LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And that`s exactly why we`re doing another hour of coverage right now because I couldn`t possibly cover everything that you covered in the last hour. I`m going to have some things that were not in your hour. And it feels like we`re still just trying to catch up to it.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes. I mean, I could do -- I could have written the whole show like by noon, and then by 5:00, a whole different show, and then between 5:00 and 8:00, a new show, and now, just what`s happened this hour is already blown all that out of the water. I can`t keep up.
O`DONNELL: It`s the present tense with Rachel Maddow. That`s the name of the show.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, Ambassador William Taylor sealed Donald Trump`s fate today as the next impeached president of the United States. Ambassador Taylor may have changed the lives of other members of the Trump team who could be charged with participating in an illegal conspiracy involving aid to Ukraine and at least one who might be charged with perjury after Ambassador Taylor`s testimony today in an under oath deposition to the House of Representatives which was, most definitely, not a lynching.
Strom Thurmond would be very, very proud of Lindsey Graham today. Strom Thurmond was the racist who held Lindsey Graham`s Senate seat for almost 50 years before Lindsey Graham succeeded him in 2003. All 31 of Lindsey Graham`s predecessors in that Senate seat would be proud of him today. They were all racists.
Many of them were slaveholders. Some of them were supporters of the 156 lynchings of black people that South Carolina recorded in the worst of times in America. When Donald Trump tweeted this morning that the impeachment process is, quote, a lynching, no one actually took Donald Trump literally except Lindsey Graham.
There was a rush to object to the president`s appropriating the word, lynching, to describe his suffering in the impeachment process, even Mitch McConnell whose state lynched 142 black people said it was an unfortunate choice of words, but Lindsey Graham, Lindsey Graham offered his most perverse defense of Donald Trump yet today by saying that the impeachment investigation is, quote, this is what Lindsey Graham said, a lynching in every sense.
Every sense means not just figuratively but literally, literally someone is putting a rope on Donald Trump`s neck with his hands tied behind his back and he`s being strung up on a tree. That`s what Lindsey Graham said today. Lindsey Graham is so far gone that he does not know where he is and he does not know what is happening in Washington. What is happening is people who have devoted their lives to service without any interest in ever getting rich like Donald Trump are bringing their devotion to service and to duty to an impeachment process that shines more light every day on the impeachable conduct of Donald Trump, impeachable under the Constitution of the United States.
Ambassador William B. Taylor was born the year after Donald Trump was born and they grew up in very different worlds. Donald Trump, the son of a father who had been arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally and then went on to be accused by the Justice Department of racist discrimination as a New York City landlord. William Taylor`s father graduated at West Point, spent his life in service, mostly with the Army Corps of engineers.
Donald Trump and William Taylor followed in their father`s footsteps. Donald Trump, too, was accused by the Justice Department, along with his father, of racist practices as a landlord. Like his father before him, William Taylor graduated from West Point and spent most of his career in government service, first in the infantry in the Vietnam War then in civilian positions in the Department of Energy, as a member of Senator Bill Bradley`s Senate staff, and then with the State Department serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, and Ukraine.
William Taylor is an expert on Ukraine. He served as George W. Bush`s ambassador to Ukraine. And after Donald Trump forced out Marie Yovanovitch as ambassador, William Taylor is now serving as acting ambassador to Ukraine. He testified for ten hours today under oath about what Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani have been doing with Ukraine. And, yes, William Taylor delivered testimony devastating to President Trump.
One freshman member of the committee hearing his testimony today said after the first couple hours of William Taylor`s testimony that it was, quote, my most disturbing day in Congress so far. That congressman will join us in a moment.
William Taylor`s testimony could make the impeachment of Donald Trump bipartisan. His testimony could turn some Republican votes in the House of Representatives and it might be the testimony that convinces Republican Senator Mitt Romney to vote to convict and remove Donald Trump from office.
Donald Trump`s very rich and totally incompetent and unqualified ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, could face perjury charges after William Taylor`s testimony today. We will consider later in this hour how William Taylor`s testimony increases Rudy Giuliani`s risk of being charged in federal crimes, along with Giuliani`s friends and associates who have already been charged with federal crimes because of their dealings involving Ukraine.
Even though over 90 percent of William Taylor`s opening statement today was about possible impeachable offenses by Donald Trump and the possible criminal conduct of Rudy Giuliani and Gordon Sondland, the message that was clearly closest to William Taylor`s heart in his opening statement today what was he had to tell Congress about Ukraine and its people, unlike Donald Trump, William Taylor cares about Ukraine. He cares about the people of Ukraine deeply.
