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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  September 25, 2019 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT

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will be a closed session so we'll be watching for any characterization that's come out of that closed door session. also tomorrow the general inspector for the intelligence committee, michael atkinson who fielded this complaint, apparently interviewed witnesses in the white house that could corroborate the whistle-blower's complaint. he is also going to be testifying before the senate intelligence committee behind closed doors after the acting d.n.i. is in there first. so this story developed in ways that were not hard to follow -- i mean you can follow every piece of it. they were just sort of hard to believe as each new piece of it fell into place today. i think tomorrow may be another day like that. get a good night's sleep. that does it for us tonight. we'll see you tomorrow. now it's time for the last word with lawrence o'donnell. good evening, lawrence. >> good evening, rachel. this is moving really fast. we are now at 218. 218 democrats in the house favor the impeachment proceedings against president trump. >> that's the magic number.
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>> the magic number. it was 134 on sunday -- on sunday it was -- 84 since sunday. >> you know, the question of how broad they're going to make this impeachment proceeding in terms of how broadly they're going to draw these articles is fascinating. i think that it's worth knowing, though, that they've got, you know, it's like bird in the hand, two in the bush. at this point if they want to impeach him specifically on this scandal of what he admitted to today in terms of what he asked the ukraine government for, they're done. they've got that in hand if they want to do it. >> they also have the mueller report, and we've never seen one article go forward. there's a lot of reasons for that, including offering the senate, for example, the possibility -- some senators the possibility to vote against one article or two articles, and then vote for one. and it only takes one. so if you get the two-thirds vote on one article, but then two or three other articles don't pass, the president is still removed.
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and so that is very likely to be a multiple article impeachment, just at minimum, just strategically for the senate, so you can give a republican senator a chance to say, i voted against three articles, but this one i just couldn't. i had to do it. >> i mean, we'll see how they strategically approach this. but i think, a, your math there is right. and b, this thing is moving so fast, i think that's -- that it's not an unreasonable thing to speculate about. >> we shall see. thank you, rachel. we have now completed the first full day, and only one full day, of the impeachment process in the house of representatives that speaker nancy pelosi made official last evening. and we are already at the release the transcripts stage of the impeachment investigation, the official impeachment investigation of president richard nixon took several months to get to the release the transcript stage. president nixon finally was forced by subpoena to deliver the first transcripts of his white house conversations to the house judiciary committee on may
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3rd, 1974, and then the impeachment process really picked up speed. and only three months later it was over. richard nixon resigned the presidency. the impeachment process has once again really picked up speed, but donald trump won't resign the presidency, but a lot can happen in the next three months. donald trump can be impeached, and he can be impeached before christmas. we will begin this program tonight the way the impeachment hearings will begin, with a verification of the document that has now become the most important public document in the impeachment investigation of donald trump. the memorandum of telephone conversation between president trump and president zelenskiy of ukraine. larry p fife r who has prepared documents with leaders of foreign governments will start us off tonight with just his simple reading of this memo, verifying this memo. does it look like a legitimate summary of that kind of conversation? is there anything strange about the memo other than what the
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president actually says in the memo? larry pfiefer is the one to answer the questions tonight. this might be outdone by other documents as the investigation proceeds and that might happen soon and might be outdone by the whistle-blower's report which is now in the possession of the house and senate intelligence committees. we will be joined by a member of the house intelligence committee who has read the whistle-blower's report. we will also be joined by two high-ranking members of the obama administration's foreign policy and national security team, former under secretary of state wendy sherman and former deputy national security advisor ben rhodes, mike murphy will join us to consider the new shape of our politics now that donald trump has become the fourth president in history to face an official impeachment process. and later in this hour, we will hear from a former federal prosecutor, we'll ask mimi rocah if she sees any federal crimes in this transcript of the president's conversation with the president of ukraine.
