RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Couple of months ago on October, Facebook took down a network of what they said were Russian-backed accounts that were consistently praising President Trump and disparaging former Vice President Joe Biden.
Soon thereafter, in November, NBC News reported on new research that found that of all the 2020 candidates, Joe Biden was generating by far the most negative coverage in Russian state-sponsored media.
Now today, a new report from Bloomberg News says this dynamic is on the radar of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials, "U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement officials are assessing whether Russia is trying to undermine Joe Biden in its ongoing disinformation efforts according to two officials familiar with the matter.
It isn`t clear how far along intelligence and law enforcement officials are in probing a possible Russian disinformation drive against Biden and how formal the effort is. The FBI is declining to comment."
Again, unclear if a formal investigation has been launched, but Bloomberg News says that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials are assessing whether there is an active Russian disinformation effort to try to scuttle Joe Biden`s presidential chances for 2020.
History rhymes. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday. Now it`s time for the "Last Word" where Ali Velshi is filling in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening Ali.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: I hope we don`t have to pull the tape on this show and say remember that first time Rachel told you about that thing we now talk about all the time. Rachel, have yourself a great weekend.
MADDOW: Thanks, Ali. Appreciate it.
VELSHI: Coming up, the authoritarian president from his I can do whatever I want take on impeachment, to his claim that he doesn`t need to consult Congress on actions that could lead the U.S. to war. Trump`s authoritarian tendencies are on full display.
Why that isn`t troubling more Republicans is becoming a more pressing concern. Michael Moore joins us on that. Plus, Senator Jeff Merkley on the crisis with Iran. Trump`s team is out with yet another explanation for its Iran airstrike and something isn`t adding up.
And as the focus has been on the two I words this week, impeachment and Iran, the administration is still rolling back critical policies while no one`s looking. We`ll explain that too.
But first, it`s Nancy Pelosi`s world and we are just living in it. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced that the House of Representative will consider a resolution next week to appoint impeachment managers and transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
Her announcement in a letter to Democratic colleagues came shortly after the House ended its work week without taking a vote on the matter. She said she would consult with colleagues on how to proceed during a House Democratic caucus meeting on Tuesday of next week.
Now, the letter didn`t indicate which day next week the actual vote might occur. Pelosi targeted the end of her letter to the 100 men and women who make up the United States Senate writing, "In an impeachment trial, every senator takes an oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws. Every senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the president or the Constitution. No one is above the law, not even the President."
Speaker Pelosi said this to reporters shortly after the announcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you satisfied, Madame Speaker, that there will be a fair trial in the Senate?
SEN. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What feedback have you gotten from your colleagues (inaudible)?
PELOSI: Absolutely total cooperation. It cracks me up to see on T.V. oh, the pressure. Where`s the pressure on that? I have news for them. You don`t have a story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: They don`t have a story. All right. So, the stage is starting to be set for the historic Senate impeachment trial of President Trump. It`s been a lot of back and forth over the last couple of weeks about whether Nancy Pelosi`s strategy of holding the articles of impeachment from the Senate has actually worked.
Now, if John Bolton offering to testify wasn`t enough of an indicator that her strategy has produced some results, there is yet a new indication that Pelosi has something to show for her efforts thanks to Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine.
Collins spoke with her local paper, the "Bangor Daily News" saying that she is working with what she calls a fairly small group of fellow Republican senators -- Republican senators toward a goal of ensuring that witnesses can be called in the Senate trial.
Collins later said to NBC News, "I am hopeful that we can reach an agreement on how to proceed with the trial that will allow the opportunity for witnesses for both the House managers and the president`s counsel if they choose to do so. It is important that both sides be treated fairly."
There`s that both sides thing again. Those efforts stand in stark contrast to the efforts of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who`s made clear that the Senate will move ahead with the trial without any resolution on witnesses.
But here`s the thing. Mitch McConnell once sang a very different tune on impeachment witnesses. As Congressman Adam Schiff noted when he tweeted this video from during the Clinton impeachment trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (D-KY): There have been 15 impeachments in the history of this country. Two of them were cut short by resignations and the other 13 impeachments, there were witnesses. It`s not unusual to have a witness in a trial. It`s certainly not unusual to have a witness in an impeachment trial. The House managers have only asked for three witnesses. I think that`s pretty modest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: In 1999, Mitch McConnell was right. According to Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Senate has heard testimony from witnesses at every trial it has completed in its 231-year history.
Now, it`s anyone`s guess whether we`ll actually hear from witnesses during the Senate trial, but think about John Bolton and think about Susan Collins.
Would we even be talking about witnesses if Nancy Pelosi hadn`t held those articles back? Would Bolton have come forward? Would Collins have publicly advocated for witnesses? Would McConnell have tried to just steam roll this whole process?
