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The Washington Post reports. TRANSCRIPT: 9/26/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Larry Pfeiffer, Joe Brenner, Sheldon Whitehouse, Amy Klobuchar,Gabe Sherman

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

And I was speeding down the hallway when I had to stop in front of a TV when you were reading this breaking news from "The New York Times" tonight about the preliminary attempts the whistleblower made to get this story reported within a whistleblower forum before writing this very detailed document that we finally saw today. 

And there are so many extraordinary details on it, including the part of you read about William Barr being notified about this very early on. 


O`DONNELL:  And in "The New York Times" reporting about that, it says a member of the Justice Department went to the White House to read what is now being called the transcript of the phone call.  And then went back to the Justice Department and briefed William Barr about it.  That means William Barr was briefed that his name is in the transcript of this phone call --

MADDOW:  Repeatedly. 

O`DONNELL:  -- repeatedly.


O`DONNELL:  Right off the bat. 

MADDOW:  And that the central claim that the whistleblower was concerned about, the president imploring this foreign country to help him out with some dirt on his country in the 2020 election.  That central scheme is one in which the president implicated Attorney General William Barr multiple times in that call and Barr knew about it and Barr nevertheless didn`t recuse himself and allowed his justice department to get involved and say, definitely don`t hand this over to Congress.  And yes, we`ll look at this as a criminal matter.  And we think that presidents can`t be investigated for criminal matters so file this in the circular file. 

I mean, Barr`s involvement here is going to be the way he goes down in history.  It is just amazing. 

O`DONNELL:  You know, I was on my way to Austin at dawn tomorrow to participate in the Texas Tribune Festival down there. 

MADDOW:  Cool.

O`DONNELL:  I`m going to be here tomorrow night, Rachel.  I`m going to get to Austin on Saturday.  I think I`d just better be here.  Don`t you have that feeling?  Like it`s kind of --

MADDOW:  I mean, the news is happening in Texas, too, but I feel like I don`t think we can do it, if you could pan down and see my desk right now and see the 40 different piles of paper that have emerged on my desk over the course of this hour.  I know how difficult it is to get --

O`DONNELL:  Yes, they told me I could do the show from some garage in Austin but I think we`re better off staying right here, only right here.

MADDOW:  That`s wise. 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thanks, Lawrence. 

O`DONNELL:  But what happens when an impeachment investigation of the president finds the smoking gun on the first official day of the impeachment investigation?  That`s where we are tonight.  The smoking gun and the impeachment investigation of president Nixon that forced him to resign his office was discovered a year into the impeachment investigation which was actually a year and a half after Congress first began investigating the Nixon White House. 

House committees were already investigating Donald Trump and the Trump administration.  But Nancy Pelosi officially started the impeachment inquiry on Tuesday night.  And on Wednesday, the House of Representatives had the smoking gun -- the record of President Trump`s phone call with the president of Ukraine. 

And what we`re now seeing is that getting the smoking gun on day one puts an impeachment investigation on the fastest track we have ever seen for an impeachment investigation, and today`s hearing in the House Intelligence Committee was the first hearing in that impeachment investigation, under that official impeachment investigation umbrella.  And it has the president`s allies shaking. 

Gabe Sherman who literally wrote the book about inside Fox News that was recently turned into the Showtime mini-series, "The Loudest Voice", is reporting tonight that former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is telling the owners of Fox News, the Murdoch family, to prepare for the end of the Trump era.  Gabe Sherman will join us with his reporting at the end of the hour. 

And we will be on the fast track to impeachment for the rest of this hour.  We will be joined by two jurors in the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump in the United States Senate, if that`s where the impeachment process ends up.  Two senators who are on the Senate Judiciary Committee which has no formal role in the impeachment but could conduct investigative hearings of its own. 

And we will be joined by a team of experts who have been guiding us through this story for over a week now, including a former inspector general who has covered situations like this in his job before. 

We`ll also be joined by Larry Pfeiffer.  He`s back with us.  He was in charge of handling the transcripts for President Barack Obama`s phone calls with the leaders of foreign governments.  We`ll get his reaction to what we learned today, and the whistleblower`s report of what that to the record of President Trump`s phone call with the president of Ukraine. 

Tonight, we now know what the first article of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump will be.  And we know as of tonight, the president has no defense to that article of impeachment because no defense of the president`s conduct was presented by Republicans today in the House Intelligence Committee hearing.  And that is by far the most important thing that did not happen in that hearing today. 

