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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 9/14/22

Guests: Timothy Snyder, Bradley Moss, Sheldon Whitehouse


On the day former U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman`s new book was published, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced an immediate investigation into the accounts in the book of Donald Trump`s attorney general William Barr interfering with investigations and prosecutions brought by Geoffrey Berman`s office when he was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Ukraine`s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy did something today that Vladimir Putin would not dare to do.



And this is one of those nights where we know what we will be talking about 24 hours from now when the Trump appointed judge in the Trump search warrant case finally reveals who she`s going to name as a special master. We have reason to believe it will be the one choice that both sides already agree on, and whether she`s going to limit and basically retract some of her order as basically demanded by the Justice Department.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Those 100 pages of classified information and whether or not Raymond Dearie is the man in charge of plowing through all this highly sensitive material, or maybe not as highly sensitive as the Trump team would like. But it is -- we are all on special master watch.

O`DONNELL: Right, special master watch.

WAGNER: Something I never thought -- I never thought that phrase would come out of my mouth, but here we are, Lawrence. This is America 2022.

O`DONNELL: We know tomorrow`s business already. Thank you, Alex. Thank you.

WAGNER: See you.

O`DONNELL: Well, FPOTUS counsel 1 is in very serious trouble tonight. That is how one of Donald Trump`s criminal defense lawyers is identified in newly released portions of the FBI affidavits supporting the search warrant of Donald Trump`s home issued by a federal judge. The affidavit explains all of the steps that the federal investigators took to try to retrieve all government documents and classified documents from Donald Trump`s residents before they came to this judge to seek a search warrant.

The affidavit says, quote, on June 3rd, 2022, three FBI agents and DOJ counsel arrived at the premises to accept receipt of the materials in addition to FPOTUS counsel 1, another individual, hereinafter individual 2, was also presented as the custodian of records for FPOTUS`s post-presidential office.

The FBI was there that day in June armed with a subpoena for all, all of the government records on the premises and they were lied to that day by both of Donald Trump`s lawyers. We already knew from a previously unredacted portion of the FBI affidavit that individual 2 provided the FBI with a letter certifying that the Trump team conducted, quote, a diligent search and was now handing over to the FBI everything -- absolutely everything that their subpoena asked for. And that lie was signed by attorney Christina Bobb who has since dropped out of the Trump defense team and has hired her own criminal defense lawyer.

That much we already knew, but now, in the newly unredacted portion of the FBI affidavit, we discover FPOTUS counsel 1 is in at least as much trouble if not more trouble than Christina Bobb, because the FBI affidavit says that on that day June 3rd, quote, FPOTUS counsel 1 stated he was advised all the records that came from the White House were stored in one location within Mar-a-Lago, the storage room and the boxes of records in the storage room were the remaining repository of records from the White House.

FPOTUS counsel 1 further stated he was not advised there were any records in any private office space or other location in Mar-a-Lago. That we now know was a lie, a complete lie, because the FBI with their search warrant actually found classified documents in his desk. When the FBI went into that place where the search warrant, they found classified documents in Donald Trump`s desk, in his desk drawer, with his passport, in Donald Trump`s office room, not in the storage room, in his desk.

So FPOTUS counsel 1 was not telling the truth to the FBI about all the documents being in the storage room, and that means that FPOTUS counsel 1 needs his own criminal defense lawyer yesterday.


FPOTUS counsel 1 is an inadequately experienced lawyer named Evan Corcoran whose career as a lawyer may now be coming to an end.

If federal prosecutors can prove that he intentionally lied to the FBI about all the documents being in the storage room and all the documents being handed over to the FBI in June 3rd, then Evan Corcoran could be convicted of obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI, much of the FBI affidavit is still redacted. And so, we don`t know all of the evidence of obstruction of justice that was presented to the judge to obtain the search warrant. But we do know that the judge believed that there would probably be evidence of obstruction of justice found at Donald Trump`s residence which is why the judge approved the FBI search warrant.

The most important piece of evidence for Evan Corcoran`s new criminal defense lawyer to be studying is something else that we are just learning about in the newly unredacted portion of the affidavit. We have previously known that after the FBI and the Justice Department lawyers went to that residence on June 3rd to collect what they were then told were all of the remaining documents, the Justice Department after that subpoenaed the closed circuit TV video recordings from their surveillance cameras at the residence.

