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Trump denies sending Giuliani to Ukraine. TRANSCRIPT: 11/26/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Neera Tanden, Bill Kristol, Jamie Raskin, Ben Rhodes, DanielLippman

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST:  No problem, Rachel.  Happy Thanksgiving if I don`t see you tomorrow. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Happy Thanksgiving, my dear.  Thanks.

TUR:  And it`s been a very busy night of developments in the impeachment case against Donald Trump. 

Ahead, new details on the fallout from the president`s decision to hold up Ukraine aid, including the two officials who resigned while voicing concerns over the hold. 

And a Republican conspiracy theory grows.  The secretary of state is now refusing to push back on the debunked notion that Ukraine and not Russia interfered in the 2016 election. 

And while Trump was talking tonight in Florida, the person in his administration known as anonymous was answering questions on Reddit.  Anonymous had plenty of things to say tonight that the president will not like, and we will be joined by a reporter who will bring us those biggest moments from the Q&A a little bit later. 

But first tonight, he knew.  New reporting from "The New York Times" shows that President Trump knew about the whistle-blower complaint weeks before news of the complaint was made public.  Quote, Trump had already been briefed on a whistle-blower`s complaint about his dealings with Ukraine when he unfroze military aid for the country in September, according to two people familiar with the matter. 

Lawyers from the White House counsel`s office told Mr. Trump in late August about the complaint, explaining that they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to Congress.  According to "The Times", it is unclear how much detail the lawyers provided Trump about the complaint, but this does mean that the president knew that the whistle- blower had accused him of wrongdoing before he told E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland there was no quid pro quo, and before he ordered the Ukraine aid to be released.

  As the impeachment investigation moves forward, something we`ll get to in a moment.  And the walls continue to close in on the president, it seems no one not even one of his closest allies is immune from getting thrown under the bus. 

Here`s Trump in an interview with Bill O`Reilly talking about Rudy Giuliani. 


BILL O`REILLY, HOST:  What was Rudy Giuliani doing in Ukraine on your behalf? 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, you have to ask that to Rudy but Rudy -- I don`t even know -- I know he was going to go to Ukraine and I think he canceled the trip.  But, you know, Rudy has other clients other than me.  I`m one --

O`REILLY:  So you didn`t direct him to go there on your behalf? 

TRUMP:  No. 


TUR:  Rudy has other clients.  Buckle up, Rudy Giuliani. 

Let`s get this straight.  Despite hours of interviews and dozens of questions on Ukraine over the last couple of months, including an hour on Fox just the other day, the president has never said that before.  And this whole bus meet Rudy thing is coming just days after Giuliani once again made this strange remark about what would happen if he was ever thrown under the bus. 


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S PERSONAL ATTORNEY:  You can assume that I talked to him early and often. 


GIULIANI:  And have a very, very good relationship with him.  And all of these comments which are totally insulting -- 

HENRY:  Yes.

GIULIANI:  I mean, I`ve seen things written like he`s going to throw me under the bus. 

HENRY:  Right.

GIULIANI:  When I say that, I say, he isn`t but I have insurance. 


TUR:  I have insurance.  Stay tuned for what Rudy says in response to Trump`s latest comments. 

And less we forget, all this is happening while we are one big step closer to seeing possible articles of impeachment drawn up against the president.  Today, the House Judiciary Committee scheduled its first impeachment hearing for December 4th.  The title of hearing, the impeachment inquiry into President Donald J. Trump, constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment. 

A Democratic aide tells NBC News that the witnesses for this first hearing will be academics like constitutional scholars and impeachment experts. 

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler sent a letter to Trump asking whether he and his counsel plan to attend the hearing and question witnesses.  Chairman Nadler reminded the president House rules do empower him as chairman to curtail that involvement if, quote, you continue to refuse to make witnesses and documents available related to the impeachment investigation. 

In his letter to the president, Chairman Nadler writes: I remind you that the participation of the president or his counsel has been described by the committee in past inquiries as not a right but a privilege or courtesy which is being extended to the president`s counsel.  I am hopeful you and your counsel will opt to participate in the committee`s hearing consistent with the rules of decorum and with the solemn nature of the work before us. 

This hearing will likely take place just as the House Intelligence Committee sends its written report summarizing the findings of its investigation into President Trump`s efforts to enlist Ukraine into discrediting his political rival.  The Judiciary Committee is expected to use that report to draft articles of impeachment in the coming weeks. 

