RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: This one is hand-died with tea and coffee before she did the cross-stitch by hand. She wanted a more vintage look. Thank you, Tammy.
Oh, but wait there`s more. Look at this one. This one is from Barbara in -- can I get the reflection off?
Barbara in Garden City, New York. Barbara, I love what you did here. See, instead of stitching the full kind of long quote from Mr. Kent, she got right to it. You can`t fight corruption without pissing off corrupt people.
True that, Barbara. True that.
You guys, we love this more than anything. We will cherish them forever and ever. We`re planning to build a small museum for them in our office. Fantastic, I will say if anybody else out there was inspired to actually make this in real life, the way these awesome folks were, if there`s a basket of thread calling your name on something like this, I hereby suggest you share the cross-stitch you love with someone special in your life.
We have -- don`t send us anymore. We love the ones you have. If you are making these, you have to gift them around and spread them around the country. Give them to somebody you like. Even better, perhaps give them to someone you disagree with. Could be a conversation starter, right? Best new thing in the world.
That does it for us tonight. See you again on Monday.
Now it`s time for the "Last Word." Ali Velshi filling in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Ali.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: I know you have to go, but it would really be appreciated if you just had more of these and you showed them to us. And if you are building a museum, people do actually have to send you more of them. Do you know what the museum is going to be called?
MADDOW: It`s going to be called the Rachel Maddow Show Cross-stitch Museum of Impeachment Art from November 2019, maybe.
VELSHI: I would like to take a patron`s membership in that.
MADDOW: Well done. I will put your name on the cornerstone, my friend. Thank you very much.
VELSHI: You have an excellent weekend, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Ali.
VELSHI: We`ll see you Monday. Bye-bye. Ahead tonight, John Bolton`s back and he`s causing headaches for the Trump administration. The former National Security advisor is re-emerging after a public hiatus and he`s already fighting with the White House. Could his next public appearance be under oath at an impeachment hearing?
Also, the president went on his favorite network today and the Fox News host tried harder than usual to challenge him. It didn`t go over well. More on those stories later in the hour, but we begin tonight with the latest impeachment developments.
In a new interview with the "L.A. Times," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says that his committee has begun writing his report in the impeachment investigation against President Trump. And once the report is written, it`ll be handed off to the Judiciary Committee which will draft the actual articles of impeachment.
But Schiff hasn`t ruled out hearing from more witnesses before he submits the report, "We`re not foreclosing the possibility of additional depositions or hearings, but we`re also not willing to wait months and months and let them play rope-a-dope with us in the courts."
Schiff said the committee will work, "on both tracks of continuing to investigate while beginning to put our report together." Democrats seem to think they have learned all they need to from the impeachment hearings.
But the same cannot be said for the president who continues to push the unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine worked against him in the 2016 election. We should warn you what you are about to hear is not accurate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): The FBI went in and they told him get out of here, you`re not -- we`re not giving it to you. They gave the server to CrowdStrike or whatever it`s called, which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian.
And I still want to see that server. You know, the FBI has never gotten that server. That`s a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company?
STEEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS HOST: Are you sure they did that? Are you sure they gave it to Ukraine?
TRUMP: Well, that`s what the word is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That`s not actually what the word is. I just want to feel for those guys on "Fox & Friends." Allow me if you will to step back and fact check this. "They gave the server to CrowdStrike or whatever it`s called." Wrong. "Which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian." Wrong. "The FBI has never gotten that server." Wrong.
Trump can`t even seem to get his own conspiracy theory right. Trump went on to tell Fox News, "Ukraine hated me. They were after me in the election. They wanted Hillary Clinton to win. Let`s be clear on this point, too.
The intelligence community concluded that Russia -- Russia interfered in the 2016 election. All of this is to say that the president must not have been watching the impeachment hearings too closely this week because his comments came just a day after this woman, Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia chastised Republicans for pushing this, "fictional narrative."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIONA HILL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR ON RUSSIA: Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps somehow for some reason Ukraine did. This is fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP
VELSHI: Fiona hill has no other dog in this fight. When she says it`s a fictional narrative, this comes from a lot of experience. Tonight the "New York Times" report that Fiona Hill`s testimony aligned closely with recent intelligence briefings given to United States senators.
"American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearlong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow`s own hacking of the 2016 election, according to three American officials.
The revelations demonstrate Russia`s persistence in trying to sow discord among its adversaries and show that the Kremlin apparently succeeded, as unfounded claims about Ukrainian interference seeped into Republican talking points."
If that is not evidence enough that Trump is pushing a conspiracy theory, try this. Vladimir Putin himself says he`s pleased that the, "political battles in Washington" have put on the back burner accusations that Russia interfered in U.S. elections.
According to the Associated Press, Putin said this week, "Thank god no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore. Now they`re accusing Ukraine."
Leading off our discussion tonight Michael Weiss, "Daily Beast" editor-at- large. He`s currently writing a book on Russian military intelligence, David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst. He attended all three days of the impeachment hearings this week.
