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Ukrainian Pres. Denies Trump "Pushed". TRANSCRIPT: 9/25/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Larry Pfeiffer, Sean Patrick Maloney, Wendy Sherman, Ben Rhodes,Mike Murphy, Mieke Eoyang, Mimi Rocah

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel. 

This one is moving really fast. 


O`DONNELL:  We are now at 218 -- 218 Democrats in the House favor the impeachment proceedings against President Trump. 

MADDOW:  That`s the magic number. 

O`DONNELL:  The magic number.  It was 134 on Sunday -- on Sunday, it was -- 84 since Sunday. 

MADDOW:  You know, the question of how broad they`re going to make this impeachment proceeding in terms of how broadly they`re going to draw these articles is fascinating.  I think that it`s worth knowing, though, that they`ve got, you know, it`s like bird in the hand, two in the bush.  At this point if they want to impeach him specifically on this scandal of what he admitted to today in terms of what he asked the Ukraine government for, they`re done.  They`ve got that in hand if they want to do it. 

O`DONNELL:  Well, they also -- they also have the Mueller report, and we`ve never seen one article go forward.  There`s a lot of reasons for that, including offering the Senate, for example, the possibility -- some senators the possibility to vote against one article or two articles, and then vote for one.  And it only takes one.  So if you get the two-thirds vote on one article, but then two or three other articles don`t pass, the president is still removed. 

And so that is very likely to be a multiple article impeachment, just at minimum, just strategically for the Senate, so you can give a Republican senator a chance to say, I voted against three articles, but this one I just couldn`t.  I had to do it.

  MADDOW:  I mean, we`ll see how they strategically approach this.  But I think, A, your math there is right.  And B, this thing is moving so fast, I think that`s -- that it`s not an unreasonable thing to speculate about. 

O`DONNELL:  We shall see. 

MADDOW:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. 

We have now completed the first full day, and only one full day, of the impeachment process in the House of Representatives that Speaker Nancy Pelosi made official last evening.  And we are already at the release the transcripts stage of the impeachment investigation.

The official impeachment investigation of President Richard Nixon took several months to get to the release the transcript stage.  President Nixon finally was forced by subpoena to deliver the first transcripts of his White House conversations to the House Judiciary Committee on May 3rd, 1974, and then the impeachment process really picked up speed.  And only three months later it was over.  Richard Nixon resigned the presidency. 

The impeachment process has once again really picked up speed, but Donald Trump won`t resign the presidency, but a lot can happen in the next three months.  Donald Trump can be impeached, and he can be impeached before Christmas. 

We will begin this program tonight the way the impeachment hearings will begin, with a verification of the document that has now become the most important public document in the impeachment investigation of Donald Trump.  The memorandum of telephone conversation between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine. 

Larry Pfeiffer (ph) who has prepared documents like this for President Barack Obama`s conversations with leaders of foreign governments will start us off tonight with just his simple reading of this memo, verifying this memo.  Does it look like a legitimate summary of that kind of conversation?  Is there anything strange about the memo other than what the president actually says in the memo?  Larry Pfeiffer is the one to answer the questions tonight. 

This memo might be outdone by other documents as the investigation proceeds and that might happen soon.  It might be outdone by the whistle-blower`s report which is now in the possession of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.  We will be joined by a member of the House Intelligence Committee who has read the whistle-blower`s report. 

We will also be joined by two high-ranking members of the Obama administration`s foreign policy and national security team, former Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and former deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, John Heilemann, Mike Murphy will join us to consider the new shape of our politics now that Donald Trump has become the fourth president in history to face an official impeachment process. 

And later in this hour, we will hear from a former federal prosecutor, we`ll ask Mimi Rocah if she sees any federal crimes in this transcript of the president`s conversation with the president of Ukraine.  Is this a smoking gun?

And at the end of the hour, we`ll tell you what to watch for and what to expect in that public hearing beginning at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow in the House Intelligence Committee, a hearing that we already know will be historic.  The acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire will testify to the committee and explain why he blocked the inspector general`s report of the whistle-blower`s complaint. 

Former House Intelligence Committee staffer Mieke Eoyang will tell us exactly what the committee staff is doing right now at their desks tonight to prepare the members of that committee for tomorrow`s hearing and what the members will be trying to achieve in that hearing tomorrow morning, beginning at 9:00 a.m. right here on MSNBC. 

As of tonight, this five-page memorandum of telephone conversation, released by the White House today, has made -- this is the five-page memorandum.  It has made this 448-page Mueller report now the second-most important public document in the impeachment investigation of President Donald J. Trump. 

The conversation only covered two subjects.  First, military aid to Ukraine, and second, investigating Joe Biden and Joe Biden`s son.  That`s it. 

