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Trump says shutdown will last "as long as it takes". TRANSCRIPT: 1/2/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Donna Edwards; Michael Steele; Julian Epstein; Mark Thompson

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST:  You can find our interim panda cam on MEET THE PRESS social media.  It will be up until the showdown shutdown is over and the camera is restored or until you simply find it unbearable.

That`s all for tonight.  We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.

In the meantime, "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.  Ari, we haven`t had a handoff in a while.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  You said we can find that panda cam up on the website there.  What if we don`t want to find it?

TUR:  You don`t have to go look.  That`s the beauty of it.

MELBER:  Choice.

TUR:  Choice.  You have a remote control.  You can change the channel right now if you wanted to.

MELBER:  I don`t know why you would be baiting people to change the channel right now that you`re done with your show.

TUR:  I wouldn`t do that to you.

MELBER:  Well, this has been one way to start the year, Katy.

TUR:  Happy New Year, Ari.

MELBER:  Happy New Year.

TUR:  I look forward to so many more of these.

MELBER:  Cheers.  All right.  Welcome to THE BEAT.

Tonight does mark Washington`s first day back from the holidays and its 12th day of this Trump shutdown.  With both parties digging in, Nancy Pelosi readying to take back the speaker`s gavel and there are also new reports of infighting between a key witness and a potential target in the Mueller probe.  So a lot to get to.

But let`s start here.  For the past two years of united Republican government in Washington, many newscasts including this one would begin with the latest from the president who has a lot of power or his GOP allies who ran Congress.  Well, that all changes tonight.  That all changes right now.

Because the most impactful news about the future of this shutdown of the federal government comes tonight from a Democrat, an incoming speaker holding a lot of cards and outlining plan to try to re-open the government tomorrow.


NANCY PELOSI:  Tomorrow, we will bring to the floor legislation which will open up government.  It will be based on actions taken by the Republican Senate.  We have given the Republicans a chance to take yes for an answer.

They are now feeling the heat.  It is not helping the president.  It is not helping the Republicans to be the owners of this shutdown.

PELOSI:  We`re asking the president to open up government.  We are giving him a Republican path to do that.  Why would he not do it?


MELBER:  Why?  Democrats also telling the White House to stop hold things like food stamps and assistance for farmers` hostage.  Meanwhile, the main debate, Trump got a little bit vague about a negotiation strategy.


REPORTER:  How long do you think the government`s going to stay partially shut down?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Could be a long time and could be quickly.  Could be a long time.

REPORTER:  Is there a number below $5 billion that you might be willing to accept in order to re-open the government and get this moving forward?

TRUMP:  Well, I`d rather not say it.

REPORTER:  How long are you willing to keep the government shut down in order to get --

TRUMP:  As long as it takes.


MELBER:  As long as it takes.  Now, the Democrats will attempt to pass the stopgap spending bill by tomorrow evening, funding most of the government through September.  Then what their plan would do is separate the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the border and only fund that for a few weeks.

The strategy there would be to re-open the government while admitting that there is more negotiation to be done between the party, at least potentially, on border issues.  And politically, to stick Republicans for the shutdown if they won`t even do that.

Now, this, you may have noticed, is vintage Pelosi.  It`s tough, it`s crisp, and it seems to be outlining consequences.  Now while Donald Trump has made a lot of noise about a lot of people that he doesn`t get along with including, just tonight, Mitt Romney, there are some signs here we want to show you that he seems to now realize the incoming speaker has real power and he`s got to deal with her.

Notice how Trump`s tune has recently changed when dealing with Pelosi or talking about her from the oval office to interviews on "Fox News".


TRUMP:  I`m not holding Nancy to this but she said you`ll never get the Republicans to vote for it.

PELOSI:  You should not have a Trump shutdown.

TRUMP:  A what -- did you say Trump?

PELOSI:  You have a White House.

PETE HEGSETH:  You stayed in Washington, D.C. through Christmas, through New Year`s.  We have seen Nancy Pelosi in Hawaii.  Democrats not willing to come back.

TRUMP:  We have to have border security.  And a wall is part of border security.

PELOSI:  That the president choose to shut down the government, that we have a Trump shutdown as a Christmas present.


