tv The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell MSNBC October 8, 2019 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT
>> we're just about wrapping up for this hour. i want to tell you about something that has started to break as we've been on this hour. following president trump's sudden announcement that u.s. troops be pulled back to allow syria to take territory currently held by the kurds, reports are just now this hour starting to come in that turkey is poised to cross the border into syria shortly. it is report that his sources
are telling him, the u.s. officials have just informed that they're likely to attack on air and grounds in the next 24 hours. quote, they appear to be coordinated with the russians. russian backed forces are mobilizing to invade. david ignatius pointing out the other terrifying possibility of isis detainees quote, breaking out of camps and prisons. he writes this is a major disaster coming at us because of trump's decisions. quote, hours left to stop it. this is being reported by the "washington post" who does tend to have very good sources on these matters. we'll continue to follow this as it continues to break over the course of the night. that does it. now it's time for "the last word." >> good evening. when you hear a story of hours left to stop it, that pretty much means it cannot be stopped. >> well, at this point the united states making this pre p precipitous decision by the
president, immediately after getting off the phone with the turkish president, without consulting with tuesday military, without consuling with anyone in national security, that was apparently enough to green light this. the question that ignatius is raising is whether or not similarly quick action by the united states right now might be enough to stop this. i don't know if the president understands but the idea of a russian and turkish force basically moving in to slaughter the kurds on donald trump's say-so, that would be a five-alarm fire in any national security apparatus in any presidency and now we have to see what it is in this one. >> we'll have to see and watch what happens. thank you, rachel. well, on a day when polling shows support for impeachment rising dramatically, the white house council sends a letter saying they will not cooperate in any way with the impeachment investigation.
presumably means they will not honor any subpoenas or any witnesses to testify and they will not supply any documents. we are submitting this letter from the white house council to our highest constitutional authority here at the last word tonight, harvard law school lawrence tribe will join us with his reading. of this unprecedent letter from the white house. president trump is now well on his way to impeachment because of the white house transcript of his phone call with the president of ukraine showing him soliciting help in his reelection campaign by ukraine by asking for an investigation of joe biden. the president did the same thing with china. he wants foreign governments to interfere because he believes that is the only way he believes he can win the electoral college again. the state department used to try to fight that kind of foreign interference. back when barack obama was president and john kerry was
secretary of state and rick stengel was secretary of state. it was rick stengel's job to fight the kind of foreign interference that president trump now encourages. who will fight that fight now? that is the subject of rick stengel's new book, information wars, and he will join us when the president of the united states encourages foreign countries to wage war on our election process. when the day began today with donald trump's ambassador to the european union refusing to show up for a deposition we did not yet know that trump intends to block every federal government witness and every other possible witness that he can from testifying in the impeachment inquiry. they basically declared war on the impeachment process.
we now know what might have been the most agonizing part of gordon sondland's testimony. the five-hour gap. what did gordon sondland do in the five hours that it took him to reply to the ambassador of ukraine who texted this? as i said on the phone i think it is crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign. his apply to that took five hours. his reply to that was written by a lawyer, and in the meantime we now know that gordon sondland called and spoke to the president of the united states. that is one of the things he did in those five hours. nbc news reported today that he spoke to trump by phone before responding to that text. and then gordon sondland's written response said this.
he said i believe you're clear, the president has been crystal clear. no quid pro quo of any kind. the tone of that is unlike any other in the exchanges you have seen. did gordon sondland lawyer up in those hours. he could have taken the fifth amendment if he showed up today. his lawyer is probably giving the fifth amendment some very serious consideration tonight after receiving a notice of subpoena today after his client failed to show up today. the house of representatives sent a subpoena directly to his criminal lawyer as is customary. ordering him to appear one week from now they are now at the center of what some in the white house reportedly thought could be criminal conduct by the
president and possibly others. that was the reaction that was captured in another document that we now know in the evidence file. of the impeachment investigation. before the whistle-blower wrote his official report a two-page memo of notes of a conversation that the whistle-blower had about the president's phone call to the president of ukraine with someone who listened to that conversation. the conversation was with someone that listened to the entire phone call. that donald trump had with the president of ukraine. abc news reports that the person who listened to the entire phone call was visibly shaken and seemed keen to inform a trusted colleague within the u.s.