President Zelensky clearly wanted to talk about military aid.  President Trump clearly only wanted to talk about Joe Biden.  President Zelensky used the standard public manual of flattering Trump in order to get something from him. 

He actually said to him: You are a great teacher for us.  President Trump then said: The United States has been very good to Ukraine.  I wouldn`t say that it`s reciprocal, necessarily, because things are happening that are not good, but the United States has been very good to Ukraine. 

President Zelensky kept thanking President Trump profusely and repeatedly, and then he said, thank you for your great support in the area of defense.  We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps, specifically, we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.  That was the LAST WORD said about defense spending because Donald Trump did not respond in any way to President Zelensky`s desire to buy more Javelin missiles from the United States. 

We have seen how eager the president is to discuss weapons sales publicly and privately to Saudi Arabia and other countries, but instead of responding to President Zelensky`s desire for more Javelins, Donald Trump said, I would like you to do us a favor, though.  In the impeachment hearings, the word "though" will be studied in that sentence.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines though in that usage to mean introducing an additional statement restricting or modifying the preceding statement. 

So, saying I would like you to do us a favor, though, immediately after someone asks for something, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is putting a restriction on the thing that was just requested. 

Here was Donald Trump`s restriction.  I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine.  Trump then suggests that Ukraine has information that could discredit Robert Mueller`s investigation, and this phone call is taking place the day after Robert Mueller testified to the House of Representatives. 

Donald Trump says, I would like to have the attorney general call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.  As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine.  Whatever you can do, it`s very important that you do it if that`s possible.

President Zelensky then eagerly says, I guarantee as the president of Ukraine that all of the investigations will be done openly and candidly.  That I can assure you.

ABC News is reporting tonight President Zelensky knew that Donald Trump was going to ask him about investigating Joe Biden.  President Zelensky does appear ready for that.  And it is President Zelensky who first brings up Rudy Giuliani before Donald Trump mentions Giuliani`s name. 

President Zelensky says: I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine. 

Donald Trump then says, Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man.  He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like you to -- like him to call you.  I will ask him to call you along with the attorney general. 

Rudy very much knows what`s happening, and he is a very capable guy.  If you could speak to him, that would be great. 

President Trump goes on to say, the other thing.  That means there`s another thing that is restricting President Zelensky`s desire for more military equipment from the United States.  The other thing, there`s a lot of talk about Biden`s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that.  So whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great.  Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it, it sounds horrible to me.

President Zelensky says: The next prosecutor general will 100 percent my person, my candidate who will be approved by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September.  He or she will look into the situation. 

President Trump says, I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it.  I`m sure you will figure it out. 

President Zelensky then tries to buy goodwill with Donald Trump, as so many foreign governments have, by telling him that he paid to stay in a Trump Hotel.  President Zelensky says: Last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near central park, and I stayed at the Trump Tower. 

President Trump says, I will tell Rudy and Attorney General Barr to call.  Thank you.  Whenever you would like to come to the White House, feel free to call.  Give us a date, and we`ll work that out.  I will look forward to seeing you.  President Zelensky says thank you very much, they both say thank you a couple more times.  President Zelensky says, bye-bye. 

It`s all there.  In Donald Trump`s own words, collusion with a foreign government to help Donald Trump`s reelection campaign by hurting a candidate running against Donald Trump.  There`s a lot of talk about Biden`s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution, and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great, whatever you can do. 

That`s what the president of the United States wanted in that conversation from the president of Ukraine, whatever you can do to help the reelection campaign of Donald Trump.  That is the Donald Trump, Jr., meeting at Trump Tower with Russians during the presidential campaign on steroids. 

Leading off our discussion tonight is Larry Pfeiffer.  He`s a former director of the White House Situation Room where he managed President Obama`s phone calls with other heads of state.  He is also a former chief of staff to the director of the CIA. 

Larry, thank you for coming back tonight.  We have the transcript.  You`ve seen the transcript. 

And I just want to get a basic verification from you if you can give it to us based on what you`ve seen.  Other than the content and what the president is saying to the president of Ukraine, does this look like the standard version of this? 


Absolutely, it looks like every memorandum of a telephone conversation I saw during my time at the White House in terms of its for matt, in terms of the caveats at the bottom in the footnote, in terms of the markings.  At a certain level, you almost have to applaud the president for releasing this, what appears to be full transcript. 

O`DONNELL:  There are a couple of ellipses in this and some people are pointing to that, the little dot-dot-dot, what that might be, are they leaving out significant words there, do you think? 

PFEIFFER:  My guess -- my best guess is either, A, there was a pause, a natural pause in the conversation and they wanted to reflect that.  The second possibility is that in the raw transcript that was created in the Sit Room, they may have had some clunky notation indicating garbled words or unidentified words.  And someone on the NSC staff in an attempt to make it look more elegant removed the clunky notation and just put the dot-dot- dot. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Larry, in your experience of a document like this, what percentage of -- in your experience in the Obama White House, was accurate, would have matched an audiotape?  Does it get into the 90 percent territory, 95 percent, 85 percent? 