Gentlemen, we had a fairly robust conversation before the show started on the idea that there are people, you might even call them reasonable people, educated people, smart people who continue to believe this bunk that Fiona Hill told Congress, and she is as senior and learned as you get on this, is not true. It is a fiction.
It is perpetrated by Russia to have people believe that somehow Ukraine, which is in a war with Russia, in dispute with Russia, was the one involved in hacking the election or interfering in the U.S. Election. What more, Michael, can you say to people who continue to believe this or perpetrate this?
MICHAEL WEISS, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE DAILY BEAST: There are several different strands to this conspiracy theory. The most -- I hesitate to use the word legitimate, but the most kind of credible one, the then Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Mr. Chaly, wrote an op-ed castigating Donald Trump for comments he made which are rather bizarre and also contradictory.
Number one, Donald Trump, then candidate Trump said that most Crimeans want to be part of Russia thus legitimating the invasion and annexation of sovereign European soil the first time since World War II.
Also, Donald Trump I believe in conversation with George Stephanopoulos said weirdly, if I`m president Russia will never invade Crimea even after they had done.
WEISS: So this was his way to get back at Barack Obama. Chaly`s op-ed I think published it was published in "The Hill." It was ill-advised as Dr. Hill mentioned at Congress. However, it was done publicly. It is actually based on my own reporting.
Some of the least incendiary rhetoric used by European diplomats about by then candidate Trump given some of the comments he made not just about Ukraine but also about NATO, the trans-Atlantic relationship.
I well recall being in a European country and meeting with foreign minister of a NATO member state in which Donald Trump came on the television as then candidate Trump and that former minister told me if this man is elected, it`s the end of the west.
VELSHI: So the point here is that somebody in an official capacity in Ukraine criticized Donald Trump --
VELSHI: -- who was then a candidate, which Donald Trump and others have now then turned into the fact that there was an attempt to interfere in the election.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, and he did it openly. That`s the key thing. The Russian attack as Bob Mueller characterized it was systematic and sweeping. It involved illegal activity, stealing e-mails, releasing them and taking over parts of --
VELSHI: This was the op-ed.
CORN: Yes, and this was an op-ed. And it`s kind of -- we have just now, all three of us, fallen into the trap.
VELSHI: We`re discussing it --
CORN: We`re discussing it and we`re trying to explain what`s there and what isn`t there and getting into details when Donald Trump -- and I sat through this all week.
Jim Jordan, Devin Nunes and the Republicans on the panel and others, all they do is they try to string together in a very word solid nefarious way, terms and names like Steele, Ukraine, meddling, op-eds, tweets, money and they try to create an impression --
VELSHI: However, unfortunately, it`s something you can`t get away from because it`s in the mainstream now.
CORN: Because the president himself is the one who is doing this.
VELSHI: Right, puts it there.
CORN: And they are just trying to create this alternative reality for people who don`t want to believe the worst of Donald Trump, who want to believe in Donald Trump and they need something else to hang onto. And that`s what they`re giving them.
WEISS: In the lead up to the Brexit referendum in the U.K., Barack Obama who I think was then visiting the U.K. --
WEISS: -- wrote an op-ed in the "Telegraph" I believe, basically saying, guys, don`t do this --
VELSHI: Don`t do this. Yes.
WEISS: -- as the American president. Now, also, arguably ill advised, indecorous, as the American president to --
VELSHI: Get involved in somebody`s internal politics.
WEISSS: However, is that the same thing --
VELSHI: As interference.
WEISS: -- as two different Russian intelligence organizations conducting cyber espionage --
WEISS: -- against a political party in a foreign country, then leaking the contents of their correspondence to a Russian asset, in this case, WikiLeaks, for the purposes of bolstering one candidate and diminishing the other.
Is that also tantamount to running a sophisticated active measures campaign in the form of disinformation and propaganda using social media services such as Twitter and Facebook? Is it the same thing? It is not.
VELSHI: So let`s assume that everything that you two have just said, we take it at face value, that these are different things. What this diplomat did is not the same as interference in an election.
I want to play why this is dangerous. So you said wisely, we fall into a trap when we discuss this. As journalist, sometimes we have to go down some of these roads.
CORN: Yes. Yes.
VELSHI: But here`s where the real danger lies as articulated by Fiona Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Right now, Russia`s security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We are running out of time to stop them. In the course of this investigation I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That`s the rub. Therein lies the rub. As long as everybody`s discussing this, Vladimir Putin has said, this is fantastic.
CORN: Oh, it`s great. And what it does is -- Trump has never fully acknowledged that the Russians attacked and that the Russians attacked to help him and that the Russian attack had an impact on the campaign. H
He can`t live with that. It`s a taint on his presidency. And because of that he has not been able to in the last three years as president to deal with the prospect of another Russian attack.
In fact, the "Washington Post" reported a few weeks ago that when he met in May, I think, of 2017 with two Russian officials in the Oval Office, he told them he was not concerned. And so what he`s been trying to do for the last three years is to remove this stain, create alternative narratives.