The president was not defended in that hearing.  Republicans defended the witness, the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire.  Some of the Republicans on the committee took expected swipes at Democrats, but they did not defend the conduct of the president of the United States that was the subject of today`s hearing. 

Republican Congressman Mike Turner has always been a staunch defender of Donald Trump.  Until today. 


REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH):  I`ve read the transcript of the conversation with the president and the president of the Ukraine.  Concerning that conversation, I want to say, president, this is not OK.  That conversation is not OK.  And I think it is disappointing to the American public when they read the transcript. 


O`DONNELL:  That conversation is not OK.  Not OK?  How not OK was that conversation? 


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  The president of the United States has betrayed his oath of office, betrayed his oath to defend our national security and betrayed his oath to defend our Constitution.  For yesterday, we were presented with a record of a call between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine in which the president, our president, sacrificed our national security and our Constitution for his personal, political benefit. 


O`DONNELL:  And not one Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee today said Donald Trump did not betray his oath of office.  Not one of them. 

They did not say Chairman Schiff is wrong.  President Trump did not betray his oath of office.  They did not say, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was wrong on Tuesday when she announced an official impeachment investigation because as she put it, the president betrayed his oath of office. 


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  The president has admitted to asking the president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically.  The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable fact of the president`s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. 


O`DONNELL:  The Republicans and the Republican staff had 48 hours to write their speeches for today`s hearing condemning Nancy Pelosi for saying the president betrayed his oath of office and not one of them did that.  Not one. 

The Republicans have no defense for what the president said on the phone to President Zelensky of Ukraine.  So, Donald Trump can now spend his first night in the White House facing the absolute certainty that he will be impeached by the House of Representatives because the Democrats this week were already united on the fastest track to impeachment that we have ever seen after the sudden revelation of damning evidence against the president. 

And today, Democrats discovered that House Republicans have no defense of Donald Trump`s conduct with the president of Ukraine.  There will be more hearings.  There will be more witnesses.  There will be more questions.  But the die is cast. 

Donald Trump will become the third president in history impeached by the House of Representatives, because nothing in the upcoming hearings can change a word that Donald Trump said on that phone call to the president of Ukraine.  The inspector general of the intelligence committee believes there is evidence on that phone call that Donald Trump committed a federal crime, the crime of soliciting help from a foreign country for his re- election campaign. 

In their discussion with reporters at the United Nations yesterday, much was made of the question of did Donald Trump pressure the president of Ukraine?  The president of Ukraine said he did not feel pushed to which Donald Trump that, in other words, no pressure.  The problem for Donald Trump is, pressure is legally irrelevant.  The law the inspector general cited said it is unlawful for a person to solicit help from a foreign country for an American political campaign. 

The word "pressure" does not appear in that law.  The word in the law is "solicit".  Unfortunately, most of the news media is falling for the Trump frail of the issue and using the word pressure in their coverage of the phone call as if pressure matters.  And that is the wrong frame for the crime that the inspector general is concerned about.  It is a crime to ask for campaign help from a foreign person or a foreign country, even if you ask politely, even if you ask respectfully. 

And the record of the phone call shows Donald Trump asked.  I would like you to do us a favor though -- those words have now become the most famous words of the Trump presidency, because that is how Donald Trump began his request for help in his re-election campaign from the president of the Ukraine.  Illegal help. 

And then the president went on and on and on about wanting the president of Ukraine to order an investigation of Joe Biden and Joe Biden`s son.  There`s a lot of talk about Biden`s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution on 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. 

And that now sounds horrible to most Americans.  It sounds like a crime.  It even sounds like an abuse of power, if not a crime. 

It definitely sounds like a violation of the president`s oath of office.  And it sounds horrible enough to everyone in Congress who has taken an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  That none of them, not even the Republicans are defending those words that Donald Trump said, about investigating Joe Biden to the president of Ukraine. 

It takes 218 votes to impeach the president in the House of Representatives.  The Democrats already have 223 members of the House who support an impeachment investigation of the president based on this phone call alone.  And tonight, "The Washington Post" is reporting that some unnamed Democratic members of the House and Democratic staff that, quote, impeachment articles could be ready for a House vote around Thanksgiving. 