PFEIFFER:  Well, I think the NSC staffer would be doing his best attempt to take what would have come from the Sit Room as almost a pure transcript of a conversation.  He would have massaged it in an effort to make the language a little more -- flow a little more beautifully, perhaps a little more elegant phraseology, making sure the nouns and the adjectives and the verbs matched.  So I would say that there would likely not be an attempt to doctor the actual transcript or change the meanings of the words. 

O`DONNELL:  And finally, Larry, anything unusual to your eye in this transcript? 

PFEIFFER:  You know, from -- probably the most unusual thing -- I sat through a lot of congratulatory phone calls President Obama made to world leaders upon their reelection or their election, and those generally are fairly pro forma, fairly short.  They are congratulating the individual, talking about what good relations we have.  And if there are trouble areas, they may just be mentioned at a very broad strategic level and the president would suggest that we need to get our people together and I know we`ll work it out, something along those lines.  Not anything of this specific transactional nature. 

O`DONNELL:  Larry Pfeiffer, thank you very much for starting us off tonight.  I really appreciate it. 

PFEIFFER:  You`re welcome.  You bet. 

O`DONNELL:  Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York.  He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee.  He has read the whistleblower`s actual complaint earlier tonight, and will be questioning the acting director of national intelligence tomorrow morning in that hearing that begins at 9:00 a.m. 

Congressman Maloney, thank you very much for joining us on this important night and we hope you can keep coming back as this proceeds. 

What can you tell us about the whistle-blower report?  How does it compare and how much does it add to what we see in the telephone transcript? 

REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY):  Well, I`m not going to get into the substance of the report.  Obviously, it remains classified.  So I want to be respectful and careful about that. 

What I can tell you is that there`s going to be some very tough questions tomorrow about why it was withheld from the Congress. 

O`DONNELL:  And does the whistle-blower`s report go beyond the phone call?  Does it have a scope wider than just this one phone call? 

MALONEY:  Well, again, I`m not going to comment on the substance of the complaint or whether it has any relation or not to anything that`s been publicly reported.  I just can`t do that at this stage, Lawrence. 

You know, it`s my hope that all of this material is declassified eventually and made available to the public.  I think there is a very important need for the public to see as much as possible.  And I`m certainly going to be pushing for that. 

But tomorrow is going to be about the role the DNI played and Department of Justice played in with molding this complaint and the contents from Congress. 

O`DONNELL:  What do you think the likelihood is at this point of the whistleblower`s complaint becoming public eventually? 

MALONEY:  Well, obviously, there is always the possibility that it leaks.  If you`re talking about a legal process, that would require declassification. 

Now, bear in mind, it`s a good point to remind people that this whistleblower is endeavoring to follow the law.  This person is courageous and coming forward with critical information that the inspector general deemed urgent, credible, and the heart of the DNI`s responsibilities. 

And this person is doing it the right way, the legal way.  And this person has been let down by an attorney general and by a director of national intelligence who, who went outside the law, who went outside the statute and found a reason to keep it from Congress.  That`s a serious issue. 

O`DONNELL:  The first thing you were able to read today was the transcript of the president`s phone call with President Zelensky.  What was your reaction to that? 

MALONEY:  Well, I`m happy to talk about that.  Thank you for talking about a public document. 

Look, I thought it was -- I thought it was -- can I tell you, it broke my heart, to be honest with you.  I mean, I know it`s easy to get kind of partisan about this, but when I read a document where a president of the United States -- any president of the United States -- is muscling a newly elected foreign leader who is in a desperate position, with the Russians having the next part of his country, invading the eastern part of his country as well, and that president is clearly, clearly trying to get that person -- pressuring that person to dredge up a fake investigation, to smear a political opponent in the context of that president raising the need for military aid, I mean, there is a quid -- there is a quo -- it is all right there. 

I am deeply, deeply depressed about the fact we have come to a point where an American president would say such things.  But I`m also resolved that president be accountable for it and that the law means something, this country stand up for what`s right. 

O`DONNELL:  This is the day that the House of Representatives arrived at the magic number of 218, 218 Democrats now supporting the impeachment process against this president.  How did that land in the House today, that number? 

MALONEY:  Well, look, I think most of us have believed for a few days, at least, that the support would be there.  I think what`s more important is, are the facts there?  This is a town where, where sometimes the evidence is more serious than the people. 

I think it`s important that we follow the facts, the law, the evidence.  I think everybody ought to take a deep breath.  I think this thing is moving fast and I understand that.  But these are serious issues.  It`s important to get our facts straight.  It`s important to know what we`re talking about, and to make our case. 