MELBER:  It is early in this new chapter but as you see here, Donald Trump doing something that`s rare.  Skipping the opportunity from a forced fed "Fox News" question to hit back at someone while Pelosi has seemed to take a page sometime from Trump`s own playbook, the Art of the Deal.

Remember that in that book he co-authored, he wrote, "Bullies may act tough but they are really closet cowards.  The only people bullies push around are the ones they know they can beat.  Confront a bully and in most cases he`ll fold like a deck of cards."

We`ll get into the Pelosi strategy.  And later tonight, I have a special report on why this entire shutdown is Donald Trump breaking his promise on the wall.

But we begin with an all-star political panel to kick off the year.  Former Congresswoman Donna Edwards, former Chairman of the RNC Michael Steele, Democratic Strategist Julian Epstein, and here in New York with me, Mark Thompson, host of Sirius XM`s Make It Plain Show.

Donna, you look at the layout here.  You look at incoming Speaker Pelosi who you know well.  What is the key to Democrats moving the ball if Donald Trump continues to speak vague like he did today that this could go on forever?

DONNA EDWARDS, FORMER REPRESENTATIVE:  Well, my, has the landscape change.  And by noon tomorrow with Speaker Pelosi at the helm, I think that what we`re going to see is Democrats saying we`re willing to put on the table away, a pathway to open up the government and Republicans, you can take your deal or not.  I think the president is going to get the full swath of the importance -- the import of Nancy Pelosi`s leadership.  And she`s going to have a united Democratic Party standing behind her.

MELBER:  And on that point, the unity seems clear, Julian.  Listen to Pelosi saying, look, they may negotiate on certain things but wall funding is not one of them.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you willing to come up and give him some of this money for the wall?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Because apparently, that`s the sticking point.

PELOSI:  No, nothing for the wall.  We`re talking about border security.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Nothing for the wall but that means --

PELOSI:  But we can go through this back and forth.  No.  How many more times can we say no?  Nothing for the wall.


MELBER:  Julian.

JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Yes.  Well, the clip that you played with Pelosi and Schumer in the oval office, it looked like two adults toying with a Ritalin deprived teenager.  There`s a new sheriff in town and the new sheriff is a lot smarter than the old sheriff.

And they are clearly winning the war here.  They are winning the blame game on the shutdown.  They are winning the public argument about the wall.  If you look at what Clinton experienced in 1998 when he was facing an independent counsel, the Democrats stuck with him.

But you`re seeing Republicans starting to cave.  You`re seeing the National Security wing, Mattis and Kelly heading for the Hills.  You`re seeing the traditional Republicans like Romney coming out and saying the president is debasing the presidency.  You`re seeing -- unlike 1998, you`re seeing a lot of cracks in the walls.  These cracks have been there for a while but they are getting worse and they mean something now.

Now that you have for the first time perhaps in Trump`s professional life, he really has to deal with an opposition who is going to confront him, hold him accountable, and really is a lot smarter than he is.  And you`re seeing it because this thing about serving up to Trump a Republican pass, the Senate pass, Republican alternative and letting him say no to that, I mean they`re just toying with him at this part.

And they are getting the better of him.  And they`re shrinking his 40 percent support that he has.  It will probably shrink as a result of this.  So they`re just toying with the president right now.  And they`re going to win this fight.

MELBER:  Michael, you`re not in competition with Julian but he did compare the president to a baby who needs a toy to a Ritalin teenager, some sort of lower IQ --


MELBER:  -- individual.

EPSTEIN:  A Ritalin deprived adolescent.

MELBER:  And that`s his view.  You used to run the Republican Party.  Although you have been independent about many things you disagree with this president on.  What is your analysis of Donald Trump, if nothing else fails has always claimed that he knows the deal part?

He may not know the bureaucratic policy part.  He may not know the notice and comment rulemaking or the Administrative Procedures Act.  He may not understand why it takes a long time to withdraw troops from Syria so he sends mix signal and now finally tonight, we`re learning he`s backing off that.  But he said he knew the deal part.  Does this look like a guy who`s close to getting a good deal?