The momentum seems to be on the side of hearing from witnesses at least for now. And if you see that as a good thing, which a majority of this country actually does, according to some new polling, then you likely have Nancy Pelosi to thank for that.
Leading up our discussion tonight are Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of Progressive Programming at Sirius XM Radio and an MSNBC political analyst and Rick Wilson, Republican strategist and contributor to "The Daily Beast." He`s the author of the book "Everything Trump Touches Dies."
Welcome to both of you. Thank you for being here. Zerlina Maxwell, let`s just take another look at this. It`s been a little over -- about a year since Nancy Pelosi has been, again, the Speaker of the House and since then, it was the shutdown at the time. She has been a thorn in the president`s side.
Now, she is seeming to have achieved some level of success in getting Mitch McConnell who two weeks ago said on Fox News no witnesses, I`m hand in glove with the White House on this.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: We always question Nancy Pelosi`s strategy until it`s proven that it`s the correct strategy at the end. And in hindsight we`re like, wow, she really knew what she was doing. And I wonder if we can just stop criticizing her in the beginning and wait.
MAXWELL: Because often there is a reason for the tactics she`s using. I think this was a strategic pause to allow there to be oxygen on the fact that Mitch McConnell is covering up for the White House.
MAXWELL: There were additional -- there are additional pieces of information and evidence that have been revealed post-voting on the articles themselves.
MAXWELL: That`s a big deal. And I think that Nancy Pelosi understood that either the president or the White House would have continue to, you know, do things that were wrong and potentially impeachable, they could always have new articles of impeachment and impeach him again.
And so, I think that she`s just trying to have all her options on the table instead of just kowtowing to Mitch McConnell. He`s always been seen and, you know, all the analysts say he`s the tactician. He`s the strategist.
VELSHI: That`s right.
MAXWELL: Well, now he`s maybe met his match.
VELSHI: It`s kind of interesting, Rick, because that is what people say, right. This is a guy who counts votes as well as Nancy Pelosi does and gets things done or in the case of the last few years in Congress, gets nothing done.
But in this particular case it felt -- I remember watching that night that he was on Fox saying that he`s hand in glove with the president thinking to myself, that doesn`t seem very strategic of Mitch McConnell. It looks like the White House and the Republicans may have just shown their hand here.
RICK WILSON, CONTRIBUTOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": Mitch McConnell is an extraordinarily gifted strategist when it comes to the ordinary legislative business of the Senate. In fact, the ordinary legislative business of the Senate, he`s the best since LBJ and maybe even better.
But, we`re in an extraordinary moment right now where he understands very well that he`s got five or six senators out there right now who are vulnerable in 2020, who are in purple or blue states.
Who are in danger by the fact that the majority of Americans, the majority of Americans in those states believe that there should be an impeachment trial with witnesses in the Senate.
Who believe that Trump has done something wrong, who believe that Trump needs to be, you know, held to account and that the Senate process shouldn`t be shortcutted and waived away by Mitch McConnell. He has that knowledge.
He`s in a very difficult position trying to balance, you know, dealing with Donald Trump on the one hand and dealing with the political realities on the other. The minute Mitch McConnell senses that his majority is in danger is when he will start rolling back on some of these things.
VELSHI: And what we`re hearing today with -- look, we`ve heard from Mitt Romney that he thinks it would be interesting to hear from witnesses. We know Corey Gardner is thinking about it. We have heard from Lisa Murkowski and now we`ve heard from Susan Collins.
So, we`ve got four people who we know are thinking about it or should be thinking about it given the demographics or upcoming elections in their states or their disposition.
MAXWELL: Yes, it`s not surprising. You know, they could lose if they don`t appear at least as if they have open minds. They do actually have to take an oath of impartiality.
VELSHI: Right. Different from their role -- their oath as a senator.
MAXWELL: Right. Exactly. So that`s a separate oath that, you know, that`s not just for, you know, the hell of it. They`re actually taking an oath, putting their hand up and saying I`m going to be impartial. And so they can`t fake it.
MAXWELL: And I think that, you know, in this particular moment there needs to be a process. The House Republicans said they wanted to hear from more witnesses even if witnesses they called were in front of them not saying things that were favorable to the president.
But through the entire impeachment hearing process, they complained about there not being enough information, not being enough witnesses, not being enough direct evidence, even though that in part was not true. Okay, let`s get some more evidence, let`s get some more witnesses. Why are you opposed to more information and to more transparency?
VELSHI: So Rick, let`s say they do this. Let`s say they got three or four senators to say --
VELSHI: -- what`s it going to hurt to have witnesses? They`ll make the trial look more fair. It will probably be more fair. In the end, do you see anything happening that moves the needle on Donald Trump being removed from office or acquitted by the Senate?
