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Trump shutdown chaos. TRANSCRIPT: 12/20/2018, The Beat w. Ari Melber.

Guests: David Ciciline, Eleanor Clift, Ben Smith, Nick Ackerman, Melissa Murray, Lanny Davis; Jack Jacobs; Eleanor Clift; Sam Seder; Hallie Jackson; Garrett Haake

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: December 20, 2018 Guest: David Ciciline, Eleanor Clift, Ben Smith, Nick Ackerman, Melissa Murray, Lanny Davis; Jack Jacobs; Eleanor Clift; Sam Seder; Hallie Jackson; Garrett Haake

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: I don`t even know where to begin. That`s all we have for MTP DAILY tonight.

In the midst of all of this breaking news, the House is voting right now on that key vote that will apparently tell us a lot more about whether there`s a shutdown coming. Meanwhile, of course, we have this national security implosion if you will. Our breaking news coverage continues right now with Ari Melber. And Ari, again, I don`t know if we`re -- I don`t know if breaking news is enough to describe everything that`s happening right now. But the Trump White House might be unraveling.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I heard you say nightmare. I heard your folks say unraveling. We have the language here, before I let you go, of Secretary Mattis saying, "Mr. President, you have the right to have a secretary defense whose views are better aligned with yours." Where do we go from here?

TODD: And I think that`s what -- and if you believe Jeremy Bash who says the president -- that Secretary Mattis was never going to resign, the president would have to fire him. So it`s some form of resignation and protest or a firing. But either way, a major crack.

MELBER: A major crack. And one of the people that was held out as part of the civil and military service that were the guard rails. We have a lot, obviously, in our show as you did, Chuck. As always, thank you so much.

TODD: Thank you, sir.

MELBER: You heard it right there. We are in the middle of what is, and I mean this literally, one of the wildest days of a very wild presidency. Donald Trump`s Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announcing formally he`s stepping down in February. As I was just discussing with Chuck Todd, my colleague, this is about disagreements with the commander-in-chief, it is also early reporting suggests another ousting.

Trump also on the verge of personally unilaterally being the force that shuts down your United States government, heading into the holidays, for no apparent reason. Again, that is the clearest way we can put it. He wants a wall but refused to negotiate to even get what Chuck Schumer had offered.

This hour, we`re expecting to hear on a wile late working night in Washington, live from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. They will effectively be on THE BEAT because I`ll be bringing you their live press conference. How is this affecting your pocketbook? Well, the stock market, continuing to plunge in response to among other things, the shutdown threat, 500 points down.

Also today, Republican lawmakers, they`ve had it. They are blasting their President Donald Trump for many things, including siding with Vladimir Putin, instead of the own advice he got from his own Pentagon advisers on Syria. And then the story that we`ve been following because it matters in many ways, this Justice Department in turmoil over again. Yes, the Russia- related Mueller probe.

Donald Trump`s acting attorney general now reportedly rejected the kind of ethics recommendation that Jeff Sessions followed in order to recuse himself, saying, no he will oversee the Mueller probe. And also breaking news that we`ll get to later in the hour on the man who would be permanent acting attorney general. We`ll get to that.

But first, let me bring in a panel on this wild night. Sam Seeder is hosting the Jody Report and a long time Washington watcher. Eleanor Clift, Washington correspondent for "The Daily Beast". Lanny Davis who`s advised the White House in crises, a special counsel to President Clinton, also has dealt with the Mueller probe. And Colonel Jack Jacobs, MSNBC military analyst.

Colonel, I`m going to get to you in a moment on the military. But Lanny, I begin with you, because we used to talk about White House in crises. You were in a hot one. I bet nights like tonight make that look like kindergarten. Your thoughts and is the president handling this right?

LANNY DAVIS, ADVISER TO MICHAEL COHEN: Well, I don`t want to insult Eleanor, but she was there when I was there and this would be unknown. We wouldn`t even call this a crisis. This is a meltdown. You lose your Secretary of Defense, your Chief of Staff, you shut down the government. And I just have to say one word about when I decided to work for Michael Cohen is when he said to me he never imagined -- this is a direct quote, he never imagined that Donald Trump would ever become president.

As soon as he became president, he started to fear for his children and his country. This is what I believe Mr. Cohen is referring to. As a reckless mentally unstable president of the United States who cozies up to Putin and seems to be betraying the national interests.

MELBER: Colonel Jacobs, walk us through what it means when you lose two generals and chief of staff and now defense secretary as I was reading and I have it here a letter that sounds like an ousting. "You have the right to a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned. I believe it is right for me to step down," a two-page kind of rebuke. Your analysis, sir?

COLONEL JACK JACOBS, RETIRED U.S. ARMY: Well, I`ve known General Mattis on and off for a long long time and the fact is that he would stay in his post until relieved. He`s been relieved. He wouldn`t quit of his own volition. This is an arrangement that was dictated by the president of the United States.

MELBER: Let me stop you there and then let you continue, Colonel. You`re saying that your understanding, given your experience and your relationship, your professional relationship with Mr. Mattis is that he was fired?

JACOBS: Well, yes. He would stay in his post until relieved, until he was told he had to go. If you would have spoken to him recently, you would have gotten exactly the same message. I think the same thing is true of General Kelly as a matter of fact. These people would serve the country and not an individual and would leave only if they were told that they have to leave.

And General Mattis put the best face on it. I think you`re losing a person with extremely forward-thinking vision, somebody who is focused on the defense of the republic and it is difficult to envision somebody as good as he replacing him, Ari.

MELBER: Eleanor?

ELEANOR CLIFT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, it is a sad day in America when a liberal like me says they`re regretting the fact that mad dog Mattis is leaving the administration. It was a nickname that he detested but he served this president as best he could and I think the country is in much less safe hands with his departure.

After the president changed Syria policy, announced that U.S. forces were victorious, ISIS was done, he was bringing everybody home, announced it by tweet, didn`t tell the Pentagon, didn`t call key senators on Capitol Hill, just did that on his own over the objections of virtually everyone in his foreign policy apparatus.

It seems to me that General Mattis almost had to go. So I don`t know whether he was relieved or whether he did the dutiful thing. If you can`t follow an order you`ve gotten from the commander-in-chief, maybe it is time to go. So maybe the -- his being relieved of his position is kind of a combination of his really wanting out as the honorable thing to do.