STEELE:  This is a guy who has no idea what the deal is.  He doesn`t know what a good deal is in front of him which was presented to him when the Congress passed the very same legislation that the House is going to pass tomorrow and was prepared to send to him for him to sign off of.

The Senate was behind it.  The deal was done.  And then, of course, Rush Limbaugh and others said, "No, you don`t want this deal."

So that`s his reality.  His reality is that part of the base that he`s still holding onto because he needs to feed them and they need to feed him.  That`s how symbiotic that`s become.  To the detriment of all else, Mattis leaving, no deal to open the government.  So that`s where the president is right now.

MELBER:  Let me push you on that.  And I appreciate you introducing the concept of symbiosis this early in the hour.

STEELE:  I try.

MELBER:  It takes time to get into these things.

STEELE:  It does.

MELBER:  You are saying something that I hear a lot in your town, Washington that this is for the base.  But before Donald Trump, I don`t remember Conservative members or the Republican Party clamoring for things that would take extra tax dollars or things that they used to say should be paid for by another country.  Now, they should be paid for by Americans.

Is that really what the large center of the Republican base wants or is there some sort of a zombie Trump mind meld where they go, "I know Mexico was supposed to pay for it but I guess it`s a good thing he`s going to force us to pay for it."

STEELE:  Well, they`re not looking at it in that context because the president was just what, 10 days ago saying Mexico was going to pay for the wall.  He is still repeating the same mantra.  They are still believing and buying this idea that that`s going to happen.

We have gone from a wall to slats.  I`m waiting for the president to come out and announce he`s actually going to go with aluminum siding.  So this is how this thing is going to move.

And in every step along the way, Ari, that base will be with him which is why what Mitt Romney said -- and I know you`ll probably talk about it a little bit later, was so profoundly important in terms of creating a breaking point from this sort of mind trap that a lot of Republicans, especially in the Senate, seem to find themselves.

MELBER:  I take your points there.  Mark Thompson, is this any way to govern?

MARK THOMPSON, HOST, SIRIUS XM MAKE IT PLAIN:  No, it`s not governing at all.  And there`s -- one school of thought on Donald Trump`s side, the extreme Conservative side, it doesn`t want the government to function anyway.  They love to sabotage it in every way that they could.

MELBER:  So it`s like a bonus.  It`s not working.  Great.

THOMPSON:  Right, right.  And there`s always been a history of that going back to the Civil War.  But what also is happening on Netflix at this hour is saying to people, discouraging people from taking what is called the bird box challenge.  That is walking around trying to function with a blindfold on.

It`s too late for Donald Trump`s base.  They already have blindfolds on.  He said Mexico would pay.  Mexico`s not paying it.  How can you be in denial about that if you elected someone to drain the swamp?

He`s saying that part of the wall is being built.  There is no part of the wall being built.  There are no slats.

Michael said aluminum siding.  I think pretty soon we`ll be at Aluminum foil.  But the base is blindfolded and is willing to go along with just anything to sabotage.

Nancy Pelosi is winning.  Now we all know how bright she is.  Donna`s correct.  And she`s serious.  You don`t go up against Nancy Pelosi.

But she barely has to do anything.  She literally can just stand still doing what she did today and say she is putting on the table tomorrow the same bills that Republicans already passed.

The person who is really on the hot seat I think is Mitch McConnell.  He has to make a decision about what he`s going to lead the Senate Republicans to do.  And I`m sure there`s a lot of discussions now about what that is.  Because 2020 isn`t the greatest map for Republicans.  They`ve got to decide right here and now whether they`re going to jettison Trump or ride off in the sunset with him.

One other thing too, he`s probably going to try to keep this up through the weekend.  Mueller time is every Friday.  So anything that will blunt any new information and you just gave a tease about a second story tonight, any information or anything else that comes out, he can use this to continue to distract his base and keep their blindfold on.

MELBER:  Right.  And that`s a shell game, Julian of having worked in Congress.  You can speak to the fact that in the beginning, the shutdowns do not have huge scalable consequences.  Partly because the federal government is built to run in extenuating circumstances.

But the longer it goes, the more serious it gets.  We have been covering this, we`re going to continue to do it so the public understands.  People who were trying to get food shortages dealt with are going to start running out of that this week.