I spoke earlier with Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, a member of the Judiciary Committee, about what she will be looking for as this process unfolds. 


REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA):  I believe I have to be as thoughtful as possible.  That`s why I want to see the report.  I want to read and digest the report and see where it leads us.  Because what we have to combine is the evidence.  It may be one article, it could be three articles, it could be four. 

But the evidence and the judiciary matches that to the law.  And then I overlay that with my ought of office.  I swore on January 3rd that I would uphold the Constitution of the United States.  So I want to see all of the evidence, not prejudge articles of impeachment.  Put merit to the Constitution as well as my own oath. 


TUR:  Leading off our discussion tonight is Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst. 

Neera Tanden, former senior adviser to President Obama and Hillary Clinton.  She is president and CEO of the Center for American Progress. 

And Bill Kristol, editor at large of "The Bulwark" and director of Defending Democracy Together.  He served in senior positions in the Reagan and H.W. Bush administrations. 

Everyone, welcome. 

It`s hard to know where to begin with the onslaught of news that we`re getting in just the past few hours.  But I think the biggest headline, Jill, is that the president knew about the whistle-blower complaint in late August.  That means he knew about it before he spoke to Gordon Sondland, the E.U. ambassador, saying there was no quid pro quo.  He knew about it before he released the aid. 

If you were a prosecutor working on impeachment, if you were a lawmaker or White House -- or House counsel working on impeachment, what would you be asking? 

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR:  I would have already assumed that what you`ve said was true to begin with.  There was no other reason for the release of the money except that they got caught red-handed.  And so, I`d be asking for all the details from the OMB about the withholding of the release of it. 

I`d also be trying to let the American people know about the Budget Act that made it illegal to with hold money that had been appropriated for a specific purpose within the fiscal year and what was wrong with doing that.  And then you just have a timeline that has become more and more and more convincing that there`s no conclusion but that Donald Trump acted for his own personal interests and against the interests of the American public. 

And that`s where we`re at is that he has committed an impeachable offense, although that needs to be defined, and that`s what the hearings in December are for is to define -- and that`s very much what happened in Watergate.  The first part of the Judiciary Committee was defining what is a high crime and misdemeanor, what is an impeachable act, so that`s an important starting point. 

TUR:  Bill, this has been a Republican defense, it`s been the president`s defense that they release the aid, there can`t be a quid pro quo because there was no quid here, there was no pro quo part it.  There was no favor in return for the favor. 

But this shows there was a really -- and we`d already known this, but there`s an even more suspect timeline.  We already knew that the I.G. report -- the I.G. sent the whistle-blower complaint to Congress two days before the president released the aid and that the Intel Committee and two other committees started an investigation into this two days before the president released the aid.  Now we`re learning the president himself knew about this complaint in late August. 

What does this do to the Republican defense? 

BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK:  You know, the president, Katy, knew about the report in late August.  He may have well have participated in trying to prevent the report from getting out and getting to Congress.  I think the cover-up of the whistle-blower report is another thing -- it`ll become clear in the next few days and really is clear already there was a real cover-up in addition to the extortion -- the attempt to extort from Ukraine information -- false information probably about Joe Biden. 

I mean, Trump gets told about this whistle-blower report, that seems a little odd.  And remember they don`t send it to the Hill, right?  And director of national intelligence, Maguire, testifies and won`t say whether he discussed this directly with the president.  It`s obvious when Trump talks to Sondland and he sort of reads that kind of formal statement, there`s no quid pro quo here, that`s been written by a lawyer in the White House. 

So, there`s a real cover-up here, Jill mentioned Watergate, there`s a real cover-up here, as well as real abuse of power. 

TUR:  Does any of this matter to Republicans?  Does any revelation matter to Republicans? 

KRISTOL:  Yes.  I mean, if you don`t care about the facts and if you just decide you`re going into your tribal defense of the president no matter what, of course, as you say, nothing much matters.  But it is striking.  I mean, since two months that this story really broke, public opinion has moved more than people expected, A. 

B, I do think Trump has behaved more and more erratically and really reminded any Republican who has the eyes to want to see how dangerous it is really for him to be in office, honestly.  I think the pardon of the war criminals, the now sort of praising of them and attacking the entire military system of justice as somehow the deep state that was out to get these people, I mean people -- I don`t know.  I`ve talk today a lot of these members. 

There are a few.  There are more than people realize I think who are open perhaps to voting for impeachment.  They`re going to keep very quiet to the end because they just get pummeled if they stick their head out. 