WILSON: At the end of the day you still need 2/3 to remove him from office. That is a number that no matter how optimistic your math is in the Senate right now, unless we see some eyewitnesses that produce, you know, and then they gave Rudy a bag of cash to give to Trump, you know, until we see something to that level, it`s still a very high lift to get McConnell`s control of his caucus loose enough to get to 2/3.
However, I do think that these things tend to have a preference cascade. There may be a point where the evidence starts to accrue. The president`s behavior starts to get more and more unhinged, and you see a feeling for McConnell.
Again, he`ll change everything. Mitch McConnell tomorrow would drag Donald Trump out in the street and gut him like a hog if he thought he would lose his majority. If he thinks his majority is going to go, he would do anything to protect it including throw the president over the edge. It`s not there yet in his mind, but it well might get there.
VELSHI: Zerlina, do you think that the effect of a trial with witnesses that is televised that everybody listens to -- so we know, I don`t know, 70, 80 million people watched the impeachment trial.
VELSHI: Do you think that starts to move things for Mitch McConnell?
MAXWELL: I think that it allows things to move in the sense that he can at least put himself on the side of looking like he`s running a fair process.
MAXWELL: I do think that he perhaps cares about, you know, that --
VELSHI: Yes. He didn`t seem to two weeks ago.
MAXWELL: -- and legacy, right. Well, I think that in some ways that was a misstep. And then the backlash demonstrated to him that he cannot appear at least on the face not to be doing this in good faith.
But I don`t think it moves anything towards the 2/3, you know, to Rick`s point. But that doesn`t mean that it`s not necessary to have a completely open and transparent process that includes necessary witnesses so the American people can go to the ballot box and then vote with all of that information.
MAXWELL: You know, the senators need more information so that they can make informed judgments, but so do the American voters. And I think that, you know, even if the partisans are not going to make the right decisions, the American people can make their own judgments and maybe we`ll just have a different, you know, set of senators in the next Congress because they have not done in the face of mounting evidence the right thing.
VELSHI: Rick, you and I haven`t spoken since the Iran stuff happened a week ago, is when it became intense. Do you think it changes any of this discussion that we`re having around impeachment and President Trump weakens him or strengthens him?
WILSON: Not at all. I think that he will -- he`s already started to change the subject on his own accord because he has the attention span of a nut (ph). And so, he is always off on to some other tangent, some other vector.
As long as the step down that the president made the other night continues to hold and as long as Iran doesn`t take an overt action, I don`t think it changes much at all. I think we`re back to where we were pre-Iran.
I think that the impeachment doesn`t really change whether or not that Iran is getting sporty in the gulf or not. And I think you`re going to see, you know, a refocus on this. And Trump himself will change the subject away from Iran and national security and back on to the impeachment.
VELSHI: Good to talk to both of you. Thanks for kicking it off for us tonight -- Zerlina Maxwell and Rick Wilson.
Coming up, there are more questions than answers about the strike that killed a top Iranian general. Those questions are because Donald Trump has changed his story about the imminent threat that Qassem Soleimani posed three times in the last 48 hours. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I don`t know exactly which minute. We don`t exactly which day it would have been executed, but it was very clear. Qassem Soleimani himself was plotting a broad large scale attack against American interests and those attacks were imminent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Okay, there are still a lot of questions about the strike that killed the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad last Friday. This morning, Mike Pompeo says, "attacks were imminent" though he couldn`t say specifically where or when. And Pompeo is being asked about that because Donald Trump has said three different things in the last 48 hours.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We did it because they were looking to blow up our embassy.
He was looking very seriously at our embassies and not just the embassy in Baghdad. But we stopped him.
I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
VELSHI: Now, some United States senators briefed on the Soleimani strike Wednesday say specific intelligence about an imminent threat that necessitated taking the life of Qassem Soleimani was not presented in that briefing. NBC`s Peter Alexander then asked Mike Pompeo about those senators` comments today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC WHITE CORRESPONDENT: So, the senators were lying when they say that --
POMPEO: We told them about the imminent threat. All of the intelligence that we`ve briefed -- that you`ve heard today, I assure you, in an unclassified setting, we`ve provided in the classified setting as well.
ALEXANDER: To be clear, you told them that embassies were the sort -- were to be targeted, that was the imminent threat?
POMPEO: I`m not going to talk about the details of what we shared in the classified setting. But make no mistake about it. Those leaders, those members of Congress who want to go access the same intelligence, can see that very same intelligence that will reflect what I described to you and what the president said last night.
ALEXANDER: Is the threat now gone now with Soleimani gone?
