LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ari. Thank you very much.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Yes, sir.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, of course, they call themselves three amigos. That is our breaking news tonight. Of course they did. "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight that White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney organized a meeting in the spring of this year in the White House in which he put the three amigos in charge of Ukraine policy. The three amigos as they call themselves were Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the completely inexperienced Trump ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, and the special U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker.
"The Washington Post" reporting tonight that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent testified about the three amigos meeting in his under oath closed door deposition with the House impeachment committees today. George Kent met with investigators today despite being directed by the State Department not to do that.
According to officials familiar with the investigation, the State Department directed George Kent not to appear and sought to limit his testimony. The House Intelligence Committee then issued a last-minute subpoena ordering him to appear, and he complied with that subpoena. George Kent is the second top -- current State Department official to defy a request not to comply with the House`s impeachment inquiry, a request given to him by his employers at the State Department.
The first to do that was Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who President Trump ordered to be removed from her post. She is still State Department employee, but she did testify. "The New York Times" reports George Kent raised concerns to colleagues early this year about the pressure being directed at Ukraine by Mr. Trump and his private lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, to pursue investigations into Mr. Trump`s political rivals according to people familiar with Mr. Kent`s warnings.
As far back as March, they said, Mr. Kent pointed to Mr. Giuliani`s role in what he called a disinformation campaign intended to use Ukrainian prosecutor to smear Mr. Trump`s adversaries. Those included former Vice President Joseph Biden, Marie Yovanovitch, then the United States ambassador to Ukraine and Ukrainians who disseminated damaging information during the 2016 campaign about Mr. Trump`s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
Late last night, that -- "The New York Times" reported that then-national security adviser John Bolton was alarmed by the Ukraine scandal and told an aide to tell White House lawyers what was going on. "The Times" reports Mr. Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10th with Gordon Sondland, the Trump donor-turned-ambassador to the European Union, who was working with Rudolph Giuliani, the president`s personal lawyer, to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats according to three people who heard the testimony.
That is the testimony of Fiona Hill, President Trump`s former top Russian adviser who testified to impeachment investigators on Monday behind closed doors. According to "The New York Times," Fiona Hill testified that Mr. Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Mr. Sondland, Mr. Giuliani, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff according to people familiar with the testimony.
I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up. Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Ms. Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at that deposition.
And leading off our discussion tonight, are Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who`s a member of the House Oversight Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. He attended George Kent`s deposition today.
Also joining us, Jonathan Alter, columnist for "The Daily Beast", and an MSNBC political analyst. And Rick Wilson, Republican strategist and contributor to `The Daily Beast". He is the author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies."
And, Congressman Raskin, let me start with you and what you learn -- what can you tell us you learned from Mr. Kent today?
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, I cannot give you any particulars, unfortunately, about his testimony but let me tell you what I`ve learned from multiple witnesses who have come forward now from the State Department and the official American bureaucracy. There was basically an unofficial, illegitimate shadow foreign policy being conducted by Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, his henchmen, where they were engaged in a shakedown of the Ukrainian government in order to obtain their agreement to conduct a political hit against the Bidens.
And then they covered all of that up and buried it in the secret server, basically selling out our Constitution and our election. But the telephone call, which made all of this infamous, the July 25th call between President Trump and President Zelensky is really just the tip of the iceberg because this was an ongoing campaign of sabotage in Europe where they targeted a number of people.
One of those people was the ambassador, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who got sacked after a systematic disinformation and propaganda campaign that was waged against her. And she was one of the early casualties of the Giuliani campaign in Ukraine. That`s Ambassador Yovanovitch.
And I think that was a critical moment for a lot of people in the State Department when they woke up to the fact that Trump and Giuliani were engaged in this effort, totally illicit to undercut the U.S. foreign policy, which was designed to counter corruption but Giuliani`s team basically connected with the corruption and essentially wanted to take over the corruption racket in Ukraine.
