LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And when you hear a phrase and a story like this of hours left to stop it, that pretty much means it cannot be stopped.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Well, at this point the United States making this precipitous decision by the president, immediately after getting off the phone with the Turkish president, without consulting with U.S. military, without consulting with anyone in national security, that was apparently enough to green light this.
The question I think that Ignatius is raising is whether or not similarly quick action by the United States right now might be enough to stop this. I don`t know if the president understands the seriousness of what Ignatius is saying might be about to happen here, but the idea of a Russian and Turkish force moving in basically to slaughter the Kurds, our allies, on Donald Trump`s say-so, that`s the sort of thing that that would be a five- alarm fire in any national security apparatus in any presidency and now, we have to see what it is in this one.
O`DONNELL: We`ll just have to see and watch what happens.
MADDOW: Yes. Thanks.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, on a day when polling shows support for impeachment rising dramatically, the White House counsel sends a letter saying they will not cooperate in any way with the impeachment investigation. Presumably means they will not honor any subpoenas or any witnesses to testify and they will not supply any documents.
We are submitting this letter from the White House counsel to our highest constitutional authority here at THE LAST WORD tonight, Harvard Law School constitutional professor Laurence Tribe will join us with his reading of this unprecedented letter from the White House.
President Trump is now well on his way to impeachment because of the White House transcript of his phone call with the president of Ukraine showing him soliciting help in his reelection campaign by Ukraine by asking for an investigation of Joe Biden.
The president did the same thing with China. The president wants foreign governments to interfere in his reelection campaign because he apparently believes that is the only way he believes he can win the Electoral College again. The State Department used to try to fight that kind of foreign interference back when Barack Obama was president and John Kerry was secretary of state and Rick Stengel was secretary of state. It was Rick Stengel`s job to fight the kind of foreign interference that President Trump now encourages.
Who is going to fight that fight now? That is the subject of Rick Stengel`s new book, "Information Wars", and he will join us when the president of the United States encourages foreign countries to wage war on our election process. When the day began today with Donald Trump`s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland refusing to show up for a deposition we did not yet know that Trump intends to block every federal government witness and every other possible witness that he can from testifying in the impeachment inquiry.
The White House counsel`s letter about that came late in the afternoon, basically declaring war on the impeachment process, a war the White House counsel and Donald Trump are destined to lose. We now know what might have been the most agonizing part of Gordon Sondland`s testimony today, the five-hour gap. What did Gordon Sondland do in the five hours that it took him to reply to the acting ambassador of Ukraine who texted this?
As I said on the phone, I think it`s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign. Gordon Sondland`s reply to that took five hours. And it reads as if that reply was written by a lawyer. And in the meantime, we now know that Gordon Sondland called and spoke to the president of the United States. That is one of the things he did in those five hours.
NBC News reported today that Sondland spoke to Donald Trump by phone before responding to that text. And then Gordon Sondland`s written response said: Bill, I believe you`re incorrect abut President Trump`s intentions. The president has been crystal clear. No quid pro quos of any kind.
The tone of that text is unlike any other in the exchanges that we`ve seen. They are all much more casual. Did Gordon Sondland lawyer up in those five hours? Gordon Sondland might have spent five hours being questioned today about those five hours, if he showed up for his deposition, or Gordon Sondland could have taken the Fifth Amendment if he showed up today, and Gordon Sondland`s criminal lawyer is probably giving the Fifth Amendment some very serious consideration tonight after receiving a notice of subpoena today after his client failed to show up to that deposition.
The House of Representatives sent a subpoena for Gordon Sondland directly to his criminal lawyer as is customary in these cases, ordering him to appear one week from now, next Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. and to deliver all relevant documents to the House, two days before that. Gordon Sondland is now at the center of what some in the White House reportedly thought could be criminal conduct by the president and possibly others.
That was the reaction that was captured in another document that we now know has taken its place in the evidence file of the impeachment investigation of the House of Representatives.
"The New York Times" reports that before the whistleblower wrote his official report that he submitted to the inspector general, the whistleblower wrote for his own file a two-page memo of notes of a conversation that the whistleblower had about the president`s phone call to the president of Ukraine with someone who listened to that conversation, the conversation that the whistleblower had was with someone who listened to the entire phone call the Donald Trump had with the president of Ukraine.