POMPEO: Threats are never gone, right. It`s always a lot of danger in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right. Joining us now, Senator Jeff Merkley. He is a Democratic senator from Oregon and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, good to see you. Thank you for joining me.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Good to be with you.
VELSHI: I wanted to clarify -- I want to just say again because I know that you know from the Senate what you are allowed to say and not allowed to say on television to people like me and our viewers who don`t have access to classified information.
But, Secretary Pompeo did say to Peter Alexander both in an unclassified and classified settings, we told them about the imminent threats. Now, I have spoken to several members of Congress in the last 24 hours who have disputed that.
They say they did not leave any briefing, classified or unclassified, with the understanding that the reason for the Soleimani assassination was an imminent threat.
I put that to you with whatever level of comfort you have in answering me. Do you believe there was an imminent threat that justified the killing of Qassem Soleimani?
MERKLEY: Well, we have to understand this that General Soleimani has spent years planning attacks throughout the region. That was his role in basically running the Iranian militias that operated in many places.
So, he`s planned plenty of attacks and it`s very likely that as he was traveling recently throughout the Middle East, he was probably discussing potential future targets and so forth.
That is very different than the description of an imminent specific attack which there was absolutely no presentation to us of anything of that nature.
Certainly when Secretary Pompeo says I`m telling you now that embassies were targeted, he`s certainly echoing President Trump, but there was nothing like that briefed to the members of Congress.
VELSHI: This is an important matter because it`s not really about what you think about Qassem Soleimani. It`s about whether or not we have laws in this country about how we do things that -- this is not like a tax code change. This is the kind of thing that could take us to war.
MERKLEY: It is absolutely the sort of thing that could take us to war. And in fact, on Tuesday night I was just glued to the screen waiting to see what the casualties might be from the Iranian attack on U.S. facilities in Iraq. And I knew that if there were injuries and casualties, that President Trump was ready to escalate to war without any consultation with Congress because President Trump himself had said so.
And many of us were trying to remind the administration that the Constitution says that going to war is much too important an issue in terms of the blood of our sons and daughters, in terms of our national treasury to be decided by one person.
That`s why they put war-making powers with Congress, not with the president. And when we raise that in that briefing, it was very clear, at enormous level of disdain amongst Secretary Pompeo and his colleagues for the fact that they were being asked to not just consult but to do due deference to the Constitution in terms of war-making powers.
They hated that idea. They wanted to bypass it. And there were -- it was just -- it was really a disturbing presentation.
VELSHI: Well, it disturbed your Republican colleague, Mike Lee, to the point that he came out and said he`s never seen anything like this. And he did say, again, without divulging classified information, he told reporters; he said the disdain that they treated the sort of idea of accountability.
And the fact that they suggested that you should not publicly be questioning the reasons, the reason the decision was taken to assassinate Qassem Soleimani. I heard that from another one of your colleagues, from Congressman Dan Crenshaw today who said we shouldn`t be questioning this stuff.
And I thought, that`s kind of weird because between you members of Congress and we members of the journalists, we should only exist to be questioning these things.
MERKLEY: It just is so disturbing that the members of the administration do not honor the Constitution and the vision of congressional role in deciding to go to war. We made a massive mistake in Afghanistan by occupying Afghanistan.
We did have -- excuse me -- an authorization for the use of military force. In Iraq, we made another mistake based on false intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, but there was an authorization for the use of military force. At least Congress was in that conversation.
In this case, you can`t -- it`s hard to envision that this president would actually even seek an authorization. And so it`s why we`re working hard to bring a war powers resolution to the floor of the Senate. It`s why the House just voted to say, Mr. President, you do not have authorization to go to war in Iran.
And I hope we can get bipartisan support to honor our oath of office, honor the Constitution, and blockade a rash journey to war because we`re seeing provocation and escalation be the keywords of this administration and it`s damaging our goals in the Middle East.
What Pompeo and friends and the president have done is to absolutely undermine the moderates in Iran who have been protesting the streets against Iranian government. What they have done is completely undermine the Iraqi government by doing an unauthorized attack, destroying their sense of national sovereignty.
Thus, the parliament is voting in Iran to throw us out of the country. That is exactly what Iran wants, is for us to have our influence decrease and their influence increase.
What they`ve done is interrupt the training to take on ISIS. What they`ve done is give Iran a green light to produce more nuclear materials. They are undermining every single key goal we have. They`re doing it in a rash and reckless way and I would say particularly this administration needs to be consulting with Congress.
VELSHI: Senator, good to see you as always. Thank you for joining us. Senator Jeff Merkley.
MERKLEY: Thank you.
VELSHI: Coming up, Michael Moore is going to be our next guest. He`s got a lot to say about impeachment and Donald Trump`s actions in Iran. And a quick programming note, this weekend, I`ll be joining Ayman and Yasmin for a look at the conflict between the United States and Iran.