O`DONNELL: And "The New York Times" is reporting tonight that there is kind of an investigation of sorts going on inside the White House, which seems to be what the "New York Times" is calling a search for a scapegoat, and they are focusing on John Eisenberg, he`s the White House counsel for national security. "The New York Times" quotes people who have seen what`s going on in there as saying Mr. Eisenberg is in a precarious position.
Congressman Raskin, have you detected in the evidence and the testimony that you`ve been getting a role that John Eisenberg has played in this that you could tell us about?
RASKIN: Well, unfortunately, I cannot, but I will tell you this. I think that there does seem to be growing sentiment among our GOP colleagues to find some scapegoats, some fall guys. I think that Rudy Giuliani right now is looking pretty lonely. Ambassador Sondland is looking pretty lonely, and I think there may be some effort to try to amputate them from Donald Trump and say, oh, he was the victim of all these people.
The problem is that the smoking gun in this investigation is what kicked it off. It was the phone call where Donald Trump reveals himself to be executing the scheme right there. You know, I want you to do us a favor, though. That pretty much captured the entire thing. He knew he was holding up $391 million in foreign military assistance that we in Congress had voted for a besieged Democratic alley resisting Russian aggression, all in order to get President Zelensky to agree to stage this political hit on the guy that Donald Trump was fearing as his opponent, Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden.
But what`s come out and what is coming out more and more every day, that this is really just the very top of the cake, if you will. It`s baked to the bottom with corruption. And there were financial schemes being executed there. There were political schemes that were being executed there, and all of it subverting the legitimate authority of the U.S. government.
The cardinal sin of this administration is that the president has converted the public office of the presidency into an instrument of private self- enrichment and political advancement. That is precisely what the founders of the Constitution warned us against. It`s why we`ve got the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses in the Constitution. It`s why the president can`t make any other money and it`s why he can`t sell us out to foreign powers. But that`s precisely what he`s been doing on an almost daily basis.
O`DONNELL: Rick Wilson, they didn`t wait to give us the insulting label three amigos. They proudly gave themselves that title, the masterminds of the Trump Ukraine policy.
RICK WILSON, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: You know, this is -- this is a group -- the old phrase the gang that couldn`t shoot straight. This is gang that doesn`t even understand that they`re setting themselves up for long-term mockery just by that name alone.
But what`s terrifying for Trump, I think, is that he was so involved in the communications with all these people, if you`re going to be the criminal mastermind, you have cutouts, you have dead drops, ways you`re not immediately touching the actual stinky part of the stick. Well, Donald Trump is talking to someone, he`s talking to all these guys and telling them here`s what I want you to say, here`s what I want to do. He`s been out there on the transcript of the call that he says it in public over and over again.
All these things, they prove that famous thing from Watergate. These are not bright guys and it got out of control. They`re not smart people.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, Mike Pence and Rudy Giuliani both today refusing to comply with subpoenas for documents from the House impeachment committees. Yet we see yet another member of the State Department currently employed by the State Department showing up to testify, cracking that wall that the Trump administration`s trying to put up.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And Mike McKinley, former ambassador to Brazil and Afghanistan and a couple of other countries, who has been in a senior position in the State Department, he has now resigned and is going to testify. So what you have here, Lawrence, is what you could call a patriotic surge.
So you remember Steve Bannon coined the phrase the deep state, right? It should be turned into a positive idea, the deep patriotic state. We`re fortunate in this country that we have career foreign service officers whose allegiance is to the United States and the Constitution, not to the person who happens to be president.
And they have served -- McKinley is going to testify this week, he`s been in the State Department since 1982. These are real professionals. They are very smart, capable people who`ve been trained and are experienced in looking out for the national interest. So there are now many whistle- blowers.
The idea that -- one is three weeks old. This is about the patriotic state moving in a direction that is very good for the country. So, I`m actually encouraged tonight. Are we out of the woods? No, there`s a long way to go. There will be bad weeks for those who want to hold Donald Trump accountable between now and the way the story eventually unfolds.