We did not know how extensive the request was in that subpoena, the demand was in that subpoena. It was not a subpoena for one day of surveillance video. It was six months of surveillance video of everyone going in and out of that storage room were classified documents and other government records were kept six full months of video.

The newly unredacted portion of the affidavit reveals that the subpoena demanded, quote, any and all surveillance records videos images photographs and or CCTV from internal cameras located on ground floor basement on the Mar-a-Lago property from the time period of January 10, 2022 to the present.

That was six months of surveillance video. We do not yet know what the FBI saw on those six months of videos. But we do know that after they got those videos, that`s -- that`s when they went looking for a search warrant. That`s when they started establishing the fact base they needed to present to a federal judge to get a search warrant. It was after seeing those videos.

The possibilities are endless about what can be seen in those six months of videos, including Donald Trump himself, possibly going into the storage room, and carrying classified documents out and up to his office to put them in that drawer, possibly in the company of FPOTUS counsel 1. Evan Corcoran might be in those videos right beside Donald Trump, walking in and out of the storage room.

Evan Corcoran`s criminal defense lawyer needs to study six months of surveillance video to see how many times Evan Corcoran is seen on those videos and to see what is in his hands when he does appear on those videos.

As of Monday, Monday of this week, Evan Corcoran`s name still appears among the criminal defense lawyers on the signature page of the most recent filing by Donald Trump`s lawyers in the case appropriately titled "Donald J. Trump versus United States of America". How much longer will Evan Corcoran continue to be listed as a member of the Trump criminal defense team when he will be no doubt increasingly spending his time with his own criminal defense team.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general. He is an MSNBC legal analyst.

Also with us, Bradley Moss, a national security attorney.

And, Neal, let me begin with you and attorney-client privilege because I know everyone out there in the audience is thinking, what happens to attorney-client privilege in a situation like this where Evan Corcoran`s defense could be, my client Donald Trump told me that we -- that these were all the documents and we were handing them over and I believed my client? What happens here on the intersection with attorney-client privilege?

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Very simple, Lawrence. There is no attorney-client privilege. So the affidavit that you just showed, that was released today in more detail.


It says that one of Donald Trump`s lawyers said that, quote, he was not advised there were documents in any private space or other location in Mar-a-Lago.

What that suggests to me is that this attorney is unwilling to be thrown under the bus by Donald Trump and he`s basically saying or she is saying, the reason that I said that is because of what I was being advised. Now the affidavit doesn`t say who was doing the advising, but one can suspect that advising was Donald Trump himself.

And the rules about attorney-client privilege we obviously have in the law, a real need to sit to treat attorney-client communications is very sacred. But the key exception to that is what`s known as the crime fraud exception. If you are somehow, you know, engaging in a crime as an attorney, that isn`t something that is privileged and protected and indeed you can give up the goods on your client if that`s the person who you`re committing the crime with.

And so, at this point, Lawrence, I think that there`s a very good chance that at least one of Donald Trump`s attorneys, maybe even more than one, could turn against Donald Trump.

You know, Trump lost a lot of leverage because he`s now no longer president. Before that, he could dangle pardons and you know major wave his wand and things like that as he did to Roger Stone and, you know, Bannon and all those people. But now, these attorneys are looking at the real possibility, not just of disbarment like, you know, Rudy Giuliani and Jeff Clark`s ethics proceedings today, but actual criminal jail time. And so it`ll be interesting to see just how loyal they`ll remain in that circumstance.

O`DONNELL: Bradley Moss, last week, we knew there was one Trump lawyer in serious trouble in Florida because she signed -- we knew that she had signed this document, saying that`s it, you have everything on January 3rd.

Now, we know there are two lawyers there in very serious trouble and I go to you as a criminal defense lawyer who has had people in trouble come into your office and say what`s my situation? A lawyer comes into your office and shows you this material from an FBI search warrant affidavit, quoting the lawyer, telling the FBI that that`s it. We`re giving you everything, now we know that wasn`t true. What -- how do you assess that case at -- presenting it, looking at it from the defense of that lawyer?