Farmers by next week are going to lose disaster assistance.  That affects a lot of people who already got hit by a federally deemed natural disaster.  Then take the immigration court, something Julian that folks say is what Donald Trump wants to improve.

The shutdown is "paralyzing nation`s immigration courts, allowing several hundred undocumented workers to dodge, guess what, deportation orders every day this continues," according to some great reporting in "The Washington Post."  Walk us through that context, Julian.

EPSTEIN:  So shutdowns generally have a party that gets blamed for it.  And the short-term pain is bearable.  The long term pain is unbearable.  Trump has already claimed responsibility for this so we`re kind of past that.

And the biggest problem Trump has is he`s not making an argument that people support.  People don`t support the wall, generally.  The public doesn`t support the wall.  But the bigger problem is the wall is kind of an empty totem, a kind of a symbol.

He himself not only said he was going to get Mexico to pay for the wall, he famously told the Mexican president that he doesn`t really care about the wall.  And truth, the wall is going to do very very little about illegal immigration.

If you are serious about illegal immigration, you would deal with visa overstays which make up more than half of undocumenteds.  You would deal with employer sanctions which is what keeps undocumenteds here.  You would treat Mexico as an ally, not as an enemy in this game because most of the people crossing the southern border coming from Central America, Mexico has in fact sent back over 100,000 undocumented crossing into Mexico to try to make it to the U.S.

Most of the undocumenteds are not coming -- are not Mexicans.  Mexico could, in fact, be an ally.  So anybody serious about immigration, and we should be serious about illegal immigration, sees this as nothing more than a simple.  The public doesn`t support it.

And with him having to bear the blame for this and Republicans -- I mentioned the retirements, I mentioned Romney, I mentioned other Republicans that are showing a great deal of discomfort with the fact that they are being associated with a losing argument here, at some point they`re going to crack.

And it`s hard for me to see how Trump comes out ahead.  And this is just a preview of a lot more to come with the Democrats controlling the House right now.

MELBER:  Donna, briefly, your view on those points.

EDWARDS:  Well, I mean I think Julian is right and you`re going to actually begin to see the downsides of a shutdown and it`s going to become evident.  I think on January 12, checks need to be cut to those 800,000 federal workers who will then not have a paycheck to pay mortgages and go to the dry cleaners, all of those sort of consumer things.

You`re already seeing the national parks in all those western states that are really impacted.  The businesses around them will be too.  And so Trump will begin to hear that effect and I think that`s going to have a really important effect on Senators and this is not sustainable.

Trump shutdown will end because they have to come up with a deal that was the Senate deal and get that through the House and the Senate and on to the president.  He`ll sign it.  He`ll sign it.  He`ll sign anything.

MELBER:  And all eyes will be on the building behind you and watch your prediction there.  Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Michael Steele, Julian Epstein, Mark Thompson, thanks to each of you.

Coming up, we have my fact check on why Donald Trump has shut down the government to break his own promise.  It`s important to get that right.

And later, Trump responding to what we were just discussing, the attack from Mitt Romney and some falsehoods about his own perceived popularity.

Later, Vladimir Putin arresting an American and accusing him of being a spy.  Is it all payback from Mueller?  It`s a very interesting story breaking right now.  And we`re going to tell you what to expect as Bob Mueller kicks things up in 2019.

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


MELBER:  Congress and the president went back to work today while much of the federal government remains closed for this shutdown.  This is having a very real impact.  800,000 Americans missing their paychecks this week.  Federal offices that provide food for the hungry are now closed.  Key disaster assistance programs put on hold leaving 250,000 Americans who fled those fires in Thousand Oaks in California now without help.

And as the government shutdown grinds on, the stock market has seen the worst drops in a decade.  This shutdown is a drag on the economy.  It`s hurting hundreds of thousands of Americans.  And we have seen this kind of effects in previous shutdowns to be sure but this Trump shutdown is actually different than every other shutdown recorded in the modern era.

When presidents drew lines in each of those years to defend their positions on taxes or health care or spending.  But this is the first time a president has shut down the government not to defend a pledge but to break a pledge.  Just stop there and consider how bizarre this is.