But the good guys are going to win because we have enough good guys in government right now.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Chairman Adam Schiff said about why the depositions are being held in a closed-door atmosphere now. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We`re doing these initial hearings in closed session and it makes a lot of sense to do that when you`re conducting an investigation because I`m sure the White House would like nothing more than to be able to get their stories straight by hearing what these witnesses have to say. And there are good and important investigative reasons not to let one witness know what another witness has said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congressman Raskin, this process obviously has similar versions elsewhere in the judicial system for grand juries, for example, and even trials in which witnesses are sequestered during the trial because they don`t want the witnesses to hear each other so they can get their stories straight. But one of the flaws in that concept here is that presumably the Republican members of your committees, many of them will relay as much as they possibly can, certainly to the Trump White House, about what`s been said in these depositions.
RASKIN: Right. Well, your first analogy, I think, is the most correct one, Lawrence. In an impeachment process, according to the Constitution, the House of Representatives is acting like a prosecutor and the grand jury. In a way you could view the Judiciary Committee and other impeachment committees as the prosecutors who will bring before the full house acting as a grand jury, the evidence, and then the House will vote.
At that point, it`s sent over to the Senate which will conduct a trial. I think a lot of our Republican colleagues are falling into the fallacy of thinking of the House as conducting a trial. That`s the point at which the due process protections will attach on both sides.
Meantime, what we are doing is basically what grand juries do. Some of the prior impeachments have the benefit of special counsels who are appointed, as with Kenneth Starr in the Nixon impeachment or Archibald Cox in the Nixon impeachment, Ken Starr in the Clinton impeachment, we don`t have that here. Mueller was very limited and circumscribed in time and scope to just the 2016 election, the Russian influence.
Remember that started as a counterintelligence investigation, but there`s nothing about Ukraine there. So we`re doing all of that factual assembly, we`re starting it right now. This is beginning of it, and we really don`t have time for all of the kind of theatrics and circus-like atmosphere which the Republicans created in the House Judiciary Committee when we were doing the Mueller investigation. We have to get right down to business so we`re being very sober, very methodical and very serious about it. We know that our colleagues would like to recreate the kind of circus atmosphere you saw with the Lewandowski hearing, which was probably the lowest moment in the whole impeachment process that was taking place in the Judiciary Committee.
But this is solemn, it`s behind closed doors. Now, the Republicans have tried to crash it. Matt Gaetz showed up, and said, even though he`s not a member of any of the relevant committees, said he wanted to be there, he delayed everything by 45 minutes or an hour.
So, we expect future antics and provocations by them, but Chairman Schiff is running a very serious and sober process. We`re getting all the evidence we need and we`re going to get that evidence and we`re going to be able to make serious recommendations to the Judiciary Committee.
O`DONNELL: Just briefly, Congressman, before we go to a break here, other than Matt Gaetz and that kind of theatrical he was doing in the cameras in the hallway, the members, the Republican members of the committee and the Republican staff members of the committee who were there, and the committees who are there, are they doing those kinds of theatrical slowdowns that we would see if this was a public event?
RASKIN: Well, we`re some polemics and some diatribes at the beginning of the hearings, which is to be expected. But I want to agree with what your other guests were saying tonight, that we have this parade of extremely capable, competent, patriotic government servants, public servants who have spent decades working in the government and working to advance the public interest.
And the juxtaposition is so striking between them and the kinds of people that we`re talking about in the Trump administration that I think it has somewhat shamed and embarrassed our colleagues and they are acting increasingly sheepish as these hearings go along. These are people who are standing up for the Constitution. They`re standing up for the government of the United States against these constant efforts to rip off the government, to undermine American democracy, and to shake down foreign allies.
It`s a very sordid tale being revealed here. When it`s done, there are going to be people who live in infamy because of what they`ve done. And people are going to live their lives in a respectable and honorable way and they will be quiet American heroes.