national security apparatus about the call. it was describe as crazy, frightening and completely lacking in substance related to national security. they say there was already a conversation about how to handle it because the president has clearly committed a criminal act by urging a foreign power to investigate a u.s. person for the purposes of advancing his own re-election bid in 2020. leading off our discussion tonight is mike quigley of illinois, member of the house intelligence committee. he was supposed to take part in the deposition today. also a former staff member of the house intelligence committee, and josh letterman who reported new details about the communication between president trump and
gordon sondland. congressman quigley, what was it that you want today concentrate on? >> it is easy to ask. tough to answer about the five-hour gap. with the nature of all the communications with the career diplomats and the president of the united states. but when i was thinking about that question coming, i think that the best question is why aren't you the whistle-blower. how could you stand by when this was happening and not say what we hear from one text. i think it is crazy to do with a quid pro quo with an ally at war with our greatest adversary. >> and your reaction to him sending that letter saying no cooperation, no witnesses, no documents, your impeachment inquiry is unconstitutional
according to the white house counsel >> yeah, i think they're just making official what they have been doing for three years. they have been stonewalling and obstructing any investigation. the special counsel's report details that in extraordinary lengths. and i think he left it to us to take the ball, and i think it was a justice department policy that says you can't do that. we're following the letter of the law and the president is doing everything he can to obstruct and creating very easily to be reached articles of impeachment on obstruction. >> and nbc news is reporting that the communication devices that were being used in some of these -- in a lot of this texting, were personal communication devices that would be in violation of the federal records keeping law and that was
something that hillary clinton was attacked for by these same republicans who are defending all of these practices. >> yeah, i think you see over and over again republicans doing the things that they blame other people for. whether that is violating records, you know, they i think that what you see is a lot of projection here. when you read the letter from the white house to speaker pelosi and the chairman, anyone who has a teenager, that letter reads like the legal version of you're not the boss of me. they don't have a lot of legal rationale. and when you look at the way that impeachment is set up, it really doesn't make sense structurally they would even write the things they have written. and the president will get due process rights when the trial goes to the senate, but this is an investigative stage.
the house has tremendous power here. >> the five hour gap that you added to some of our understanding of it with a presidential phone call is right in the middle of the five -- or somewhere, it is somewhere in the five hour gap? >> yes, and president trump is continuing to say everything he did is above board. but now we have new indications that president trump was aware in realtime that members of his own administration and his own diplomats were raising red flags about this. because the u.s. ambassador to the eu, sonhand, called him and he mentioned in that call that he just heard from bill taylor that he was concerned that this was "crazy." and the president proceeded with all of this none the less and sondland after this phone call essentially tried to shut down
the acting ambassador bill taylor telling him look, president trump says there is crystal clear, no quid pro quo, and let's take this offline. and let's not text about it any more. cognizant that they were making a written record that could come into public view. >> but chairman schiff had something to say about it. let's listen. >> not only is congress being deprived of his testimony, the american people being deprived of his testimony today, but we're aware that the ambassador has text messages and e-mails on a device that have been provided to the state department, but we have requested those and they are withholding that now. they are also deeply relevant to this investigation and the impeachment inquiry.