That is Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. only on MSNBC. We`ll be right back with Michael Moore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Then I have an Article II where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: The obstruction of Congress is what got Donald Trump impeached, which is now how he`s going to be remembered in the annals of history. And President Trump is still obstructing Congress, but this time it`s regarding Iran.
Fred Kaplan with "Slate" magazine summarizes the bigger picture, "Trump`s contempt for democracy has reached new depth. The president is defying the Constitution amid the crisis with Iran. Trump team`s words and deeds on a vast span of issues are but the latest steps toward authoritarian rule by the White House." Here`s President Trump yesterday again showing his contempt for Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you go to Congress to take further military action against Iran? Would you seek congressional approval?
TRUMP: It would all depend on the circumstance. I don`t have to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: I don`t have to. Per President Trump`s disregard for checks and balances with his administration`s efforts to silence Congress, directly suggesting to lawmakers in the last 24 hours not to question or debate the president`s authority to take military action in Iran.
We`re being told not to debate and not to question. What are we if we do not debate and question? Joining us now is a guy who questions everything, Academy award winning filmmaker Michael Moore who`s recently launched his new podcast "Rumble with Michael Moore."
But I wouldn`t say, Michael, that your career was based on speaking truth to power, right, holding power to account. Our balance of power in Washington is based on holding each other to account. When I hear that Secretary Pompeo told members of Congress, told Senators, don`t go out there and question what we did. And I`ve heard this from Republican members of Congress in the last 24 hours on my own shows, we shouldn`t question the wisdom of doing this.
MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: Right.
VELSHI: That`s weird.
MOORE: It`s weird. It`s not the first time it`s happened. Bill Maher was told that and lost his show on ABC, when - after 9/11. I was told that by the head of Disney, which was the company that owned my film Fahrenheit 911, and they decided not to distribute it, because they didn`t want anybody questioning the Iraq War at that time. And when the public found out about that, there was a demand that the film be released and it was.
This is - actually this was very much in our character to try to shut down democratic debate, questioning and protest.
VELSHI: Does it trouble you that this is different, because you`ve covered corporate America and corporate America has done some of that stuff to you. But does it trouble you that we`re now seeing this in plain sight from the President of the United States, and the apparatus of the President?
MOORE: Well, everything he does is in plain sight. That`s - the genius of Trump is that when he commits his crimes, his misdeeds, his wrongdoings when he lies. And then when he tells the truth, he really is telling the truth, when he says, I could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it. Yes, yes, we believe you.
So the real problem here is that - and why I really wanted to talk to you tonight is that, we have been once again lied to over and over again this week about the terrorist that he illegally and immorally assassinated. He had no right as the President of United States to order the assassination of a legitimate - whether we like them or not, a legitimate leader in another country.
VELSHI: So he was a uniformed General of the Iranian armed forces.
MOORE: That`s correct.
VELSHI: How in your mind do you distinguish with him and Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi of ISIS or Osama bin Laden? What`s the distinction?
MOORE: The real distinction is that we are the terrorists when it comes to Iran. The Iranians haven`t attacked us ever. Iranians haven`t killed us. We are the ones at fault. We take this - everybody says on the news today, Oh, this thing with Iran goes back 40 years. It goes back 70 years.
MOORE: Thank you.
VELSHI: We took out--
VELSHI: --their democratically elected Prime Minister--
MOORE: Prime Minister, that`s correct.
VELSHI: Mohammad Mosaddegh.
VELSHI: The CIA.
MOORE: The CIA and the MI6--
MOORE: --took him out and installed a dictator to run Iran for the next 25 years.
VELSHI: Who bought a lot of stuff from us.
MOORE: Yes. Oh, yes. They called him the Shah. They gave him a name. But really what he did was pilfer their treasury and did whatever we told him to do. He was our puppet. And that went on for 25 years of people tortured, murdered, imprisoned. A brutal regime that we ran. And in 1979, the people of Iran decided, you know what, that`s enough torture from the United States--
VELSHI: --the 1979 revolution, which we`re going to talk about on Sunday night--
VELSHI: --on MSNBC. It was it was supported by liberals. It was supported by Jews. It was supported by academics. It was everybody--
MOORE: In Iran. Yes.
VELSHI: --in Iran.
MOORE: Yes, yes.
VELSHI: Because they were they were tired of this oppressive rule that was a U.S. puppet.
MOORE: That is correct. And they were successful. And they took over our embassy and they took our employees their hostage. Did they kill them? No. Did they execute them against the wall? No. They held them for a year and they let them out one minute after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated President of the United States.