Leading off our fast track discussion of the fast track impeachment process tonight are Larry Pfeiffer, the former director of the White House Situation Room for President Obama.  He listened in President Obama`s phone calls with heads of state and prepared written records of those phone calls.  He is also former chief of staff to the director of the CIA. 

And Ned Price, a former CIA analyst and former senior director and spokesperson for the National Security Council in the Obama administration.  He`s an MSNBC national security contributor. 

Larry, let me start with you.  We got your read of the so-called transcript, the record of the phone call last night.  It all made sense to you.  It looked like the kind of thing you`ve seen before. 

What about what you`ve learned from the whistleblower`s report that was released this morning? 

LARRY PFEIFFER, WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM FORMER DIRECTOR:  So the whistleblower`s report, it looks like something written by someone with a pretty strong analytic mind.  Someone trained in the analytic craft.  It`s well-sourced, it`s well-written, it is logically lays out -- it lays out this compelling story. 

Unlike a lot of whistleblower complaints, this person does not appear to be a crack pot or a lunatic or a whack-a-doodle.  This is somebody who perhaps is leading a group of people who were involved in interagency review of the Ukrainian policy.  And perhaps drew the short straw.  Perhaps volunteered to represent the group`s viewpoint on what is going on out of a sense of frustration. 

O`DONNELL:  Larry, what about the details whistleblower reveals about how the record of this phone call was treated after the fact with White House lawyers ordering people to move it into a high security area? 

PFEIFFER:  A number of very unusual aspects of that.  Number one, very unusual for the White House lawyers to be making a call about classification or about storing something on a more secure system.  Secondly, that system is a system designed to hold the most secret aspects of our intelligence business, covert action plans and policies, sensitive reconnaissance developments, very sensitive diplomatic initiatives. 

The -- could there be phone calls stored in that database?  Yes.  If a world leader was talking to the president and they were talking about a covert action plan that we were relying on a foreign government to support, yes.  A phone conversation about that would be appropriately classified and put in that database. 

This phone conversation was barely secret.  It was very easily declassified.  Putting it in that database is an affront to the standards and care with which the intelligence community takes on that very sensitive material. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Ned Price, I want to give you kind of a wide open shot here at what you learned today from the whistleblower`s report which was released this morning, which feels like at this point, a couple weeks ago.  Also, the intelligence committee hearing. 

NED PRICE, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR:  Lawrence, I think I would follow on what Larry was saying.  And I think four words in the whistleblower`s complaint were especially chilling because they convey new and damning information about this president.  Not the first time. 

And it pertains to this practice of storing, of hiding, stashing away, transcripts of other potential phone calls between President Trump and his global counter parts on this top secret code word system.  A system that as Larry knows well, is not designed to hide or to conceal anything, and certainly not transcripts, most of which are secret or confidential. 

You know, I think there`s -- the maxim we`ve heard far too many times in the Trump era.  It is not the crime.  It`s the cover-up.  But I think in this case, it is actually the cover-up that will lead to us additional crimes. 

What the whistleblower laid out in that complaint will provide the House Intelligence Committee with precisely where to go, essentially a road map saying look here.  Go look in the system and see if there are any additional transcripts in which the president is betraying his oath of office and betraying the American people. 

And we just learned from Chairman Schiff of the Intelligence Committee that they`ve begun to do just that.  They`ve issued a preservation order to the White House not to destroy, not to remove, any of those transcripts that are potentially stored on this secret server. 

O`DONNELL:  I want to turn to some breaking news that we`re just being handed from "The Washington Post" about how the records of the president`s phone calls, the transcripts are being handled.  "The Washington Post" reports, the White House has taken extraordinary steps over the past two years to block details of President Trump`s phone calls with foreign leaders, following early embarrassment that`s enraged the president and created a sense of paranoia among his top aides.

We are joined now by phone by one of the reporters who broke the story, Carol Leonnig, national investigative reporter for "The Washington Post."

Carol, what else is in your reporting that is relevant now to this whistleblower`s complaint? 

CAROL LEONNIG, NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (via telephone):  I think what -- look, my good colleague Josh Dawsey and I learned in the course of the last 24 hours, in addition to the details of the whistleblower complaint, which are very logical and methodical.  What we learned was that basically, the string we`ve been collecting for a long time, that the president`s paranoia about people leaking information about his conversations has been an escalating paranoia.  And he has instructed his team to clamp down on who gets to listen in to calls.  And also, who can potentially read the readouts from his calls with foreign leaders.  That is been going on for a while. 