ABC News reports the official who listened to the entirety of the phone call was visibly shaken by what had transpired and seemed keen to inform a trusted colleague within the U.S. national security apparatus about the call. The whistleblower`s memo about the call says that the official described the call as crazy, frightening and completely lacking in substance related to national security.
"The New York Times" quotes the whistleblowers initial two-page memo saying, quote, the official stated that there was already a conversation underway with White House lawyers about how to handle the discussion because in the official`s view, the president had clearly committed a criminal act by urging a foreign power to investigate a U.S. person for the purposes of advancing his own reelection bid in 2020.
And leading off for discussion tonight about these developments is Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois. He`s a member of the House Intelligence committee and was supposed to take part in Gordon Sondland`s deposition today.
Also joining us, Mieke Eoyang. She`s a former staff member of the House Intelligence Committee.
And Josh Lederman, national political reporter for NBC News. Josh was part of the team that reported those new details about the communication between President Trump and Gordon Sondland in that five-hour gap.
Congressman Quigley, what was it that you wanted to concentrate on with Gordon Sondland today?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): I think that seemingly easy questions to ask tough to answer about the five hour gap or what were the nature of all his communications with the career diplomats and the president of the United States. But you know what? When I was thinking about that question coming, I think the best question for all the Trump associates is this, why aren`t you the whistleblower? How could you stand by when this was happening and not say what we hear from one text, I think it`s crazy to do a quid pro quo with military aid with an ally at war with our greatest adversary?
O`DONNELL: And, Congressman, your reaction to the president`s White House counsel sending that letter saying no cooperation, no witnesses, no documents, absolutely nothing. Your impeachment inquiry is unconstitutional, according to the White House counsel.
QUIGLEY: Yes, I think they`re just making official what they`ve been doing for three years. They`ve been stonewalling and obstructing any investigation. The special counsel`s report details that in extraordinary lengths. And I think he left it to us to take the ball and I believe would have indicted the president if it wasn`t for a justice department policy that says you can`t do that. Obviously, we`re following the letter of the law. The president is doing everything to obstruct and creating very easily to be reached articles of impeachment on obstruction.
O`DONNELL: And, Mieke Eoyang, we -- NBC News is also reporting, Josh Lederman is part of this, reporting team, that the communication devices that were being used in some of these -- in a lot of this texting were personal communication devices that is -- could be in violation of the federal records-keeping law. That was something that Hillary Clinton was attacked for by these same Republicans who are defending all of these practices.
MIEKE EOYANG, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE FORMER STAFF MEMBER: Yes, I see -- I think you see over and over again, Republicans doing the things they blame other people for, whether that`s violating records. You know, they blame Biden for corruption when you see the president himself engaging himself dealing with his children`s business operations. I think that really what you see is a lot of projection here and when you read that letter from the White House to Speaker Pelosi and the other chairmen, you know, anyone who`s been a teenager, has a teenager, that letter basically reads like the legal version of you`re not the boss of me. And they`re really -- they don`t have a lot of legal rationale in that letter.
And when you look at the way that impeachment is set up, it really doesn`t make sense structurally that they would even write the things that they`ve written. The president will get to process rights when the trial goes in the Senate. But this is an investigative stage and House has tremendous power here.
O`DONNELL: And, Josh Lederman, the five-hour gap, you added to some of our understanding of it with a presidential phone call is right in the middle of the five or somewhere, it`s somewhere in the five-hour gap.
JOSH LEDERMAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, this is really critical, Lawrence, because President Trump has continued to say that everything that he did with relation to Ukraine was aboveboard, was exactly what a president is supposed to do as they`re conducting foreign policy. But now, we have new indications that President Trump was aware in real time that members of his own administration, his own diplomats were raising red flags about this, because the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, called him and presumably mentioned in that call that he just heard from Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, that he was concerned that this was, quote, crazy, and the president proceeded with all of this nonetheless.
And Sondland after this phone call essentially tried to shut down the acting ambassador, Bill Taylor, telling him, look, President Trump says that there`s crystal clear, no quid pro quo, and also, let`s take this offline, let`s not text message about this anymore, apparently cognizant to the fact that they were creating a written record that could ultimately come into public view.
O`DONNELL: But Chairman Schiff had something to say about that written record today. Let`s listen to what he said of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Not only is Congress being deprived of his testimony, the American people being deprived of his testimony today, but we`re also aware that the ambassador has text messages or emails on a personal device which have been provided to the State Department, although we have requested those from the ambassador and the State Department is withholding those messages as well. Those messages are also deeply relevant to this investigation and the impeachment inquiry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congressman Quigley, it sounds like you`re going to have to go to court for those.
