Giuliani associates arrested. TRANSCRIPT: 10/10/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Evan McMullin, Norm Orenstein, Rick Wilson, Paul Rosenzweig

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

I have your schedule in front of me, and it says, you have to race to the airport.  Go. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  I do.  Bye. 

O`DONNELL: Bye.

Kellyanne Conway`s husband, George Conway, and 15 other conservative lawyers have co-signed a statement urging the House of Representatives to expedite its impeachment investigation of the president and move to a potential trial in the Senate as soon as possible.  One of the co-signers of that statement will join us at the end of this hour.  And that is the only co-signer of that letter who has worked on an impeachment case, himself.  He was one of the prosecutors whose investigation led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton.  He now wants Donald Trump impeached and removed from office. 

Two of the three people who we know were scheming together to do Donald Trump`s bidding with Ukraine have been indicted and arrested.  Here`s the one who did not get arrested today, and here is what Rudy Giuliani said about his friends getting arrested by the FBI last night: All I can tell you about this arrest is it comes at a very suspicious time.

Well, we can tell you a little bit more about the arrest.  The two associates of Rudy Giuliani who have been working with him on Ukraine were arrested for campaign finance violations on indictments brought by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York -- the very same prosecutors who got Donald Trump`s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to plead guilty to campaign finance violations that those prosecutors were said were done at the direction of Donald Trump in what they called a conspiracy against the United States to win the presidential election. 

The special agony of this for Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani is that it turns out the prosecutor who has done the most damage in Trump world was appointed by Donald Trump to be the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, which was Rudy Giuliani`s old job.  That`s the job that brought Rudy Giuliani to fame in New York City.  That`s the job Rudy Giuliani used as his platform to run for mayor of New York City. 

There is no appointment that Donald Trump regrets more tonight than making Geoffrey Berman the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.  That pains him more than "Mad Dog" Mattis or Rex Tillerson, or John Bolton or Reince Priebus, or any of the fired members of the Trump administration. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY:  Good afternoon.  I`m Geoff Berman, United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.  Today, we unsealed a indictment charging Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and two co-defendants for their alleged participation in schemes that violate the federal campaign finance laws by repeatedly using straw donors and foreign money. 

Parnas and Fruman were arrested around 6:00 p.m. last night at Dulles Airport as they were about to board an international flight with one-way tickets. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  The movie writes itself.  They`re ready to leave Washington from Dulles Airport with one-way first-class plane tickets in their hands to Frankfurt, Germany, perhaps knowing that the feds are closing on them, perhaps not.  Perhaps knowingly fleeing the country, perhaps not. 

They`re watching the minutes tick down.  That`s according to one eyewitness in "The New York Times", they are drinking and eating the free food and in the Lufthansa`s first-class lounge, when the first-class passengers are invited to board the plane before everyone else, they make their way toward the plane when suddenly two plain-clothes officers suddenly stopped them, one of them says, we need to see your passports. 

If the FBI had decided to arrest them a little earlier that day at lunch in Washington at the Trump Hotel, Rudy Giuliani would have been sitting right beside them. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN:  As alleged in the indictment, the defendants broke the law to gain political influence while avoiding disclosure of who`s actually making the donations and where the money was coming from.  They saw political influence not only to advance their own financial interests but to advance the political interests of at least one foreign official, a Ukrainian government official who sought the dismissal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, is scheduled to voluntarily testify in a meeting tomorrow in a closed-door deposition.  But President Trump and the White House counsel and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated they`re ready to block all testimony and all documents being handed over to the investigative committees but there is nothing they can do to stop the U.S. attorney from the Southern District of New York. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN:  Protecting the integrity of our elections and protecting our elections from unlawful foreign influence are core functions of our campaign finance laws.  And as this office has made clear, we will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute those who engage in criminal conduct that draws into question the integrity of our political process.  And I want to add that this investigation is continuing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  This investigation is continuing. 

So, if you`re someone who spent a lot of time with Parnas and Fruman like, say, Rudy Giuliani, this might be a good time to start worrying about what the guy who now has your old job is up to.  It is standard practice at moments like this for the U.S. attorney to thank the investigators who brought a case this far, including FBI investigators.  But today, with the FBI under constant attack by the president of the United States, those words of thanks did not sound like the standard round of "thank yous" you give people at the office. 

