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tv   All In With Chris Hayes  MSNBC  January 17, 2020 5:00pm-6:00pm PST

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trial and pursue the truth. so here's to the justice and to the chief justice who can help deliver it. that's "hardball" for now, stick with us, "all in" with chris hayes starts right now. >> tonight on "all in". i could use some good legal advice. >> the president names his legal team. >> i could use some good lawyers, right. >> as the pressure for witnesses builds. tonight what we've learned during the pelosi pause. >> i'll send them over when i'm ready. >> how that can change the trial. >> he has been impeached. he's been impeached forever. >> the dershowitz defense of trump. >> it is a game changer. plus, exploring the jeffrey epstein connections to the trump legal team. >> find out the people that went to the island. and new alarms over who the president's attorney general is choosing to investigate. >> he became that powerful when he got william barr. >> yeah. >> people are scared.
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live from studio 6-a in rockefeller plaza "all in" starts right now. hello, everybody, how we doing? good to see you, good to see you at home. thank you, great to be back here in 30 rock for yet another historic week for just the third time in u.s. history, a senate impeachment trial of a sitting president has begun. chief justice john roberts who will preside over the trial of donald trump, he was sworn in yesterday, you maybe watched it, all the senators got to sign the little book, which seemed like a yearbook ritual or something. they had to pledge they'll be impartial, sitting as impartial jurors. the beginning of the trial comes after basically a month long pause was put on the process engineered by speaker of the house nancy pelosi and the house voted to impeach donald trump for abuse of power and obstruction of congress way back in december 18th. and then speaker pelosi
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basically said i'm not sending them over i'm going to hold onto these two articles of impeachment, refused to give them to mitch mcconnell and the republican controlled senate and that strategy from nancy pelosi should be clear has resulted in what was already a very strong case against the president getting much, much stronger in the interim. during the that month long pause, of course, that was capped off by what we are unofficially calling here at msnbc lev parnas week. as you probably know by now. you've seen a lot of him over the last few days. i keep seeing people on the street and thinking it's him because he's burned into my eyeballs. he's the indicted associate of rudy giuliani, a guy who was working at the drirection of ruy giuliani who in turn was working at the direction of donald trump and there's not a lot of space between those two. this is a guy whose lawyer put in writing, in comic sands, to be precise he was assisting rudy giuliani in his legal representation of the president and this week he came out and
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spilled the beans about everything and everyone. it started with parnas passing along this enormous amount of evidence to the house intelligence committee which started to publicly release in these big document dumps, hundreds and hundreds of pages. some of them including some tonight we're going to get into in a little bit. we just got a few about an hour ago and after that mr. parnas gave what can only be described as an explosive interview to rachel maddow, and it's been wild to watch reaction from the president and trump world. >> mr. president, what is your response to lev parnas who says your efforts in ukraine were all about 2020, you just wanted joe biden out, what's your response? >> i don't know him, i don't know parnas other than i guess i had pictures taken, which i do with thousands of people, including people today that i didn't meet. but just met him. i don't know him at all don't know what he's about, don't know where he comes from, know nothing about him.
