Second woman accuses Kavanaugh. TRANSCRIPT: 9/24/2018, The Beat w Ari Melber.

Guests: Nancy Erika Smith, Mara Gay, Ilyse Hogue, Josh Gerstein, Dan Rather, Ruth Marcus, Lisa Lerer, Michael McFaul

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: September 24, 2018 Guest: Nancy Erika Smith, Mara Gay, Ilyse Hogue, Josh Gerstein, Dan Rather, Ruth Marcus, Lisa Lerer, Michael McFaul

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: That`s all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY. But don`t worry, "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Katy. Thank you very much.

There is so much news to cover tonight. At this hour, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Bob Mueller`s boss, is still on the job after a rollercoaster day. And we`ll be joined by the legendary Dan Rather and MSNBC`s Maya Wiley on that later in the show.

But we begin with this fight, fast moving, over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Donald Trump`s nominee now clearly in serious danger. There`s been a whirlwind of developments. The context is clear. A second woman has come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

This is a new name, Deborah Ramirez, telling "The New Yorker" that when she and Kavanaugh were in college, she alleges that he exposed himself to her and then made him touch her without her consent. Kavanaugh vigorously denying this allegation, saying it did not happen, and calling this part of a smear, plain and simple.

And that brings me to more of his perspective, which is of course, a large part of the story, as is the allegations. We`re about to show you something you almost never see if you watch the news. You`ve probably seen a lot of Supreme Court battles recently, but here is a current nominee to the Supreme Court, with his confirmation vote hanging in the balance, going on TV for an interview to defend himself. He went over to Fox News, with his wife, in this brand new interview that will air later tonight.


MARTHA MACCALLUM, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: Did you guys ever look at each other and say, "I`m out, this is enough, this isn`t worth it?"

BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I`m not going to let false accusations drive us out of this process, and you know, we`re looking for a fair process where I can be heard and defend my integrity and my life-long record of promoting dignity and equality for women, starting with the women who knew me when I was 14 years old. I`m not going anywhere.


MELBER: That is the latest from Judge Kavanaugh. As for the man who is trying to put him on the court, Donald Trump, coming out blasting today defending the nominee and questioning the credibility of these women who have come forward as accusers.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There`s a chance that this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything, for people to come out of the woodwork from 36 years ago and 30 years ago and never mentioned it, all of a sudden it happens. In my opinion, it`s totally political. It`s totally political.


MELBER: The pressure mounting these protests in Capitol Hill in front of the offices of several Republican Senators who could decide whether this hearing even happens. Meanwhile, the top Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee, Dianne Feinstein, is calling to postpone all of the dealings here regarding Kavanaugh`s nomination. Republicans, though, are not giving an inch in public at least in the Senate, digging in their heels.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY: Even by the far left`s standards, this shameful, shameful smear campaign has hit a new low.


MELBER: Here is the update, though. Today, we heard again from Dr. Christine Ford telling the committee, Chairman Grassley on a personal letter that she`s ready to talk on Thursday, saying "While I am frightened, please know my fear will not hold me back from testifying."

I`m joined tonight by Mara Gay, "New York Times" editorial board, Attorney Nancy Erika Smith who represented Gretchen Carlson in a sexual harassment lawsuit that brought down Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, and Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America which is one of the lead organizing groups that was doing that walk out today and supports Kavanaugh`s accusers and is opposing his nomination.

My thanks to all of you. I begin with you having represented people in similar situations. Your analysis of where we are going into the potential hearing Thursday if everyone still is on the same page, and what to make of the new accusation.

NANCY ERIKA SMITH, REPRESENTED GRETCHEN CARLSON IN SUIT AGAINST ROGER AILES: Well, as somebody who has been representing victims of sexual harassment for 38 years, when you hear certain stories, you almost are sure that there are other victims. An attempted rape is definitely a signal that there are going to be other victims. So I can`t say that I`m surprised that there are other victims. I am surprised that the bravery of Ms. Ramirez to come out.

I note that the two women that Kavanaugh`s lawyers wanted to sign a letter that it didn`t happen have removed their names from that letter. So it`s not at all clear whether she actually has actual corroboration. But sexual assault doesn`t usually take place in public. So if we`re ever going to believe women, we have to start believing women now.

Also, it`s so funny that Martha MacCallum is the person who got the interview because she was one of Roger Ailes` first defenders when Gretchen Carlson claimed that he harassed her. So it`s very funny that he chose her. It`s also to hear the president, an admitted sexual predator, on tape who supported Roger Ailes, who supported O`Reilly, who supported a pedophile Roy Moore, attack these women, this is why women don`t come out.

