tv On Assignment with Richard Engel MSNBC November 3, 2019 7:00pm-8:00pm PST
murray, thanks to both of you. thanks for watching our msnbc special. find me on weeknights. it's "the beet," 6:00 p.m. eastern. it started as a 30-minute phone call between two presidents. it erupted into a full-scale scandal that now threatens to bring down donald trump. >> today i'm announcing the house of representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. >> our president sacrificed our national security and our constitution for his personal political benefit. >> they've been trying to impeach me from the day i got elected. and you know what? they failed. >> you've seen the headlines.
tonight we'll dive deep into the part of the story you haven't heard. and key players will reveal for the first time what really happened. as we go "on assignment." the conversation just after 9:00 a.m. on july 25th started out friendly. president donald j. trump calling his newly elected counterpart, ukrainian president volodymyr zelensky. this is from the official notes of the phone call released by the white house. congratulations on a great victory, we all watched from the united states and you did a terrific job, president trump tells president zelensky. you are absolutely right, mr. president, zelensky responds, we did win big and we worked hard for this. we worked a lot but i would like to confess to you that i had an opportunity to learn from you. >> it was actually the first
real conversation between two presidents. >> this was ukraine's foreign minister for five years. he left office at the end of august. he says for president zelensky, it was a high pressure call. >> i understand that for zelensky, it was extremely important simply to build up a kind of personal thing between them. >> you can hear what sounds like zelensky doing his best to get on trump's side. we are trying to work hard because we wanted to drain the swamp here in our country, says the ukrainian president, you are a great teacher for us in that. president trump responds, well, it's very nice for you to say that. >> he is trying to establish a personal rapport with president trump. that is obvious given all the flattering language. ♪ >> before being elected president earlier this year, volodymyr zelensky was an actor and comedian. his most notable role was
playing a president on tv. he won office in a landslide with a campaign promise to fight corruption and to end ukraine's war with its vastly more powerful neighbor, russia. zelensky knows u.s. military aid is vital to his country, and he's eager for it to continue. i would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. we are ready to continue to cooperate for the next stages. specifically, we are almost ready to buy more javelins from the united states for defense purposes, he says. javelins are shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles ukraine's army needs to fight off russian-backed forces. so far, so normal. talks of bilateral relations and defense. but this is president trump. his response to the request for javelin missiles is personal. one white house official reportedly called it crazy. i would like you to do us a
favor, though, president trump says, because our country has been through a lot and ukraine knows a lot about it. >> all you have to do is look at the transcript that the white house released where the president of ukraine says, we want to buy more javelins. and the next word is the president saying, i'd like to ask a favor, though. >> president trump has a very specific favor in mind. it involves his old nemesis, hillary clinton, and a baseless conspiracy theory propagated on the fringes of the internet that claims the hacking of democratic computers during the 2016 election was not carried out by russia to help the trump campaign, as u.s. intelligence agencies universally concluded. but instead, was the work of ukrainian operatives to help hillary clinton and frame donald trump and russia. >> as with much of the republican conspiracy thinking about the origins of the mueller
probe, the origins of the steele dossier, there's not a lot that i've found that really backs this up. >> the wild allegation has no factual basis. it's been completely debunked. >> i believe it's weird. i believe it's simply weird, and anybody understanding something about cybersecurity would tell you it's weird. >> president trump continues, 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. zelensky responds, we are ready to open a new page on cooperation in relations between the united states and ukraine. >> sleepy joe said that he's running -- >> president trump then turns his attention from hacking in 2016 to a possible rival in 2020. former vice president joe biden. and what trump claims was his role in a corruption investigation in ukraine five years ago. 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, says president trump. biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it, it sounds horrible to me. we will take care of that, zelensky says, and we'll work on the investigation of the case. once again, president trump is asking for proof of something that didn't happen. there is no evidence biden tried to stop a prosecution in ukraine. not only was trump's request highly irregular, analysts say it put the ukrainian president in a difficult spot. >> you have the president of ukraine say, i want to buy more weapons, we're in a war, we're trying to defend ourselves, you promised that you'd support us. you have president responding, i'd like to talk to you about your doing a favor, then he goes into his request for dirt on biden. >> no leader in the world is in a position to refuse when the
