White House says Kavanaugh ready to testify. TRANSCRIPT: 9/17/2018, The Beat w Ari Melber.

Guests: Richard Blumenthal; Maya Wiley; Ilyse Hogue; Nancy Erika Smith; Liz Plank; Frank Figliuzzi; Elie Honig, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Nina Totenberg

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: September 17, 2018 Guest: Richard Blumenthal; Maya Wiley; Ilyse Hogue; Nancy Erika Smith; Liz Plank; Frank Figliuzzi; Elie Honig, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Nina Totenberg

STEVE KORNACKI: "Judge Kavanaugh looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation, he stands ready to testify tomorrow if the Senate is ready to hear him. Brett Kavanaugh calling for an open hearing." That is all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY. "The Beat WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER: Good evening Steve and thank you very much.

As Steve Kornacki just mentioned, we have breaking news in from the White House, a change in how they`re dealing with the big story tonight. Donald Trump`s Supreme Court pick hanging in the balance. The White House is rocked over these allegations of sexual assault allegedly committed by Judge Kavanaugh when he was in high school.

A Democrat on the judiciary committee will join me live in a few minutes. I will ask him among other things about what the White House just said. The hearing is as soon as tomorrow.

Later, we`re going to do a special report on how some strides in gender representation and feminism could impact where this story goes and what happens in any hearing. And tonight, I could tell you I am joined by the journalist who originally broke the Anita Hill story.

Also tonight, Bob Mueller making another move, pressing forward with the jail sentencing for Mike Flynn as well as new fallout from the Paul Manafort guilty plea.

But we begin with breaking news. Republican Senator John Kennedy, a member of the pivotal judiciary committee is now saying there will be a public hearing with Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. So that is breaking right now. Pressure coming from Republicans in the Senate about how to deal with what has upended the entire Supreme Court confirmation process.

And then there`s the news that Steve Kornacki just mentioned as he was handing off, moments ago the White House saying Judge Kavanaugh is ready to testify in an open hearing as soon as tomorrow. That is not typical language or typical planning for something this explosive, and that is our top story tonight. So let`s get into it.

The factual, legal, and political onslaught against Judge Kavanaugh has changed everything right now in Washington. He did appear to triumph through days of Senate hearings, only to find himself hold up at the White House most of today, several hours we`re told as he tried to salvage his nomination. Now, here are the facts, the anonymous accuser who made waves last week has come forward under her own name.

She is Professor Christine Blasey Ford and she makes specific allegations which "The Washington Post" says, it partly corroborated. She says that at a high school party in 1982, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back, that he "groped her and even tried to remove her clothing." Then she says when she was trying to scream, he put his hand over her mouth. Kavanaugh categorically denies the entire allegation.

But we are in new territory right now. No one at this hour is even arguing this nomination and vote should proceed as it was going to before. The procedural fight now is how to deal with the accusations. Democrats pushing for, one, a total delay on this week`s vote until there`s a fact- finding process featuring both Ford and Kavanaugh. Now, he has said publicly in a written statement today that he is ready. And within the last hour, the White House has dialed that up to ready for tomorrow. Now, he spent several hours today huddling with Trump`s counsel, Don McGahn at the White House. NBC reporting, they worked the phones and called members of Congress.

And while Donald Trump is, of course, known for digging in his deals on all kinds of fighting and accusations, look at this. Tonight, we can report for you that even he felt the need to acknowledge at least a delay here might be necessary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Judge Kavanaugh is one of the finest people that I`ve ever known. I think he`s on track. I mean I think he`s very much on track. If it takes a little delay, it will take a little delay. It shouldn`t certainly be very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Many Republicans were hoping to move forward without much of a change. But a key swing vote is saying that lies by Kavanaugh on this story would be disqualifying, and they need new testimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R), MAINE: If Judge Kavanaugh has lied about what happened, that would be disqualifying. That`s why it`s so important that we have testimony under oath with a lot of questions to ask of both of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The accuser`s lawyer says she`s willing to speak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is your client willing to testify before the judiciary committee publicly and tell this story?

DEBRA KATZ, ATTORNEY: She is. She`s willing to do whatever it takes to get her story forth, yes. She clearly considers this an attempted rape. She believes that if it were not for the severe intoxication of Brett Kavanaugh, she would have been raped.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Meanwhile, one of the most influential Republicans on that Senate Judiciary Committee, Orrin Hatch, who used to chair it, says he`s already determined in his view these claims are not legitimate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FEMALE: Do you think that any of these claims are legitimate?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, (R), UTAH: No, I don`t. I think this woman, whoever she is, is mixed up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Meanwhile, Kavanaugh has put out his written denial, his offer to testify, but he did avoid shouted questions from reporters today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FEMALE: Judge Kavanaugh, are the allegations true?

