tv The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell MSNBC September 24, 2019 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT
i'm officially standing in lawrence o'donnell's real estate. i apologize. that does it for us tonight. who we will see you again tomorrow. now it is time for lawrence's show, "the last word with lawrence o'donnell." good evening, mr. o'donnell. >> good evening. american history turned a corner today. >> yes. >> we know the road we're on. it's impeachment street. we don't know how far it goes, we don't know where it ends.
>> do you feel, lawrence, that you have clarity about how the democrats are going to pursue this? >> i do not. it's not a version of this that we've seen before, but i do believe they can work it out. i actually think the pelosi structure of this saying that all six committees are involved now in an impeachment inquiry is designed to allow sharing of information from one committee to another that otherwise might not be easy to do. especially information from the intelligence committee to any other committee and the ways and means committee if they have information will be in the form of the trump tax returns eventually. so it's designed, i believe, to facilitate that, but ultimately the impeachment committee is the house judiciary committee. there's just no constitutional way around that. >> yeah. and there aren't very many precedents in history for how to do this sort of thing, it just hasn't happened very many times. talking with financial services
committee chairwoman maxine waters today, it's surprised with what you just said there, it surprised me to hear her say she thinks this will happen very fast, that this is a short time frame and this is something the committee chairs are working on today, are working on tomorrow and are expected to be working on the rest of the week. like it's happening right away. >> well, it has to and it can, but both of those things are true, and this new story, this new development that is driving impeachment now is so clear and compartmentalized that it's one of those stories that once you get the information, you can work pretty quickly on it. >> right. there's not that much-you don't have to dig too far. what's been publicly admitted to is kind of the bottom line. >> we've seen a rolling confession by the president, rachel. i think on the theory that if president trump says it publicly then it can't be a crime. >> now he finally gets tested on that. >> he found the end of that strategy. >> thanks a lot, lawrence.
>> thank you, rachel. well, we are covering breaking news tonight, but we're also covering breaking history, and history is moving fast. it was a very bad day in the house of representatives for the president today with the speaker formalizing the impeachment process, but in the senate it was just as bad with mitch mcconnell agreeing to a unanimous consent request from chuck schumer to pass a senate resolution telling the president to release the whistle-blower's report to the senate and house intelligence committees. mitch mcconnell voted for that. he allowed that to go through the senate. as did every other republican in the senate. it was unanimous. it was a chuck schumer resolution, and the vote was unanimous. we'll get reactions to today's events in the senate from two united states senators who are also presidential candidates. senator kamala harris will join us. she's a member of the senate intelligence committee who will be meeting with the acting director of national intelligence and the inspector general later this week. and senator cory booker will join us. he's a member of the senate foreign relations committee.
he knows what's at stake for u.s. policy in ukraine. we'll also be joined by members of the house of representatives who have just this week come out in support of an impeachment inquiry, including one member who is a former cia officer. and at the end of the hour tonight, there is something very special. we're going to take you inside the white house situation room. that's where presidential phone calls with leaders of governments around the world are monitored. that's where the note takers are. that's who creates transcripts of those presidential phone calls. we will be joined by someone who was in charge of monitoring those phone calls in the situation room when president barack obama was making and receiving those phone calls. he'll tell us what kind of records of those phone calls should exist and could be made public. the stonewall, the
republican stonewall in congress that has supported and defended donald trump at every turn throughout his presidency, that stonewall finally came tumbling down today on the matter of the whistle-blower. a whistle-blower has blown that stone wall down in just seven days. one whistle-blower has triggered a formal impeachment inquiry. just one week ago, michael atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, secretly notified the house and senate intelligence committees that the trump administration was violating the law by refusing to turn over a whistle-blower complaint. tonight nancy pelosi became the fourth speaker of the house in american history to preside over an impeachment inquiry of the president of the united states. >> the president has admitted to asking the president of ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically. the actions of the trump
