LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. Thank you very much.
And Deval Patrick, at least, won`t be one of those presidential candidates who is tied down as a juror in the Trump impeachment trial in the United States Senate if that`s what January is all about.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Seriously, I mean, just the impeachment hearings right now in the House are already stacked up against, for example, the Democratic debate next Wednesday which is going to have two impeachment hearings that day. It`s going to be nuts, man.
O`DONNELL: But, you know, look, America`s going to watch the hearing, and then they`re going to watch you moderate that debate. That`s the way it`s going to work.
MADDOW: Kill me now.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We have so much ground to cover on this historic first day of public hearings in the impeachment investigation. We will consider the historical import of it all at the end of this hour with two Pulitzer Prize winners who are covering their third, yes, third presidential impeachment investigation, Eugene Robinson and Howard Reines (ph), will join us.
We will get former acting solicitor-general Neal Katyal`s legal analysis, invaluable legal analysis of today`s hearing. And we will be joined by former CIA director John Brennan on the day when we learned that the president of the United States accepted a cell phone call from a restaurant in Ukraine where the president`s voice could be overheard in that restaurant, during that wildly unsecure phone call.
We begin tonight with the first televised testimony in the impeachment investigation, which included the stunning news of the president`s voice being overheard on that cellphone in that restaurant in Ukraine. Toward the end of his long and detailed opening statement today, Ambassador William Taylor delivered hugely important information that was not included in his testimony to the committee in a closed door deposition last month. It was devastating new testimony about Donald Trump, and not one Republican member of Congress in that room said one word about that devastating new testimony.
The Republican members of Congress are so afraid of that new information that they were rendered utterly speechless about it all day in today`s hearing. That new information has added a new very important witness to the witness list in the impeachment inquiry.
Here is how Ambassador Taylor delivered that incriminating new information about Donald Trump and revealed the existence of a new very important witness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM TAYLOR, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: In the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kiev. A member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone asking ambassador Sondland about the investigations. Ambassador Sondland told President Trump the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.
Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for. At the time I gave my deposition on October 22nd, I was not aware of this information. I`m including it here for completeness.
As the committee knows, I reported this information through counsel, through the State Department`s legal advisor, as well as to counsel for both the majority and minority of this committee. It is my understanding that the committee is following up on this matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Sources familiar with the matter tell NBC News that the person who overheard Donald Trump`s phone call with Ambassador Sondland was David Holmes, an official at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine. David Holmes is scheduled to give a closed door deposition to the impeachment inquiry on Friday, which could mean he might be added to the list of witnesses for public hearings as early as next week.
Republicans did not say one word about this devastating new testimony about Donald Trump caring more about investigating Joe Biden than he cares about Ukraine.
The two witnesses who testified today, Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent cared deeply -- cared deeply about Ukraine and kept returning to the importance of the U.S. government`s support for Ukraine while it is under attack from Russia. In fact, Ambassador Taylor was actually at the front line, literally the front line of Ukraine`s battle, hot battle, with Russia at the very moment that Gordon Sondland was on the phone in that restaurant in Ukraine with Donald Trump.
When David Holmes testifies about hearing Donald Trump`s voice on Gordon Sondland`s telephone, Republicans are not going to be able to complain about hearsay. That is not hearsay evidence. That is someone who was there telling you what he heard the president of the United States say and what he heard Gordon Sondland say. That is going to be another very bad day for the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee.
Every day was a bad day for the Republicans during the closed door depositions because the transcripts show that the Republicans could not come up with any form of defense for Donald Trump in those depositions, and they didn`t bother with the kinds of stunts and speech making that they do in public hearings. Today, Chairman Adam Schiff delivered a master class of how to chair a congressional hearing in the age of Trumpism in Congress. The chairman held a tight rein on the proceedings, he shutdown Republican interpretations so quickly that the Republicans gave up trying to interrupt.
And Jim Jordan who was specifically imported into the committee just last week by Republicans so that they`re so-called toughest guy could be the toughest questioner, was crushed. And I mean he was crushed by Congressman Peter Welch who will join us later in this hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): There is one witness, one witness that they won`t bring in front of us, they won`t bring in front of the American people, and that`s the guy who started it all, the whistle-blower.
REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): I say to my colleague, I`d be glad to have the person who started it all come in and testify. President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jim Jordan was not content to just complain about hearsay. He also lied about today`s witnesses while he was at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORDAN: Over the next few weeks, we`re going to have more witnesses like we`ve had today that the Democrats will parade in here, and they`re all going to say this, so-and-so said such and such to so-and-so, and therefore, we`ve got to impeach the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: What a vile liar that man is. Today`s witnesses very specifically did not say we got to impeach the president. They both specifically refused to offer any view of whether the evidence they were presenting is impeachable conduct. They scrupulously avoided any such comment, and Jim Jordan just lies about them, lies about them, right in front of them, right in front of an audience who all know Jim Jordan is lying.
Jim Jordan lied about George Kent, saying that George Kent was there today saying you`ve got to impeach the president. George Kent never said anything like that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: My name is George Kent, and I am the deputy assistant secretary of state for Eastern Europe and the Caucuses. I have served proudly as a nonpartisan career Foreign Service officer for more than 27 years under five presidents, three Republican and two Democrat. As I mentioned in my opening comments last month in the closed door deposition, I represent the third generation of my family who have chosen a career in public service and sworn the oath of office that all U.S. public servants do in defense of our Constitution.
Indeed, there has been a George Kent sworn to defend the Constitution continuously for nearly 60 years, ever since my father reported to Annapolis for his plebe summer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is the George Kent who Jim Jordan lied about today.
Jim Jordan also lied about Ambassador William Taylor, lied about Taylor testifying you`ve got to impeach the president. Jim Jordan put those words in Ambassador Taylor`s mouth, not true. Ambassador Taylor didn`t come close to saying anything like that. He simply repeatedly answered questions about what he saw and what he heard and what he knows, nothing but facts.
Ambassador Taylor and Donald Trump are a year apart in age. They are a year apart in college graduation, but they could not possibly be farther apart in the way that they have lived their lives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): Ambassador Taylor, what year did you graduate from West Point?
TAYLOR: 1969, sir.
MALONEY: That`s the height of the Vietnam War, wasn`t it, sir?
TAYLOR: The height was about that time.
MALONEY: What was your class rank at West Point?
TAYLOR: I was number 5.
MALONEY: How many people in your class?
TAYLOR: Eight hundred.
MALONEY: Eight hundred cadets, you were number 5.
TAYLOR: Yes, sir.
MALONEY: So, when you were top 1 percent of your class at West Point, you probably get your pick of assignments, but you picked the infantry.
TAYLOR: I did, sir. Yes, sir.
MALONEY: You were rifle company commander.
MALONEY: Where`d you serve?
TAYLOR: In Vietnam.
MALONEY: Did you see combat in Vietnam, sir?
TAYLOR: I did.
MALONEY: Did you earn any accommodations for that service?
TAYLOR: I was awarded the Combat Infantryman`s Badge which is my highest I`m proudest of. There was a Bronze Star. There was an Air Medal --
MALONEY: That`s for valor, isn`t it, sir?
TAYLOR: It is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Valor has no meaning to liars like Jim Jordan and Donald Trump.
Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Sean Patrick Maloney of New York. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He was in the impeachment hearing today.
We`re also joined now by Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former under-secretary of state for political affairs in the Obama administration. She is a member of the global affairs -- global affairs contributor.
And Jill Wine-Banks is with us. She`s a former assistant Watergate special prosecutor. She`s an MSNBC legal analyst.
Congressman Maloney, let me start with you. I just want to get from you why you decided to start with Ambassador Taylor`s biography.
MALONEY: Because it`s an extraordinary story of, well, you use the word valor. And he`s so understated and humble, he might not know this was a person who graduated fifth in his class of 800 at West Point. And then with any choice he wanted went to the thick of the fight in Vietnam and served with distinction.
And that, of course, was the beginning of his career, the 101st Airborne. He was with the 506 Regiment. That`s the famous Band of Brothers regiment. And then, of course, he serves his country for 40, 50 years.
And I think it`s important to compare and contrast that to the person calling him names or minimizing his account, not just to the members of Congress but, of course, the president himself who made very different choices at that time in his life. And I just wanted people to know who this man was.