MALE: Do you have any response to Christine Ford?

FEMALE: Judge Kavanaugh, will you testify?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We`re going to have an expert panel weighing in on all of this. But I begin with a person who has a vote on the matter, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, serves on the judiciary committee along with his colleagues is demanding both a delay in the vote and a chance to assess, as they put it "Dr. Ford`s serious Allegations."

Also to begin the discussion, former counsel to the Mayor of New York City, Attorney Maya Wiley, MSNBC analyst joins me, as well. Senator, the White House now says they could hold this hearing with Judge Kavanaugh`s participation tomorrow. Do you support beginning this process tomorrow?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D-CT) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Before any hearing, there needs to be a full FBI investigation involving sworn interviews with potential witnesses and other review of records. There is no way to hold a hearing intelligently and responsibly without that investigation. Think of it this way, Ari, as a former prosecutor and attorney general, there`s no way that I would put a crime survivor on the witness stand without a full investigation, let alone in effect the witness stand before the entire American people.

I believe the survivor Dr. Ford, she has chosen very bravely to step forward to tell her story knowing the nightmare that would come from hostile and potentially searching scrutiny. And there are a lot of reasons to disbelieve Judge Kavanaugh based on his evasive and seemingly misleading testimony before our judiciary committee last week.

MELBER: You mentioned the style of the testimony, particularly when there were certain factual detailed questions posed. This was under -- I would like to play you Republican Senator Kennedy regarding some of his time as a younger man or a teenager. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, (R), LOUISIANA: Did you ever get in trouble? Were you more of a John-Boy Walton type or a Ferris Bueller type?

BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I worked hard in school. I had a lot of friends. I talked a lot about my friends.

SEN. KENNEDY: You left out the troubled part. I was waiting for that.

KAVANAUGH: Right. So that`s encompassed under the friends, I think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That exchange doesn`t age well based on the serious allegations that have arisen today. Walk us through what you think a proper hearing and timeline should look like and could it occur before the midterm elections, which hangs heavy on the minds of this White House.

SEN. BLUMENTHAL: There needs to be a complete investigation here by the FBI, taking as long as is necessary. The Republicans have set an arbitrary and irrational deadline. They are rushing the judgment. We`re dealing with a United States Supreme Court nomination, an appointment for life to the highest court in the land that makes a real difference in people`s lives in the real world. So setting an arbitrary deadline ought to be absolutely avoided. And I believe strongly that there may well be a need for a hearing and it should be as fast as possible but there needs to be that investigation first.

The points where Judge Kavanaugh was evasive or misleading on his role in certain judgeship nominations prior Hans and Pickering, his involvement in stolen documents and his denials of it, flying in the face of seeming e- mails on it, the denials of his beliefs on reproductive rights, saying Roe can be overturned in memos that were disclosed, all raise the issues of what more is being hidden here?

Today, I went to court with colleagues demanding a court order that would involve revealing millions of pages of documents from the national archives and the CIA. I hope the courts rule quickly and that those undisclosed documents will shed further light on the merits oh of his nomination.

MELBER: As you`re speaking to us, I have more breaking news. I know you`re on the committee, but you`ve also been stuck working with us here on television, Senator. But I`m reading breaking news that the committee on the Republican side would appear has agreed to schedule a hearing with both Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh on Monday.

"The New York Times" saying, "This Thursday`s committee vote has been postponed, according to a Republican briefed on the plans," courtesy of Nicholas Fandos, Hill reporter for "The New York Times." Your response to that news posted publicly there. Mr. Fandos` has posted it on Twitter and says the story is coming. That relates to what you`re calling on the committee you`re scheduling apparently a hearing Monday, sir.

SEN. BLUMENTHAL: At the risk of repeating, I strongly believe that the FBI has to investigate, interview the witnesses, assess the records and documents if any exist, go back and do all of the fact-finding that is necessary. If we fail to do it before the hearing, we`re going to be shooting in the dark. We literally will be asking questions with blindfold.

MELBER: And stay with me, Senator. I want to bring in Maya Wiley. And Maya, I want to look at the corroboration to "The Washington Post" story which overlaps with what I think what the Senator`s point, which is how do you go at adjudicating the potential facts.

Her husband said, "Look, if you look to judges to be the arbiters of right and wrong if they don`t have a moral code of their own to determine right from wrong, that`s a problem. Supreme Court nominees should be held to a higher standard." And I wonder what you think about the way "The Post" reported the story and how this relates to figuring out the facts, Maya. Because there is a concern in highly politicized events with a lot hanging on the line that any individual or anonymous individual can theoretically say anything.