He set the stage for his testimony by saying: Ukraine is right at this moment, while we sit in this room, and for the last five years under armed attack from Russia. Across the responsibilities I have had in public service, Ukraine is special for me. If Ukraine succeeds in breaking free of Russian influence, it is possible for Europe to be whole, free, democratic, and at peace. In contrast, if Russia dominates Ukraine, Russia will, again, become an empire, oppressing its people, and threatening its neighbors and the rest of the world.
Ambassador Taylor then laid out in painstaking detail what he described as an irregular informal channel of U.S. policymaking with respect to Ukraine, one which included then-special envoy Kurt Volker, Ambassador Sondland, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and as I subsequently learned, Mr. Giuliani.
Ambassador Taylor described a video conference call on July 18th when he heard a staff person at the Office of Management and Budget say there was a hold on security assistance to Ukraine, and that that order came from the president to Mick Mulvaney and from Mick Mulvaney to OMB. Mick Mulvaney is in even more need of a criminal defense lawyer tonight than he was before William Taylor`s testimony.
William Taylor`s testimony differs sharply with Gordon Sondland`s under- oath testimony to the same committees. Gordon Sondland said under oath in his opening statement, I do not recall any discussions with the White House on withholding U.S. security assistance from Ukraine in return for assistance with the president`s 2020 re-election campaign, and William Taylor`s opening statement, he said, Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelensky was dependent on a public announcement of investigations.
In fact, Sondland said everything was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky in a public box by making a public statement about ordering such investigations. Ambassador Taylor did not know at that time that Donald Trump in his phone call with the president of Ukraine had already told him that he wanted an investigation of, quote, Biden. And Biden`s son.
Gordon Sondland`s very expensive criminal defense lawyers had exactly one mission during his testimony to the committees which was to get him through his testimony without committing perjury, and it appears tonight that they may have failed in that mission. William Taylor`s testimony today is a story of incompetent and dangerous fools named Trump and Giuliani and Sondland betraying America`s multi-decade commitment to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. The day after Donald Trump`s impeachable phone call with the president of Ukraine, William Taylor traveled to the front line of the battle with Russia.
He said today, I could see the armed and hostile Russian-led forces on the other side of the damaged bridge across the line of contact. Over 13,000 Ukrainians had been killed in the war, one or two a week. More Ukrainians would undoubtedly die without the U.S. assistance.
That`s what it was about for William Taylor. Saving Ukrainian lives while Donald Trump and William Taylor`s view undoubtedly condemned more Ukrainians to die as he illegally withheld aid that had been mandated by an act of Congress.
After William Taylor`s testimony today, Donald Trump`s impeachment by the House of Representatives is even more of a certainty than it was yesterday. And when members of the House are voting to impeach Donald Trump, followed by the senators who will vote to convict and remove Donald Trump, many of them will be quoting the elements of the impeachable offenses outlined by William Taylor today, including the very clear quid pro quo that some Republicans until today have claimed was not in evidence and surely as many House members and member senators announce their vote, they will be quoting William Taylor saying, more Ukrainians would undoubtedly die, because of Donald Trump.
Leading off our discussion tonight are Democratic Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He was in the room today during William Taylor`s deposition.
Also with us, Democratic Congressman Andy Levin of Michigan. He`s a member of the House Foreign affairs committee. He was also in the room today during William Taylor`s deposition.
And with us is Evelyn Farkas. She`s a former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration. She served on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee for seven years and she also served on the staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She`s an MSNBC national security analyst.
And we are going to break with protocol tonight because as in congressional hearings, we usually go by congressional seniority here, but I want to start with the freshman. I want to start with Representative Andy Levin because you said today when we were just a couple hours into this testimony that this was your -- how did you put it? Your worst day so far in service in the House?
REP. ANDY LEVIN (D-MI): I think the most disturbing day, Lawrence, I think is what I said.
O`DONNELL: And what was it that you were hearing that left you with that?
LEVIN: Well, I am really intent on honoring our process, and I think it`s a process that respects the dignity of our witnesses and so I`m not going to talk a lot about a lot of detail about what was said.