O`DONNELL: Now, Congressman, you`re making me feel sorry for Rick Wilson that he can`t watch the Republicans on those committees being shamed and embarrassed and sheepish. We`re just going to have to wait for the --
RASKIN: It`s coming, it`s coming. I bet you there will be some public --
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to leave it there for tonight.
Congressman Jamie Raskin, Jonathan Alter, and Rick Wilson, thank you all very much for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, it appears that the Southern District of New York is closing in on Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani used to be the boss of the U.S. attorneys office in the Southern District of New York. There is news tonight that former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions is cooperating with prosecutors in a subpoena that Rudy Giuliani is the primary focus of.
O`DONNELL: "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting tonight that former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions has been subpoenaed for documents related to Rudy Giuliani`s business dealings with Ukraine and his involvement in efforts to oust the U.S. ambassador in Kiev as well as any interactions between Mr. Sessions, Mr. Giuliani, and four of Mr. Giuliani`s associates who were indicted last week on campaign finance and conspiracy accounts. Mr. Giuliani is the primary focus of the subpoena.
Today, Rudy Giuliani defied a congressional subpoena for documents related to his dealings with Ukraine. Rudy Giuliani told ABC News if they enforce it, then we will see what happens. An official working on the impeachment inquiry told NBC News that House Democrats will be forced to consider Rudy Giuliani`s refusal to comply with the subpoena as additional evidence of obstruction and may infer that the evidence withheld without substantiate the accusations of Mr. Trump`s conduct and efforts to cover it up.
Rudy Giuliani confirmed that he is now operating without his own personal criminal defense lawyer at a time when he is now under federal criminal investigation in "New York Times."
Today, multiple reports reveal that Rudy Giuliani was paid $500,000 to consult for a Ukrainian company cofounded by Lev Parnas, one of the Giuliani associates who was arrested last week. The timing indicates that Rudy Giuliani earned this money around the same time that he began working closely with Lev Parnas and another indicted associate, Igor Fruman to investigate Joe Biden and his family.
Joining us now is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, and Berit Berger, former federal prosecutor for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. Both are MSNBC legal analysts.
And, Berit, as a veteran of the Southern District of New York, I want to get your reaction to the irony and the substance of Rudy Giuliani now apparently being under criminal investigation by the Southern District, a U.S. attorneys office he used to run.
BERIT BERGER, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY SDNY: Yes, I mean, it`s pretty startling to say the least. I think what you`ll see throughout the southern district of New York`s investigation is an investigation that will proceed in many ways very differently than the congressional investigation.
First, just because somebody doesn`t want to comply with the subpoena, they can`t just voluntarily choose not to when that subpoena has the possibility of contempt of court behind it. The Southern District of New York is not going to look favorably on people that decide to put forward baseless arrangements or just not show up for a grand jury subpoena. So I think you`ll see a lot more cooperation with the investigation, but certainly the fact that the Southern District of New York has now turned its sights on Rudy Giuliani is significant, and he should be worried.
O`DONNELL: And, Barbara, it seems Rudy Giuliani is now doing for himself what he has been doing in the past for Donald Trump, which is he`s admitting to and revealing facts that he knows are going to come out eventually, like the $500,000. He knows eventually, certainly any federal government subpoenas for his financial records are going to be enforced -- enforced very quickly, and that information is going to come out.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, that is a strategy that prosecutors typically use. I`m sure Giuliani recalls the strategy from his time as a federal prosecutor. If there are bad facts that are going to come out, you want to be the one to disclose them so you can say it`s no big deal. You can disclose it on your terms and you can explain it as it comes out, as opposed to playing defense and having to react. And that`s if you are fairly certain that those details are going to come out.
But, you know, this reporting that Rudy Giuliani is now representing himself, he doesn`t have a lawyer, and he`s thinking about getting a criminal attorney reminds me of the adage that he who represents himself has a fool for a client. And one of the things that Rudy Giuliani would hear if head lawyer is that he should shut the hell up.
O`DONNELL: Yes, that seems to be the hardest thing for me to do.