>> absolutely. i practiced for ten years. i never could have said this. i never did anything wrong. it was all a hoax, he did it, nothing was wrong, none of it happened and it was a hoax, but you're right. it will end up in court. i don't see any way they don't. i think they appreciate the urgency of this, and they will move forward a lot faster than they have in the recent past. >> you see the committee is moving faster than it has moved. the subpoena says be here in a week, give us the documents two days before that, and we have seen an increased pace here by the investigative committees. >> that is right, and you see chairman schiff moving very quickly, calling a number of
witnesses, asking for documents. even as he's doing that, you see the administration creating a tremendous record. they say they will exonerate us. you see giuliani jue saying i have these text messages and they'll exonerate us. if they have nothing to fear here. if they think what president did was so innocent, why are they trying to hide this material from congress. this does not sound like somebody confident they're doing the right thing. it sounds like someone really stone walling and trying to hide the fact that they've done something seriously wrong as senior state department officials have pointed out. >> do we have insight as to who among these websites may want to testify and are being blocked by the administration? >> the only one that we know based on his own words wants to testify is gordon sondland. he flew back from brussels, he wants to testify, he is ready at
a moment's notice. as far as the others, we don't know because they haven't been speaking and any good lawyer would tell them not to testify. but presumably the ambassador in ukraine, trump pull her out of that role in may several months ahead of schedule. giuliani jue had been waging a campaign against her. presumably she would want a chance to defend herself but we haven't heard any of them say that on the record. >> i can envision a scenario that it is a reasonably short amount of time for them to work from the court as quickly as you can. you don't want to wait a year to go to the supreme court on these things. at a certain point, the house of representatives starts taking
votes on afrls impeachment, possibly in the house judiciary committee, possibly the full house. without the information that you're seeks, and then you go off to a trial in the united states where the house of representatives will be accused of basically prosecuting the case without enough information. >> that's why communicating this message to the american is almost as important as convincing the senate. i trust the american public will see through the white house, the and the reason that it matters so much, why we strengthen one case, the articles of impeachment for obstruction, it hurts our ability to put all of the evidence that we need. for other articles of the crimes we see committed by the president elsewhere.
i thought that the special counsel's report gave us enough information to file articles of impeachment. i thought the special counsel felt that way as well. we will act with deliberate speed >> thank you all for starting us off tonight, i appreciate that. when we come back, over kill. we're going to be joined by lawrence to try to get the validity saying the trump administration decided that the impeachment investigation is unconstitutional. we could have had any high school a.p. government student analyze what i believe will take its place as the most constitutionally illiterate letter ever written by a white house lawyer but we got lawrence tribe. hint, he's a bit outrage that had the white house counsel would sign his name to such a letter. letter
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facts of the trump administration's efforts. we see a growing body of evidence that shows that president trump abused his office and violated his oath to protect, serve, and defend the constitution. the white house should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the president's abuse of power will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction. mr. president, you are not above the law, you will be held accountable. here is lindsey graham echoing what speaker pelosi said tonight, 20 years ago, when he was a prosecutor in the impeachment trial of president clinton. >> when asked for information, richard nixon chose not to apply. it is not your job to tell us
what we need, it is your job to tell us to comply with the things we need. the day he fails to answer that question is the day that he was subject to impeachment and he became the judge and the jury. >> lawrence tribe is the cop author of "to end a presidency." it is an eight-page letter, it is very od, but it also includes references to the unemployment rate. u it is kind of the reelection brafs in that letter, and it has the air of a legal letter, but what is your reading of it? >> it is obviously a political document.
the legal analysis is irrelevant. it is citing cases from the 1950s in which witnesses were being hounded by the likes of joseph mccarthy were denied their rights and convicted in violation of their rights. this is irrelevant, but because it is so obviously weak and because the white house counsel is no fool, this is an attempt to distract the house of representatives into giving up on getting more factual details. and simply pursuing the obvious obstruction of congress which this is. following article three of the nixon articles of impeachment. i think adam schiff is smarter than that.