And yet we are somewhere above that in the probative process, the factual process, because "The Post" has the husband and a therapist and the waving of medical privilege corroborating that long before Donald Trump was president or Judge Kavanaugh was headed to the court, there is a corroboration of this individual`s at least accusation. She believed it, she said it back then. Walk us through your view of the facts there and then any question you might have for Senator Blumenthal.

MAYA WILEY, LEGAL ANALYST, MSNBC: First of all, I have to say that it was already disturbing given the fact that this would be a Supreme Court Justice. Someone who is going to dawn the black robe for a lifetime and take a chair that was literally going to empower him to make decisions that even the president of the United States may be able to do something or not do something or that Congress can do something or not do something. It`s an extremely powerful position, and this is an alleged crime of power, not of sex. It`s an abuse of power crime.

So it`s critically important to understand, one of the things as an attorney I would say is, so in 2012, she tells her therapist and her husband for the first time, for no other reason than to address some emotional trauma that she has had, that`s clearly playing out in her marriage. That`s a huge fact in terms of understanding credibility. Because at the end of the day, this is a credibility, right. Unless some other witness comes forward that we don`t know about, it`s going to be Brett Kavanaugh`s word against hers.

Except that in her case, for no other reason, for no personal gain, years before he was considered for the supreme court, she tells this story and she names him to her husband? That to me says this has a high degree of credibility and that, remember, this is not a court of law. This is not a case in which you have to prove a crime. This is just whether a man is going to be one of the most powerful people in the country. I completely agree with Senator.

MELBER: Actually, let me bring in our experts on that. And Senator, stay with me. Ilyse Hogue is a president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Attorney Nancy Erika Smith representing Gretchen Carlson, her sexual lawsuit against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes which was quite influential and "Vox`s" Liz Plank who has reported on many aspects of this.

And Maya mentioned something that I want to put forward to the entire panel, which is a point that actually can get lost in these stories. What is the best standard to apply in fact-finding? The strictest standard is in criminal trials where you have proof of wrongdoing beyond a reasonable doubt. Courts use a less strict standard in civil cases. The government uses an even lower one in vetting applicants for major jobs because the question is whether to choose someone for a powerful post, not deny them liberty or take away a job they already have.

When you think about examples like David Petraeus and unlike some of the other Me Too debates, just like whether to fire someone, a point Maya just raised and we want to dig into is today`s debate is not about removing Kavanaugh from his powerful perch on the D.C. circuit. It`s not about charging him with a crime, given the statute of limitations. The standard in play would appear to only be whether investigating these allegations should impact a big decision to promote him to a big job for life.

And so Nancy, I put that to you first. What is the right standard to think about this promotion?

NANCY ERIKA SMITH, REPRESENTING GRETCHEN CARLSON IN SUIT AGAINST ROGER AILES: I think it`s a very low bar. If we have questions about this man`s integrity, he shouldn`t be given a lifetime appointment to the United States Supreme Court. Listen, we already know that he disrespects women. We know that. He doesn`t think women can make their own medical decisions and he doesn`t think we should control our own bodies.

Also telling is his lack of empathy. We know that he denied a young woman the right -- her constitutional right to an abortion. And the entire panel of the Third Circuit, the D.C. Circuit disagreed with him. And he said, "Well, waiting a month is not a problem. Waiting more than a month is not a problem." So he has a lack of empathy for women and he has a disrespect for women.

If that`s not disqualifying enough, now we have Dr. Ford`s credible allegations. She has nothing to gain here and everything to lose that he was a drunken, almost rapist. It seems to me like that really should be enough right there.

MELBER: Let me go to Ilyse and then Liz.

ILYSE HOGUE, PRESIDENT, NARAL PRO-CHOICE AMERICA: Yes. I mean I agree absolutely with Nancy. I think that the Republicans are grasping at straws. I think that the only thing they have going for them, which was this inevitability argument and, of course, he`s going to be confirmed, is crumbling under the rage of millions of women who have been saying at every step of this process that he is not qualified for the courts for all the reasons Nancy said.

And I think the spark of rage that really lit the fire today was Orrin Hatch`s statement that, "Oh, this woman might be mixed up," which is something we`re all too familiar with. Look, our organization, backed by two million members, as well as some others called for him to withdraw his nomination, even before Dr. Ford took what we believe was the unnecessary but very courageous step of coming forward.

The receipts were there. The story is credible. I don`t think anyone doesn`t believe her. And his nomination should be withdrawn. If for no other reason than Senator Blumenthal`s point that a thorough investigation is going to take time. Let him clear it up. He can reapply when there`s another vacancy but right now, he should be done.