And what it does is it leaves the United States wide open to another attack because he can`t accept the first one. And we go fast forward to the Ukraine scandal which is all about what -- again, trying to do something to rig the 2020 election in his favor.
VELSHI: Okay, so the gear we should be on here, the other line of defense that Republicans are using, Michael, is that nobody who`s testified was really in the room or on the call which is not true because there were people there and they`re in fact witnesses and there are people like Fiona Hill who have context and are fact witnesses.
But the bottom line is the people who could probably tell us the most about this did not appear to testify. Adam Schiff tells the "Los Angeles Times" that "we`ve made it abundantly clear to the president that their failure to permit witnesses to testify and failure to respond to any of our subpoenas has only built the case against them for obstruction of Congress."
The fact is Mulvaney, Giuliani, Bolton, these people can tell you whether the president told them to do something. The president and others have made it clear that he`s willing to throw them under the bus. So we don`t know what they`re going to do. Gordon Sondland responded to being thrown under the bus or threatened by throwing somebody else back.
WEISS: The other side of this, I mean, this is assuming that Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Bolton would tell the truth before Congress, which in the case of Mr. Giuliani, I`m not willing to place that he can tell.
WEISS: However, the idea that this is a Democratic coup, witch-hunt, this is the most preposterous statement or allegation of them all. The call is coming from inside the house as they say in horror films. The people who are going to impeach this president are Republicans.
Gordon Sndland, not exactly anybody`s idea of the diplomat`s diplomat. A partisan hack, if I may. Somebody who gave a lot of money to the RNC and to the Trump campaign. Got a position he probably didn`t deserve -- comes before Congress and said there was a quid pro quo. He`s a Republican operative.
Kurt Volker, neo-conservative of the McCain stripe, arguably tried to finesse and manage a very difficult situation, didn`t exactly cover himself in glory, has also delivered a verdict that, yes, there was something very dodgy going on here.
John Bolton on the record to the press or quoted in the press --
VELSHI: Seems to be looking for an opportune --
WEISS: -- I don`t want any part of this drug deal. John Bolton, nobody`s idea of a progressive liberal Democratic operative.
WEISS: Republicans are the ones coming forward and basically --
WEISS: -- providing the noose with which this president is going to hang himself. So, you know, the Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan line, that this whole thing is a party political --
WEISS: -- you know, conspiracy, its nonsense. It`s nonsense on stilts. Fiona Hill is a -- I`ve known Fiona Hill for several years. I`ve followed her work for a very long time. This is one of the most professional scholarly Russia analysts there is.
By the way, she`s described often in the U.S. news cycle as a Kremlin hawk. Not exactly -- very nuanced in her appraisal. Her biography, which is one of the more insightful biographies of Vladimir Putin, very cleverly -- it`s almost a post-modern kind of analysis.
She takes different ark types of who Putin is and studies them and takes them in isolation and then creates a composite. Not just the KGB case officer but the capitalists, the statist and so on. This is not somebody who gets ahead of her skis with allegations.
VELSHI: And if you were listening to her, that`s the conclusion (inaudible). Unfortunately we`re out of time for this discussion, but I love having it with you guys. Thank you both, Michael Weiss and David Corn. Thanks for being with us.
All right, coming up, Lev and Igor have made it into the impeachment investigation, and now Lev`s lawyer says Lev has evidence relevant to the investigation about Devin Nunes, the minority chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. That is next.
VELSHI: The indicted Ukrainian associate of Rudy Giuliani says he has "hard evidence of Donald Trump`s misconduct in the plot to bribe Ukraine. Joseph Bondy is a lawyer for Lev Parnas.
He tweeted, "He has material first-hand evidence that is in our national interest to hear." Part of that evidence we`re learning also pertains to the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, this man, Devin Nunes.
Another of Parnas` lawyers, Ed MacMahon, told "The Daily Beast" earlier this week that Parnas "helped arrange meetings and calls in Europe for Representative Devin Nunes in 2018. Nunes` aide, Derek Harvey, participated in the meetings, the lawyer said, which were arranged to help Nunes` investigative work. MacMahon didn`t specify what those investigations entailed,"
Betsy Woodruff Swan`s reporting was entered into the congressional record during the public impeachment hearing on Thursday. Betsy Woodruff Swan is still working on the story. She joins us now. She`s a politics reporter for "The Daily Beast" and an MSNBC contributor.
Also with us as I always love to have when we`ve got complicated legal messes is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney of the Eastern District of Michigan and an MSNBC legal contributor. Thank you to both of you for being with us. Betsy, let`s start with you. What is this new information about Lev Parnas?
BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I can tell you that I spoke with Bondy, the lawyer you referred to earlier this evening. He told me two things that are new for me to have confirmed.
The first thing he said is that an aide to Congressman Nunes told Lev Parnas that Nunes and his team were investigating the Biden family and a Ukrainian energy company called Burisma where Joe Biden`s son, Hunter Biden was a board member.
