MSNBC Host Asks: Are Democrats Haunted by the Mueller Hearing?

November 11th, 2019 10:16 PM

The panel on Sunday’s Kasie DC acted as Democratic strategists, giving House Democrats advice ahead of the public testimony of career diplomats as part of the impeachment inquiry. In addition, the panel predicted that former National Security Adviser John Bolton would emerge as a “star witness” for the Democrats if he decided to testify.

Guest host Ayman Mohyeldin asked former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer Adrienne Elrod “are the Democrats who are going to participate in this week at all haunted by what they saw happen with Bob Mueller earlier over the summer?” Elrod responded in the affirmative: “I think they are not only haunted by that but I think they learned some very valuable lessons from that.”



When asked by Mohyeldin what lessons she was referring to, Elrod urged Congressional Democrats to “keep the message very tight and very simple,” predicting that taking her advice would “go a long way toward persuading the American people to be more on the side of impeachment.”

Earlier in the segment, Elrod seemed to indicate that the American people don’t need any more persuasion because “a majority of Americans do believe that Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office.” The poll that appeared in the background discounted Elrod’s theory; finding that only 46 percent of Americans thought Trump should be removed from office, if he were impeached.

Mohyeldin proceeded to ask supposedly objective New York Times reporter Nick Confessore what “narrative” the Democrats should try to “weave here or write here with the testimonies,” apparently discarding the idea that the Democrats should be interested in finding the truth; not seeking to paint a particular narrative.

Confessore acted as a Democratic strategist, urging Democrats to “use words like extortion, and bribery, and corruption” while questioning the witnesses in front of the American people. According to Confessore, “the good news for them (the Democrats) is the facts are on their side.”

Later, Mohyeldin tried to play up the idea that Bolton has a lot of dirt that could help bring down the President. Mohyeldin touted a report from describing Bolton as a “prolific note-taker” who “probably has more detail than any other impeachment witness” and mentioned that Bolton has signed a book deal with a $2 million advance.

Suddenly, John Bolton could go from warmongering nightmare to whistle-blowing hero. 

After explaining that Democrats have decided not to subpoena Bolton due to a desire to avoid a “lengthy court process,” Mohyeldin asked Jonathan Lemire of The Associated Press if the Democrats were “making a mistake here by foregoing Bolton’s testimony for expediency and testimony from the more bureaucratic and professional witnesses.” At this point, Lemire argued that the Democrats may have made “a strategic error” by not working harder to secure Bolton’s testimony and expressed hope that he “could be potentially their star witness.”

As the segment came to a close, Elrod contended that President Trump “should be very concerned” about Bolton’s testimony; arguing that concern about Bolton’s testimony might explain the President’s “unhinged” recent tweetstorm.

A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s edition of Kasie DC is below. Click “expand” to read more.


Kasie DC


08:00 PM

MOHYELDIN: Adrienne, let me begin with you if I can. The Democrats have, I would say, from a public relations or communications point, a tough week ahead. They got to sell this to the American public. They may be convinced behind closed doors of what they’ve seen. But now they got to do it in public.

ADRIENNE ELROD: Yeah, I’m not sure that they really have a tough challenge or a tougher challenge than they’ve had so far because number one, the majority of Americans are on their side, right? The majority of Americans do believe that Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Secondly, this is…we already have that finding with the fact that nobody has given a public testimony so far, right? So, you’re about to see three key credible witnesses come out in front of the American people.

Millions of people will be tuning in and will be following this. I think the biggest challenge, I would say, for Adam Schiff, for the other Chairs of the Committees and for all Democrats who will be questioning these witnesses, is to keep it simple. Keep it top line. Don’t confuse people. Right? Because it is very important that the American people get a firm understanding of what took place, what happened. The Russian investigation became so confusing even for those of us who do…you know, who are on television every day.

MOHYELDIN: Yeah, I was going to ask you. Should…

ELROD: It’s so confusing. I think they have got to keep it very above-board, very top line and lay out the facts in a very systematic pro…


ELROD: …process.