But I`m depressed.  And I am, honestly, I`ve got to say the number of conservative journalists and sort of, you know, writers, the number of Republicans all over the place who just decided to throw in with Trump is depressing. 

TUR:  Let`s talk about Rudy Giuliani, Neera.  The president was on with Bill O`Reilly a little bit earlier today, formerly of Fox News.  And people have been asking when the president was going to try to distance himself from Rudy Giuliani.  He hadn`t done it until suddenly today. 

Let`s listen. 


O`REILLY:  Rudy Giuliani, but he`s -- he`s your personal lawyer.  Giuliani is your personal lawyer.  So you didn`t direct him to go to Ukraine to do anything or put any heat on them? 

TRUMP:  No, I didn`t direct him but he`s a warrior.  Rudy`s a warrior.  Rudy went, he possibly saw something.  But you have to understand, Rudy has other people that he represents. 

O`REILLY:  No, I know, he has a big firm that does that work. 

TRUMP:  I think he`s done work in Ukraine for years. 


TUR:  I guess he`s implying here that Rudy could have been doing this for somebody else.  But isn`t it interesting and a real coincidence that the president himself mentioned these investigations and the transcript of the call with President Zelensky on July 25th.  And then Rudy Giuliani just also happened to be looking into the same thing but it wasn`t directed by the president? 

Neera, what do you think? 


NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  I mean, I would -- I would if I were Rudy Giuliani, I would look at Donald Trump`s pattern of loyalty and the people who have been fired by Donald Trump over the last several years and perhaps when he`s in real legal jeopardy.  I mean, it is this whole thing is one level historically, (INAUDIBLE) -- to be serious about this, the Southern District of New York has a real investigation of Rudy Giuliani.  He -- they have -- I mean as far as we can tell they are -- they, I mean, have already indicted two people, and they seem to be doing an extensive investigation. 

If the president of the United States who has used the DOJ to as basically his own personal legal firm refuses to protect Rudy, I think that`s a very bad sign for Rudy Giuliani.  But I also think -- I just want to emphasize one thing Bill said which is, we are learning facts, obviously, in real time.  But we should be clear -- the cover-up is something that is a new piece of information.  The fact that the whistle-blower`s complaint was essentially hidden from Congress seemingly at the direction of Donald Trump who was the subject of the whistle-blower complaint, does seem to be at least additional grounds for obstruction. 

And I think this is a -- several layers of complication that make getting rid of the dirt here even more important, which would make Rudy an easier target. 

TUR:  Jill, would you want to hear from Rudy Giuliani?  Would you be making every effort to hear from him if you were working on impeachment? 

WINE-BANKS:  I would definitely want to hear from him, but I also want to hear from all the other witnesses who have refused to come in.  I think the court`s decision yesterday makes it very clear that there is no such thing as absolute immunity and that witnesses have to show up. 

And I think with Rudy, there is so much evidence that he is key to this, I don`t know how the president can say, well, he has many other clients, when in the phone call`s memorandum, we see he says talk to Rudy.  So he`s telling the Ukrainians to talk to Rudy.  How can he now say Rudy wasn`t acting on my behalf even though I told the Ukrainians he was and he`s really important?

So, it`s -- the defense becomes more and more unbelievable, more and more improbable, and no one can accept it anymore.  I still hold out some hope that Republicans will start to accept the facts much like what happened in Watergate. 

And I`d also point out one of the grounds for impeachment was lying to the public.  And certainly Donald Trump has outperformed Richard Nixon in that regard.  And this one is certainly one of them. 

TUR:  Bill, I want to know what you think about the polls.  Should we be looking at how the public feels about impeachment, or is this something wholly different from public opinion?  Right now, 50 percent say Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office.  That`s the latest CNN poll.

I mean, it`s ticked up in the last few months, but it seemed to level off.  Should lawmakers be paying attention to this or should they be separating it out and voting and deciding based on what they believe their constitutional duties are? 

KRISTOL:  I mean, I think in this case, this is -- quite often lawmakers will take the constituents views into account.  Often they should give them a lot of weight if it`s some economic interest or something if their constituents.  This is case, though, where they did swear an oath to the Constitution, and there`s a long tradition of lawmakers in Britain and the U.S. explaining on matters of this kind of gravity, they`ve got to do the right thing, not simply the most expedient thing in terms of a possible primary challenge or whatever. 