Those topics were of paramount importance to President Trump and Rudy Giuliani. Trump and Giuliani pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate those specific topics apparently in hopes that such an investigation -- with the announcement of such an investigation would benefit Trump.
And the second thing that Bondy told me is that a former Ukrainian prosecutor named Victor Shokin, an important character, told Lev Parnas that he had a meeting with Congressman Nunes in Vienna. Victor Shokin is a vital character in this story.
He was the prosecutor in Ukraine, widely accused of corruption, who Biden and other western leaders basically pushed out. Biden and other European leaders told the Ukrainian government that they wouldn`t get a financial aid package unless Shokin was ousted.
Shokin now has claimed that the reason he was ousted was because he was scrutinizing Burisma and that Biden forced him out as part of a quid pro quo. The evidence belies those allegations.
But that allegation is something that President Trump appears to have bought hook, line and sinker, and its part of what he was pressuring the Zelensky administration to announce that they were scrutinizing back on that July 25th phone call.
VELSHI: Now, Barbara, as you know, we study these things as journalists and people like Betsy report on them, but the little we know about the law leads one to think that Devin Nunes was front and center in these hearings. He was in all of the so-called secret hearings, the behind closed door hearings that Republicans accused Democrats of not letting Republicans into even though Devin Nunes was in all of them.
He used to be the chair of the Intel Committee. He is the ranking member and he has been there all week. Americans have watched this man all week. Eric Swalwell who is on the Intelligence Committee entered Betsy`s reporting about Devin Nunes into the record and said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Mr. Chairman, you have been falsely accused throughout these proceedings by the ranking member as being "fact witness." Now, if this story is correct, the ranking member may have actually been projecting and in fact he may be the fact witness if he`s working with indicted individuals around our investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Now, Barbara, we`ve had this conversation about a few people over the last several months including the Attorney General Bill Barr. If Devin Nunes went to Ukraine and is mixed up in this conversation one way or the other, even if he was simply investigating by holding meetings with people who are sort of principals in this discussion, how does that play into the fact he is the ranking member, the lead Republican involved in these impeachment hearings?
BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: You know, there are a lot of layers to unpack here. I mean, at one level, it`s just as a fact finder who is supposed to be in kind of a position of serving as a check and balance on the executive branch, if he himself is involved in investigating this on his own, freelancing, it seems like he`s got a recusal situation or a conflict of interest.
I don`t know how the rules work there but with regard to members of Congress, but it seems like he`s intertwining a bit of his own involvement along with his role in oversight. So that seems a little strange.
It also could be the case and that depends on the facts. If he is involved directly in obtaining a thing of value in connection with an election, he himself could be committing crimes, campaign finance violations if he`s assisting President Trump in getting dirt on Joe Biden knowing that there`s no merit to the information in these investigations. So, problematic in a couple of levels there.
VELSHI: Betsy, from your reporting you say congressional records show Nunes traveled to Europe from November 30th to December 3rd, 2018. Three of his aides, Harvey, Scott Glabe, and George Pappas, traveled with him per the records. U.S. government funds paid for the group`s four-day trip, which cost over $63,000.
You got this from public records. I don`t know that I`ve heard Devin Nunes speak about this or speak openly. If feels like it would have been relevant to bring up in the proceedings.
That said you`re getting information from the lawyer of Lev Parnas, a guy who has been charged with election offenses. How do we feel about the information that you`re getting from the lawyer of Lev Parnas or the information that originates with Lev Parnas?
SWAN: Look, people are at their most credible when they`re speaking under oath. I have no reason to believe that the information that Bondy has told me on the record is incorrect. But it goes without saying, without question that the statements that Bondy has made would carry significantly more weight where Parnas to say them on the record and under oath to Congress.
So, a big question that`s open right now is whether Parnas will end up going before Congress, taking an oath and sharing what Parnas` lawyer has shared with me. Now, for Parnas to do something like that, it would be incredibly risky in part, of course, because he has been indicted in the Southern District of New York.
So, one possible avenue that his lawyers could potentially pursue and which lawyers sometimes pursue when they have a client who both faces criminal exposure before the Justice Department, but also has information that`s interesting to Congress, one avenue they could look at is trying to get a specific type of immunity from Congress where Parnas would make a deal with Capitol Hill that he wouldn`t face criminal liability for the particular matters that he discussed before the House Intelligence Committee.
Now, it`s unclear to me whether such a deal will be cut, whether the House Intelligence Committee would think it was important enough to them to bring in Parnas to make that kind of agreement. But those agreements have been made in the past, and it`s clear that Parnas at the very least had significant visibility, and to many of the topics that are at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.
VELSHI: So Barbara, put your prosecutor hat on now. If such a deal needed to be made I`m sure Congress could make it if they thought that it was, as Betsy says, important to have Lev Parnas there.
Is there some danger, given what you`ve heard in the last week, given the testimony from remarkably credible people, Fiona Hill and the like that America heard all week and we know that millions and millions of Americans were glued to that testimony this week? Is there some risk in getting Parnas involved in this?