O`DONNELL: I want to go to the new information we learned today. Apparently the committees were -- the committee members were notified about it before we in the public learned it when it was televised today, when he talked about that phone call overheard by Ambassador Taylor`s staff, that phone call from Gordon Sondland to President Trump, overheard by Ambassador Taylor`s staff.
What do you see as the import of that in this evidence?
MALONEY: Well, it`s a major development. And I can tell you we were all stunned when we learned it. This is not information we knew 24 hours ago.
You now have another member of the Foreign Service who isn`t just relaying something that someone told to him, Jim Jordan`s ridiculous comments notwithstanding. He heard it directly because the president was speaking so loudly into his cell phone, setting aside for a minute how crazy it is for the president to be having these kinds of conversations over an unsecure line with an individual at a restaurant.
But what the foreign service officer heard the day after the president`s famous call with the president of Ukraine was the president raising the issue of investigations, the Bidens, Burisma. We want to know more about that. That`s one more conversation that corroborates the central misconduct of the president.
And, by the way, it calls into question, again, the completeness of Ambassador Sondland`s testimony because this is the first we`re learning of it.
O`DONNELL: Well, to say it calls into question is very kind. It makes very clear that Ambassador Sondland left this out. And because he left it out of his testimony to believe that he had no negative intention and wasn`t committing perjury by leaving it out, you have to believe that Gordon Sondland simply didn`t remember this. He didn`t remember sitting in a restaurant in Ukraine, grabbing his cellphone and saying I`m going to call the president of the United States.
Getting the president on the phone and then having that conversation in that restaurant. Like that -- is it in any way conceivably credible that is something that Gordon Sondland could forget?
MALONEY: No, not if it was five years ago, ten years ago. We`re talking about something that was five weeks ago and we`re talking about something that is at the heart of this inquiry.
And by the way, this isn`t the first time. Remember his supplemental declaration that got tacked onto his testimony the first time related to another critical conversation he seemingly forgot which was with a key aid to Ukraine in which he delivered the quid pro quo in which he said you`re not getting the White House meeting, you`re not getting security assistance, you`re not getting anything until we get a specifically negotiated statement that smears the Bidens. That conversation didn`t make it into the first testimony until other witnesses raised the issue of his failure to recall.
In other words, their testimony forced his hand. And what you`re seeing with Mr. Sondland, I think, is someone who has a very important story to tell and needs to tell all of it. And that`s why we`re having them in public session, but it`s also why we have surrounded him by the credible accounts of others who leave him no choice but to tell us the whole truth.
And may I say one more thing, there are other records that the State Department is refusing to produce with no legal basis. They have been subpoenaed. And all these witnesses kept notes.
Ambassador Taylor in particular kept copious notes. And there are e-mails and other text messages, no doubt, that we need to have. And you better believe if any of that information helped exculpate or exonerate the president, we would have seen it.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Sherman, I want to give you a wide open spot here to share with us your feelings when you were watching your former colleagues and diplomatic service in this testimony today, what you want to -- any part you want to comment on, including much of what they had to say about the importance of Ukraine. They really wanted to take the opportunity to deliver to this committee the importance of our policy with Ukraine beyond just what is now the scandalous elements of it.
WENDY SHERMAN, MSNBC GLOBAL AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Lawrence. And thank you, Congressman, for your good work today. The committee was incredibly disciplined, particularly in the Democratic side, and Congressman Schiff really as you say, Lawrence, was a master classman on how to conduct a congressional hearing. I`ve been on the other side of that table many, many times. And it`s very tough.
So watching Bill Taylor whom I know extremely well, have for years, listening to George Kent just really made me incredibly proud. We have a demoralized state department.
Today, Foreign Service officers, civil servants, the thousands of people who serve our interests all over the world could stand with high pride today as these two very sober, steely gentlemen just gave us the facts, just the facts. And again and again as you pointed out, the Republicans tried to say do you really want to impeach him, do you really want to impeach him? And again and again, each of them said I`m here as a fact witness. I`m going to tell you the truth. I am a public servant.
And as you also pointed out, they talked about Ukraine. Not only what that country has gone through, I went to Ukraine shortly after the change moving toward democracy. It was a young country trying to find its roots in democracy. The United States was critically important to that journey.
