Supreme Court confirmation in turmoil. TRANSCRIPT: 9/18/2018, The Beat w Ari Melber.

Guests: Jackie Speier, Michelle Goldberg, Irin Carmon, Alexis McGill Johnson, Leah Wright Rigueur, Tim Phelps, Josh Gerstein, Nick Ackerman

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: September 18, 2018 Guest: Jackie Speier, Michelle Goldberg, Irin Carmon, Alexis McGill Johnson, Leah Wright Rigueur, Tim Phelps, Josh Gerstein, Nick Ackerman

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: That`s 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, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you.

We begin tonight with this pressure on Donald Trump`s Supreme Court pick, an eruption of turmoil that could threaten to derail the entire nomination. And the big question tonight is will Professor Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school, actually come out and testify under oath?

Kavanaugh now has taken into the camp that he is eager to do that to defend himself at Monday`s scheduled hearing and he denies this allegation. And there are other seriously contested issues that are important tonight, including a new demand from Democrats that the FBI reopen the entire probe into Kavanaugh. Here`s Donald Trump`s new response today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It wouldn`t bother me other than the FBI said that they really don`t do that. That`s not what they do. He`s an incredible individual, great intellect, great judge. Impeccable history in every way. In every way. I feel so badly for him that he`s going through this, to be honest with you. I feel so badly for him. This is not a man that deserves this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Democrats calling for additional witnesses to testify, including the other man who Professor Ford alleges, was in the room during the alleged assault. Now that man, Mark Judge, released a new letter to the committee in Senate Republicans, saying he does not recall the party Ford describes and he has quote, "No memory of this alleged incident."

That is different and basically less categorical than what Kavanaugh has said on the record. He has claimed that he was not at any party whatsoever, and flatly denied that any of this occurred. And Democrats want Donald Trump`s own White House Counsel to step up and explain what he knew and when he knew it. That is, of course, Don McGahn. And he`s the recipient of their letter asking whether he knew about the allegations to Kavanaugh "before they became public last week," which goes to what the White House did and whether it tried to tamp down or hide any of this.

Now, the Republican head of the judiciary committee insists no more witnesses. Other Senate Republicans are saying if the allegation is ultimately shown to be true, that could mean Kavanaugh would not get confirmed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FEMALE: Is it disqualifying?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE, (R) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I would think if the incident occurred as she described it, that would be disqualifying.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I`d have a hard time putting somebody on the court that I thought tried to rape somebody.

MALE: Would this be disqualifying? If the allegation was true, it would be disqualifying for him?

SEN. TIM SCOTT, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: If the allegation is proved to be true, of course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: You see there strong statements by multiple Senators. That what you just saw on your screen there would be enough to sink the nomination, those views. But, of course, it all circles back to what we`re talking about in the first place. What`s true? Who do you believe? Now, Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono, a member of this pivotal judiciary committee, said this today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO, (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I expect the men in this country and the men in this committee and many of them, believe me because we all signed on to this letter to demand an FBI investigation. I just want to say to the men in this country, just shut up and step up. Do the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I`m joined by Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, as well as Michelle Goldberg who`s covered the Kavanaugh Accusations for "The New York Times," Irin Carmon, senior correspondent in "New York Magazine" and a former colleague of ours who broke the story on sexual harassment allegations against Charlie Rose. I should also note she`s the co-author of a wonderful book with a wonderful title, "Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg." Also on our panel experts tonight, Alexis McGill Johnson, a board member of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Thanks to each of you.

As we see there in the opening comments that I just played, there is movement. There is faster movement of concern about what to do if this accuser is telling the truth, then there was in the Anita Hill hearings, something we`ve been talking about continuously this week. So, Congresswoman, I start with you. Your view of what you heard from your colleagues in the Senate there? What are we doing better? And what are we not doing well enough yet?

JACKIE SPEIER, (D), CALIFORNIA INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think it`s really important for the Senators to do a little research. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center has done exhaustive research on all the studies that have been done, and they have said that anywhere between two to eight percent of claims are false.

No one comes forward today, certainly not Professor Ford, knowing what she is going to have to undergo, without doing it for all the right reasons. I have every reason to believe her. And the American people have got to start believing the women who come forward because the men will always deny it. But no woman comes forward, not at this point in her life certainly, to have herself be filled with so much scrutiny and blasted by so many people. And really have her career challenged on so many levels.