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>> it is funny he should mention photos, yes, there are photos, this one, tweeted by lev's lawyer earlier this week, this one with the whole gang and all of these, there are a lot of photos, even this video, this is a video that lev's lawyer posted this clip on twitter last night. lev with trump at mar-a-lago. in fact, this is a recurring theme, no one will admit they know lev parnas, and lev parnas seems to have a photo with everybody. here he is with the president's son eric. and with the president's daughter ivanka, and son-in-law jared, and vice president mike pence, and counselor to the president kellyanne conway, republican house minority leader kevin mccarthy, sarah huckabee sanders, here he is with her dad, for some reason, mike huckabee. everybody knew lev or at the very least everybody took a picture with lev, and according to what we told rachel this week
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everything lev did was done at the direction of the president and everyone knew about it. >> president trump knew exactly what was going on. he was aware of all my movements. he -- i wouldn't do anything without the consent of rudy giuliani or the president. i'm going to use a famous quote by mr. sutherland, everybody was in the loop. >> everybody was in the loop. that is a theme of all the evidence accruing over the past four weeks. it is more than that. the operation, the scheme for which the president has been impeached, for which he now faces trial, where we learn from his perfect phone call that he tried to extort the ukrainian government into interfering an american election, into targeting a u.s. citizen to manufacturing dirt in his political opponent in exchange for aid he had no legal right to hold up, that scheme was not some little back door thing with some weird guys you never heard of named lev parnas and igor
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fruman running around freelancing, it was an obsession of the president and his unpaid lawyer rudy giuliani and it reverberated throughout the united states government, from cabinet officials to associates of the president, to front line lawyers, to senior aides and career civil servants blowing the whistle on it, saying this is nuts, are we doing this? this scheme the president was running to extort you yukraine known by many people. everyone knew the thing was happening. it was an open secret. now, we knew this at the end of house impeachment. what we did not know, what we learned the last month is this that on the day of the phone call, the infamous zelensky phone call the office of management and budget sent an email to the pentagon that said do not release the ukraine money. halt the funding. following month, sent an email that said clear direction from the president to continue to hold. we learn that the folks inside the pentagon thought the hold was unlawful. we also learned there was a
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meeting, a staged kind of intervention with then national security adviser john bolton, secretary of defense mark esper, and secretary of state mike pompeo where they tried and failed to convince the president to release the aid he was withholding as leverage. and during this time also, this month of pause, john bolton popped up on twitter saying i will testify before the senate if you subpoena me. additional pressure on senate republicans. all that stuff that happened before lev week, before lev essentially implicating a number of people inside the president's inner circle. >> you believe that vice president pence knew what he was -- knew that his trip to the inauguration was contingent on those investigations being announced? >> again, i mean, i know he went to poland also to discuss this on trump's behalf so he couldn't have not known. mr. barr had to have known
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everything. it's impossible. i saw devon nunes sitting up there and there was a picture where derek harvey was in back over there sitting and i texted my attorney and said i can't believe this is happening. >> because? >> well, because they were involved in getting all this stuff on biden and i know mr. bolton was definitely involved in the loop because of the firing of maria von vich. >> all those people, and we now know that the message at the heart of this corrupt extortion scheme, it was delivered through a variety of channels, one of the first people we learned to deliver it was actually lev parnas himself. >> did you meet with the ukrainian official samd sergei shaffer? >> yes, i did. >> very senior aid. >> correct. >> it has been reported from public reporting that you conveyed to mr. shaffer the
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exact quid pro quo that you wanted zelensky to announce investigations into joe biden, or military aid would not be released to ukraine. is that accurate? >> it was a little bit more than that. basically the message that i was supposed to -- that i gave sergei shaffer was a very harsh message that was told to me to give it to him in a very harsh way, not in a pleasant way. >> who told you to give it to him in a harsh way? >> mayor rudy giuliani, he called me, the message was, wasn't just military aid, all aid, the relationships would be sour, that we would stop giving them any kind of aid, that -- >> unless? >> unless there was an a -- well, several things, several demands at that point, "a," the most important was was the announcement of the biden investigation. >> so that was all just from the one tv interview he did with rachel. as i mentioned earlier we also got hundreds and hundreds of pages of incriminating documents