The fact that the president signed legislation to send weapons to Ukraine, lethal weapons was an important step, one that President Obama did not take. It was important that President Trump did it. Now, he`s running away from the very leverage we have to help President Zelensky create the democracy that the people of Ukraine so richly deserve.
Finally, and thank you for this time, it was all about making sure that Russia did not take over Ukraine. As I`ve said on this program before Mitch McConnell after the Soviet Union fell apart, was a huge champion of Ukraine. And the reason why is because he did not want to see Russia dominate again. He did not want to see the Soviet Union re-created.
And what we heard from both Kent and Taylor today was everything that the president is now doing is rushing Ukraine into the arms of Russia and that doesn`t protect the Ukraine and certainly doesn`t protect the United States.
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, when I heard Ambassador Taylor begin with something along the lines of just last Friday I learned, I really was struck because in a situation like this where we already have a deposition that we`ve all read, we think we know everything we`re going to hear today, and then suddenly, here comes this new phone call, this new evidence.
What was it like for you hearing that new evidence break through today in the hearing?
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: It was another ah-ha moment where you hear it and go that`s the beauty of a live witness who really wants to get all the facts out. He clearly wanted everybody to know everything he knew. He was willing to share.
It`s a shame he`s been denied access to his own records, that the members of Congress have been denied the records. It`s sort of like what happened with John Dean who was escorted out of the White House without his records, where you have people Haldeman and Ehrlichman were allowed to have access. It helps to have people to be able to remember things and learn things if they have those records. And there is no legitimate reason why they cannot have it.
I think despite all of that, today`s hearing was so well handled, I agree completely with what`s been said in terms of how well Adam Schiff handled the hearings. He was very dignified and controlled and he stayed calm. The witnesses were able to shine. The witnesses were able to speak.
I just hope that people who listen to networks other than this one will hear the same things we`re hearing, which is gavel to gavel coverage that shows exactly what happened. And even for someone like me and I worked in Ukraine for Motorola, and this was before any of the revolutions before it was really corrupt.
But I know that there`s a lot that can be done to help that country and we saw it laid out before us today as to why it`s important to our security to help them.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Maloney, just quickly before we go, I was so impressed by the conduct of the hearing by Chairman Schiff and by you, the members, it was very disciplined. None of you overlapped with each other. It seems like you had some real coordination going into this and some real planning going into it knowing how you were going to divide up the questioning and responsibilities.
MALONEY: Well, the credit goes to the chairman. And I`m so glad that America got to see what all of us see in private, which is he`s an extraordinary member of Congress, a chairman of a major committee. We`re blessed to have him in that position. And all of us would follow him to the ends of the earth.
So when he sets that tone and, you know, says we all need to get organized and be disciplined, every member of the Democratic side of that committee says, yes, sir.
And also, don`t forget the staff. I thought the staff did a remarkable job preparing for today`s hearing, helping all of us. And also Dan Goldman, an MSNBC alum, I thought did a wonderful job.
And if I can say one more thing since we`re singing peoples praises, I`m so glad young people out there are able to see what real courage looks like and what foreign service officers and what military professionals, folks like Secretary Kent, Ambassador Taylor, but also people to come like Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and Ambassador Yovanovitch, what that service really looks like and means.
And I know there`s been demoralization of those departments, but, boy, if you`re a young person out there thinking about a way to spend your career and want to do some good, join the Foreign Service. We need you. And look at today`s hearings as an example of what you can -- what you can do.
O`DONNELL: I`m so glad you mentioned the committee staff. This is the show we never forget the committee staff on the intelligence committee or any other.
Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, Wendy Sherman, Jill Wine-Banks, thank you all for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, a possible perjury case against Gordon Sondland got considerably stronger today with Ambassador William Taylor`s stunning revelation about Sondland`s overheard cellphone call from a restaurant in Ukraine to the president of the United States.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Gordon Sondland is discovering the hard way that lying for Donald Trump is not as easy as Donald Trump makes it look.
Here is Congressman Peter Welch on this program three weeks ago when we first discovered the contradictions between Ambassador Taylor`s testimony and Gordon Sondland`s testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Is Gordon Sondland in danger of perjury charges for his testimony to your committee?
WELCH: I think he is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He keeps it simple.
Joining us now is Democratic Republican Congressman Peter Welch. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee and the Oversight Committee. He took part in today`s hearing.