But you have a president of the United States who said in front of the nation, now, with the phone call notes, that he muscled a foreign leader to do favors for him about his own political life here in the United States. It`s not the past, but the future. Not when he was a candidate, but he`s a sitting president of the United States trying to get favors about his re- election campaign, and you`ve got his acting chief of staff saying that aid was held up, vital military assistance, to an ally under attack by Russia was held up for these political reasons.
Of course, he tried to walk it back, but today, many bricks were added to the edifice of the case of -- for the impeachment of Donald Trump. And it`s -- I mean, if you`re a patriotic American, Lawrence, it`s got to be a sad day. I mean, I personally take no joy in this, but it was an overwhelming day, and why?
Because somebody like Bill Taylor, an infantry officer in Vietnam, 101st Airborne, who went on to serve the country from his days at West Point for a total of 50 years and counting, Lawrence, he doesn`t care about Democrats. He doesn`t care about Republicans. He cares about the national security interests of the United States and he reluctantly came back to serve in the country, as you mentioned, that he loved so much, Ukraine, and he`s watching right in front of his eyes a president undermine the national security of the United States for his own political end.
So that`s a really sad day. And it just confirms what the president, himself, has said.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Welch, did this testimony give in the clearest possible terms yet the quid pro quo that some Republicans have been claiming was not present?
REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): Well, it did. I mean, you nailed it, really, in your opening. Essentially, what ambassador Taylor saw was that the policy that we`ve had in Ukraine since 1991 -- by the way, he was appointed as ambassador by President Bush, where we had as a goal to help Ukraine fight internal corruption and resist external aggression.
You know, it was a bipartisan policy with strong support from Republicans and Democrats and Republican and Democratic presidents. He saw that unraveling is what that report says.
Now, this is a sordid mess, but I want to go back to something Andy said because this is really a moment of grace. I mean, this man, Ambassador Taylor, he started his public service on the planes of West Point when he was a teenager and went to Vietnam and he never stopped. And he was dedicated to a career of competence and professionalism and the Constitution.
And his requirement to serve in this job was assurance that he would be able to promote that policy of bringing Ukraine into the Western family of democracies. And as the testimony evolved, as you saw that in the statement that is reported, he came to see that there was actually a rogue policy that was completely outside of the State Department channels and was intent on accomplishing one thing, and that was getting dirt on Joe Biden, and getting involved in domestic politics. Something that was obviously bad for us but it`s also very bad for the Ukraine because the point that the ambassador made was the linchpin, the strategic significance of Ukraine, was that they did have bipartisan support and he feared that would jeopardize that bipartisan support.
O`DONNELL: And, Evelyn, there`s a very personal, briefly told but personal story in his opening statement today that I think everyone in government service recognized. He talks about being asked to go and do this job in Ukraine for what would now be the Trump administration and he was very reluctant because of what he had seen of the chaos of President Trump. He was very reluctant of serving a president who he had really no reason to have confidence in. And there`s a friend, unnamed friend, who says to him --
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Right, he said a former mentor.
O`DONNELL: -- when you`re asked to serve the country, it doesn`t matter who the president is in a situation like this, and we are so lucky that that friend gave him that advice in the moment when he needed it and in a moment where he says that his wife was opposed to him doing this.
FARKAS: Yes, there are a lot of good people, Lawrence, I know them, who are serving, some even in political positions in this administration because they think they can make a difference. I mean, Fiona Hill is another example. I talked to her before she went in. She is not a political person, but she felt she could make a difference. She could do good.
And, Bill Taylor, he knew the background. I mean, you can tell from the testimony, he knew what happened to Masha Yovanovitch, Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador, proceeding him. All these people are interconnected. You know, they`ve know each other for decades and worked on these problems. So, he went in despite that probably thinking he could help, again.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Levin, I want to read a piece from the opening statement about John Bolton, in which Ambassador Taylor said, Ambassador Bolton opposed the call between President Zelensky and President Trump out of concern that it would be a disaster. So there you have John Bolton doesn`t want President Trump to even get on the phone with the president of Ukraine, apparently, because he was afraid of exactly what did happen on that call.
LEVIN: You know, Lawrence, I just want to stress here the importance of bipartisanship in foreign policy and the broad consensus we`ve had in our country about the importance of Ukraine in this neighbor of Russia, and I have to say, personally on my part, I am from -- I`m a kid from Berkeley, Michigan. I grew up with Ukrainian-American kids. Places like Warren and Sterling Heights in my district are a big center of the Ukrainian-American community.