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that lev parnas gave, text messages, letters, pictures, handwritten notes on paper that were pretty direct. this is a sample. get zelensky to announce the biden case will be investigated, writing to himself. and what we learn is that even more people were involved in the scheme, donors, lawyers. it even goes all the way up to the highest levels of the republican party. lev parnas was exhale exchanging text messages with the co-chair of the republican national committee. everybody is in on it, on the open secret. and to be clear you don't have to take lev parnas's word for it. i certainly am not. it's true, as everyone points out and has pointed out, the guy is under criminal indictment, he was involved in some almost comically shady stuff. he's untrust worthy for sure. but almost everything lines up with the president's personal lawyer, rudy giuliani has been actively bragging about for
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months and what the president himself said in what he calls his perfect call. if republicans don't believe lev, that's fine. they should put him under oath. put mike pence under oath. put john bolton under oath. put william barr under oath. put rudy under oath. let's hear from the firsthand witnesses, put them all under oath and let's see what they have to say. joining me in new york tonight, congresswoman katherine clark of massachusetts. how are you? good to see you. >> good to see you. >> i guess i want to start with a question about the pelosi pause, as we have called it. was there controversy inside the caucus about it, leading up to it, during it and what do you think about it now? >> i think at this point in the impeachment process our caucus trusts in nancy pelosi. and really the hold up here was not with the speaker but with
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mitch mcconnell and we were in agreement with her decision to pause and make sure that we continue to get the truth and the facts before the american people. and the way we do that in the senate is to have a real trial. and people understand that. americans understand that a trial needs witnesses and documents. and that's what nancy was trying to do. and what has happened is we've had all this further incriminating information come forward. and now it is going to be more pressure on the senate to do the right thing, to call these witnesses, and to have a fair and open trial. >> so i've heard of this from a lot of people and i think, we're going to see how this happens. i agree with you there's more pressure but it occurs to me the house's subpoena power or oversight capacity or investigatory abilities didn't disappear the day the articles of impeachment got transferred
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to the senate. right? >> that's right. >> i was just looking before i came here, new evidence, robert hyde seems -- lev parnas called him a drunk. >> yeah. >> that he was involuntarily committed at one point and he's texting back and forth with lev parnas about monitoring, tailing the american ambassador in ukraine. they both play it down. and we have texts that hyde was texting with a foreign number, telling him about her movements. my question is, were they tailing the ambassador or not? it seems to me whatever the senate does the house has some duty here to purr sthu evidence. >> the house is going to keep doing what we have been doing since we took the majority and that is we are going to do both things at once. we are going to live up to our obligation. to investigate, to hold this rogue administration accountable and we are going to continue to do the work for the american people. in protecting their health care and rebuilding our infrastructure. we're going to make sure that at the end of this administration
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we have a democracy to live in and a planet to live on. >> but mitch mcconnell's not -- i mean, mitch mcconnell's not going to let you do the latter. >> right. >> he's not going to bring any of those things up for a vote. >> certainly, if he remains true to the past year -- >> right. what we have in our corner is we have a vote in 2020. and we are going to make sure that we continue to tell the story. of how corrupt this administration is. and our founding fathers, they envisioned a rogue president and that's why we have the impeachment process. but only works when we have members of congress, members of the u.s. senate who remember their oath of office is to the constitution and not to a president. so we're going to continue to give information to seek the truth and to work with the urgency that is needed to protect our election so that when voters go into the voting booth it is their vote and their will that is counted and that's
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it. >> well, i mean, part of the issue here, too, is that the president has been attempting to run the same play. he wants foreign interference the way he wanted foreign interference in 2016, actively invited it, there's news that the russians have hacked, actually, the firm at the center of this whole thing, burisma, the ukrainian gas firm hunter bide en was on the board of, how worried are you about this year, the election we're having and the president cornered and backed up into a corner with this impeachment, what do you think about this coming year? >> i'm very concerned. we know from our intelligence, we know from reports from senate committees that every single day russia is trying to hack and interfere into this election and what we have is a president who denies the facts, who continues to lie about the very small things to the very large things. and what we have to do is make
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sure that we are keeping the pressure on. the first bill we passed was a bill about getting corruption out of politics and protecting our elections. and we are going to keep doing that. and these two things, the impeachment and the work that we're doing in the house are so tied together. because it is fundamental to a democracy. that we do hold this president accountable but that we strengthen that right to vote. >> you know, there's a great book about andrew johnson impeachment, the impeachers, came out last year. and one of the things that's interesting in it. it's a huge event. there's lines around the block, people are getting there at 2:00 in the morning to go watch it. i'm curious, are members of the house enthralled by this? is the caucus going to be watching this, is this the kind of thing that work stops for in the capitol next week? >> work won't totally stop but we all watch it and, you know, it's -- it's yet another