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is this a smoking gun. and at the end of the hour, we'll tell you what to watch for and what to expect in that public hearing beginning at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow in the house intelligence committee, a hearing that we already know will be historic. the acting director of national intelligence joseph mcguire will testify to the committee and explain why he blocked the inspector general's report of the whistle-blower's complaint. former house intelligence committee staffer will tell us exactly what the committee staff is doing right now at their desks tonight to prepare the members of that committee for tomorrow's hearing and what the members will be trying to achieve in that hearing tomorrow morning, beginning at 9:00 a.m. right here on msnbc. as of tonight, this five-page memorandum of telephone conversation, released by the whoite house today, has made -- this is the five-page memorandum. it has made this 448-page mueller report now the
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second-most important public document in the impeachment investigation of president donald j. trump. the conversation only covered two subjects. first, military aid to ukraine, and second, investigating joe biden and joe biden's son. that's it. president zelenskiy clearly wanted to talk about military aid. president trump clearly only wanted to talk about joe biden. president zelenskiy used the standard public manual of flattering trump in order to get something from him. he actually said to him, you are a great teacher for us. president trump then said, the united states has been very good to ukraine. i wouldn't say that it's reciprocal, necessarily, because things are happening that are not good, but the united states has been very good to ukraine. president zelenskiy kept thanking president trump profusely and repeatedly, and then he said, thank you for your great support in the area of defense. we are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps, specifically, we are almost ready to buy more javelins from
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the united states for defense purposes. that was the last word said about defense spending because donald trump did not respond in any way to president zelenskiy's desire to buy more javelin missiles from the united states. we have seen how eager the president is to discuss weapons sales publicly and privately to saudi arabia and other countries, but instead of responding to president zelenskiy's desire for more javelins, donald trump said, i would like you to do us a favor, though. in the impeachment hearings, the word "though" will be studied in that sentence. the oxford english dictionary defines though in that usage to mean introducing an additional statement restricting or modifying the preceding statement. so, saying i would like you to do us a favor, though, immediately after someone asks for something, according to the oxford english dictionary, is
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putting a restriction on the thing that was just requested. here was donald trump's restriction. "i would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with ukraine." trump then suggests that ukraine has information that could discredit robert mueller's investigation, and this phone call is taking place the day after robert mueller testified to the house of representatives. donald trump says, "i would like to have the attorney general call you or your people and i would like you to get to the bottom of it." as you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named robert mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with ukraine. whatever you can do, it's very important that you do it if that's possible." president zelenskiy then eagerly says, "i guarantee as the president of ukraine that all of the investigations will be done openly and candidly. that i can assure you." abc news is reporting tonight
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valenc zelenskiy knew president trump was going to ask about joe biden. he does appear ready for that. and it appears zelenskiy brings up rudy giuliani before president trump brings up giuliani's name. he says, i will personally tell you we spoke with mr. giuliani recently and we are hoping very much mr. giuliani will be able to travel to ukraine and we will meet once he comes to ukraine. donald trump then says, mr. giuliani is a highly respected man. he was the mayor of new york city, a great mayor, and i would like you to -- like him to call you. i will ask him to call you along with the attorney general. rudy very much knows what's happening, and he is a very capable guy. if you could speak to him, that would be great. president trump goes on to say, the other thing. that means there's another thing that is restricting president zelenskiy's desire for more military equipment from the
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united states. "the other thing, there's a lot of talk about biden's son, that biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that. so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it, it sounds horrible to me." president zelenskiy says, the person will be my person who will start as a prosecutor in september. he or she will look into the situation. president trump says, i will have mr. giuliani give you a call and i am also going to have attorney general barr call and we will get to the bottom of it. i'm sure you will figure it out. president zelenskiy then tries to buy good will with donald trump, as so many foreign governments have, by telling him that he paid to stay in a trump hotel. president zelenskiy says, last time i traveled to the united states, i stayed in new york near central park, and i stayed
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at the trump tower. president trump says, i will tell rudy and attorney general barr to call. whenever you would like to come to the white house, feel free to call. give us a date, and we'll work that out. i will look forward to seeing you. president zelenskiy says thank you very much, they say thank you a couple more times. president zelenskiy says, bye-bye. it's all there. in donald trump's own words. collusion with a foreign government to help donald trump's reelection campaign by hurting a candidate running against donald trump. there's a lot of talk about biden's son, that biden stopped the prosecution, and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. whatever you can do. that's what the president of the
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united states wanted in that conversation from the president of ukraine. whatever you can do to help the reelection campaign of donald trump. that is the donald trump, jr., meeting at trump tower with russians during the presidential campaign on steroids. leading off our discussion tonight is former director of the white house situation room where he managed president obama's phone calls with other heads of state. he is also a former chief of staff to the director of the c.i.a. larry, thank you for coming back tonight. we have the transcript. you've seen the transcript. and i just want to get a basic verification from you if you can give it to us based on what you've seen. other than the content and what the president is saying to the president of ukraine, does this look like the standard version of this? >> thanks, lawrence. absolutely, it looks like every memorandum of a telephone conversation i saw during my time at the white house in terms of its for matt, in terms of the caveats at the bottom in the footnote, in terms of the
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markings. at a certain level, you almost have to applaud the president for releasing this, what appears to be full transcript. >> there are a couple of ellipses in this and some people are pointing to that, the little dot-dot-dot, what that might be, are they leaving out significant words there, do you think? >> my guess -- my best guess is either, a, there was a pause, a natural pause in the conversation and they wanted to reflect that. the second possibility is that in the raw transcript that was created in the sit room, they may have had some clunky notation indicating garbled words or unidentified words. and someone on the n.s.c. staff in an attempt to make it look morell gand more more elegant put the dot-dot-dot. >> in your experience in the obama white house, who percentage was accurate, would have matched an audiotape? does it get into the 90% territory, 95%, 85%?