So this is really important to me personally and to my constituents. And I think what those comments you referenced reflect is that any normal Republican or Democratic foreign policy professional would say that it`s tremendously in our interests to support the development of Ukraine as a democratic society, try to nurture this very delicate flower that`s had a lot of trouble growing. A lot of corruption there.
Could we help this new administration in Ukraine become a flourishing democracy? That`s why Bill Taylor signed up for duty again. And then he went in and found this sort of cancer growing there.
And that`s what we`re all seeing, not just from Bill Taylor`s testimony, but from all of this growing body of evidence that the president had a whole rogue foreign policy going on run by his personal attorney and that, sadly, too many of our people within the foreign service may have been participating in, and other parties of the government.
O`DONNELL: Bill Taylor described the dynamics of the quid pro quo in several different ways. This is one of them. He said, during our call on September 8th, Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman, when a businessman is about to sign a check do someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check.
Congressman Welch, as you know, Ambassador Taylor then said, of course, Ukraine owes Donald Trump nothing. Is Gordon Sondland in danger of perjury charges for his testimony to your committee?
WELCH: I think he is. You know, when he presented himself, he was kind of a rich guy who bought an ambassadorship. And he pretended it was a good day for him, he got a job he wanted but he was pretty naive that he didn`t know the real meeting was going on in the room next door. But, of course, the evidence is now coming out that, in fact, he was a very active instrument to try to essentially assist Giuliani in the effort to have this rogue foreign policy.
So, yes, I think Ambassador Sondland has some reason to be worried about how his testimony`s going to be evaluated when reviewed by potential prosecutors.
O`DONNELL: And, Congressman, let me stay with that because that`s breaking news for you as a member of the committee who`s heard this testimony to say that ambassador Sondland is now in danger of perjury charges. How would that work -- does that work the way it has in the past where the committee basically refers the case to what is now the William Barr Justice Department and hopes for the best with them?
WELCH: Well, the William Barr Justice Department is obviously not paying much attention to this. And by the way, let`s go back here because whatever Sondland did, he`s a side player here. The heart of this case is what President Trump said, according to the readout, in his conversation with President Zelensky. And that`s where the president asked for a favor. And the favor was to do an investigation and dig up dirt on the Bidens.
And the president explicitly said he`d have Rudy Giuliani and Bill Barr call him, and that`s the heart of this. So what Mr. Taylor did, or Ambassador Taylor did, he kind of elaborated on how extensive those efforts were, but the heart of this is really very simple.
The president in a phone call with his own voice, his own words, requested a foreign power to provide assistance in a domestic political campaign. That`s against the law. And by the way, he did that the day after Director Mueller testified that the new normal may be Russian interference or foreign interference.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Peter Welch and Congressman Andy Levin, thank you both for joining us tonight, starting us off. We really appreciate that.
WELCH: Thank you.
LEVIN: Thanks, Lawrence. Have a great evening.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And we`re joined by under secretary -- former ambassador secretary of state, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, and Jeremy Bash, a former chief of staff to CIA and Defense Department. Evelyn Farkas is still with us. All are MSNBC analysts.
And, Ambassador Sherman, I want to start with you. We just heard Congressman Peter Welch creates some breaking news here. He`s a member of the committee who`s heard the testimony of Ambassador Sondland, now Ambassador Taylor. He believes that Gordon Sondland now is very close to or in danger of perjury charges for his testimony.
AMBASSADOR WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Lawrence, I`ll leave that to the lawyer in the trio here this evening, Jeremy. But I will say that there is absolutely no reason not to believe everything that Bill Taylor has said. I first served with Bill Taylor when I was the assistant secretary for legislative affairs in the first Clinton administration after the fall of the Soviet Union, I got help to get the first $1.2 billion for the newly independent states and Bill was in charge of what was called the Freedom Fund to try to give that money to states and it was very bipartisan.
I remember quite clearly Senator McConnell pressing us very hard for $300 million to go to Ukraine. He was terribly, terribly concerned about Ukraine and its future and its destiny and separating it from Russia. So what your colleagues on the camera said before us, what the members of Congress said, is quite true.
And Bill Taylor has been committed to a free and open Europe ever since, and so I think, yes, this puts Gordon Sondland in great jeopardy because I think that listening to the detailed accounting that Bill Taylor gave, it`s very hard to not believe him and very easy to question Sondland.