And Neal Katyal is with us, former acting U.S. solicitor general, and MSNBC legal contributor.
And, Congressman Welch, let`s start with the new discoveries about Gordon Sondland and that cell phone call. What does it add to what could be a perjury case against Gordon Sondland?
WELCH: Well, it`s firsthand account that he conveniently left over and he`s already had one do over. But you have this person who`s going to be deposed on Friday who heard the phone call between President Trump and Ambassador Sondland, and President Trump very explicitly according to the witness today was concerned about the investigations, not about Ukraine policy, not about repulsing Russia, not about getting rid of corruption.
It was about the investigations he wanted done on Biden. So, it`s going to be a very powerful day on Friday when we have an opportunity to depose this witness.
O`DONNELL: And, Neal Katyal, legally, I think there are people out there who think it`s not perjury if you say I do not recall, that kind of automatically avoids perjury. And it`s not perjury if you just don`t mention something. You just leave it out, you don`t talk about it, then that`s not perjury.
How does this work? How do you see this situation for Gordon Sondland right now?
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: I think it`s looking really, really bad. Obviously, it can`t be the case. The rule can`t be you can say I don`t recall and get out of perjury charges because then everyone would say that to every question and we`d never have perjury, which is one of the essential tools to keep truth in our justice system going every day.
And here you`ve got a separate problem, which is this new devastating testimony today by Ambassador Taylor concerns a conversation that Gordon Sondland had with the president of the United States.
I`ve worked in two different administrations for two different presidents. I can guarantee you, Lawrence, I can pretty much remember word for word almost every conversation I had with the president even if I had many of them because of the gravity of such a thing. You`re talking about the president of the United States. And here he went and testified and didn`t mention this at all?
He`s already as the congressman said had to come back once, and now he`s going to have to come back again. And boy, if I`m advising him, I think this guy is in real trouble.
Perjury has a five-year statute of limitations, and I know the Trump administration has gotten used to a fake attorney general who doesn`t look at and investigate when there`s wrongdoing by members of the executive branch. But this is five-year statute of limitations. And I`ll tell you, Lawrence, any attorney general I don`t care if they are Republican or Democrat, will look at this and be deeply, deeply concerned.
I worked for two different Attorney Generals, Eric Holder and Janet Reno, and boy, they would look into this and they would look into it even if the President told them not to. That`s what Holder did, for example, with the CIA investigation into abuse. When the President didn`t want him to look into it, he still did and that`s going to happen here.
So, Sondland has to come forward next week and say either he lied before or he forgot, whatever euphemism he wants to use, or Ambassador Taylor is lying and good luck with that.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Welch, I want to take a look once again at this moment that you had with Jim Jordan because Jim Jordan has been getting away with his stunts in hearings for as long as people have been watching him in his hearings without the suit coat on. And so, we`ve shown it once already, but with you here, I want to show it once again. Let`s just take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): There is one witness, one witness that they won`t bring in front of us, they won`t bring in front of the American people. That`s the guy who started it all, the whistleblower.
REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): I`d like say to my colleague, I`d be glad to have the person who started it all come in and testify. President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congressman Welch, well played, to put it mildly. But Jim Jordan is the big star that the Republicans had to make room for in that committee. They had to kick off a member, bring him in so he could sit there and have moments like that, which you completely crushed today. Jim Jordan had nothing to say back to that moment and of course, obviously, it`s Donald Trump who started all of this.
WELCH: Well, that`s right. I mean Jordan is a performer and what he does is incredible bluster. He speaks so fast, I get a headache and I can`t quite keep up with it. But, when you peel it back, what`s he saying and usually it`s nothing related to the central question of whether the President abused his authority to get advantage in a political campaign. And he is attacking the whistleblower in threatening his identity even though everything the whistleblower said has been corroborated. And the bottom line, Jim, if you want to get the truth, why don`t we bring in the President? That`s sort of the self-evident fact and I called the question on that.
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, I want to go back to a point you were making about the statute of limitations because, if you look at Donald Trump`s polling numbers, it looks pretty bad, his reelection prospects. And I keep wondering about people like Gordon Sondland, don`t they realize that there`s a very strong possibility of there being a Democratic Attorney General and not so long down the road and that these cases are all live cases going into the next administration, possible criminal cases. So if Gordon Sondland is going to be making phone calls to Donald Trump, he might want to be talking about pardon.