he's made it clear that in addition to impeaching the president for obstructing congress, and refusing to cooperate, and pretending that congress is a nonexistent rather than a co-equal branch, he will pursue subpoenas in court. of course courts are not as quick as we would like them to be but at this point i think they'll be impatient as well. there's evidence from what the courts said just today in one proceeding the judge responded to the kinds of arguments the administration is making by saying wow, you're really going out on a limb. that was the essence of what she said. i think courts will now be impatient. so we're now going to see the house of representatives walking and chewing gum at the same time. not just in the classic sense, of legislating about social and economic policy while
impeaching, but impeaching on several fronts at once. they're going to hold him accountable for obstructing congress, but there is no rule saying they can only impeach him once. they're also going to pursue further details of the shakedown scheme in which the president conspicuously and right on the very text of the white house readout of that infamous phone call basically says to one of our allies, we're not going to support you against russian aggression. unless you do what we want, do me a favor, though, help me go after joe biden and help me undermine the truth that russia helped me get elected. that will be the core of the
impeachment. it will not get distracted by what a lot of americans don't care about, and that is process. it will go after the substance of how this president has betrayed his oath and used his foreign policy and military powers for military benefit. and while doing that, the house of representatives is also in a position to say this kind of stone walling as exemplified by this letter will not stand and is itself an impeachable offense. >> one of the big things the letter relies on is the previous impeachment processes where the house of representatives as a group has voted to basically authorize the beginning of an impeachment inquiry. that hasn't happened here. so they're saying that alone means this is not a real impeachment inquiry. >> i think they realize there is
a ridiculous argument. the rules of the house of representatives which at one time did assume there had to be a vote of the entire house to authorize the inquiry, have since been changed. that's why the letter doesn't really lean on that thin read. instead it makes these other arguments about how the president is not being a fair chance to defend himself in the house of representatives. you have a chance to defend yourself in the trial. which as i understand it and the constitution says is in the senate. if they would rather have the trial in the house of representatives, i'm sure nancy pelosi would gladly oblige. i'm sure that's not what the president wants. this is a prosecutorial step, the trial for the president's benefit, if he has not read that part of the constitution is in the senate.
that's where i suppose he's relying on mitch mcconnell to deep six everything. but i think that as the country moves toward the recognition, it that we have a lawless president who is in it for his own benefit, it may well be the senate itself begins to rethink whether it wants to go down with this particular ship. >> what will happen in court when the president's lawyers take this argument that they outlined in this letter into a courtroom? >> i think judges will be incredulous. and i think that's true of judges appointed by any president. just this morning, judge howell was incredulous when the administration argued that the watergate grand jury materials should not really have been turned over back in the nixon days. if the justice department then had seen it as clearly as it does now, the nixon case would
have been very different. but when they hear that in the face of all they have been through they tend to scratch their heads and react with incredulity. and i think that's what's going to happen here. this is not going to get anywhere. and i think that the courts will rebuff this attempt to put the president completely above the law. they say he can't be indicted. now they're saying he can't be impeached either. in the district court they argued, in the southern district, that he can't be investigated. that's not why we fought a revolution. he is not above the law. he will learn his lesson. >> professor lawrence, thank you very much. >> the fastest moving poll numbers in america are the poll numbers in support of impeachment. the new polls include very bad news for trump about how many
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in july the same poll showed only 37% at that time in the middle of the summer, supporting an impeachment inquiry. that same poll also shows that 28% of republican voters now support the impeachment inquiry in the house of representatives. and get this. 18% of republicans voters support not only the impeachment inquiry but also conviction in the senate trial. and the removal of donald trump from the presidency. joining us, our guests here to help us, eugene, i want to ask you that last number, 18% of republican voters want him convicted in the senate and removed from office? >> that is a startling number, lawrence.
that is the kind of startling number you like to see replicated in other polls before you set your hair on fire, but if i were in the white house, i might be setting my hair on fire now. it does indicate whether or not it is 18% or just 10%, that is a very, very bad sign for president trump right now. and i think that perhaps as worrisome as it is when you look at independents who are, you know that whole poll really had it half and half as to whether or not he should be impeached and removed or not nap is a
incredibly quick shift in public opinion, and it says that the ukraine phone call and what lies behind it is really cut through the fog. >> yeah, ej the -- before the ukraine phone call, when nancy pelosi was holding back on impeachment there was a nearly out there. if you move into the leadership position, they will pull the polls with it, is this about her steady leadership on this since the ukraine phone call or the actual evidence itself? >> i think that in a way the fact that she held back, waited for the phone call and then said okay, i don't want to do this now it probably gives more credibility to the inquiry of what but what is really striking here is how potentially weak trump is thinking the base is a
lot somethinger than it is, if you ask people not just do they approve of trump, but do they strongly approve of him, but only 24% of them approve of him. if you're going into an impeachment fight, which of those bases would you rather have. so i think looking at what trump did today, i think he looked at what happened over the last three weeks and he said whatever we're doing it isn't working and we have to try to stop that somehow.