MOHYELDIN: …to that point, really quickly, are… are the Democrats who are going to participate in this week at all haunted by what they saw happen with Bob Mueller earlier over the summer?

ELROD: Yeah, I think they are not only haunted by that but I think they learned some very valuable lessons from that. Again…

MOHYELDIN: Such as? What do you…what do you think they learned?

ELROD: Well, I think they learned…again, you have to keep the message very tight and very simple and when you look at the facts the way they’re laid out in the…the Ukrainian situation, it makes a lot more sense. It’s very logical. Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, all of his minions out there are trying to confuse everybody yet again. If Adam Schiff and the other Chairs who are questioning and…and, of course, the members of Congress who are questioning these…these witnesses, can keep it very, very top line, very simple in their questioning, I think it’s going to go a long way toward persuading the American people to be more on the side of impeachment.

MOHYELDIN: What is, Nick, the narrative, that the Democrats have to, you know, weave here or write here with the testimonies? What is the central thing that they want to get out in public?

NICK CONFESSORE: That the President used the powers of his office and taxpayer money to try to extort a foreign country into helping his re-election. It’s that simple and they should use words like extortion, and bribery, and corruption. I think that President Trump is…is…is very skilled at robbing terms of meaning over time, fake news…


CONFESSORE: …and quid pro quo has become a term like that; where it’s airy and strange to most people. It’s Latin.


CONFESSORE: It’s not English. And it…it, it puts a layer of…of blah over some pretty harsh facts.


CONFESSORE: And I think the smart thing for the Democrats to do is…is spin a very simple narrative and the good news for them is the facts are on their side and the good news for them is every witness so far has basically corroborated the facts of what happened; if not always sharing the opinion of how serious the acts were.

MOHYELDIN: So, Jonathan, let me get your thoughts on what the Democrats should try to avoid here? We’ve gotten a sense of what they should do. What do you think that they are being advised or concerned about avoiding?

JONATHAN LEMIRE: Well, I think that first and foremost, there’s going to be a lot of Republican pushback that they’re going to need to contend with. I think you’ll find, in these open hearings, there’ll be some of the Republicans, Jim Jordan perhaps, who is going to try to make a real…real spectacle of this. To this point, we know, the Republicans have largely fought this on matters of process and they’ve said this has been secretive. They really dwelled on the idea that the interviews were being done in the basement of the Capitol; ignoring the fact that that’s simply where the secure room is, the SCIF is. It’s a matter of geography, not secrecy. It is also a question of, you know, there’s going to be attempts to focus in on certain individuals. And I think you’re going…we’re going to hear a lot about the whistle-blower this week, certainly from the Republicans; not necessarily in the hearings but the outside force. The President, in particular, and his allies, have really zeroed in on…on this…the identity of this person. We know, in fact, that there have been some members of the right, including the President’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who have identified the person. You know…other major media.

MOHYELDIN: Allegedly.


LEMIRE: Allegedly, right. And the media outlets have not confirmed that and obviously, there are federal protections for whistle-blowers, to protect their identity for this very reason. And …and that is an attempt, to mention Bob Mueller’s name, an attempt by the White House to sort of revive a portion of that playbook. Let’s remember that when they weren’t able to fight some of the facts of the investigation, they focused in the investigators themselves, we heard…


LEMIRE: …whether it was Jim Comey, or Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, that…that the President suggested they were biased against him, that that was evidence of deep state nefarious behavior, and that’s what they’re trying to do here as well. They’re trying to make this whistle-blower, again, who does not have an identity yet, the face of this, suggesting that this was, this was the, the…that the fix was in from the beginning, that this was, that the…if they can’t fight the facts, they’re going to claim bias and corruption on the part of the investigators. Obviously, there’s no proof of that and that’s what can’t be said enough is that the…the whistle-blower’s original complaint has been largely corroborated by every witness and official and even some of the White House’s own materials.