BRADLEY MOSS, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: Yes. So for that situation your guidance your assessment for that potential client is what`s more important to you, the person who appears to have lied to you and put you in trouble by having you prevent, sorry, present false information to the FBI or yourself, your own freedom, your own law license. That`s what we are dealing with here with these two lawyers, just like has happened with prior attorneys for Donald Trump, whether it was Michael Cohen, whether it was Rudy Giuliani, Jeff Clark, you know, everybody that Neil was mentioning, that if they were lied to, they can potentially save themselves by turning on him, and providing that testimony under that crime fraud exception.

But if they want to go down with him, they want to go down with the ship, then that`s their problem. But that`s what, you know, if that kind of client walks in, you got to say, who`s more important yourself or this client who lied to you?

O`DONNELL: Bradley, let me stay with this concept. So, now, imagine that Donald Trump`s response to this is no, no, I never said that to him. I never said that. So now, you`re -- you`re -- he`s denying that what your client is saying, you know, the client told me this, and the client is saying no, I never told him, that then where does that leave the defense of someone in Evan Corcoran`s position?

MOSS: So if Evan Corcoran or Christina Bobb were smart, they documented exactly what Donald Trump told them and when. You know, this is what Donald Trump hated. He always said, oh, I don`t have never known a lawyer to take notes. He hated that when he got to government. He saw these lawyers taking notes.

That`s what good lawyers do. You document contemporaneously what is told to you especially by a client, particularly if you have a client like Donald Trump who has a you know a problem with the truth so that you can cover yourself in your own ethical responsibilities and potentially your own criminal liability. So if they have that type of corroboration, that would help them. But if it`s simply a he said/she said, that would be a problem for them and that would put them more out there on a limb than Donald Trump potentially.

O`DONNELL: And, Neal, the newest lawyer in the Trump team seems to be the most serious and the most accomplished lawyer in the group, the one whose best positioned to be handling this case, Attorney Kise, who used to be the solicitor general there in the state of Florida. How long does he want to keep Evan Corcoran on that signature page in this case when those filings that they are presenting to the judge are presented with a certain expectation of credibility?

You have a name signing the Trump documents who`s already been shown to not have told the truth to investigative authorities about this case, two federal authorities about this case. How long do you keep his name on the signature page, how long do you keep them on the team?

KATYAL: Well, Lawrence, first of all, I`m surprised that Donald Trump does manage to find new legal counsel when virtually every attorney he`s hired or has gone near him finds themselves in serious legal trouble. You know, representing Trump seems to be a fast track towards disbarment or these days. I mean -- and you know, at this point, if you have a law degree, you`d be a fool to walk within a hundred mile radius of this guy. I`m staying away from Virginia where he`s been, just so I don`t you know get wrapped up in anything.

But, you know, look, I think if you`re Chris Kise, this new attorney at this point, yeah, you`ve got to be worried about Evan Corcoran being part of the team signing these documents because Corcoran himself has his own stuff to worry about. And I do think that it would be a -- you know, a standard law enforcement technique at this point if court grin himself is it has some criminal liability to try and flip him.

And I think Bradley is exactly right. There could be a kind of he said he said dispute at the end of the day between Trump and his lawyer. But, boy, you know, that as an attorney is something as a process -- a former prosecutor would be something I would love to have, you know, a debate on credibility between a lawyer Evan Corcoran or someone else and Donald Trump, I think, you know, a jury is going to see through that very quickly.

O`DONNELL: And, Bradley Moss, Christina Bobb`s already dropped out of this picture of the defense team. She`s got her own criminal defense lawyer. If you`re Evan Corcoran, don`t you have your own decision to make at some point whether Trump and the other lawyers want to dump you from the team or not, is there a moment where you have to decide I can no longer be on this team because I am going to be in a position where I have to in effect become the opposition to this team?

MOSS: Yes. So there`s the personal choice there and then there`s the actual potential ethical one. Personal one is he knows that Christina Bobb`s already been forced to drop out and gotten her own lawyer and she`s listed as individual 2, not as FPOTUS counsel 2 to in that search warrants. We know that they`re aiming at her and there`s always a possibility she could flip on Evan Corcoran to start.