So these two women are incredibly brave. I am surprised that they will go in front of this GOP kangaroo court. I wish they come here. I wish they go directly to the American people with their witnesses and their families, and look in the camera and talk directly to the American people because this is not a fair process at all.

MELBER: You`re concerned about what would actually occur at the hearing.

SMITH: I am.

MELBER: I want to play more, Mara for viewers to make up their own mind. As I mentioned, very unusual to hear from a Supreme Court nominee in a television interview. He`s completed the first round of hearings. This has only been scheduled because of the new accusation and equates clearly reflects a level of crisis at the White House. We also see the split messaging. We just showed Donald Trump`s attacks. You gave your rebuttal, your view of that. The judge is trying to have it a different way and saying maybe this happened but it just wasn`t him. Take a look a little more from the new interview.


KAVANAUGH: The truth is I`ve never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or otherwise. I am not questioning and have not questioned that perhaps Dr. Ford at some point in her life was sexually assaulted by someone at someplace. But what I know is I`ve never sexually assaulted anyone.


MARA GAY: You know, there`s a human angle here and there`s politics, issue of politics. But let`s just start with the human angle. I mean the idea that Dr. Ford is sitting somewhere watching a man who, you know, she believes committed attempted rape on her, who stopped her life as she knew it for years, you know, watching him deny, not only deny what happened, but actually also essentially say, "Well, you`re confused" and gaslight her, you know, it`s disgusting, frankly.

Now, I just want to say we don`t know what happened in that room. We weren`t there. The issue before the Senate is not whether this can be proven in a court of law. That`s not what this is about. This is about, is this claim, and in fact, are these two women who have come forward, are their claims credible enough to raise suspicion about the character of a man who could sit on the Supreme Court for the rest of his life?

That is a high bar. That is not the same as can you prove it in a court of law, should he be in jail? That`s not the same issue, and I think that`s being conflated here.

MELBER: Well, so Nancy, I think that`s something that is put very well and we were discussing in our coverage at the end of last week, as well. When people sometimes say, well, what is the presumption here, or do you believe this? They`re adopting the language of court, which is explicitly weighted for the accused, and for the rights of the defendant because the defendant could go to jail. That is not, as I think you both emphasized, that is not the standard for whether you, along with a hundred other well-qualified applicants should get a powerful promotion.

SMITH: Right. And we actually live in a country where if you are in a job for 25, 30, 40 years, you don`t have due process. Your employer can come in and say "You`re fired and I don`t have to tell you why." So if you actually have a job you`re not entitled to due process in this country, he`s applying for a job, and there aren`t enough questions about his character yet? That just means that women don`t matter. Applying for a job, you have no rights whatsoever, especially a lifetime appointment to the most important court in this country.

GAY: But can I also just say that I think the Republicans have done a fairly good job actually in the past week or two of trying to kind of create this narrative, as though, "Oh, any man can be accused." No.

MELBER: You mean an effective job?

GAY: Right. And, in fact, have done an effective job as though any man can be accused at any time of something he didn`t do. And I`m sorry, we didn`t hear this about Neil Gorsuch. I mean this is actually -- no, you can be accused of something if you`ve actually committed a wrong. And so we don`t know what happened, but these claims are credible and that`s the thing to focus on.

MELBER: So let me go to Ilyse on that point because Ilyse, for anyone who is generally interested in adjudicating the claims, and who holds out the possibility that, as with any proceeding, some of the claims may not be provable or true. If you are the one being accused, you would want more time and more information and more witnesses and more testimony because presumably, that will over the process out.

And so that is in stark contrast to some other new reporting that is procedural but I think quite important, at least, and I wanted your view of it in "The New Yorker" that says Senior Republican staff actually learned of this new allegation we`re reporting as Kavanaugh last week, expressed concern about its impact soon after Senate Republicans issued new calls to accelerate the timing of the committee vote.

Translation, an interest in rushing past information finding rather than using that process to potentially clear his name if his name could be cleared.

ILYSE HOGUE: I think that`s absolutely right, Ari. Look, women all over this county know three things. They know that there is almost never a false claim and that this one rings true. They know that Brett Kavanaugh has already lied under oath. He`s already a liar. And they know that the Republicans` insistence at every step to steam roll process, they make no attempt to get the evidence, the witnesses, is literally at every step screaming to women, "You don`t matter." And that`s why today tens of thousands of women screamed back.