And then they have their - they have what happens with all, I think, new countries that have revolutions. In our country what did we have? Our first President on the - I think, was there any opposition on the ballot - George Washington. There was some that ran. But basically--
VELSHI: Yes. I believe, I think we can fairly say Iran has not--
MOORE: We didn`t - the only white man. Yes, but even look at us at the beginning, only white male property owners could vote. That`s - all new countries have their rough go of it, we did too. They have not been a perfect country under their revolution.
Nonetheless, one year after they have the revolution, after they boot us out, after we oppressed them for 25 years. What happens? We give arms to Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and he uses them to invade Iran and starts the Iraq-Iran war that lasts for eight years. We gave chemical weapons to Saddam. And an eight years later, there`s nearly a million Iranians dead.
VELSHI: Yes. Right.
MOORE: Thanks to our participation in helping Saddam--
VELSHI: So then we--
MOORE: --kill them.
VELSHI: So then we fast forward to the fact that we spent 10 years - America was involved in the last few years of coming up with a deal that was meant to sort of try and normalize relations. Get it Iran back into the world.
VELSHI: This is 2015 - June 2015. Within two years, this deal is done and over because Donald Trump comes in, campaigned on the idea that he`d rip it up. Did.
VELSHI: And now we`re at this point where we`re probably not as close to war as we were three days ago, but we`re a lot closer than we were three years.
MOORE: We`re always close to war with Donald Trump in the White House. You have no idea what he`s thinking of, what he will approve. They should never have given him this option. He probably wouldn`t have thought of it, but they put the option on the table to assassinate that General. And then look at the results of this.
In just the last few days, you know, first the Iranians decide - they announced we`re not going to ever - we`re not going to kill American civilians. And they don`t, they don`t even kill American soldiers. They fire those missiles off. Those missiles, as you reported here the other day, they`re very accurate missiles. They can hit the target within a yard, within a meeting.
MOORE: They fire 16 of them and don`t hurt a single American or single Iraqi troop there in Iraq. It was to send a message--
VELSHI: We can target.
MOORE: --provide propaganda for themselves, whatever. But they made - they made they were so careful. And in the midst of being so careful not to kill an American, they mistakenly think, whether it`s a computer system or some person made a mistake. They, in their efforts not to kill us, kill 87 of their own people on that plane, 63 Canadians 11 Ukrainians.
MOORE: It`s so sad that none of that would have happened had not this person in the Oval Office decided to assassinate that General and trigger this whole thing. But how many wars could you cite in history where one stupid action--
MOORE: Domino, Domino, Domino, Domino--
VELSHI: There was an assassination on a corner in Sarajevo one day--
VELSHI: --which started a major war.
MOORE: World War I or Gulf of Tonkin, my generation. 59,000 of people - U.S. soldiers of my generation died in Vietnam because of a lie that was told that the North Vietnamese had attacked one of our boats in the Gulf of Tonkin.
VELSHI: Yes. The 1953 taking out of the Prime Minister of Iran was based on false information that was fed to the CIA to do that.
MOORE: But they were happy to take him out and install our dictator for 25 years. Who are the terrorists? I`m sorry. I love this country. That`s why I`m so passionate about this. That I don`t want any killing done in my name. I don`t want dictators installed in my name. I don`t want any of that. I want us to be exactly who I think we are and should be.
VELSHI: And I think it`s important that you are reminding our viewers that Iran left to its own devices would have been a democracy from the 1950s.
MOORE: That is absolutely - because it wasn`t democracy in the 1950s.
VELSHI: Stay with us. When we come back. I`m going to ask you about Donald Trump`s impending impeachment trial. You`re watching LAST WORD. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you have a problem with John Bolton testifying in the Senate trial?
TRUMP: Always got along with him. He didn`t get along with some of our people, but that`s really going to be up to the Senate. It`s really - so it`s always up. I don`t stop it. No, but he would - it would be - now I - I do have to - I`d have to ask the lawyers, because we do have to meet for the future. We have to protect presidential privilege.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Doesn`t sound like a guy who has ever thought that he`d have to answer that question.
MOORE: No. But--
VELSHI: We felt like he was making that up.
MOORE: But very generous of him thinking not about himself, but a future President.
VELSHI: Future President. That`s very kind of him.
MOORE: We can`t let Bolton testify.
VELSHI: You tweeted about Bolton. You said, Bolton, he knows what else Trump hit on that secret server. He needs to testify. The other crimes on that server will leave Senate Republicans only 23 - only 20 of the 53 Republicans are needed to convict with two choices. 1, go down on the sinking ship with Trump, or 2, jump.
Nancy Pelosi said something similar today. She said, you got to decide, there`s president or the Constitution, which side you want, right?
MOORE: Right. There have to be witnesses. There`s no such thing as a trial in a free society without witnesses and evidence.
VELSHI: Not even an impeachment trial in the Senate, by the way.