president of the united states asks you to do a favor. but the president of ukraine is especially vulnerable given that he is fighting a war against russia, and he needs the united states to be on his side. >> reporter: at least a week before the two men spoke over the phone, president trump had blocked, in spite of recommendations from the pentagon, a $391 million military aid package to ukraine. >> when you read that partial transcript, do you think that president trump was putting pressure on president zelensky? >> indirect pressure is definitely there. >> the president basically was cutting off these weapons until he got agreement from the ukrainian president to help him with his political request. >> president trump doesn't just ask zelensky to investigate biden, he offers high-level help, namely, his personal attorney, rudy giuliani, and
william barr, the attorney general of the united states. mr. giuliani is a highly respected man, says president trump, he was the mayor of new york city, a great mayor, and i would like him to call you, i will ask him to call you, along with the attorney general. after the call, white house aides placed the records of it in a top-secret computer server. it might have stayed there, except for a whistle-blower. someone at cia heard about the phone call and warned his superiors that the president may have been acting illegally. the white house released the notes, apparently believing they would exonerate the president. trump's critics didn't see it that way. >> so here we have the president of the united states engaged in a shakedown of a foreign president. >> rudy giuliani is negotiating, apparently on behalf of the president of the united states, but in effect potentially
betraying our national and security interests. >> president trump and his supporters claim the whistle-blower is a plant from what they call the deep state, the shadowy american left-leaning establishment they say has been trying to unseat president trump since the beginning. >> a partisan hit job does not make you a whistle-blower just because you go through the whistle-blower protection act. >> raise your right hand -- >> in congressional testimony, the president's own acting director of national intelligence called the whistle-blower credible and the process lawful. >> i think the whistle-blower did the right thing. i think he followed the law every step of the way. >> the whistle-blower was wrong. >> at first trump seemed to see the whole situation as yet another chance to take down a political rival. >> biden's son is corrupt, and biden is corrupt. >> two months after the call, presidents trump and zelensky
met in person. reporters' questions were all about the call. zelensky said he didn't feel he was being forced to do the president's bidding. >> we spoke about many things. and so i think, and you read it, that nobody pushed -- pushed me, yes. >> in other words, no pressure. >> but former ukrainian diplomats and investigators we spoke to told us there was nothing else zelensky could say. president trump, after all, was holding his feet to the fire. >> we've been investigating on a personal basis through rudy and others, lawyers, corruption in the 2016 election. >> back home in ukraine, president zelensky denied any contact with giuliani. >> were you ever approached by or did you meet with rudy giuliani? >> i've never met rudy giuliani, never. and never had any phone calls with him. >> but pressure is mounting, and
investigators are digging deeper. revealing that months before the call, u.s. diplomats had already begun a campaign to pressure ukraine to investigate the bidens and validate trump's false belief that ukrainian officials helped hillary clinton in the 2016 elections. and now another whistle-blower has come forward. as the days turn to weeks, the march toward impeachment is clearly getting under the president's skin. >> did you hear me? ask him a question. >> i will, but -- >> i've given you a long answer, ask this gentleman a question, don't be rude. >> no, sir, i don't want to be rude, i just wanted you to have a chance to ask the question that i asked you. >> i've answered everything. >> but there's an underlying question. why? why does president trump seem obsessed with ukraine? why has a former soviet republic become so central to american politics? >> the riot police have now withdrawn from this area in central kiev --
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capital kiev, demanding immediate democratic reforms. and the overthrow of the corrupt russian-backed president, viktor yanukovych. the protesters had washington's blessing. u.s. diplomats went so far as to visit the demonstrators and hand out food. >> ukraine and its people just didn't want to be part of that close russian orbit anymore. they were looking west. >> as the world watched, things got ugly. i was there when the street protests erupted into pitched battles with riot police. and soon central kiev's main square, the mydan, was on fire. >> the protesters here put themselves in the center of a ring of fire and say they will hold this square even fit costs them their lives. >> for many it did. president trump yanukovych ordered his troops to open fire