KATYAL: Absolutely. I mean I think if you`re Gordon Sondland, right now, you have a lot to worry about. And by the way, Lawrence, I think that`s true even if it`s another Republican Attorney General who comes in. I think any fair-minded Attorney General will look at this and say, "Oh really, you forgot a conversation you had with the President of the United States in a restaurant? I mean come on, give me a break." And this is why I think and this is what you`re talking about with Congressman Welch that the Trump defenses have essentially collapsed.
I mean the defense today that Jim Jordan was running was, well, this is all hearsay and third-hand, usually you don`t have any first-hand witnesses to what the President thought. I think the congressman is exactly right; the real devastating problem with that is the Democrats say, "Look, we won all of these people and we want Trump to come in. We want Bolton to come in. We want all these witnesses. We want documents and emails. And what are you doing, Mr. President? You`ve issued an order that says, no executive branch employee can come in and testify to Congress and tell the truth. You`ve said no documents will be turned over. That is not the way a President of the United States behaves. That`s the way King George III behaved 200 years ago and what we fought the revolution about."
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, thank you for joining us tonight with your invaluable legal insight on this. And Congressman Peter Welch, thank you for joining us tonight. Very important for us to have you here tonight on this night where I know for a fact that you are a hero among both Democrats and many Republicans in the House of Representatives for crushing the Jim Jordan Act today. It`s not just Democrats who know how silly that man is.
WELCH: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Congressman. And when we come back, John Brennan will join us to explain the danger of what foreign governments learned about Donald Trump in today`s impeachment hearing. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: And supporting Ukraine`s brave resistance to Russian aggression, we have a front-row seat to the Russian way of war in the 21st century, gaining priceless insights that contribute to our own security.
O`DONNELL: Yes, Donald Trump doesn`t care about that. According to his friend, Gordon Sondland, after he hung up his cell phone in a Ukraine restaurant just after speaking with Donald Trump, Gordon Sondland said that Donald Trump cares more about investigating Joe Biden than he cares about Ukraine.
For a national security and intelligence perspective on today`s testimony, we turn now to former CIA director, John Brennan. He is a senior national security and intelligence analyst for MSNBC. And I want to get your reaction to that phone call in that restaurant, which sounds like a very, very high level security risk.
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR, MSNBC SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, it it`s just a number of things. One is that, I think as Neal mentioned, Ambassador Sondland has a fair amount of explaining to do. Number two, it shows that Donald Trump was continually focused on the status of Ukraine`s willingness to make a public statement about investigating the Bidens. And three, it shows that Donald Trump will have these open conversations, including to Ukraine, where the Russians have tremendous technical capabilities to tap into those conversations. So, I think it just again underscores Mr. Trump`s failings as President of the United States.
O`DONNELL: What do - what do other countries watching this today, I was thinking about obviously there`s intense interest in this hearing in Ukraine, there`s intense interest in it in Russia, as tend to interest here. At a certain point I started to wonder, well, what is the rest of the world - what are other governments seeing when they watch this today?
BRENNAN: Well, I think other government officials like the rest of us have witnessed over the last two-and-a-half years, Mr. Trump`s incompetence, his ignorance of foreign affairs, and his inability in fact to carry out the duties of the office on the national security front. But the Ukraine matter is different, I think it really reveals Mr. Trump`s malfeasance of office and his interest in getting political dirt on his opponents in the upcoming election.
And so, I think it sends a signal that if you`re a foreign leader, I don`t think even Mr. Trump has to ask for that information now; I think they know that he is keenly interested in it. He will accept it and he will give them the appropriate praise as well as maybe compensation as a result. So, I think it sends a very bad signal that, unlike any of the president certainly in my memory, this individual Mr. Trump is willing to engage in these corrupt political practices, the type of practices that the foreign service officers like Mr. Kent and Ambassador Taylor have tried to rid the countries of. And here we are, practicing it ourselves.