LIZ PLANK, MEDIA SENIOR PRODUCER, VOX: Yes. I mean to put it bluntly I don`t think that a man accused of sexual assault should be nominating another man accused of sexual assault for the Supreme Court of the United States of America. I think this should be investigated thoroughly. I agree with Senator Blumenthal. This should be investigated by the FBI.

This isn`t just about -- I mean obviously, we`ve been talking a lot about Anita Hill and the things that she put on the line and the things that she has done for women in this country. But the things that are being -- the crimes that are being cited in this case, and the alleged crime that`s cited in this case, is an alleged rape. That`s a big deal and that goes beyond Brett Kavanaugh`s credibility to be a Supreme Court Judge. This should be investigated. And you know, this is important for all of us to see justice being served in this case especially.

MELBER: Nancy, you`re here in part because of your representation of women in these admittedly difficult scenarios, even when the facts are on their side. Take a listen to what Ms. Ford`s attorney said today about motive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATZ: No one in their right mind, regardless of their motive, would want to inject themselves into this process and face the kind of annihilation that she will be subjected to. This is not a politically motivated action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Nancy, does that ring true based on your experience? And then Senator Blumenthal.

SMITH: Yes, because women who complain about sexual abuse, sexual harassment are either not so sluts. And Hatch just said it, she must be crazy if she`s accusing this man of being drunk and almost rapist. She must be crazy. Also, what`s the rush here?

Why are the Republicans giving so much power to a president who is under investigation? Whose campaign chair just pled guilty and he has incredible Russia ties, whose personal lawyer just pled guilty, his NSA head pled guilty. We have 19 other indictments. Why are we giving so much power to somebody with such an ethical cloud? And as was pointed out, he brags about sexually assaulting women and he supported a pedophile for Senate.

MELBER: Senator?

SEN. BLUMENTHAL: Absolutely right on all those points, especially on the motives here. She actually hesitated for weeks, asked that her name to be kept confidential, declined to come forward. She knew and foresaw this nightmare of hostile scrutiny. But equally important, the impact on the United States Supreme Court, going forward with this nomination, will cast a shadow and stain on an institution that depends for its power on credibility and trust.

It has no army. It has no police force. It`s obeyed because of its credibility and the American people`s belief in its integrity. And this nomination would forever stain the Supreme Court in a way that I think may well be irreparable.

MELBER: And before we go, Ilyse, I want to give you a final word on how you turn some of the principles, which I think have been quite well laid out here on this panel. How do you turn them into political organizing and action?

And putting up on the screen some of the individuals who have been accused of politically being on both sides of these things. You have open to a vote delay, Senator Flake, Corker, and Murkowski. And the times since we have created this list, the vote has been delayed now at least past next week for the hearing, who want testimony, Senator Collins and Graham.

I wonder what you were telling your members, Ilyse, to do about someone like Senator Collins who had said she was pro-choice, that told the voters she was pro-choice but was moving forward on appearing to support this nomination after the hearings suggest that he was very open to other things. And now you have everything new over the weekend. What are you doing politically on that?

HOGUE: Yes. I mean, look, our members have been holding vigils, they`ve been calling. This is just going on overdrive. We released today so many of those Republican Senators who claim to stand with women, have said so in the past. They`ve got to make their actions match their words. And I will tell you the one thing, Ari, often our members in red states say, "I`m not calling because our Senators don`t listen to us anyway."

Our members in red states are in overdrive right now. This transcends politics. This is women fighting for our lives, for our integrity, and the rage will power us through these hearings but also through November.

MELBER: I want to give a special thanks to everyone here. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Ilyse Hogue who we just heard from and Nancy Erika Smith. And Liz and Maya, I`m going to ask you to come back later in the hour.

We have a lot more on this story, as well. A size as Trump`s legal team is worried about this new Paul Manafort plea deal flipping and proffering all the info to Bob Mueller. Trump making a move to declassify key documents late today in the Russia probe.

But first, a former FBI agent is here to discuss how the bureau should investigate everything that`s breaking around the Kavanaugh investigation. And as I mentioned, the reporter who broke the Anita Hill story is here tonight.

I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Breaking news tonight. Republicans in the Senate say there now will be a new hearing on Monday for Donald Trump`s Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh, and his accuser Christine Blasey Ford. Moments ago, I just spoke to a Democratic Senator who says the FBI investigation into this allegation should occur though before that hearing begins, which is now again scheduled for next week.