And I think the question we have to ask is why? I mean really, much like sexual assault, the GOP is using this process to exert pure power over women around the country. I mean, surely there are dozens, if not hundreds of qualified applicants for this space on the Supreme Court and yet they`re clinging to this one. And the risk of putting someone who has shown such disdain for women into a position where he would literally hold millions of women`s lives or bodily choices, hostage is egregious. And it`s really just about them demonstrating power, and women have had it.

MELBER: And you say women have had it. Jane Mayer who was in "The New Yorker" with Ronan Farrow on the latest scoop, was just speaking about how there was a process of people, I think many of them women, discussing this for quite an amount of time with Kavanaugh before any of this came out publicly. Take a listen.


JANE MAYER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: We found classmates who had been talking about this for weeks and months since July. There had been an e- mail chain of Yale classmates of Kavanaugh talking about will this thing come out, long before Christine Blasey Ford came forward.


MELBER: Ilyse, that goes to another question here that I`m sure is difficult to answer for anyone and you don`t represent Senator Feinstein but there are people who are criticizing the process saying that she did not push this forward in a public way earlier.

HOGUE: Look, I mean we can play 20-20 hindsight. The day is long. I think it is a very complicated decision for any woman to want to come forward in any setting. I mean, this happens in high schools and young women don`t want to come forward. Whether you are Dr. Christine Blasey Ford or you are Deborah Ramirez, who we believe 100 percent, and you know the cost to your family, of course, you`re going to want to take your time. You`re going to want to think about the implications because the cards are stacked against you.

And to me, that means every single person involved in this proceeding should be thinking about why they would come forward if for any other reason that this is the truth and they are trying to save this country from a terrible fate of having this man on the Supreme Court. He should be withdrawn immediately or else the GOP and President Trump are saying they don`t care about the integrity of this court and they don`t care about women.

MELBER: Right. And that`s the question going in as we hear from Judge Kavanaugh speaking out more forcefully tonight. And going towards this hearing, who`s going to testify? Is there going to be a hearing? Does he make it to Thursday?

Mara Gay, Nancy Erika Smith, Ilyse Hogue, thanks to each of you.

Coming up, there has been a lot of talk today about Rod Rosenstein and the Russia probe. Donald Trump`s own lawyer suggesting there should now be a time out on the whole thing.


JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY OF DONALD TRUMP: I think it`s really important there be a step back taken here and a review. Basically, a time out on this inquiry.


MELBER: New details coming tonight on what Bob Mueller`s hearing for the man who set up the meeting at Trump Tower. I`ll talk to the former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul on what Mueller is actually doing, all that. And Dan Rather makes his debut on THE BEAT, Trump, Mueller and how the country would be ready for a constitutional crisis.

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


MELBER: It`s 6:18 P.M. on the East Coast and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is still on the job, although that itself is uncertain. He is Bob Mueller`s boss, and he is staying in that role as far as we know at what the end has been a chaotic day when we heard things like this.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF, CALIFORNIA: Rod Rosenstein should, under no circumstances, resign. If the president intends to obstruct justice, Rosenstein should require him to be fired. This looks to me like a slow- moving Saturday night massacre.


MELBER: There was reaction all around the report from "Axios" that kicked off quite a day a much height stated exclusive that claimed Rosenstein was basically already resigning because he allegedly verbally told Trump`s chief of staff something to that effect and many stories quickly followed. We`re putting this up here because they show how we can get out and ahead of ourselves.

The idea that he was reportedly resigning or about to leave his job or said to resign, from the internet, all the way across the news, everyone was pouncing on what did look like a possible delivery method for that departure, because Rosenstein was at the White House this morning. And as we emphasized on our reporting on THE BEAT Friday night, this whole run of speculation is itself based on some highly contested reporting.

The claims that either Rosenstein did seriously talk about wiretapping Trump or he didn`t because it was a sarcastic comment and that he did seriously discuss using the 25th Amendment to replace Donald Trump or that he didn`t. All of that was courtesy of "The New York Times," which treated the claims as serious bombshells and many others did not. And today, the White House itself was tamping down talk of departures by noting that at Rosenstein`s request, he and Trump had a conversation to discuss recent new stories and then meet on Thursday when the president returns to Washington.

Cameras did catch Rosenstein leaving the White House and while Trump often unloads all about the DOJ, note how measured he was when asked about all this today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you going to fire Rod Rosenstein?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to fire Rod Rosenstein?

TRUMP: I have a meeting with Rod Rosenstein on Thursday when I get back from all of these meetings, and we`ll be meeting at the White House and we`ll be determining what`s going on. We want to have transparency. We want to have openness. And I`m going to post a meeting with Rod at that time.