So, I don`t -- it`s not for me an acceptable excuse, therefore, for Republicans to privately say, oh, my God, can you believe this new information about Trump?  But, hey, you know, my voters will be upset if I do the right thing.  And I really we can -- I do think in a certain way even liberals in the media and Democrats have been a little too accepting of that. 

You know, everyone wants to be a very sophisticated political analyst.  None of us wants to look naive or simpleminded.  So we all know, come on, of course, they`re not going to do the right thing if their constituents, some of their constituents, their own partisan supporters don`t want them to. 

But I do think there are times when we can expect a little bit of a higher standard from high legislatures.

TUR:  Bill Kristol, thank you -- 

TANDEN:  I guess -- can I -- 

TUR:  Go on, Neera.  Go on.  Yes?

TANDEN:  Just like to say, I mean, 50 percent of the American people believe that Donald Trump should be removed from office. 


TANDEN:  That is very high number given -- given where impeachments usually are.  And, you know, I think that is a stunning number. 

Of course it hasn`t moved a lot because 50 percent is very high number.  And I mean, strong majority of women, 60 percent of women think he should be removed from office.  That is I think something no Republican should take comfort in. 

TUR:  I just want to explain that last graphic we put up.  CNN has been asking for every president since Clinton -- Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump, just support for impeachment in general even though for Bush or Obama, impeachment was not on the table and it`s always hovered around 30 percent, even when Clinton was going through impeachment.  But Trump is at 50 percent, and that is markedly more people. 

Neera Tanden, Neera, thank you so much.  Jill Wine-Banks, thank you as well.  Bill Kristol, we appreciate it. 

Coming up, more breaking news and more bad news for the president.  The final deposition taken by the House Intelligence Committee in its impeachment investigation was released tonight.  A former OMB staffer laid out in detail how the hold on the aid to Ukraine actually went down.  That`s next. 


TUR:  Tonight, House Democrats released the final transcript from the closed door depositions of the impeachment investigation, and one of those transcripts contains the testimony of Mark Sandy, the only official from the White House Office of Management and Budget to testify.  You might remember diplomat Bill Taylor telling the Intel Committee that he learned Ukraine`s security aid was being withheld when an OMB official told him via teleconference that the order came from the president to the chief of staff to OMB. 

Well, Mark Sandy`s deposition gives us more color about what was happening behind the scenes at OMB.  He testified he told OMB lawyers and leadership the order which came without explanation may very well have violated the law.  Sandy also told investigators that two budget staffers left the agency after expressing frustrations about the hold on Ukrainian aid. 

For more, we`re joined by Josh Lederman, national political reporter for NBC News.  He spent it last several hours combing through these transcripts. 

Josh, I think there were 400 pages -- speed-reader.  What did you learn?  What was the most important detail? 

JOSH LEDERMAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Yes, a lot of reading to go through tonight, Katy, but it was worth it because we had new information that we actually did not have before, despite all of these hours of testimony that we`ve all watched and read through.  The new information being that we now know that there was not one but two officials within the White House Budget Office who resigned at least in part because they were so concerned about what was happening with the suspension in Ukraine aid. 

And I want to show you exactly what Mark Sandy said about one of those people who resigned, a legal advisor, someone who was an attorney in the White House Budget Office.  And he was asked in his deposition: Are you aware of any individual in the legal division resigning or leaving OMB, that`s the White House budget office, at least in part because of Ukraine security assistance?  And he said: Oh, yes, I am.  He said that person expressed to me concerns about his actions vis-a-vis the Impoundment Control Act.  That`s that law passed after Watergate that says if Congress says you`ve got to spend money on something, the White House can`t just throw that in the trash. 

And he went on.  He was asked specifically: Was that concern in the context of Ukraine security assistance and the hold?  And he said yes.  Now, why is this important, Katy?  Because just yesterday, the White House budget office put out a statement saying everything that happened with this aid happened with legal consensus and that routine standards and practices were followed. 

Well, it`s probably won`t be a big surprise that you don`t tend to have not one but two people who resigned at least in part because they`re so concerned if everything is going according to normal order.  One other thing that we learned from the deposition we saw the transcript from today, Mark Sandy after he complained about his concerns about this, he in fact had his job responsibility of overseeing the spending of this kind of money yanked away from him, given instead to his boss, a guy named Michael Duffey, who`s a Trump political appointee -- Katy. 

TUR:  Josh Lederman, Josh, thank you very much for your reporting and nice job reading that entire transcript. 

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin from Maryland.  He`s a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which will have its first official impeachment hearing next week.

