sekulow is due to be the president`s defense counsel in his Senate impeachment trial which is due to start tomorrow.

Mr. Sekulow, is there anything that you would like to disclose about your involvement with any of the characters in this drama? Mr. Sekulow, we know as of tonight was put in direct contact with one of the indicted people who was part of this Ukraine scheme. Mr. Sekulow was also involved in getting the president`s personal approval for the defense counsel for that guy who is now under federal criminal indictment.

Also among all the many glamorous photos that Mr. Parnas has made public about his interaction was various Trump world officials, not only are there a gazillion pictures of him with the president`s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, we also know of at least a handful of photos that show Mr. Parnas with another of the president`s defense counsels in the impeachment scandal.

This is Pam Bondi, former attorney general of the state of Florida. She worked at the lobbying firm in Florida that has been subpoenaed by SDNY as part of their criminal investigation into this murky part of this Trump scandal. She apparently has more than a passing relationship with Mr. Parnas, again, who is under indictment. Again, she is part of the president`s legal team representing him in this impeachment.

I know that everybody gets to pick their own lawyers up to and including the president, but it`s really odd in any criminal case, in any major criminal proceeding to have the lawyers themselves play cameo or potentially starring roles in the scandal for which their candidate -- for which their client is being tried. And there`s more here.

And Mike Flynn just filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea tonight, on top of everything. There`s a lot going on.

We`ve got a member of the Intelligence Committee joining us next. Stay with us.


MADDOW:  So, again, we`re covering breaking news tonight about this remarkable pile of evidence and information that the Intelligence Committee has just released to the public tonight in advance of the president`s Senate impeachment trial starting tomorrow. The chairs of the various impeachment committees say tonight that this information is being released this evening because they want this evidence conveyed to the Senate alongside the articles of impeachment against President Trump which are formally going to be conveyed to the Senate tomorrow afternoon.

Among the most disturbing material released tonight is a long series of encrypted text messages from last spring. They involve Lev Parnas who is currently under indictment in the Southern District of New York. He reportedly handed this material over to the Intelligence Committee. The texts are between him and Robert F. Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate from Connecticut.

And in these text messages, Mr. Hyde appears to be basically reporting to Mr. Lev Parnas about the physical movements and the security situation around Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in Kiev. The initial parts of their text exchanges are about -- or negative information about Mr. Yovanovitch.

Mr. Hyde at one point, explaining, exclaiming, using expletives, talking how terrible she is and Trump should fire her. It moves on quickly to what appears to be surveillance reports from somebody who`s watching her.

A sample of those messages, quote: She is under heavy protection outside Kiev. Quote: They are moving her tomorrow. The guys over there asked me what I would like to do and what`s in it for them.

She`s talked to three people. Her phone is off, computer is off. She`s next to the embassy, not in the embassy. Private security. Been there since Thursday.

Quote: They`re willing to help if we/you would like a price. Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money. What I was told. If you want her out, they need to make contact with security forces.

And then after that, quote, it`s confirmed. We have a person inside.

Tonight, in response to this information, Ambassador Yovanovitch`s lawyer has just released this statement saying, quote, needless to say the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch`s movements for unknown purposes is disturbing. We trust that the appropriate authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened.

Joining us now is Congressman Jim Himes. He`s a member of the Intelligence Committee. He also represents Connecticut`s 4th district which is right next door to the district in Connecticut where Mr. Hyde is currently standing as a Republican candidate for Congress.

Mr. Himes, Congressman, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT):  Hi, Rachel.

MADDOW:  I know this isn`t the right way to ask this question, but what the heck -- what -- what is this? Please tell me this is a fabulist who has concocted some sort of fantasy plot in his mind and this wasn`t a real thing.

HIMES: Yes, I`m not the governor of Connecticut, Rachel, but I do on behalf of the people of Connecticut apologize for Mr. Hyde.

And, look, I guess there are two ways to look at this. As you said earlier in the show, this is not Mr. Hyde`s first brush with fame. He, of course, got some attention by putting up a truly disgusting tweet about Senator Kamala Harris when she withdrew from the presidential race.

So, look, this guy is a malignant clown. It is quite possible that he was just making all this stuff up. That would be consistent with this guy.