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>> well, i think the n.s.c. staffer would be doing his best attempt to take what would have come from the sit-room as almost a pure transcript of a conversation. he would have massaged it in an effort to make the language a little more -- flow a little more beautifully, perhaps a little more elegant phraseology, making sure the nouns and the adjectives and the verbs matched. so i would say that there would likely not be an attempt to doctor the actual transcript or change the meanings of the words. >> and finally, larry, anything unusual to your eye in this transcript? >> you know, from -- probably the most unusual thing -- i sat through a lot of congratulatory phone calls president obama made to world leaders upon their reelection or their election, and those generally are fairly pro forma, fairly short. they are congratulating the individual, talking about what good relations we have. and if there are trouble areas, they may just be mentioned at a very broad strategic level and
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the president would suggest that we need to get our people together and i know we'll work it out, something along those lines. not anything of this specific transactional nature. >> larry, thank you very much for starting us off tonight. i really appreciate it. >> you bet. >> joining us is sean patrick maloney from new york, member of the house intelligence committee. he has read the whistle-blower's actual complaint earlier tonight, and will be questioning the acting director of national intelligence tomorrow morning in that hearing that begins at 9:00 a.m. congressman, maloney, thank you very much for joining us on this important night and we hope you can keep coming back as this proceeds. what can you tell us about the whistle-blower report? how does it compare and how much does it add to what we see in the telephone transcript? >> well, i'm not going to get into the substance of the report obviously. it remains classified. so i want to be respectful and careful about that. what i can tell you is that there's going to be some tough questions tomorrow about why it
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was withheld from the congress. >> and does the whistle-blower's report go beyond the phone call? does it have a scope wider than just this one phone call? >> well, again, i'm not going to comment on the substance of the complaint or whether it has any relation or not to anything that's been publicly reported. i just can't do that at this stage, lawrence. you know, it's my hope that all of this material is declassified eventually and made available to the public. i think there is a very important need for the public to see as much as possible. and i'm certainly going to be pushing for that. but tomorrow is going to be about the role the d.n.i. played and department of justice played in with molding this complaint and the contents from congress. >> what do you think the likelihood is at this point of the whistle-blower's complaint becoming public eventually? >> well, obviously there is always the possibility that it leaks. if you're talking about a legal process, that would require declassification. now, bear in mind it's a good point to remind people that this
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whistle-blower is endeavoring to follow the law. this person is courageous and coming forward with critical information that the inspector general deemed urgent, credible, and the heart of the d.n.i.'s spopts. and this person is doing it the right way. the legal way. and this person has been let down by an attorney general and by a director of national intelligence who, who went outside the law, who went outside the statute and found a reason to keep it from congress. that's a serious issue. >> the first thing you were able to read today was the transcript of the president's phone call with president zelenskiy. what was your reaction to that? >> well, i'm happy to talk about that. thank you for talking about a public document. look, i thought it was -- i thought it was -- can i tell you, it broke my heart, to be honest with you. i mean, i know it's easy to get kind of partisan about this, but when i read a document where a president of the united states -- any president of the united states -- is muscling a newly elected foreign leader who is in a desperate position, with
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the russians having the next part of his country, invading the eastern part of his country as well, and that president is clearly, clearly trying to get that person -- pressuring that person to dredge up a fake investigation, to smear a political opponent in the context of that president raising the need for military aid, i mean, there is a quid -- there is a quo -- it is all right there. i am deeply, deeply depressed about the fact we have come to a point where an american president would say such things. i am also resolved that president be accountable for it and that the law means something, this country stand up for what's right. >> this is the day that the house of representatives arrived at the magic number of 218, 218 democrats now supporting the impeachment process against this president. how did that land in the house today, that number? >> well, look, i think most of us have believed for a few days,
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at least, that the support would be there. i think what's more important is are the facts there. this is a town where, where sometimes the evidence is more serious than the people. i think it's important that we follow the facts, the law, the evidence. i think everybody ought to take a deep breath. i think this thing is moving fast and i understand that. but these are serious issues. it's important to get our facts straight. it's important to know what we're talking about, and to make our case. and i think that's going to take some time. and i think people are going to need to be a little patient with that. i can tell you the democratic party is absolutely unified on the issue of getting to the bottom of it and getting the facts out. >> congressman patrick mahoney, thank you very much for joining us on this important night. really appreciate it. >> my pleasure. >> and when we come back from this break, the professionals, the national security and diplomatic professionals, former under secretary of state wendy sherman and former deputy national secretary ben rhodes both from the obama administration, both bring their expertise to what is the first