Congressman, welcome.  Why are you starting with basically an explainer for how impeachment works?  It almost seems like it`s going to be a civics lesson and that`s not knocking civics lessons.  I enjoy civics. 

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD):  Well, it is civics lesson for the country, Katy, because we know now about all these egregious events that have taken place.  We know about the Ukraine shakedown.  We know about the hold up of the money.  We know about various employees and faithful public servants who were casualties of this political operation like Ambassador Yovanovitch, like the two people in OMB who fell as they cleared a path to shakedown President Zelensky. 

But what we haven`t done yet is to set forth the legal structure for analyzing this and the underlying constitutional provisions.  And the Constitution says that presidents should be impeached when there are -- when there`s evidence of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.  And treason is a betrayal of the national interest.  And bribery is a betrayal of the public interest and the government.  And other high crimes and misdemeanors are offenses against democracy. 

So we want to investigate exactly what the founders meant by that.  James Madison for one who drafted the Constitution and is often called the father of the Constitution said that impeachment should be in the Constitution precisely because a president might betray his trust to foreign powers, might sell out the country to foreign powers. 

And there are other mentions among the founders of political leaders compromising themselves in the context of foreign policy.  So, we`re going to look at all of what the founders said, and then we`re going to look also I think at how high crimes and misdemeanors have been defined in precedent in other cases and how does this president`s actions measure up to what other people have been impeached for or confronted with impeachment for.

For example, Richard Nixon ordered a -- was complicit in a burglary at the Watergate hotel.  Bill Clinton lied about sex.  How do this president`s actions relate to those kinds of offenses?  Are they worse?  Are they around the same kind of gravity?  How do they fit? 

And so, we`re going to try to analyze that and invite the whole country to participate in a serious constitutional dialogue about what`s taken place in our country. 

TUR:  Will the House be calling any fact witnesses or try to expand on what the Intel Committee did?  There`s new reporting from "The New York Times" that the president knew about the whistle-blower complaint as early as late August, and there`s talk about how lawyers withheld that information, withheld the aid information from Congress.  Do you want to hear from somebody like Eisenberg and the White House Counsel`s Office? 

RASKIN:  Well, we definitely want all relevant evidence from all material witnesses.  The question is how to fit that into the streamlined schedule that we`ve got.  And there continues to be a profusion of new information that`s coming out. 

So, fortunately, we`ve got several excellent committees working on this with excellent committee chairs, including Chairman Schiff on Intelligence, and Nadler in Judiciary.  And we`ve got the Oversight Committee with Carolyn Maloney on the Foreign Affairs Committee.  So there might be other opportunities to get more fact evidence. 

But we`re zeroing in on this sequence of events that took place related to the Ukraine shakedown and whatever cover-up followed in its wake.  And, you know, obstruction of justice has been a very important part of prior presidential impeachment investigations in our history.  It was part of the Bill Clinton impeachment.  It was part of the Richard Nixon impeachment. 

Congress takes it very seriously for this reason.  If we allow presidents to cover up and obstruct investigations by hiding evidence and blockading witnesses, it means our impeachment power is effectively destroyed.  We don`t have the power of oversight and we don`t have the ultimate power of oversight, which is impeachment if the president is permitted to obstruct and interfere with our investigations.  And so, that`s why obstruction of justice has always been a critical part of impeachment investigations. 

TUR:  Congressman Jamie Raskin -- Congressman, thank you very much for joining us. 

RASKIN:  Delighted to be with you and happy Thanksgiving, Katy. 

TUR:  You, too.  You, too.

Coming up, why is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spreading disinformation about election interference?  Ben Rhodes weighs in, next. 


TUR: Today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would not refute the debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 presidential election. That is the very same conspiracy theory that President Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to get to the bottom of on a July 25th phone call.

Here is what Mike Pompeo told reporters about conducting an investigation into Ukraine.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that the U.S. and Ukraine should investigate the theory that it was Ukraine and not Russia that hacked the DNC e-mails in 2016?

MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: Anytime there is information that indicates that any country has messed with American elections, we not only have a right but a duty to make sure we chase that down. And I served as the CIA Director for the first year-and-a-half of this administration. I can assure you there were many countries that were actively engaged in trying to undermine American democracy.


TUR: Mike Pompeo also dodged questions relating to whether he will testify in the House impeachment inquiry now that State Department documents reveal he had at least two conversations with Rudy Giuliani in the weeks before Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was abruptly removed from her post.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President tweeted just a short while ago that he encouraged you essentially to testify in the impeachment investigation. Is that something you`re considering?