MELBER: Michelle?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: You know, I understand and I`m sure that there are men, even men watching this, who will say, "Well, obviously, you can`t just let kind of a man`s whole career be derailed every time any woman accuses him of anything." But I think it`s important to note that that`s not what`s happening here. Although, in a certain sense, you`re kind of never going to have definitive proof or you`re almost never going to have definitive proof of something like this that happened 36 years ago.

But there are a lot of pieces of evidence. I think it`s important to note that she was talking about this to her therapist, to her husband, well before Brett Kavanaugh was on any Supreme Court shortlists. That she tried to kind of reach out to people to head off this nomination before he was actually nominated to the Supreme Court. So it wasn`t that she was just somebody who was going to blow up her own life to try to stop whoever Donald Trump had put forward.

And I also think it`s really, really significant that Mark Judge, who was who she says was in the room, has said today that, not just that he doesn`t remember, but he will not testify under oath which I think is really telling. I mean he won`t even go and say, I don`t remember, under oath.

MELBER: Well, Michelle, you just mentioned the prospect or the counterargument when people talk about having a career destroyed. Of course, that`s not the question here. As we covered last night, there is not a discussion about impeaching the judge from the D.C. Circuit, which is a big job and most people don`t ever get, removing him from office, disappearing him from public life.

If he ultimately does not move forward, and we`re just covering what`s going to happen, we don`t know. But, Michelle, if he doesn`t move forward, he would ultimately end up in the same place as Merrick Garland, the person who was nominated from the D.C. Circuit, who didn`t join the court and goes back to the D.C. Circuit, Michelle.

GOLDBERG: Right. There`s no kind of civil right or due process right to a seat on the Supreme Court.

MELBER: Irin?

IRIN CARMON: Well, Ari, you`re a lawyer and I`m a journalist and we both know that process really matters. We just heard from a whole bunch of Senators saying that if this were true, that they would consider this disqualifying. Well, how are they going to know it`s true without there being an adequate investigation? I mean I can speak to those two investigations. The Charlie Rose ones that you mentioned, they were published at "The Washington Post."

And I can speak to their extremely rigorous editorial processes that before this woman`s story was given a platform in "The Washington Post," they went through as much corroboration as possible and they checked it out thoroughly. That said, the FBI and the Senate can do them one better if they establish a process here where they could actually find out, they could actually use their subpoena power with Mark Judge.

They could actually interview the other people which haven`t been named publicly but she named to "The Washington Post" that she says were at the party. Those people had yet to emerge publicly. They could talk to the therapist. They could talk to experts about how it`s really common for victims of trauma to not necessarily remember key details.

MELBER: Well, let me pause you --

CARMON: Sorry. It`s not that they can -- yes?

MELBER: Let me pause you just to build on your point about simply subpoena power. We`re speaking at a time when the president of the United States is using extraordinary and controversial powers to try to get documents related to the Mueller probe and surveillance out of the public domain. People are debating that. The Congress has debated subpoenaing all sorts of people for what are less than lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court. And you`re pointing your finger on the fact that there doesn`t seem to be a push on the Senate side to subpoena the people who might be in position to testify under oath about what happened.

CARMON: If they only call one woman who has come forward publically and Brett Kavanaugh who has already had many, many people testify as to his character, do they really want to find out what happened here? Or are they setting this up as the kind of route process where they check the box and then they`re already scheduling a vote right after?

And so I think if people really do want to know what happened and if we want to take the Senators at their word, why aren`t they setting up an investigative process that would actually allow us to come closer to the truth than we`ve been able to do so far?

MELBER: Alexis?

ALEXIS MCGILL JOHNSON, BOARD MEMBER, PLANNED PARENTHOOD ACTION FUND: Absolutely. I agree completely. We need an independent investigation here, not a cross-examination of Professor Ford. The burden of proof is going to be on Kavanaugh, to Michelle`s point. He is not guaranteed a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. This is a job interview. This is not a trial as to whether or not he did. This is about the quality of his character and putting him in a position that is going to affect millions and millions of Americans. Most importantly, millions and millions of women.

And so if this is something that the GOP is so focused on rushing to get to the vote, because quite frankly they fear what will happen during the midterms, that they are not even willing to have a real independent investigation to understand what happened and to get all of these other data points together for this most important lifetime appointment. I don`t see how you can call it.