QUIGLEY: Absolutely. I practice criminal defense 10 years, I never had the chutzpah to propose such contradictory defenses. It`s -- I didn`t do anything wrong throw, why this elaborate cover-up, and it was all a hoax. You know, he did it, there was nothing wrong or none of this happened, it`s a hoax.
The fact is you`re right. It`s going to end up in court. I don`t see any way that all these matters don`t, and I would like to think that the courts appreciate the urgency of this. The national security implications of this, and they`ll move forward a lot faster than they have in the recent past.
O`DONNELL: Mieke, you see the committee`s moving faster than it has moved. The subpoena says be here in a week give us the documents two days before that and so, we`ve seen an increased pace here by the investigative committees.
EOYANG: Yes, that`s right and you see Chairman Schiff moving very quickly, calling a number of witnesses, asking for documents. But even as he`s doing that, you see the administration creating a tremendous record just in talking about this. You saw Rudy Giuliani waving around his cell phone on television saying I`ve got these text messages and they`ll exonerate us.
Look, if they really have nothing to fear here, if they really think what the president did was so innocent, then why are they trying to hide this material from Congress. This does not sound like somebody who`s confident that they`re actually doing the right thing. It sounds like someone who is really stonewalling and trying to hide the fact that they`ve done something very seriously wrong, as senior State Department officials have pointed out.
O`DONNELL: Josh, do we have any insight as to who among these witnesses might actually want to testify and are being blocked by the administration?
LEDERMAN: Ironically, Lawrence, the only one that we know based on his own wants to testify is Gordon Sondland, because his lawyers today circulated a statement saying, look, we were told by the State Department at 12:30 in the morning, you can`t testify. He flew all the way back from Brussels, he wants to testify, he`s still ready to do it at a moment`s notice.
As far as the other diplomats, we don`t know for sure because they haven`t been speaking and any good lawyer would probably advise them not to be talking publicly if they`re about to testify before Congress. But presumably, Ambassador Yovanovitch who was the U.S. ambassador in Ukraine, Trump pulled her out of that role in May, several months ahead of schedule. Rudy Giuliani had been waging a campaign against her we now know.
Presumably, she would want a chance to defend herself. But so far, we have not heard any of these diplomats say that on the record.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Quigley, I can envision a scenario in which the House of Representatives gives a reasonably short amount of time for the Trump administration to comply with these subpoenas. You work it through the court as quickly as you can but you don`t want to wait a year to go through to the Supreme Court on these things and at a certain point, the House of Representatives starts taking votes on articles of impeachment, possibly in the Judiciary Committee, possibly in the full House, without the information that you`re currently seeking, making the argument that you have enough information from the transcript of the phone call.
And then you go off to a trial in the United States Senate where the House of Representatives will be accused of having basically prosecuted the case without enough information.
QUIGLEY: Well, that`s why communicating this message in this, the American public is almost as important as is convincing the jury in the Senate. I trust the American public will see through the contradictory defenses of this White House, the obstruction that`s taking place and the real truth there and the reason that it matters so much.
While we strengthen one case, the articles of impeachment for obstruction, you`re right it probably hurts our ability to put all the evidence we need for it on other articles of the crimes that we see committed by the president elsewhere. Frankly, I thought that the special counsel`s report gave us enough information and file articles of impeachment, I thought the special counsel felt that way as well, and all we`re doing is adding to that. We will act with deliberate speed.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Mike Quigley, Mieke Eoyang, Josh Lederman, thank you all for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate that.
And when we come back, overkill. We`re going to be joined by Harvard Law School`s constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe, to analyze the constitutional validity of today`s letter from the White House counsel to the House of Representatives, saying that the Trump administration has decided that the impeachment investigation is unconstitutional.
Now, we could have had any high school AP government student analyzed what I believe will take its place as the most constitutionally illiterate letter ever written by White House lawyer, but we got Laurence Tribe. Hint: he`s a bit outraged that the White House counsel would sign his name to such a letter. Laurence Tribe is next.