with live ammunition. around 100 protesters were killed. opponents of yanukovych were shocked, but not surprised. >> viktor yanukovych was trying to monopolize corruption in ukraine. he treated the state as his own personal family business. >> i spoke recently with doreen that, ukraine's i'ding anti-corruption campaigner, not a fan of the former president. >> in his youth he was convicted for robbery of hats. >> he stole people's hats? >> he stole people's hats. >> he was a low-level petty criminal? >> in the soviet union, there was fashion for hats because of the fur. so they were expensive. and he was convicted for that. he served his term in the prison. so everyone treated yanukovych as a criminal. >> amid growing pressure and with blood in the streets, the hat thief-turned-president threw
in the towel and fled to russia. celebrations broke out across kiev. but vladimir putin wasn't going to stand by and let a popular uprising go unchallenged in his own backyard. >> while putin was extremely upset, i think he thought this was a fateful moment where he was about to lose ukraine to the west. >> michael mcfaul was the u.s. ambassador to russia at the time. >> that's why he invaded, that's why he went in. >> days after the closing ceremony in sochi, the russian president launched a stealth operation to occupy ukraine's strategically important crimean peninsula. it was a bold and new type of invasion. soldiers with unmarked uniforms, known only as little green men, blocked roads, took over army bases, took over strategic posts, quietly, efficiently,
without violence. russia denied any involvement. only later would putin proudly acknowledge the invasion was carried out by russian commandos. i watched as pro-russian supporters tightened their grip on power and gave the people a vote. but no real choice. >> these men and their russian backers now run things here, and many crimeans believe the upcoming referendum is just a rubber stamp for takeover by force that's already happened. >> and sure enough, when the results of the hastily organized referendum were announced, crimea voted to become part of mother russia. >> it's true many people consider crimea part of russia, but it's part of ukraine. seizure of territory by one nation by another is against the rules. >> it was the first hostile takeover of european territory by a neighboring country since world war ii. >> vladimir putin's approval rating skyrocketed after the
annexation of crimea. it was an extremely popular war, portrayed so people understand on russian airwaves as a battle not between ukrainians and russians, but between russia and the west, russia and the united states. >> putin worked hard to make his new acquisition irreversible. he ordered the construction of a bridge to connect crimea to the russian mainland. russian-backed militias then took over large parts of eastern ukraine. the country was being occupied piece by piece. >> with vladimir putin, that's are real gut issues. when he gets angry, feels that he's being dissed, his country's being dissed, he can react very sharply. >> journalist david ignatius watched putin's land grab with growing concern. >> ukrainian leaders have been struggling to understand what to do. they had believed the united states stood with them as they tried to become truly
independent of russia, a russia that was fighting a war on their borders to try to suppress them, suppress their freedoms. they thought, america stands with us. >> with russia now occupying crimea and eastern ukraine, the new pro-american government in kiev needed its friends in washington more than ever. but the obama administration first wanted ukraine to clean up its house. then vice president biden was named point man for the anti-corruption effort. >> it's absolutely critical for ukraine, in order to be stable and prosperous and part of a secure europe, to definitely, thoroughly, completely, root out the cancer of corruption. >> there was plenty to root out. after the hat thief, yanukovych, fled the country. people flocked to the former presidential palace, a sprawling compound decorated in dictator chic, complete with artificial
lake and private zoo. there they found documents detailing yanukovych's corruption, and eventually hidden in a locked room of yanukovych's own party headquarters, they found the crown jewel. an 800-page handwritten book that came to be known as the black ledger. >> this is the ledger? >> this is the black ledger, one of 800 pages. >> this ukrainian journalist and anti-corruption politician showed me a copy of some of the off-the-record payments made by yanukovych's political party. one name that featured prominently was paul manafort. >> here's one for $750,000? clearly i can see that, manafort. >> manafort was a political consultant and campaign strategist with a dubious list of clients. they included criminals and
despots. ferdinand marcos. ukraine's viktor yanukovych. in the spring of 2016, donald trump called on manafort to be his campaign manager. >> paul manafort has done an amazing job. he's here someplace, where's paul? paul manafort. >> but when the story of the black ledger broke and the large cash payments to manafort were revealed, trump was put on the defensive. >> now manafort has totally denied it, denied it. i think he represented ukraine or people having to do with ukraine or people that -- whoever. but people knew that, everybody knew that. >> soon manafort was forced to resign from the trump campaign. the mueller report would reveal his close die ties and large debts to a russian oligarch, leading to suspicions trump himself may be compromised, allegations the president denies. manafort remained loyal to trump even after he went to prison for bank and tax fraud.