Berit, it`s one of the things that is so strange about him, that any professional lawyer who`s ever been near a courtroom knows this, knows the value of silence, especially knows the value of silence in relation to ongoing investigations. Rudy Giuliani seems to have lost all comprehension of that. And who knows what else he no longer understands?
BERGER: Right, and this may actually backfire on him in a number of different ways. I mean, one of the arguments put forth in this letter to Congress about why he was not going to comply with their subpoena is because he said there may be some attorney/client privilege issues that he would have. Well, by continuing to speak publicly about this very subject of the subpoena, he in many ways is just flatly waiving any legitimate claims that he may had to some sort of a privilege. The more you talk publicly about what is suppose to be a confidential conversation, you`ve completely waived the privilege.
So, while it is great for Congress and possibly for the Southern District of New York that he continues to speak publicly, they`re sort of gathering that evidence from his very mouth, it may backfire on him in the long run.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Congressman Mike Quigley said about Rudy Giuliani`s role in what they`re investigating.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Rudy combines it all, though. You`re right. First of all, it`s shadow government and bad foreign policy. A man with little or no expertise, no security clearance, working in the shadows and moving forward with national policy.
What role is he playing? A personal attorney for the president operating under the State Department? This leads to extraordinary mistakes, one that we`re witnessing in plain view.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, Barbara, we know Rudy Giuliani was involved in conversations with Ambassador Sondland, with the two guys who`ve been arrested, with so many people in this thing. And the attorney/client privilege does not extend to any communication that you have shared beyond just you and your client, and so, Rudy Giuliani`s ability to invoke attorney/client privilege is something he may have shattered himself in his own conversations with other people.
MCQUADE: Yes. You know, I think we`re seeing again and again with this administration and Rudy Giuliani tossing off these terms that are familiar to people like due process and hearsay and attorney/client privilege without really delving into exactly what that means. Attorney/client privilege exactly has a pretty narrow definition. It is communications between a lawyer and a client for the purpose of seeking legal advice. And so anything that you say is not necessarily protected, and when Giuliani is acting as an agent but not a lawyer for President Trump, that activity is not protected by the attorney/client privilege.
As you said, Lawrence, conversations you have with other people waives the privilege, and so I think it`s going to be difficult for Giuliani to hide behind this defense of the attorney/client privilege.
O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade, Berit Berger, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
And when we come back, former NSA Inspector General Joel Brenner will join us to discuss the Trump Republican attacks on the whistle-blower.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: For Donald Trump, it`s all about attacking individuals when he cannot defend himself because he has no evidence to defend himself with and so yes today he tweeted, "We must determine the whistleblowers identity to determine why this was done to the USA."
Today Republican Congressman Jim Jordan joined in with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): You don`t think the American people have a right to know the individual who started this process to try to remove the President of the United States thirteen months before the election? You don`t think the American people have a right to know that?
REPORTER: So you think he has no right to anonymity?
JORDAN: He has the right to protection, that`s what the whistleblower statute says. It doesn`t say anonymity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now Joel Brenner. He served as Inspector General of the National Security Agency under President George W. Bush. He was the head of the U.S. Counterintelligence in the office of Director of National Intelligence from 2006 to 2009.
He`s a senior research fellow at MIT Center for International Studies. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. I want to get your reaction to what the President said about the whistleblower, what we just heard from Congressman Jordan about the whistleblower.
JOEL BRENNER, FMR INSPECTOR GENERAL, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: Well, it gets curiouser and curiouser, Lawrence. Jim Jordan - I`m trying to think of a nice way to say this. He just doesn`t know what he`s talking about. The statutes very clear. It says that the Inspector General shall not disclose the identity of the whistleblower.
There are only a couple of instances under the statute, under the law that the Congress passed that would provide an exception. One is if the IG himself determines that in the course of the investigation, there`s no way to prevent its coming out but the IG didn`t do that, quite the contrary.