But there`s also the ethical issue here in terms of what would happen if there is an indictment. Someone like Evan Corcoran would almost certainly be a material fact witness. The government would move to have him excluded as a potential lawyer for the case because they`re going to move to have him testify against Donald Trump under that crime fraud exception rule to the attorney-client privilege. So he won`t be very, you know, very soon allowed to go forward anyway even if he wanted to personally keep putting his neck out there.

O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, quickly before we go, Jeffrey Clark has filed his response to the bar association in Washington there was there`s a movement to disbar him there. He says a few things in it including that they don`t have standing because he was working in the Justice Department as a lawyer, so you don`t have control over his law license when he`s working there, but he also says twice, twice in this filing that he was -- he was the acting attorney general. He says that at the beginning of the meeting, he calls it the commencement of the meeting in the Oval Office on January 3rd, he may have been the acting attorney general already.

And you`ll recall there was this revealing in the January 6 Committee testimony about this, that when everyone went into that room, it appeared as if he was already being treated as the acting attorney general and that Donald Trump changed his mind during the meeting and took it away from him. But he twice in his defense refers to himself as temporarily apparently very briefly for a few hours that day being the acting attorney general.

KATYAL: Yeah. So two things, Lawrence, first of all, I think Jeff Clark can try and fight these ethics charges all he wants, but even if he avoids disbarment, I`m not sure it`s going to matter because I don`t know anyone who would want to hire this guy to represent them again. So, you know, and so I think, you know, the ethics points are there but they`re a little bit moved by just given the judgment that this guy showed as either acting attorney general or when he was in the environmental division, you know, his normal job. So that`s one thing.

The second is I do have a little sympathy for him on this acting attorney general thing because you know that seems to me more the sin of the client than of the attorney. It`s Donald Trump, you know, I think it was revealed in the January 6th hearings that Mark Meadows and the official White House logs do look at attorney, do -- do call Jeff Clark the acting attorney general at the time.

That doesn`t give Jeffrey Clark any sort of, you know, escape from jail or criminal or ethics violations or something like that. Does not get out of jail free card or anything, but on that one point, he might have been the acting attorney general. It`s just as one more, you know, kind of horrible thing that Donald Trump did which is put this guy in who wasn`t you know who could maybe clean up oil spills at best and make him the top law enforcement officer of the entire United States.

O`DONNELL: And, of course, in the filing, in response to the actual accusations against him, he took the Fifth Amendment on every single one of those questions as he did with the January 6th Committee. So --

KATYAL: The first good move he made as a lawyer I think in the last couple of years.

O`DONNELL: Yes. So his criminal liability on that looms.

Neal Katyal, Bradley Moss, thank you both very much for starting off our discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.

And coming up, on the day Geoffrey Berman`s book was published, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman immediately announced that the committee will investigate the claims in the book that Donald Trump and William Barr tried to interfere with investigations in the Southern District of New York. Judiciary Committee member Senator Sheldon Whitehouse will join us next.



O`DONNELL: On the day former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman`s new book was published, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced an immediate investigation into the accounts in the book of Donald Trump`s Attorney General William Barr interfering with investigations and prosecutions brought by Geoffrey Berman`s office when he was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Last night on this program, Geoffrey Berman said this about the Senate Judiciary Committee investigation.


GEOFFREY BERMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: We`re going to find out a lot more about what went on behind the scenes with the congressional investigation that Senator Durbin announced. What we have now is communications -- what I know about is communications between main Justice and the Southern District of New York, and what I believe Congress is going to find out, internal conversations among the people at main Justice. I`m very interested in seeing those.

O`DONNELL: How stupid are they? How much of this will the Senate Judiciary Committee find to be in writing, in emails or texts or other forms?

BERMAN: Yeah. I -- you know, never underestimate the stupidity of some people. So I expect to see a lot of it.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. He`s a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

I remember when it became public that that dramatic weekend when the attorney general tried to fire Geoffrey Berman. Geoffrey Berman fought back, saying he couldn`t fire him -- kind of fought him to a standoff.

And immediately, the next week in the Judiciary Committee, you were saying that this had to be investigated, it has to be investigated. Geoffrey Berman`s just written a book about it for you. What are you hoping for in the investigation?