But, of course, we don`t assume that. It is also possible, and we don`t know this, true or false, that he actually did talk to people on the ground who were surveilling and conceivably threatening the United States ambassador. This is a kind of thing we take seriously despite the clown- like behavior of Mr. Hyde.

MADDOW:  Obviously, the question that I think immediately arose in people`s minds when we first started absorbing the impacts, or the implication of these text messages is whether or not this is what Ambassador Yovanovitch was being warned about when she got that middle of the night 1:00 a.m. call from the State Department, telling her to get on the next plane. There were concerns about her safety.

That was about a month after these exchanges between Mr. Parnas and Mr. Hyde were happening via encrypted text.

Is there any indication of what the White House or the State Department might have known about this and whether that is, in fact, what led to that urgent security alert to the ambassador that got her out of that country?

HIMES:  Yes, I mean, I chuckle, Rachel, because we don`t know. We don`t know.

And amidst all of this talk of, you know, almost cartoon-like characters -- I mean, this is the stuff if you made it up and put it in a comic book nobody would believe. And the reason we don`t know, of course, is the headline of everything here that is getting lost in this story, we don`t know the answer to your question because the president of the United States in an absolutely unprecedented move has refused to make a single person, a single email, a single phone call available to congressional investigators.

Why is that? Because every fact, every email, every trove of Lev Parnas, you know, Lev Parnas, who had ever heard of this guy? Not exactly Mike Pompeo. But every single email, document, phone call that comes out is deeply incriminating to the president.

So, you know, not only would we like to have the kind of evidence presented that Nixon was required to present, that Bill Clinton presented including testifying and giving a deposition himself, because it would be important to understanding the behavior of this president, and presumably important to senators actually making an impartial and informed decision about the behavior of that president. But there`s any number of subplots like this surveillance of an American ambassador or possible surveillance of an American ambassador we need to know a lot more about.

MADDOW:  The release from your committee, from the intelligence committee tonight made clear this wasn`t all of it. There`s about 60 pages of material, 59 pages of material that were released tonight. But apparently, there was a second trove of material that was described by the Chairman Adam Schiff as sensitive material. Call records that included personal sensitive information that, therefore, shouldn`t be made public.

Should we expect that`s the kind of information that will be of public interest that may eventually be released to the public after it`s been redacted to -- so we don`t have access to any personal and sensitive?

HIMES:  Yes, you are correct about that. There is another batch of information. It was described in the letter. It is phone records, and phone records by their nature, of course, have specific phone numbers. Sometimes names attached to those.

And so, because time was of the essence here, and really this has been a little bit of a race against the clock. That, of course, points us to the question whether Nancy Pelosi was smart or not in delaying the conveyance of the articles to the Senate. It`s no small matter actually taking a phone, as was done in this case, and extracting the data from that phone and ultimately understanding it and, you know, understanding what the Russians said.

So, yes, of course, there`s a lot more information here. Let me go back to the point I made. Lev Parnas is a fringy character attached to Rudy Giuliani. Could you imagine -- and I think senators need to ask this question. The American people need to ask this question of their senators.

Could you imagine what we might learn if we weren`t dealing with clowns and fringy characters, but actually seeing the emails that exist at state, that exist at the White House, that would give us a full picture of, you know, not just the president`s misbehavior, but who knew? Did the State Department know that Ambassador Yovanovitch was being surveilled?

This is the headline that`s getting lost here, Rachel, which is the unprecedented refusal of this president, literally unprecedented.

When you hear the Republicans saying we`re following exactly the rules that Clinton followed, baloney. Clinton was deposed. Clinton made every single individual and documents emails available. This president has not made a document, an email or phone call, or an individual available to this investigation.

MADDOW:  And that`s why we`re getting this stuff by other means, including this remarkable release tonight.

Congressman Jim Himes, member of the Intelligence Committee, it`s a big week and a big night. Thanks for being with us. I appreciate it.

HIMES:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  All right. More breaking news still ahead. Doesn`t stop tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW:  As the House releases bombshell and disturbing new material tonight in the impeachment investigation, in further breaking news tonight, Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn has just made a dramatic move of his own. General Flynn has been heading for sentencing later this month for lying to investigators about his contacts with the Russian government during the presidential transition. He pled guilty to that charge, and he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for lenience in his own sentence.

That cooperation however went sour in the end. And prosecutors recently recommended to the judge that he receive up to six months in jail.