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known case of a president of the united states asking the president of a foreign country to help his reelection campaign by attacking a candidate running against the president. humira patients, you inspire us. the way you triumph over adversity. and live your lives. that's why we redesigned humira. we wanted to make the experience better for you. now there's less pain immediately following injection. we've reduced the size of the needle and removed the citrate buffers. and it has the same effectiveness you know and trust. humira citrate-free is here. a little change can make a big difference. humira can lower your ability to fight infections. serious and sometimes fatal infections, including tuberculosis, and cancers, including lymphoma, have happened, as have blood, liver, and nervous system problems, serious allergic reactions, and new or worsening heart failure. tell your doctor if you've been to areas where certain fungal infections are common and if you've had tb, hepatitis b,
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and get a notification the instant someone new joins your network... only with xfinity xfi. download the xfi app today. president trump and president zelenskiy discussed their now public phone call with reporters today at the united nations. >> we had i think good phone call. it was normal.
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we spoke about many things and i think, and you read it, that nobody push it -- pushed me, yes. >> there was no pressure. >> pressure is irrelevant. the only legal point that matters is that donald trump very clearly asked president zelenskiy for help in trying to harm a candidate running for president against donald trump. that is now an irrefutable fact, and it is a fact big enough to get donald trump impeached. joining our discussion now, is ambassador wendy sherman in the obama administration. she is an msnbc global affairs contributor. ben rhodes, nbc political analyst. ben, let me start with you. you've been on these calls. >> yes. >> you've been one of the number of people listening when it was president obama. you've read these documents. this is my first. i've never read one of these before today. it's my first. i imagine your hands shaking holding this in your hands today. >> yeah, i mean, lawrence, i
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actually got the transcript of every phone call president obama made. i've read hundreds and hundreds of those and i've never, ever seen anything like this. i mean, first of all, you have to consider the context of ukraine. and, of course, the president of ukraine is saying what president trump wants to hear there. his country is bee sieged. crimea is annexed. they are being killed in eastern ukraine. he is depending 0 not this aid which is a life line for ukraine. for the president of the united states to be leveraging aid that is a life line to a country that has been invaded by an adversary of the united states, because all he cares about is not the national interest, not the people of ukraine. all he cares about is his own political interest, is the definition of corruption. and one other thing i think, we know about this because of the whistle-blower. there is one little window open to one phone call. where else is this happening? if this is -- everything we know about how trump operates, is this happening with saudi arabia? is this happening with russia, right? so to me this is a peek at how
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trump actually operates and what that shows you is the complete and utter corruption of american foreign policy. >> your reaction? >> my reaction is quite similar. i found that press conference so painful today. zelenskiy was trying so hard to walk this very difficult line, flattering the president, saying he didn't get pressured, while at the same time saying we're an independent country. i can't ask a prosecutor to do a particular something. he was trying to show he's not a corrupt leader, which is essential in modern ukraine, given its history. and at the same time he had to sit next to the president of the united states who said, hey, why don't you and putin get together and sort of work this problem out. putin is killing his people. just extraordinary. >> the underlying policy with ukraine is one of the things that isn't getting focused on much here. but i do want to show that moment of donald trump today. here is the president zelenskiy
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in what he calls a war. he used the word war today, repeatedly publicly about his situation with russia. and here is what donald trump said about that. >> i really hope that russia -- because i really believe that president putin would like to do something. i really hope that you and president putin get together and can solve your problem. that would be a tremendous achievement. and i know you're trying to do that. >> ben, this is f.d.r. telling winston churchill, i hope you can work this out with hitler. >> putin has taken a piece of the territory of ukraine. he is backing people, arming people killing people in eastern ukraine. we spent the last 2 1/2 years of the obama administration -- and wendy was front and center in this, too -- mobilizing europeans to impose sanctions on russia. figuring out what assistance packages could go to ukraine to help weather this incredible
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storm they're in. donald trump sees this nothing as more than a mere sideshow. what he cares about is on that call, talk to rudy giuliani. talk to bill barr. talk to my kind of personal lawyers and it's, first of all, bad thing the attorney general seems to be a personal lawyer for the president of the united states, about this corruption investigation. the other thing i would say, the decision to recommend that they get rid of that prosecutor was an inter-agency -- meaning the state department comes together, the nsc, white house and others. this person was at the heart of a lot of corruption had nothing to do with hunter biden. he's inventing conspiracy theories and asking him to help him and it matters that russia invaded his country. i hope you work it out. i'm sure putin is committed to doing that. that's taking putin's side just like he did in he helsinki when he said putin didn't interfere in our election. >> wendy, the europeans wanted this prosecutor out of the way