And late today, all 10 Dems on the judiciary committee said the same thing in a letter to the White House, asking for the FBI to get involved. Kavanaugh, of course, denies this allegation. Meanwhile, here`s what the most powerful Democrat in the Senate said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it is now the FBI`s responsibility to investigate these claims, update the analysis to Judge Kavanaugh`s background, and report back to the Senate. This has to be done by an independent, outside body. The FBI is the best one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I`m joined by Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant director for that very FBI. And Maya Wiley back with me.

Frank, what is the FBI`s role? Should it be investigating this claim?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI: Good question. So this is unlike anything else the FBI does, a background investigation is neither fish nor fowl. It`s neither a criminal investigation nor a counterintelligence or national security investigation.

You have a client when you conduct a background investigation, and your client is the agency from which the nomination comes. In this case, the client is the White House. To complicate things even further, this back ground investigation was closed. So now, as opposed to a pending allegation rising during a pending investigation, the client has to ask you to reopen it.

MELBER: Right. I`m going to jump in. At the risk of oversimplifying things, the FBI is sort of working with the employer to call references. And so viewers would then wonder why are the people who are most critical, the Democrats, leaning on the FBI to do this? Do you think there`s some misunderstanding here of how to adjudicate it?

FIGLIUZZI: I think it`s got to be crystal clear in everybody`s mind that the FBI needs to get the request from the White House, not from the Senate, not from the House, not from the Department of Justice, but rather from the client in this case. And not getting that request, Ari, is a little bit like the fire department in your hometown calling the mayor and saying they see smoke coming from the city council building, and the Mayor says, "Hey. Thanks for the call but let`s let the city council figure out whether the building is on fire." That can`t happen.

And as has been said, having the best law enforcement investigative agency in the United States finish what they started, they started the background investigation. Take the handcuffs off. Let them get to the bottom of it in an objective, nonpartisan way. Am I thrilled about the notion of FBI agents investigating a high school incident 30 something years ago? No, I`m not. But it`s moved well beyond that high school scenario into a situation where the nominee has categorically denied doing this. So now it goes to the heart of his veracity.

MELBER: Right. And credibility. So it overlaps with some of what we were discussing before the break with Maya. I wonder if you have a question for Frank since we have his FBI expertise.

WILEY: Yes. Frank, in terms of how an investigation be conducted and I have had the pleasure of being investigated in a background check by the FBI for the Southern District of New York, would you imagine going and trying to find any additional witnesses in light of the fact that Professor Ford doesn`t remember where the party was and what about marked judge?

FIGLIUZZI: Yes. So the answer is absolutely and the best entity equipped to do that is the bureau. Look, they would not only find additional witnesses, they would independently corroborate the witnesses we know about. Right now, we`re getting our information through the media. We`re getting our information through documents supplied by the victim but that all needs to be independently corroborated.

So with the waiver from the victim, the bureau would go to the therapist. They`d speak to her husband. They`d find the individual alleged to be in the room and they might find others. They might even find others who come forward. That`s who needs to do that, not partisan people trying to figure it out.

MELBER: And they do it with a battering ram that`s even stronger than "The Washington Post," given everyone`s memory of the Mueller probe and what happens if you do mislead federal officers.

WILEY: It takes longer than a week.

MELBER: And it probably takes longer than a week, although it is news that they even want to hold a separate hearing on this. So a lot going on. My special thanks to Frank and Maya on a busy show.

There is breaking news though on what Donald Trump wants to do on that Mueller probe when we`re back in just 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR: The Trump White House`s other headache besides Judge Kavanaugh is that the former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, is actively cooperating with Bob Mueller. And at this hour, we`ve been tracking this. Donald Trump hasn`t even commented on this news, which is noticeable, considering how much he talked about Manafort.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad.

One of the reasons I respect Paul Manafort so much.

They go after Manafort.

I feel very badly for Paul Manafort.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: He couldn`t stop talking about him or tweeting about him. He did it twice today after his guilty verdict in Virginia. But now since flipping on Friday, this normal voluble President hasn`t said a word or tweeted anything about Paul Manafort. His lawyers, though, are talking.

Rudy Giuliani still talking about a pardon, saying it`s not disqualified, and there`s no reason to preclude it in the future. It would be unusual, if not potentially improper, though, to intercede in this open cooperation between Manafort and Mueller with a pardon.

Meanwhile, one top Democrat says even leaving this door open which Rudy is doing, shows that he`s scared.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, you know, clearly the Trump team is terrified about what Manafort may have to say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And that`s not all. Tonight, we are learning the White House wants Donald Trump to declassify key documents in the open Russia probe, and his intelligence chiefs have been disagreeing with that move.