And I think that`s going to take some time.  And I think people are going to need to be a little patient with that.  But I can tell you the Democratic Party is absolutely unified on the issue of getting to the bottom of it and getting the facts out. 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, thank you very much for joining us on this important night.  Really appreciate it. 

MALONEY:  My pleasure. 

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back from this break, the professionals, the national security and diplomatic professionals, former Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and former deputy national secretary Ben Rhodes, both from the Obama administration.  We`ll bring their expertise to what is the first known case of a president of the United States asking the president of a foreign country to help his reelection campaign by attacking a candidate running against the president.


O`DONNELL:  President Trump and President Zelensky discussed their now public phone call with reporters today at the United Nations. 


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT:  We had I think good phone call.  It was normal.  We spoke about many things and I think, and you read it, that nobody push it -- pushed me, yes. 



O`DONNELL:  Pressure is irrelevant.  The only legal point that matters is that Donald Trump very clearly asked President Zelensky for help in trying to harm a candidate running for president against Donald Trump.  That is now an irrefutable fact, and it is a fact big enough to get Donald Trump impeached. 

Joining our discussion now, is Ambassador Wendy Sherman, as undersecretary of state in the Obama administration.  She was lead negotiator in the Iran nuclear deal.  She`s also an MSNBC global affairs contributor. 

Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to President Obama is with us.  He`s an MSNBC political analyst. 

Ben, let me start with you.  You`ve been on these calls. 


O`DONNELL:  You`ve been one of the number of people listening when it was President Obama.  You`ve read these documents.  This is my first.  I`ve never read one of these before today.  It`s my first. 

I imagine your hands shaking holding this in your hands today. 

RHODES:  Yes, I mean, Lawrence, I actually got the transcript of every phone call President Obama made.  So, I`ve read hundreds and hundreds of those and I`ve never, ever seen anything like this. 

I mean, first of all, you have to consider the context of Ukraine.  And, of course, the president of Ukraine is saying what President Trump wants to hear there.  His country is besieged.  You know, Crimea has been annexed.  They are being killed in eastern Ukraine.  He is dependent on this aid which is a lifeline for Ukraine. 

And for the president of the United States to essentially be leveraging aid that is a life line to a country that has been invaded by an adversary of the United States, because all he cares about is not the national interest, not the people of Ukraine.  All he cares about is his own political interest, is the definition of corruption. 

And I`ll tell you, Lawrence, the other thing I think, we know about this because of the whistle-blower.  There is one little window open to one phone call.  Where else is this happening? 

If this is -- everything we know about how Trump operates, is this happening with Saudi Arabia?  Is this happening with Russia, right?  So, to me, this is a peek at how Trump actually operates and what that shows you is the complete and utter corruption of American foreign policy. 

O`DONNELL:  Wendy Sherman, your reaction? 

WENDY SHERMAN, MSNBC GLOBAL AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR:  My reaction is quite similar.  I found that press conference so painful today.  Zelensky was trying so hard to walk this very difficult line, flattering the president, saying he didn`t get pressured, while at the same time saying we`re an independent country.  I can`t ask a prosecutor to do a particular something.  He was trying to show he`s not a corrupt leader, which is essential in modern Ukraine, given its history. 

And at the same time, he had to sit next to the president of the United States who said, hey, why don`t you and Putin get together and sort of work this problem out?  Putin is killing his people.  Just extraordinary. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  Ben, the underlying policy with Ukraine is one of the things that isn`t getting focused on much here.  But I do want to show that moment of Donald Trump today. 

Here is the President Zelensky in what he calls a war.  He used the word war today, repeatedly publicly about his situation with Russia.  And here is what Donald Trump said about that. 


TRUMP:  I really hope that Russia -- because I really believe that President Putin would like to do something.  I really hope that you and President Putin get together and can solve your problem.  That would be a tremendous achievement.  And I know you`re trying to do that. 


O`DONNELL:  Ben, this is FDR telling Winston Churchill, I hope you can work this out with Hitler. 

RHODES:  Yes.  I mean, Putin has taken a piece of the territory of Ukraine.  Putin is backing people, arming people who are killing people in Eastern Ukraine.  This is a -- we spent the last 2 1/2 years of the Obama administration -- and Wendy was front and center in this, too -- mobilizing Europeans to impose sanctions on Russia, figuring out what assistance packages could go to Ukraine to help weather this incredible storm they`re in. 

And Donald Trump sees this nothing as more than a mere sideshow.  What he cares about is on that call, talk to Rudy Giuliani, talk to Bill Barr, talk to my kind of personal lawyers and it`s, first of all, bad thing the attorney general seems to be a personal lawyer for the president of the United States, about this corruption investigation. 