Tomorrow, a new Congress begins and its first business is dealing with a president shutting down the government to break his own campaign pledge.  Let`s be very clear about this.  Donald Trump promised Americans they would never pay for the wall because Mexico would pay.  And then he failed to get that money from Mexico despite two years when his party actually controlled Washington.

So Trump shuts down the government to break his pledge and try to make Americans pay for the wall.  Believe me, this is not how it was supposed to go.


TRUMP:  Believe me, Mexico`s paying for the wall, OK?  That`s it.

If I win, if I become president, Mexico will pay for the wall.

And by the way, Mexico will pay for the wall.  They will pay for the wall.  That I can tell you.

Mexico`s going to pay for the wall.  They don`t know it yet.  They`re starting to have a very good idea but that`s OK.

And Mexico`s going to pay for the wall and they`ll be happy to do it.


MELBER:  They were not happy to do it.  And Mexican officials, past and present, shut Trump down.


FELIPE CALDERON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF MEXICO:  I declare, I`m not going to pay for that wall.  He should pay for it.

ENRIQUE PENA NIETO, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO:  I have said time and time again, Mexico will not pay for any wall.

CALDERON:  Mexico will not pay for the wall.


MELBER:  Clear enough for you, diplomacy.  Now, since 2015, Donald Trump has been pushing the idea that he was going to get Mexico to pay for the wall.  Now, he says he`ll take on the mantle for demanding border funding and make you pay for it.


TRUMP:  This is a wall that`s going to work.  Mexico will pay for it because they are not doing us any favors.

KATE SNOW, HOST, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS:  This was day two of the partial government shutdown over the president`s demand for border wall funding.

TRUMP:  I am proud to shut down the government for border security.  I will take the mantle.  I will be the one to shut it down.

Mexico, Sean, is going to pay for the wall.  These politicians come up.  They say you don`t really mean Mexico is going to pay.  We will have Mexico pay for that wall.  You know what, if I`m wrong about this, you`re going to all come back, we`ll have another meeting and I`ll apologize.

The wall we`re talking about to complete because again a lot has already been done.  The $ billion, $5.6 billion approved by the House is such a small amount compared to the level of the problem.  So we give money to countries but we don`t give money to our own country.


MELBER:  Trump failed.  He didn`t pull off the deal.  He didn`t apologize to Hannity.  He turned from pressuring Mexico for pesos to pressuring the U.S. for dollars, making this shutdown as you just saw a bizarre public exercise in breaking his promise.

Now, if Trump reopens the government without wall funding, this was a waste of time from his view.  And if Trump reopens the government with any U.S. wall funding, however unlikely, that is a violation of his pledge from his view.

If it sounds like that doesn`t make sense, it`s because it doesn`t make sense.  And yet this very clear logic, it basically has escaped all kinds of pundits and politicos because you may have heard this now-common claim that the shutdown that breaks Trump`s promise is actually Trump`s standing by his promise.


AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR:  His base is right.  This is an essential promise that he`s made and the White House has said this is an essential promise.

ALICE STE                              WART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR:  I applaud the president for standing firm on a major campaign promise that he said that he would get the wall built.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR:  He`s made clear this is a campaign promise.  He`s not going anywhere on it at least to this moment.

JESSE WATTERS, HOST, THE FIVE:  He`s not pandering.  He`s not catering.  It`s what he believes in and it`s what he ran on.


MELBER:  No, it`s not what he ran on.  It`s the total and complete violation of what he ran on which was Mexico funding the wall.  And we can all debate whether America first is a good idea.  But even as Trump loudly breaks his wall promise, he continues to claim he`s putting America first by getting other countries to meet their obligations from boots on the ground to picking up the tab as he recently told our troops.


TRUMP:  So we`re not the suckers of the world.  We`re no longer the suckers, folks.  People aren`t looking at us as suckers.  We`re respected again as a nation.


MELBER:  You can see the classic blending of reality and perception there.  Trump declares we`re not suckers and we`re not looked at as suckers.  But on the wall, whether you think we should build one or not we are looked at as suckers right now around the world people marveling and Trump negotiating himself into punishing his own country after failing to get a peso from Mexico.