O`DONNELL: Tonight, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi replied to the White House counsel`s letter to Congress this afternoon, saying that Donald Trump and the Trump administration will not cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry and will not respond to any subpoenas because the inquiry is according to the president`s lawyer, quote, constitutionally invalid, even though impeachment is in the Constitution.
Speaker Pelosi said tonight: This letter is manifestly wrong and is simply another unlawful attempt to hide the facts of the Trump administration`s brazen efforts to pressure foreign powers to intervene in the 2020 elections. Despite the White House`s stonewalling, we see a growing body of evidence that shows that President Trump abused his office and violated his oath to protect, serve and defend the Constitution. The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the president`s abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction. Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.
Here is Lindsey Graham echoing what Speaker Pelosi said tonight 20 years ago when he was a prosecutor in the impeachment trial of President Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THEN-REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): When asked for information, Richard Nixon chose not to comply and the Congress back in that time said you`re taking impeachment away from us, you`re becoming the judge and jury. It is not your job to tell us what we need. It is your job to comply with the things we need to provide oversight over you.
The day Richard Nixon failed answer that subpoena is the day that he was subject to impeachment because he took the power from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress and he became the judge and jury.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: During our discussion now, Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe. He is the co-author of "To End A Presidency: The Power of Impeachment".
And, Professor Tribe, it`s an eight page letter. It`s very odd. It actually cites a couple of cases but it also includes references to the unemployment rate and what a great job Donald Trump is doing as president of the United States, kind of there`s the -- there`s the reelection paragraphs in that letter and it has the air of a legal letter.
But what`s your reading of it?
LAURENCE TRIBE, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR: Well, it`s obviously a political document. The legal analysis is vacuous. The cases that it cites are completely irrelevant. It`s citing cases from the 1950s in which witnesses before Congress who were being hounded by the likes of Joseph McCarthy were denied their rights and were convicted in violation of their rights. This is completely irrelevant.
But because the letter is so obviously weak and because the White House counsel is no fool, my assumption is that this is an attempt to distract the House of Representatives into giving up on getting more factual details and simply pursuing the obvious obstruction of Congress, which this is, following article three of the Nixon articles of impeachment. But I think Adam Schiff is smarter than that. He`s made it clear that in addition to impeaching the president for obstructing Congress and refusing to cooperate and pretending that Congress is a non-existent rather than a co-equal branch, that he`s going to pursue subpoenas in court now of course courts are not as quick as we would like them to be, but at this point I think they`re going to become impatient as well.
There`s evidence from what the courts have said just today in one proceeding before Judge Beryl Howell where she responded to the kinds of arguments the administration is making by saying, wow, you really are going out on a limb. That was the essence of what she said.
I think courts are now going to be impatient and so, we`re going to see the House of Representatives both walking and chewing gum at the same time not just in the classic sense of legislating about social and economic policy while impeaching, but impeaching on several fronts at once that is they`re going to hold this guy accountable for obstructing Congress, but there`s no rule saying can only impeach him once. They`re also going to pursue further details of the shakedown scheme in which the president conspicuously and right on the very text of the White House readout of that infamous phone call basically says to one of our allies, we`re not going to support you against Russian aggression unless you do what we want. Do me a favor though, help me go after Joe Biden and help me undermine the truth that Russia helped me get elected.
That is going to be the core of the impeachment. The impeachment is not going to get distracted by what an awful lot of Americans don`t care about and that his process. It`s going to go after the substance of how this president has betrayed his oath and used his foreign policy and military powers for his own benefit. And while doing that with whatever information the courts help us get the House of Representatives is also in a position to say this kind of stonewalling as exemplified by this puerile letter will not stand and is itself an impeachable offense.
O`DONNELL: The one of the -- one of the big things that the letter relies on is the precedent in previous impeachment processes where the House of Representatives as a group as voted to basically authorize the beginning of an impeachment inquiry. That hasn`t happened here and so the White House counsel is saying that alone means this is not a real impeachment inquiry and it is not a constitutional impeachment inquiry.
TRIBE: I think they realize that that`s a ridiculous argument because the rules of the House of Representatives which at one time did assume that there had to be a vote of the entire house to authorize the inquiry have since been changed. That`s why the letter doesn`t really lean on that thin read, but instead makes these other arguments about how the president is not being given a fair chance to defend himself in the House of Representatives. Of course, you`ve got a chance to defend yourself in the trial which as I understand it and as the Constitution says is in the Senate.