MCQUADE: There is at a couple of levels. It may very well be what he has to say is true and what the reporting is, is true, but a couple of problems with it.
One is, if Congress or the Southern District of New York, which is hearing (ph) the criminal prosecution, were interested in this information, his lawyer wouldn`t need to be tweeting about it and having public discussions about this.
So it seems that they are trying to create some public pressure to get them to bite on this information, and it seems that they`re reluctant to bite either because they believe it not to be credible or it may be they just don`t want to go down this road at least not at this moment.
It maybe that focusing on Devin Nunes at this moment is distraction. The testimony has been very focused. We`ve heard two weeks of very compelling witness testimony, and to now go down another, you know, rabbit hole talking about Devin Nunes is maybe too far a field from the relevant impeachment inquiry focusing on the conduct of President Trump.
So, it may just be they don`t want to go down that road. The other thing is it gets complicated when you offer immunity to a witness to testify before Congress because it could preclude charges against him later by the Southern District of New York.
And they may want to continue to keep the heat on him to use that as leverage to get information about Rudy Giuliani, President Trump or others. And so there may be some very good reasons that they`re reluctant to deal with him.
VELSHI: It`s a complicated issue, did need a little unpacking and we appreciate the help that you both give and both in your reporting and your analysis -- Betsy Swan and Barbara McQuade, thanks to both of you.
Coming up, John Bolton is back on twitter teasing a back story, but Democrats say he needs to tell in the deposition room. That`s next.
VELSHI: Former National Security Advisor John Bolton has returned to Twitter after a two-month absence. Bolton claims that the White House is responsible for blocking his access to Twitter, tweeting, quote, "Since resigning as National Security Advisor, the White House refused to return access to my personal Twitter account. Out of fear of what I might say? To those who speculated I went into hiding, I`m sorry to disappoint!"
And in an interview on "Fox & Friends," President Trump denied that the White House blocked Bolton in any way from Twitter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Bolton has just gotten back on Twitter. His account was frozen for two months. Did you guys freeze his account?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: No, of course not. Of course not. No, I actually had a good relationship with John.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: John Bolton`s return to Twitter left many calling for him to do the right thing and testify before Congress in the impeachment inquiry. Bolton did not show up to his scheduled deposition with the impeachment investigators earlier this month despite being a key witness of the events surrounding Trump`s interactions with Ukraine.
Joining me to make more sense of this, Jennifer Rubin, an opinion writer at The Washington Post and an MSNBC contributor, and Tim Miller, the Former Communications Director for Jeb Bush`s 2016 presidential campaign and spokesman for the Republican National Committee. He`s now a contributor to "The Bulwark."
Welcome to both of you. Thank you for being here.
Jennifer, John Bolton is doctrinaire in his conservative thinking. It was puzzling to some people that he got himself mixed up with Donald Trump, but it suited him because he`s got some hawkish views on a few things that Donald Trump was willing to indulge. At this point though, he doesn`t seem to have any particular loyalty to Donald Trump, and he seems to be signaling to everyone that he`s got something to say. What do you make of this?
JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST OPINION WRITER & MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, the most interesting thing about that is he repeated one of his disputes with Donald Trump, and that is he resigned. Remember, when he resigned, Trump claimed to have fired him.
VELSHI: That`s right.
RUBIN: And that just reminds us that he has no love lost for Donald Trump. It`s very interesting he put that in there.
Listen, I think John Bolton has a book, and he apparently has a book deal. He`s giving speeches to investment banking groups and making a lot of money. So he is making money off of his story. And if he comes and tells that story for free under oath to Congress, it`s not worth that much.
So I hate to say it, but I think part of this is greed. Part of this is financial greed. The notion that he has to get permission from a court is nonsense. Fiona Hill didn`t get permission. Gordon Sondland didn`t get permission. All of these people knew that any order from the White House not to testify was based on a bogus absolute immunity defense. And they came up and they did their patriotic duty.
So why is John Bolton hiding behind Fiona Hill`s skirts? Well, part of it is money and part of it is because he lives within this right-wing ecosphere. These are his friends, these are his supporters, these are the people who donate to his super PAC.
And I think he`s trying to have it both ways. He`s trying to be very cute and stay in the public eye. He`s trying to maintain his credibility, but at the same time, he is not doing his patriotic duty. He is not helping to get to the bottom of this. And so, in that case, he is really enabling Donald Trump and indirectly Vladimir Putin.
VELSHI: His lawyer seems to be helping him as well, Tim. John Bolton`s lawyer in a letter on November 8th to the House General Counsel said Bolton "was personally involved in many of the events, meetings, and conversations about which you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far."
So I sort of get the fact that he`s trying to make money out of the whole thing, but he does seem to be constantly be baiting somebody into saying you need to talk to me. Do you think there`s material information that he has that could help Trump? Because Mulvaney, Bolton and Giuliani actually know what happened.