It sounded like a pointed defiance of the president of the United States by the man who the president appointed as his U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN:  I also want to thank our partner in this case and so many of our important cases, the New York office of the FBI represented here today, to my left, Bill Sweeney, my good friend, the assistant director in charge of the New York field office, to his left, Mike Driscoll, the special agent in charge of the criminal division.  And to his left, George Cazami (ph), the special agent in charge of public corruption at the FBI. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  And there is some really good news revealed in the indictment of Rudy Giuliani`s associates.  In the specific candidate elections that they criminally tried to influence with their illegal contributions, their Republican candidates lost.  Republican Congressman Pete Sessions lost his re-election campaign in 2018, even though he took the illegal money. 

In Nevada, they tried to win the governorship for Adam Laxalt and Republican Adam Laxalt lost.  They tried to win the Nevada attorney general`s race for Republican Wesley Karl -- Wesley Karl Duncan.  And they lost.  And last night at Dulles Airport, they lost big-time. 

This afternoon, Donald Trump denied knowing Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman but "ProPublica" reported this afternoon that Lev Parnas posted photographs of their dinner at the White House with Donald Trump, on Facebook.  It`s all there. 

Leading off our discussion tonight, Chuck Rosenberg, a former senior FBI official, former U.S. attorney and a former counsel to Robert Mueller at the FBI.  He now hosts the MSNBC podcast, "The Oath."  Also joining us tonight, Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the northern district of Alabama and an MSNBC legal analyst.  And Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative, former independent presidential candidate.  He is the co-founder of Stand Up Republic. 

And, Chuck Rosenberg, I want to start with you, and I actually want to start with that moment which would have been ignorable in news accounts, anyway, and as we know is routine, where the U.S. attorney turns to the FBI and thanks them for their work that got them this far.  In today`s atmosphere with a president of the United States attacking the FBI relentlessly as he has done, that moment stood out in a way that really it shouldn`t have, but for me, it really did stand out. 

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  I think that`s fair, Lawrence.  You know, Joyce and I as former U.S. attorneys have both done that.  We`ve thanked leaders of the FBI and the ATF and the DEA for cases that they brought, but you`re right.  The FBI has been under attack.  And so, for a United States attorney to stand up and publicly thank them and thank them for profusely is not only the right thing to do but also helps send a message that these men and women in the FBI and the U.S. attorney`s offices are not political. 

By and large, they are career investigators and prosecutors doing hard work day in and day out.  And so, the thank you was both appropriate and I think needed.

O`DONNELL:  And, Joyce, what does this for these defendants now as possible witnesses to Congress? 

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  It`s an interesting question, Lawrence.  I think the U.S. attorney`s office in the southern district will want the first bite at these defendants as possible witnesses.  When you engage in this sort of an indictment and bring these sorts of defendants in and say that the investigation is ongoing, it often means that you have an interest in whether or not these defendants have any cooperation to offer that could lead to prosecution of bigger fish.  So that, I think, is the first order of business. 

It`s a little bit unusual to have witnesses and defendants in federal cases whose appearance is wanted in front of Congress, but I think it`s a safe bet if Congress issues subpoenas that the U.S. Marshal, the U.S. attorney, the Justice Department, will work with Congress to figure out a suitable and appropriate way for Congress to acquire the testimony that it`s lawfully entitled to. 

O`DONNELL:  But, Joyce, aren`t they very likely to just take the Fifth Amendment now on every question? 

VANCE:  You know, that`s a possibility with every witness.  Certainly once you`ve been indicted, you can`t take the Fifth Amendment on every question, only on the questions where your answers would tend to inculpate you to make you guilty of a crime or offer evidence of that.  But it`s likely that there would be a lot of that going on unless some sort of a deal is worked out, and frankly, if these defendants are smart, and if they receive the benefit of competent counsel, they will quickly begin to think about the fact that their best option if they don`t want to spend many years in prison would be to think about areas where they could cooperate and what truthful and complete testimony they might be able to offer to prosecutors in the Southern District. 

O`DONNELL:  Evan McMullin, let`s pull back and look at what this story is in its basic shape.  Close adviser to the president, Rudy Giuliani, on a special mission for the president, Rudy Giuliani engages these two guys to help him out and tonight, those two people who were invited to the White House for dinner with the president because they were so valuable to Rudy Giuliani and the president on the Ukraine mission, those two people are indicted and arrested. 

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE:  That`s right.  I think we have a lot more, obviously, to learn about these guys.  But let`s just keep in mind, you know, what we know already.  We know that they were funneling money that came from a Ukrainian with Russian roots and Russian ties.  So, could that be Russian money actually? 