presidency revealed dishonorable fact of the president's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. therefore, today, i'm announcing the house of representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. i'm directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry. >> history is moving fast tonight on all fronts of this story. in the house of representatives, in the senate and in the trump administration with the acting director of national intelligence joseph mcguire fighting for his life legally tonight. the speaker of the house today repeatedly accused joseph mcguire of committing a crime without mentioning him by name. she twice said this is a violation of law. those were her words. she was referring to joseph mcguire's refusal to deliver the whistle-blower's complaint
directly to congress as the law requires him to do. >> the law is unequivocal. the dni's staff -- it says the dni, director of national intelligence, shall provide congress the full whistle-blower complaint. this thursday the acting dni will appear before the house intelligence committee. at that time, he must turn over the whistle-blower's full complaint to the committee. he will have to choose whether to break the law or honor his responsibility to the constitution. >> and tonight in response, the acting director of national intelligence joseph mcguire released a written statement saying, in light of recent reporting on the whistle-blower complaint, i want to make clear that i have upheld my responsibility to follow the law every step of the way. the law tells the director of national intelligence that he must deliver the whistle-blower complaint to congress, and he has refused to do that. the whistle-blower's attorney,
andrew bakaj, wrote a letter to joseph mcguire saying, i am providing you formal notice of our intent to contact the congressional intelligence committees directly. that provoked a reply from jason klitenic, the general counsel of the office of director of national intelligence. in that letter he said, we have determined after consulting with the department of justice that your client's disclosure to the inspector general does not fall within the statutory definition of an urgent concern. that means jason klitenic has now put in writing that he personally joined in this violation of law with joseph mcguire. we have determined, he wrote. the law does not allow him to determine anything about a whistle-blower complaint. the chairman of the house intelligence committee, adam schiff, then wrote a letter to
the whistle-blower's lawyer saying, in light of your notice of intent to the acting director of national intelligence, the committee requests a voluntary interview with your client on thursday, september 26, 2019 in the afternoon following the public testimony of acting director mcguire before the committee. nancy pelosi has been resisting, formalizing the impeachment process. until today. >> the president must be held accountable. no one is above the law. getting back to our founders, in the darkest days of the american revolution, thomas payne wrote, the times have found us. the times found them to fight for and establish our democracy. the times have found us today. >> leading off our discussion tonight are democratic congressman ben ray lujan of new mexico. he is the assistant speaker of the house of representatives and he is running for senate in new
mexico. also joining us, congresswoman abigail spanberger and representative angie craig. of minnesota. she came out last night in support of an impeachment inquiry. and congressman lujan, let me start with you. you're a member of the leadership. you have been supportive of the impeachment inquiry. what was your reaing of the speaker's decision-making process that got us to here? >> well, lawrence, good to be with you tonight. number one. number two, everyone should understand the speaker always has a plan. the speaker is someone that can see around the corner, and is making sure that we're making strong diagnoses, but the speaker's announcement today moving forward with the impeachment process of making it abundantly clear that the six committees that have jurisdiction and that are conducting investigations are
now operating under this umbrella helps us understand the magnitude of this moment. >> abigail spanberger, let me ask you about some testimony that the president now gave today that is effectively an impeachment inquiry. he said this before, the impeachment inquiry was formalized and presidents don't normally testify in impeachment inquiries, but let's listen to what he said today about withholding funding from ukraine. >> as far as withholding funds, those funds were paid. they were fully paid. but my client has always been, and i'll withhold again and i'll withhold until such time as europe and other countries contribute to ukraine, because they're not doing it. >> congresswoman spanberger, your reaction to that defense. >> well, in that defense he said
he didn't withhold and he would withhold again in the future. it's contradictory. we know fund were withheld and this is detrimental to our national security. these security assistance funds that we provide to other countries are appropriated by congress, part of larger programs, anti-corruption efforts, and our efforts to ensure and provide for our own national security priorities in regions throughout the world. so the fact that as the allegations are, the president would use this money, this taxpayer dollars that is meant for security assistance as leverage to get a foreign government to dig up dirt on an opponent, it is just inconceivable for so many of us here in the house of representatives. >> representative spanberger, you have just decided to support impeachment on the basis of this incident. why was this the final straw for you? >> so i have been very clear that these allegations, the notion that the president would