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disturbing element of this, that we are also seeing mitch mcconnell trying to limit press access. >> yes. >> and saying, don't come near the senators. you know, try to not have pictures, not -- really trying to keep the truth from the american people but the truth is sneaky. it comes to light. and i am just grateful that we are continuing to have the overwhelming evidence that came out during the impeachment hearings in the house continue to be supported and that we are learning more information. the stakes are so high for us going into 2020, and i am grateful for the house majority that is really able to be the backstop on this rogue administration. >> is there a sense of relief? final question -- is there a sense of relief? this was such a contentious issue inside your caucus for so long, i know that from on the record and off the record
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conversations. there was a real split in the caucus, nancy pelosi was doing her absolute best to stop the momentum for impeachment, thought it would be a mistake. wanted to protect the front line members, but the whistle-blower complaint comes out and there's unity. at the end of this arc is there a relief, almost, that you guys in the house have passed through that crucible? >> i don't think -- first of all, we are so grateful of the incredible leadership of nancy pelosi. and after watching her over the last year it does really make me wonder why we're having any discussion about whether we need women leaders in washington. but i think that there is a sense of such a serious time for our country and that our democracy is in such peril, that we are really watching this with great concern. >> you still feel tense about this? >> i really do and i think
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that's the sense of the caucus, there's a pride that we got our work done, followed the truth and that we have tried to live up to our oath of office and to remember this is about the constitution. >> yeah. >> and we can lose a republic. we can lose a democracy. and we have to keep doing our work, whether it's seeing families at home making sure their needs are our top priority in washington and watching out for the republic, for the united states and making sure that we get through this with a flourishing democracy, where we still have justice and opportunity. >> not guaranteed. congresswoman katherine clark, thank you very much. great to have you here. >> really nice to be here. as the congresswoman and i were discussing, the trial of donald trump starts in the senate next week. today we learned trump's got one of o.j.'s lawyers on his team, we're going to talk about that next.
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earlier this week we found out that seven impeachment manage managers will be prosecuting the case against donald trump. today we learned who will be defending the president in his impeachment trial. there's ken starr the former independent counsel who went after bill clinton, filing a massive report to congress that recommended impeachment. allen dershowitz, famous for defending accused murderers o.j.
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simpson and van bulo, and bandy, seen with lev parnas. and there's robert wray, charged with stalking in 2006. and leading trump's defense team, his personal attorney jay sekulow, along with white house counsel pat cipollone. i want to bring in lawrence tribe, co-author of "to end a presidency the power of impeachment." so professor, i want to -- allen dershowitz has appeared on ari melber's show to preview the argument he's going to make. i want to play you what he said. it strikes me it's going to be a focal point of the president's defense. take a listen to what your long time harvard law colleague allen dershowitz had to say. >> abuse of power, even if proved, is not an impeachable
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offense. the framers projected, didn't want to give congress the authority to remove a president because he abused power. they have to prove treason, bribery, other crimes and misdemeanors. >> what do you think about this idea that abuse of power is not impeachable even if you establish on the facts that he abused his power? >> well i almost don't know where to start. i mean, my colleague has it upside down. i knew that the trump defense was going to rely in large part on alternative facts but i didn't know they were also going to use alternative law. there is no -- there is no legal principle that says something has to violate a federal criminal statute in order to be impeachable. when the impeachment power was put in the constitution there were no federal criminal statutes. >> right. >> besides, you know, as the
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house report accompanying these articles of impeachment says explicitly what is being charged against the president happens also to be a federal crime. it's called felony bribery. and on top of that yesterday we learned from the general accountability office that the president is, indeed, breaking the law. the impoundment control act. so that's why i say i don't know where to start. allen is just completely wacko on this. i don't understand why the president thinks it will help to have this kind of defense. >> here's why it occurs to me. reince priebus called it the so what defense. two things they can argue, they can argue in the alternative, because they're lawyers. they can argue the facts don't amount to an abuse of power and then they can argue even if the facts do show abuse of power, it strikes me the second argument is cleaner and neater and easier because the facts are so