Now, if they would rather have the trial in the House of Representatives, I`m sure Nancy Pelosi would gladly oblige. But I doubt that that`s what the president wants. This is an investigatory and prosecutorial step, the trial for the president`s benefit if he hasn`t read that part of the Constitution is in the Senate. That`s where I suppose he`s relying on Mitch McConnell to deep-six everything.
But I think that as their country moves toward recognition that we have a lawless president who is in it for his own benefit, it may well be that the Senate itself begins to rethink whether it wants to go down with this particular ship.
O`DONNELL: What will happen in court when the president`s lawyers take this argument that they outlined in this letter into a courtroom?
TRIBE: Well, I think the judges will be incredulous and I think that`s true of judges appointed by any president. Just this morning, Judge Howell was incredulous when the administration argued that the Watergate grand jury materials should not really have been turned over back in the Nixon days, and if the Justice Department then had seen it as clearly as it does now, the Nixon case would have been very different.
Well, when judges hear that in the face of all that we have been through as a country, they tend to scratch their heads and react with incredulity, and I think that`s what`s going to happen here. This is not going to get anywhere. And I think that the courts will rebuff this attempt to put the president completely above the law. They say he can`t be indicted but now they`re basically saying he can`t be impeached either.
And in the district court, they argued in the Southern District, they can`t be investigated. Well, that`s not why we fought a revolution, he`s not above the law and he will learn his lesson.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Professor Laurence Tribe, thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
TRIBE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back, the fastest-moving poll numbers in America are the poll numbers in support of impeachment. The new polls include very bad news for Donald Trump about how many Republicans support impeachment and how many Republican voters support Donald Trump`s removal from office.
O`DONNELL: The fastest rising poll number in America now is support for impeachment. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows 55% of Americans say Congress should hold an impeachment inquiry. That same poll in July showed only 48% saying Congress should hold an impeachment inquiry. And at that time, 50% said Congress should not have an impeachment inquiry.
A new Washington Post poll shows 58% of Americans support the impeachment inquiry. In July, that same poll was 20 points lower and showed only 37% at that time in the middle of the summer, supporting an impeachment inquiry. That same poll also shows that 28% of Republican voters now support the impeachment inquiry in the House Representatives, and get this, 18% of Republican voters support not only the impeachment query, but also conviction in the Senate trial and the removal of Donald Trump from the Presidency.
Joining our discussion now, Eugene Robinson an associate editor and Pulitzer prize-winning columnist for Washington Post; he`s an MSNBC Political Analyst. And EJ Dionne, an opinion writer for The Washington Post and a visiting Professor at Harvard University.
And Eugene, I want to start with that last number, 18% of Republican voters want him convicted in the Senate and removed from office?
EUGENE ROBINSON, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING COLUMNIST FOR THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, that`s a startling number at large and it`s the kind of startling number that you`d like to see replicated in other polls, before you set your hair on fire.
But if I were in the White House, I might be setting my hair on fire now, because it does indicate whether it`s 18 percent - even if it`s just 10%, that`s a very, very bad sign for a President Trump right now.
And I think perhaps as worrisome is, when you look at independents, who - that whole poll really had it half and half as to whether he should be impeached and removed or not. That`s a real incredibly quick shift in public opinion, and it just says that the Ukraine phone call and what lies behind it has really cut through the fog.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and EJ, before the Ukraine phone call, when Nancy Pelosi was holding back on impeachment, there was a theory out there that said the public support for impeachment isn`t there because you`re holding back.
And if you move into a leadership role on impeachment, then leadership will pull the polls with it. But is it your sense that this is about Nancy Pelosi`s steady leadership on this, since the Ukraine phone call, or the actual evidence itself?
EJ DIONNE JR., OP-ED COLUMNIST FOR THE WASHINGTON POST AND VISITING PROFESSOR AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, I think it`s a bit of both. I think that in a way, the fact that she held back, waited for the Ukraine phone call and then said OK, even though I didn`t want to do this, I`ve got to do this now, probably gives more credibility to the inquiry to what she did.
On the other hand, doing this immediately rallied Democratic support for impeachment. But as you and Eugene said, what`s really striking here is how potentially weak Trump is among Republicans.
I wrote a piece a couple days ago saying that the Trump base is way smaller than he thinks it is and a lot of other people do. If you ask people, not just do they approve of Trump, but do they strongly approve of him. In the recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, only 24% of Americans strongly approved of him, 44% strongly disapproved of him.