Let`s get into all of it with a former Federal Prosecutor Elie Honig. Elie, is there any way that Donald Trump`s lawyers can spin this forward. Why are they talking about a pardon, and what is your reaction to the latest on the declassification?

ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So the desperation is showing, Ari. To pardon Paul Manafort at this point would be a wildly precipitous move, even for this president. And it would be really a flashing red light of obstruction.

Look at what Rudy said. Look at that hope that we saw before. He says in -- in one front (ph) he says, we`re not ruling out -- he`s not disqualified from a pardon. And then he says, you know, that we don`t have any problem with Manafort, just as long as he goes in there and tells the truth and says that he didn`t do anything with Trump. I mean, talk about signaling to Manafort.

What he`s telling them is, "Hey, keep my guy`s name out of your mouth and there could be a pardon for you in the future." I don`t think Manafort would be reckless enough to try to go into Mueller and lie. I think he would have to know he get caught and that would completely destroy his cooperation, his chance of getting any benefit.

MELBER: And you`re saying you think the motivation on the Trump legal side, you said, is to keep Trump`s name out of Manafort`s mouth?

HONIG: Absolutely. It`s almost a quid pro quo.

MELBER: Which is sort of a quid pro quo or what`s known in legal circle as the 3-6 Mafia (ph) defense. I also want to ask you, while I have you sir - -

HONIG: Yes.

MELBER: -- about this real big news that we got late Friday that I think some people have missed with everything else going on.

Let me read from Andrew Weissmann who is a famed and feared deputy of Mueller saying, "What`s not in Manafort`s statement of offense, when they got him to plea, is it doesn`t rely on the information obtained from Manafort in the course of his proffer sessions and cooperation that led us to today."

You have educated us before on how this works. Why would proffer sessions, plural, be so significant from Manafort to the case Mueller is building?

HONIG: Yes. It shows that Mueller has a good sense of what Manafort is going to say and that he`s interested enough to sign him up as a cooperator. Proffer session is when the prosecutor essentially downloads everything that the cooperator knows. Clearly, Mueller has done that. It`s been multiple sessions and he`s interested enough to extend this potential benefit of the cooperation.

MELBER: Right. And that`s fascinating, given what Paul Manafort had his hands on, the campaign, the convention, the money.

HONIG: Sure.

MELBER: And whatever else he was doing freelance. I`ve got to fit in a break because we have a big Anita Hill special report. Elie Honig, thank you as always.

HONIG: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Coming up, we turn to what we can learn from the history and why things might be better this time, the allegations of sexual misconduct that rocked another Supreme Court nomination, Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas.

I am happy to tell you, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton joins us live. She fought for Hill`s testimony as well as Nina Totenberg who broke that story. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Breaking news in our hour, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley has now formally release his statement inviting both Judge Kavanaugh and his accuser, Ms. Ford, to a public hearing. When you leave that -- if you look on the screen, it says public herring, it seems in their haste to get this out. They did not spell-check or catch that in the headline.

Now, it`s not clear what Democrats think of this. We heard from a senator on the Democratic side of the committee who said this is too fast. This is also, however, what some of Ms. Ford`s allies have said should happen, a public reckoning under oath for the accuser and the accused.

Anything that does happen this coming Monday or later will, of course, have parallels to Anita Hill. And that brings us to a question we want to probe tonight, should one allegation of sexual misconduct prevent a promotion to the Supreme Court? That was part of the issue facing Judge Clarence Thomas in 1991. Anita Hill facing off against the Senate Judiciary Committee that we should note was made exclusively of male senators.

And we`re about to hear from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton who helped ensure that testimony and Nina Totenberg who broke the story.

A little more background, in both cases, the female accuser was worried about the tremendous risk of stepping forward. Today, we are seeing that risk played out in all kinds of attacks. There`s also the questions about whether the alleged underlying conduct or the alleged lies in denying it cast doubt on whether that person, Thomas or Kavanaugh, should be held basically to a position where they decide on the life and death of other individuals.

Now tonight, Kavanaugh`s defenders insist there are also contrasts. Hill was accusing Thomas of conduct that allegedly occurred when he was a 33- year-old government attorney. Kavanaugh faces allegations regarding conduct that if true would have occurred when he was about 17.

Hill`s allegations involved repeat instances, whereas, at this hour, and the story has start moving quickly, Kavanaugh`s defenders are saying that he has gone through a vetting and this is a single accusation regarding a single incident.