The other is in case of a criminal referral to the Justice Department. The Justice Department might need to know it but the Justice Department is passed on that criminal referral so the answer to Mr. Jordan`s statement is no, the American public doesn`t have a right to know because of the Congress of the United States of which Mr. Jordan`s a part has decided that the complainer - the whistleblower should be protected by having his identity kept secret.
And one wonders what in the world Mr. Jordan has in mind to give the man a three-year detailed by the executive protection service at taxpayer expense. You`ve got to remember Lawrence that the President is practically put out a contract on this man. He said in effect will no one rid me of this troublesome whistleblower; we should treat him like a traitor.
We know what that means and so protecting him you know, this is - this is very strange behavior, shameful behavior.
O`DONNELL: What is the value at this point if any of testimony from the whistleblower since all the whistleblower was doing was saying, there was a problematic phone call that should be looked at. We`ve now looked at the phone call. The rough transcript has been released. That isn`t the transcript of much more value than anything the whistleblower has reported?
BRENNER: Absolutely true. Virtually every material statement that the whistleblower made has been borne out by direct proof at this point. So the whistleblower - the whistleblower and his identity - his or her identity are really sort of don`t much matter anymore.
He`s started something and we`ve got the proof. You know when he stirred - when he or she first made these allegations, people were demanding the proof. Well, now we have the direct proof of it and so in the face of the evidence, the administration is basically wanting to attack the whistleblower`s motives and move the discussion away from what the President and his people actually did.
And try to turn this into a political question, well, this man must have been against us and saying by the way, against the government, he`s done something against the country. That`s not true. The whistleblower has done exactly what the Congress provided that people in his or her position should do and the IG has protected that identity.
That`s the way the law is supposed to work.
O`DONNELL: And what do these attacks from President Trump, from Congressman Jordan and others, what does that mean for possible whistleblowers elsewhere in the government. There could be a whistleblower tonight in the Agriculture Department who knows something of import or the Commerce Department who`s looking at this, saying well, I can`t be sure that I would be able to maintain you know, my secrecy as a whistleblower in this government.
BRENNER: Its - people in that position are going to have to think twice but depending on how this one comes out. I mean, you got - people should remember that the reason that this statute was passed that you have Inspector General who can protect the whistleblowers is so that complaints about behavior that looks unlawful can be elevated without leaking it in public.
Because often this kind of behavior might involve classified information. When you close down the protection of the IG Act in this - in a case like this, you make leaking more likely. That`s exactly the opposite of what we want to happen.
We need a way so that people with access to classified or sensitive information can raise these concerns without immediately going public about it and that`s extreme undermine now.
O`DONNELL: Joel Brenner, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. Really appreciate it. Thank you.
BRENNER: Glad to be with you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back Rick Wilson and Jonathan Alter will rejoin us to discuss those embarrassed and sheepish Republicans we just heard about and those closed-door depositions that Congress is conducting this week.
O`DONNELL: Here the first thing Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell had to say today after a two-week recess.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R): House democrats are finally indulging in their three-year-old impeachment obsession. Full steam ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Pulitzer prize-winning Washington Post Conservative Columnist George F. Will who left the Republican Party when Donald Trump won the Republican presidential nomination wrote this. "In thirteen months all congressional Republicans who have not defended Congress by exercising the constitutional rights of the place should be defeated.
If congressional Republicans continue their genuflections at Trump`s alter the appropriate 2020 outcome will be a Republican thrashing so severe losing the House, the Senate and the electoral votes of say Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina and even Texas, that even this party of slow learning careerists might notice the hazards of tethering their careers to a downward-spiraling scofflaw."
Jonathan Alter and Rick Wilson are back with us and Rick and Jonathan, I know anyone who knows George Will knows what it takes to push him to that point and especially for Republicans to have pushed him to that point. Rick, go ahead.
RICK WILSON, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: It`s like - it`s like you know, don`t make George Will angry. You won`t like him when he`s angry so but a bit - but Lawrence, you`re - but the point that you highlighted there in that quote from George, this is a party that has to learn a hard sharp lesson.