So who were these guys to have those contacts?  That`s interesting.  They were in the middle of an effort to get the U.S. ambassador at the time fired and replaced.  They were, you know, helping Giuliani pursue foreign election assistance for the president.  They were involved in funneling illegal money as they were indicted on today to U.S. politicians. 

I mean, I really, you know, these guys were a nexus of activity and I believe there`s a lot more to learn about them, a lot more to learn about their activities.  We know they spent time in the White House and with the president, as you showed, obviously, with Giuliani.  But who else know about them?  What other contacts did they have in Ukraine, in Russia, in the United States, in the administration? 

Guys like this, especially guys who are this sloppy, which I got to tell you they seem quite sloppy, they leave -- they leave a lot of trail, a lot of crumbs, a lot of evidence along the way of their wrongdoing.  And I think there`s a lot more to learn here about these guys and about those who were involved in the administration with them. 

O`DONNELL:  Chuck Rosenberg, reports indicate that Attorney General William Barr was kept posted on this investigation.  So he knew the investigation was going on.  He apparently knew that the indictment was being issued.  He knew the arrests were going to be made. 

There are people who`ve been watching Attorney General Barr, people out there in the country, in our audience, who I think regard him as a protector of the president in all things.  If -- if William Barr wanted to protect the president from any effect of this investigation, could he have shut it down? 

ROSENBERG:  That would be very, very hard to do.  By design, Lawrence, the U.S. attorney`s office, the U.S. attorney community, has an extraordinarily thin political layer.  For instance, in the Southern District of New York, the only political appointee is the U.S. attorney, Geoffrey Berman.  Everyone else in that office, everyone else, is a career prosecutor, a career support person, a career analyst and the like. 

And so, the notion that an attorney general could shot down a valid and predicated investigation in the U.S. attorney`s office seems to me to be pretty farfetched.  By the way, one minor point that I`d like to make, as U.S. attorneys, again, Joyce and I had this experience, we have an obligation to file reports with the Department of Justice, with Main Justice, when we`re bringing a significant case.  They`re called urgent reports and they go to the deputy attorney general and often to the attorney general. 

So there`s nothing inherently nefarious about notifying an attorney general.  It would only be, of course, improper if he or she did something to thwart or undermine the case.  But, again, I think that`s really hard to do. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Joyce, is it just -- when Chuck says it`s really hard to do, just walk us through it.  If an attorney general did try to block an investigation like this, and I`m not suggesting that William Barr would do that, but just for the audience I want to walk through what would happen.  Would a U.S. attorney resign, for example?  Would a career prosecutor go to the inspector general of the Justice Department?  What might happen? 

VANCE:  You know, prosecutors tend to be people who understand the department`s traditions and its practices very well.  And prosecutors and the agents that they work with feel very strongly about their cases especially when they`re ready for indictment and especially when there`s something as important as protecting the integrity of American elections.  So, I would expect that if something like this were to happen, and I think as Chuck says, there`s no indication that it happened here, every indication to the contrary, and the urgent report would have been transmitted to Washington within something like 72 hours of filing an important case like this, in any event.

But prosecutors and agents have begun to show concern to their supervisors, if they were told the case couldn`t move forward.  And I think ultimately you would see protests at every level in a U.S. attorney`s office with everyone from line prosecutors and line agents on all the way up to the U.S. attorney who as Chuck points out is the only political appointee in every U.S. attorney`s office, you would see those resignations in protest. 

If they were told they couldn`t move forward with a case that they had appropriate evidence on and reason to believe that they could obtain and sustain a conviction in. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Evan McMullin, I referred in my opening that the movie writes itself, but in some ways it`s a bad movie.  Meaning the scene right before the airport is these two guys having lunch with Rudy Giuliani, which is an OK scene, but it`s at the Trump Hotel in Washington, which is just too on the nose.  That`s the bad movie version of that scene. 

They would have that lunch in some other location and some -- they`d make a more discreet choice in the good movie.  It feels like we`re watching the bad movie of this stuff. 