Because the other thing I would say, the decision to recommend that they get rid of that prosecutor was an inter-agency process -- inter-agency meaning the State Department comes together, the NSC, White House and others.  This person was at the heart of a lot of corruption had nothing to do with Hunter Biden.  So, he`s inventing conspiracy theories to suit his own politics and asking a man who just got elected to a country has been invaded by its neighbor to facilitate these conspiracy theories, and on the issue that really matters, that Russia invaded his country, he`s saying, oh, you know, I hope you work it out.  I`m sure Putin is committed to doing that.  That`s taking Putin`s side just like he did in Helsinki when he said Putin didn`t interfere in our election. 

O`DONNELL:  Uh-huh.

And, Wendy, the Europeans wanted this prosecutor out of the way in Ukraine. 

SHERMAN:  Absolutely. 

O`DONNELL:  Because they felt just nothing serious was happening with this process. 

SHERMAN:  Absolutely, the Europeans were very much in line with what we were trying to do to get rid of this corrupt prosecutor. 

And the other thing here is the whole reason we`re here is because that Ukraine needed military aid.  It wanted, as he said today, those Javelins.  And the president knew that created leverage. 

And you see how that comes up in the conversation.  The president says, yes, but there really hasn`t been any reciprocity.  And I`d like to ask you a favor, though.  And so, we know that this is all connected. 

So when people say there`s nothing direct here, I think it`s plain as day. 

O`DONNELL:  Ben, how many people would have heard a phone call like this and would be aware of the contents much a phone call like this? 

RHODES:  A pretty good number, Lawrence.  I mean, you`d have several people in the Oval Office for that call.  The leadership of the NSC staff, the relevant people who work on Ukraine in the NSC.  People like your guest Larry Pfeiffer who we worked with in the Situation Room, listening and making a record of the call. 

And then usually, the transcript is disseminated.  And the report seems to suggests that part of what got the attention of the whistle-blower is they were handling this call differently.  They were trying to restrict access to the transcript of this call. 

I think it is very important for your viewers to understand, it`s not just this transcript.  What else was going on?  Why was Rudy Giuliani flying out to Ukraine?  Why was the State Department -- again, based on reports we read -- directing Rudy Giuliani to be involved in this at all?  He`s a private citizen who represents the president of the United States. 

So we shouldn`t see this transcript as the end of the story.  I think it`s, again, a window into a much broader corruption of our policy towards Ukraine, towards Russia. 

And front and center in all these matters is not the American people.  And keep in mind, that`s our tax dollars.  That assistance going to Ukraine, that`s our tax dollars being used like a part of Trump`s campaign war chest to leverage, again, a foreign leader to do his bidding.

And so, I`d like to see us pull all these different threads around not just this phone call, but Ukraine policy in general. 

O`DONNELL:  Wendy, all these years on the call, one whistle-blower, only one. 

SHERMAN: Yes, I think we`re in a time where people are terrified. To become a whistleblower, you have to be pretty sure of what you`re doing.

And if you`re an intelligence officer, you know that your life is on the line, and that intelligence officers work not to be known by people. They work to be quietly doing the work to protect us and protect our national security.

So for this whistleblower, knowing particularly this President and this administration, which believes in punishing people, after all the President talked about our then ambassador to Ukraine, who he basically said was doing bad things and he was going to take care of her, which he did which is to push her out of government.

This is a punitive administration and so this whistleblower must have really believed there was corruption here. And we saw the President, as he always does, he talks about how everybody else is corrupt, to deflect from his own deep corruption.

O`DONNELL: Ben, I think the disturbing thought of the night I think for the audiences, this is just one phone call.



O`DONNELL: This is just one phone call, one whistleblower.

Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Ben Rhodes, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

When we come back, Republican strategist Mike Murphy says 30 Republican Senators would vote to convict Donald Trump in an impeachment trial in the Senate and remove him from office, if it were a secret ballot.

Mike Murphy and John Heilemann join us next.



MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: So I can tell you this, one Republican Senator told me, if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican Senators would vote to impeach Trump.


O`DONNELL: That was veteran Republican strategist Mike Murphy on MSNBC earlier today. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Mike Murphy writes the easy to dodge days for Senate Republicans are coming to an end. Voters deserve stark clarity in the wake of Trump`s dealings with Ukraine, and there is one certain way to get it, the Democratic House must impeach the President and force the question on the Senate, yay or nay on Donald Trump.

Joining us now is Mike Murphy, Republican strategist, who has advised both Mitt Romney`s and Senator John McCain`s Presidential campaigns. Also with us, John Heilemann, co-host and executive producer at SHOWTIME, The Circus. Both are MSNBC and NBC News analysts.