ask and pressure a foreign country to provide information, dig up dirt on a political adversary and to use foreign assistance, military assistance dollars to do it, it is incomprehensible, it is absolutely a violation of the president's oath, and these standalone allegations as they are drawn up are for me what it is that i'm focused on, i have been clear in stating that if they are true that they are an -- they represent an impeachable offense. and so for me, i'm looking at these allegations in an isolated manner, frankly, because they are so egregious, they represent a tremendous threat to our national security. i think they are allegations that we need to deal with fully, and that was the purpose of our op-ed. >> representative angie craig, like representative spanberger, you are from a district that was a republican district. you flipped it, you both flipped your districts for the democrats. you are the kind of member of
the house, you're both the kinds of members of the house that the impression has been nancy pelosi has been protecting you by not letting impeachment be formalized in the house of representatives because for representatives in swing districts like yours that could be politically difficult. you've come out in favor of impeachment also because of this incident. why was this your final straw? >> well, the speaker has given us the freedom to do what we think is right for our own congressional districts, and i've been listening to the folks in my district over the last several months. i've wanted to be disciplined. i've wanted to listen to the facts and use due process. but the facts changed on sunday. the facts are so crystal clear. the president, ironically, is the one who shared them with us. the fact that he pressured a foreign government to interfere with a political rival for the benefit of his own election in 2020.
and the fact that those funds to ukraine were being withheld in advance of that. this isolated incident alone was enough for me to say we have to put this country over our politics, and i hope that many of my republican colleagues will join me in doing that. >> congressman lujan, we have reports now that president trump is going to release a transcript of the phone call and that the administration will eventually possibly this week, by the end of the week, release the actual inspector general's report of the whistle-blower's report. what is your reaction -- we still don't know exactly what these things will look like when they're released, whether they will be heavily redacted or what these documents are actually going to be when they're released, but that is the developing situation as it is tonight.
>> well, lawrence, it's absolutely essential that the full report that was made available by the whistle-blower as reported from the inspector general to the director of national intelligence be released to the chairs of the intelligence committee. not only is it essential, it's the law. the law requires for that report to be turned over. so i don't know what the president plans to do turning over transcripts. i think it's absolutely incumbent that we get word for word everything we can get our hands on, but what is actually expected as the law requires is for the whistle-blower's report to be turned over, and that should be turned over no later than thursday. it should be turned over now. >> representative spanberger, there is new reporting in "the washington post" tonight, breaking news reporting about the strains inside the trump administration with rudy giuliani basically having this portfolio to argue this case, to lobby, to try to influence
ukraine to investigate joe biden, joe biden's son. and the state department was upset about this, john bolton was upset about this, and apparently these tensions are part of what is delivering some of the -- inside the administration sourcing that the news media is working with. >> so the tensions that you mention, i think, are easily definable. they are the tensions that exist between those that are working potentially to uphold the law, and those that are looking to abuse their position. the fact there would be state department officers uncomfortable with the type of actions that rudy giuliani was allegedly taking, i think is absolutely what i would expect of our career diplomats who are focused on the mission of advocating for american interests abroad, protecting american interests abroad, and
anyone who swore an oath to uphold the constitution. >> representative craig, also in "the washington post" tonight, they are indicating that rudy giuliani was off on his own in a way that they were trying to figure out what he was doing was actually by reading newspapers and watching tv of rudy giuliani's statements about what his involvement in ukraine might be. they had no way within the administration, apparently, of finding out what it was. >> well, this gets to the heart of the issue with the president, and that is he has put his own personal interests by nature of putting his personal attorney in the middle of all of this. and that's exactly why we couldn't stand on the sidelines and allow this continued behavior, this behavior to continue by the president and his personal attorney. >> congressman lujan, the
senate unanimous consent agreement today i think was a surprise to everyone, that the senate went on record unanimously, saying that the whistle-blower complaint should be deliver odd to the intelligence committees immediately. house of representatives leadership, there are indications you might vote on something similar tomorrow. >> that's correct, we're expecting a vote on something similar tomorrow. here's the thing, lawrence. while i appreciate the urgency that leader mcconnell listened to the direction of leader schumer to bring that resolution to the senate floor, and every republican voted there in favor as well as every democrat, the silence of house democrats is deafening. no one is coming forward to talk about the concern associated with the fact that the law is being broken. the director of national intelligence refuses to comply with the law, and i think that's why there is such urgency to bring this resolution forward and to continue to make progress. i certainly hope my house republican colleagues have the courage of the senate