Now, even if you put the wall aside for a moment, it`s easy to see how who pays for something can impact its popularity.  If politicians promise to offer free crossing guards to help children in your neighborhood cross the street, the plan will be more popular than a plan to raise your taxes by a thousand dollars for the same crossing guards.

The first offer, you don`t have to think about.  The second makes you question, well, OK, is that worth the money?  In fact, as often Conservatives who say they don`t necessarily oppose a program like health care or food for the hungry, they oppose the cause and the taxes.

Now, Trump flipped that by promising a Conservative goal here, this wall had no cost.  And this kind of propaganda came naturally to Donald Trump because let`s remember the context.  His entire career was built on selling the hoax of something for nothing.  From casinos that went out of business to Trump University that went out of business to gold-plated real estate pitches that went out of business.

And now today, we have this same pattern politicized, weaponized, and supersized.  Instead of Atlantic Casinos shutting down, the federal government is shut down.  Instead of Trump running from bankers over his bills, Trump`s running for Mexico and trying to pass on that bill to the American taxpayer.

We all know someone like this.  A scrub who runs up the tab and then when the bill comes, all of a sudden they are acting dumb.  Beyonce diagnosed that type of person in the classic "Bills, Bills, Bills" by Destiny Child.  Can you pay my bills?  Can you pay my telephone bills?  Do you pay my automobiles?  If you did, then maybe we could chill.

But we can`t chill.  Donald Trump didn`t pay his bills in business.  He repeatedly stiffed people and passed the buck.  He`s famous for those headlines.  Trump`s not paying the bill he promised Mexico would pay and now he wants to pass the buck to the American taxpayer.

There`s not much debate left here.  Every time you think about this shutdown or talk to anyone about this shutdown or watch the new Congress deal with it tomorrow, remember, we know Trump broke his promise because he told us.  We know he shut down the government to keep breaking that promise because he told us.  And we know Trump is wrong right now and every day of this shutdown because he told us that too.


TRUMP:  We will have Mexico pay for that wall.  And you know what, if I`m wrong about this, you`re going to all come back.  We`ll have another meeting and I`ll apologize to you.



ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Mitt Romney has held many roles in his life, but tomorrow he becomes Senator Romney for the first time.  And there are new indications that might be a nightmare for Trump.  Have you heard about this?  Romney releasing a pretty tough op-ed attacking Trump`s lack of character, calling him thoughtless, saying he lacked honesty and integrity, causes dismay around the world, has "inevitable failings" and stokes the politics of anger and fear.  He goes on to say Trump has simply not risen to the mantle of the office. 

The Romney-Trump relationship has always been complex.  You may recall that Romney first came out against Trump during 2016 saying he was a fraud and a phony.  Then after Trump won, they dined together over frog legs and talked about possible cabinet jobs.  Here was Romney`s response to the hypocrisy today.


MITT ROMNEY (R), SENATE-ELECT, UTAH:  After he was elected president, it was very much my hope that he would rise to the occasion, rise to the mantle of the office.  After all, becoming president United States is quite an elevation for anybody.  And he has said during the campaign that he could be extraordinary presidential.  I don`t think he`s followed through on that front the way he`s followed through on some of his other promises.


MELBER:  No surprise Trump has taken the bait and basically made a political-themed attack on Romney`s support today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If he fought really hard against President Obama like he does against me, he would have won the election.


MELBER:  One problem with that.  Take a look at this, the percentage of the actual vote each won in each year.  Trump actually won 46 percent, a snapshot of support.  It`s not apples to apples, but it`s worth noting that Mitt Romney in his cycle actually got over 46 percent.  He got 47 percent of that year`s electorate and he was running against a pretty popular incumbent president.

Meanwhile, while we`re at it, of course, Trump doesn`t like these comparisons because he also got less than Hillary Clinton that year.  And then, of course, to round back to 2012, Barack Obama an incumbent president at 51, if we`re comparing, Trump brought it up.  Mitt Romney will be sworn in tomorrow and it will be Donald Trump`s Vice President Mike Pence formally swearing him in as president of the Senate.