O`DONNELL: And, Jeremy Bash, that`s what the perjury case would come down to, at least as we know it at this stage, it would be the credibility of William Taylor versus the credibility of Gordon Sondland.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, I think the important point here, Lawrence, is that President Trump`s own handpicked special envoy, or ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, acknowledged as we now see from this witness testimony, that there was a demand for a quid pro quo, and specifically what Ambassador Taylor, the well-respected career diplomat who has served Democrats and Republicans in every administration since 1985 as referenced earlier, served in the 101st Air Force in Vietnam, started his career at West Point.
What he said today, when he was talking to the National Security Council, the National Security Council was expressing concern because Gordon Sondland had said to Zelensky`s team explicitly, here it is on the page, that there was no money that would be given for security assistance until the Ukrainians pursued an investigation of Joe Biden and Burisma. That`s clear. It`s on the page. It`s Bill Taylor`s absolutely 100 percent crystal clear testimony.
O`DONNELL: And, Evelyn, the testimony as he continues, he talks about Fiona Hill and Mr. Vinman (ph) trying to reassure him that they were not aware of any official change in U.S. policy. Let me just read that.
He says: Despite OMB`s announcement that they were holding back the funding, he said, but they did confirm that the hold on security assistance for Ukraine came from Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and that the chief of staff maintained a skeptical view of Ukraine.
And so, now, Ukraine policy is turning on what Mick Mulvaney thinks after the Congress has ordered this aid.
FARKAS: Right. I mean, Lawrence, the U.S. government`s position is that we must support Ukraine. Why? Because if we let Ukraine become basically a vessel of Russia, then essentially we will have allowed Russia`s sphere of influence and runs counter to everything we now believe in post-World War II -- Borders, the right for peoples to determine their own future, democracy.
I mean, the young people in Ukraine as he`s -- as the ambassador pointed out in his testimony, they very clearly said we want a new future, we want a Democratic future, we don`t want corruption. So, now, these two individuals, Mick Mulvaney and the president, are trying to turn the entire policy around, it looks like. I mean, they`re throwing it into question and that`s really problematic because, again, Congress has spoken. The executive branch has spoken writ large.
The cabinet still thinks that this is our policy, so this is a renegade policy that somehow the president has tried to convince his chief of staff and others to implement.
O`DONNELL: We have to squeeze in a break here. Former Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Jeremy Bash, Evelyn Farkas, thank you all for joining this discussion tonight.
And when we come back, Republican Senator Mitt Romney said on HBO this weekend that exactly what he would be looking for as a jury in the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump and Ambassador William Taylor is now the one witness who can give Mitt Romney everything that he says he is looking for in this case. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Here`s what Republican Senator Mitt Romney said on Sunday night on Axios on HBO about what he will be looking for when he is a juror in the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I`d like to learn the full background of who all was involved in communications with Ukraine, what was said to them, what the intent was on the part of the President to the administration with regards to Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s what Ambassador Taylor testified to today. Ambassador William Taylor could be the witness who answers all those questions for Mitt Romney.
Joining us now John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, he is the co-host and executive producer of SHOWTIME`s The Circus. Also with us is Mark Thompson host of Make It Plain, his daily podcast.
Mark, the day began with Donald Trump calling this process a lynching, with only Lindsey Graham agreeing with him. What we saw in what William Taylor delivered in his opening statement was anything but a lynching.
MARK THOMPSON, HOST OF MAKE IT PLAIN: No, it wasn`t a lynching at all. It`s a despicable term for him to use. It`s like he`s channeling Clarence Thomas somehow.
Aside though is I don`t - we don`t need to explain the racial insensitivity, but let`s be specific, he is about to undergo a trial. Lynchings were not trials, people were executed summarily based upon allegations, which he wanted to do to the Central Park Five, now the exonerated five.
So for him to say he`s a victim of a lynching, when he is in the process of a trial, witnesses in his administration testify against him. It`s patently absurd. Look, you have been more outspoken than anyone about how ridiculous he is and frankly how stupid he is.
So it just doesn`t work. He is being given a fair and due process, and he needs to go ahead and participate in it. And if there`s any vindication, put it on a table. But I think we all know we doubt there`s any indication whatsoever.
John Heilemann, when I was hearing Donald Trump lead his crowds and encourage them in their Lock Her Up chants, I never heard them chanting about her having a trial before they locked her up.
JOHN HEILEMANN, NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST FOR NBC NEWS AND MSNBC: Yes, Lawrence, the recourse to a process argument is always the recourse of scoundrels.