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): Well, as you pointed out, you know, there will be some material that Mr. Berman has from the D.C. to New York communications to the extent that we can get our hands on internal communications within the department that prompted uh that engagement with the -- what they like to call the sovereign district of New York. That will be very interesting, and it`ll also be very interesting to see how cooperative the Department of Justice is because we have a lot of pending requests of the department and they have not exactly been forthcoming with information.

So we hope that they`ll be a little bit more responsive in this case.

O`DONNELL: One of the stories told in the book with John Kerry`s permission as I learned last night from Geoffrey Berman here, because that by the way is not specified in the book, that John Kerry gave his permission for this story to be told about an investigation that they conducted of John Kerry based on Donald Trump tweets.

Donald Trump was tweeting that John Kerry should be investigated because he was talking as a former secretary of state to people around the world, including people in Iran which, of course, all former secretaries of state do. And Geoffrey Berman`s office conducted a so-called investigation in which they just dragged their feet and tried to do absolutely nothing until William Barr got too impatient with that.

That is at just a stunning revelation in that book that we knew nothing about until this book came out. Is there any reason why the current leadership of the Justice Department would not want to cooperate with that investigation?

WHITEHOUSE: Institutional sclerosis perhaps. I think it ought to be in the department`s interest to get this information out. As you`ll recall, there was -- this is not the first U.S. attorney scandal. And back in the Bush administration when they were telling the U.S. attorneys what to do to make political prosecutions, it blew up in the face of Attorney General Gonzalez and cost him his job.


So, you know, this is a good story to get out there and to get the truth out and clarity on and put behind them and get it all done. So I hope that they will be very forthcoming. And it`s kind of a telltale among prosecutors that somebody is urging a Logan Act prosecution because that`s a statute that`s been around for, I don`t know, a couple of hundred years and never ever has there been a case prosecuted on it.

So when somebody comes in and says, I know let`s go after so and so under the Logan Act, that`s kind of a Rorschach test eye roll. So I hope that we`ll get a lot of cooperation at the department and be able to get to the bottom of this quickly.

O`DONNELL: Will the Committee subpoena William Barr?

WHITEHOUSE: That is, first of all, the call of the chairman and not of me so I can`t say that. And the second thing is that, under the rules that we`re operating under right now because we`re in a 50/50 Senate, we would need Republican cooperation to get the vote to get a subpoena issued by the committee. We have not been able to issue any investigative subpoenas for that reason in this entire Congress.

So perhaps somebody would be willing to join us in challenging that. But if the Republicans stood in a uniform phalanx against any subpoena, we would have trouble getting one out.

O`DONNELL: Please stay with us across a commercial break that I want to squeeze in here because I want to get your reaction to Chief Justice John Roberts being apparently shocked and just cannot understand why anyone is questioning the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. We`re going to be right back with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.




WHITEHOUSE: Leonard Leo brokered the scheme to have the Federalist Society or more accurately the big secret donors behind the Federalist Society handpicked Trump`s Supreme Court nominees.

American people deserve to know who captured their Supreme Court and who keeps flooding our politics with dark money. hen you spend that kind of money there is motivation and voters, citizens deserve to know.

To be continued Mr. President, I yield the floor.


O`DONNELL: That was Senator Sheldon Whitehouse`s 18th speech on the Senate floor in a series he calls "The Scheme". It would be a huge hit podcast if it was being delivered somewhere other than the Senate floor where people don`t normally turn for deep dark dramas with twists and turns and cliff-hangers.

Chief Justice John Roberts in a recent public discussion pretended to not understand why people question the legitimacy of the Supreme Court or perhaps he genuinely doesn`t understand.

Chief Justice Roberts said this.


JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t understand the connection between opinions that people disagree with and the legitimacy of the court.

Today Justice Elena Kagan tried to help the chief justice understand in a public discussion at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. Justice Kagan said "A court is legitimate when it is acting like a court. It doesn`t have any rights of authority to do anything else than act like a court. If there is any member of a court and all of a sudden everything is up for grabs, all of a sudden very fundamental principles of law are being overthrown, are being replaced then people have a right to say what`s going on there. That doesn`t seem very law like."

Back with us Senator Sheldon Whitehouse who knows what`s going on there.

Senator, what would you say to John Roberts to help him understand why questions of legitimacy have arisen about the court?