MELBER: And Congresswoman, I want to play a perspective from the other side. A conservative woman who is on our air, Danielle Pletka just moments ago responding to some of the hard-hitting ads from liberal groups which I know that you and the Congress don`t control. You always emphasize that but then a hard-hitting on Kavanaugh before the fact-finding has all occurred. Take a listen to her concern.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELLE PLETKA, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I have to question the fact that there`s no other evidence and that we are watching commercials about this man as if he is a serial rapist. Someone once said, where do I go to get my reputation back? That`s a reasonable question to ask.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Congresswoman?

SPEIER: Well, I would answer by saying that, first of all, let`s talk about Dr. Ford`s reputation. And I think it`s really important for us to recognize that this is going to be a replay of Anita Hill`s testimony before the judiciary committee back in 1991. If all that takes place is that each of them testify before the committee.

I agree with everyone on the panelist, there needs to be an investigation. There is a rush to judgment going on here and scheduling this appearance on Monday and not doing any investigation, not having the FBI look into this, suggests to me, and I think to most women, that this is an absolute rigged operation.

MELBER: Alexis, take a listen to what Dr. Ford`s lawyer said about what she will and won`t do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBRA KATZ, REPRESENTING CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: She`s willing to cooperate. What she`s not willing to do is to be part of this blood- letting that happens in Washington. We only need to look at the Anita Hill hearings to know what that`s going to look like and that`s not a fair way to get at the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: You add that to concerns today that she may not necessarily be in a position to show up on Monday. Notwithstanding the difficult, indeed heart-wrenching decisions that go into that, which I don`t think anyone can second-guess from the outside on a personal level. That does leave the committee and the Senate with a big open question if there is not testimony under oath from both sides. What should happen then? Alexis first.

JOHNSON: Look, they scheduled this hearing before they knew that she was available, right? I mean so clearly that`s proof that they`re trying to push this through. But Planned Parenthood, we see survivors of sexual assault every day in our clinics and our health centers. And it`s no surprise to us that 80 percent of sexual assault goes unreported because it is such a difficult, traumatic experience to have to relive and to have to relive on a public stage.

So first, I want to say I admire Dr. Ford`s bravery tremendously. I think if she is not ready to come forward on Monday, the only choice for such a critical position in our government is to delay the hearing and delay the vote. There`s no other way around it. We need an investigation. We need people to call that to action.

MELBER: But what do you do, Irin, if she doesn`t want to come forward at all? Which, again, is her right but leaves the Senate with kind of a middle position or a middle point in the investigation.

CARMON: I mean, that does seem to be the Republican tactic, right? They seem to be setting the investigation on their terms in the most limited way possible, setting a date without any kind of consultation from her, and then you`re already starting to hear people like Chuck Grassley, the Senate judiciary chairman, say things like, "Well, if she doesn`t show up, what does that mean?" And then trying to impute her integrity, cast aspersions on her.

And look, I think that the notion that this process is rigged, I think the facts speak for themselves. If Republicans feel like they need to hold a hearing, then they need to do it properly. If they think that needs to be investigated, they need to do it properly. If she doesn`t show up, it`s possible that she will then say, "I will testify under these circumstances." We haven`t heard from her yet and I think that there`s a lot of facts that we still don`t have yet.

MELBER: And Congresswoman, before I let you go, I wanted to play a little bit more of Judge Kavanaugh speaking in a different context, because a lot of what`s being adjudicated through this is what do you set the standards for when people talk about a long time ago, when they were "young", when they were in school, when they were "roughhousing". We`ve seen the president of the United States as a candidate try to reduce bragging about sexual assault to so-called "locker room talk", when in fact it would be the element of a confession when you look at the actual words used.

And so there seems to be an evolution or a learning process going on if you want to put it in the best possible sense. So take a listen to Judge Kavanaugh talking about an attempted joke or whatnot about keeping quiet about whatever did go on in school. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: We have a good saying that we`ve held firm to, to this day as the dean was reminding me before the talk which is what happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep. That`s been a good thing for all of us, I think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: How does that kind of talk fit in, Congresswoman, nowadays? Because it seems to go back to the underlying claim if true that kind of talk in a collective setting is very concerning. If completely false, if you want to play out that hypothetical, then it`s just one more statement or joke. Your view?