HEILEMANN: When the facts are against you, you argue the law and in this case obviously you can`t argue the law, because this isn`t really strictly speaking a legal proceeding. It`s a political proceeding that has various kinds of protections in it.
We have heard people on this show and other shows point out that the way that impeachment works is that the House side is basically designed to be like a grand jury process. It`s about the collection of facts in the same way that a grand jury operates largely in secret.
It deduces all the facts and then it makes a charge, and the charge are the articles of impeachment. If they are passed, you then end up at the United States Senate, where you have a genuine trial and you have all of the kind of due process that someone would normally get in a criminal trial, and that`s what Donald Trump is surely headed now.
I think there`s not been a question for a while that Donald Trump was going to get impeached in the House of Representatives. Obviously conviction is still a large question. But if there was any question in anyone`s mind before today about whether Donald Trump is going to be impeached in the House of Representatives. That question has now been fully obliterated by the testimony that we learned about today.
O`DONNELL: Mark, there are two key witnesses now against Donald Trump, are so far Donald Trump in his own rough transcript released by the White House of his phone call, those words of Donald Trump on that phone call, and Ambassador Taylor today.
THOMPSON: Yes, Ambassador Tyler, that`s a compelling witness and I`m grateful that there are some people, witnesses and obviously those witnesses, advisers and attorneys with the good sense to go down there and tell the truth.
Everybody doesn`t have to go down with the ship and I`m glad. And it`s chilling, because when you get that on a phone call what Taylor said that there needed to be a public announcement of this. Now, we could infer that from the phone call.
But for him to actually know that it had been told and if it`s had been documented, that makes it even worse.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and John, Taylor`s testimony said that there was actually a plan that the President had and others involved or someone to get the President of Ukraine to go on television in an interview and in a public interview, as Trump put it, put him in a public box where he would say that they are investigating the Bidens.
HEILEMANN: Right. And I mean, Taylor of course in his conversations with the Ukrainians thought that was a bad idea and kind of counseled them not to want to do it. I think it is extraordinary, I mean Lawrence, that the key elements of this testimony that we learned today on both sides, the notion that it was explicit, that everything meaning the military aid was contingent on everything on the other side meaning you had to investigate the Bidens, you had to investigate 2016 corruption, and that not only you had to do it, but you had to do it publicly.
That all of that stuff was that explicit in the conversation with Sondland is a really devastating piece of evidence, and I do think that although the White House right now is fighting back and try to portray Taylor as a left- wing member of the Deep State, the notion that this man who`s resume says that he was made Ambassador to Ukraine by George W. Bush and was reappointed as Ambassador - effectively Ambassador to Ukraine by Mike Pompeo is going to be very hard I think for the President`s political operatives to paint this person as some kind of a Clinton/Obama/Sanders/Warren left wing Trotskyite member of some kind of coup attempting Deep State. It just doesn`t work with the man`s resume.
O`DONNELL: Let me get a quick exit question as we go to this break. Mark Thompson, can William Taylor`s testimony flip some Republican votes in the House of Representatives?
THOMPSON: Yes, I think so and including with everything else what`s going on in Syria, let`s not forget about Fiona Hill`s testimony, I think all of that is damning, this is pretty bad.
O`DONNELL: And John Heilemann, to the Senate - for example Senator Romney, did he get in William Taylor`s testimony what he said he needs to see to make a decision here?
HEILEMANN: I think it`s hard to imagine Mitt Romney does not already have what he needs to see. I think he`s going to want to see that trial proceed. I think the question Lawrence continues to be, where on the day after Thanksgiving, if this trial does begin the day after Thanksgiving as Mitch McConnell has suggested or the week after Thanksgiving, what is Donald Trump`s approval rating with the general public and what is his approval rating with the Republican Party, that will tell you what the Senate trial is going to look like politically and whether they`re going to be a few Senate votes to remove him or maybe more.
O`DONNELL: Yes exactly.
HEILEMANN: Republican votes.
O`DONNELL: At that point exactly, who does Mitch McConnell really want to have as a nominee for President in his party in the following year. Mark Thompson, John Heilemann, thank you for guiding us through this.