MELBER: Josh Gerstein is political senior White House reporter and a former legal affairs reporter so the right person for this story. Josh, are we witnessing a potential inflection point in the Justice Department`s independent oversight of the Mueller probe or a second round of media speculation based on a first round of media speculation, that is ultimately essentially piffle?

JOSH GERSTEIN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: I mean I don`t know ultimately what will happen. I think we`ve all had a sense that Rod Rosenstein`s days are numbered, one way or another. I would say, Ari, that this morning I was down at the Justice Department and all the indications we were getting was that this was serious.

They had gotten to the alarm box, they had broken the glass and they were reaching to push the button. So I don`t think that we can dismiss this as total speculation. A lot of people in that building were convinced that this was going to be it for Rosenstein this morning. It`s not how it worked out.

MELBER: But you and I both work in trying to differentiate the reaction to a thing from the thing itself. And so that kind of seeming corroboration that a lot of people in D.C. were in a panic, itself could simply be a response to "Axios" and Twitter.

GERSTEIN: It could be, but my sense from the Justice Department was that there were people there that believed that Rod Rosenstein was highly at risk this morning of getting fired by the White House, that this was sort of a last straw for him. Now, whether the original report was, in all respects accurate or didn`t fully take account of the way there might have been diverging camps at those meetings you`re talking about where Rod Rosenstein allegedly made these comments about the 25th Amendment or about wearing a wire, I think there are many people on both sides to that argument. So I think that is a live debate but I do think it was an actual close call today.

MELBER: Which goes to why there was so much rumbling. Of course, when you look at attacks on the DOJ, you expect a Donald Trump`s allies, particularly on Fox News, to echo him and what we actually got was the opposite. Take a look.


SEAN HANNITY, CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have a message for the president tonight. Under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody. The president needs to know it is all a setup.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before moving forward, the president might ask himself, why do Andy McCabe and "The New York Times" want me to fire Rod Rosenstein?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Rod Rosenstein going to be indicted? And is he looking to be fired? Is he setting this up?


MELBER: You could see the final mass a conspiracy theory that Rod Rosenstein is setting up his own firing because he`s presumably crazy. But what you see there is not what you would expect if this were a coordinated effort to oust Rosenstein. What do you make on the more political side of this with those kind of comments?

GERSTEIN: So it`s interesting. You don`t normally see much agreement between former Justice Department officials who served on the prior administration and the kinds of figures you just played, the Sean Hannity`s of the world or the Judge Jeanine`s. But in this instance, there is some, there are people at both ends of the political spectrum with differing points of view who believe that this was a contrived controversy, intended to drive Rosenstein out of his position, to cause Trump to overreact to the reports and to dismiss him and to lead to some sort of conflagration.

Some people think that that would have benefited Andy McCabe, the former deputy FBI director. I don`t think we can say that it came from him personally but there are certainly a lot of disgruntled people at the FBI that would love to see Rod Rosenstein lose his job for the right reasons.

MELBER: To be clear, you`re saying that there might be some credence to the idea that this was an effort, not from pro-Trump forces but to bait Trump into a giant mistake?

GERSTEIN: Right. I mean who knows what or wouldn`t be a mistake? I guess that depends on your point of view but some people feel it was a deliberate effort to get Trump to move forward with firing Rosenstein, and that there would be an ensuing sort of political conflagration of some sort which might have benefits for different people who play different roles in this saga at this point.

MELBER: Josh Gerstein, always measured. We appreciate your insights tonight.

GERSTEIN: OK, Ari. Take care.

MELBER: More on the timing of the Trump-Rosenstein meeting with some great guests who are right here when we`re back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: Continuing our coverage of a weird one, Rod Rosenstein appointed Bob Mueller and he`s overseeing of the Russia probe. Donald Trump meeting with Rosenstein now on Thursday, the same day as Judge Kavanaugh`s hearing. "Vanity Fair" reporting that`s not a coincidence. It`s actually that Trump thinks firing Rosenstein would knock Kavanaugh out of the news and maybe even save his own nomination.

Now, Trump does fire Mueller`s boss, what happens? Well, two DOJ officials were telling "The Daily Beast" they fear that Rosenstein ouster would reignite Trump`s efforts to put an end to the Mueller investigation. Now, that`s just a theory. I was just discussing theories with Josh Gerstein. But then you add someone very close who`s in the game, Donald Trump`s own personal lawyer, today, calling for a time out of the investigation.