SPEIER: It`s a hard one to try and weigh because if it was a joke, it was a joke. If it`s more in keeping with a culture that was treating Georgetown Prep like it was a frat and they would engage in all kinds of activities and parties, you know, that`s another thing. I think the most important thing to remember here, though, is that the hearings with Anita Hill were talking about sexual harassment.

And as grave, as that is, we`re talking about an attempted sexual assault here, an attempted rape and it`s very serious. And we need to make sure that it is handled very seriously and that the investigation takes place. And right now, I don`t think there`s an investigation going on about this.

MELBER: Right. Well, I think that`s a point that several of you have raised is whether this is the appearance or simulation of fact-finding by the Senate Republican majority in the judiciary committee, or a real investigation, being a difference between night and day.

My special thanks to Congresswoman Speier, Irin Carmon, Alexis McGill Johnson. And Michelle, I want to come back to you later in the hour.

Coming up. We mentioned Anita Hill. She`s actually breaking her silence today speaking out in specifics about how to fix the confirmation process. We`re going to talk to the reporter who helped break that story.

Also, new misinformation against the Kavanaugh accuser, what his supporters are saying about Dr. Ford.

Also later, and this is a big one, there are new details just now emerging about how exactly Bob Mueller tried to build a Trump pardon-proof deal with Paul Manafort. We have that later tonight.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: The woman who lived through a Senate judiciary examination of sexual harassment claims, Anita Hill, making waves tonight with a public challenge to the Senate judiciary committee which grilled her 27 years ago. She writes that the seriousness of sexual harassment claims against Clarence Thomas was not addressed by the Senate at the time in the right way. And this time, they should deploy a neutral investigative body that can present findings and Senators could then rely on those findings. That was not how the Senate operated in the Thomas hearings when critics at the time said the men just didn`t get it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FEMALE: The hearings open, Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill, and the Senate will all be on trial.

FEMALE: The hearings will be a faceoff between Thomas and Anita Hill. Her word against his. Republican Nancy Kassebaum said today that the Senate`s men just didn`t get it.

FEMALE: I would hope that we would have recognized it as a charge that had to be taken seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, one of the men that was accused of not taking that charge seriously? Orrin Hatch. And his words then sound strikingly similar to now. We`re about to play them. Along with Chuck Grassley, who proclaimed that the expectations for reporting harassment should have happened quicker, in a way that frankly sounds unrealistic and unfair for the Me Too era.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, (R) UTAH: Judge, there are a lot of things that just don`t make sense to me in Anita Hill`s testimony. It bothers me because it just doesn`t square with what I think is something that doesn`t square with what I think is common experience, and just basic sense, common sense.0

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

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R) IOWA: No, I don`t. I think this woman, whoever she is, is mixed up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If any of our Senate employees had a complaint of sexual harassment, that individual would not have the same remedy that you had available to you, Professor Hill, when you were an employee.

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: And that`s it. Well, today the judiciary committee now has four women, they all are Democrats, as compared to `91. The Republicans have a committee on their side that remains all men. No gender change since `91. That was a Democrat chairing that committee, Joe Biden, who has gone on to apologize for his approach to Anita Hill. And she reflects on that in a newly released, never before aired interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANITA HILL, LAW PROFESSOR: I think Chairman Biden really believed that he was acting in a way that was fair to the nominee. And in doing so, I think he completely underestimated that, in fact, he was deferring to power, and to the power of the White House, and to the power of his colleagues. And what that meant was that I would suffer because I didn`t have all of those people behind me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I`m joined now by Leah Wright Rigueur, professor at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, as well as Tim Phelps who`s a Washington legal reporter and editor of the "L.A. Times" who helped break the Anita Hill story. He`s the co-author of "Capitol Games: The Inside Story of Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill, and Supreme Court Nomination."

Leah, I wonder your view of what we`ve learned from Anita Hill as she explains those disparities and how they would be repeated in Dr. Ford, who I was just discussing with panelists before the break, would go up there fairly isolated, fairly alone on Monday, if she goes.

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, PROFESSOR, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Right. I mean, who better to understand the situation than Anita Hill who went it virtually alone. So we know that there were more witnesses, that there was more time really spent in the Anita Hill case. But we also know that the Senate didn`t get then, Senate Republicans don`t really seem to get it right now.