It is not going to learn unless there is pain involved at this point. If you could a sharp smack.
O`DONNELL: And Jonathan, what George Will is saying, he doesn`t think they`re going to learn it if they lose a close one. If they were to lose a close presidential election or if they were to lose the Senate, you know by one seat or something like that. He thinks they have to get wiped out.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And this is one of the arguments for a moderate and not to say that I necessarily embrace it but it is a good argument for a more moderate candidate so that you can carry some of those Republican states and deliver a whooping.
Now there are other things in this George Will column. It`s a fantastic column by the way that are very, very interesting. So he is not yet for impeachment over the Ukraine business but a shakedown you should call it. But he is for impeachment over the ridiculously unconstitutional withholding of all documents from Congress.
And he thinks that the President should be impeached for that so it`s pretty astonishing when George Will who was very close friend of Ronald Reagan you know, and really defined what it meant to be a Republican commentator in this country for thirty years, when he is for impeaching a Republican President and he explains it brilliantly in this column.
And the other thing to understand about Will is that he is an institutionalist and he conveys in this piece and it`s important for everybody to understand that you know, it`s not just Democrats who are under assault from Trump and the press that`s under assault from. Our very institutions of government are at risk here.
And any true conservative recognizes that the only people who support Trump are fake conservatives. No, Will makes it crystal clear, you can`t actually be a conservative and support Trump. You`re a complete sell-out if you do.
O`DONNELL: I want to focus on one more point in George Will`s column and this is the linkage of what`s happening to the Kurds with impeachment. He says because frivolousness and stupidity are neither high crimes nor misdemeanors, his decision however contemptible because it betrays America`s Kurdish friends, is not an impeachable offense.
It should however color the impeachment debate because it coincides with his extraordinary and impeachment pertinent challenge to Congress`s constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch and Rick, that`s the link George Will sees.
WILSON: I think George is correct on that and I do think that question of being an institutionalist and of respecting the constitutionally mandated powers of each of the bodies is one thing that that Trumpism has diverted itself from conservatism on very sharply.
You know, these are people who think the executive power is the only thing that matters, that defiance of everything having to do with Congress`s explicitly define constitutional roles and rights is a joke now and I don`t think that`s conservative.
I think that`s a sort of crazy authoritarian stateism and I think George`s correct to sort of point that out and the and the link back to this sort of capricious action to abandon our allies and to order our troops to cut and run it certainly speaks to his judgment and the overall temperament of the man in question.
O`DONNELL: All right, we`re going to squeeze in a break here. When we come back, we`re going to take a look at new polling on impeachment and there`s a particular number. There`s one number. It`s a very big number in that poll, very big problem for Donald Trump. We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: We`re back with Jonathan Alter and Rick Wilson and a new CBS poll asks a crucial question about the investigation in the House, should the Trump administration cooperate with the impeachment inquiry? 63 percent say cooperate. The Trump 37 percent say not cooperate.
Rick Wilson, that is I think one of the most troubling numbers yet about impeachment for the Trump administration. The way they`re playing it is not working with voters.
WILSON: Lawrence what it means is that two-thirds of the American populous looks at this investigation as fundamentally having a legitimate purpose. Donald Trump wants to pretend and hand wave it away and pretend it`s oh, the deep state or biased - biased government bureaucrats.
But the American people want to know the truth. They want to know what this administration did. This is a lot simpler than the Mueller investigation. They`ve seen the a to be transactional nature of it and they want to get to the truth and they want Congress to do it and they want them to do their jobs and when you defy two-third of the American people on this, it`s at your peril I think.
O`DONNELL: And Jonathan, the only thing we`ve seen happen in impeachment polling is that the numbers keep going higher and higher against the President so it`s two-thirds now. It could go up from there.