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damning. what do you think? >> well, i think the facts are damning and it's cleaner, neater, easier and dead wrong. it's nice to say it doesn't matter what the facts are when the facts are so damning. in allen's book about this he gives a hypothetical. he says, suppose the way putin retook crimea. suppose our president were to tell putin you can retake alaska if you want. that would be pretty bad, says allen dershowitz. but it's not a federal crime so unfortunately it wouldn't be impeachable. it would be funny if it weren't so sad. in fact, the whole thing proves too much because the whole point of the impeachment power is since under current rules you can't indict a sitting president what you want to do is figure out if what you're charging involves using presidential power in order to benefit the president personally. he's not supposed to be governing for his own private
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benefit to get reelected. he's supposed to be governing for the people of the united states. and when he uses his power, not for us, but for himself, and when he takes congress's appropriated money to do it and tries to shake down our ally to benefit our adversary, with whom he is kind of buddy, buddy, namely putin, that's the remarkable classic abuse of power. and so if the republicans want to argue in the senate that we can't really deny the facts, they're undeniable, and even more so now with lev parnas and, you know, all of the new stuff coming out we can't really deny the facts. what we say is, doesn't matter what he did, we are happy living with a precedent that any president of the united states can abuse his power or her power in order to benefit that
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president's personal welfare and endanger our national security, that's okay. >> right. >> as long as they don't violate a particular federal criminal statute. our country would really be in terrible shape if we had that principle. and i don't now count enough votes to convict this guy but if the evidence comes out, as now it's bound to because these guys are not going to take the risk that bolton's book will reveal it all after they have closed their own books on impeachment, if the evidence comes out, as i expect it to, even if these senators do not live up to their oath and perform in a way that takes account of the evidence but basically go along with mcconnell, with a big whitewash, then it seems to me we're going to be in a situation where the senate will have been on trial
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and will have been convicted. the senate may lose its control in 2020. >> yeah. >> that's why nancy pelosi, whose leadership, i think, is really quite marvelous, did a wonderful thing by holding back for a while so that the light could shine on a all of this new stuff. and at this point he's impeached forever, and even if he is not convicted it will just be a whitewash. he won't be exonerated. >> laurence tribe, professor at harvard law, thank you very much. we have plenty more coming up. john brennan will talk with me about what the department of justice is up to. one thing about trump's legal team i feel the need to talk about and i'll explain after this. be stronger... with new nicorette coated ice mint. layered with flavor... it's the first and only coated nicotine lozenge. for an amazing taste...
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so we got some jeffrey epstein news this week, on a variety of fronts. the government of the u.s. virgin islands filed suit against his state, claiming he used his private islands to traffic and abuse underage girls for almost two decades. jeffrey epstein as you know is dead, he died in federal prison in new york last august while he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges but the truth about what he did, i think, i hope fervently is going to come out eventually and as for his death, you've probably
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noticed, it's become a fixation for people in certain quarters who are adamant that epstein did not commit suicide as the federal government said he did. the phrase epstein didn't kill himself became a viral meme. and conspiracy theories keep popping up online, amazingly on a twitter feed of a february of congress, and it's gotten boot about facts that happened. epstein was taken off suicide watch despite a previous suicide attempt, reports that video footage outside his jail cell is missing or unusable. what's strange and remarkable about this conspiracy theory that he was murdered is that it's become a right wing conspiracy theory. he was in a federal prison when he died, a prison run by the justice department overseen by attorney general william barr who apps to donald trump. that's who had custody of epstein when he was taken off suicide watch, who was in charge when the guards didn't check on
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him and when the camera footage went missing, it was all on william barr's watch. trump with friends with epstein for years, the two men repeatedly partying together in the presence of young women, trump, i quote, a lot of fun to be with and it's even said he likes beautiful women as much as i do and many of them are on the younger side. if you've got questions about jeffrey epstein's death, those questions should really go to william barr, who works for donald trump. and then, amid all of this, who does donald trump pick as his defense lawyers in his impeachment trial? allen dershowitz and ken starr, these two famous attorneys represented epstein more than a decade ago and helped him get a sweetheart deal. back when he was facing a federal indictment for the sexual abuse of underage girls in 2007. it was under that deal that epstein only served 13 months and was regularly allowed to leave jail before he was set free to, apparently, return to his decades long systematic abuse of girls and young women.