TIM MILLER, JEB BUSH 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Of course, there`s material information that he has. I think that he`s got some really good book agents who are doing a great job teasing his book. And he definitely has material information on Ukraine. But I want to put a finer point on something Jennifer mentioned.
As reported by you guys here at MSNBC, at one of those investment banks, paid speeches, closed door meeting, he implied something that would be really one of the five biggest scandals in American history. He implied that the President made decisions in Turkey, allowed our Kurdish allies to get slaughtered because of personal and business interests that he has. He made that as a throwaway line in a private speech.
Look, I think if this was somebody who is acting in good faith with these leaks, this is somebody that wanted to participate with the process, and he had information that led him to believe that the President was making life or death decisions based on his financial business interests, something that is literally unprecedented in modern American history, he would have gone to Congress. He would have gone to a reporter, an investigative reporter. He would have gone to - through the proper legal channels.
VELSHI: There are ways to get your information out.
MILLER: Yes. Yes. It`s not at a private dinner--
VELSHI: Yes. Right.
RUBIN: --with investment bankers. So I thought that that one anecdote just showed where his motivation really is. And lastly, just briefly, he wants a future in this party. And so he understands that if he goes - does a full face turn against Donald Trump, that that`s not there. And so, unlike some of the other people who I think are leaving the administration, Bolton knows where his bread is buttered.
VELSHI: But that`s interesting, Jennifer, because John Bolton has been a conservative for a very, very, very long time. He could have a future in a party that doesn`t involve Donald Trump. One day if Republicans, as you often think about, fantasize about, if Republicans can take a party back that doesn`t involve Donald Trump, a guy like John Bolton can have a role in it. He is not a dumb guy. He`s a bit - can be a bit dug in, but he is - he knows his stuff.
What`s the cost of John Bolton doing this? Because he`s got real information that was testified to by Fiona Hill and others where he called it a drug deal. He said that this thing that Giuliani and Donald Trump were doing was a drug deal. Meaning, he knew something was wrong. I don`t think he literally thought they were dealing drugs. He is now the guy who can decide the outcome of this.
RUBIN: I think he is betting that in the short-term he avoids any blame, any attacks from the President. And if this all washes out, if Donald Trump gets either impeached or removed or he gets voted out, no one will hold John Bolton responsible for having been quiet during this. So he`s hoping this all washes through, and there he is, standing proud and firm without dirt on his hands regarding Ukraine. And he`s there to pick up the pieces.
I think the problem with that is two-fold. One is, he will be blamed for this. He was in an administration that was doing Putin`s dirty work. And the notion that he had no idea what was going on and could not stop it, I think, is preposterous. So I think for his own good, he needs to clear the record and clean up the record.
What did he know about Donald Trump`s obsession with Putin? What steps did he take to dissuade the President from going down this rabbit hole of conspiracy theories? So I think for his own credibility, he needs to step away and say this is what I was doing, I was being the good soldier, I was stopping this. He hasn`t done that, and I think he`s at risk.
VELSHI: Jennifer and Tim, hold on, as we`re going to be right back.
VELSHI: We have breaking news. Moments ago, the State Department released nearly 100 pages of records in response to American Oversight`s lawsuit seeking a range of documents related to the Trump administration`s dealings with Ukraine. You might have heard Rachel talking about this on her show. Those documents have just been released.
And joining us now by phone is Austin Evers, the Executive Director of ethics watchdog group, American Oversight.
Austin, thank you for joining me. I`m just looking at your press release about these documents. You`re saying that among the records, they include emails that confirm multiple contacts in March of this year between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Rudy Giuliani, at least one of which was facilitated by the President`s Assistant, Madeleine Westerhout. Tell me what you are learning. I imagine you`ve just received these documents, so you haven`t fully had a chance to go through them.
AUSTIN EVERS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN OVERSIGHT (via telephone): Thanks so much for having me on. Yes. We are still reviewing them. We wanted to get them out to the public as quickly as possible because transparency is so important on these issues. But--
VELSHI: And you have - you`ve put them up for download. You`ve made them available.
EVERS (via telephone): We did. They are available on our website, americanoversight.org, and you could follow our Twitter account, @weareoversight. We`ll be pulling out the snippets all night long and into the coming days. But you summarized it well.
The documents show a clear paper trail, connecting not just Rudy Giuliani to Mike Pompeo, but being connected by the Oval Office. President Trump`s Personal Assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, serving as a conduit when Rudy Giuliani can`t get through to Pompeo through, quote, "regular channels." The President`s Personal Assistant makes that connection happen.
Based on the timing, which is around March of this year, it looks apparent that this was a connection to ensure that Rudy Giuliani`s smear campaign against a sitting U.S. Ambassador made it to Mike Pompeo`s desk. This is just the first set of disclosures that American Oversight`s litigation is going to expose.
So a major message I want people to understand is that while the administration has refused to turn these documents over to Congress, the stonewall is cracking, and we`re going to get regular document productions from the State Department and other agencies to make sure the truth comes out.