MELBER: Right. And you`re linking the big news stories here, which is all of the chaos, all of the problems, the disagreement and then, of course, Syria which is adjacent to Russia policy as well. The panel stays with me.

I`m going to add a voice for reporting to our panel. Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson. And Hallie, I want to hear what you are getting from the White House and I want to set you up here with some context which is Lindsey Graham, who is known recently to be quite supportive of many things the president does, I want to play for you this and then get your reporting which is the kind of blowback Donald Trump was already getting on this policy from Republicans. Take a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I do know this, that in this war, you will not win it by quit -- by giving up. This is an akin to surrendering. We can be successful only if we partner with others. This undercuts that effort. We`ve got two choices to fight this war, in their backyard or our backyard. And ISIS and Afghanistan I know for sure is looking toward the United States in their target sets. Mr. President, you have a chance to change course. You have a lot of bipartisan support to do so. Take advantage of it.


MELBER: Hallie?

HALLIE JACKSON, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Well, listen, we know we already have -- or hearing from Senator Graham not just on those issues, Ari and on that but on the resignation, the ousting of Secretary Jim Mattis, given that Senator Graham says now it is with great sadness he`s been informed of this resignation, this retirement, however, you want to phrase it.

Let me tick through those new reporting pieces of information that we have for you. So Senior White House officials say that Secretary Mattis came here to the White House this afternoon. I`m told that it was scheduled for right around 3:30. I don`t know that that`s quite right because that is when the Farm Bill signing was. But my guess is, Ari, that that`s why the president was so delayed to that Farm Bill signing.

So the secretary came here. He told the president that he would be leaving the administration on February 28 and I believe that at that point, Secretary Mattis also handed Donald Trump that resignation letter. And then they had a, what was phrased to me, as a difference of opinion, right. Not just over the course of some months, as we all know about, but in the course of this meeting, those differences of opinion came up.

Now, this official would not say specifically, did not know if Syria, for example, or Afghanistan or pick your issue came up and was one of the topics. But obviously the two, it sounds like, did have a discussion about where they simply don`t see eye to eye.

I`ve got to tell you, Secretary Mattis` resignation letter is extraordinary. It is a shotgun blast aimed directly into the oval office. If the president did, in fact, read that in front of Jim Mattis, you could imagine that he was not thrilled to be doing that, given that Mattis called him out for turning away allies and embracing traditional adversaries like Russia, like China. Very specifically saying that you need a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours, as you can see right there.

MELBER: Right.

JACKSON: It is --

MELBER: And let me read some of that to you, Hallie.

JACKSON: Go ahead.

MELBER: Because I want to get more of your analysis on that, as well as anything you could tell us from your reporting about the shutdown tonight. And this is breaking news. So we have all of it up on the screen but I think folks can follow as I say what the secretary told Donald Trump to his face in this letter after what we`ve been told is an ousting.

I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to countries whose interest are increasingly tensioned with ours. And then he name- checks two of them. It`s clear China and Russia want to shape a world consist went their authoritarian model. Veto authority over other nations, security decisions to promote their own interests. Hallie?

JACKSON: Ari, let me just actually say one thing. So I said the word ousting. I shouldn`t have said. That`s not the word that I want rocketing around the internet live television. I think that based on what you`re seeing from this letter, this was much more Jim Mattis saying I`m good, I`ve had enough, here`s your letter --

MELBER: And I`m not attributing that to you. Chuck and I spoke about it earlier.


MELBER: Colonel Jacobs said Mattis would serve until he`s done serving which is --


MELBER: -- his view based on his professional relationship. I understand you are not confirming that from the White House right now.

JACKSON: Although, it`s --

MELBER: But walk us through --


MELBER: Just walk us through the rest of that and then take us to how this affects the shutdown, the markets plunging which Chuck Todd and I were discussing looks like, not to be hyperbolic, but truly the wheels coming off tonight.

JACKSON: As one senior national security official told my colleague Josh Letterman using that exact phrase, Ari. So yes, the context is this was brewing for months. The relationship had soured. Sources that I`ve talked to in the White House have acknowledged that. The relationship just was not what it was in the words of one person here inside of the White House, things change. Yes, they very obviously did.

The president is expected to name a replacement, I am told, by the end of the year. I will give a caveat, a bit of a grain of salt with that which is that we have heard from the president time and time again that he would name a replacement within a certain X period of time and that has not happened. But that at least is the expectation that we are getting from the White House tonight on that front.

As for how this relates to the shutdown, I think Chuck used the phrase earlier in his show, it is like lighting a match and throwing it on some gasoline here. This a day at a 24-hours and a 48-hours in a week, Ari, in which we`ve seen these developments on Syria. We`ve seen developments as it relates to the potential for a government shutdown.

President Trump -- think about his mindset here. Yesterday, right, there were signals coming that maybe he would break this promise to his base on this border wall, pick up the fight again in the spring and sign the short- term fix if the Senate and the House passed it to keep the government open. And then what happened?

He started losing, Ari. He started losing those voices, Conservative voices who speak for many in his base, in Conservative media blasting the president. He heard directly, I`m told, from, for example, Mark Meadows begging the president, essentially don`t do this. Don`t sign this thing. Fight on. Your base wants you to fight. And that is the mindset that this president kind of embattled here on the border wall front came into this with the news about Syria about withdrawing troops.

MELBER: Embattled but losing a war here. Hallie, stay with us as much as you can. You mentioned the Hill. You mentioned the votes. I want to mention Sam Seder. I want to get to you in a second who`s been patient. But I have breaking reporting from Garrett Haake on Capitol Hill where all this is playing out.

And as I mentioned, Garrett, as I told viewers at the top of the show, we`re going to hear from Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi shortly. You`ve got all of the fallout from that dramatic meeting they had over the shutdown and Donald Trump as Hallie was just mentioning. Apparently saying, "Great, here comes the Trump shutdown". What are you hearing there?

GARRETT HAAKE, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Yes, I think that is exactly right, Ari. We`re looking at I think Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer once again drawing a line in the sand here. We fully expect them to say that they will not accept this CR that`s going to come back from the House loaded up with wall money.

After that meeting last week, all of the political pressure was taken off of them. Donald Trump said out loud in front of the entire country, he would own this shutdown and it`s not clear that Republicans have any kind of big-picture strategy to get out of a shutdown if they get into one.