O`DONNELL: There`s yet another element to this, which - I`m going to squeeze in the commercial break and come back after that - and that is that the other thing foreign governments are learning today is that if they did engage in that kind of political help to Donald Trump, Republicans in Congress would protect them and would protect Donald Trump for have - even if caught in that. Well, we`ll pick that up when we come back right after this break, with John Brennan.
O`DONNELL: We`re back with former CIA director, John Brennan, and I wanted to just put up on the screen for the audience a tweet you`ve put out today saying, "The impeachment process will reveal whether Republicans will tolerate corruption, dishonesty & avarice in our Nation`s highest office. If so, America`s political soul & global standing will be indelibly sullied, and Donald Trump will have destroyed the very heart of the GOP." What did you learn about that today?
BRENNAN: Well, I guess I`ve been holding out hope that there will be Republicans of conscience who will do the right thing, but I was very proud of how our diplomats carried out their responsibilities, testifying to Congress today. I was embarrassed by the shameful, shameful performance of the Republicans who seemed to have no interest in uncovering the truth and doing what is right and consistent with American values and principles.
And so, it seems as though they`re going to continue to circle the wagons and they`re going to defend Mr. Trump at all costs and they have decided to jump into the cesspool of politics with him with their dishonesty, and it really is quite unfortunate that they`ve decided to go down this road. I really believe that if these members - if these Republican members of Congress were in office in 1974, Richard Nixon never would have been removed from office. He never would have been shown the door basically by the Republicans.
And I`m still hoping that Republicans in Congress, in the Senate and the House, are going to rise to the occasion, but I`m losing hope and faith in them.
O`DONNELL: Former CIA director, John Brennan, thank you very much for joining us and I really appreciate it.
BRENNAN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And up next, two Pulitzer Prize winners who are covering their third impeachment investigation of the President, Eugene Robinson and Howell Raines, will join us.
O`DONNELL: Two presidential impeachment investigations, 45 years apart, are at their core about the integrity of our democratic elections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SAM ERVIN (D-NC): The burglars who broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate were in effect breaking into the home of every citizen of the United States. And if these allegations prove to be true, what they were seeking to steal was not the jewels, money or other property of American citizens, but something much more valuable - their most precious heritage: the right to vote in a free election."
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): At the end of the day, we`re going to have to decide based on the evidence that you and others provide whether we`re prepared to accept in the presence of the United States a situation where the President for their own personal or political benefit can condition military aid, diplomatic meetings or any other performance of an official act in order to get help in their re-election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion on this historic night now, Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The Washington Post; also with us another Pulitzer Prize winner, Howell Raines, former executive editor of the New York Times, both are MSNBC contributors.
And Gene, we all remember what a large character Sir Sam Ervin became in the Watergate investigative hearings, and we`re seeing something like that happening today with Adam Schiff happening for the last few weeks in the way this has emerged. What is your sense of the comparison of these two?
EUGENE ROBINSON, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, WASHINGTON POST AND MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think we will remember Adam Schiff as a leading actor in this drama that we`re living through now. This was a historic day and as much as the Republicans in that room tried to make it into a food fight, it wasn`t. It was a day in which a committee of the House of Representatives was taking public open testimony concerning the impeachment or the possible impeachment of the President of the United States.
And I thought it was a stunning day in many ways; it had a plot twist with Ambassador Taylor`s revelation of the restaurant phone call involving Ambassador Sondland and the President. It was - and it`s just Wednesday.
ROBINSON: It`s just the beginning of what is going to be the rest of this week and then next week, a whole lineup of witnesses. So, this is just getting started.
O`DONNELL: It`s just Wednesday is the line of the night for me so far. I have to say - haven`t really - that puts it in perspective for me, Gene. I haven`t really thought about that.
I think when I was a kid, I guess I was in college when I was watching that first impeachment of President Nixon, the idea that we would live through three of them was just something that history certainly did not promise. It was extremely unlikely that we`d ever see another one and yet here we are again.
HOWELL RAINES, FORMER EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES AND MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. This is one of those days in Washington that reminds us that news breaks, but history congeals, and what we saw today was a coagulation, a thickening of the evidentiary case against the President of the United States. What - the new thing that we`re seeing though is that we now have a major political party that in the face of that evidence is committed to the sophistry that facts don`t matter in regard to enforcement of the law and the Constitution. That means I think we are a long, long way from a safe harbor for our political system and that`s what Sam Ervin was talking about so eloquently.