VELSHI: So this is - I want to underscore this point. These are documents that the Congressional investigation has been asking the State Department to produce. They`ve asked Mike Pompeo to do this. The State Department has refused to hand over this information. You then sued under a Freedom of Information application.
EVERS (via telephone): That`s correct. If you look at these documents, you can understand why Mike Pompeo wouldn`t want Congress to have them and why Congress has been complaining for the last two weeks that they haven`t received - I believe the quote is - "a single scrap of paper from Mike Pompeo." Here it is, are basically his call sheets showing multiple phone conversations with Rudy Giuliani at what looks to be the beginning of this scheme to smear the Ambassador.
We have other lawsuits already pending and soon more to come that are going to focus on different aspects of this scandal from the OMB withholding aid to contacts later in time with Mike Pompeo and other senior officials.
So, again, these are just the first disclosures. And for our first round to connect this scandal directly to the Oval Office is pretty significant.
VELSHI: So when you say the first round of disclosures, have you got active other applications, Freedom of Information applications in right now?
EVERS (via telephone): We do. I don`t want to give you an exact count, but it`s in the dozens--
EVERS (via telephone): --of open FOIA requests. I`ll tell you what we`ve been doing. We listen to all the testimony and we read all these deposition transcripts. And if a witness describes a document and Congress says it doesn`t have access--
VELSHI: You go for it.
EVERS (via telephone): --well, the Freedom of Information Act means that we can get it. We can sue for it, and we`re going to force it out in the open. And if it takes past the Senate impeachment trial to get all the evidence out, we`re going to keep fighting for it.
VELSHI: Let me ask you this, though. The State Department obviously has some reasoning, the Executive Branch offers reasoning as to why they won`t provide this to Congress. And for - guys like me think, well, they must have thought this through; someone must have explained to somebody why they can`t release it.
You are obviously under Freedom of Information getting someone to disclose this. I want to just read from your press release where you say that American Oversight could obtain these documents establishes that there is no legal basis for the administration to withhold them from Congress. That`s a simple statement, but it`s kind of remarkable. If you can get them, why can our elected officials not get these documents?
EVERS (via telephone): The reason is obstruction. The only reason that a document that a citizen like me and the members of my team can get can`t go to Adam Schiff or even Devin Nunes is because of obstruction. And it shows the power of the courts again coming in to tell the President and his allies that they have to follow the law even if they don`t want to turn things over to Congress.
So - I mean, I don`t know what to say about whether the State Department and the administration should have anticipated this. They probably should have looked at the articles of impeachment against Former President Clinton and President Nixon. They include obstruction charges.
EVERS (via telephone): And I think the White House should ask itself, should it be pursuing a total obstruction strategy if that obstruction of justice is not even going to be effective?
VELSHI: And to be clear, American Oversight has no special standing. You are as you just described yourself, a citizen. You are a group of people.
EVERS (via telephone): I think we`re pretty good litigators, but no, that`s true.
VELSHI: Right. I mean, in other words, you are doing this as an American - as an American citizen, as a group of American citizens asking for this information. You don`t have unique standing why you should get this versus anybody else.
EVERS (via telephone): That is correct.
VELSHI: So why--
EVERS (via telephone): And now that we have extracted these documents, it means that they belong to the American public. They are public records. Anyone can read them. And they belong to you.
VELSHI: When you filed this, you received the documents from the office manager to the Secretary of State - no, that`s actually one of the e-mails that you`ve got. Where do you get these? Who says it`s OK? When you file the application, who adjudicates that you are entitled to these documents?
EVERS (via telephone): When it works well, apolitical career civil servants collect documents and apply the law to determine what can be made public. Is it classified? Is it - is it privileged? And they apply redactions and they release them.
So, for the last two weeks, we`ve seen dedicated civil servants defy orders not to testify, to go out to talk to Congress. There are also unnamed heroes in agencies across the government who are going to apply the law and ensure that the Freedom of Information Act is not thwarted by this White House`s efforts to obstruct.
And frankly, American Oversight, but really the public, writ large, owes them a debt of gratitude for all the work that they do every day on this and many other issues.
VELSHI: I mean, that is kind of incredible. And I don`t want to beat a dead horse, but I think we need to completely illustrate what we`re talking about here.
Documents that members of Congress, Congressional committees investigating the President asked the State Department for, that were not turned over, you made Freedom of Information applications for, and you have received now the first tranche of these documents, 100 documents - about 100 pages worth of documents that illustrate a connection between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Rudy Giuliani as it related to Ukraine involving the President`s Assistant, Madeleine Westerhout. At least one of the documents contains that.
So you have got information that until now the State Department and the executive have been stonewalling Congress from getting.
EVERS (via telephone): Adam Schiff said they haven`t gotten a single scrap of paper. We`ve just got more than that. But I should really underscore. That`s not because Congress isn`t trying to do its job. It`s not because it`s not asking for these. It`s because the White House and the administration have decided to obstruct the impeachment inquiry. They don`t have a plan to obstruct the Freedom of Information Act, which is backed by Article III courts. And it`s a major hole in their strategy, and it`s finally coming to pay off.