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in ukraine. >> absolutely. >> because they felt just nothing serious was happening with this. >> absolutely, the europeans were very much in line with what we were trying to do to get rid of this corrupt prosecutor. and the other thing here is the whole reason we're here is because that ukraine needed military aid. it wanted, as he said today, those javelins. and the president knew that created leverage. and you see how that comes up in the conversation. the president says, yes, but there really hasn't been any reciprocity. and i'd like to ask you a favor, though. and so we know that this is all connected. so when people say there's nothing direct here, i think it's plain as day. >> ben, how many people would have heard a phone call like this and would be aware of the contents much a phone call like this? >> a pretty good number, lawrence. you'd have several people in the oval office for that call. the leadership of the nsc staff, the relevant people who work on ukraine in the nsc. people like your guest larry
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pfiefer who work on the tran skriptd of the call. it's disseminated. it suggests part of what got the attention of the whistle-blower is they were handling this call differently. they were trying to restrict access to the transcript of this call. i think it is very important for your viewers to understand, it's not just this transcript. what else was going on? why was rudy giuliani flying out to ukraine? why was the state department -- again, based on reports we read -- directing rudy giuliani to be involved in this at all? he's a private citizen who represents the president of the united states. so we shouldn't see this transcript as the end of the story. i think it's, again, a window into a much broader corruption of our policy towards ukraine, towards russia. front and center in all these matters is not the american people. keep in mind, that's our tax dollars. that assistance going to ukraine, that's our tax dollars being used like a part of trump's campaign war chest to leverage, again, a foreign leader to do his bidding. i'd like to see us pull all these different threads around
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not just this phone call, but ukraine policy in general. >> wendy, all these years on the call, one whistle-blower, only one. >> yes. i think we're in a time where people are terrified to become a whistle-blower. you have to be pretty sure of what you're doing. if you're an intelligence officer, you know your life is on the line, and that intelligence officers work not to be known by people. they work to be quietly doing the work to protect us and protect our national security. so for this whistle-blower, knowing particularly this president and this administration which believes in punishing people -- after all, the president talked about our then ambassador to ukraine who he basically said was doing bad things and he was going to take care of her, which he did, which is to push her out of government. this is a punitive administration, and so this whistle-blower must have really believed there was corruption here, and we saw the president, as he always does, he talks about how everybody else is
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corrupt, to deflect from his own deep corruption. >> ben, i think the disturbing thought overnight i think for the audience is this is just one phone call. >> yes. >> this is just one phone call, one whistle-blower. wendy sherman, ben rhodes, thank you for joining us. really appreciate it. when we come back, republican strategist mike murphy says 30 republican senators would vote to convict donald trump in an impeachment trial in the senate and remove him from office if it were a secret ballot. mike murphy and john heilman join us next. there's the amped-up, over-tuned, feeding-frenzy-of sheet-metal-kind. and then there's performance that just leaves you feeling better as a result. that's the kind lincoln's about. ♪
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i can tell you this. one republican senator told me,
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if it was a secret vote, 30 republican senators would vote to impeach trump. >> that was veteran republican strategist mike murphy on msnbc earlier today. he writes, the easy-to-dodge days for senate republicans are coming to an end. voters deserve stark clarity in the wake of trump's dealings with ukraine and there is one certain way to get it. the democratic house must impeach the president and force the question on the senate, yea or nay, on donald trump. joining us now is mike murphy, republican strategist. also with us john heilman, coe host and executive producer of show times, the circus, both are msnbc and nbc news analysts. mike, what got you to the point where you want to see these republican senators called on a vote on conviction of donald trump in the senate? >> well, i think it's the issue that american politics is hanging on, and it's time for
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clarity. look, i've been a never trumper for a while. i thought impeachment would have been a political mistake for the democrats. go out and beat him. this ukrainian thing is outrageous and it's going to get worse. every couple hours we learn about more concerns. i think the president is clearly violated his oath of office, and i don't think republican office holders, as much as they don't like the idea, should be able to answer with essay questions about donald trump. the only way to force clarity and find out where they really are, do they want to own trump and fight his corner despite all this, or do they want to hopefully do the right thing or what might be the smart thing for them in the future politically, vote. as crude as it is, it will force that. >> mike, what about republicans who are in tough reelection situations, or the other interesting vote is republicans who are not running for reelection, republicans who will be retiring, this is their final important vote of their careers?