But this is news, what the whistleblower alleges, very recent, the idea of transferring what is colloquially called in the intelligence community, flipping a routine call transcript into one of the holiest of holy databases for storing information about sources and methods in the intelligence community.  The idea of taking a congratulatory call shocked a lot of the people that we interviewed today who have handled these in the past, and viewed it as an abuse of that process, and just totally extraordinary. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Carol, how much cooperation have you found in your reporting so far?  In the White House, to what the president wanted?  Obviously, there`s a certain group that would resist it.  They would want to go by the system that Larry Pfeiffer and others have been using for years.  But there had to be some people in the White House who wanted to enable the president`s approach to this. 

LEONNIG:  You know, it is a really good big picture question, because one thing I learned today, talking to people who used to serve the president and people who are loyal to him still is that they fear he has lost the guardrail people who used to stop him essentially from doing things were dangerous or incriminating, people like John Kelly, who several sources said to me, John Kelly would have been monitoring this call and would have had an order, essentially, of managing what was said. 

There would have been talking points if H.R. McMaster had been involved in this call and encouraging the president to stick to them.  There would have been talking points if John Bolton had been a full partner for the -- as the national security adviser.  John Bolton was on the outs on July 25th when this call took place.  A lot of the people that sort of provided guardrails for the president are not here anymore, and that has worried a lot of the president`s deepest allies. 

O`DONNELL:  Carol Leonnig, thank you very much for joining us with your breaking news reporting tonight.  Really appreciate it. 

LEONNIG:  Of course. 

O`DONNELL:  Ned Price and Larry Pfeiffer are still with us.

Larry, let me go straight to you with your reaction to what Carol is revealing tonight in her reporting? 

PFEIFFER:  Well, there`s always been a fine line in terms of distributing presidential phone call transcripts around government.  You want to distribute them far enough that they can be of value to the execution of our national security and foreign policy plans.  Yet, you don`t want to distribute them so far that, you know, perhaps slightly embarrassing or slightly sensitive material could be getting to broad examination.

This White House clearly has made a decision that sharing the conversations of the president with foreign leaders with people who then execute that policy is not a good idea.  I think that speaks volumes about what is actually being said in those conversations. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Ned, Carol used a word that caught me, paranoid.  The president is paranoid about who is listening into the phone calls. 

It is not paranoid if you are worried about who is listening in to your criminal conspiracies.  You should be worried about that.  You should be trying to minimize that.  The mob bosses go to great lengths to not have their phones tapped are not paranoid.  They know what they`re doing and they know that law enforcement and others have an interest in what they`re doing. 

PRICE:  Yes.  You know, Lawrence, the president is not wrong about one thing.  The transcripts, the contents of his calls have been vulnerable to leaks before.  And you always have to ask yourself the question, when you see these leak out, what is the motivation behind these leakers? 

And to be fair in this White House, it is and always has been a den of vipers.  And there are internecine battles both in terms of policy and personality.  But in so many of the leaks we`ve seen, including separately with this whistleblower complaint, they`re predicated not on this in fighting but on a profound unease, a profound concern with what the president is doing, and in extreme cases like the one we`ve been discussing over the past week, even the possibility that the president has betrayed his oath of office. 

When you think of some of the -- shall we say marquee leaks of this administration, you get that sense, leaking top secret information to the Russians in the Oval Office, going to meet Vladimir Putin without a note taker, without a translator and discussing a whole series of issues with him and you can go down the line of leaks that really I think illustrate that the people -- even those people closest to the president are profoundly disturbed by what he has done and what he`s tried to do. 

O`DONNELL:  Ned Price, Larry Pfeiffer, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate it. 

PFEIFFER:  Thank you. 

O`DONNELL:  And we`re just going to crash through a commercial break to go straight through Joel Brenner. 

Joining us now is Joel Brenner.  He`s the former inspector general of the National Security Agency under President George W. Bush from 2002 to 2006.  Joe Brenner was the head of the U.S. counterintelligence in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in the Bush administration from 2006 to 2009. 

And, Mr. Brenner, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. 

I wanted to get your reaction to what Carol Leonnig is reporting tonight, which is a supplementary to what we learned in the whistleblower`s report, whistleblower`s report describes this special treatment of the phone transcript, the phone record of the president`s conversation with the president of Ukraine.  And now, "The Washington Post" is reporting since the beginning of the administration, they have taken increasing steps along the way to restrict access to records of the president`s phone calls. 