MOORE: No, not even there.
VELSHI: Every other version of that--
VELSHI: --has that witnesses.
MOORE: Yes, that is correct. There have to be witnesses and John Bolton has to be called. Trump does not want John Bolton testifying in the Senate, because think what you will about John Bolton, and he couldn`t be further from my politics than anybody. But, I believe he believes strongly in what he believes in and his conscience and I don`t think he will lie.
VELSHI: Do you think he`s got stuff--
VELSHI: --and is willing to give stuff up that will--
MOORE: If under oath he will testify what else is on that server in the White House. Let me ask you this. Do you think three years in the White House, Donald Trump, the only time that he did something that was questionable, where Jared and Stephen Miller and the lawyer said, I think we`d better hide that - the Ukrainian phone call on the secret server. Was that the only time--
VELSHI: You suspect there`s more on that secret server.
MOORE: I suspect there is more on there. And frankly, when the American people, if we are to succeed, because Bolton is going to say yes. And he`s going to tell us what he knows, is on that server.
VELSHI: And you think at that point, there are going to be Republicans Senators--
VELSHI: Because public opinion will never shift on Donald Trump. As you said, he can shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue.
VELSHI: What can America do that is going to make--
MOORE: There is always a breaking point - what could be on there? There could be any of a number of things. Just the facts around the Khashoggi murder. Did the White House know that that was happening, was going to happen? Did they participate in the cover up with their good friends, the Saudis? Did that happen?
Or when Trump took office, we know that he kept saying that Hillary didn`t win the popular vote. And he was going to make sure that he was going to point out these illegal immigrants did those 3 million extra votes--
MOORE: --that he didn`t get. How much did he use the power of the presidency to still go after Hillary Clinton, who we only found out today, the Justice Department as you said--
VELSHI: They`ve closed the inquiry.
MOORE: They`ve cleared her now.
VELSHI: They are down.
MOORE: But what else is there? His obsession with Obama. Believing that Obama was a Muslim, believing Obama was born in Kenya. When he got into the White House what other abuses of power--
MOORE: --did he use? When the American people hear that`s not just a phone call with the Ukrainian President, but it`s this, this, this and that. There will be a point where not the majority of Republicans, that`s - remember, he - Trump can have his majority of 33. We just need 20 of these Republicans to say it`s a bridge too far me. I`ve heard enough of this server.
And if you think that you`re going to have to go through the courts for long time to get the server. The judge of this trial is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who is no friend of Trumps, who was the deciding vote to save Obamacare, the deciding votes of strike down the Louisiana anti- abortion law. So I believe Roberts will be fair, and he will not tolerate them hiding evidence on that server.
VELSHI: I got to go. But you do know that you do actually - you know, a Kenyan born Muslim?
MOORE: Oh, I do, that`s right.
VELSHI: There is one right in front of you.
MOORE: You are--
VELSHI: I am actually--
MOORE: You are that--
VELSHI: I am actually that Kenyan born Muslim.
MOORE: And the fact that you would use this night before we go - and we`re sending - you`re going. Am I going or you going? You said you had to go.
VELSHI: No, I`m here.
MOORE: You`re going to stay.
VELSHI: I`m going to stay.
MOORE: So then I leave you.
MOORE: Having - I did not out you as a Kenyan Muslim.
VELSHI: That`s right. But I am that guy.
MOORE: You are that guy.
VELSHI: And Obama was never at the meetings.
MOORE: Listen, I`m glad you`re in this country.
VELSHI: Thank you, sir.
MOORE: Thank you for being part of this great country. And thank you for sneaking Obama in so we could elect him President.
VELSHI: Michael, always good to see you, my friend.
MOORE: OK. Thanks.
VELSHI: Good - continued good luck with the podcast. Coming up, we`re going to talk about the biggest story in the world with a live report from what is now ground zero in the climate crisis, Australia.
VELSHI: While the focus in Washington has been a pending crisis with Iran and the President`s upcoming impeachment trial, this week Donald Trump`s administration made good on a promise to gut regulations outlined in the National Environmental Policy Act.
Those rollbacks announced Thursday, will make it easier to get the stamp of approval on oil and gas projects and other things that would otherwise be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Donald Trump is, of course, the same person who campaigned to keep coal plants open, rejected the Paris Agreement on the world stage and blamed last year`s wildfires in California on the governor`s lack of quote "forest management." Those wildfires roared through the dry hills of California, exacerbated in recent years from a rapidly warming climate.
But the scale of those fires pales - pales in comparison to other wildfires around the world. In Australia, fires have now burned more than 15 million acres and killed at least 25 people. And there`s rising concern over smoke inhalation and toxins that are being released into the air. They are having a devastating effect on one of the world`s most unique ecological environments.