MCMULLIN:  Yes.  Well, I think what we`re seeing here, Lawrence, is just the brazenness of the administration and its -- and its supporters, its allies, to break the law in pursuit of illegal election help and other corrupt activities.  I mean, the idea that they would sort of be involved in these kinds of activities and sort of meet openly and sort of demonstrate all their connections on social media openly while engaged in these kinds of activities, I mean, it is tremendously sloppy.  But it also, I think, more importantly, shows that they believe they`re operating in an environment, or they were, they probably have a different idea now, but they believe they were operating in an environment where they didn`t have to be careful, where they could engage in this kind of activity and they were going to be protected. 

Why -- we should ask why and we should want to know why they felt so sure of that. 

O`DONNELL:  Well, when the president of the United States is on your team, you might feel pretty --

MCMULLIN:  That`s right. 

O`DONNELL:  -- protected. 

MCMULLIN:  That`s what I`m getting at. 

O`DONNELL:  I want to introduce some more breaking news we`re dealing with at this hour from the "Washington Post," it expands significantly on a passage in the whistle-blower`s official report about Donald Trump`s conversation with the president of Ukraine in which, of course, Donald Trump solicited the help from the president of Ukraine in his re-election campaign by asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. 

The whistleblower`s report, remember, says this: the White House officials who told me this information were deeply disturbed by what had transpired in the phone call.  They told me that there was already a discussion ongoing with White House lawyers about how to treat the call because of the likelihood in the official`s retelling that they had witnessed the president abuse his office for personal gain.

In other words, they were concerned that they witnessed the president possibly committing a crime or an impeachable offense. 

And here is what the "Washington Post" is adding to that tonight: At least four national security officials were so alarmed by Trump administration`s attempts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes that they raised concerns with a White House lawyer both before and immediately after President Trump`s July 25th call with that country`s president, according to U.S. officials and other people familiar with the matter.  Those concerns soared in the call`s aftermath, officials said.  Within minutes, senior officials including national security adviser John Bolton were being pinged by subordinates about problems with what the president had said to his Ukrainian counterpart. 

Bolton and others scrambled to obtain a rough transcript that was already being locked down on a highly classified computer network."  "The Washington Post" least one official went immediately to John Eisenberg, a White House lawyer for national security matters. 

Joining our conversation now is Jeremy Bash.  He`s an MSNBC national security analyst and former chief of staff at CIA, and the Defense Department. 

Jeremy, I want to get your reaction to that new "Washington Post" reporting, indicating people in the White House were worried about this phone call before it happened.  And then after it happened, they went into red alert about it. 

JEREMY BASH, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST:  That`s right.  Well, since the election of President Zelensky in the spring earlier this year, there had been a campaign that had been launched, directed clearly by the president in conjunction with Rudy Giuliani to pressurize Zelensky, to present this ultimatum to him that -- and to require him to support the president`s re-election campaign.  And, of course, as the military aid, as the security assistance for Ukraine was hanging in the balance, the pressure went up. 

And it kind of culminated in the July 25th phone call but there was this time period even beforehand when senior national security officials, according to this reporting, were able to see exactly the way the president was conducting this shadow secret parallel foreign policy with Ukraine for political purposes.  And so, they were on guard.  When this phone call happened, I think they immediately knew this wasn`t merely Trump being Trump.  He wasn`t joking around.  He wasn`t just not playing by the rules. 

This was a deliberate, carefully orchestrated effort by him and others, including Rudy Giuliani, to pressure the Ukrainian president to, quote, play ball and to provide that political dirt on Joe Biden. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Chuck Rosenberg, to the point that the "Washington Post" raises that people in the White House were worried about the phone call before the phone call happened.  That would be part of interpreting what was going on in that phone call once you`re taking a look at that rough transcript of it. 

ROSENBERG:  Yes, that`s absolutely right.  And, by the way, Lawrence, you know, on one hand, you have this president sort of abusing his authority, acting in a really sort of dramatically nefarious way for personal political gain.  On the other hand, this gives me some hope, you have a cadre of career national security officials, career diplomats, career professionals, who know what wrong looks like and did something about it, right? 

I mean, the reason we`re talking about this, the reason we know about it, is because folks stepped forward.  Maybe at personal risk to their own careers, their own profession, their own reputation, and let us know what they saw and heard.  And so, in many ways, even though you had this remarkably broken apparatus in the White House led by the president, you also have career men and women doing their jobs and thank goodness for that. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Joyce, "The Washington Post" includes reporting about some of the things that preceded the phone call including the Bolton went ballistic scene.  And that involves the man who refused to testify to Congress this week, Ambassador Sondland, who was in a meeting in the White House where he started talking about what the president needed from Ukraine in terms of investigations and it says, senior officials understood Sondland`s statement to be a reference to Biden and Bolton went ballistic.