republicans to do what's right and to demand that this report be turned over immediately. >> congressman ben ray lujan, congresswoman abigail spanberger, congresswoman angie craig, thank you all for starting us off tonight. really appreciate it. >> thank you for having us. >> thank you. as we said, things went bad for the president in the house of representatives in the formal impeachment inquiry today. but they went just as badly for the president today in the republican-controlled united states senate where mitch mcconnell agreed to democratic leader chuck schumer's request for unanimous consent for a resolution, saying the whistle-blower complaint should be provided to the house and senate intelligence committees. >> madam president, as if in legislative session, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of s resolution 325 introduced by mr. schumer and submitted earlier today. >> stipulating that our
objective here is simple to conduct intelligence of bipartisan matters that the committee has successfully conducted in the past, i have no objection to the senator's request. >> joining us now is senator kamala harris. she is a member of both the senate judiciary committee and the senate intelligence committee. she is also now a democratic candidate for president. senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight. please explain to us what mitch mcconnell was up to there today, actually agreeing to unanimous consent with chuck schumer? >> well, lawrence, as you said, i serve on the senate intelligence committee, and i must tell you, there is something special, actually, about that committee in that specifically no televisions, no reporters, no cell phones, and what ends up happening in my experience is that members of the united states senate walk in that door and really do put country first.
and understand, for the most part, what we all should appreciate, which is that on matters of national security, the approach should not even be bipartisan, it should be nonpartisan. i would like to believe that's what motivated mitch mcconnell. but i think ultimately it is because at least the members of the senate intelligence committee thus far have conducted themselves in a way that recognizes that we need to get to the bottom of something like this. this is literally a matter of national security. >> now, if the inspector general's report is referred, delivered directly to your committee, both of the intelligence committees, does that mean that those committees must hold that report and it cannot be made public because it's in the custody of the intelligence committees? >> well, if it contains classified information then that is correct. but i'll know better when we have the hearing on thursday, but if there is information that is in that report that is not classified and has been deemed
to not be classified, then absolutely, it should be shared with the american public. >> a lot of letters flying around washington today from the whistle-blower's lawyer, the dni's counsel, and now senator burr of your committee and senator warner have written a bipartisan letter to the whistle-blower's lawyer, saying we are writing to request that you make your client available for a closed bipartisan interview with committee counsel no later than friday of this week. so that would be an interview with committee counsel as the first thing that they would like to do. do you think that is likely to happen? it's a very fast-moving week, but by the end of this week, do you think this whistle-blower will be speaking to the intelligence committees of the house and the senate? >> well, from all accounts, the whistle-blower, she or he, wants
to participate, and, again, i think that we should all be heartened to know that the republican chairman, the democratic co-chairman of the senate intelligence committee are joined in this request, understanding again, lawrence, look what we're talking about. the president of the united states has confessed that he is attempting to collude with a foreign government to yet again manipulate the elections process of our country. and in particular the election of who will be the next president of the united states. and, you know, i tell you, donald trump is probably the least patriotic of any president we've ever had. and there should be -- and i'm very heartened to see that there is -- a bipartisan approach to this issue, an issue of concern, and, frankly, an issue of outrage which is the president of the united states engaging in this kind of conduct. clearly donald trump does not understand that his responsibility as president is
also as commander in chief. but repeatedly we have seen donald trump as a so-called commander in chief, because i don't think he really fully understands the job. he takes the word of the russian president over the word of the american intelligence community. he takes the word of a north korean dictator over the word of the american intelligence committee, he takes the word of a saudi prince over the word of the american intelligence community. i'm heartened to see that people who sit on the intelligence committee are approaching this with a bipartisan spirit, understanding, again, that fundamentally this is about america's national security. >> speaker pelosi repeatedly today in her statement used the said -- used the phrase "violation of law." she said that's a violation of law. >> yeah. >> she was referring specifically to the conduct of acting director of national intelligence mcguire. do you agree that he violated the law?