VELSHI: Austin, thank you for joining me. We look forward to looking through these documents and more that you get. Austin is the Executive Director of American Oversight.
Jennifer Rubin and Tim Miller are standing by.
EVERS (via telephone): Thank you.
VELSHI: They have been listening to everything that Austin Miller (ph) said. We`re going to talk more with them after this final break. Stay with us.
VELSHI: We have breaking news now. American Oversight group has sued for Freedom of Information releases of documents that the State Department has now turned over. More than 100 documents have just been turned over to American Oversight. They can be found on americanoversight.org.
However, I just checked, and that website appears to be down, probably because so many people are trying to find these 100 documents. They include emails that confirm contact in March of 2019 between the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and Donald Trump`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as it related to Ukraine.
One of those contacts was facilitated by - at least one, by the way, was facilitated by President Trump`s Assistant, Madeleine Westerhout. The State Department has released these pages to American Oversight. American Oversight has immediately put it on its website so that everybody in the world can download it. And it appears that many people in the world are trying to download it right now.
American Oversight has released a statement saying, "We can see why Mike Pompeo has refused to release this information to Congress. It reveals a clear paper trail from Rudy Giuliani to the Oval Office to Secretary Pompeo to facilitate Giuliani`s smear campaign against a U.S. ambassador."
If you were watching Rachel`s show earlier tonight, you will know that a federal judge did give the State Department until midnight tonight, a late ruling today, to turn these documents over. They have turned the documents over now.
American Oversight saying that they could obtain these documents establishes there is no legal basis for the administration to withhold them from Congress.
Jennifer Rubin and Tim Miller are back with us. They were with me. We were in the middle of a discussion when this all happened.
Jennifer, this feels like a fairly substantial development because the State Department denied Congressional requests, efforts and subpoenas to turn over these documents, and a group of American citizens got it with the Freedom of Information Application.
RUBIN: Absolutely. And when my ears picked up - perked up was when he said they have dozens of these out there. So every subject matter that we have been hearing about for the last two weeks may turn over more documents.
This just goes to show you that once you start peeling back the curtain, all sorts of things come out. And congress is going to be very interested in all of this. I think they`re going to want to see all of these documents. They`re going to want to have hearings on some of these. And they may lead to new witnesses.
What`s so significant about this is - remember what is going on in March. Rudy and his henchmen are trying to cook up all sorts of rumors to get rid of our anti-corruption fighting ambassador, Marie--
VELSHI: Marie Yovanovitch, yes.
RUBIN: --Yovanovitch, in the - in Ukraine. Mike Pompeo is doing nothing to prevent that. Mike Pompeo refuses to put out a statement in support of that.
VELSHI: Of his ambassador.
RUBIN: Of his own ambassador.
VELSHI: Marie Yovanovitch works for the State Department, and he is the boss of the State Department, and he won`t protect his people.
RUBIN: Right. So, is he facilitating? Is he helping Rudy Giuliani or is he objecting to it? He certainly knows it`s going on. And remember, that was the step, that was the predicate for then launching on this effort to essentially (ph) extort Ukraine in addition to whatever other financial deals that Rudy Giuliani was pursuing. They had to get her out of the way.
RUBIN: This puts him right in the middle of this. I think he has extreme liability. And remember, he has not even recused himself from deciding whether to turn over these documents. It took a federal court to force him. So that is completely unacceptable. He`s behaving in a completely inappropriate manner. He`s a lawyer, and he should know his legal obligations. I think this is huge.
VELSHI: I think it`s huge, too. Tim?
MILLER: Here`s the thing, Ali. And this gets lost, right, in the back-and- forth and in the muck-and-the-mire of trying to figure out all the details. But the biggest takeaway from the Sondland testimony was, none of this was a secret. Like, this is the thing. They were all--
VELSHI: Right. He said it. They were all in on it.
MILLER: They were all in on it. Right?
MILLER: Pompeo knew it was happening, Pence knew it was happening, Mulvaney did, the President did. And the only reason that the administration has not just fallen back on the original Mulvaney press conference answer, which was "get over it"--
MILLER: --is the President will just not allow it because of his ego.
And so we have to go through this BS, this misinformation where they try to pretend like there might not have been a quid pro quo, where they try to pretend like maybe this wasn`t as bad as it looks. It is as bad as it looks. And eventually, the more information that comes out, we`ll continue to see more details of that. And the question is, does that actually turn anyone? I think that`s a--
VELSHI: Well, that is a big question. That is a big question. But these are actually documents. And to Jennifer`s point, American Oversight has said, quote, "This is just the first round of disclosures. The evidence is only going to get worse for the administration as its stonewall strategy collapses in the face of court orders." This was a court order. This is one of what he said are dozens of applications, more than 100 documents.
Jennifer Rubin, Tim Miller, thank you for joining us.
That`s tonight`s "Last Word." "The 11th Hour with Brian Williams" begins now.