And when we come back, a member of Congress who has known Ambassador William Taylor for 20 years will join us. She`ll give us her view of the credibility contest now between William Taylor and Gordon Sondland.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur has known Ambassador William Taylor for over 20 years. NBC`s Garrett Haake caught up to her today and asked her about her reaction to his reported testimony, including some of his text messages about what Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani were trying to do to Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARRETT HAAKE, NBC NEWS: What do you make of these incredulous text messages that have come out from him, questioning the administration policy on Ukraine from after he got back into the country?
REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D-OH): Well, he walked into a rat`s nest, and I think that the rats there are very big.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Representative Marcy Kaptur is Co-Chair of the Ukraine Caucus. Now as Representative, she serves as Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Energy, which was of course led by and is led by Secretary Rick Perry.
Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I want to get your reaction to what we`re learning today about Rick Perry`s role in this. It was not very prominent in William Taylor`s testimony, but he definitely had a hand in some of this communication about this.
Is that something he should be testifying to your Committee about?
KAPTUR: He should. He should actually go before the Intelligence Committee, because I can affirm that Secretary Perry led the delegation to President Zelensky, the new President of Ukraine, to his inaugural, when President Trump refused to go, and in addition to that, has traveled to Ukraine probably more than any of the top administration officials in the Trump administration.
The Secretary often would tell me that he was going, but quite frankly, he never reported back formally in his testimony before our Committee as to what he had actually accomplished. Now that I`ve heard his announcement that he`s leaving, I`m saying to myself, oh no, no, no, not so fast.
I think that we need to debrief him to find out exactly where he went, who was meeting with him, whether it was just in Ukraine or an adjacent country such as Poland. Some of the other names that are being mentioned, Mr. Sondland, Mr. Volker. To what extent was Secretary Perry a very important member of that triumvirate?
O`DONNELL: So William Taylor now and Gordon Sondland are in a very direct credibility clash. William Taylor saying Gordon Sondland repeatedly laid out the very explicit exchange that Donald Trump had in mind, that an investigation of the Bidens was what was necessary to get the aid delivered to Ukraine, and/or to get a meeting with Donald Trump.
Gordon Sondland said, absolutely, and said out under oath that no such understanding existed, there was no quid pro quo. What can we bring to our understanding of these two people, as we evaluate their credibility?
KAPTUR: Well I have known Ambassador William Taylor, I calculated at 27 years from the fall of the Soviet Union, a system of governance completely antithetical to our own, all the way up to the present day when he came out of retirement to serve our country in an embattled country called Ukraine, where - which really is the scrimmage line for liberty on the vast European continent, the largest landmass nation in all of Europe, and the doorstep to liberty in Russia someday I hope.
And I have watched him work as an Ambassador, but also as a military genius. He was in Afghanistan, Iraq, he had fought for our country in the 82nd Airborne and 101st in Vietnam. He`s a West Point graduate, he`s a scholar, he was an Assistant Director at the Institute of Peace here in Washington, and he came out of retirement.
This man has given a half century of his life to this country. He is a true patriot. And I don`t want to be too critical here, but I think I must - I cannot find a single veteran in the Trump family. And indeed, the President himself chose not to enter the military when he was asked during the war in Vietnam.
So you have two very different individuals here. Someone who has selflessly served his country and someone who appears to be using his position to advantage some of his own personal interests and frankly jeopardizing liberty in a most tender part of the world where Russia has invaded Ukraine.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, thank you very much for joining us and I really appreciate it.
KAPTUR: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, did William Taylor`s testimony today move Rudy Giuliani closer to being indicted along with his friends and associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who are already indicted and will actually be arraigned tomorrow. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: From the start, Donald Trump and his teammates have been looking for back channels. Before Donald Trump was inaugurated, Jared Kushner trying to set up a secret back channel to communicate with Russia.
One of the Trump team members involved in trying to set up that back channel to Russia is now a convicted felon, Donald Trump`s first National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Is Rudy Giuliani next?
Before Ambassador William Taylor testified today, Rudy Giuliani was already under federal criminal investigation for his back-channel dealings with Ukraine, along with two of his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
Lev and Igor will be arraigned in Federal Court tomorrow on charges tied to their dealings with Ukraine. Federal prosecutors in New York City in charge of that investigation will surely be studying the transcript of today`s deposition with Ambassador William Taylor for more evidence of what Rudy Giuliani has been up to.
We have access only to Ambassador Taylor`s opening statement in what became 10 hours of testimony. In that opening statement, Ambassador Taylor said the push to make President Zelensky publicly commit to investigations of Burisma and alleged interference in the 2016 election showed how the official foreign policy of the United States was undercut by the irregular efforts led by Mr. Giuliani.