MOHYELDIN: Yeah, not just on the phone call but even the matter of policy that has come out and one person certainly that this White House may be concerned about is John Bolton because one way or the other, John Bolton’s story is definitely going to come out. He was subpoenaed to appear in Congress this past week. He didn’t appear, citing White House objections. Democrats have since pulled it, claiming concerns over a lengthy court process but Bolton’s attorney writes House Democrats that he was dismayed, saying there needed to be clarity of this momentous constitutional question. And then he added this. Bolton “was personally involved in many of the events, meetings and conversations about which you already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far.” Now, parts of it already have come out via Fiona Hill. She says that Bolton told her “you go and tell (NSC lawyer John) Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal (Gordon) Sondland and (Mick) Mulvaney are cooking up on this, and you go ahead and tell him what you’ve heard and what I have said.” Now, just out tonight, Jonathan Swan of Axios reports that current and former senior administration officials who say John Bolton was a prolific note-taker and probably has more detail than any other impeachment witness and it may come out in other ways soon. The AP was first to report that Bolton has signed a book deal with about a $2 million advance set to come out before the election. Talk about a guy’s lawyer who’s telegraphing to the committee like this guy has something to say. Help us make the case.

CONFESORE: Me, me, me.

MOHYELDIN: Right? It’s like…


MOHYEDLIN: …and, and yet the Democrats don’t want to go in the…into this court process. Are they making a mistake here by foregoing Bolton’s testimony for expediency and testimony from the more bureaucratic and professional witnesses?

LEMIRE: Well, first, let’s just say that if John Bolton has these details, just testify. Like, I mean…there’s no one saying…no one’s actually stopping him from doing so. Yes, you can…the Democrats perhaps are making a strategic error here. They obviously feel like they have a lot already. I mean, Bolton, I think, considered…he’s considered by many, could be potentially their star witness because I think it also…it’s not just that what he can say and that the reports are certainly, he’s a…voracious notetaker, perhaps because he was taking notes to write his book but also because he carries a lot of respect in conservative circles. He’s not someone who is going to be able to be painted as a…as a deep-state actor…


LEMIRE: …someone who was biased against the President or Republican causes. Now, we’ll hear from Trump that he’s a disgruntled ex-employee. Right? I fired him so he’s out to get me. Fine.

MOHYELDIN: Nobody liked him.

LEMIRE: Yeah, that’s the argument he can make but he is someone who a lot of the Republican Senators who, at the end of the day, are going to have this President’s fate in their hands, are we to get to an impeachment trial, that he’s someone who…a lot of them have known for a long time, respect and like and it won’t be so easy to dismiss his testimony.

MOHYELDIN: Yeah, he was travelling that world between being a…a Trump inner circle but also Republican establishment. Adrienne, how concerned should the President be about his book or about his potential testimony if Democrats decide to pursue it?

ELROD: Oh, I think he should be very concerned. I think this is why you’ve seen the President become even more unhinged than usual over the past few days, tweeting up a storm this past weekend.

MOHYELDIN: I think at like 33 tweets at some point.

ELROD: Something just…it’s crazy, right? So, yeah, look, he knows that John Bolton is very well respected, as Jonathan said, in conservative circles but he also was in a lot of key meetings, taking notes. He’s a wild card here. Nobody really knows what he’s going to do. I actually think it’s smart that Adam Schiff is not and the Democrats are not putting him up in the first week because he is not…we don’t, we don’t know what he is going to say. We have an idea based on the hints that his…his attorney has given, that he might be, you know, he might be willing to…to spill the beans or to say more than probably what the Trump White House wants him to say. But the three witnesses that the Democrats are putting up this week are reliable, credible. They are long-time public servants.


ELROD: They bring a lot to the table. John Bolton is, I mean, still, at the end of the day, he is a…

MOHYELDIN: Partisan.

ELROD: …a partisan Republican so...but…but I’m sure he’s going to come up at some point and it’s going to be fascinating to see how this plays out.


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