SEKULOW: I think it`s really important that there be a step back taken here and a review. And I think it`s a review that has to be thorough and complete and a review that has to include an investigation of what has transpired with all of these statements and all of these allegations, going back to Strzok and Page and Bruce Ohr, and basically a time out on this inquiry.


MELBER: I`m joined now by Maya Wiley, former counsel of New York City and a legendary journalist and President of News and Guts Dan Rather. He`s covered his own share of presidential crises over the years, including Watergate. In fact, here he is questioning President Nixon in 1974 about overseeing that investigation into himself.


DAN RATHER, PRESIDENT, NEWS AND GUTS: How can the House meet its constitutional responsibilities while you, the person under investigation, are allowed to limit their access to potential evidence?


MELBER: Mr. Rather, you have noted today on Facebook where you do some of your reporting nowadays, that there is much we don`t know, and I`ve emphasized that in our reporting. What do we know about what could be concerning about any effort to use the recent reports to subvert the actual probe?

RATHER: Well, what this is all about from the President Trump`s standpoint is stop the Mueller investigation. It`s obviously desperate to try and to stop the Mueller investigation. But you know, this has been such a crazy day, Ari. I went through the Watergate period, that`s true, but this is even crazier. And I think a lot of people felt as I did today, that we`re sort of traveling through a worm hole of absurd in real time.

History may look back on it in a different way, but this is about Kavanaugh. The Rosenstein business is a distraction from Kavanaugh which is designed to be that. Some of you may don`t know that but I raised a question, it was distraction for a while. But then low and behold Kavanaugh appears on Fox News tonight with this interview with his wife, which pulls the focus back to Kavanaugh itself.

But with Rosenstein in that case, Kavanaugh, the Mueller investigation itself, what we don`t know is so much greater than what we do know, that my respectful counsel to people is take a deep breath, maybe whisper or state it to yourself and see how it all plays out.

MELBER: You`re saying if we are into meditation, steady is a good mantra to repeat.

RATHER: Not a bad idea as a matter of fact.

MELBER: Before I turn to Maya, let me also ask you how do you compare these two presidents? We just saw you speaking to Nixon who is known to operate quite differently behind the scenes than his public persona during Watergate.

RATHER: Well, there are all kinds of differences. There are some similarities in the way these two president operates, but they`re two completely different people in a completely different time. Richard Nixon was number one. Clearly, very intelligent and very smart. He was very experienced in foreign policy, as well as domestic policy and a congressman, a senator, two-term vice president, very experienced.

Whereas with President Trump, what everyone thinks about him, you wouldn`t say he`s very experienced in government. I know his supporters see that as a plus point but it`s a great difference with Nixon. But two things do strike me. Number one, that both men had a strong streak of paranoia. We all have some paranoia but both men had a strong streak of paranoia. And number two, that both of them seem dedicated, not just to beating their opponents politically, but destroying their opponents.

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I would add that they share an animosity towards those who organize in favor of racial justice in this country. I think that one of the things that is so striking to me about the news of today and the way it comes together is, Jay Sekulow, who has been calling for an end to this investigation. In July, he said it must end. In August, he said it must end very soon. So he`s obviously, as an attorney for the president, as a personal attorney, taking every opportunity he can to argue for the end of this investigation.

It flies directly in the face of their argument about the Kavanaugh Senate confirmation which is someone who has been accused of sexual assault who would sit as one of the highest law enforcement officers our land essentially as a Supreme Court Justice should not have a full and thorough and transparent investigation of his actions and in accounting. But somehow on Thursday on the same day that that confirmation -- that confirmation hearing will continue, we will have some private conversation between the President and Rob Rosenstein about what transparency and background he should have investigated.

MELBER: Right.

WILEY: That`s ironic.

MELBER: The President calling for "transparency" one could argue it`s quite transparent what they`re doing and setting up a literal split screen cable moment in a way that they may think we`re down to their benefit. As for Mr. Rosenstein, he has previously said he wasn`t going to be bullied by much of anything. He was asked about Republican efforts to potentially impeach him, a very high bar over what most people thought were trumped-up document requests. Take a look.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: There were people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time and I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.


MELBER: That was a political statement about extortion by the House Republicans. But how do you square that with everyone wondering today was he really considering resigning over a single New York Times report that he`d on the record deny? Because the end of the day, he denied it if that`s true and truth matters a lot if you`re a prosecutor and you have the power to jail people, if that`s true what he said, then there`d be no reason to reward that by considering resigning.