throwing sand in the gears. >> it seems like we need, very soon, state by state polls to understand what might happen in the senate, direction we need questions on the polling in maine. susan collins could be interested in what voters in maine are thinking about. and other states where republicans are up for reelection where it could really turn their vote one way or the other on impeachment. >> yeah, and those senators, we will hear from their constituents as well. it would be nice to have some polling. but you're already hearing not any sort of full scale abandonment of the white house, far from it, but some hedging. some let's wait for the facts. some we don't know enough yet. and from those endangered republican senators, you're starting to hear something less than the full scale, you know, it's all of the biggest witch
hunt in american history, trying to overthrow the election, that sort of rhetoric that you get from others. and i think that is with good reason. that will be a tough vote for some of them. >> the washington post poll has a new number on the ultimate question here which is removed from office. it says should trump be impeached and removed from office, and you 49% saying yes, he should be convicted, 44% saying no, and ej when that number, that is the first time that number has moved up to more saying yes, remove him from office than no. >> that is right, and you have seen this ever since the ukraine story broke. there has been this steady movement in the direction and
there's no sign of it moving away from that. what is striking about republicans is how silent they have been. opponents of the president often say gee, they don't have the guts to speak up against him which is broadly true. but also they don't have the guts to defend him, given what the facts are in this case. they don't know where story will go. for the first time in this presidency, you're seeing a lot of republicans express doubt. some explicitly, but others just by saying nothing whatsoever. that silence right now has got to be worrying trump. and with that silence will come further movement in the polls against trump. >> when we come back, i want to talk about this romney effect and what has been donald trump's silence about mitt romney since that initial attack on him and what that tells us about what other republican senators could expect. we'll be right back.
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>> impeachment romney, how is that going for donald trump. mitt romney comes out and says that what the president did on that phone call was wrong, basically, president trump attacks him in one blast on twitter, on saturday, saying impeach a united states senator which is responsible. and that's it. and then donald trump goes quiet. none of this hammering mitt romney every day like he used to when anyone in the republican side would cross him. >> that's right. and he's clearly -- for trump, this is what walking on egg shells looks like, right? this is trying to tread carefully. he came out of that blast, it was his usual sort of make an example of of him to show the
others and then he backed off. it was not playing the way he hoped it would play. it was not bringing out the voices in support or defense of him. as ej said there has been a lot of silence out there. i think he doesn't quite know what to do. >> mitt romney has a record of saying some things that bother donald trump, and getting back in line. he is not getting back in line. >> no, it really, i mean, lord knows given how many times he has gone back and forth. i'm not going to predict he'll never do it again. what he has going for him is representing utah, a republican state where there was a lot of opposition to trump. evan mcmullen, the third party candidate got a lot of votes in
utah. i don't think mitt romney faces problems in his state the way that senators from other staunchly related republicans would face problems in their support. if trump were impeached, you know who might want to run in 2020 that would be mitt romney. >> thank you both for joining us, i really appreciate it. when we come back, we all saw donald trump publicly ask for china's help in his reelection campaign last week, but he doesn't have to ask for russia's help any more because he knows that russia has never stopped trying to help donald trump win the presidency and hold on to the presidency in his reelection campaign. that is next. performance comes in lots of flavors.