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and allen dershowitz was not just epstein's lawyers, flight logs show he flew on multiple occasions on epstein's private jet, known as the lolita express. dershowitz has been accused of sexual assault by two of epstein's alleged victims, saying they were directed to have sex with dershowitz. dershowitz denies both claims, countersued one accuser for deaf nation. and as for kenneth starr he was removed as president of baylor university in 2016 after a scathing report found that on his watch baylor effectively ignored accusation of sexual assault against a university's football players. these with the people, the president of the united states, has chosen to represent him, to defend him, to appear before the nation in the high stakes, high visibility impeachment trial he now faces in the senate. i say you can judge a person by the company they keep. in that case donald trump is continuing to make clear exactly what kind of person he is.
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my grandparents that i never about i'm a lawyer now, but i had no idea that my grandfather was a federal judge in guatemala. my grandfather used his legal degree and his knowledge to help people that were voiceless in his country. that put a fire in my heart. it made me realize where i got my passion for social justice.
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bring your family history to life like never before. get started for free at william barr's justice department is going after yet another person the president views as an opponent, an enemy who he says should be tried for unspecified crimes, former fbi director james comey. comey appears to be the focus of a department of justice investigation into leeks from three years ago, an inquiry the times describes as "highly unusual," the second time the doa investigated comey leeks.
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ex-cia chief john brennan, also under scrutiny as part of the russian inquiry, joining me now. i want to start on the reports, public reporting that the inquiry into the origins of the russia counterintelligence investigation that is being undertaken by john brennan inside the department of justice has looked at you and has been in contact with you and i'm curious what your reaction to that is. >> i think you meant john durham inside the department of justice. i am not inside this department of justice. >> you are not, right. >> i don't know really what to make of it. it is clear that this administration and this attorney general is trying to investigate individuals who may have annoyed mr. trump in the past. i have spoken to congressional committees in open and closed
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sessions. i have agreed to be interviewed by anybody in the department of justice. i have nothing to be afraid of and i will share all of my experiences. and so i believe that mr. durham has conducted himself over the years as a very competent department of justice official. and i'm hoping that he is going to continue to conduct this investigation with the professionalism that he has been known for throughout his career. >> the news about james comey, i mean this is now the second time he's been investigated for leeks, the first time he was career cleared, this is a 3-year-old article. the times saying it's very rare. how do you interpret this news? >> well, to say it's highly unusual to initiate an investigation three years after the fact is a vast understatement. if there are any leaks in the media about classified information there will be a criminal referral made to the department of justice and the department then will investigate it. but i have never heard, in my experience, something that would be resurrected after three years time and again the fact that it
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has jim comey in the cross hairs really does raise questions about whether or not this is being done for political reasons as opposed to being done for appropriate department of justice purposes. >> i want to play you something that lev parnas said about the department of justice and investigations. about why republicans, one of the reasons republicans are scared of the president. take a listen to what he had to say. >> there's a lot of republicans that would go against him. the only reason -- if you take a look, you know very well, you've been following, the difference between why trump is so powerful now, he wasn't as powerful in '16 and '17. he became that powerful when he got william barr. >> yeah. >> people are scared. >> what do you think of that? >> well, i tend to agree. in many respects i think donald trump has taken a page out of the authoritarian's playbook, which i have seen unfold so many times over the course of my career overseas when you get a dictator, who fills the parliament or legislature, a
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person who will control the fund raising for those political sycophants but then also to capture the instruments of power, intelligence, security and the justice system. so that they can prosecute then individuals who have the audacity to challenge them and so unfortunately i think what we've seen so far with mr. barr, it's clear that he is acting as donald trump's own personal defense attorney and not conducting the affairs that an attorney general is supposed to, which is protect the interests of the united states. so i do think that mr. parnas makes a good point. that what mr. trump is able to do now is to intimidate others the way he's done for many years. he would pursue litigation and threaten to sue and go after them, his opponents with whatever he has. now he has these instruments of government power, which are tremendously powerful. and can be tremendously intimidating of individuals