POMPEO: When the time is right, all good things happen.


TUR: In other words, don`t hold your breath.

Joining us now is Ben Rhodes, the Former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama and an MSNBC Political Analyst. Ben, this is not me calling it a conspiracy theory. I`m not judging for myself that it`s a conspiracy theory. This is what the President`s own administration officials call it. Fiona Hill said it just the other day. In fact, we should play it again just to remind everybody exactly how this is being characterized as Ukraine theory.


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 a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.


TUR: A fictional narrative that is being pushed by Russia, Ben. What`s going on?

BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT OBAMA & MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Katy, what`s going on is that this theory about Ukraine that they were the ones behind the interference in our election is a Russian disinformation campaign.

So let`s be very clear. Mike Pompeo and Donald Trump are propagating a Russian disinformation campaign for them. I mean, it`s a sign of kind of how far we`ve fallen in terms of our politics that you can have something originating in Moscow that is being spread by the Secretary of State of the United States, who`s supposed to be standing up to that kind of disinformation from Russia.

And in fact, at the end of the Obama administration, we had a unit of the State Department funded on a bipartisan basis to combat Russian disinformation across the west. They zeroed out funding for that. And now, instead of standing up to that kind of disinformation, they`re spreading it themselves.

TUR: Accepting this as a valid theory and a valid thing to investigate with the force of the American government in order to justify what the President asked President Zelensky doing - to do. That is permeating throughout the Republican Party. Mike Pompeo just said it. Senator Kennedy yesterday - or the day before yesterday talked about how Ukraine could have done it. This was on Sunday. He tried to walk that back. Let`s play him - let`s play him walking that - let`s play him first saying it and then walking it back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Kennedy, who do you believe was responsible for hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign computers, their e-mails? Was it Russia or Ukraine?

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I don`t know. Nor do you. Nor do any of us. Ms. Hill is entitled to her--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I mean, let me just - let me just interrupt to say the entire intelligence community says it was Russia.

KENNEDY: Right. But it could also be Ukraine. I was wrong. So let me be clear. Russia hacked the DNC computer. I have no evidence whatsoever that Ukraine did it.


TUR: Does that make you hopeful that he felt enough shame or, I don`t know, maybe double-checked his sources, he went back and read the IC report and then came back and said I was wrong about it?

RHODES: No, it doesn`t make me particularly hopeful, Katy, because what the Republican strategy is and has been throughout the Trump years is to muddy the waters. Trump has been caught doing something just like Russia was caught meddling in our election.

But what they do instead is they create an alternative theory, well, maybe it was Ukraine. And that`s enough to give their people something to hang onto, that maybe everybody does this. I mean, Pompeo, you heard him say lots of countries interfere in our election. Well, no. There`s only one country that had a massive multifaceted effort to influence the 2016 election, and that was Russia.

And I can only imagine, Katy, what they`re thinking in Moscow right now, that they can create this crazy theory that actually Ukraine was the country that interfered in our election and had the senior-most officials in the U.S. government and Republican senators spreading that theory.

I can also tell you, Katy, that - Mike Pompeo is the Secretary of State. He has to represent us to foreign governments. No other governments in the world believe this. The only people who are trafficking in this theory are the Republican Party in this country and Russian bots and Russian disinformation campaigns.

So I think we`re going to see more of this. And all the Republicans need is enough attention on this to give the appearance that there`s some doubt, to give the appearance that there are multiple conspiracies, that there are different people intervening in the election, because they know they cannot defend the facts of what President Trump did to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political opponent. Because they can`t defend the facts, they need other things to be propagating in the media.

TUR: Ben Rhodes, stick with us. You`re going to come back in just a moment.

But coming up, anonymous has spoken again, this time in a Reddit AMA. The big news, anonymous will go public to tell voters why Donald Trump must not be elected before the 2020 election. That`s next.


TUR: More intrigue tonight from the anonymous senior administration official who wrote a scathing book, pleading Republicans - for Republicans not to re-elect President Donald Trump. In a Reddit Ask Me Anything forum, anonymous was asked, why not come out publicly and speak, to what anonymous answered, "Trump will hear from me, in my own name, before the 2020 election."

Anonymous then added, quote, "Other people who are currently serving, and who have left, are also considering adding their voices before the votes are cast in 2020. We talk about this with some regularity."