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>> yeah, again, i think if this keeps spreading, the whistle-blower, you know, it's all coming out in dribs and drabs, but there apparently are witnesses to white house behavior. if this keeps growing, it does fit the pattern of donald trump's behavior to be doing this sort of thing on the phone with a foreign leader, the politics of it could start to change and the front line of that will be people like susan collins and corey gardener, martha mcsally, people in purple states looking at really tough reelects, and an up/down vote is -- i understand, there is a cancer in the republican party, time to face it and take a side. >> john heilman, 218, today is the day they hit 218 in the house of representatives. 218 democrats in favor of the impeachment process. it takes 218 to impeach donald trump. >> yeah, you know, lawrence, it's funny. i saw adam schiff a little earlier tonight. we were talking about this moment. when the mystery of this is
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written, the moment when shifa long with nancy pelosi last weekend came out and said after all this reluctance that he, like the speaker had on political grounds, even though he thought the president had committed high crimes and misdemeanors for a long time, to suddenly shift, shifts schiff, to talk about crossing the rubicon, i asked him which is it, did the politics change in the sense that the vulnerable freshman, these democrats who are in swing districts where nancy pelosi was trying to protect them by not making them do impeachment, did the calculus change because of this egregious behavior? or was this behavior just so egregious the politics no longer mattered? and that in the end is what schiff basically said. he said, look, you know, i think that the 30,000 foot thing was democrats looked at this and said, the president of the united states is trying to do exactly again in 2020 what he did in 2016, except this time he's trying to do it as the president of the united states and not just a candidate, and that in the end was just
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intolerable to pretty much everybody in the democratic caucus. >> and, mike, it's kind of two sides of the same coin. if the offense is bad enough, then the politics of it -- political calculation does change. >> yeah, no, i think it totally has. i mean, i think it's a pipe dream for the republicans to think that somehow impeachment will help them because one of two things are going to happen. it's either going to get bad enough that republicans are going to start defecting, which will cripple the president, or the republicans will go into -- and the senate will go into a mary garland mode and stone wall this thing all the way, and the democratic frustration is going to go absolutely off the charts. remember, we're dealing with a president with lousy poling numbers here. he is not operating from a position of strength, a position of weakness. the only question is will the democrats screw this up by nominating somebody that can change the topic of the election. and this impeachment procedure just staples that question to donald trump's head. so i think that actually is a
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political benefit for the democrats. now, the last thing i'd say quickly, i can see a scenario if you're a corey gardener, elizabeth collins, it's not perfect for you, but you're better with pence. that helps you change the subject to a dangerous democrat, you know, even though it clearly pence with his own shortcomings, trump is going to be a trouble factor going forward even in a purple state. >> susan collins in maine in what could be a struggling reelection. go ahead, john. >> lawrence, i was going to say i agree with everything mike said. the one other way democrats could screw this up, not just in terms of who they nominate, but how do they handle these impeachment hearings. one of the most interesting debates i hear right now is the strategic question, do you as you proceed towards this impeachment inquiry, do you make it an omnibus thing where it's not just about this ukrainian scandal, but it's also about the obstruction of justice from the mueller investigation, about the hush money payments in the southern district of new york, about emoluments, about everything donald trump has done
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wrong? or do you try to remain focused in a laser-like way on this particular sin, on this particular crime, on this particular dereliction of duty? i think the smart -- it sounds to me increasingly the smart argument is the one that says let's just stay focused on this one thing. don't load up the sled. don't overload the sled. there are going to be people on the left who will want to take on all of donald trump's crimes. the smarter play is to focus on this one thing that basically proves it all. the object lesson here, if you can win that argument, you can win the whole thing politically. >> on knicnixon, clinton, they didn't focus on articles of impeachment. they wanted to give the other party a chance to vote with donald trump on two or three counts, and then vote against him on one. and, mike, it only turks and caicos one. >> yeah, look, i agree with john. keep it simple. keep it focused and a story people can understand i think is
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going to have more corroborating facts and make that the thing. don't widen it up so the president's defenders can make complicated subparts of the investigation the way to confuse people about this. real simple. president using the power of american policy to shake down a vulnerable country to further his own political career. it doesn't get simpler or worse than that. >> john heilman, who is the donald trump who you saw today at the united nations? i ask you because you saw him. you covered him closely on the campaign trail in 2016. and i mean, you were right in there with your microphones and your cameras. i saw you close to him on the trail. you had a lot of interview opportunities with him. that was a lifeless donald trump at the united nations. >> i think deflated. and if not wholly defeated yet, lawrence, i think you started to see signs of what a defeated donald trump would look like. i have rarely seen -- i've seen the president much crazier.