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which i think is what we have seen over the course of the last several years. >> i'm thinking about being -- putting myself in the shoes of someone who's a civil servant in any of the federal government right now but particularly department of justice or in the intelligence community, having seen the president saying the whistle-blower should be named, going after and attacking the whistle-blower, watching the reports of investigations of leaks into james comey and the durham investigation. if you are an fbi agent who saw something wrong or you were a cia analyst who saw something wrong, i mean, do you think that hangs over your head when you think about whether you're going to report wrongdoing? >> well, i think you have to be concerned about that if you're a civil servant right now. because look what happened to the whistle-blower. the whistle-blower was following appropriate procedures in raising concerns about what he or she thought was rock wrong and now mr. trump and others have gone after that whistle-blower with a vengeance. these public servants, these individuals that are fellow
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citizens of ours, who are doing their best every day to keep us safe, they really have to be concerned that the president of the united states, someone who purports to be the president of the united states, will stoop to any level to be able to try to hurt them and it's clear that he has a vindictive streak in him and he'll go after him. i'm concerned about the corrosive effect it's had on our governance system to stop the public servants from carrying out their duties with a responsibility and a dedication that they need to without fear of reprisals. >> final question for you, a remarkable reporting in the "washington post," excerpt from a new book about a scene in his first year in which the president has taken to this sort of situation room at the pentagon called the tank and he ends up yelling at all the generals and he calls them dopes and babies and losers. and it brought to mind this question. do you think people should work in the trump administration? it seems like there's two -- there's two competing arguments. one is, it's better to have good
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people inside the administration trying to restrain the president's good impulses. the other is that at the end of the day you're working for this man and furthering his project. what do you think? >> if the reports are true in terms of what he said to our generals and military officers it is obviously appalling, disgraceful, and mr. trump continues to defile the office of the presidency. i do believe it's important that we have people, women and men, to serve in military and diplomacy, intelligence law enforcement because our country needs that. it's the people around him, the ones that will give him a pass for the things that he does, his impulsiveness, his recklessness, the way he refers to, you know, real dedicated americans. they should not remain silent, and again reading -- when rex tillerson spoke up against him,
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he was cut off at the knees. they need to speak up and speak out against mr. trump because he is a disgrace to this country. >> john brennan, former cia director, thank you very much. one of the things we've learned this week is more about the just extremely shady cast of characters that lev parnas was doing business with and in contact with. one of the reporters who knows that world best is going to join me next. hey, saved you a seat.
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the ukrainian government has been one of the world's most corrupt for a pretty long time, according to watchdog groups that track that sort of thing. lev parnas, who is negotiating the corrupt backwaters of ukraine on the president's behalf to make it even more corrupt, describes it this way. >> listen, it's a different environment over there. unless you live it, unless you do business there, unless you visit there and understand it, bribery is just a way of life. regular people at the store do it. they bribe the butcher to get a better piece of meat. it's normal. or to get better seats at a concert. it's like a way of life. >> one of the things that has become clearer and clearer is that rather than make ukraine less corrupt, our president made the u.s. and ukraine more corrupt. i wanted to talk to someone who know this is terrain extremely
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well. a reporter who has spent years reporting in russia and was kidnapped and held by russian-backed ukrainian separatists. good to have you here, simon. first, i guess that assessment. i always feel a little weird talking about how corrupt ukraine is when donald trump is our president. i'm not sure we should be in this glass house. but in terms of that characterization of corruption of ukraine, do you feel like that is a fair characterization? >> it is a very corrupt country. compared to the last administration we had last, we now see the russification of the united states. the one thing they've done pretty much right since ukraine got independence is supporting