JOE BRENNER, CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES MIT SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW:  Well, I can tell you, Lawrence, when I was the NSAIG, if we were doing an investigation and in the course of it, had discovered that someone we were looking at, a person of interest, had misclassified and overclassified documents in order to shield them from legitimate, for an illegitimate purpose, and we proved that, that person would have been frog-marched out of the building that day, stripped of his clearance that day, not tomorrow, that day.  And walked out of the building, either to go home or into the arms of an FBI agent who would have put him or her in handcuffs.

Now, it has been said that, well, the president can classify anything any way he wants.  Well, first place, even a president has to follow -- can do certain things but has to do them according to the rules of the executive branch.  And secondly, it`s basic law, Lawrence, that anyone who does an otherwise lawful act for an unlawful purpose makes that otherwise lawful act against the law.  That`s fundamental black letter conspiracy law.  This is deeply troubling. 

O`DONNELL:  Would you advise the lawyers in the White House who are not mentioned by name but described in the whistleblower`s report, White House lawyers telling people in the White House to basically reclassify the transcript of the president`s call?  Move it into the most high level security holding they have for it?  Would you say those White House lawyers should be out getting their own personal criminal defense lawyers right now? 

BRENNER:  I`m glad you asked that, because that to me was one of the most stunning things about this document.  We know, when you have a really nasty scandal, you want to ask, where were the lawyers?  In this case, if that complaint proves out, we`ve got lawyers who were participating in a conspiracy. 

And I would be surprised if those lawyers tonight aren`t consulting with counsel.  Let me read you something really short, Lawrence.  It comes from the ABA`s rules of professional conduct which are pretty much in effect in every state in the Union. 

A lawyer shall not counsel a client to engage or assist a client in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent. 

Now, that means that not only do those lawyers have potential criminal exposure but they have exposure in terms of their licenses to practice law.  And we will see how this pans out and whether there are some cracks in that.  If they`re not worried tonight, they`re not wide awake. 

O`DONNELL:  Joel Brenner, thank you very much for joining us on this breaking news night.  Really appreciate it.  Thank you. 

BRENNER:  You bet.  And after this break, we will hear from two of the potential jurors in the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump in the United States Senate, if that`s where this case is headed.



REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): You don`t believe the whistleblower is a political hack, do you Director?

JOSEPH MAGUIRE, ACTING DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I believe that, as I said before Mr. Chairman, I believe the whistleblower is operating in good faith. I think the whistleblower did the right thing. I think he followed the law every step of the way.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, MSNBC: The jury for the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump has already been selected. The voters did that in the United States Senate elections. If the House of Representatives votes in favor of one or more articles of impeachment, that bill of impeachment will be sent to the United States Senate for the trial of Donald J. Trump.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will be presiding in that trial and all 100 members of the Senate will sit as jurors, who in the end will vote yes or no for the conviction and removal from office of President Donald J. Trump.

We`re joined now by one of those potential jurors, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He is also the author of Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy.

Senator Whitehouse, we now have more votes than the Democrats need in the House of Representatives to send a bill of impeachment to the Senate.


O`DONNELL: Do you expect that, by the end of this year, that bill of impeachment on this phone call will show up in the side?

WHITEHOUSE: I don`t know. And as somebody who`s been in the prosecutor business, I`d be concerned about the House putting a deadline on its work, which would give a deadline for the Trump forces to delay and stall beyond.

I think the transcript is extremely damning. But if I were a prosecutor and were given that transcript, it was a wiretap - an organized-crime wiretap transcript, I would say to the agents who did it, this is great. There may even be some high fives in the room. But now, let`s go out and let`s pin down these 15 or 20 things.

So I hope that the House does its job, because I think that the Republicans are in a tough spot in the Senate, and a well and meticulously researched and proven case could be a very different thing than the partisanship you see right now.

O`DONNELL: I know, when you were a prosecutor, one of the things you have to worry about protect against is witness tampering.


O`DONNELL: We just heard what the Acting Director of National Intelligence said about the whistleblower today, whistleblower did the right thing. Let`s listen to what Donald Trump said about the whistleblower today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I want to know who`s the person that gave the whistleblower - who`s the person that gave the whistleblower the information? Because that`s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days, when we were smart, right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little bit differently than we do now.