Now, those are the comparisons of the two cases. There`s also no doubt the environment we have today is changed. You`re looking at footage from 1991 when Eleanor Holmes Norton and other women led the push so that Anita Hill could even be heard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These seven congresswomen were so outraged by the Senate`s handling of the charges against Clarence Thomas. They tried to storm the Senate. They didn`t get in.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Had there been a woman, at least a woman on the judiciary committee, I think this whole thing would have been handled completely differently.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We should note, those women in Congress were storming a Senate Judiciary Committee that at the time was made, as I mentioned, of all men. Today, there are women on the committee, at least on the Democratic side. The Republican members of this committee that`s going to face off on Monday remain today all men.

I`m now joined by, as mentioned, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Nina Totenberg. Congresswoman, what do you believe is the right process for accusers to testify, and what will be important if this hearing goes forward Monday?

REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), WASHINGTONG, D.C.: All right. Ari, I have no doubt that there would be a hearing because the lessons of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas are not that far removed, and because it is pretty clear that if the Senate has learned nothing, it is the refusal to hear an accusation, particularly a credible accusation.

This one is even more credible because there is a lie detector test involved. There are credible evidence that the trauma lasted for years. There was no way that they were going to deny this hearing.

My objection, Ari, is that this -- if we have this hearing on Monday, it will be a snap hearing. With no preparation, and I tell you as a member of Congress, we could not have a hearing on the simplest subjects with as little notice as we now are ask -- or the Senate is now asking to be given.

MELBER: So, we`re getting -- Congresswoman, we`re getting into the procedural baseball. You are saying the rush from the Republicans is fishy. As you know, there are people who say, as Thurgood Marshall once said, justice delayed is justice denied. And they would say, let`s get on with it and get them both under oath.

NORTON: Well, getting on with it is the only question. Everybody agrees now, nobody dare deny her the right to be hearing -- to be heard. The real question is, can the Senate prepare for a hearing with every member prepared to ask the appropriate questions in just a few days. Look, they have a 5-4 majority in the court now, Ari. What is the rush?

MELBER: Right.

NINA TOTENBERG, NPR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: The other -- the thing here is that the lesson, I think, of the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill hearings was that they had hearings within three days of canceling a vote because they didn`t have the certain votes.

And they went into a hearing without facts, without having ascertained the facts and it turned into a circus. And I think that was to the detriment of Anita Hill, to the detriment of Clarence Thomas and to the detriment of the Supreme Court and the Senate of the United States.

And if there`s one thing they ought to have learned, it is to let the FBI do the immediate investigation to reopen it at the request of the White House and do -- have the FBI, do the immediate investigation, do what they do, interview witnesses, see if there`s corroboration. Then the staff gets a second crack for a short time, and then be prepared for hearings. Now, that should be take forever.

MELBER: Well, let`s pause on the point you`re raising, Nina.

TOTENBERG: But it can`t take --

MELBER: You`re saying, if I understand you, you`re saying amidst this incredible intense passion and concern on all sides, you`re saying if there is one clear, fair lesson, it would be, that it would be better for both the judge, who stands accused at this moment, and Ms. Ford, the accuser, it would be better for both of them in the process to not rush to Monday, but to have, as the Congresswoman mentions, a fuller fact finding to set up a better hearing.

TOTENBERG: I think that`s probably right. I don`t know whether you could do this in a week or not. I certainly think you probably could do it in two. There is no reason on God`s good earth that this -- there has to be a vote on this nominee before the first Monday in October when the court reconvenes, because he is not going to be able to participate fully in the court`s work instantly. That will take a few weeks before he gets his feet on the ground.

MELBER: Right.

TOTENBERG: And even Senator Grassley admitted that to me in an interview that I did with him about a week ago. So there is no reason except that Republicans want to get this done while they think they can, and they`re worried about the election.

I think it`s a long shot that the Republicans would lose control of the Senate, but they`re worried what might else come up if we prolong this, if we let this go on too long. But if we don`t, you know, there`s a price to be paid. And the price is sometimes also at the election.

NORTON: The price was with the elections after Anita Hill. Anita Hill -- when Clarence Thomas was up, he had positives. By the way, Kavanaugh has maybe 4 percent of people saying he should be confirmed. But Clarence Thomas, who was, after all to replace another African-American, had even African-Americans for him. So he went ahead with that head start.

There was an immediate turn around, and an immediate regret, and we saw it in the year of the woman, and the year of the woman produced four women that have ever come to the House or the Senate. We already have the year of the woman coming in upon us. You put this out there and I think you`ll gallop it into the next election.