But we also know with Anita Hill that the court of public opinion was against her. So she got very little support from quarters you would have expected. And then she pointed out in this recent op-ed that she put out in "The New York Times," times have changed publicly. So dramatically, in terms of how we think about support for victims, investigating accusations, as serious as allegations of attempted rape. So really who better to provide the lens than a very sharp spotlight onto injustice and imbalance of power within the Senate on something like, you know, the comma here is then Anita Hill?

MELBER: Tim, as you remember and you reported, here was how Anita Hill explained her decision, to tell the truth then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: I took no initiative to inform anyone. But when I was asked by a representative of this committee to report my experience, I felt that I had to tell the truth. I could not keep silent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What do you see is the lessons for today?

TIM PHELPS, FORMER EDITOR, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well, Anita Hill was given two days` warning that she needs to testify before the committee. She had no time to prepare a legal team that was well-versed in the ways of Washington and the Senate. She didn`t even know what time she would be testifying. So there needs to be not only fairness to Judge Kavanaugh but fairness to Dr. Ford, to prepare properly and to call any witnesses by the committee or herself who might bolster her story.

MELBER: Leah, in this interview that we have that shows a little more context, I want to play for your viewing Anita Hill explaining that also the baseline was different as others have pointed out. The underlying allegation here is old and very serious because it involves alleged physical sexual assault at an event. Whereas what Anita Hill was dealing with was something where the men on that committee didn`t even view it as necessarily bad "If true," in terms of their view of harassment. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: I think one of the comments that show not only that they had no idea what they were doing, but also that there was open hostility to the idea of the fact that I was going to experience real harassment in the form of the hearing, and in fact calling sexual harassment crap. I think it`s not only just a disregard. I mean it`s reckless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Leah?

RIGUEUR: Right. So she`s still talking about power and power dynamics. And one of the things that we can look at with Anita Hill is how she was really fighting this uphill battle. Ari, as you said, half of the Senate or more than half of the Senate didn`t even believe this was an issue. So here she is, she`s coming forward, she`s talking, she`s telling her truth, and she`s telling a truth that`s important to know for character and for sense of character, and she`s really redefining an era and a moment.

In fact, it`s incredibly important, her testimony, her coming forward. What she did in that moment is incredibly important for laying the groundwork for things like the modern day Me Too Movement. So even as we understand it in different terms, we still have to understand the seriousness of the moment, particularly in that context. It also gives us an idea, a very strong idea of what Professor Ford will be coming up against as she begins to reveal more and more of her story, and as she process for an investigation into what is a very serious accusation.

MELBER: And Tim, the final question to you having studied this is the more cynical one. There`s a lot of talk about process, facts, and investigation but what we are embarking upon is by definition a televised event on Monday if she comes forward. How much at a disadvantage are these individuals who are not trained in public speaking, in media, in the hearing room?

I mean I was there watching Kavanaugh and thinking, gosh, it is so overwhelming, even for someone who`s accustomed to some of those things a couple of weeks ago. Let alone, what we would call a civilian or a random, independent person living their life who`s only there by virtue of what they allegedly experienced. How does that play into how this is judged if it happens Monday?

PHELPS: Well, as we can see, Dr. Ford is apparently somewhat reluctant to commit to appearing on Monday. And all she has to do is look back at what happened to Professor Hill both in the press and on the floor of the Senate committee hearing. She was denigrated in every which way and there was almost nobody to stand up for her. So she knows that she would be putting her head right into the lion`s den if she appears on Monday.

MELBER: Yes. And that I think goes to why there`s a lot we still don`t know about what`s going to go down. Tim Phillips and Professor Rigor (ph), thank you so much.

Up next, a former Republican operative says they`re going to defend Kavanaugh at any cost. We`re going to dig in with an expert on how to rebut attacks on these accusers. That`s when we`re back in just 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Let`s start with some of the good news. The political reception to Dr. Christine Ford, who`s accusing Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were in high school, has been better in some measurable ways than the way that past accusers have been treated, something we`ve been covering tonight.

For example, politicians in both parties have said that this accuser, Dr. Ford, should be heard. Chairman Grassley responded to this pressure, external or wherever it got him, by taking the unusual step of scheduling a new hearing. He didn`t just stonewall, although there are criticisms about how the hearing will run.

So that incremental progress is certainly worth noting as a factual matter, but it is not universal this week. There are people with platforms rushing already to impugn Dr. Ford and we haven`t even heard from her other than the interview with "The Washington Post."