Tactically, we know their next move. They`re going to try to pass the CR with wall money in it. It`s not entirely clear that they can do that an. They`ll send it over to Senate where it will fail as Chuck Schumer will tell the country here I think in a few minutes and then what?

MELBER: Yes. Then what? So let me get you on that, Garrett. For folks watching this who have heard Donald Trump go back and forth with Chuck and Nancy and have this drama, tonight is different because he`s lost John Kelly. Now, he`s lost General Mattis. The markets are plunging. The DOJ is in turmoil. There`s the new battle of a confirmation fight there with the incoming attorney general who apparently was back-channeling ways to fight Mueller. There is a lot going on.

When you look at what you are seeing in your area of reporting expertise, is this a shutdown showdown or is this a shut shutdown faux-down?

HAAKE: Yes, this might end with something of a whimper. Republican senators are leaving town. They don`t want this fight. There is just no vigor for the idea of fighting for the wall on the Senate side of things. And now, look at all of the things they`re going to have to do when they come back. They need to get a new attorney general. They need to get a new interior secretary. Now, they need a new secretary of defense.

General Mattis was, without exception or maybe with the exception of Mitch McConnell who`s married to a cabinet secretary, every sitting senators` favorite cabinet secretary, losing him up here will shake the confidence of the people that Donald Trump needs to do his agenda items going forward and that includes the wall. The idea that this will be a big fight over the holidays, Donald Trump is going to be fighting that alone on the Senate side largely. He`s got these allies in the House but the idea that this is going to get somehow muscled through over Christmas break with folks heading for the exits, I don`t see it.

MELBER: Yes. Stay with me if you can. Obviously, we`re covering a lot of rolling breaking news. I want to go to Sam Seder on the liberal democratic strategy here because you`ve covered this a long time. You have a point of view on this. And there was a time when Democrats didn`t seem to have the strength for these fights. Do you think we`re witnessing the Nancy Pelosi strategy, make him own it, don`t back down?

SAM SEDER, HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Yes, I think so. And I think we`re going to see the Democrats take this opportunity to slow down the confirmation of judges. I think we already got some reporting on that today. And this is a -- this is an opportunity for Democrats. I mean it`s -- on some level, it is also sort of a terrifying time. We talk about presidents being somewhat isolated and insolated, Donald Trump`s world is getting increasingly smaller and tighter.

But this is an opportunity for Democrats to stay cohesive and slow down Mitch McConnell`s agenda. Because to the extent that there is an agenda on the Republican side, it is more Mitch McConnell`s, I think, than anyone else`s. And frankly, Mitch McConnell needs to step up and start dealing with the fact that his Republican president has gone off the rails.

MELBER: Basically, when we look at all of this -- and Lanny, I know I may lose you in a little bit, what do you see as the way this White House deals with what you call this meltdown? And what does it say when you see these many people leave in this way?

And all of this, of course, to state the obvious, which sometimes is my job, is before the Democrats even take charge in the House where their eight-point national margin is one of the greatest rebukes of a sitting president in the modern era.

DAVIS: Look, the classic rule of crisis management is the classic rule of deep hole, stop digging. And what Donald Trump is incapable of and what his White House and people that I`ve talked to around him at the White House, is he`s incapable of dealing with the truth. He not only lies but I think that almost sociopathically that he doesn`t even care that he`s lying. And it is the kind of White House that you cannot deal with the crisis when the man you are representing is lying all the time.

MELBER: Lanny Davis, I know that you also have other work tonight so thank you for being part of our coverage.

DAVIS: Thank you.

MELBER: We`re not going anywhere. We`re continuing right now.

So Colonel, when you look at this, build on what you heard there from Garrett Haake and Hallie Jackson because we`re talking about a general who, let`s be clear, above and beyond his service and his role in running the Pentagon, which is big, he was also, we just heard, widely credited on the Hill as being one of the, and I hate the cliche, but the so-called adults in a White House not known, I guess, for an adult decision-making process.

JACOBS: Well, just because it is a cliche, doesn`t mean it is actually true. It is not true. If you would have asked either Mattis or Kelly some time ago when they first took office why they would do it, they would have told you, both of them would have said somebody has got to do it.

And I think that tells you a great deal about how they viewed the importance, A, of service, B, of service in this environment, and C, how dangerous the world has become outside of the United States. There are threats around the world we`re either incapable of dealing with or we refuse to deal with. And I think we`re going to regret not having dealt with any of them.

Jim Mattis was the kind of guy who would approach every problem with the acuity of a surgeon. He would start at the end and work backwards, what is it we`re trying to accomplish. What resources do we have to apply to it and how are we going to get it done? With Jim Mattis gone, I`m afraid we`re not going to have that focus in an increasingly fragmented and difficult world. And I think he`s going to be missed not just by the people in uniform, but by the nation altogether, Ari.

MELBER: Yes. Eleanor Clift, when you look at this and people are watching what is again, I`m going to commit another cliche, which is typically supposed to be a time when the news slows down a little bit as you go towards the holidays, are we witnessing a worsening of Trumpism and the leadership and the selfishness given what we saw? We`ve got reporting and we`ve touched on this last night that the main thing driving Donald Trump back towards wanting the shutdown fight that looms right now as the market crashes, Jim Mattis leaves, with criticism from "Fox & Friends."

CLIFT: Yes. So he`s paying attention to Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter, and Laura Ingraham. And the fact that they could be running national policy and that he sits in his bedroom tweeting, it`s really -- it`s unworthy of this country. And I think Jim Mattis is a man of high moral character, great intelligence, and with respect for tradition and his -- the contrast with Trump, you never know what the event is that`s going to set things really spiraling out of control.

But I do think his departure combined with the irrational government shutdown, the tumbling of the stock market could finally begin to unmoor some of the Republicans from their slavish devotion to this president. I`m waiting for the Goldwater moment with the Watergate reference, of course, when the senior Republican leaders went to Richard Nixon and said it was over. We`re not there yet. But, boy, this sure feels like the wheels are coming off.

MELBER: The wheel is coming off has been repeated because it feels like it.

CLIFT: Right.

MELBER: It feels like part of what is happening. You`re in Washington. I guess what I have to ask you is should it have to get that bad for that to happen?