Mike, what it - what got you to the point where you want to see these Republican Senators called on a vote on it - on conviction of Donald Trump in the Senate?

MURPHY: Well, I think it`s the issue that American politics is hanging on and it`s time for clarity. Look, I`ve been a never-Trumper for a while. I thought impeachment would have been a political mistake for the Democrats, go out and beat them.

But this Ukrainian thing is outrageous and it`s going to get worse. Every couple of hours, we learn about more concern. So I think the President has clearly violated his oath of office and I don`t think Republican officeholders, as much as they don`t like the idea, should be able to answer those questions about Donald Trump.

The only way to forge clarity and find out where they really are, do they want to own Trump and fight his corner despite all this, or do they want to hopefully do the right thing or what might be the smart thing for them in the future politically. You got to have a yes/no vote; an impeachment, as crude of a tool as it is, will force that.

O`DONNELL: And Mike, what about Republicans who are in tough re-election situations, or the other interesting vote is Republicans who are not running for re-election, Republicans who will be retiring, this is their final important vote of their careers?

MURPHY: Yes, again, I think if this keeps spreading, the whistleblower - you know it`s all coming on dribs and drabs, but there apparently are witnesses, the White House behavior, if this keeps growing, and it does fit the pattern of Donald Trump`s behavior to be doing this sort of thing on the phone with a foreign leader, the politics of it could start to change.

And in the front line of that will be the people like Susan Collins and Cory Gardner, Martha McSally, people who are up in these purple states looking at really tough re-elects, and a up-down vote is certainly uncomfortable for them, I`m sympathetic there, but it`s the clarity we got to have now. Republicans - there`s a cancer on the Republican Party and it`s time to face it and take a side.

O`DONNELL: And John Heilemann, 218 - today`s the day they hit 218 in the House of Representatives, 218 Democrats in favor of the impeachment process. It takes 218 to impeach Donald Trump.

JOHN HEILEMANN, NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, MSNBC: Yes. And Lawrence, it`s funny I saw Adam Schiff a little bit earlier tonight and we`re talking about this moment, and I think when the history of this is written, the moment when Schiff along with Nancy Pelosi last weekend came out and said after all this reluctance that he like the Speaker had on political grounds, even though he thought the President had committed high crimes and misdemeanors for a long time, to suddenly shift - Schiff`s shift and talk about crossing the rubicon over the weekend was a signal moment.

And I asked him, I said, which is it, did the politics change in the sense that the vulnerable freshmen, these Democrats who are in swing districts, where Nancy Pelosi was trying to protect them by not making them do impeachment, did that - did the calculus change because of this egregious behavior, or was this behavior just so egregious that the politics no longer mattered.

And that in the end is what Schiff basically said. He said, look I think that the 30,000 foot thing was, Democrats looked at this and said the President of the United States is trying to do exactly again in 2020 what he did in 2016, except this time he`s trying to do it as the President of the United States and not just as the candidate. And that in the end was just intolerable to pretty much everybody in the Democratic caucus.

O`DONNELL: And Mike, it`s kind of two sides of the same coin. If the offense is bad enough, then the politics of it, the political calculation does change.

MURPHY: Right. Yes, no I think it totally has. I mean I think it`s a pipe dream for the Republicans to think that somehow impeachment will help them, because one or two things are going to happen.

It`s either going to get bad enough that Republicans are going to start defecting, which will cripple the President, or the Republicans will go into a - in the Senate will go into a Merrick Garland mode and just stonewall this thing all the way, and the Democratic frustration is going to go absolutely off the charts.

And remember, we`re dealing with a President with lousy polling numbers here. He is not operating from a position of strength, it`s a position of weakness. The only question is, will the Democrats screw this up by nominating somebody that can change the topic of the election, and this impeachment procedure just staples that question to Donald Trump`s head. So I think that actually is a political benefit for the Democrats.

Now, the last thing I`d say quickly, I can see a scenario, if you`re a Cory Gardner or Elizabeth (ph) or Collins, it`s not perfect for you, but you`re better with Pence. That helps you change the subject to a dangerous Democrat, even though clearly Pence would have his own shortcomings. Trump is going to be a trouble factory going forward for anybody even in purple state.

O`DONNELL: You know what, Susan Collins in Maine is in what could be a struggling re-election. Go ahead John.

HEILEMANN: You know, Lawrence, I was just going to say that I agree with everything Mike said, and I think the one other way the Democrats can screw this up is not just in terms of who they nominate, but how do they handle these impeachment hearings.

And one of the most interesting debates I hear right now is the strategic question. Do you - as you proceed towards this impeachment inquiry, do you make it an omnibus thing, where it`s not just about this Ukrainian scandal, but it`s also about the obstruction of justice from the Mueller investigation, about the hush money payments in the Southern District of New York, about emoluments, about everything that Donald Trump has done wrong, or do you try to remain focused in a laser-like way on this particular sin, on this particular crime, on this particular dereliction of duty.