There are people with megaphones in right wing media who are suggesting, without evidence, that she`s a political opportunist trying to smear Kavanaugh based on his judicial philosophy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It`s about abortion. Does anyone really believe the story would have surfaced if Brett Kavanaugh had pledged allegiance to Roe v. Wade? Of course, it wouldn`t have.

LAURA INGRAM, FOX NEWS HOST: The timing, suffice it to say, is curious. This all has the whiff of a political smear masquerading as a sexual assault allegation.

CANDACE OWENS, AFRICAN-AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: We have reached peak lunacy on the left. And this is by the way, the most disgusting thing that they have done yet. Any person that actually supports sexual assault victims should be speaking out against this because this is absolutely, as I said before, disgusting, despicable behavior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Disgusting, a word that sometimes comes up in projected criticism. Also take a look at this former GOP operative, who actually helped orchestra the attacks on Clarence Thomas` accusers, writing that Kavanaugh`s accuser must unfortunately expect this Anita Hill treatment from today`s Republicans who will defend them at any cost.

Now, we`re already seeing some of the smear tactics at work. There are websites who peddle false claims saying that (INAUDIBLE) professor was troubled, but the information for those pieces were based entirely on a different person, a different Christine Ford. But that was already amplified by the judge report as well as Fox News host, Laura Ingraham, long before any corrections appeared.

As I mentioned, we want to dig into this with an expert who has reported on many of these types of stories, "New York Times" columnist, Michelle Goldberg. Her new piece is titled, "Boys Will Be Supreme Court Justices." And she says based on her review this accuser looks credible, but will it matter?

I wonder just big picture how you feel and what you`ve concluded about whether there is improvement and what is still being done wrong as we look to adjudicate in public a difficult thing the weight of this accusation and the facts against this judge and whether he should be promoted.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Well, I think there`s certainly improvement, first of all that everybody -- there seems to be a broad consensus that these charges should be taken seriously and should be aired.

A lot of the pushback in the right wing media to Christine Blazey Ford coming forward has almost sort of assumed that what she was saying has probably -- is probably correct, but basically said it hasn`t been a big deal. So you see a lot of people saying, well, is it really fair to judge somebody for what they did in high school, you know?

You know, Ari Fleischer, a former George W. Bush press secretary, talking on Fox News about how, you know, can just like one little incident in high school really derail your opportunity to ascend to a Supreme Court seat or the presidency later in life, which is, you know, kind of rich coming from a party that has shown very, very little concern for juvenile offenders and whether they`re ever able to expunge their record and kind of go on to redeem themselves and live productive lives.

I mean, I think it`s important to remember that the President called for the death penalty for five accused rapists, the Central Park Five, who were since proven innocent by DNA, but who were, you know, 14, 14, 15, 15, and 16.

Now, all of a sudden, you know, this same sort of group of people is saying, "Well, come on, you can`t really hold what somebody did at 17 against them." But the fact that I think you have a number of senators out there saying that, if this is proven true, that would be disqualifying.

It`s progress of a sort, right? There might be a cynical interpretation, which is that there`s no proving either way in a case like this. But I think that it`s good that there is at least, on some level, a consensus that if he did this, it`s serious.

MELBER: Right. Well, and I`d like for you to peel back some of the double talk we`re seeing as well, because this like the Hill hearings can be an inflection point. There is the possibility of learning or what I might call learning under pressure.

And so Senator Graham, who knows better, is saying things that regular people, random people, might think sounds suspicious, but are not. That you and I know are not, that he knows are not. For example, that Ms. Ford had a lawyer and a polygraph to try to improve her credibility.

Now, Lindsey Graham was a military JAG lawyer and he knows there is nothing wrong, indeed, that it is illegal and unconstitutional to hold it against someone that they retain a lawyer. And yet he says this, take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don`t know when she took the polygraph. I don`t know who paid for it. I don`t know when she hired a lawyer and I don`t know you paid for it. But if you didn`t want to go public, why are you buying a polygraph and why are you hiring a lawyer? All those things will come out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Of course, you`re hiring a lawyer if you`re getting anywhere near the hot zone that Anita Hill got to, and that doesn`t speak to your veracity, everyone has the rights to lawyers, period. So I wonder if you could walk us through some of the senators who seem to be trying to have it both ways.