I`m joined now by a perfect guest for this discussion, former Romney advisor and an MSNBC Analyst Mike Murphy.  Thanks for joining me.  What does it tell us that Mitt Romney did this today this way?

MIKE MURPHY, MSNBC ANALYST:  Well, I think he wanted to make it clear that his position about Donald Trump hasn`t really changed.  He wrote a similar op-ed when he announced the Senate race in Utah and we all know about the critiques he`s made in the past.  So the argument he basically made was look in the op-ed, I don`t want to be the daily commentator on how Trump is doing but I stand where I stand.  He`s not risen to the office and some of his policy decisions and personnel decisions are risky and bad and I`m not afraid to condemn them for those.

On the other hand, on conservative policy I agree with, I`ll support him.  So Mitt is being Mitt and Trump better get used to it because now he`s in the Senate and as we say in politics, a fact of life.

MELBER:  I see what you`re doing there which is arguing that this is all the inner Romney, the pure position that he holds.  But you and I both know, he`s also moved around on Trump and had acted like these were complete ethical disagreements that meant they couldn`t work together.  Then, he took the endorsement and I thought as CNN`s Jake Tapper did a good job pressing that point since he`s spoken to it, Mr. Romney, soon to be Senator Romney.  I`ll play his response and then get your views on.  Here was his rebuttal to that.


ROMNEY:  He was endorsing me, I wasn`t endorsing him, and I haven`t decided who I`m going to endorse in 2020.  I`m sure I`ve made a lot of mistakes and I`ll -- and I`ll let the people make the assessment of which things were mistakes and not.  But when the President the United States frankly of either party were to say I`m endorsing your candidacy, I think you`d say thank you very much. 


MELBER:  Mike, isn`t the problem with that, that he had previously said he didn`t want this kind of association.  And he was in Utah, he didn`t need to take the endorsement.

MURPHY:  Yes, but you don`t really reject an endorsement.  You`re a great kind of a phony thing.  He did not seek it.  And so I think his answer is perfectly appropriate.  And it is true, the President tweets out hey, I`ve endorsed you, you know, you let it pass and keep going.  I think Mitt made it pretty clear, he hasn`t offered any endorsement and we`ll see what happens in the future.

So look, I -- people can quibble around the edges that Romney is not pure enough in somehow his criticism of President Trump but he has been a leader in this from the beginning and I think it`s commendable what he did today because frankly, the deafening silence from all too many people at the Republican Party is very depressing.  So --

MELBER:  Well, that`s I think, that`s fair.  That`s the flip side --

MURPHY:  I`m not a Mitt guy, but I think he`s doing the right thing and hopefully he`ll inspire others.

MELBER:  No, I know you are.  That`s why I wanted to get your viewpoint.  And that`s the flip side.  What does it tell you that the standard bearers of the Republican Party who we just showed up on the screen who whatever you think of Mitt Romney actually did have higher overall support than Trump in different years and you see it right there as well as the blue charts, that the late great McCain who you work for was a nominee and then you have the former presidents that all of them in their own ways have been coming out and trying to remind everyone that Donald Trump doesn`t reflect everything that the Republican Party was or should be?

MURPHY:  Yes, look, more power to the ones who`ve had the bravery to do it and I`m disappointed more have it.  But I`ve also been around politics a long times so while I don`t like it, I do kind of understand it.  I mean, when Bill Clinton was running around the Oval Office with his pants off, I didn`t see a lot of op-eds and Democratic senators.  It was all about the people`s business and you know, quiet disapproval.

So this is going to be the year of the Republican Party coming to reckon with what they`ve got in a Trump presidency.  Things are getting worse, not better, and the President is on a downward political path.  He cost us the Midterms in the House Majority and we`re either going to see the light and do the right thing or we`re not, and that`s on us that sustain for history.  So you know, it`s January.  I think it`s going to be a blockbuster year.

MELBER:  I`m over on -- I`m over on time but would it be a good thing for the Republican Party and America if Trump got a challenge in the primary?

MURPHY:  Yes.  I think -- I think yes.  I think it would be a good thing for the country, long-term for the party, but the reality of the politics, we have to see where things are at the end of the summer.  It`s too early for the mechanics of that really to be thought through in an accurate way.