CLIFT: The mechanisms that we have without Republicans in the Senate, without it being bipartisan impeachment is not really much of a remedy. There is the 25th Amendment. You could imagine Secretary Mattis, he`ll be there until February. You could imagine him going to other cabinet secretaries. Maybe going to Vice President Pence. And if the numbers are there, if the bottom really is falling out, going to the president, that is the other remedy. There is -- other than that, it is the election. And this president needs to be defeated fair and square if the other remedies don`t work.

MELBER: Copy. I want to add to our discussion a fairly heavy hitter in reporting and media circles which is Ben Smith, executive editor and chief of "BuzzFeed". Loyal viewers of THE BEAT know you are not here that often but the last time you were here was a night like this. So we are somehow fortunate on big nights to have you here. I want to discuss Russia and the dossier with you later in the hour.

But right now, as all of this news breaks, and you have a shutdown looming and you`ve covered this throughout your life, I want to play Rush Limbaugh of all people who said, and he`s not always telling the truth, but he says that he was personally assured by Donald Trump that he`s calling the shots here and that is why we might get a shutdown. Take a look.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, HOST, THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW: It is the case that the president has gotten word to me that he is either getting money for the border, for border security, or he`s shutting the whole thing down. That`s one I heard. No, no, no, the president wants you to know that it`s money or nothing. And if it is nothing, he shuts it down. So there you have it.


MELBER: There you have it. We`re a few minutes away from a hastily called press conference of the Democratic leaders Pelosi and Schumer on this. Is that why we could head towards a shutdown?

BEN SMITH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BUZZFEED: I mean I think certainly there is the obvious narrative that he`s -- the Conservative Republicans on "Fox", people like Limbaugh want him to stand up for the wall and he`s doing that. That`s obviously part of it. But also, as always, he`s putting on a show. He`s changing the topic. And you`ve been -- there is a lot of things that are perhaps worse for Donald Trump than a fight over a wall that you`ve been talking about.

MELBER: What are those things?

SMITH: The stock market, Mattis` departure. And I think -- so I think -- I mean I`m not sure -- I think that like in some ways, it makes more sense to view him deciding how to get attention rather than operating on profound political principle.

MELBER: Right. And then the attention matrix here tells you what?

SMITH: I think the shutdown. And I think of all these fairly catastrophic stories, the shutdown is probably the one he likes best.

MELBER: Yes. And then what does that say about losing Mattis?

SMITH: I don`t know. I mean I`m not -- but I`m not -- but I think it is like so easy to jump and say the wheels are coming off. I mean Mattis is going to be around until February. There`s not -- the wheels coming off is not a constitutional term and so I don`t -- I mean I think I just don`t see why we don`t just sort of head into a shutdown if that is what the president wants.

MELBER: Well, speak to that, Sam. Ben raises the point that the wheels coming off is not a constitutional term.

SEDER: Right.

MELBER: Unlike blowing the roof off, which is what the 25th Amendment does according to the founders` lexicon.

SEDER: I mean look, the bottom line is I think there was a sense for a long time that Mattis was in the generals, as it were, which I find is an uncomfortable concept --


SEDER: -- where the bull warts between Donald Trump and total chaos. We don`t know if that is the case. We don`t know what this means in terms of -- is this mean that John Bolton is now going to get his desires in terms of what happens with the national defense? We just -- we can`t know that. I mean one thing that struck me about Limbaugh --

MELBER: Let me go on but does it mean, to follow on your concept, that there will be more foreign policy made by tweet? So you have a Syria policy that comes literally out of the president`s head, be it for a bad motivation or not, your answer and then I`m going to bring in a congressman which I`m going to fit in before we go to Nancy and Chuck as it were.

SEDER: Well, I mean look the bottom line, the one thing we can say is that his world is getting more and more insular. And to the extent that he`s getting any advice, it is coming literally from people like Sean Hannity. I mean literally. And so I think we`re going to see more politicization of everything and there`s not going to be much sort of like policy-driven agenda because those people who would give that kind of advice seem to be getting further and further from the inner circle.

MELBER: Let me bring in Congressman David Cicilline who`s on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committee, an excellent guest for us. You`re on the Hill. We`re waiting to hear from your colleagues here which viewers can see on our corner box because I had a guest pointing out maybe this is another Trump attention device, but it also affects millions of federal workers if that is what it is. What are you thinking about tonight and are we going to have a shutdown?

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-R), JUDICIARY AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, Ari, we`ve done everything we can to prevent a government shutdown. Obviously, the Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House so they`ll ultimately decide whether there is a shutdown. The president said he intends to shut the government down over the border wall.

We all believe that we have to support very robust border security. We`ve already voted for that. We`re prepared to vote for more. But the security, we want it to be done in a smart way, using technology, using drones, using satellites, using more personnel, an effective way to secure the border.

Everyone acknowledges this $70 billion, a 1,000-mile wall is a waste of money and not effective in securing the border. But the president has made this his issue and it seems he`s intent on shutting the government down regardless of what other alternatives might be available.

So they`re going to bring to the floor a bill that will propose spending $5 billion on this $70 billion wall. We`ll see whether they pass it in the House and what the Senate does with it. But my fear is that we`re headed for a shutdown because the president seems committed to shutting down the government.

MELBER: Right. Another way to say that is you think we`re headed towards the shutdown because he said that and he owns it. And concurrently, your colleagues, your leader soon to be Speaker Pelosi is not going to give an inch at this juncture.

CICILLINE: Well, it is not even a question of not giving an inch. We said, look, do a continuing resolution, fund the government. We`ve passed seven of these Appropriations Bill on the Homeland Security one, just do a continuing resolution so we can continue to discuss the best way to secure the border.

So we`ve given the president two alternatives that don`t require a government shutdown and offered our support to do it even if he doesn`t have Republican votes but he`s rejected both of those. He`s committed to shutting the government down.

I think he sees political value and looking like he`s fighting for something important when, in fact, he`s really just shutting the government down at a time when folks will be worried about getting paid near the holidays. The very department he`s worried about, Homeland Security, he`s going to ultimately end up shutting that down. So in the name of securing our borders, he`s closing down the agency that`s responsible for securing our borders. It makes no sense.