And on impeachment, anonymous wrote, "There is no doubt in my mind that Donald Trump demanded a quid pro quo from Ukraine in order to disrupt the 2020 election. Everyone in the White House knows this, including the President himself. Now the question is whether it rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. I personally think that it now does."

Joining us now is Politico Reporter, Daniel Lippman, who covers the White House and Washington. Tonight, he was following the anonymous Reddit Q&A.

Daniel, always good to see you.


TUR: People have thoughts and feelings about anonymous and why this person is not coming forward and putting their name to these allegations if they feel they are so serious. I assume they`ve got a lot of questions about that on the AMA. What stood out to you?

LIPPMAN: I think what stood out to me is that this person might position him or herself to be campaigning against their former boss in the 2020 campaign because now they`ve promised they`re going to unveil their identity. And I guarantee you that whoever is going to be the Democratic nominee will try to get this person to speak out on some campaign rallies.

And so it`ll be an amazing sight to see former top Trump administration officials basically trying to get this person out of office. And they say that, you know, everyone else in the White House agrees that this was a quid pro quo, which Mick Mulvaney himself admitted on live television during his infamous press conference.

TUR: Let me read you another one. There was a question that said, "What would you say to a Trump supporter to get them to look honestly at Trump`s actions and how they harm our country and democracy?" The answer was, "I wrote it as a wake-up call to Americans who, like me, hope for the best when it came to the Trump Presidency and wanted him to succeed. I want them to see what I`ve seen firsthand, which is that the man has daily displayed his unfitness for office and, frankly, that he`s a danger to the country. I don`t make these comments lightly. But as public servants, our oath is not to a man, it`s to the Constitution."

Let me ask you this, Daniel. If this person feels it is such an emergency, is a Reddit AMA the place to go?

LIPPMAN: Well, I don`t know if they were going to have a press conference at the National Press Club, but I think the Reddit AMA preserves their options for shielding their identity until they feel comfortable or until they`ve landed a new job when they can kind of do every TV interview that they`ve been asked to do.

But I think, you look at those Trump administration officials from the State Department and from the NSC like Alex Vindman, who has gotten a lot of threats, who actually testified, and you admire the courage of these people. And White House officials kind of look at anonymous and say, why can`t you actually not be a coward - in their point of view - and reveal your name, standby what you`re saying? And of course, the anonymous author says he will do that, but maybe it`s going to be easier to sell books right now when you`re someone who is not showing your name.

TUR: Daniel Lippman - Daniel, thanks very much for joining us.

And coming up--

LIPPMAN: Thank you.

TUR: --it was supposed to be a simple White House photo-op, but nothing with this White House is ever simple. And so the photo-op became a two-day story that once again sparked a discussion about the Trump White House`s ability to be truthful, their credibility.


TUR: Today was the second day of what can only be described as an utterly absurd scandal in the Trump administration, dog gates - yes, dog gate. Yesterday the President held an event outside the White House featuring Conan, the combat dog, who assisted in the raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The President referred to the dog using the pronoun "he" and "him." So everyone assumed the dog was male. But then shortly afterward, the White House sent a correction to the press pool saying that the dog was actually, in fact, female.

After that made the rounds, the White House then corrected itself to say that the dog was male. So the story went around on Twitter and everyone moved on. But then again it happened - but then it happened again today. The Department of Defense told ABC News that the dog was a girl before reversing itself later in the day to say that the dog was actually a boy.

So now this all might seem trivial, and maybe this just was a result of a comedy of errors taking place somewhere behind the scenes. But the frustrating thing is that we may never actually know the answer to something so simple as the biological sex of a dog because this White House has made a habit of lying to the American public, especially when the President makes mistakes or thinks the truth reflects poorly on him.

Recall the infamous Sharpie-gate, where the President created an interagency panic among U.S. emergency preparedness officials because he couldn`t admit that he had been wrong about the path of a hurricane, or after Hurricane Maria where the President refused to accept that thousands of Americans had died in Puerto Rico because it happened on his watch.

In fact, the very first White House press conference - you`ll remember this - the first one ever held by this administration was convened to promote the lie that President Trump`s inauguration crowd had been the biggest in history.

When we come back, I`m going to ask two former White House officials what it means when you can`t trust anything the White House says, even when it`s something as small and trivial as Conan, the dog.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I was told about the breed. I was told about Conan himself.

And you`re very lucky. He isn`t - he`s not in a bad mood today, Jeff (ph).


TRUMP: Not in a bad mood. You`re safe.