even after he won the presidency, donald trump suspected ukraine had tried to sabotage his campaign. how exactly does joe biden fit in? that story next. , we present limu emu & doug with this key to the city. [ applause ] it's an honor to tell you that liberty mutual customizes your car insurance so you only pay for what you need. and now we need to get back to work. [ applause and band playing ] only pay for what you need. ♪ liberty. liberty. liberty. liberty. ♪
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>> trump's doing this because he knows i'll beat him like a drum. >> what i saw biden do with his son, he is pillaging these countries and he's hurting us. >> this is outrageous. you have never seen anything like this from any president. >> biden and his son are stone-cold crooked. >> on a bitter-cold day in january 2009, joe biden walked through the streets of the nation's capital, having just been sworn in as the 47th vice president of the united states. his family by his side, including his son hunter. under president obama, vice president biden was given special responsibility for ukraine.
the job then, to nurture its pro-russian government and encourage it to look west. on his first official trip to the country, the vice president outlined the obama administration's priorities. >> ukraine must heed the lesson of history. effective, accountable government is the only way to provide stable, predictable, and a transparent environment. >> transparent environment was code for anti-corruption, a novel idea for a place where bribes and kickbacks were the norm. but big changes were coming. the revolution in mydon square toppled the pro-russian president. vladimir putin snatched crimea and occupied the east. >> the government went from being one that was leaning toward russia -- >> exactly. >> -- to one that was looking to the west. how big a transformation that is? >> it's fundamental.
before the mydon, you should understand that ukraine was more or less the same post-soviet reality. >> ukraine is extremely vulnerable. if your country's occupied, annexed, fighting a war in eastern ukraine, up to 13,000 people have died. they need u.s. support. >> ukraine's dependance on u.s. military support after the revolution gave vice president biden a lot of leverage for his anti-corruption agenda. high on the list of possible wrongdoers was ukraine's private energy company burisma, a company few americans had ever heard of. it became an obsession for president trump's lawyer, rudy giuliani. >> a crooked company in the ukraine called burisma, run by a guy who took $5 billion from ukraine. >> here's the real story. burisma was founded by a ukrainian oligarch, zlovchesky,
a former government minister, suspected of self-dealing, granting licenses for oil and gas concessions to help his company. and allowing burisma to evade taxes. anti-corruption watchdog doreena kalenok. >> burisma has a bad reputation. in ukraine we actually appeared when we had to fight two wars. war with russia, war with corruption. >> in an attempt to improve its image and shield itself from scrutiny, in 2014 burisma assembled a new board of directors. the company brought in several high-profile names, including vice president biden's son, hunter. >> why would burisma hire hunter biden to serve on the board? >> nominating such person, it was idea to protect company from investigation. >> sergei seshenko is an investigative journalist and
former member of ukraine's parliament. >> nominating and putting such position in position, idea is to make company more protected from investigation, to make less possible disclosure of the misconduct in past and so on. it's typical pr story. >> it was clear for us that they're trying hard to whitewash his reputation and make everything possible to prevent from losing assets in ukraine. >> it's my honor to introduce the vice president of the united states, my father, joe biden. >> hunter biden was an unusual choice for burisma. he was a lawyer and venture capitalist but had no experience in the oil and gas sector. he recently admitted to the "new yorker" magazine a tumultuous personal life with bouts of drug and alcohol addiction. hunter biden's position with burisma came with a reported $50,000 a month paycheck. it raised eyebrows in washington at the time. >> hunter biden has now taken a position with oil and gas
company in ukraine, is there any concern about at least the appearance of a conflict there? >> hunter biden and other members of the biden family are obviously private citizens, and where they work is not -- does not reflect an endorsement by the administration or by the vice president or the president. but i would refer you to the vice president's office. >> it's not the first instance when we see a company of ukrainian tycoon inviting very prominent people with prominent names in order to make them look good. it was very wrong and very unethical. >> wrong and unethical for hunter biden to take the job? >> he had nothing to do with ukraine before he took that job. did he ask himself why he was invited to join the board? they needed his name, full stop. >> but even with such starpower on the board, burisma still faced a corruption investigation.