MELBER: Congressman, while I have you, I mentioned we`re moments away from this press conference that may shed a little more light on the state of play. And for viewers just joining us here as we approach the half-hour mark, the secretary of defense is now out, the markets are down, the shutdown is looming as of potentially tomorrow and a lot of other things are going on at the Justice Department, which Ben Smith was pointing out, could also be part of the classic distraction.

And so rather than be distracted, let me ask you about that, Congressman, when you look at the two big stories coming out of DOJ today, number one, a controversy over whether the acting attorney general really is cleared to oversee Mueller or not. And number two, a new memo that has been revealed that shows that Donald Trump picked a nominee to be A.G. who was privately advising him on how to defeat Mueller which is a little different than being Mueller`s boss in a nonpartisan and impartial way. What are your view of either or both of those developments?

CICILLINE: I think they are both alarming. I mean I think we`re now learning that Mr. Whitaker was advised by I think officials that he ought to probably recuse himself in light of the potential conflicts. They elected not to follow that advice. So I think we need to know why and really need to see exactly what advice they gave him.

And then we learn about a memo that Mr. Barr prepared while he was offering advice to the president where he argues the president is essentially above the law and obstruction of justice shouldn`t apply to him which is legally incorrect. And you have to wonder, this is at a time he was sort of applying or auditioning for a position in the administration. And it is interesting that President Trump selected people to lead the Justice Department who believe strongly in presidential authority and think that it is inappropriate to investigate or review the conduct of the president. So very alarming --

MELBER: You say auditioning -- Congressman, you say auditioning. I mean is that the emerging Democratic view on this tonight, that basically this is evidence that the attorney general nominee Mr. Barr was trading an attack on Mueller in exchange for this job? Is that how far you`re going?

CICILLINE: Well, I think we need -- well I think we need to know the circumstances. I mean, we should remember this was an unsolicited 20-page memo that he just did the research on and wrote and sent it to them unsolicited which is kind of curious, at the same time that he is apparently seeking a position, the Trump Administration. I think, we need to get to that.

MELBER: Yes, I got to tell you it`s fascinating. Let me ask you that. I mean, I got it right here. It`s very long. It`s very detailed. It reads like more than one lawyer worked on it, as you say unsolicited June 8th, made out to Rosenstein and angle at the Trump Justice Department. And according to reporting that we`ve seen circulated to the Trump Administration.

I guess it`d be sent one of this every six months on a range of issues then he`s just a nerdy former attorney general with spare time and nothing wrong with that. But what do you think this was?

CICILLINE: Well, it seems like it`s the only memo he sent. And again, it`s designed to make the case that the President is above the law and it`s inappropriate to question him about obstruction of justice which of course is not the law. We know that there were obstruction of justice claims made against President Clinton and President Nixon.

So the idea that the President or anyone else is above the law is not accurate. But you have to wonder what motivated Mr. Barr to prepare this memo, to send it in. Was it in an effort to endear himself to the President and demonstrate? He would try to defend him from the Mueller investigation and be hired and maybe it worked.

But I think there are a lot of questions about the circumstances for the preparation of that memo? What it really means and whether or not it disqualifies Mr. Barr, at least from supervising this investigation. Maybe he doesn`t disqualify him from being the attorney general, but for sure it disqualifies him from supervising an investigation that he has now argued to the department of justice ought not exist at all.

MELBER: Congressman, before I let you go, is it all right if i get a little metaphysical with you?


MELBER: Does tonight really feel different or is this that thing where we`re in this wild ride, the stuff is important, but sometimes it gets out of ahead of us or are we entering a different period in your view the feeling in Washington in the building that you are speaking to us from?

CICILLINE: No, I think we`re entering a different period. I think there is a real sense of chaos in the White House. A real loss of control and the loss of somebody like Secretary Mattis, a President who seems committed to shutting the government down and an ongoing effort to jam some people in the Department of Justice who are predisposed to protect him.

We need an attorney general that represents the people of this country that`s committed to upholding the rule of law, that will show independence in that effort and these are all events which I think they`re very disturbing and it feels very different.

MELBER: Congressman Cicilline, thank you very much for your time on what is obviously as you put it a different kind of night. Eleanor, what do you think of what we just heard and the diagnosis of increasing chaos?

ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST BLOGGER: I thought the congressman put it perfectly. And you just take off at any one of these individual chaotic events and you could imagine any one of them would be commanding headlines and creating alarm. You put them altogether and people are aghast and you don`t know what this President is going to do. And so the quality of his judgment and his apparent instability is worrying.

And, again, it`s going to take Republicans to stand up and basically confront their President and until that happens I think Democrats are going to be very weary to get too far out in front of any of this because they see it as a trap.

So, I`m waiting for Republicans and I thought Jim Comey the other day spoke very eloquently on those lines in the capitol saying, when are people going to speak out and stop pretending that, OK, well Trump is just he likes chaos, he likes to throw things around and break things up, and that`s good for the country. They`ve got to stop and really look at what he`s doing.


CLIFT: And analyze their own response.

MELBER: We`re also getting word here in the middle of the hour, breaking news as we bring it to you, from NBC News, Ben Smith, Legal experts are telling NBC News that Mueller could be wrapping up his final report by as soon as February. But as I always note here with caveats, always important to show what I don`t know, I don`t know anything about Mueller`s timeline and very few people do.

Ken Dilanian reported out, he may join us momentarily. Also, I`m obligated to tell you, the viewer, we are still watching the box in the corner of your screen and we`re going to bring that shutdown press conference when it happens.

So with that on the table, Ben, I want to turn to the actual reason I invited you on The Beat tonight. Amidst everything else that we`ll continue to monitor and I may break in as more.

BEN SMITH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BUZZFEED NEWS: February is a hundred years from now.

MELBER: That`s right, a hundred years war virtually. Vladimir Putin went out on the world stage today and did what authoritarians do. He told his version of events. He controls events in Russia to some degree, spent four hours talking.

And yet this is also a day where we`ve reflected on the dossier now with a lot more of developing in the Mueller probe which I mentioned, NBC has new reporting on. What do you see as the lessons learned as Putin addresses the world, tells his side of the story. Your publication was of course, the one that broke the seal on the dossier in that heady period when Donald Trump was in transition to becoming president.

CUOMO: Well, first of all, we won a big court ruling yesterday that really vindicated our decision to publish the dossier and that was important in American see what their government do and what their government`s looking at.