And I think the smart - it sounds to me increasingly like the smart argument is the one that says let`s just stay focused on this one thing. Don`t load up the sled, don`t overload the sled. And there`s going to be a lot of people on the Left who are going to want to take on all of Donald Trump`s crimes, where I think the smarter play is just to focus on this one thing that basically proves it all.

The object lesson here, and if you can win that argument, you win the whole thing politically.

O`DONNELL: Well, on Nixon and Clinton, they did not contemplate just a single article of impeachment, especially because they want to give the other party the chance in the Senate to vote against - to vote with Donald Trump on two or three counts, and then vote against him on one. And Mike, it only takes one.

MURPHY: Yes, look, I agree with John. Keep it simple, keep it focused on the story people can understand that I think is going to have more corroborating facts, and make that the thing. Don`t widen it up, so the President`s defenders can make complicated sub parts of the investigation, the way to confuse people about this.

Real simple, President using the power of American foreign policy to shake down a vulnerable country to further his own political career, it doesn`t get simpler or worse than that.

O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, who is the Donald Trump who you saw today at the United Nations? I ask you because you saw him, you covered him closely on the campaign trail in 2016, and I mean you were right in there with your microphones and your cameras. I saw you close to him on the trail, you had a lot of interview opportunities with him. That was a lifeless Donald Trump at the United Nations.

HEILEMANN: I think deflated, and if not wholly defeated yet, Lawrence, I think you started to see signs of what a defeated Donald Trump would look like. I have rarely seen - I`ve seen the President much crazier, I`ve seen him distracted, I`ve seen him seen addled, I`ve seen him in a million ways perform poorly.

But today, he seemed limp, and as if you know the air had been kind of taken out, and I keep saying deflated. He looked like a - bit of like a beaten dog today, and that`s a little bit of - a little bit mean to dogs.

I think if you start to think about where this could go, that`s the Donald Trump I think you`ll be seeing more and more, as this thing encroaches further and further on to his political capital, as his approval rating falls further and further, as his base finally starts to erode.

And I think to Mike`s point, when the numbers start to get to the point where Republicans just doing the straight math look at Donald Trump and he`s more of a liability than an asset, and they start to abandon him. That day will come.

O`DONNELL: There is still time for the Republicans to find another nominee for President. John Heilemann, Mike Murphy, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

And when we come back, is this a smoking gun, I`ll ask former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah next.



SEN. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): A quid pro quo is, if you do not do what I want, I`m going to punish you. Read this transcript, no rational person would conclude that the President of the United States was threatening to cut off aid to the Ukraine, unless they did something against Joe Biden and his son.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Mimi Rocah, former Assistant US Attorney in the Southern District of New York and an MSNBC legal contributor. Is this transcript of the telephone call a smoking gun?

MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT US ATTORNEY IN THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK AND AN MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. I for more than 10 years listened to public officials, mobsters, do bribery and extortion schemes. And honestly, half of them were more subtle than this.

I don`t know what Lindsey Graham is talking about there. Any person just with common sense, you don`t need to be a lawyer, to look at this knows exactly what Donald Trump was doing there. Zelensky brings up something they want, they need - they need these weapons, they need protection from Putin. They have been promised those.

He says, how about those, can I get those? And Trump pivots immediately, it is tied to it, with as you pointed out, well though we want a favor, and the favor is open this investigation. I don`t even know that Trump cares what the answer is.

He wants an investigation on his opponent. That is the service he`s trying to get for free essentially using his public position, the power of the purse. That is an extortion and there are multiple other possible criminal violations. But it is definitely a smoking gun.

O`DONNELL: The Department of Justice report on this, which The New York Times has taken a look at, says that they quote Inspector General Atkinson saying it could be viewed as soliciting a foreign campaign contribution in violation of the campaign finance laws.

ROCAH: Well that`s right. I mean look, like I said, there are many different I think possible criminal statutes that could apply here. A solicitation of something of value to help a campaign is one of them.

The idea that this Department of Justice said no campaign finance crime here without any investigation is really just unfathomable to me. And the fact that they - apparently the Department of Justice didn`t even consider or mention any other criminal statutes.

I mean like I said, I think extortion is probably the most likely one. And remember, and I know you know this but it`s good to remind our viewers, while these I think warrant criminal investigation, and there are other people besides Trump who should be looked at and investigated for these, for Trump it doesn`t need to be a federal crime. It is an abuse of power.

But I think you very clearly have a quid pro quo here that honestly I didn`t see in most mob conversations. I didn`t see this clearly.

O`DONNELL: So you agree with Adam Schiff, Adam Schiff`s a former prosecutor too, he said this was classic mafia style talk.