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i've seen him -- i've seen him distracted. i've seen him seem attled, perform poorly. today he seemed limp. as if the air had been kind of taken out. i keep saying deflated. he looked a bit like a beaten dog today and that's a little bit mean to dogs. i think if you start to think about where this could go, that's the donald trump i think you'll be seeing more and more as this thing encroaches further and further onto his political capital. as his approve rating falls further and further as his base starts to erode, and i think to mike's point, when the numbers start to get to the point where republicans just doing the straight math look at donald trump and he's more of a liability than an asset and they start to abandon him, that day will come. >> there is still time for the republicans to find another nominee for president. john heilman, mike murphy, thank you very much for joining us tonight. really appreciate it. and when we come back, is this a smoking gun?
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i'll ask former federal prosecutor mimi rocah next. ♪ ♪ big dreams start with small steps... ...but dedication can get you there. so just start small... start saving. easily set, track and control your goals right from the chase mobile® app. ♪ ♪ chase. make more of what's yours®. i am royalty of racing, i am the twisting thundercloud. raise your steins to the king of speed. my body is truly powerful. i have the power to lower my blood sugar and a1c. because i can still make my own insulin. and trulicity activates my body to release it like it's supposed to. trulicity is for people with type 2 diabetes.
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a quid pro quo is if you do not do what i want, i'm going to punish you. read this transcript. no rational person would conclude that the president of the united states was threatening to cut off aid to the ukraine unless they did something against joe biden and his son. >> joining us know is mimi rocah, former assistant u.s. attorney in the southern district of new york and an
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msnbc legal contributor. is this transcript of the telephone call a smoking gun? >> absolutely. you know, i for more than ten years listened to public officials, mobsters, you know, do bribery and extortion schemes, and honestly, half of them were more subtle than this. i don't know what lindsey graham is talking about there. any person just with common sense -- you don't need to be a lawyer -- to look at this knows exactly what donald trump was doing there. zelenskiy brings up something they want. they need, they need these weapons. they need protection from putin. they have been promised those. he says, how about those, can i get those? and trump pivots immediately. it is tied to it with, as you pointed out, well, though, we want a favor. and the favor is open this investigation. i don't even know that trump cares what the answer is. he wants an investigation on his
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opponent. that is a service he's trying to get for free, essentially, using his public position, the power of the purse. that is an extortion and there are multiple other possible i didn't mean analy criminal violations, but it is a smoking gun. >> the report which "the new york times" has taken a look at, they quote inspector general atkinson saying it could be viewed as soliciting a foreign campaign contribution in violation of the campaign finance laws. >> well, that's right. i mean, look, like i said, there are many different, i think, possible criminal statutes that could apply here. solicitation of something of value to help a campaign is one of them. the idea that this department of justice said no campaign finance crime here, without any investigation, is really just unfathomable to me.