>> well, what i do believe is that there are many members of this administration, starting with the president, who believes that he is above the law, and no one in our system of democracy and in our system of justice is above the law, including the president of the united states. and there must be accountability and consequence for behaviors that are clearly against the law. and that includes for the president. and i applaud speaker pelosi for indicating today that impeachment proceedings will begin. the american people have a right to know that the branch of government that exists to put a check on an abuse of power by the executive, that the united states congress that we are prepared to take action to require accountability and consequence for the abuse of power by this president. >> what is the proper accountability for an acting director of national intelligence who refuses to comply with the law? it's not the president who is holding onto that inspector
general's report, it is director mcguire who is holding onto it. >> well, i'll know better after thursday's hearing, but there is no question that the acting director is violating his responsibility to give account to the united states congress. we have a very specific and important role of oversight. and any request made by the united states congress in particular, the intelligence committees of the house or the senate, must be complied with by the director of national intelligence, and, again, we have yet another appointee of donald trump's who thinks their power is greater than that of the united states congress and there should be consequence and we'll see what that is. >> what would you say to not just this whistle-blower who may be watching you right now, but any other possible whistle-blowers who are watching the experience of this whistle-blower. should they be frightened by
what's happening to this whistle-blower? or encouraged at the light that is coming in the direction of this whistle-blower? >> what i would say to them is that you are a true patriot. you are demonstrating an extraordinary amount of courage to stand up for the integrity of our democracy. and that the united states congress stands behind you and with you. and as demonstrated again by the fact that there is a bipartisan push to give support and to give respect to the words and the information that the whistle-blower has. and so i think that this should be actually a very clear signal that all are welcome who have information that may be relevant to our nation's security. and that they really should be compelled and feel a sense of patriotic duty to come forward. because of course the stakes are very high when we're talking about the president of the united states colluding with a
foreign government leader against our democracy. you know -- and, lawrence, i can't say it enough. donald trump doesn't understand. that's not his white house, it's our white house. it's the people's house. and any act that he takes that is against the interest of the people of the united states must be aired, there must be transparency around it, and he must be held accountable. >> there is a foreign policy issue at the base of this story that is getting largely ignored as we talk about the other elements of it. but what should be our policy toward ukraine at this moment in their history? >> well, there is a lot there. what we need to do is obviously, first of all, deal with the fact that the president should not be bargaining what otherwise would be aid in exchange for action that helps him politically. we should follow through with our commitment as a country to ukraine around what they need in
terms of humanitarian aid and assistance, what they need in terms of fighting for democracy and for the sovereignty that they deserve. as we go forward, we're going to have to obviously repair relationships around the globe in terms of what this president has done, which is to suggest that our relationships with any foreign nation are transactional based on what that nation can do for the best political interest of the president of the united states. >> senator kamala harris, thank you very much for joining us on this important night. really appreciate it. >> thank you, lawrence. thank you. and when we come back, presidential candidate cory booker will join us. he is a member of the senate foreign relations committee. that committee is investigating the hold the trump administration put on financial aid to ukraine. senator cory booker joins us next.