O`DONNELL: So the penalty for treason is death?

WHITEHOUSE: Yes, hanging or a firing squad.

O`DONNELL: It seems the President knows that much of the law anyway. What do you make of comments like that? Because the people who helped the whistleblower with the information that the whistleblower delivered, and we know from the whistleblower`s report that he had help with the information.


O`DONNELL: Some of those people are--

WHITEHOUSE: But we also know from the whistleblower`s report that he got that information through the ordinary effort of interagency work that is a part of what goes on in the White House every day.

O`DONNELL: Donald Trump is saying that`s treason today.

WHITEHOUSE: He`s saying that they`re spies, when spies are people who take information and give it to foreign governments. These people kept the information within the government. They were working for the US government.

So he`s almost unhinged in this comparison to spying, and in his suggestion that there was anything improper about the way in which the whistleblower got the information. He got it through the ordinary process of interagency information exchange.

O`DONNELL: What do you make of the process that Speaker Pelosi outlined this week, six Committees doing their work? Tonight reports in The Washington Post indicating that the primary work now, this is unusual for impeachment, will be done in the Intelligence Committee because the primary focus is going to be on this phone call.

WHITEHOUSE: Well, I hope they find ways to spread it around where they can, so that you`re not backing up the Intelligence Committee and they get stuck behind subpoena non-compliance and things like that, that you spread it out as much as you can.

Because I think there`s a prospect that you can get Republican Senators to vote in favor of impeachment on a well pled meticulously researched case. But we`re not there yet. And at the moment, I think we`re at a very partisan place in the Senate.

So there`s homework to be done on the House side to make this a winning case. I think they can do it, but I would urge them to spread the work and be all hands on deck.

O`DONNELL: Now, as a litigator yourself, when you - this is basically the first kind of hearing in the case today.


O`DONNELL: Senator, kind of in criminal process, sort of a preliminary hearing.


O`DONNELL: Not one word of defense about what the President said--

WHITEHOUSE: Of the actual conduct.

O`DONNELL: --on the phone call. When you go into court and you discover that the defense has literally nothing to say about the prosecution`s evidence, not one word, that has to be--

WHITEHOUSE: Not to mention one of your lead witnesses, the Director of National Intelligence, has heavily corroborated the whistleblower, said that he was in good faith, connected the elements in the whistleblower complaint exactly to what turned out to be the case in the actual transcript. I mean, this was not a good day for Team Trump preparing for an impeachment trial.

O`DONNELL: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, thank you very much.

WHITEHOUSE: Good to be with you, Lawrence, thank you.

O`DONNELL: I really appreciate it, thank you. And when we come back, more on tonight`s breaking news from The New York Times about the first time the whistleblower tried to raise these concerns.


O`DONNELL: With more on the breaking news from The New York Times tonight, The Times is reporting that the whistleblower raised concerns about Donald Trump`s Ukraine phone call through separate previously unreported channels.

According to The Times, during the preliminary inquiry, a career lawyer learned that multiple people had raised concerns about Mr. Trump`s call.

Joining our discussion now is Amy Klobuchar, Democratic Senator from Minnesota, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She is also a candidate for President of the United States.

Senator Klobuchar, The Times is reporting now that this whistleblower was not alone, spiritually anyway. I mean we`ve all been wondering why only one. Turns out the whistleblower, as we saw in Lois Lorenz (ph) report, got a lot of help from other people, and there were many other people concerned.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I`m not surprised at all, and I think this is going to have to be a lot of their investigation. Because you can imagine that this may not have been the first time this happened.

And there are people who used to work in that White House, who work there now, who know things, who have been talking about this, and I think that has got to be key to this investigation. There have to be people there who feel they have a patriotic duty to come forward. And if that doesn`t work, there`s always the subpoena.

And I just think they have to, because this is something that we see a pattern from the moment he stood in front of the that sacred wall of the stars of the deceased CIA agents and made a partisan speech too, believing Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence officers, to where we are now, and having visited Ukraine with John McCain and Lindsey Graham and seeing the state of that fragile democracy and how much they depended on our country.

McCain`s decision to go there right after Trump was elected, because he knew how important it was to stand by that ally. You can just see how Donald Trump would be able to wield this power to try to get them to do something and that`s what`s reflected in this partial transcript or summary that we see now.