O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at another similarity between these two Republican presidents, Nixon and Trump, and what they have to say, what they`re claiming about their attitude toward this televised impeachment hearing. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD VALERIANI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: President Nixon does not have a television set in his hideaway in the executive office building where he worked this afternoon nor in the Oval Office where he worked this morning. Therefore, a spokesman said Mr. Nixon did not watch the televised Senate hearings on Watergate today and will not be watching.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you watch the hearings today?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITES STATES OF AMERICA: No, I didn`t. I did not watch it. I`m too busy to watch it. It`s a witch-hunt; it`s a hoax. I`m too busy to watch it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, "I`m too busy to watch it."
O`DONNELL: Good think he wasn`t under oath.
ROBINSON: Exactly. I mean there`s no one in the universe who believes that and in fact, the President somehow had time to retweet umpteen times about the proceedings that he was so assiduously not paying attention to. He paid very close attention to it, as did others in the White House, by the way, who were reportedly surprised by this revelation of the restaurant phone call. It doesn`t seem to anybody to have (ph) mentioned that to any of his aides in the White House. So, we`ll see what they come up with to counter that.
O`DONNELL: And we have news tonight from the Washington Post, Senate Republicans thinking about the - how this intersects with the presidential campaign and Washing Post reporting some Senate Republican senators and their advisors are privately discussing whether to pressure GOP leaders to stage a lengthy impeachment trial beginning in January to scramble the Democratic presidential race, potentially keeping six contenders in Washington until the eve of the Iowa caucuses or longer. Howell Raines, that`s their latest move to try to stop, I guess, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren?
RAINES: Yes, and it reminds us why you`re right, Lawrence, to exhort us to look back at the Nixon and Clinton experiences in light of where we are. What the Nixon experience and the Clinton impeachment had in common was that both parties agreed on the facts of the case. The resolutions were different; Nixon cut it off by resigning and Clinton, the judgment was that his behavior was reprehensible, but didn`t rise to the level of removal.
Now, here we have a dispute about the facts and about whether facts matter, and if I were the Democrats, I would be looking at the impeachment that neither Gene nor I is old enough to have covered, and that was Andrew Johnson, and I think that`s the Democrats paradigm that probably they would think would be their deepest desire, that is that the impeachment fails in the Senate but the presidency is destroyed. And that`s the stakes that we`re in right now.
I thought the Post story was fascinating; I read it just before we came on. But, I frankly don`t see that as something that the Republicans are going to be willing to gamble on, because every time the evidence is expanded, deepened, spread out more, it`s bad news for the guy that they`re trying to get a free pass for.
O`DONNELL: Yes, Gene Robinson, how is an additional day of Senate trial good for the Trump re-election campaign?
ROBINSON: It is not good for the Trump re-election campaign; it can`t possibly be good for the re-election campaign. Mitch McConnell is already saying, basically, it`s going to be a real trial, that it`s not going to be some sort of quick dismissal and that every minute they spend actually looking at the facts is bad for the Trump campaign. But think about that, the sort of tactical gambit.
This could be a textbook definition of grasping at straws at this point, right, trying to make something positive out of this situation for the Republican Party by sabotaging the Democratic presidential field. You`re supposed to be actually having a trial and considering the evidence, I can`t believe that somebody in the - on the Republican side of the Senate doesn`t take their job at least seriously enough to understand that they have a role to play here, under the Constitution.
O`DONNELL: Yes and you know, as they game it out, Howell, the idea that there`s an impeachment trial of the President of the United States, that`s where all the country`s focus is going to be. So if you`re a United States Senator and you`re in that trial, you`re probably in a better position than the - actually than the other candidates who are available to be out there campaigning.
RAINES: Yes, gaming is an apt word, Lawrence, in this respect. Although Jim Jordan and Nunes looks silly, I think they had a pretty good day of keeping the numbers stable. 48% of the American people, the poll show want to see impeachment recede; 44% wanted not to go forward, and I think that`s what Jordan was playing toward.
O`DONNELL: Howell Raines and Eugene Robinson get tonight`s last word. Thank you both very much for joining us; really appreciate it.
ROBINSON: Good to be here.
O`DONNELL: 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