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called on republican chairman lindsey graham to obtain and present the whistle-blower report. the senators wrote, we have a constitutional responsibility to determine the reasons for the whistle-blower's report and why it is being withheld from congress. we therefore ask that you convene hearings underlying the whistle-blower's report, the administration's refusal to provide that report to congress in contravention of the law, and any legal advice provided by the department of justice or the white house counsel on these matters. and joining us now is one of the co-signers of that letter, democratic senator cory booker, a member of the senate judiciary committee and a member of the senate foreign relations committee. senator booker is also a democratic candidate for president. senator, thanks very much for joining us. >> lawrence, it's good to be here tonight. >> this goes to the question of what did william barr do in this process?
the law provides no moment at which the director of national intelligence should consult the justice department about what to do, and yet that happened. >> the law is very clear. they use a word we know in congress very well. it's not the word not "may," it is "shall." nancy pelosi was 100% right tonight when she said they did not abide by the law. this is clear. congress should be in possession of that report, and those who have not done it to me not only acted in contrary to the law, this is a moment when all of us as americans, even those of us who feel injured by donald trump, want him to be gone, we need to take a sober pause and understand that this must be seen through the lens of patriotism and what is at stake for our country right now. i visited ukraine as a member of the foreign relations committee. i've met with their soldiers who are relying on the aid of this
country, who are in the region in eastern ukraine who were annexed crimea. this is a hot war going on in europe where there are specific american interests in that region, and to understand the gravity of what the russians are doing not just to ukraine but talk to latvians, estonians, lithuanians, our military officials called it a hybrid war we're in right now with the russians working, whether it's the hot aspects of it in the region in ukraine or the last time i went into the senate, i went into the bunker we have to read intelligence reports about what the russian are doing to interfere either were democracy right now. they are actively attacking the united states. congress is working in a bipartisan manner to give critical resorts i saw with my own eyes, heard from generals in the field that they need to defend themselves, to protect their lives to serve in american interests.
this is a president of the united states -- a president of the united states was holding aid that a bipartisan congress wanted to send not for any national security reason, but for a petty political attempt to yet again undermine america's elections. this is insidious and it must be dealt with in a patriotic, bipartisan manner. this cannot be acceptable in america. >> what happened in the senate today? why did mitch mcconnell go along with this unanimous consent request? >> i'm not sure, and i've stopped long ago trying to figure out the mind of mitch mcconnell, but i can imagine a moment where chuck schumer stood on the senate floor and requested unanimous consent. someone has to come to the floor and object. i can imagine a moment where someone comes to the floor and objects to the senate having access to a report that the law says it should have. it kind of puts you on difficult footing. i'm not sure if all the republicans, and clearly what we're seeing now in the senate intelligence committee, that there are many republicans who agree we should have this report.
so the more i think about it, the more i understand that this was perhaps the right thing for mitch mcconnell to do for a number of the reasons that are part of that man's calculus and how he deals in the senate. >> could it also be part of the presidential campaign in the following way? mitch mcconnell knows this is eventually coming out. it cannot be stopped. the sooner it comes out for mitch mcconnell the better, because a year from now, say, or in the middle of the republican convention, he doesn't want his nominee hit with something like this then. this gives him time to make a plan for a different nominee if he has to. >> you know, mitch mcconnell is definitely one of those people you know when the senate is playing three-dimensional chess. i'm sure there are layers that they're thinking of this, and forgive me for not thinking on those layers because i think this is a moment where politics should be damned and we should sit, understanding that we will be judged by history.
what did we do when a united states president was betraying his office, betraying congress, betraying the national security interests of this country to yet pursue attacks on a political opponent? this to me is very dramatic. we are in a very dramatic moment in american history, and we should be clear enough to let patriotism be the day and not partisanship. >> has the president in effect confessed now publicly to a high crime when he said today -- when he talked about i would withhold again, meaning i did withhold? >> it just seems like another moment consistent with his past of reckless defiance of our laws and our norms. starting back when he was on the campaign when he said, hey, russians, if you're listening, investigate -- get the emails. which is exactly the criminal activity that went on in stealing the emails of secretary clinton. this is not out of character with him, and i think, again, this is yet another reason why the house of representatives and
nancy pelosi did what they did today. it was too much of a flounting of our constitution and national security by the president who is clearly disregarding our nation's best intent. >> in this phone call, he does not have to specifically say, i won't give you the money if you don't do the investigation. adam schiff's point being, of course, it can be applied. let's see what your chairman of the judiciary committee said with sean hannity tonight. >> tomorrow when we read the transcript, is there any evidence at all that president trump threatened to take aid away from the ukraine unless they investigate and do his political bidding? >> i don't know what i hear, what do you hear? >> i don't know, but if the answer is yes, i will be very disappointed with our president. >> what do you say to the chairman? >> i agree with adam schiff. we all know how this works.