WILEY: Yes. It`s very hard to square both the Rod Rosenstein that everyone I know describes is a very thoughtful you know, person who does not -- is not a knee-jerk reaction from this man, who also knows and understands full well having worked tirelessly as far as I can tell, to protect the integrity of the Mueller investigation and to protect it from politics even as a Trump appointee -- let`s not forget he was appointed by Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate -- that he would step aside and enable someone who`s going to be a much more politicized actor to take his place who could then say yes or no to anything he so chose to Robert Mueller. Because remember, this -- the seat that Rosenstein sits in is the seat that says yes you may indict, yes you can seek that warrant for wiretapping.

MELBER: Yes, you can publish your finding.

WILEY: Yes you can publish your findings. So what we have is the idea that Rod Rosenstein would just step back after all of the abuse that has taken over the past year now especially over something that is as contested as that New York Times report since there were folks who were cited in a separate report he said I was in the room and actually he was just joking. I don`t -- it`s hard to imagine.

MELBER: Right. And Dan Rather, we don`t know how much Cypress Hill you listen to the rap group but they used to say I`m not going out like that. And it`s hard to imagine Rod Rosenstein going out like that if as he said Friday twice, he put out a Friday night late statement this isn`t true. The other thing I`d like your insight on is the way that we`ve seen people just completely destroyed through relatively brief service in this White House. That does seem different than history although it`s always been a tough town, Washington. Take a listen to not that long ago when Donald Trump was praising Rod Rosenstein as his validator in that famous Lester Holt interview.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He made a recommendation. He`s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats liked him, the Republicans like him.


MELBER: Is that also something that you see is fundamentally different how quickly Donald Trump goes from holding people up to trying to destroy them?

RATHER: Not only fundamentally different than the Nixon administration, but was I think fundamentally different from any presidency in the history of the country. You go back in the look the history of the presidencies, there`s never been a president where it was so obvious that nearly everybody who gets associated with Donald Trump in one way or the other gets in very big trouble.

And you know Andrew Jackson had a lot of difficulty, Abraham Lincoln had a lot of difficulty, but nobody a year and a half into their presidency had these many people that they, on the one hand, president one began praising and then pretty soon were just on the side like the trash.

MELBER: Right. And that is striking and you see it really relevant here as so many of our potential witnesses and they`re involved in investigation of what is a criminal operation in the sense of so many guilty pleas. What are the crimes go to the top, we don`t know yet. Maya Wiley a regular, Dan Rather a first-timer, I hope you come back.

RATHER: I`d be happy to. Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. Thank you as always. Still, to come, the man who brokered the Trump Tower meeting speaking about what Trump himself knew but first --


AMERICAN CROWD: Kavanaugh is disgusting, that`s why we`re disrupting. Kavanaugh is disgusting, that`s why we`re disrupting.


MELBER: We`re looking at that fiery scene there. Protestors swarming Washington as the second Kavanaugh accuser steps forward, a major pressure on Republicans. What will they do, that`s next.


MELBER: New reporting coming in on the fight over Judge Kavanaugh`s nomination and big questions facing Republicans tonight. Is it time to cut bait? The second accuser speaking out to The New Yorker today with sexual misconduct claims from college. Kavanaugh denying this claim as well. Protests breaking out across Capitol Hill today. You`re looking at that scene. Activists say Republicans must stop and change gears but the most powerful Republican in the Senate still on offense today.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: A smear campaign, pure and simple, aided and abetted by members of the United States Senate. It`s despicable another orchestrated last-minute hit on the nominee.


MELBER: Senator Orrin Hatch ripping into what he now calls a "Democratic smear campaign." Senator Lindsey Graham saying this over the weekend, this was to be clear before this second accuser came forward.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: What am I supposed to do go, ahead and ruin this guy`s life based on an accusation? Unless there`s something more no I`m not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh`s life over this.


MELBER: Washington Post reporting that behind the scenes, Kavanaugh growing frustrated during prep sessions, getting peppered about "drinking habits" and even yes "sexual proclivities." Kavanaugh declining to even answer some questions. And now a new report coming in this hour Senator Susan Collins a pivotal swing vote for the Republicans says publicly that she believes the second accuser should be afforded the opportunity to speak to the Senate under oath, details TBD.

With that breaking news, I`m joined by Lisa Lerer Political Reporter for The New York Times and Ruth Marcus Editorial Page Editor at The Washington Post and a Columnist who is warned that Republicans may ignore the lessons of Anita Hill at their own peril. Ruth as we often do on these big news nights, I begin with this breaking news. Susan Collins is key. It would seem that her view whether it`s in public or private is that the Thursday hearing as planned is insufficient, that it should not be a quote he said she said but must be in what the Senate reviews he said they said. Your view of that breaking story.