WHITEHOUSE: First of all, he`s trying to blame it on a decision that was controversial is really an exercise in misdirection. Just looking at the court, you have to look at not one decision but a pattern of decisions.

And when you look at the pattern you can pretty much tell in advance who`s going to win. You can tell in advance which are the right wing doctrines have right wing think tanks that they`re going to bring into American law. You can guess that they`re going to violate precedent. And at the same time they`re engaged in a lot of partisan speech making and behavior and going to Federalist Society galas.

And then they have a real ethics blindness about looking into things that they should be looking into like what did Justice Thomas know and when did he know it about his wife`s role in the insurrection which has a lot to do with whether or not he should have recused himself in that case.

And that is just the inner circle of hell. You go to the outer circle of hell and all the politics around it, you go to Leonard Leo and his Federal Society lists. You go to Judicial Crisis Network and there are $15 million -- $17 million dollar secret checks. You go to the budget for the whole operation being north of half a billion dollars.


And you go to the bizarre behavior of Mitch McConnell and the Republican senators to go through gyrations to get these judges on the court to stop Garland on the theory that they then completely reversed to push Barrett onto the court.

You put all of those pieces together and what I`d sum it up for with Justice Roberts in court we put together cases not on one fact but with circumstantial evidence, with a compelling array of circumstantial evidence.

And there`s a compelling array of circumstantial evidence that this court is captured and that is the problem.

O`DONNELL: Senator, you are in a one-man crusade about this scheme as you call it. You`re on your 18th speech. There will be more. We learn more every time.

Is it at least sinking in among your Democratic colleagues about what all this means?

WHITEHOUSE: Yes, and I think it`s starting to sink in with some of the Republican colleagues. And you`re starting to see press coverage like the coverage of Justice Kagan`s remarks. And the recent columns by Jennifer Rubin in "The Post".

If you look at the discussion about what was behind the Dobbs decision, there`s been an explosion of understanding and awareness that something has gone badly wrong at the Supreme court and it`s not that the decision was controversial. It`s the whole array of clues and evidence that causes the reasonable conclusion to be reached that the court has been taken over by special interests and is now doing the bidding of those special interests.

O`DONNELL: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, thank you very much for joining us. And thank you very much for the 18 episodes of "The Scheme". And we hope there are many more.

WHITEHOUSE: There will be.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Senator.

And coming up, President Zelenskyy went to the front in Ukraine today, something that Vladimir Putin would never dare to do.

Professor Timothy Snyder met with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv a few days ago. He will join us next.



O`DONNELL: Ukraine`s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy did something today that Vladimir Putin would not dare to do. President Zelenskyy went to the front lines of the war in Ukraine started by Vladimir Putin, who remains safely hundreds of miles away from danger in Moscow.

President Zelenskyy personified today the superior sense of duty and the bravery exemplified by Ukrainian soldiers who have been recapturing territory from Russians who have been turning and racing away in retreat, dropping weapons as they flee.

Our next guest, Timothy Snyder, is just back from Ukraine where he met with President Zelenskyy. Today, President Zelenskyy watched as Ukraine`s flag was raised once again outside the administrative building in the town of Izium in northeastern Ukraine. President Zelenskyy said "Our blue and yellow flag is already flying in de-occupied Izium, and it will be so in every Ukrainian city and village. We are moving in only one direction, forward towards victory."

Yesterday, President Biden was asked if the war in Ukraine is at a turning point in Ukraine`s favor.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. president, is this a turning point in the war in Ukraine?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The question is unanswerable right now. It is hard to tell. It`s clear the Ukrainians have made significant progress. But I think this is going to be a long haul.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, just back from Ukraine, is Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University. His books include "On Tyranny: 20 lessons from the 20th century", and "The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America".

Professor Snyder, what would you tell President Biden today about that question, are we at a turning point in Ukraine?

TIMOTHY SNYDER, HISTORY PROFESSOR, YALE UNIVERSITY: Well, in my view, the Ukrainians have been waiting for some time and the Russians have been losing for some time. I think the underlying factors to a degree the Americans haven`t really appreciated on the side of the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians have been a row (ph), they are fighting for their own territory, they know what they are fighting for.