if he is taking action, and the evidence is mounting that he was specifically taking action to deny aid, i've heard a number of things from congressional colleagues today that give me great suspicion this is what he was doing. if the evidence is mounting that he took those actions and then eight times in a conversation kept pressing this point, i think you're beginning to have an irrefutable picture of this president acting against the national interest and trying to do something thuggish that is on the national stage a defiling of the presidency of that office, of our country, and he should be held to account. >> let me ask you something about running a presidential campaign in the midst of this kind of atmosphere. a couple things we discussed tonight was your view of a presidential perspective about
an important foreign policy situation that you would inherit as president, the ukraine policy. that was a good serious presidential level conversation about that. there are ten other presidential issues that i know you'd like to discuss. we're not going to. we're not going to talk about your criminal justice policies tonight, we're not going to talk about any of your economic policies tonight. our time is devoted to this. does this make running for president now a more difficult challenge that it would in a flatter news environment? >> you know, i think one of the greatest privileges i've had in my life is to serve in the united states senate, and to be able to serve my country, especially in times like this, in times of natural disaster, in times of crisis, to be able to be there for people. there are individual ambitions, there are campaigns going on, but you have to separate those two and do your job. so today this is a painfully historic day in many ways. the fourth time in the history of our republic that this has happened and for good reason. so i'm sitting in the saddle, i'm doing my job as united states senator. the presidential campaign,
whatever will happen will happen, but this is one of those times that politics, partisanship, that all of those things should be put aside for the purpose that we all have, and i hope that first and foremost we all are patriotic americans who when times are tough, we will focus on what's important and do our jobs. >> president trump couldn't do what he does without the staff who does it for him. don mcgahn showed that. he ordered don mcgahn to fire robert mueller and don mcgahn didn't do it. this director of national intelligence has done what the president wants. he could have gone the other way, mcguire could have gone the other way. the justice department has done what the president wants on this whistle-blower report. what should be the penalties for the people who don't approach this work the way don mcgahn did and refuse to do the illegal things that the president wants them to do? >> well, let me just say, number one, if you're breaking the law, you're breaking the law and you should be held accountable, and
i think that is something we should be looking at every step of the way of holding people accountable. because every time we don't, we're creating a perverse incentive in the future for people acting this way. but i just want to say, i've seen this and have been saying this since the beginning of the trump administration, those people who are witnessing the kind of things he does on a regular basis, the kinds of things this person does to demoralize that office, the people who are enabling them, there is a cold, frigid place in -- upped -- under the historical eye. they will go down in history as despicable actors who enabled one of the presidents doing the worst things to office in the history of our country. the truth compasses the truth comes out. the truth of donald trump will come out. that is why we will defeat him in 2020 if he is still there.
but these people, i have very low regard for people who know he is doing wrong but still enable him, defend him, and in many ways empower him to remain in that office. >> senator cory booker, thank you very much for joining us tonight. please come back. we can -- on a segment we can devote to your actual campaign positions and policies. >> i appreciate that. >> we're going to try to get one of those segments in one of these nights when we aren't swamped with this. >> this is what's important. thank you very much. >> thank you, senator. so who was listening in on president trump's phone call? it is now the subject of a whistle-blower complaint. how many people were listening in? who took notes? was it taped? the man who knows what the answers of all of those questions should be is larry pfeiffer who used to listen in on president obama's phone calls with world leaders. larry pfeiffer will be our next guest. ♪ ♪ around here, the only predictable thing about the weather is it's unpredictable. so we make the most of it when the sun does shine. that's why bp is partnering with lightsource,
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president trump says that tomorrow he will release the, quote, complete fully declassified and unredacted transcript of his conversation with president zelenskiy of ukraine. when president richard nixon released transcripts of white house conversations they turned out to be grossly inaccurate. what will be released tomorrow? will it be accurate or just notes of the conversation or a summary of the conversation. the white house situation room monitors presidential conversations with other
presidents and prime ministers and dictators around the world. larry pfeifer used to run the situation room during the obama administration and he used to listen in on those phone calls with president obama and prepare the written records of those phone calls. larry pfeifer is exactly who we want to hear from tonight about what we should expect tomorrow. larry pfeifer will join us and enlighten us after this final break.