And then after the meeting, the official said, in the ensuing days, the NEC officials including Bolton huddled over their concerns for Ukraine.

And, Joyce, today`s the day when my speculation on the day John Bolton was fired that he would immediately be seeking a book deal that was confirmed, "Axios" reporting today that he`s got the book agent all lined up and this is going to be one of those stories that John Bolton, if he hasn`t already testified to Congress about it, will probably be telling in his book. 

VANCE:  I think Congress will try their best to get his testimony before them.  As a former employee, he has very little shield to hide behind in terms of executive or some other kind of privilege unless he tries to carry the president`s water, as several of the former White House employees have so far, but Bolton hopefully will be brought before Congress pursuant to his subpoena, will be asked to testify because it`s clear that Bolton is one of the key players who`s involved in both the pre-action and the reaction to this call.

And to the extent that there`s a cover-up that occurs, Bolton would be a material witness to that and Congress needs to hear what he has to say.  You know, like Chuck says, there are a lot of people here who at great risk to themselves came forward, did the right thing.  I`m sure it was a difficult decision.  It was slow and it was halting. 

But now, it`s time for the American people to hear the truth and Bolton should not be permitted to avoid doing his duty in this regard. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Evan McMullin, John Bolton had the typically negative experience exiting the White House, being kicked out.  Well, actually John Bolton claiming he was resigning.  Trump claiming, I fired you before you could resign and you`re stupid, was basically Donald Trump`s exit gift.  John Bolton, we know, is the kind of person who would have a very strong personal reaction to that kind of exit. 

MCMULLIN:  Absolutely.  And, you know, I just, as we read these stories, the more we learn, I think it`s interesting that what`s emerging is this picture of Washington as this is happening, certainly in July, after July as well.  But really, everyone in Washington seems to have known about this and how problematic the president`s approach to Ukraine was and his holding of this military aid. 

You had officials in the White House even before the July 25th call who are concerned about it.  They heard the call.  They were even additionally concerned. 

Officials at OMB knew and were concerned.  Officials at the CIA were concerned.  Congress was concerned.  And we`re all learning about this.  The American people are learning about this, too, now. 

As the president continues to try to say, hey, there`s nothing to see here, what I did was perfect, my conversation was perfect, there`s nothing wrong with what I did.  Really what is emerging is this picture that everyone actually disagreed with him and everyone knew this was very wrong and very dangerous and very much not in the interest on a lot of levels of the American -- of the country and of the American people. 

And I think that`s going to be important as the impeachment process or the inquiry, at least, moves forward.  This sort of narrative that`s shaping up very clearly I think is going to be important for the education of the American people about what the problem was here as they and their representatives consider whether impeachment is appropriate. 

O`DONNELL:  Jeremy Bash, there`s a very interesting note raised in the "Washington Post" reporting tonight about behind the scenes in the White House, the kind of panic level before the president`s phone call to Ukraine and the increase in that panic level after the president`s phone call to Ukraine, and it makes the point that I had not considered before the "Washington Post" reported it that there is no inspector general for the White House.  And so, the people working in the White House who wanted some attention brought to this situation may have felt it necessary to go outside the White House to someone in the intelligence community, to someone who was under the jurisdiction of an inspector general, who that person could then report to. 

That may be the reason the whistleblower`s report was filed the way it was and the reason why his sources were people, in effect, coming from the White House where they didn`t have the same whistleblower mechanism that they could access that this whistle-blower could in the intelligence community. 

BASH:  I mean, that`s really smart, Lawrence.  Hadn`t thought of that, but you`re exactly right, which is that our whistleblower statutes protect individuals serving in various departments and agencies and, of course, Intelligence Community Whistleblower Act is fairly strong and it does protect, in this case, this initial whistleblower from any retaliation and White House officials may not enjoy that same. 

So I think we can potentially expect that others from the departments and agencies who enjoy that whistleblower protection may also be potential witnesses here.  And, again, I think it underscores the main point which is the conduct at issue, the president`s own conduct, we already know about it.  It`s already in the call record. 

There`s not much more we need to know in order to determine whether or not the president solicited foreign interference in the United States election. 

O`DONNELL:  Jeremy Bash, Joyce Vance, everyone -- Chuck Rosenberg, thank you all very much for joining us with this breaking news.  Really appreciate it. 

MCMULLIN:  Thank you. 