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today the senate intelligence committee, which unlike the house intelligence committee still operates in a traditional bipartisan way released a bipartisan report detailing how russia directed a disinformation campaign in the 2016 election to hurt hillary clinton and help donald trump. the republicans and the democrats on the committee found that russian operatives, quote, sought to influence the 2016 u.s. presidential election by harming hillary clinton's chances of success and
supporting donald trump at the direction of the kremlin. the committee wrote that russian social media disinformation efforts were part of a, quote, broader sophisticated and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in did not cease but rather increased after election day. and so the information war continues. and it is detailed in richard stengel's new book "information wars." rick stengel was undersecretary of state in the obama administration, and he was the state department's point man in the information wars. after this break, rick stengel will join us with what to expect in the 2020 presidential election when the president of the united states is actively encouraging foreign countries to interfere in our election. that's next. . so, we got griswalda. dinner's almost ready. but one thing we could both agree on
did you want president trump to win the election? and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that? >> translator: yes, i did. yes, i did. because he talked about bringing the u.s./russia relationship back to normal. >> and joining our discussion now, richard stengel, the former undersecretary of state in the obama administration and an msnbc analyst. he is author of the new book "information wars: how we lost the global battle against disinformation and what we can do about it." this book now lands dead center
in our news with president trump participating in the information wars right there in the driveway at the white house with the helicopter in the background telling china please jump in here and help. >> he is the disinformationist in chief. he is the epicenter of disinformation around the world. in fact, i'm glad you started with putin, because the story starts with putin, and it starts in ukraine. it starts when putin annexed crimea in 2014. and we saw this tsunami of disinformation around it. i mean, i've been in media my whole life. i had never seen all of this russian stuff. and what happened was what they were doing for the russian periphery then to justify putin's lies, they then transferred here in 2016. that's when the research agency was started which you talked about earlier. and they learned everything they learned around the annexation of crimea in 2014 to use it here,
and it worked. >> you went from editor of "time" magazine into the state department where you were put in charge of this information. there are other areas obviously nsa and others that are fighting the war in a very different way and with many more kinds of weapons as it were, but the state department was heavily involved in trying to intercede in this information war. now there's nothing happening in this administration that's comparable to what you were doing in the obama administration. >> no. but one of the things i learned is government isn't actually the best place to counter disinformation.
remember, so much of this disinformation that people believe is about how bad government. and when government says no, we're good and you guys are wrong, people don't believe that. so i actually don't think government is the answer, which is not to say that government should be doing nothing like they're doing now. in fact, as you say, trump welcomed the chinese to come and interfere in our election. you just can't do that. and the problem with government trying to do this is that the enemies use that against us, and it just doesn't work. >> you add to the relatively scope of the mueller report. you widen that frame. >> one of the things -- the mueller report turns out to have been very narrow. it was written by prosecutors. they were looking for people to indict. what we saw from the state department is what the internet research agency was doing was complimented by what traditional russian media did, taas, russia today, and it was even complimented more by what the russian foreign ministry did. foreign minister lavrov used to echo the stuff that the trolls were doing from the internet research agency. it was all aligned. it is a whole of government effort which is the thing we always try to achieve. >> so what mueller was finding was just this particular attack group. >> yes. >> in moscow that was going straight in to the election. >> and they're potent, and what scares me, frankly, about 2020
is trying to recruit trolls here in america, people who are sympathetic to the russian point of view or think those russian trolls are actually trump folks. >> i wanted to spend more time on 2020 with "information wars." we're going have you come back and do that, because that's really where we are now is what back and do that because that's really where we are now is what happens now. and your book is the map for what's going to be happening next. rick stengel, thank you very much for joining us. >> thank you. >> "information wars" is the name of the his new book. that is "the last word." "the 11th hour with brian williams" starts now. tonight the white house goes to war over impeachment, pushing back in an eight-page letter the experts say don't hold up and relies on legal powers they don't have. bottom line, though, it says no cooperation. this day started when a big name failed to show. one of trump's ambassadors central to this ukraine investigation skips his congressional hearing. now he's been subpoenaed. democrats want to know what the