If you are going into an impeachment fight, which of those bases would you rather have? And so, I think when we look at what Trump did today, putting the brakes on everything, no cooperation, no witnesses, I think he looked at what happened over the last three weeks and said, whatever we`re doing, it isn`t working and we`ve got to stop - try to stop this somehow. So they`re throwing sand in all the gears.
O`DONNELL: Eugene, it seems like we`re going to need very soon state-by- state polls to understand what might happen in the Senate. For example, we need to see polling on these questions in Maine, where Susan Collins could be interested in what voters in Maine are thinking about this in her reelection campaign, and other states where Republicans are up for reelection where it could really turn their vote one way or the other on impeachment.
ROBINSON: Yes, and those Senators will hear from their constituents as well. It`d be nice to have some polling. But you`re already hearing not any sort of full-scale abandonment of the White House, far from it, but some hedging, some let`s wait for the facts, some we don`t know enough yet, some - and from those endangered Republican Senators.
You`re starting to hear something less than the full-scale it`s all the biggest witch hunt in American history, you are trying to overthrow the election, that sort of rhetoric that you get from others, and I think that`s with good reason. This will be a tough vote for some of them, when it comes to a vote.
O`DONNELL: The Washington Post poll has a new number on the ultimate question here, which is remove from office. It says, should Trump be impeached and removed from office, and you have 49% saying yes, he should be convicted in the Senate, removed from office. 44% say no.
And EJ, when that number - that`s the first time that number has moved up to more saying yes, remove him from office, than no.
DIONNE JR.: That`s right. And you`ve seen this ever since the Ukraine story broke. There has been this steady movement in this direction, and there`s no sign that it`s going to stop moving this way.
And I think what`s really striking about Republicans is how silent they`ve been. And opponents of the President often say, well gee the Republicans don`t have the guts to speak up against him, which is broadly true. But it`s also striking they don`t have the guts to defend him, given what the facts are in this case, because they don`t know where this story goes.
And I think for the first time in this Presidency, you`re seeing a lot of Republicans express doubts, some explicitly, like Senators Romney and Portman. But others, just by saying nothing whatsoever, that silence right now has got to be worrying Donald Trump. And with that silence, will come further movement in the polls against Trump.
O`DONNELL: We have to squeeze in a break here. But when we come back, I want to talk about this Romney effect and what has been Donald Trump`s silence about Mitt Romney, since that initial attack on him and what that tells us about what other Republican Senators could expect. We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: Impeachment Romney, how`s that going for Donald Trump. And we are back with Eugene Robinson and EJ Dionne. And Eugene, Mitt Romney comes out and says that what the President did on that phone call was wrong basically. President Trump attacks him in one blast on Twitter on Saturday, saying impeach the United States Senator, which is impossible.
And that`s it, and then Donald Trump goes quiet, none of this hammering Mitt Romney every day like he used to when anyone in the Republican side would cross him.
ROBINSON: That`s right, and he`s clearly - for Trump, this is what walking on eggshells looks like, right.
ROBINSON: I mean, this is trying to tread carefully. Because, he came out of that blast, it was his usual sort of make an example out of them to show the others to stay in line. And then he backed off and I think it`s because he must have sensed that that was not playing the way he had hoped it would play.
And it certainly wasn`t bringing out the chorus of voices in robust support of him and defense of him, because as EJ said, there`s been a lot of silence out there. And so, I think he doesn`t quite know what to do.
O`DONNELL: And EJ, Mitt Romney has a record of saying some things that bother Donald Trump and then kind of getting back in line. He`s not getting back in line.
DIONNE JR.: No, really I mean Lord knows given how many times he`s gone back and forth. I`m not going to ever predict he`ll never switch again. But he seems very locked in here. And what he has going for him is he represents Utah, which is a Republican state, where there was a lot of opposition to Trump.
Evan McMullan, the third-party candidate, got a lot of votes in Utah. I don`t think Mitt Romney faces problems in his state the way Senators from other staunch Republicans would face problems in their states, where Trump`s support is really deep.
And if Trump were impeached, you know who might want to run in 2020, that would be Mitt Romney.
O`DONNELL: EJ gets the last word in this segment tonight. EJ Dionne, Eugene Robinson, thank you both for joining us, really appreciate it.