Well, now, as of tonight, he has just filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The motion says, in part, quote: Michael T. Flynn hereby moves to withdraw his plea because of the government`s bad faith, vindictiveness and breach of the plea agreement.

Among other matters, Flynn`s legal team cites the inspector general report from last month in the origins of the Russia investigation and lots of crazy stuff, too.

This filing tonight be comes a week after prosecutors said that Flynn should get up to six months in jail. In terms of what`s going to happen here, it is hard to know. He`s essentially he is essentially trying to change his plea meaning he wants to go on trial for his charges.

We`ll talk about how likely that is and what this means for case when we come back. Stay with us.


MADDOW:  One of the many breaking stories we are following tonight is a curve ball from Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn. Just as we got on the air tonight, General Flynn moved in court to withdraw his guilty plea. He pled guilty already, two years ago, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for lenience. But now, tonight, he says he wants to undo that plea, changer his plea to not guilty, and I guess go on trial?

Joining us is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney.

Barb, thanks joining us on short notice. 

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Oh, you bet.  Glad to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, how does this work?  Flynn has confessed to multiple crimes already, in sworn, you know, signed statements as part of his earlier guilty plea. Is he saying he wants to go on trial for those crimes?

MCQUADE:  Yes, strangely enough, despite the fact that he was sworn in in open court, agreed and admitted in detail what he did to make him guilty of these offenses, submitted a written statement of the offense, his lawyer says in this pleading that he is innocent. And so the remedy for withdrawing a plea is to go to trial.

MADDOW:  Will the judge have to do this? Is it a foregone conclusion that the judge will grant a trial? Or how much leeway does the judge have here facing this kind of a motion?

MCQUADE:  The rules of criminal procedure say that to withdraw a guilty plea, the judge has to find that there is a fair and just reason to do so. I don`t know that he will be convinced based on this pleading alone. He may want to have a hearing.

But, you know, last week, as you mentioned, we had that filing from the government that said it was Michael Flynn who breached the plea agreement, and so, the government was no longer recommending substantial assistance, no longer recommending a reduction in his sentence because he changed his story when they were preparing for the trial of Bijan Rafiekian, and, in fact, perhaps even seemed to sabotage that trial.  And, therefore, because he breached the plea agreement, they were not going to recommend leniency.

And now, his lawyer is saying, we didn`t breach the plea agreement, you breached the plea agreement.

I don`t know how much weight that`s going to carry with the judge.  I think he will hear from the parties.  But he has to find that there`s a fair and just reason before he allows Michael Flynn out of his guilty plea.

MADDOW:  So, the judge isn`t required to accept that Flynn is changing his plea.  The judge could say, no, you said your piece on this and we`re going to leave it there?

MCQUADE:  Yes. You know, it`s not enough that it`s buyer`s remorse. You have to find there is a fair and just reason it is against -- it would be a miscarriage of justice to allow this plea to go forward because either something has changed or new facts have emerged.

The only that they allege here is that he didn`t really make a false statement in his FARA application. Yes, it was false, but he didn`t know it was false at the time. That really seems to contradict, if not the technical language of his statement of offense, certainly the gist and spirit of what he signed, what he agreed to and what he admitted in open court.

It has the feel of a clever lawyer looking for language after the fact to find some way to wiggle out of it.

MADDOW:  Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney, Thanks for jumping in on short notice on this, Barb.  I appreciate it.

MCQUADE:  You bet.  My pleasure, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Obviously, this attempt to withdraw Flynn`s plea looks like a plea for pardon from President Trump. But heads up, everybody.

We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW:  At 5:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the newly named, newly minted impeachment managers will walk the articles of impeachment from the House over to the Senate.

It`s called an engrossment ceremony. No, I don`t know why.

But Speaker Pelosi and the impeachment managers are literally going to physically carry the articles over. It will be a procession led by the House clerk and House sergeant at arms. They`ll go to statuary hall, the Capitol rotunda, all the way over to the Senate.

It was dramatic.  The last time a president was impeached when we saw this happen in 1999. It is expected to be no less dramatic this time around, not least because new impeachment evidence is being released as late as tonight.

At 5:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, the engrossment ceremony will begin in Donald Trump`s impeachment. See you there.

I`ll see you again then.

It`s now time for "THE LAST WORD" where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Ali.

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