According to the University of Sydney, more than 1 billion animals have been killed across the continent. What experts estimate is 30 percent of the koala population in some areas, with more suffering from burns and the elimination of their habitat.
But, while some around the world continue to debate and deny facts, others are, in fact, taking action. Massive protests took place across Australia today calling on government leaders to do more to help stop the fires and take action to address the changing climate.
Someone who has been studying the world`s climate for decades is Michael Mann. He is a distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University. He`s currently on sabbatical in Australia. And when we come back he`s going to join us live from Sydney to help us better understand the gravity of this global crisis.
VELSHI: Welcome back. Joining us now from Sydney Australia Michael Mann, distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University. The author of "The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy."
My go to guy when there are major climate issues around the world and coincidentally you are in Australia, Michael, for something that has got the world on edge. And I need to understand from you whether this is unique and specific to Australia or whether this is the sign of things to come with scorched earth and hot days and long fire seasons that burn lots and lots of land and kill lots and lots of animals.
MICHAEL MANN, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY, ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE PROFESSOR: Yes, thanks Ali. It`s good to be with you. And sadly it`s the latter. What we are witnessing right now in the form of these unprecedented bushfires in Australia is the impact of human caused climate change.
You warm up the planet, you dry out the continents in the summers, in subtropical regions that are already dry, you`re going to get these epic wildfires. We`ve seen it in California and now we`re seeing it here in Australia.
Now, I came to Australia to study the impacts of climate change on extreme weather - here in the Continent of Australia. And that sabbatical was actually planned out more than a year ago. Little did I realize that I would arrive to actually witness that play out in real time as we watch this epic tragedy unfold. This unprecedented death and destruction due to these bushfires that are literally engulfing the Continent of Australia right now.
VELSHI: Michael you have studied this. You`ve written about it, and I think in the last year you and other experts like you have realized that we in the media are taking this more seriously than we ever have before. It is becoming a much more mainstream conversation. And maybe books like yours have worked in in sort of isolating the deniers.
But now we are in a world in which we have to do something. When you look at Australia, when you look at the Amazon, when you look at the wildfires in North America, when you look at the strength the hurricanes and the type of flooding we`ve seen. The time for action is now. But when you look in Australia, what is there to do? What do my viewers do when they see these pictures that are on our screen right now?
MANN: Yes. Well, people ask me you know is Australia or California are we dealing with a new normal? And I wish I could say that that`s all it is. A new normal implies that we just need to cope with the conditions that we are now dealing with, but it`s worse than that.
If we don`t act immediately to dramatically reduce our carbon emissions and prevent future warming, additional warming and drying of the continents, then the sorts of wildfires - the epic wildfires that we are seeing today will become commonplace and we will see unprecedented scales and intensities and speed of spreading of these wildfires.
So, the key thing is we have to stop worsening the problem by burning fossil fuels. And here in Australia the current Prime Minister Scott Morrison is actually supporting policies that will continue Australia`s position as the leading exporter of coal on the planet.
At a time when we need to be bringing down our emissions dramatically, the current political leadership or one might argue lack thereof here in Australia, is taking them in the wrong direction. At a time when they are witnessing the tragic impacts of the warming that we`ve already caused.
VELSHI: And Michael, in America, we have a President who is encouraging the burning of coal. And fossil fuels in general are the problem and we`re going to have to reduce our reliance on all - the entire range of fossil fuels. But coal is the most damaging in terms of the goals that we`re trying to reach.
MANN: Yes, that`s absolutely right. All fossil fuels contribute to the carbon buildup in the atmosphere and the warming of the planet. But coal is the worst. If you look at the amount of carbon that is put into the atmosphere for the return of energy that you actually get, coal is the worst.
And so it`s fairly clear now that we have to stop burning coal. We have to dramatically reduce our burning of natural gas and our use of burning of petroleum and oil and gasoline. But more than anything else, we`ve got to stop burning coal.
And, again, right now Australia is actually doubling down in their policies under the current leadership - under Scott Morrison as Prime Minister, they`re actually doubling down in their policies of incentivizing the mining and burning and export of coal. The very worst of the fossil fuels.
VELSHI: Michael, thank you for joining us. While you`ve been talking to us normally we look right at your face. But these pictures, I think are worth our viewers are seeing. We`re not just seeing the devastating fires, but we`re seeing those koalas, we are seeing those kangaroos and the billion and the estimate of a billion animals that have been killed in this fire so far. Michael, thank you for joining me. Michael Mann in Sydney tonight.
I`m Ali Velshi and that is tonight`s "Last Word." "The 11th Hour With Brian Williams" begins now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight it looks like it`s happening, preparations for the impeachment trial as the Speaker is ready to release the articles.