RUTH MARCUS, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: My view of that breaking story is wow. That is a really significant development from Senator Collins. And I have to say I think it`s the right thing. What the Senate ought to do is to get at the truth. Time is not of the essence, truth is of the essence. And if it would slow down just a bit, it would serve everybody well including if he is as guilt-free, innocent of all of these accusations as he says it -- he is, Judge Kavanaugh let`s slow down and hear from the two women. Let`s hear any corroborating testimony or lack of corroborating testimony and give people a chance to make their own assessment of what`s going on here. So either judge Kavanagh becomes Justice Kavanaugh and he`s on the court without this terrible cloud over his head or we don`t confirm somebody who has done these things that he`s accused of to the Supreme Court.

That doesn`t seem really complicated. I`m really glad that Senator Collins seems to get that point. A lot of her colleagues just seemed to be more concerned about rushing pell-mell to confirmation and talking about smear campaigns.

MELBER: Right. And you mentioned the word rush. Lisa, there doesn`t need to be a rush if the focus is on the facts. And let me read a little bit of what Senator Collins said for your analysis as well. She said "I believe the committee investigators should reach out to Miss Ramirez to question her under oath about what she`s alleging happened, asked if that should happen Thursday. In conjunction, she said no because there hasn`t even been an interview of her yet and I think that needs to take place first." Do you think Susan Collins, a moderate swing vote who we mentioned a lot around here and who happens to be a woman senator is taking a very different view that the facts are more important than speed in contrast to what we`ve showed tonight from Grassley, Hatch, and McConnell?

LISA LERER POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Oh, there`s no question. Time is not of the essence unless you`re in Republican leadership or in the White House. They, of course, want to push this nomination through as quickly as possible. This getting a conservative Supreme Court is the Holy Grail for McConnell. It`s as you all know the culmination of decades of Republican activism and they`re worried that with the midterms encroaching ever closer, what are we, 43 days now, that that dream is slipping away. So they`re running out of time to put someone else in. I think, in fact, they have run out of time to really put somebody else in. So this is the horse they have and they`re determined to run with this and get him through the Senate.

Now, statements like Collins are really important because of course, if she doesn`t support him, they can`t get it through. We know that you know, it seems very likely that not a single Democrat will vote for Kavanaugh. We`re not totally sure about that but that certainly seems to be the way things are going. So that means that Collins vote is crucial here and she has a lot of power and a lot of sway over how this is handled going forward.

MELBER: So Ruth, briefly, and then I want to play you some sound. Do you think Collins is doing this publicly to telegraph to her Republican colleagues that they better act up or her vote may leave?

MARCUS: Oh yes. Senator Collins is very good at telegraphing publicly what she wants. And let me give you my perspective on Senator Collins which is I`ve been watching her very closely as of all of us through this whole process. She has not been itching for a reason at all to vote against Brett Kavanaugh. She has seemed to me to be inclined from the start to support him, to believe his assurances when he said that he understood Roe to be settled law and to kind of take that to the bank where I wouldn`t really put my money quite as confidently as she would. So for her to say whoa, let`s slow down here is very, very telling. And where Senator Collins --

MELBER: And so just briefly because I want to go-- I want to get you on this -- on this news, Ruth -- I`m only interrupting you to allow you more time. Take a listen for your response on a different view from Kellyanne Conway.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Judge Kavanaugh has been willing to testify publicly to what he has said privately under oath from day one. He`s now calling this a smear campaign. Indeed this is starting to feel like a vast left-wing conspiracy.



MARCUS: Well, I was around for the best right-wing conspiracy and I think it`s really telling the shift in tone and emphasis and argument from Kellyanne Conway and everybody else. Kellyanne Conway led the pack and I thought very smartly at the start of this when she talked about how Dr. Ford needed to be heard, and her story needed to be understood, and that we could move on from here. We`ve moved from Dr. Ford should be heard to Democratic orchestrated smear campaign and I think that`s a very telling shift.

MELBER: Right.

MARCUS: It`s a shift right that really intensified after we moved from one accuser to two accusers and I think it underscores the real worry that Republicans are feeling right now.

MELBER: Right, that he may be marching on T.V. Judge Kavanaugh tonight because they`re worried he may not make it until Thursday. Lisa and Ruth, I want to thank you both. I appreciate it and we`ll continue the coverage. Up ahead, we turn to what Donald Trump is now saying about the people who flipped on him and the organizer of the Trump Tower meeting with some new details.