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apparently the department of justice didn't consider or mention any other criminal statutes. i mean, like i said, i think extortion is probably the most likely one. and remember, and i know you know this, but it's good to remind our viewers. while these, i think, warrant criminal investigation and other people besides trump who should be looked at and investigated for these, for trump it doesn't need to be a federal crime, it is an abuse of power. but i think you very clearly have a quid pro quo here that honestly i did not see in most conversations. i didn't see this clearly. >> and he's a former prosecutor, too. he said this was classic mafia style talk. >> absolutely. and nobody goes around saying what lindsey graham is suggesting. that's not how it's done. no one -- you know, i don't want to say isn't that dumb, but people know their conversations are being listened to. so you say -- it's the
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implication, right? i think this is pretty explicit, but he's saying, you do this, the investigation, if you want that, the weapons, the protection. >> very specifically about biden, he was talking about biden and he said, so if you can look into it -- and he means biden -- if you can look into it. he's asking him to investigate joe biden. >> exactly. it's the classic sort of i need something from you, you want something from me, that's a quid pro quo. and that's how they do it. >> mimi roka has closed the case. the official impeachment of the house of representatives begins tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. mika yo yang is a staff member of the house committee where that meeting will take place. she will tell us what you should be looking for in tomorrow's hearing in her old committee
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i found the allegations deeply disturbing. i also found them very credible. i think it a travesty that this complaint was held as long as it was because it was an urgent matter. it is an urgent matter and there was simply no basis to keep this from the committee. >> for the last word of the hour, we turn to mika, staffer
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of the house intelligence committee. she is a member of the third way. if you were at the desk of your old committee, you would be there right now close to 11:00 p.m., close to midnight. you worked with adam schiff and the rest of the committee who will be questioning tomorrow. what is the staff doing right now to prepare tomorrow for 9:00 a.m.? >> right now they're going over those who have seen the whistleblower complaint and they're putting together lines of questions for members of congress. i think there are three main areas where you would want to have members of congress nail down acting dni mcguire. the first is on his reaction to this whistleblower complaint. does he share the i.g.'s concerns that this is serious, this is credible, this goes to the heart of his mission in terms of protecting foreign influence from the united states. because as schiff said, these things seem very disturbing. readers of this complaint have been disturbed by it. they think something needs to be done. the second thing is you want to nail down what was the process
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that prevented mcguire from moving this thing forward to the committee expeditiously? was the white house involved? what did doj say? why did they interpret it the way they did? finally, the most important point, you have to wonder what mcguire is going to say to the intelligence community employees who are watching him. because how he handles this whistleblower complaint will have tremendous implications for everyone in the intelligence community and how they think about whether or not they -- when they see some wrongdoing, how do they handle that? do they think they're going to be blocked from getting to the appropriate overseers? are they going to think their only crime is leaking important information to the press? this is important for the work force. >> we know the workers by now have read the whistleblower's report that was made available to them today. do any of the staff or some of the higher ranking staff members also read that whistleblower's report? >> typically when things are
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held to a small number of members, there are a very limited number of staffers who also read the report, especially in something like this. there have been a few times historically where staffers have been prohibited from seeing that material. but with something like this, given the gravity of this and how frequently it's discussed in the media, i think they'll have some staffers who have read into this report. >> we saw sharpev melodie talking about the whistleblower report. he can't say a word about it, can't say anything about it. tomorrow's hearing is about that. how does this hearing work when the big thing in the room everyone wants to talk about no one can say anything about? >> look, the dni can declassify portions of this. there are things that he can say about what happened. and all the conversations about process, the white house weighing in, department of justice weighing in, those are not classified facts, right? the director of national intelligence can discuss those
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things with the committee and he can also talk about whether or not he agrees with the inspector general. i would expect the members of the congress to really push him on those things and how he understands what the risk is of foreign interference here. >> and mieke, how much cooperation at this stage is there with the republican staff? i know in the pre-trump era, there would have been a lot of cooperation between the parties on situations like this. >> yeah, i think under chairman schiff, what i've heard from former colleagues, is that things have gotten better. when you see the senate voting 100 to nothing to release this report and have the whistleblower complaint come forward, and you start to see republicans express unease about the allegations here, i think you're going to have more bipartisan concern about protecting whistleblowers than you might have previously. >> miek spairks eoyang, thank you for your guidance on what to watch tomorrow.
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really appreciate it. that is "the last word." "the 11th hour with brian williams" starts now. we are just ten hours from testimony with congress. those who have read the whistleblower report call is deeply troubling and disturbing. then there is the memo of two leaders who came face to face today, and this evening donald trump talked about releasing more revelations that could rock the white house. plus, democrats rock the perilous prospects of impeachment. we have the greatest blockbuster reporting of all of it as "the 11th hour" gets underway on a wednesday night. good evening once again from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. i'm steve kornacki in for brian williams. day 979 of the trump administration, the eve of