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ukraine and its democratic changes. this is a country that always looked up to the united states, whose people wanted to emulate our country. and then suddenly you have this president donald trump and everything changes. so when i met with new president of ukraine zelensky during the campaign before he was president, the question that everybody was asking him, you know, he was a new leader, inexperienced. how was he going to face up to the diplomatic and military challenge that somebody who's been running this country for 20 years is putting him up against, vladimir putin, right? and then what happened instead was that you have this ostensible ally, donald trump. he gives zelensky his first serious diplomatic test by behind the scenes for months and months, unbeknownst to us reporters and just the general public, putting pressure to try to get him to announce this investigation into joe biden. >> it's remarkable in the parnas texts that we got in his
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interview with rachel, two things. one is how intent zelensky was on that inaugural, the delegation to the inauguration. i mean, we focused a lot on the aid, for understandable reasons. but parnas says that who showed up to the inauguration was in some ways a bigger deal. it was going to be the first thing they did to show the backing of the u.s. as zelensky tried to essentially start negotiations with russia. and when they don't listen to parnas's message that you need to open investigation, pence gets yanked. how big a deal is that? >> i think parnas really makes that point for us. he's saying that it was so important for the ukrainians to have this ceremony, this pomp, this sort of presentation of support of the world's biggest super power standing behind ukraine. you've got to understand that ukraine's been in a war with russia for the last four or five years at the point that zelensky is elected. the ukrainians are out there
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listening for signals from the united states, just like the russians are out there listening for signals from the united states about whether that support is flagging, weakening or remaining strong. the ukrainians want to be able to show i think the russians primarily that they have this steadfast support. that's something that just didn't materialize at all because of this quid pro quo that was, you know, playing out behind the scenes. there was the quid, but there wasn't the quo. >> right. in some ways everyone is sort of playing other people. one fascinating element of the stuff we've gotten from the text messages of parnas is this character lutsenko. he is a hero but he is viewed as corrupt. he's the one who's basically making a quid pro quo demand. >> he's a very compromised figure in ukraine. ukrainians know that you really can't believe a word of what
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lutsenko is saying. unfortunately americans have been dealing with him for a much shorter period of time. so a lot of people who want to believe what he's saying just take his word as gospel. >> he is basically promising r parn parnas, giuliani and the president dirt on biden if they get rid of the u.s. ambassador. and it's not happening. he says and here you can't even get rid of one fool, frownie face emoji. explain the context of how much he hates the u.s. ambassador and wants to get rid of her. >> that's some of the more vanilla stuff he says in the text messages because he was using a lot of swear words as well that we can't say on tv. the thing for lutsenko was that the ambassador yovanovitch, she was in line with longstanding u.s. policy trying to reform the justice system in ukraine. and he was the head of the prosecutor's office so he sort of was the target of some of her
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ire. she did a speech in march where she publicly called for the dismissal of one of his subordinates saying they were corrupt. >> that's really calling the guy on the carpet. >> it really made him angry. this is why he wanted to get rid of her. out of this whole thing, that's the scariest thing for me. there's got to be authoritarians or corrupt officials around the world taking note and realizing all it takes to get rid of an inconvenient ambassador or inconvenient u.s. official who's going against your policy and interest is you need to spread rumors to donald trump supporters and he'll to it for you. >> that's an incredible lesson. if you dangle dirt, you can get anything. simon, thanks so much for your time. thanks to you for watching. that is "all in" for this evening. the rachel maddow show whose interview with lev parnas was just made part of the official record of the united states congress is up now. >> good evening, chris.
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it is an intimidating thing. it makes me worry a lot about my grammar. >> you worry about everything, but it's a good thing. >> you know me well. thanks a lot. thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. yet another day in our living history as american citizens where the front pages of our local newspapers kind of feel like things you might want to save. this is the dallas morning news today, "impeachment trial begins." with ritual and rancor senators sworn in and allegations read. this is the san diego union tribune. senate begins historic trial. chicago tribune went with the dramatic picture lead over the big headline. do we have that chicago tribune. well, i'll show you that one in a minute. do we have the "washington post"? "washington post" five columns atop page one, senate trial of trump begins.