and here's where the story gets interesting. ukraine's prosecutor general at the time was named victor shokin. it was his job to oversee the investigation into burisma. >> was he an effective prosecutor? >> totally uneffective. he was appointed with the idea to fight against corruption, to be independent. but he has no credibility and no ability to investigate. he is just crooked. >> shokin quickly earned a reputation for protecting powerful friends, including the exiled president, viktor yanukovych. protesters in kiev demanded that shokin be fired, and they weren't the only ones unhappy with shokin's slow walking of corruption cases. >> it was the whole international community. it was the european union. it was international financial organizations. it was about reform of our prosecutor offices.
which were fundamentally and systematically corrupt. >> among the loudest voices calling for shokin to be fired was vice president joe biden. to help push the case, biden threatened to hold up a billion-dollar loan guarantee program. an episode he boasted about months later at the council on foreign relations. >> i said, i'm telling you, you're not getting a billion dollars. i said, you're not getting a billion. i'm going to be leaving here, i think it was six hours. i said, we're leaving in six hours. if the prosecutor's not fired, you're not getting the money. well, son of a bitch, he got fired. >> remember this, it's important. shokin was fired for failing to investigate corruption. as you'll see, president trump and his personal lawyer now tell a very different and misleading story. when we come back, how president trump is rewriting history.
>> it's [ bleep ]. from first word to the last word. >> and i track down rudy giuliani's man in kiev. >> were you in regular contact with him? >> no, no. it was irregular contact. but yes, i have spoken with him maybe ten times. (burke) at farmers insurance, we know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two. even a- (ernie) lost rubber duckie? (burke) you mean this one? (ernie) rubber duckie! (cookie) what about a broken cookie jar? (burke) again, cookie? (cookie) yeah. me bad. (grover) yoooooow! oh! what about monsters having accidents? i am okay by the way! (burke) depends. did you cause the accident, grover? (grover) cause an accident? maybe... (bert) how do you know all this stuff? (burke) just comes with experience. (all muppets) yup. ♪ we are farmers. ♪ bum-pa-dum, bum-bum-bum-bum when you take align, you have the support of a probiotic and the gastroenterologists who developed it. align naturally helps to soothe your occasional digestive upsets, 24/7.
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>> rudy giuliani was willing to play any role with his old friend, donald trump. >> oh, you dirty boy you! >> they made this video for a charity dinner in 2000. and the bond between the two new yorkers has only grown stronger over time. >> we love rudy! say hello. >> giuliani joined then candidate trump on the campaign trail in 2016, and soon was echoing trump's rhetoric. >> i am sick and tired of the defamation of donald trump by the media and by the clinton campaign! i am sick and tired of it! >> last year, giuliani officially became president trump's personal lawyer. he pushed back hard against the mueller investigation. >> this is illegitimate, it's a witch hunt, and i think people are starting to believe in that. >> but even as he defended his clients against the charge of
conspiring with a foreign government, giuliani was pushing a conspiracy theory of his own. involving ukraine and joe biden. >> did you ask the ukraine to investigate joe biden? >> no. >> you're not going to intimidate me. i actually found facts that are true. >> shut up, moron, shut up -- >> just be careful about what you say. i asked you did you look at joe biden? >> you don't know what you're talking about, idiot. >> let me finish. >> keep your lying mouth shut. >> you did ask ukraine to look into joe biden? >> of course i did. >> you just said you didn't. >> giuliani's theory was based on one fact, that biden, as vice president, had used his authority to push for the removal of ukraine's prosecutor general, victor shokin. but giuliani went on to claim that biden got rid of shokin in order to protect his own son, hunter, and the burisma energy company.
>> when giuliani says that vice president biden removed shokin to protect his son, hunter biden? is he right? >> it's [ bleep ]. from first word to the last word. >> did people here in ukraine, investigators like yourself, anti-corruption activists, think that shokin was doing a good job, that he was effective? >> absolutely not. shokin was corrupt, ineffective prosecutor. it was the consensus of civil society in ukraine and international partners of ukraine that shokin was a disaster for prosecutor general office, shokin has to go, he was intimidating investigators in his office. >> biden was pushing for someone who would be more aggressive, more actively looking into burisma and other companies? >> that's correct. >> giuliani is rewriting what happened. shokin was a prosecutor who was widely viewed by experts as being a holdover from the pro-moscow yanukovych era, who wasn't doing an adequate job in
prosecuting burisma, the gas company, or lots of other corruption issues. and there was a general agreement that it was time to get him out. >> viktor shokin was formally let go with a vote in ukraine's parliament. a new prosecutor general, yuri letsenko, took over the case and moved quickly. burisma was ordered to pay back taxes. hunter biden was found to have broken no laws because the corruption occurred before he joined the board. hunter left the burisma board early this year. >> letsenko as prosecutor general was saying, we solved the issue of burisma, case is closed. >> letsenko was the man who closed the case against burisma. >> but then a strange thing happened.