So to me, I loved when you brought up the Watergate thing, it is a global modern version of that, digging for dirt in a different era, and then covering it up.

O`DONNELL: Earlier today, before The New York Times reporting tonight on the other people involved in the formulation of the whistleblower`s report, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, your Committee, Lindsey Graham - you traveled to Ukraine with Lindsey Graham - tweeted it is imperative we find out which White House official talked to the whistleblower and why didn`t they lodge the complaint.

Now, it would be nice if Lindsey Graham had say a Senate Committee where he could convene a hearing and find out why didn`t they lodge a complaint, which White House officials talked to the whistleblower, or about the whistleblower.

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, and he could - we could be conducting some independent investigations of some of these issues. But as we`ve seen, with regard to the Mueller Report and other things, while the Intelligence Committee did those, our Committee under Senator Grassley and now Senator Graham in my mind have not done enough. And so, this would be right for that.

But the other thing that concerns me of course is the President is basically putting out there that this is someone who, and someday at least, would have been executed as opposed to perhaps someone that was voicing a concern to what may be a CIA agent, as being reported that this whistleblower is, and just simply voicing a concern about what happened and the whistleblower goes forward, feels a duty to report it.

But then the President puts a threat out there, and I don`t know if Senator Graham`s tweet is part of that, I can`t quite read through the tweet words, to figure that out. But again, this should be taken as an investigation and it should not just be Democrats, this must be done in a bipartisan basis, just as your analogy to Watergate.

O`DONNELL: Doesn`t the whole case come down to the words spoken by the President on the phone to the President of Ukraine?

KLOBUCHAR: Perhaps, but there may be other calls just like this. Just six days later, he called Vladimir Putin, after calling the President of Ukraine. There may be other calls like this, we don`t know.

And so, that`s why I think it`s very important now that we know these calls were logged into this super-secret server where they should not have been given their classification, that I know the House Committee has asked for those calls to be preserved, the transcripts or the reports from them, those have to be looked at.

So it may come down to that, and then there would be corroborating evidence from other people, or it may be that there be more extensive conversations with even other world leaders.

O`DONNELL: Do you believe that the transcript of that phone call rises to the level of being worthy of an impeachment trial on that evidence in the United States Senate?


O`DONNELL: And in sitting at that trial, do you consider yourself under the obligation of jurors in courtrooms, where you wouldn`t make a judgment about the evidence until the conclusion of that trial, because those rules don`t exist for Senators.

KLOBUCHAR: They don`t.

O`DONNELL: Senators during impeachment trials in the past have gone out and said, there`s no problem here, they announce--


O`DONNELL: --unlike any other jurors in the world, they announce what they`re thinking during the trial.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, Lawrence, I think for all of us, for Sheldon and me or anyone involved in this, we don`t know what all the evidence is yet. We have all - a number of us, I said it months ago that these impeachment proceedings should begin. But of course you`re going to look at all the evidence.

There`s going to be different counts, if this comes before us, and we have to make that kind of decision. It`s a very serious constitutional obligation, going way back to our founding fathers, when James Madison actually said, when talking at the Constitutional Convention about why we needed impeachment proceedings and the possibility of them. He said, because a President might "betray his trust to foreign powers."

So while it may have been different foreign powers, they were concerned about back then, this really goes to the founding of our country and our Constitution that you must have this check on the President.

O`DONNELL: So with your experience as a prosecutor, your reading of Madison and his - and the role of impeachment, your role as United States Senator, seeing the evidence that you know about today, the transcript of that phone call, you believe that evidence should be incorporated into a bill of impeachment that goes to the United States Senate?

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, the outcome will be on us as a jury, but I think that that evidence is incredible. I mean as you said, it was a smoking gun that you didn`t take a year to find out, you`d found out right away. So then one believes, as a former prosecutor, I look at this and say what are the other smoking guns, and we have to look at this like that, that there most likely are corroborating witnesses that are out there that just must come forward or be found, and that there`s also perhaps other phone calls.

At the bottom line, he was trying to get dirt, it`s that simple, on a political opponent from a foreign power and then holding something back that they really needed to do that, and that is not what a President should do. You should be putting your country first, not your own interests.

O`DONNELL: Senator Amy Klobuchar, candidate for President of the United States.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Lawrence. It`s great to be here.