And when we come back, the poll numbers on impeachment and removal from office continue to rise.  The Fox News poll that showed a majority in favor of removing the president from office is now being supported by new polling today.  That has Republican senators who know impeachment is going to come to them in the Senate running scared.  You`ll see some video of that when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Not surprisingly the new Fox News Poll showing a majority of registered voters favors not just impeachment of the President but removal from office. Sent Donald Trump into a tizzy of lying about the impeachment polls and what they show.

The Fox News Poll is supported by other polls out today with similar numbers, but the Fox News Poll has Republican Senators worried at least as much as Donald Trump is worried about it. Republican Senators now know that impeachment is coming their way. Republican Senators now know that the House of Representatives is going to make them jurors in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump in the United States Senate on probably multiple articles of impeachment.

And by the time those articles of impeachment come to a trial in the Senate, that 51 percent supporting removal from office in the Fox News Poll might be higher. It might be much higher because that`s the way the polls are moving. Republican Senators know that support for impeachment and removal from office has only moved in one direction in the polls.

And so for Republican Senators who are up for re-election next year, in states that could easily go Democratic, the new Trump evidence of impeachable offenses and the new Fox News polling about impeachment have created a public minefield that they do not know how to navigate. They are desperate now.

Here is Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado who is currently running behind Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper in the polls in his re-election campaign in Colorado.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe it`s appropriate for the President of the United States to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival? Yes or no.

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R-CO): Look, this is what we`re going to get into it. The Senate Intelligence Committee is having an investigation, a bipartisan investigation. Unfortunately, though, what we`ve seen is a very political process takes over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the question is, is it appropriate for a President to be able--

GARDNER: Actually we`re going to have an investigation, it`s a non-partisan investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But Senator it is a yes-or-no question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It is a yes or no question. After this break, we`ll be joined by Rick Wilson and Norm Orenstein to consider the quickly changing politics of impeachment and why the polls on impeachment are all moving in the same direction only one direction. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Here is Former Trump National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster today saying what Republican Senators are so far afraid to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it is appropriate for the President of the United States to solicit foreign interference in our political process? Thank you.

H. R. MCMASTER, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Of course, no. No, it`s absolutely not. And, of course, what has to happen here is, you know, play - seeing our democracy play out, right? The separation of power play out and for the American people through the Representatives and the Representatives in Congress to make a judgment as to whether or not that happened. To answer your question directly, of course, it`s not appropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Norm Orenstein, Congressional Historian and Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and all-round Washington Wiseman who has been advising policymakers in Washington for decades. And Rick Wilson is with us, a Republican Strategist and Contributor to "The Daily Beast". He is the author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies."

Rick, I can never quite get through the title without cracking a little bit. Norm, let me begin with you. We just saw H.R. McMaster do it; wow it looked easy when he did it.

NORM ORENSTEIN, THE ATLANTIC CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: And it is easy. This is black-letter law and norms and built and baked into our political system. To watch Cory Gardner and before him Joni Ernst try not to even answer the simplest question here, really shows the dilemma that they feel and felt for the last two-plus years.

They`ve enabled Donald Trump. They have bowed to the way in which he has intimidated them with pressure including from that base that is in their states. And they`ve sat through what we now see as a level of corruption that is unparalleled in our history. It`s like you go into a house and there`s a body and suddenly in every room and under every table there`s another one and it`s cascading and it`s going to get worse and we`re going to see people turning.

Sondland now, going to give a deposition despite what the Secretary of State said, the Ambassador to the EU. More rats will leave the sinking ship and it`s going to change the dynamic here. Maybe moral cowards will get a little bit of spine but not because they`ve become moral, only because they`re cowardice turns them in another direction.

O`DONNELL: Now in contrast to H.R. McMaster, let`s take a look at Mike Pence. It`s Vaughn Hillyard who is just putting a very simple question to Mike Pence. Let`s watch this struggle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you ever aware, Mr. Vice president, the interest in the Bidens that the interest in investigating the Bidens was at least in part of the reason for aid to Ukraine being held up?

MICHAEL PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: I - I never discussed the issue of - the issue of the Bidens with President Zelensky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the administration, were you ever aware within the administration--

PENCE: What I can tell you is that all our discussions internally, the President and our team and our contacts and my office with Ukraine were entirely focused on the broader issues, the lack of European support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you were aware of the interest--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Rick, the question was very simply, were you ever aware that the Bidens were part of the equation dealing with Ukraine? And President Trump. I think the real answer was my lawyers have not told me how to answer that question yet.