earlier this year, the new prosecutor did an about-face. stating that the burisma case and the bidens' involvement might be worth a second look. why the change of heart? when i interviewed letsenko he said he'd met multiple times with the president's personal lawyer, rudy giuliani. were you in regular contact with him? >> no, no. it was -- there were irregular contacts. but yes, i have spoken with him. maybe ten times. >> ten times? >> maybe. >> always about this issue? >> this and other even political issues. >> why, having closed the burisma case, would letsenko want to reopen it? >> he was trying to save his position by constructing this conspiracy theory together with giuliani. >> he was looking for a way how to ensure that he will remain at his post.
help giuliani with his conspiracy theories in exchange for, i don't know, some sort of guarantee that he will remain in his office. >> he saw the winds of power shifting, and he decides, i'll cooperate with giuliani, because it will help me, help me keep my job? is that what you're saying? >> this is what i'm saying. >> remember, the u.s. government has tremendous influence in ukraine. letsenko left office in august. could it be that he wants back in? what do you say to your critics who say that you are now trying to gain favor with the trump administration because you want your old job back? >> i think that they are wrong. >> letsenko told me he and giuliani even discussed setting up a joint committee to see if the bidens had violated american laws. >> and what did he tell you? did he say, yes, we should do this, set up a joint committee? >> he said me that, yes, it is good idea.
>> giuliani's anti-biden crusade dovetailed perfectly with president trump's conviction that ukraine conspired against him in the 2016 election. all of which leads back to that fateful phone call. and the new evidence, reams of text messages that showed how hard president trump and his men were willing to push a foreign government to dig up dirt on a domestic rival. still ahead, the impeachment crisis just keeps getting worse for president trump. >> it's a very simple story. it's an abuse of power. t mattre. whether you're looking for a top-brand at a great price. ready to upgrade. moving in. moving on up. or making big moves. deliveries ship free and come with a 100-night free trial. no matter your budget. or your sleep style. we have quality options for everyone.
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for intrepid venture capitalists, where secrets stayed in the shadows. but recently one potential explosive piece of information emerged under bright lights, broadcast on ukrainian tv. gordon sondland, u.s. ambassador to the european union, appearing on an english language news channel. >> thank you so much for joining us. >> this interview we now know took place on july 26th, just one day after the fateful phone call between president trump and ukrainian president zelensky. listen carefully. >> i had a wonderful hour-long meeting with president zelensky that followed on the heels of his telephone call yesterday with president trump. >> did he give you insight on what they spoke about? >> absolutely. i actually spoke with president trump just a few minutes before he placed the call. >> so the ambassador spoke with
trump before the call and with president zelensky after. there was preparation and follow-up. possible evidence that president trump's highly unusual request for a foreign government to investigate a domestic rival was not a spur-of-the-moment decision, but part of a long-term strategy. and there's more evidence, much more, in the form of text messages among the president's men. special envoy to ukraine textini ambassador sondland on july 19th, six days before the call. volker -- >> most important is for is zelensky to say he'll help investigation. >> so volker, an initial representative of the united states, metre with rudy giulian the president's personal lawyer, about getting the president of ukrainepr to help investigation. the texts show that u.s. diplomats wanted to make sure
zelensky publicly committed to investigate both y burisma and president trump's baseless theory about ukraine meddling in the 2016 election for hillary clinton. without it? no access to president trump. as relayed in a whatsapp message between u.s. envoy volker and andre yurmak, the same day as the phonesa call.th volker -- >> assuming the president convinces trump he'lles ce investigate, goat the bottom of what happenede, in 2016, we wil nail 2 down a date for a visit washington. >> in another message, two weeks after the call, yermak seemed to know what was required for his president zelensky to visit the white zehouse, telling u.s. env volker -- >> yermak -- >> once we have a date, we'll call for a press briefing announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of u.s./ukraine relationship, including burisma and election