I think, looking back the most extraordinary thing about the dossier, because, there are elements of that were unverified then as wrote -- remain unverified elements, Paul Manafort is been arrested that have been verified. But this was the summer of 2016 and he was saying very, very, clearly there`s rise and effort --

MELBER: As mentioned, I have to intervene to say here`s the Democratic press conference. Let`s listen in.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We put together an appropriations bill to meet the needs of the American people and now to keep government open. Somehow or other, and I don`t know what the answer to the question is, the President of the United States prefers to shut government down.

And will resist to any opportunity to keep government open. Again, we are completely ready, as we have been for a while, by bipartisan, by camera legislation to pass the six appropriations bill and make a -- have a continuing resolution for the seventh bill, if we cannot come to terms on that.

We`ve offered that to the President. We`ve also offered him seven -- continuing resolution with seven bills in it. Yesterday the United States Senate passed legislation overwhelmingly and I`ll yield to the distinguished Leader in the Senate to talk about that.

The President is doing everything that he can to shut the government down. Have to ask the question, why does he not believe in governments? Does he not care about the American people? Doesn`t he know that the economy is uncertain, hasn`t he followed the stock market that he likes to brag about sometimes.

There`s something wrong with this picture, especially in the holiday season. And so, if they make the bill bad enough, they`re able to get maybe enough votes on the House side. But for a shameful bill that is unworthy of this House of Representatives and certainly of the American people that I yield to the distinguished Leader from the Senate majority.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Well, thank you, Leader Pelosi. Now, today`s events have made one thing clear, President Trump is plunging the country into chaos. The stock market is down another 500 points.

General Mattis is stepping down. And we know he has real disagreements with the President on Syria and on the wall. And now President Trump is throwing a temper tantrum and creating the Trump shutdown of the government.

Last night the Senate passed by voice unanimously a bill proposed by Leader McConnell, all Speaker Ryan has to do is put it on the floor of the House, he`ll get a majority of votes, and the President can sign it and avoid a shutdown.

But unfortunately, President Trump was attacked this morning and last night by the hard right and fearful he backed off his commitment to sign this bill. Republican Leaders told us yesterday that he was ready to sign the Bipartisan Bill that passed the Senate unanimously, every Democrat and every Republican, to avoid a government shutdown.

The bill contained neither Democratic demands or Republican demands. It said to the American people, we have a way to keep the government open. And Leader Pelosi, Leader McConnell, and myself have done everything we can to avoid a shutdown.

But President Trump wants one. He`s asked for one 25 times and he said in front of us he`d be proud to shut down the government. It is nothing to be proud of. The bottom line is simple, the Trump temper tantrum will shutdown the government but it will not get him his wall.

The bill that`s on the floor of the House, everyone knows will not pass the Senate. Speaker Ryan, Leader McCarthy have cynically put it on the floor of the House, knowing it can`t pass the Senate. Everyone knows it can`t the pass the Senate.

It`s a cynical attempt, a cynical attempt to just hurt innocent people and to just what President Trump wants, even though they probably know it`s bad for the country. So bottom line is very simple. There is still hope.

Leader Pelosi and I have put two proposals on the table. We have not taken them off, that would avoid a government shutdown and get a majority of votes in the House and Senate. Leader McConnell had put on the floor last night a proposal that would avoid shutting down the government.

It is a shame that this President who`s plunging the nation into chaos is throwing another temper tantrum and going to hurt lots of innocent people. The Trump temper tantrum may produce a government shutdown. It will not get him his wall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Leader (ph), what happens next in the Senate if this bill does pass the House tonight?

SCHUMER: Well, Leader McConnell has said he would schedule a vote. It clearly will not come close to getting the 60 votes that it needs. And then Leader Pelosi and I and probably Senator McConnell would hope that the House would then consider passing the bipartisan unanimously passed bill that the Senate would pass. But whether they`ll do that or not, your guess is as good as mine. Donald Trump wants a shutdown and they seem to be so afraid that they`re going to go along. We`ll see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A couple of minutes ago you told some of us you were shaken by the news about Jim Mattis resignation. Why are you shaken by this news?

PELOSI: Well, I`m shaken by the news because of the patriot that general - - Secretary Mattis is. I think that everybody in the country should read his letter of resignation. It`s a letter of great patriotism, respect for the President, but also a statement of his values, where he talks about the strength of our nation is intrinsically linked to the strength of unique and comprehensive system of alliances that we have. That he talks about we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach though the countries whose strategic interest are increasingly with intent tensions with ours.

It`s a beautiful letter about again our values as a nation in terms of our national security written by a patriotic American who was a comfort to many of us as a voice of stability in the Trump administration. So just look at this week. The President taking troops out of Syria without really full consultation with his -- with the National Security -- leaders of his own administration.

The President taking actions that encourage his Secretary of Defense to issue a letter of resignation. His reversing his position about signing a bill. Maybe he thinks the government shutdown, he could golf more comfortably. That`s not how it works. Government must work even if you`re golfing for two weeks.

So there`s something very wrong with this picture and this resignation is one -- we just were briefed a week ago by senator -- by Secretary Mattis and Secretary Pompeo and that was last Thursday, so it was one week ago. Our troops look to Secretary Mattis as a Leader and now he is going to be leaving them. This is very serious for our country. I yield.

SCHUMER: Yes, Secretary Mattis was one of the few symbols, the few items of strength and stability in this administration. Everything that indicates stability, everything that indicates strength, everything that indicates knowledge is leaving this administration. General Kelly, General Mattis, so many others.

PELOSI: McMaster.

SCHUMER: McMaster, exactly. There is chaos now in this administration. This week was one of the most chaotic weeks we`ve ever seen in American government and amazingly they want to close the week, President Trump does, by shutting down the government, shutting down the government.

Now, we all know that Secretary Mattis had real disagreements with the President on Syria and on wall. Some speculated that the President was going to demand that he start building a wall, which he knows he can`t do by law, and maybe that`s one of the reasons he stepped down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leaders, do you think there is -- any reasonable prospect that if there is a shutdown you could override President Trump`s veto of a CR in the next week or so?

SCHUMER: You have to ask our Republican friends.