MELBER: And to your point, looking at what`s coming down the pike, I want to play from 1991 multiple senators who were, of course, as I mentioned that I think it`s relevant, who were all male, in the waiting used their position to impugn and attack Ms. Hill, who has spoken out today and said she hopes we don`t have a replay of that at this point in our history, at this new point. Take a look at these senators from 1991.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She will unheard and destroyed and belittled and hounded and harassed, real harassment, different than the sexual kind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The good name of a good man has been tarnished. I do not believe Judge Thomas is capable of the kind of behavior Professor Hill described to this committee. And I do not believe that Professor Hill is telling the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just doesn`t make sense that she simply told her friends or acquaintances that she was being harassed at work, and that`s it. That`s it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Nina, that`s of course a younger Senator Grassley who now chairs the committee. Will it be different this time if they go forward Monday, do you think?

TOTENBERG: Well, I think it will be different in one sense. They accused Anita Hill among other things of erotomania, and all kinds of other coco (ph) things. But, we are in the me too era. There are 23 women in the Senate today, not two as there were in 1991.

And I think that you see even somebody managed to sit on the President, so he didn`t even tweet about this today. So I think Republicans understand that they can`t just dis an allegation like this, that they have to look into it. But if it`s a fake looking into it, people will see through that.

MELBER: Right.

NORTON: And this is a more serious allegation. The allegation here is not sexual harassment, but sexual assault. And this deserves --

MELBER: Right, which her lawyer has emphasized and we`re going to keep reporting on. I`m supposed to fit in a break. I want to give a very special thanks to two of you who were trailblazers on this in your own ways in the Congress and in journalism. Nina Totenberg and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, thank you.

TOTENBERG: We`re not there yet, Ari.

MELBER: All right. Well, not there yet and I`m putting it on-air invite to both of you to join our hearing coverage on Monday, so consider that a date. So please hold a busy day, I think for many of us. Thank you again.

One more thing we`re going to do after the break, what happened inside the White House while Kavanaugh was hold up and talking to Donald Trump`s lawyers? The playbook of denial back in play, but will it work? That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: News that broke in our hour tonight, Judge Kavanaugh and his accuser of sexual assault, Ms. Ford, both invited a hearing in public under oath Monday. Kavanaugh also met with White House Counsel Don McGahn today.

They`re being quite tight lipped, but we know from Bob Woodward`s new reporting in "Fear" how Trump advice his own friend who faced these similar allegations, "You`ve to deny, deny, deny, and push back on these women. If you admit to anything, any culpability, you`re dead. That was the big mistake you made." He allegedly told this person, "Never admit."

Liz, how does that apply today?

LIZ PLANK, VOX MEDIA SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, look -- I mean, Donald Trump is a very, you know, inconsistent person. We don`t really know how he`s going to act in different situations. But one, you know, area that we can really always count on him to be consistent in is silencing women. Whether it`s the 17 women who reported different kinds of sexual misconduct, you know, relating to Donald Trump or Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougal or Roy Moore accusers, this is something that he does a lot.

But here`s the thing about that strategy, is that it relies on a culture that doesn`t believe women, right, that doesn`t believe women when they speak. And I`m actually old enough, Ari, to remember a time when we didn`t believe women, like a full five or six months ago. So now the culture has changed a lot. It`s a post me too era and that trick is a little bit harder to pull.

MELBER: And when we mention that Kavanaugh is hold up there, you put your finger on it with who he`s hold up getting advice from. And the headlines tell the tale. Trump wanted to even bring back Rob Porter who faced spousal abuse allegations. Our speech writer resigned over similar allegations. Bill Shine, not personal allegations but the Fox News cover up. How does that fit into what you think Judge Kavanaugh heard today in that White House?

PLANK: Right. I mean, if we look at who Donald Trump uses as advisors, it tells us everything about the strategy that he`s going to implement going forward. I actually tried today to think about a man that Donald Trump has -- a man who`s been accused of sexual misconduct, that Donald Trump has not defended and I couldn`t think of one. Whether it`s Bill O`Reilly, whether it`s, you know, Roger Ailes himself, or many other men in his own White House like Rob Porter that you just mentioned. This is the thing that he does and he`s good at it, but will it work? That`s the question, you know, that will --

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: And will it -- yes, I think you`re putting an important point on the frame. And will it work in a fact finding process in that Senate room with -- as we`re told, is now going to be Monday with the whole country watching. That is a little different than a free wheeling campaign event.

Liz Plank, thank you for being at the top of our show and closing this out.

PLANK: Thank you.

MELBER: We have one more thing which relate -- thank you, which relates to how recovering Kavanaugh in the days ahead when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Well, much more coverage tomorrow on these issues regarding Judge Kavanaugh. I`ll be joined by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Michelle Goldberg, Irin Carmon (ph), and Alexis McGill Johnson.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END

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