meddling. >> volker. >>li sounds great. >> this is textbook authoritarian oobehavior. where thek institutions of sta aree used as a weapon against political rivals. >> brian kloss teaches politics in london and is a columnist for "the washington post." >> it's an abuse of power. it's a soliciting help during a campaign, and it's using the full weight of the united states to try to get a foreign government to investigate his political rival to help him win an election. >> diplomacy is always about quid pro quos. it's always about you do this, i do t that. we call them i win-win outcomesn diplomatic par lance. but there's one big difference. in allon the calls that i liste in to with president obama, he was, doing that diplomatic negotiations to advance american national interest. he was never trying to advance his personal electoral interest. >> and the texts saw that some career diplomats disapproved of the plan. the most senior official in the
u.s.io embassy in kiev at the time, bill taylor, weighed in days before the trump/zelensky call.um taylor -- >> president llzelensky is sensitive about ukraine being takent seriously. not merely as an instrument in washington domestic re-election politics. >> taylor weighed in again, much more forcefully after trump suspended military aid to ukraine. taylor -- >> we are now saying that securitye assistance and white house meeting are conditioned on investigations? >> eu ambassador sondland replied simply -- >>si call me. >> it's possible sondland wanted to have a conversation too nuanced to conduct via text. it's also possible he didn't want tols add to the written record of a plan to pressure ukraine. >> but why was taylor objecting to all of this and not the more senior ambassador to ukraine? because she'd just been fired. b and nbc news has learned it was that l ex-prosecutor, the one w
allegedly wanted to keep his job, thent one meeting giuliani whoti pushed to have the ambassador removed because she wasn't onec board either. and to help him, lusenko was going through these two soviet-born american businessmen with lessor than stellar reputations. lev parnas and, igor firman. they promised to set up meetings for rudy giuliani and made significant donations to trump's super pac. >> can't wait to come back. see youan in ukraine soon. >> when we spoke to parnas on the tphone, he said he was jus passing along information to his close friend rudy giuliani. nbc news has learned that parnas and fruman were also pursuing natural gas deals in ukraine and were boasting they had politica connections in the trump administration. lo and behold, barnas and fruman were arrested at washington's dulles airport trying to leave
the country. the pair are charged with funneling foreign money to a u.s.ne political campaign. >> i don't know those gentlemen. it's possible i have a picture with them because ii have a picture with everybody. but i don't know. maybe they weredo clients of ruf you'd have to ask rudy. >> if youo think about america history and the definition of corruption in american politics we think about richard nixon. this makes watergate look like teenage ooshoplifters getting g from theli local supermarket. >> andal so, like nixon before him, donald trump now faces an impeachment investigation. >> if hehm gets away with this without being s impeached, then that means future presidents can commit exactly the same violations of law, the same corrupt behavior and get away with it,ha too, because we've s a , standard. >> the difference this time that president trump himself has been complicit in thrusting his allegedhr crimes and misdemeano into the public space. conducting a potentially ot incriminating phone call in frontim of multiple witnesses a
releasing the official notes. and then even as the impeachment investigation was under way, very publicly trying to involve other foreign governments. >> china should start an investigation into the bidens because what happened to china is just about as bad as what happened with ukraine. >> trump is somebody who constantlys ratchets up his behavior. once hes gets h away with someg he tries a something more extre. authoritarianem regimes, politil scientists refer to these as trial balloons. where you try something. think it's normal. you accept it. you move on to something and test themo limits. that's why the last few years have l gotten crazier and crazi. >> this appears to be a case where we made a promise. congress appropriated the money to deliveria weapons and then i was held up for political reasons. the more that happens, the more people all over the world say i don't think i can trust the united states. >> thatth trust in the country d
the office of the presidency is nowth hanging in the balance. congress continues to investigate the white house vows to resist. >> thankvo you very much. very . line? liberty mutual customizes your car insurance so you only pay for what you need. that's a lot of words. only pay for what you need. ♪ liberty. liberty. liberty. liberty. ♪
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