PELOSI: It was strange about how our Republican friends, the worse he gets the more they rally around him. And this -- just to refer back to what Leader Schumer has saying about the voice of stability in this administration and the people who have left. You have leaders, great leaders who have left the administration in dismay and the rest of them have left in disgrace.

And that`s what this administration has been about. We don`t want to be -- to your mongers (ph) in terms of our country. This great country can withstand just about anything but it shouldn`t have to. It shouldn`t have to.

Yes, I am shaken by the resignation of General Mattis. For what it means to our country, for the message it sends to our troops and for the indication of what his view is of the commander-in-chief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are Americans left faith without Mattis running the Pentagon (inaudible) your friend?

SCHUMER: Look, our military soldiers, the 2.5 -- 2.15 million of them are civilian employees and defense looked up to General Mattis. I`m sure they feel it`s a great loss. I`m sure most Americans feel it`s a great loss. And everything like this that happens, the resignation of a strong leader gives the American people less and less faith in President Trump and the way he governs.

PELOSI: It`s just all the more reason for us to pray for our country. Our country has been blessed in so many ways by leaders throughout the centuries -- decades. And some of them, one of them, General Mattis. This is a very sad day for our country.

Read his letter. Have you read his letter? Read his letter. And examine the activities that have led up to it and what it means. Because of his leadership, we are safe. Yes. We have to pray that we`re safe and we have to continue to make sure the American people assured were safe.

That is the oath of office we take, to protect and defend and we will. We shouldn`t have to do so because of the temper tantrums of the commander-in- chief.

SCHUMER: Last question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now the Senate is going to have a number of key Cabinet posts that they`re going to be forced to confirm here in a very short period of time. Are -- is your caucus able to work with the administration with this new round of appointment and they give them --

SCHUMER: Well, unlike previous Presidents, Democratic and Republican, there`s no consultation. They don`t call us and say, "What do you think of this person? What do you think of that person?" And most of the nominations have been so below par in their ethical standards, in their ability to govern, in their ideology which is so far over. And I hope there`d be a change but given the past group of nominees, I don`t.

So they`re going to get very, very thorough examinations, they`re going to get serious, serious questions. And in the past almost all of them have not passed master. Thank you.

PELOSI: Thank you, all.


MELBER: We`ve been listening to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi going right at Donald Trump. Senator Schumer saying that if there is a Trump shutdown tomorrow because of a Trump tantrum. Pelosi, the incoming House Speaker saying just now she is shaken by Secretary Mattis` resignation letter urging Americans to read it.

Eleanor Clift, what is the significance of what we just heard?

CLIFT: These are two professionals. I looked up recently Chuck Schumer was first elected to the House in 1980 and then the Senate in 1998. Nancy Pelosi was first elected to the House in 1987, that`s a combined 70 years of political and legislative experience.

And they are bullwort (ph) tonight and going into the future and some of the language that they used that Pelosi begging Americans to read the letter, read the letter from Mattis which outlined his standards and his reverence for Americas traditions and his patriotism

And Senator Schumer saying this is the most chaotic week in the American presidency or one of the most chaotic weeks in the American presidency. This is a reckoning --

MELBER: Right.

CLIFT: -- and the President set it off, I think with the firing, with the departure of Jim Mattis. So highly regarded by everybody, that without him I think it`s scary as to what might come next.


CLIFT: But the Senate might not so easily confirm the Trump nominees that are coming along.

MELBER: Right.

CLIFT: They`ll take more time and I think -- I would hope Republicans are shaken as well.

MELBER: Well, and that seems to be what everyone is also watching for the implications. Eleanor Clift, thanks for being part of our coverage. If you`re watching us here, we`re not taking another break. We`re going to continue with out breaking coverage, 6:50 P.M on the east coast.

A huge day by any estimation, and we`ve been covering the shutdown. We`ve been covering the removal of Secretary Mattis. We`ve been covering the plunging stock markets. There`s another gigantic story that we`ve been report on, I have two great experts here forward. And it is impacting the Mueller probe.

So, let me walk you through this because it also it`s part of what`s going on heating up the White House. The acting Attorney General, Trump`s loyalist Matt Whitaker, well, he has put that word today. This is also a news today. He`s going to over see the Mueller probe himself.

But his Justice Department saying there`s no reason for him to recuse like Jeff Sessions. But then swiftly today, a scandal reports that it`s only happening because Whitaker`s advisor actually rejected the formal counsel.

For that, he thinks official that he should recuse. Now the man who could more important acting Ag is Trump`s pick for a permanent A.G. Eleanor and I just discussing how the Senate will deal with this. Well, tonight Washington has been pouring over a secret memo that this man wrote to the Trump administration outlining arguments against Mueller`s obstruction inquiry.

What that means tonight is, we now know something we didn`t know yesterday. The man Trump picked to be Mueller`s boss was also privately serving as something more like Mueller`s opposing counsel, sending this lengthy memo, the Trump administration arguing Mueller`s approach to potential obstruction with, "Fatally miss conceived".

And that moving forward is it would risk damage to the presidency. Barr was writing based on public information which means the kind of stuff you or I or anyone might know. And today, this was also so important on this big news night.

Today, Mueller`s long-time boss cited that fact to pour some cold water on Barr`s past advice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lots of people offer opinions to the Department Of Justice but they don`t influence our own decision making. Our decisions are informed by our knowledge of the actual facts and the case which Mr. Barr didn`t have.


MELBER: Which means Mr. Barr didn`t have. And also a lot of the reactions initially this afternoon to this Barr memo note how it does disagree with Mueller as I just told you. They suggest it could be bad news for Mueller if Barr is his new boss confirmed by the Senate.

But let me tell you this, some people may be putting too much stock in certain parts of the memo. The, "a famous rule of some, the Barr memo may not mean what they think it means."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can (INAUDIBLE). I do not think it means what you think it means.


MELBER: Let me explain why. Barr`s criticism of Mueller`s obstruction theory is limited because he says there`s only two actions that Trump took that could be obstruction, firing Comey and asking him to drop the Flynn investigation. But what Barr may not have known or fully appreciate when he wrote this is all the other reports that would detail more evidence of obstruction.

And so, Barr has now put into writing an argument that Mueller can use against Trump. He actually highlights, I want to show you this. Actions by a President that would amount to obstruction crimes writing, "Obviously, the President can commit obstruction and then describing the act". Barr says, "It could be crimes".