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we cannot trust the administration with respect to anything that it produces. so there are a couple of issues here. there is the issue of whether the transcript they provide is the only transcript of this conversation, or whether there are other readouts of that conversation and they cherry picked and picked the best readout of that conversation.
>> joining our discussion now is larry pfeifer. the chief of staff to the director of the cia during the bush administration and then he went on to become the director of the white house situation room for president obama. he listened in on president obama's phone calls with heads of state and prepared the written records of those phone calls. larry pfeifer, thank you very much for joining us tonight. you just heard what adam schiff said. what would you -- how would you advise adam schiff in evaluating what was released tomorrow? what can we expect to be released tomorrow? >> thank you, lawrence. the situation room helps set up, monitor and writes up the transcript of the phone calls, at least historically that's what they have done. i'm not from the trump white house. i can't say whether they've changed the procedures while i was there. the transcripts are finalized by a member of the nsc directorate staff responsible for the call. in this case it would be the
european directorate. that becomes the final transcript. if that is what is released, i'd like to think that it will be as accurate a transcript as they could have. it appears to be anything less than accurate, there are those original rough transcripts that were done by the situation room staff. >> so there are no recordings of the phone calls? >> not unless, again, procedures have changed in the last few years. when i arrived, that was one of my first questions when i heard this transcription procedure we had. my first question is why aren't we just recording these calls? i was told that was something we stopped doing in the mid 1970s. so i didn't push the issue after that. >> yes, after the nixon tapes brought down the president. >> correct. >> so these are handwritten notes that people are -- how many people are taking the notes as the speakers are talking? >> so normally on a good day, i would assign three people to listen in the phone call.
they sit there at their keyboard with headphones on and they are just hammering away at those keys. those three individuals getting together at the end of the call. they compare the transcripts because one person may have heard something the other person didn't or understood something the other person didn't. they would create a final working transcript that would be provided then as i mentioned before to the directorate, somebody who probably has a deeper expertise on the topics being discussed to make final corrections. the final memo that would be issued could vary from call to call and administration to administration. but it could be everything from a verbatim transcript, much like what we had produced from the situation room, as you mentioned to a summary, short summary to the phone call. it just varied. >> do other countries record the phone call? and do we know if the other country is recording the phone call? >> we don't specifically know. we don't ask. i do know of one instance when a foreign head of state recorded a phone call much to our surprise,
but we generally expect that it's possible. so it could be done. but it's hard for me to say with certainty. >> when you see what's released tomorrow, will you be able to make a judgment about the likely accuracy of what you're looking at? >> you know, if one reads it and it sounds like people talking with the starts and stops and the changes in direction in a conversation, just those natural pauses like i'm doing right now as i talk to you, i think one could -- one could surmise it's pretty darn accurate. i think if it reads more like elegant prose, it is probably something that has been massaged a bit. i think if it is just short summations, if i'm receiving the transcript i would probably want to see more than just a summary. >> larry pfeifer, can't wait to
get your reaction to what is released tomorrow. thank you very much for joining us tonight. we really appreciate it. >> thank you, lawrence. >> that is tonight's last word. "the 11th hour" with brian williams starts now. williams starts now. speaker wields the power of impeachment after months of keeping her caucus at bay. plus the white house backs down and will let congress hear out the intel community's whistle-blower complaint and see the trump phone call transcript. and howum the president's shifting explanations could come back to haunt him and make him the third president in history to beth impeached. all of this as "the 11th hour" on a historic tuesday night starts right now. good evening once again from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. i'm steve kornacki in for brian williams. day 978 of the trump . administration, the day when house speaker nancy pelosi made