O`DONNELL: Thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

And when we come back, Gabe Sherman will join us with his new reporting about how Donald Trump`s friends at Fox News are very worried about life after Trump.


O`DONNELL: Total panic, that is how one person close to the White House described the mood there today, to NBC News. NBC News is reporting that there is "rising anxiety, unease and concern that the whistleblower`s allegations could seriously wound the President and some of those around him. There`s not a lot of confidence that there`s no there there," this person said.

And tonight, those same concerns are being heard deep inside Fox News. Gabe Sherman reports in Vanity Fair that "This morning, Sean Hannity told friends, the whistleblower`s allegations are really bad, a person briefed on Hannity`s conversations told me. And according to four sources, Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch is already thinking about how to position the network for a post-Trump future."

Among the powerful voices advising Lachlan that Fox should decisively break with the President is former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who joined the Fox Board in March. Paul is embarrassed about Trump, and now he has the power to do something about it, an executive who`s spoken with Ryan told Gabe Sherman.

Well, too bad Paul Ryan didn`t have the power to do anything about it when he was Speaker of the House of Representatives. Gabe Sherman will join us for more of his reporting after this final break.



JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: It is a crime for the President to solicit aid for his campaign from a foreign government.

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS HOST: So that would be - that to which the President has admitted is in and of itself a crime?



O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Gabe Sherman, Vanity Fair special correspondent and MSNBC contributor. And Gabe, as I just outlined on the other side of the break, your reporting is that Fox News is now in chaos about how to deal with what seems like the impeachment process. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan advising the Murdochs to get ready for life after Trump.

GABE SHERMAN, VANITY FAIR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT AND MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, really, Lawrence, this is a metaphor for what`s happening inside the Republican Party. I mean, Fox News has been the propaganda arm of the Trump White House, and they`re now faced with the prospect of, if he goes down that, they go down with him.

And so, Paul Ryan who joined the Board of the parent company of Fox News has for months now been in the ear of Lachlan Murdoch, the CEO, telling him that they have the - the network has to cut ties, they have to appeal to a different kind of voter, chart a post-Trump future. And now it appears that impeachment is on the horizon, this is that moment.

O`DONNELL: And you see this feuding now going on. That was just half of the feud. Shepard Smith, who plays it pretty straight during the day, including to the point of attacking by name some of the prime time hosts, and then they`re yelling back at him, on TV.

SHERMAN: Yes, I mean, this never would have happened in the Roger Ailes era. I mean, Fox was a machine that operated with one voice. And now, there is--

O`DONNELL: And all those people worked there during Roger Ailes era.

SHERMAN: Yes, but now there is a leadership vacuum. There is no one in charge. No one quite knows which way this is all going to shake out, and so you see this fighting on camera. And at what point does the network, I mean to me, what was almost the most shocking part of my reporting today was that Sean Hannity in private has been telling people that the whistleblower complaint is, "really, really bad for Donald Trump." And so, you have Hannity on air still being a promoter for Donald Trump, but in private, they know how bad this could get.

O`DONNELL: Do you know if Sean Hannity has sources in the White House in addition to Donald Trump, who is obviously a source for Sean Hannity?

SHERMAN: I mean, my sense is that relationship is one to one. Why talk to other people when you can get to the President. When Bill Shine was the Communications Director, he was a very close friend of Sean Hannity.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And so, the parallel universes of Fox News and the Trump White House, they both seem to be engulfed tonight in the same inability to respond to this situation.

SHERMAN: Yes, I mean, the speed by which this has become a firestorm has just overwhelmed their ability to respond. I just think one thing, the historical context to point out, this will be a test case, because Fox News was created for Republicans so that Watergate would never happen again.

We are now entering what appears to be that Watergate moment, and will the power of Fox News be able to hold the line, or will the dam break and the Republican Party have to let the sunlight in, which is that Donald Trump seems to have crossed all the other - all the lines of abuse of power here.

O`DONNELL: And the emotional significance of Watergate for Roger Ailes who created Fox News is that Watergate was what drove Richard Nixon out of the Presidency. Richard Nixon was the first candidate who Roger Ailes helped elect to the Presidency and then he helped elect a bunch of the Republicans.

SHERMAN: Yes, so the circle has come all the way around.

O`DONNELL: Gabe Sherman, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

SHERMAN: Thank you, Lawrence. Yes, thank you.

O`DONNELL: Amazing reporting again. Gabe Sherman.