So they`re incredible animals. And thank you all very much.


TUR: Turns out the question is harder to answer than you think. Ben Rhodes and Neera Tanden are back with me.

Guys, this is not about the sex of a dog. It`s larger than that. This White House has a credibility problem with everything they say. The President visited Walter Reed the other day for an unexpected and unannounced health check-up, and we still don`t know the answer to why he was there. Was it because he just wanted to get his physical done early or was it something else? And we don`t know that answer because the White House has been consistently misrepresenting or lying about things since day one of this - almost day one of this Presidency, Ben.

RHODES: Yes. And look, Katy, we can laugh about this. But the thing that is so serious about this is, look, I was in the White House, and a big part of what you have to do sometimes is, in a crisis, you have to give information, life and death information that people can trust. When there was an Ebola epidemic, information about how you can contract Ebola. I remember feeling the weight of that pressure. If there is an economic downturn, information that can move global markets. Hurricane, big weather events that put people at risk.

And the problem is - knock wood, Katy, we haven`t had a really big crisis, at least not that isn`t one of this administration zone making since Trump took office. What happens if there is a recession? What happens if there is an epidemic? What happens if it`s a crisis where people need to trust the information that they get from their government? And I think this is a really big problem that you can`t even trust something as basic as what the crowd size was at inauguration or what the sex of a dog is.

TUR: Neera, so what happens?

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS PRESIDENT & CEO: I mean, I have to say, I - am I the only person worried that both the Pentagon and White House, two entities that are responsible for our safety in war and pretty weighty issues, cannot determine accurately the sex of a dog after 48 hours? I mean, it just (inaudible) is really bizarre - kind of humorous, but also kind of insane.

I mean, I agree with Ben 100 percent that it tells us that we can`t rely on the White House for anything we have to deal with. I think we`ve sort of known that for almost three years now, starting with the crowd size but going to the facts of almost every incident that`s happened where there`s some issue of credibility. You have the President who says something and then the White House and now the agencies and every apparatus of government tries to make what he said true. And again--

TUR: Well, we`re seeing it with the Republican Party right now on impeachment, in Ukraine--


TUR: --attacking our elections.

TANDEN: Absolutely.

TUR: That`s a very big example of scrambling to - seemingly scrambling to justify something the President said.

TANDEN: I mean, Mike Pompeo today is essentially - as Ben pointed out earlier, is essentially really just trying to rationalize or really defend Donald Trump`s gaslighting of America. That is what happens regularly. And I think there used to be people in the administration who would stop this, and they`ve all been fired. So we are now left with lie compounded by another lie, compounded by another lie.

I mean, we still don`t really know what happened with the Secretary of the Navy. Was he really fired? Was he trying to get a good word in? I mean, we just don`t have accurate information about most things happening in our government. And I think that creates a lot of distrust but also anxiety, particularly if there is a crisis.

TUR: It`s not even just that, it`s when the President is asked about something he said on camera, Ben.


TUR: He himself will say "I never said that" even though we have him on camera saying that exact thing.

RHODES: Yes. I mean, Katy, what we`ve witnessed - and you`ve covered these guys for a long time, but - is a real debasement of the expectations that we have in public officials. It`s both the fact that they think that accountability doesn`t apply to them. Also, they don`t even feel the need to be accountable in the way that past administrations were.

There is a White House Press Secretary, who`s been there for a long time, who`s never done a White House press briefing where you would be challenged on those lies. They don`t even feel the need to answer for these things anymore. And it`s actually kind of reminiscent of what you see in authoritarian systems where the trust is whatever the leader says, there`s no such thing (ph) as objective reality.

And again, we can chuckle at it. But the question is, can Americans trust this office? It is the most powerful office in the world. And can there be normal norms of accountability that if you say something wrong, it has to be corrected, or if you say something wrong, the White House Press Secretary has to stand up in front of a roomful of reporters and answer for that.

And they seem to have changed the law of gravity as it applies in our politics that those types of standards of accountability don`t apply to them. And that does tie into impeachment because impeachment is saying, no, if you get caught doing something that is an impeachable offense, which clearly happened in this case, we have to have checks and balances in our system.

And if the Republican Party essentially says that they will not go along with holding this administration accountable, then we are in kind of a post-objective reality, post-truth form of politics.

TUR: Ben Rhodes, you get tonight`s LAST WORD. Ben, thank you very much. Neera, thank you as well. That will do it for us.

I`m Katy Tur. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts right now.