And maybe the thing we overlook the most, they are simply fighting a lot smarter than the Russians, and they don`t always get credit for that.

The victory this last week, this counteroffensive in Kharkiv region, involved Ukraine taking back more territory in a few days then Russia has taken since April. And taking that territory at the cost of a few thousand of their own soldiers. Whereas Russia lost tens of thousands of its soldiers since April.

So I think we are looking at a turning point for a couple of reasons. Number one, Ukrainians have shown they can carry out a counter offensive. But I think with that momentum, they`ll have more support from the west.


SNYDER: Number two, practically speaking, by taking the town that you mentioned, Izium, along with a couple of other towns, (INAUDIBLE), the Ukrainians have cut off the major railway junctions that would have allowed Russia to supply its troops in the Donbas.

So I think we are looking at a turning point in the war. And I think it is incumbent upon us to try to take advantage of that turning point, and try to help the Ukrainians bring this war to a close as soon as possible.

O`DONNELL: I would like to ask you two things about your meeting with President Zelenskyy. One is, what did you learn in that meeting that you can tell us about what to expect in Ukraine?

And then secondly, to just reflect on this man, on this person, who you spent time with, whose life has been under threat from the first day of Vladimir Putin`s invasion, and yet, who has held himself in such an apparently brave position that we are all watching from our safe distances here.

What is it that you feel about this man in his presence?

SNYDER: Yes, I`m going to take your two questions together, because when I went to see President Zelenskyy I was not trying to extract from him anything that he was not going to say publicly.

Ukraine is in the midst of this counteroffensive that we are talking about. Obviously, the Ukrainians were going to make public whatever they want to make public. What I wanted to talk him about was something deeper, which is the question of freedom and what freedom means to him and what freedom should mean to all of us, which is something I`m trying to write a book about.

And he to his great credit, can immediately see that these were questions which bore on his own office. What I was trying to ask him about were things like why did he link freedom and security and say that more freedom means more security, which I think is a very important point. We are used to thinking we have to give up freedom for security. He`s been arguing that you should be able to get both together.

I wanted to talk to him about what he was thinking when he stayed in Ukraine in February. As you said, that was very courageous. We talked about how that was the fruit of value choices that he made over his life, and how in trying to be a free person, you accumulate a sort of character, where you reach a moment like that you don`t think that you have a choice.

He said over and over again, I could not have done otherwise. I was doing the thing that I had to do.

And I also wanted to talk to him about something which he immediately recognized and affirmed which is that when Ukrainians are fighting, they are not just fighting against something. They are not just fighting against the Russians. Of course, what the Russians have done in Ukraine is horrifying -- the deportation of millions of people, the killing of more than 100,000 people in Mariupol alone, the rapes, the murders of local leaders.

But what I found talking to local people who have suffered, talking to soldiers, talking to civil society organizations, is what the president affirmed. Mainly that there is a conversation in Ukraine going on about freedom, where freedom means not just removing the Russians from our territory but freedom means the idea of a better future. An idea where no one tells us what to do. An idea where people get to choose their own leaders.

And that this has something to do with not just the courage, but the sense of calm that we see with the president. And not just the president, but the people around him. That they know they are fighting for something profound. Not just against something horrible, but for something profound.

O`DONNELL: What about your own feelings as a person being there in this environment amongst all of this bravery? And for you, as a history professor, to be there literally in the middle of history in the making?

SNYDER: Yes, as far as my own feelings, I was there for around a week. And I was trying very hard to listen because I think throughout this war, we in the west, and we Americans have over and over again imposed what we think was going to happen, or imposed what we thought about Ukrainians. And very often, we underestimated them.

And that became clear also during this counteroffensive, which was carried out with such operational and tactical intelligence. The operation was a success, not just because the Ukrainians were courageous, but also because they had plotted it over the course of weeks and months. They had outsmarted and misdirected the Russians.

So, I felt like it was in the middle of history, as you say. I believe that this war is not just about Ukraine, but also about the future of Russia and the future of Europe and the future of the world.

But I also felt like I was among people who knew what they were doing. I was among people who were keeping calm in the midst of all of this. And that in a way was the most encouraging thing of all.

O`DONNELL: Yale Professor Timothy Snyder, thank you very much for this report. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

SNYDER: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: We will be right back.




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