GOLDBERG: I mean, look, I think, you know, Lindsey Graham is a weasel, right? He is trying to insinuate that her kind of elementary steps she took to defend against the onslaught that is now being directed at her in some way justifies this onslaught.

And -- I mean, I don`t think for a minute that the vast majority of Republicans in the Senate kind of really care one way or the other whether these charges are true. For them the question is, will they still be able to vote for Kavanaugh without political repercussions when this whole circus is concluded? And they`re trying to orchestrate it in a way that will let them do that.

MELBER: Right. I also want to ask you about an attack that I mentioned earlier in the show that`s quite (INAUDIBLE). It`s not to present any kind of moral equivalence, because indeed viewers will recognize many of the claims of this ad have been highly supported, like the many investigations that showed Roy Moore credibly accused of preying on girls. Having said that, there is this type of attack coming out now. So take a look at this new ad against Judge Kavanaugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can do anything, grab them by the (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An admitted sexual abuser sits in the White House who supported an accused child predator for the Senate.

TRUMP: So get out and vote for Roy Moore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then he nominated this man to the U.S. Supreme Court.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can`t let Brett Kavanaugh decide on our rights for a generation. Enough is enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What do you think of that tack at this juncture, in lumping Judge Kavanaugh together with those individuals as a way to defeat his nomination?

GOLDBERG: Well, first of all, I actually do think that there is some sort of, I don`t know, moral implication in accepting a nomination from a president as disgraced and such dubious legitimacy as this one. And I think that that ad -- you know, do I think it`s fair at this stage to compare Brett Kavanaugh to Roy Moore? Like, no, categorically no.

I do want to say that I think that part of the deep and profound insult of this nomination is that you have this President who has boasted of sexual assault nominating this frat boy who has been accused with some credibility of attempted rape. And that that is going to be the thing that ends Roe v. Wade, that kind of strips American women of their reproductive rights.

In some ways, it just makes very plain the brute patriarchy, the sort of cruel power, the cruel imposition of male power over women`s choices that this whole process represents.

MELBER: Michelle Goldberg, we always learn a lot from you and you`ve written a lot about these issues. Thank you very much for coming on THE BEAT tonight.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

MELBER: Up ahead, we turn to another big story. Rudy Giuliani talking to Paul Manafort`s team after a plea deal and why that could backfire on his boss, Donald Trump.

Plus, how Mueller may have made a pardon-proof deal. Special guests, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: The Kavanaugh hearing expected for Monday has been consuming the Trump White House and Donald Trump`s White House Counsel, Don McGahn. But meanwhile, Bob Mueller is moving ahead with key steps in the Russia probe.

In fact, Politico`s Josh Gerstein has an interesting report that the Manafort plea deal was really designed to be Trump-proof, discouraging any later pardon for Paul Manafort. Trump`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, though, says he`s talked to Manafort`s legal team as recently as this weekend after Manafort`s plea.

Now, the deal lets prosecutors go after Manafort`s forfeited assets at any time, and even if his convictions were to be wiped out, they can charge him immediately with other crimes. Now that Manafort is cooperating the details about these conversations can go right back to Bob Mueller.

I`m joined by Politico`s Josh Gerstein who reported on that interesting development, as well as former Watergate Prosecutor Nick Ackerman.

Josh, how much of what you found is typical in what lawyers and prosecutors love to write, which are all-encompassing deals? I mean, anyone who`s had to deal with a real estate contract can think about all the broad language. And how much of it in your view reflects the specific prosecutorial aggressive strategy to counter this particular president?

JOSH GERSTEIN, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, what I`d say, Ari, is you can probably find some version of just about every provision in this plea agreement in some other plea agreement that the Justice Department has written at some time.

In fact, I suspect this is how it was put together. It`s pretty common for prosecutors and lawyers for the government to cobble together these kinds of filings and these kinds of agreements from templates from other cases.

That said, when you take the whole package together and the amounts of money involved, it does seem like anything that Manafort may do to seek a pardon, to seek remission of any fines or forfeitures that he suffers under this agreement, would bring an enormous world of hurt down on his shoulders.

And that has raised some question for lawyers at both ends of the political spectrum. Some who are big fans of presidential power think it intrudes too far into the President`s turf on making clemency decisions. And those on the liberal side more focused on criminal justice reform think it`s just a little too draconian to have a defendant face those kinds of consequences for asking for some kind of relief.