RICK WILSON, THE DAILY BEAST CONTRIBUTOR: I think you`re exactly right, Lawrence. I think that Mike Pence is in a very odd position right now. The one hand, he`s in this minefield where if he reveals anything that he knows, Trump`s fury with him could lead to very, very bad consequences.

If he lies about it, he`s going to get dinged when the investigation grinds on which as you correctly point out, this is going to continue and as Norm pointed out, this is going to continue. It`s going to peel back more layers. There will be more moments where we discover maybe Mike Pence was in the room, maybe he wasn`t, maybe he had these discussions, maybe he didn`t.

But the paranoia and the fear and the constant sense that you`re in the middle of a minefield with Donald Trump is going to lead all these people, they`re going to all stonewall, they`re all going to hold it back until the very last minute, but once that first mover starts taking the deals, and once that first mover decides they`re going to get out the door and not be a part of this - the ship that`s not only full of rats but on fire headed into a volcano at the same time, they`re going to make a decision that they have to, you know, have some political survival imperatives are going to kick in at some point.

O`DONNELL: And, Norm, Donald Trump is the very first President running for re-election who is actually having - facing polling on the question of his impeachment. We`ve never seen a President in an impeachment situation running for re-election. The other numbers in the Fox News Poll are absolutely devastating to a President running for re-election. They`re getting overshadowed by impeachment numbers.

Let`s take a look at those. They show three Democrats with ten-point leads basically on Donald Trump. Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in the Fox News Poll 50 - 40. Elizabeth Warren, exactly the same result, 50 - 40. Ten points ahead of the incumbent President. Bernie Sanders nine points ahead there at 49 - 40. Those would be big headline polling numbers if we didn`t have a bigger headline polling number in the impeachment number.

ORESNSTEIN: I`d like to see them ask the question of whether a potted plant would do well against Donald Trump. I think it would be 50 - 40 as well. But, you know, one of the things that`s so interesting here is Trump defines fake news as anything that`s bad about him. And now all of a sudden, Fox News is purveying fake news and he`s going after his allies as well.

And those allies are going to start to behave in a different fashion when, as Rick said, the layers are peeled off even a little bit more. It`s astonishing to me that we haven`t seen a little more of that. And, you know, we have the people up for re-election who are scared to death. The deer`s in the headlights.

You look at a Lamar Alexander who`s retiring who still will not come out for impeachment and it shows you the level of cult like behavior in the party. It`s going to take a while.

O`DONNELL: But, Rick, part of that is for some of the Republican Senators, they now know that the House of Representatives is going to send them this case. It`s coming their way. They could--

WILSON: They know it.

O`DONNELL: --encourage the House or not. It`s not going to matter. The Democrats are going to vote articles of impeachment, send them over to the Senate. So those Republican Senators have time to think about this as it comes at them.

WILSON: They do have time, and they`re all sweating it very heavily right now. And this is why they`re issuing statements, for instance, on the question in Syria right now, these anodyne statements saying, oh, I oppose the administration`s position. They`re starting to establish a little bit of daylight here and there without mentioning Donald Trump by name because they`re not going to find their courage until after their filing deadlines in their respective states.

So I think that the danger here is that they know this is coming from the House. They also know that every presidential referendum, election is a referendum on the incumbent. This is a question on the incumbent referendum. They`re going be judged on this.

O`DONNELL: Rick Wilson, Norm Orenstein, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

ORENSTEIN: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Kellyanne Conway`s husband is leading a group of conservative lawyers making a case for an expedited impeachment investigation, and instead of just tweeting about it, we actually heard Kellyanne Conway`s husband speak about it yesterday. It`s the first time we`ve heard George Conway`s voice in over a year. That`s next.

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O`DONNELL: Donald Trump has no more determined opponent than Kellyanne Conway`s husband George Conway, who has spent his career on the conservative side of the street in Washington as a Washington lawyer. George Conway tweets almost as much as Donald Trump, but it has been about a year, a little less than a year since we have heard him make a public comment in his own voice.

He finally did speak yesterday on Preet Bharara`s podcast, and this is what he had to say about the man his wife works for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE CONWAY, KELLYANNE CONWAY`S HUSBAND: He can`t take into account the interests of the country. He can`t take into account the interests of the constitution. He can`t take into account his duties, and he puts his self, his own interest above the country`s in almost any circumstance.