Former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade is here to evaluate what the testimony of William Taylor could mean in the criminal investigation of Rudy Giuliani, an investigation being conducted by the same U.S. Attorney`s Office that Rudy Giuliani used to be in charge of when he was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): This is not just rogue Rudy Giuliani self- dealing in Ukraine. He`s an agent of the President. The President is his client. Anything Rudy Giuliani does is on behalf of the President, so Rudy Giuliani is President Trump, President Trump is Rudy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Barbara McQuade, the former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and an MSNBC legal contributor. And John Heilemann is back with us. Barbara, what happened to the criminal investigation of Rudy Giuliani today?
BARBARA MCQUADE, THE FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN AND MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it likely got stronger. I think that, as you said, if I was a prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, I`d want to get my hands on that transcript of what Bill Taylor had to say today.
We got his opening statement, 15 pages where we talked about Rudy Giuliani being the leader of this alternative world of foreign policy that was going on at the same time, leading the foreign policy in a very dark place to put together this quid pro quo, this idea that in exchange for an investigation on Biden and the 2016 election, President Trump would release this aid.
That could very well be a bribery scheme. And although we know a sitting President can`t be charged with a crime, there`s no rule that says a sitting President`s lawyer can`t be charged with a crime. And so, I think a conspiracy to commit bribery is something that is very much on the table and something they would be looking at today. I think they would be scouring the many hours of deposition testimony for other leads and other witnesses they can talk to about this.
O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at Rudy Giuliani`s televised confession, when asked the question, did you ask Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No. Actually, I didn`t. I asked the Ukraine to investigate the allegations that there was interference in the election of 2016 by the Ukrainians for the benefit of Hillary Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?
GIULIANI: Of course I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, of course I did.
HEILEMANN: Of course I did. Yes, Lawrence, to the point of what Barbara was saying, and actually to the point what Eric Swalwell was saying before, I had been joking for a while that Rudy Giuliani is like Donald Trump`s criminal lawyer, except without the lawyer part.
And increasingly it seems to me that that`s not just a joke, but it`s true. We`re going to see two of his associates hauled into court tomorrow, our friends Lev and Igor, who we met a couple weeks ago. You`ve got connections increasingly to Ukrainian oligarchs, including this gentleman, Mr. Firtash.
They are looking at it - it is increasingly looking like a very cloudy scheme that involves an effort to both profiteer and profiteer off of election interference, with Rudy Giuliani at the center of it.
And I think everything that has happened, this testimony today obviously the most damning, but what we`ve seen over the course of the last week and a half, and I think going forward, we`re going to find out more and more details of the extent to which Rudy Giuliani is at the center of what looks like a criminal conspiratorial enterprise on behalf of the President.
And the point that Swalwell made that`s super important, you will remember like Iran-Contra, whence you had the President basically saying, all these guys around me were freelancing, I didn`t know anything about this. That was Reagan`s defense.
In this case, it`s impossible for Rudy Giuliani to freelance on Donald Trump`s behalf. He`s not in the government. The only connection he has to this is directly through the one principal who`s in the government that he is serving and that`s Donald Trump. And so that, I think, puts a lot of onus on Giuliani and also puts a lot of onus on the connection between the President of the United States and this particular gentleman.
O`DONNELL: Barbara, Eric Swalwell was actually echoing a concept advanced in the Nixon impeachment, which was that the staff was acting on behalf of the President, so the President was in effect guilty of all the things that the staff was also accused of. But what do you make of the way Eric Swalwell just phrased it, it basically comes down to Trump is Giuliani, and Giuliani is Trump.
MCQUADE: Yes, I don`t think the law or the House is going to be quite so aligned in saying that, even if President Trump didn`t know what Rudy Giuliani was doing, that they would hold him accountable.
But nonetheless, the sole reason that Rudy Giuliani is engaging in these transactions is for the benefit of President Trump. And if you look at what Bill Taylor said today, he puts President Trump squarely in the middle of some of those conversations of asking President Zelensky of Ukraine to put him in a box, to make an announcement about investigations.
And so, yes, Rudy Giuliani is acting as his agent in traveling, but President Trump is very much involved according to Bill Taylor.
O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade gets tonight`s LAST WORD. Barbara McQuade, John Heilemann, thank you both for joining our discussions tonight. Really appreciate it. That is tonight`s 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