MELBER: Right, it certainly a ton of bricks on top of Paul Manafort. Nick, when you look at this and you look at what they`re setting out to do, do you think that this decreases the likelihood of Donald Trump interfering?

NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I think this is basically pardon-proof, Ari. If you look, the real key here is the information that Mr. Manafort pled to. This information is 38 pages, plus it contains a number of exhibits. I don`t care how many templates they have in the Department of Justice.

Never in my over 40 years of criminal practice as both a prosecutor and a defense lawyer have I ever seen an information that doesn`t go the usual standard two or three pages. I mean, what they did here --

MELBER: Well, let`s spell out -- what you`re getting at is that level of detail is effectively a huge public confession which can play out in all sorts of different ways and potentially with local authorities as well.

ACKERMAN: That`s right. He has admitted to every single fact in this document. If somehow he were pardoned by the President, all state attorney general need do, whether it`s in New York or whether it`s in Virginia, on the tax violations, they need only take this and use that to prosecute Paul Manafort for state violations.

MELBER: Right, because it`s not like he went to those lengths to evade federal taxes and then paid every last state tax.

ACKERMAN: Exactly. And in New York State, you have a very strict money- laundering statute that probably has more onerous penalties than the federal statute. And when you tie that together with this plea agreement, the cooperation agreement, it basically says the office and any other party, other party, could be any state attorney general, will be free to use against your client, directly and indirectly, in any criminal proceeding.

MELBER: Right.

ACKERMAN: That means a state proceeding as well as any other government proceeding. So if there`s --

MELBER: Right. And Paul Manafort`s -- yes. If Paul Manafort`s Georgetown Law degree is worth anything, it`s worth understanding a little federalism concept that the states also get to prosecute regardless of any Trump pardon if it were to materialize.

And so given that case, which Nick lays out with prosecutorial zeal, as we expect, Nick, and which Josh has been reporting on, I take the question more broadly back to you, Josh, which is it sometimes seems like Rudy Giuliani is doing fantasy football for this case on T.V. and then Bob Mueller`s just actually playing football.

And so Rudy`s on T.V. saying, "Maybe we could do this and maybe we could that and we`re still in touch and maybe there`ll be a pardon." And that sounds fine for the length of a T.V. segment, and we`re not against T.V. segments around here. But there is life outside of the four corners of this box and that`s where you have Bob Mueller playing real football. Do you think that`s a fair way to look at it?

GERSTEIN: Yes. I think there`s a lot of noise, a lot of chaff that the White House throws up there that at the end of the day doesn`t mean that much. That said, I`m still not sure there will not be a pardon here.

I think that there`s a decent chance because the question really is not so much whether the President might pardon Manafort out of some kind of strategy where he thinks, "Well, if I do this, they won`t be able to use this, or something good will happen." I think it`s more a question of pure retaliation against the Mueller probe. They can take their big trophy at this point and somehow upend the game.

MELBER: Right.

GERSTEIN: You will knock the chess people over.

MELBER: You`re saying something very sad, which is that because Donald Trump might treat that the pardon power like an angry tweet, it`s more likely to have a pardon even if it back fires on him?

GERSTEIN: I think so. And remember, you know, the prosecutors, they have Manafort`s story in various ways and the way that Nick just said that he stipulated to his story about himself. But there`s been probably a series of proper meetings already. There could be more taking place as soon as this week.

And they have all that information now written down and usable in some form. Maybe they can even put him in front of a grand jury, because I don`t think the pardon will play out in the course of the next month or two.

MELBER: Right.

GERSTEIN: It will probably come after the election or maybe even later on.

MELBER: Right. Although doing a pardon after someone had all the proper sessions is a very incompetent way to do a potential interference. I`m going to fit in a break. My thanks to Josh and Nick.

When we come back, I`m told we have some breaking news on Dianne Feinstein and Judge Kavanaugh right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: New comments from this top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein, she`s saying this about Brett Kavanaugh`s accuser, Dr. Christine Ford.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I believe she is credible. What we have wanted was an investigation carried out to look at the facts before there was a hearing. I hope people will let her be and I hope that her lawyers will let her come back and straighten this out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Reporters tracking Senator Feinstein there as she moved through the Senate. The key takeaway, she says the accuser is credible and she`s hoping her lawyers will let her testify.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.