ROCAH: Absolutely. I mean - and nobody goes around saying what Lindsey Graham is suggesting. That`s not how it`s done. I mean no one - I don`t want to say isn`t that dumb, but people know their conversations are being listened to.

So you say - it`s the implication right, I think this is pretty explicit, but he`s saying you do this, the investigation, if you want that, the weapons, the protection.

O`DONNELL: And he`s very specific about Biden - he said - he`s talking about Biden and he says, so if you can look into it, and he means Biden, if you can look into it, and he`s asking him to investigate Joe Biden.

ROCAH: Exactly. I mean it`s the classic sort of, I need something from you, you want something from me, that`s a quid pro quo, and that`s how they do it.

Mimi Rocah has closed the case. Mimi Rocah, thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

And when we come back, the first hearing under the new official procedural architecture of impeachment in the House of Representatives begins tomorrow at 9 a.m., you`ll want to watch every minute of that, if you can.

Mieke Eoyang is a former staff member of the House Intelligence Committee, where that hearing will take place. She will tell us what you should be looking for in tomorrow`s hearing in her old committee room. That`s next.



REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I found the allegations deeply disturbing. I also found them very credible. I think it`s a travesty that this complaint was withheld as long as it was, because it was an urgent matter, it is an urgent matter, and there was simply no basis to keep this from the Committee.


O`DONNELL: For the LAST WORD of the hour, we turn to Mieke Eoyang, a former staff member of the House Intelligence Committee. She is the Vice President of the National Security Program at the Third Way.

And Mieke, if you were at your old desk at the Committee, you would be there right now close to 11:00 p.m. and probably past midnight.


O`DONNELL: You worked with Adam Schiff and other members of that Committee who are going to be questioning tomorrow. What is the staff doing right now to prepare for tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.?

EOYANG: Yes, right now, what they`re doing is they are going over - those that have seen the whistleblower complaint and they`re putting together lines of questions for the members of Congress.

I think there are three main areas where you would want to have members of Congress nail down acting DNI Maguire. The first is on his reaction to this whistleblower complaint. Does he share the IG`s concerns that this is serious, this is credible, this goes to the heart of his mission in terms of trying to protect foreign influence on the United States. Because, as Schiff said, these things seem very disturbing. Readers of this complaint have been disturbed by it. They think something needs to be done.

The second thing is you want to nail down what was the process that prevented Maguire from moving this thing forward to the Committee expeditiously? Was the White House involved? What did DOJ say? Why did they interpret it the way that they did?

But finally, and I think this is the most important point, you have to wonder what Maguire is going to say to the Intelligence Community employees who are watching him. Because, how he handles this whistleblower complaint, will have tremendous implications for everyone in the intelligence community and how they think about whether or not they - when they see some wrongdoing, how do they handle that?

Do they think that they`re going to be blocked from getting to the appropriate overseers? Are they going to think their only choice is to commit the crime of leaking classified information to the press? This is really important for his work force.

O`DONNELL: Mieke, we know the members have read the, by now, the whistleblower`s report that`s made available to them today. Do any of the staff or some of the higher ranking staff members also read that whistleblower`s report?

EOYANG: Typically, when things are held to a small number of members, there are a very limited number of staffers who also read the report, especially in something like this. There have been a few times historically where staffers have been prohibited from seeing that material. But with something like this, given the gravity of this and how frequently it`s discussed in the media, I think that they are going to have some staffers who have read into this report.

O`DONNELL: So, we saw Sean Patrick Maloney as our lead guest tonight talking about the whistleblower report and he can`t say a word, can say anything about it. Tomorrow`s hearing is about that. How does this hearing work when the big thing in the room that everyone wants to talk about, no one can say anything about?

EOYANG: Yes, look, the DNI can declassify portions of this. There are things that he can say about what happened. And all the conversations about process, the White House weighing in, Department of Justice weighing in, those are not classified facts, right?

The Director of National Intelligence can discuss those things with the Committee and he can also talk about whether or not he agrees with the Inspector General. And so, I would expect the members of the Congress to really push him on those things and how he understands what the risk is of foreign interference here.

O`DONNELL: And Mieke, how much cooperation at this stage is there with the Republican staff? I know in the pre-Trump era, there would have been a lot of cooperation between the parties on situations like this.

EOYANG: Yes, I think under Chairman Schiff, what I`ve heard from former colleagues is that things have gotten better. And when you see the Senate voting 100 to nothing to release this report and to have the whistleblower complaint come forward, and you start to see Republicans express unease about the allegations here, I think you`re going to have more bipartisan concern about protecting whistleblowers than you might have previously.

O`DONNELL: Mieke Eoyang, thank you for your guidance on what to watch tomorrow. Really appreciate it.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.