MELBER: Donald Trump`s planned meeting on Thursday with Bob Mueller`s boss Rod Rosenstein comes at a crucial stage in what Mueller is looking at. Of course, Trump`s campaign Chair Paul Manafort and his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen have flipped but Trump claims he`s not worried.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you worried about the Southern District of New York and Michael Cohen, your former lawyer --

TRUMP: No I`m not, no I`m not because I`m an honest guy and I`m not. And that stuff is unrelated to me. I do everything straight. I do everything straight so that`s the way I do it.


MELBER: It`s not unrelated. Michael Cohen pled guilty to helping Donald Trump make an illegal campaign arrangement with those payments to women. Now, Mueller may also be talking to Cohen about stories like this. McClatchy says Cohen did make an alleged secret trip to Prague in 2016. That is a key part of the collusion claims in the unverified Trump dossier. Manafort meanwhile, could be spilling on what happened before and after the Russian meeting at Trump Tower, and the man who arranged that says Trump may have known about it in advance.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think President Trump knew about the meeting prior to it taking place?

ROB GOLDSTONE, BRITISH PUBLICIST: I don`t definitively know if he knew or he didn`t but it was taking place in his conference room and it was taking place with his campaign chair sitting and attending the meeting as well as his son and his son-in-law. So it`s a bit of a stretch to believe that he doesn`t know what`s going on.


MELBER: Ambassador Michael McFaul joins me. How important are Manafort and Cohen to getting to the bottom of what money or what trail there is from Russia?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Essential. Of course, they have been involved in different money schemes, Mister Manafort in particular as we now know, and the real question was, was the Trump Organization involved as well. We don`t know the answer that. Mr. Mueller needs to answer that question for us.

MELBER: I want to read a little bit more about the discussion of what Goldstone has been talking about. Mueller is investigating --

MCFAUL: Yes, that was a great interview. Yes.

MELBER: Fascinating, right? Mueller`s investigators interested in how the relationship between Trump and the Agalarov family began as well as the 2013 trip by Trump to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant. They wanted to know about the idea of a Trump Tower, how did that come about Goldstone says. And so just from your knowledge of Russia, not you know, presupposing that we know what really happened because that`s still being investigated, but Mueller seems to be pulling on the theory that private money in Russia is not all that private, that`s something going even back ears for business could also involve Putin. What can you tell us about that?

MCFAUL: Well, that`s a correct hypothesis to be pursuing. What were the conditions for the Miss Universe contest? What money was transferred there? Was it a legitimate market price or was it some extraordinary amount of money like we`ve seen in the purchases of other houses and properties here in the United States to create leverage? And like you said, Ari, we don`t know the answer to that but those are the kinds of questions that we want to have answers to. And that`s why that interview today I thought was really interesting going back to 2013 when that relationship was forged and then they appear in 2016 looking for favors from the Trump Organization and even after the election they`re still looking for favors from president-elect Trump and his entourage.

MELBER: So let me ask you. Now that we`re the heart of it, you know, we only refer to the parts of the dossier that have some reason to be reported on not all of it, because as I`ve often emphasized like others it`s unverified. But as you know, the dossier does refer to something very intriguing that could be positive for Donald Trump. It says that there was a Russian effort to offer sweetheart prices, the kind of thing you just mentioned and that he turned it down which would make him potentially look good. What do you make of that in this context with this other reporting of what Mueller is asking about?

MCFAUL: Well, if that did happen and the Trump organization including candidate Trump or before then he wasn`t a candidate, if they were offered those deals and they turned them down, they should tell us about that. That would be great. That would be really good information to know. That`s not the way President Putin and his proxies work. They set up those deals in order to create leverage so if it didn`t happened, it would be wonderful if we rejected it and that line of questioning and reasoning we`d have a lot less doubt about. That hasn`t happened yet.

MELBER: It`s funny the way you put it. It`s almost weirder that they won`t speak to that out of excessive secrecy or maybe it`s not quite the whole story when it`s the kind of thing that would be a good thing to confirm on their side. Ambassador McFaul, as always, thank you. And we will be right back here with one more thing.


MELBER: With all eyes on Judge Kavanaugh tonight, an update to a story that broke this hour. Susan Collins, a pivotal Republican swing vote saying that his second accuser Miss Ramirez should be afforded the opportunity to address the Senate under oath. That is a story surely to watch. That does it for us. We`ll be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night, but "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Kavanaugh at the abyss. Let`s play HARDBALL.