And that`s exemplified by the most recent scandal, the Ukraine scandal, where he`s essentially using his office - he is using his office, using the power of potentially withholding funds or even simply the power of the presidency to extort a smaller nation to try to get that nation to issue some kind of a statement against Trump`s principle political rival.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: One thing George Conway is mystified by is why Republicans in Congress and Republicans working in the Trump White House and the Trump Administration continue to support Donald Trump. Preet Bharara asked a question that seems to have liked a wicked obvious answer, and here`s how that went.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREET BHARARA, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY FOR SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Are there people you`re most disappointed in this regard?

CONWAY: I think this disappointment runs very broadly. It`s just amazing to me that there - that there really isn`t anyone? And I don`t mean to be - it`s just disappointing to me that there isn`t somebody of some stature who`s willing to just say this man`s unfit because they all know it. They just all know it. You know they know it. And I don`t know what`s so hard about saying it. It`s obvious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It`s obvious. I wonder who he could be disappointed in. One person he`s not disappointed in is Republican conservative lawyers who cosigned a statement with George Conway saying that the House of Representatives should move quickly on the impeachment investigation into President Trump.

That Republican lawyer who cosigned it with him, who knows something about impeachment will join us. He was one of the lawyers in the special prosecutor`s office investigation led to the impeachment of President Clinton. He now wants President Trump impeached by the House of Representatives and removed by the Senate. He will join us next.

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O`DONNELL: Paul Rosenzweig who was one of the prosecutors that led to the impeachment of President Clinton believes the evidence is clear in the Trump/Ukraine phone call rough transcripts brought out by the White House. Paul Rosenzweig told "The Washington Post" it strikes me that no reasonable attorney can doubt that there was a quid pro quo here.

I would vote for impeachment and I would vote for conviction and removal in the Senate as well. Joining us is Paul Rosenzweig. He cosigned a statement along with George Conway and 14 other conservative lawyers with Washington experience who are all urging the House of Representatives to expedite the impeachment of President Trump.

Paul, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. You were last with us in May when you found the Mueller report to be sufficient evidence to go forward with an impeachment proceeding in the House of Representatives. You now find the Ukraine phone call to be, what, even stronger evidence or just additional evidence?

PAUL ROSENZWEIG, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT, SECRETARY FOR POLICY: Well, if the Mueller report is the straw that broke the camel`s back, this is the straw that breaks the next six camels down the road. The President here is clearly using public authority to advance his personal interests.

And that`s not just inappropriate and illegal it`s an abuse of his office and an abuse of the public trust, and precisely the type of action that the founders viewed as unfit. Their primary concern at the time was foreign influence on America. And here we have a President who has walked right back into that history.

O`DONNELL: I want to listen to something that George Conway said yesterday on Preet Bharara`s Podcast, and this is about people working in Trump world, people working in Republican positions in Washington and why they do not come forward and resign if not just kind of hand over the goods on the President? Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY: I think the calculation they should be making is he is going to be gone at some point, and there is going to be a reckoning, and history isn`t going to be kind to people who said nothing or stood up for Trump. But that said, even if you don`t believe in that, it`s clear that they`re not sure which way to go, and if you`re not sure which way to go, why not just do the right thing?

BHARARA: Is your advice to people in his inner circle to quit?

CONWAY: If you can`t have a positive effect on him, and I don`t think anybody can, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Paul, I think he knows someone in the inner circle much better than you do, but you do know people in that world. What is your sense of why we haven`t seen a string of principled resignations from the Trump Administration over time?

ROSENZWEIG: Well, it`s hard for me to project, but I think it is - it is self justifying commitment. They went down this road with Trump, and long ago they believed wrongly, but maybe with not totally bad reason that he wouldn`t be as bad, that he`d surround himself with good people. They`d get some good policies.

And they`ve so committed themselves to him now that for them to leave at this point is essentially to admit that for the last two years, they`ve been wrong and they`ve had the wool pulled over their eyes by a charlatan. And that`s really hard for anybody to admit to. So now they`re in a position where to walk away is to say I`m an idiot. But to stay is to say I`m with this idiot.

O`DONNELL: I can`t think of a better way of putting it. Paul Rosenzweig gets tonight`s LAST WORD, and that word is "Idiot." Thank you, Paul, for joining us once again. We really appreciate it.

ROSENZWEIG: Thanks for having me.

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

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END