And when we come back, we all saw Donald Trump publicly ask for China`s help in his reelection campaign last week, but he doesn`t ever have to ask for Russia`s help anymore, because he knows Russia has never stopped trying to help Donald Trump win the Presidency and hold on to the Presidency in his reelection campaign. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee, which unlike the House Intelligence Committee still operates in a traditional bipartisan way, released a bipartisan report detailing how Russia directed a disinformation campaign in the 2016 election to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.
The Republicans and the Democrats on the Committee found that Russian operatives "sought to influence the 2016 US Presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton`s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin."
The Committee wrote that Russian social media disinformation efforts were part of a "broader sophisticated and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society. Activity on social media did not cease, but rather increased after Election Day.
And so, the information war continues and it is detailed in Richard Stengel`s new book Information Wars. Rick Stengel was Undersecretary of State in the Obama administration and he was the State Department`s point man in the information wars.
After this break, Rick Stengel will join us with what to expect in the 2020 Presidential election, when the President of the United States is actively encouraging foreign countries to interfere in our election. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (Interpreted): Yes, I did. Yes I did, because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And during our discussion now, Richard Stengel, a former Undersecretary of State in the Obama administration and an MSNBC Political Analyst. He`s author of the new book Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It.
This book now lands dead center in our news, with President Trump participating in the information wars right there in the driveway at the White House with the helicopter in the background, telling China please jump in here and help.
RICHARD STENGEL, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE IN OBAMA ADMINISTRATION, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST, AND AUTHOR OF INFORMATION WARS: HOW WE LOST THE GLOBAL BATTLE AGAINST DISINFORMATION AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT: He`s the disinformation-in-chief, he`s the epicenter of disinformation around the world.
In fact, I`m glad you started with Putin, because the story starts with Putin and it starts in Ukraine. It starts when Putin annexed Crimea in 2014, and we saw this tsunami of disinformation around it.
I mean I`ve been in media my whole life, I had never seen all of this Russian stuff. And what happened was, what they were doing for the Russian periphery then to justify Putin`s lies, they then transferred here in 2016.
That`s when the Internet Research Agency was started, which he talked about earlier, and they used everything they learned around the annexation of Crimea in 2014 to use it here, and it worked.
O`DONNELL: You went from editor of Time Magazine into the State Department, where you were put in charge of this information war. I mean there are other areas, obviously NSA and others, that are fighting the war in a very different way and with many more kinds of weapons as it were.
But the State Department was heavily involved in trying to intercede in this information war. Now, there`s nothing happening in this administration that`s comparable to what you were doing in the Obama administration.
STENGEL: No, but one of the things I learned is that government isn`t actually the best place to counter disinformation. Remember, so much of disinformation that people believe is about how bad government is. And then when government says, no we`re good and you guys are wrong, people don`t believe that.
So I actually don`t think that government is the answer, which is not to say that government should be doing nothing like they`re doing now. In fact, as you say, Trump welcomed the Chinese to come and interfere in our election.
You just can`t do that. And the problem with government trying to do this is that the enemies use that against us, and it just doesn`t work.
O`DONNELL: You add to the relatively narrow scope of the Mueller Rapport in here though. The Mueller Report says basically what Senate Committee said today, but you widen that frame.
STENGEL: Yes, I mean one of the things that - I mean the Mueller Report turns out to have been very narrow. It was written by prosecutors, they were looking for people to indict. What we saw from the State Department is what the Internet Research Agency was doing was complemented by what traditional Russian media did.
TASS, Russia today, Ruckly (ph) and it was even complemented more by what the Russian Foreign Ministry did. Foreign Minister Lavrov used to echo the stuff that the trolls were doing from the Internet Research Agency. It was all aligned, it`s a whole-of-government effort which is the thing we always try to achieve.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and so what Mueller was finding was just this particular attack group--
O`DONNELL: --in Moscow that was going straight into the election.
STENGEL: And they are potent, and what scares me frankly about 2020 is trying to recruit trolls here in America, people who are sympathetic to the Russian point of view or think those Russian trolls are actually Trump folks.
O`DONNELL: I wanted to spend more time on 2020 with information wars, we`re going to have to have you come back and do that, because that`s really where we are now, is what happens now and your book is the map for what`s going to be happening next.
Rick Stengel, thank you very much for joining us. Information Wars is the name of Rick`s new book.
And that is tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.