In other words, crimes by Trump. So, let`s go through it because this, what I`m about to show you, may send chills down Rudy Giuliani`s back tonight. Barr writes that a President can commit criminal obstruction by encouraging, what? Perjury.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump called Michael Cohen a rat.


MELBER: That`s the President of the United States calling his former lawyer there a rat for cooperating, which might fail that Barr standard. Then Barr also writes in this newly public memo a President commits criminal obstruction potentially by pushing a witness to change testimony.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A tweet storm unleashed this morning. I will never testify against Trump. This statement was recently made by Roger Stone. Nice to know that some people still have guts.


MELBER: Maybe Barr didn`t know he`d be describing something that ends up in the strike zone of criminal obstruction. You have Trump there basically encouraging a potential witness not to testify. And lastly, before I bring in our experts. Barr writes in this newly released memo a President can commit obstruction by impairing the availability of evidence.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller back in June.


MELBER: Let`s get into it. Nick Ackerman, former Watergate Special Prosecutor and Melissa Murray, law Professor at NYU who has clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. I believe I have MSNBC`s Ken Delaney standing by as well on this busy night.

Our first time guess, Professor, I go to you. Does Barr end up outlining things that he said the President took crimes that look like things Donald Trump has now done.

MELLISSA MURRAY, LAW PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Well, Barr has done something that I would tell any first year law student not to do which is make assumptions based on facts that you don`t have. So, he`s laid out this 19 page memo but as Rosenstein said, he`s operating in the dark. And he doesn`t know a lot of things that are happening and he doesn`t know what`s yet to come.

And as you say, the President has done a lot of things that may seem like acts that would fall into some of the things outlined by Barr in that memo. So he`s auditioning for a job that he may not want.

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: There`s no question. First of all, he doesn`t take into account the whole myriad of facts that we have after this date of this memo, which is June 8th, all kinds of things happened after that date. But if you look at this memo, this looks like something that was written by a second or third year law student who never --

MELBER: Well, he is the former Attorney General of the United States. He outranked you, sir.

AKERMAN: He certainly did, but I`ll tell you something, if I got this from an associate in my firm I would be horrified.

MELBER: He would.

AKERMAN: He would. First of all, he has got the wrong obstruction statute that he identifies. He identifies the witness tampering statute not the standard obstruction 1503 Statute which he claims only applies to proceedings.

MELBER: So bottom line, throw some of the numbers out.


MELBER: Are you saying that he -- you think he was stretching because he was auditioning for the job?

AKERMAN: He certainly was stretching because he was auditioning for the job. This is a job letter, but what`s even worse is it shows that somebody who was a former attorney general. He doesn`t understand obstruction of justice. And in and of itself, forget the conflict, forget what he -- what he said to the President, I wouldn`t hire this guy to be a law clerk based on this memo.

MELBER: Doesn`t understand or in this instance, as lawyers sometimes do, doesn`t want to understand?

MURRAY: Or maybe he wants to understand different things. So the middle part of the letter is a love letter to the unitary executive theory which posits that all of the power of the executive branch is vested in the President and cannot really be checked by Congress. And if you are auditioning for the role of attorney general, that`s exactly what you want to say to appeal to this particular President.

MELBER: Ken Dilanian, you were out there reporting and you have news on the future of the Mueller probe, what is it?

KEN DILANIAN, INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NBC NEWS: That`s right Ari, it make makes Barrs memo mood because what we`re reporting tonight is that Robert Mueller is wrapping up his investigation and may submit a report to the Justice Department as early as mid February.

When Matthew Whitaker presumably will still be the acting Attorney General because it`ll be difficult to get Barr confirmed by that point, this is some deep reporting that I`ve got with Pete Williams.

And frankly, I was surprised by this reporting. I had thought that there were many months left to go in this probe, but we`ve talked to a number of people associated with it. Obviously many people who have clients in the case, but more than that, government officials and people who are in a position to know, Ari. And all the signs are pointing to Mueller wrapping things up and submitting a report. Now what we haven`t --

MELBER: Now Ken, I`m not going to press you on the identity of your sources, but I was speaking to a former prosecutor with a similar job last night, Ken Starr, who certainly leaked more than Mueller.

What can you tell us about why people should understand this to be an important timeline that is rooted and what they`re going to do when they famously don`t leak or talk that much?

DILANIAN: Right. They don`t leak, but people do need to be ready for this to happen because it`s not just the Mueller team anymore once they file the report. The regulations say that Robert Mueller`s required to file a confidential report to the Attorney General of the United States. And then it`s up to him to decide what to do with it, whether to make it public, whether to submit it to Congress.

And there`s going to be a lot of issues around that, around classified information, grand jury secrecy material. And so, if it`s going to be made public, there`s going to have to be a decision about what to do with that whether --

MELBER: I mean and that combines -- that collides and combines with the other big story report tonight Ken which is that that would then the Whitaker`s call if your reporting timeline is correct?

DILANIAN: That`s right. And so you have Matthew Whitaker, an acting Attorney General who has disregarded the informal advice he got from a Justice Department Ethics officer that all things considered. He probably should recuse himself because there is an appearance of impartiality based on the many critical comments. He made about the Mueller investigation.

He said there was no collusion on television. Now he would -- he has told associates that he was acting as a television commentator back then --


DILANIAN: -- without information. That was a role that he had. He`s in a much different role now. He is promised to follow the rules of the Justice Department but he`s setting a standard here which is that the appearance of impartiality is not enough for recusal. And William Barr is going to have the same issue.

MELBER: With the 30 seconds I have, let me take your reporting to Melissa, and say if it`s up to Whitaker does that mean this report is less likely to get to Congress?

MURRAY: Well, I think if it`s up to Whitaker and his state in this role on the real issue that we have. This is broad appearance of impropriety. And I think it`s likely this doesn`t go to Congress and that is a failure of the public trust.

MELBER: My thanks to you and Nick and Ken Dilanian on a big busy hour as we learned Secretary of Defense out, shutdown looming. Democrats saying they are shaken by what they saw today and chaos, the word of the evening, a lot more to come.

You`ve been watching "The Beat with Ari Melber." I`ll see you back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. But don`t go anywhere because "Hardball" with Chris Matthews continues our coverage, up next.