ALTER: It could and you know, I think the way the American public is reacting is if they don`t have anything to hide, why don`t they turn over documents and witnesses so it`s sort of the equivalent of pleading the fifth and they recognize that`s what the President is doing. He`s on the one hand saying his call was perfect which everybody knows is ludicrous.
But then he`s not letting people come forward to tell the story and it`s understandable why the average person who`s not paying close attention would react badly to that. What I`m looking forward to are the next set of approval ratings polling because I would suspect there`s no indication of it yet, but I would strongly suspect they will see at least some polls that show Donald Trump in the 30s in his approval rating.
That`s very dangerous territory for an incumbent President seeking re- election and it raises the question of whether even if he`s acquitted by the Senate, he might not be the Republican nominee just because it looks that way right now.
A lot can change between now and that Republican convention in Charlotte next summer.
O`DONNELL: All right we have to squeeze in a final break here. When we come back we`re going to consider those embarrassed and shamed Republicans that Congressman Jamie Raskin was telling us about earlier in this hour. We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: This is what Congressman Jamir Raskin told us earlier tonight about Republican members of Congress in those closed-doors depositions in the impeachment investigations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIR RASKIN (D-MD): We have this parade of extremely capable, competent, patriotic government servants, public servants who have spent decades working in the government and working to advance the public interest.
And the juxtaposition is so striking between them and the kinds of people that we`re talking about in the Trump administration that I think it has somewhat shamed and embarrassed our colleagues and they`re acting increasingly sheepish as these hearings go along.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Rick Wilson, shamed and embarrassed and sheepish. I`m so sorry, you can`t watch that.
WILSON: You know, Lawrence, there is a certain degree to which the long- running double standard republicans have wanted to exercise which is to wink and nod in private and go I can`t stand the guy, he is an idiot, he`s a criminal, he is destroying everything.
And then in public put on the red hat and go out and scream MAGA at the top of their lungs. That`s coming to an end. There`s not really - you can`t have that delta anymore, especially as more and more witnesses come out, especially as Trump`s own behavior and public statements come out and continue to drive home the clear impression that the guy is both corruption and off his rocker.
O`DONNELL: And Jonathan, this also means that those Republican members cannot engage in their usual game of trying to attack the witness and attack the motivations of the witness.
ALTER: Right. It makes it much harder to do that. They can`t change the subject to, you know, fusion GPS or the PP tape or whatever.
WILSON: George Soros.
ALTER: Right, George Soros. I mean, they`ll try you know and Matt Gaetz and some of these other clowns will try, but I think instead they`re moving toward what seems to be a scapegoat strategy. So they`re going to pick some scapegoat, it could be Giuliani, and pile on that person, and see if that person can take some of the heat off of the President.
I don`t think that`s going to work for them, but you can bet they`ll try something like that. They`re not going to just abandon the President en masse. They`re going to have certain other kind of short-term approaches to get by with their constituents. But they`re all failing a character test.
And you know, right now Mitt Romney and a couple of others are passing it. And some people called it the grandchildren test. What do you tell your grandchildren, years from now about where you stood at this time in American history? And you just sort of wonder why some Republicans can`t take a broader view of this and recognize that they`re probably not going to lose, you know.
If they criticize Trump, as they are on Turkey and the Kurds, they`re not going to lose. This is - he`s traumatized them and infantilized them. And they think their fate is tied to him in ways that it`s probably not.
O`DONNELL: Rick, with the polling that we`re seeing on the White House should cooperate, two-thirds saying that, like Jonathan says, it doesn`t seem like a big political risk now for Republican members of Congress to drop their, you know, their cheerleader costumes for Donald Trump.
WILSON: You know, the thought of seeing some of these guys in cheerleader costumes, Lawrence, is going to leave me with nightmares for weeks to come. But I don`t want to see Matt Gaetz in a pleated skirt. I just don`t. But there is a certain degree to which these guys are going to end up having to make a decision.
Do you want to get the political backlash that hits Donald Trump over and over again because of his actions or at some point, do you want to try to make the case to your voters in your state or your district that you`re there for them?