MELBER:  Mike Murphy, been there, done that, joined us.  We appreciate it, sir.  Thank you.

MURPHY:  Thank you.  Thanks for having me.

MELBER:  Thank you, sir.  I want to give you a programming note.  Talking about 2020, Rachel has the interview in the country tonight as far as politics is concerned.  Sen Elizabeth Warren, you may have seen the New York Times today announcing her candidacy.  She`s going to Rachel first.  We are excited to watch that 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight.  Join us, we`ll be watching it.

Ahead, this is a weird one, a sudden and mysterious arrest of an American citizen in Moscow and the new question, is the Kremlin trying to send a message to Bob Mueller?  Malcolm Nance is here next.  And as the government is shut down, Bob Mueller is not.  Mia Wiley is going to get into it and why Roger Stone is beefing with Jerome Corsi.


MELBER:  New details coming in tonight on the American citizen detained in Russia on espionage charges and whether this is a pawn in Putin`s game as some intelligence experts are asking.  Here`s the deal.  48-year-old Paul Whelan now spending his fifth day imprisoned in Moscow, something you may have heard about over the holidays.  He was arrested originally last week by the Russian Federal Security Service, FSB.  The suspicion that he`s a spy according to them.

Now, speaking with NBC`s Hallie Jackson, Whelan`s brother David asserts confidence in his brother`s innocence.


HALLIE JACKSON, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Are you 100 percent confident your brother was not a spy, had no involvement in foreign espionage?

DAVID WHELAN, BROTHER OF PAUL WHELAN:  I`m 100 percent confident that Paul is not a spy.


MELBER:  Hours ago, the Russians granting U.S. embassy officials access to speak with Whelan in Moscow as well as Trump`s ambassador to Russia John Huntsman visiting Whelan in jail.  That`s according to our own State Department.  Russian officials providing no public evidence yet to support the claim that Whelan is a spy.  And there are some people now like former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul asserting that perhaps this arrest was actually something else, maybe retribution for the U.S. capture of accused Russian agent Maria Butina.


MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA:  It sounds like it has been concocted a story to hold him perhaps as a hostage in return for the Russian Marina Butina who we are holding right now.


MELBER:  I`m joined by Malcolm Nance, MSNBC Terror Analyst and author of The Plot to Destroy Democracy.  Based on the little that we know which we emphasize is a conditional at this point, how do you view the case?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERROR ANALYST:  Well, you know, I have the unique position of having run a school, like a school for special operations personnel who were at high risk of capture of this particular subject, what we call hostile government detention.

A hostile government detention is when a foreign government has decided to capture an American citizen and use them for leverage in a geopolitical game.  And that is clearly what`s going on here.  In fact a lot of ex- military personnel and intelligence community personnel are very reticent about traveling to countries like Russia and China because they can be arrested and used as a bargaining chip.

In this particular circumstance, I agree with Ambassador Mike McFaul.  This is clearly about getting their subcontractors by Maria Butina out of hawk and taking an American citizen who was probably there just haphazardly and accusing him of espionage and they will have the goods by the way.  They`ll made up something or they would even had it recruited him thinking that he was working for some other government and got him on video along with all the tools and they will keep him there until Butina or some other person is released.

MELBER:  Well, let`s go through both doors then, Malcolm.  Door number one, is your theory the case is correct.  What happens is a swap on the table.  And door number two, having stated that you`re doubtful of it.  What if this was in fact potentially an individual who could be credibly proven to be working for the United States, is that -- does that change what should happen?

NANCE:  Well, the first things first.  Door number one is that individual received his consular visit by the U.S. ambassador.  He has rights under the Treaty of Vienna for diplomatic and foreign citizens in that country.  That has been checked off.  Now, what the Russians intend to do is they`re going to break this individual.  They are going to make him sign a confession and the best people in that country are going to work him over. 

He has not been trained.  He is not exposed to that.  He is going to think that he`s innocent.  He`s a Russia file.  He appears to have deep ties to Russia going back ten years and he is going to eventually going to sign something or say something that for the Russians will look like a confession.  On the other hand --

MELBER:  You know, on the other -- you`re making -- I`m going to interrupt to say you`re making a serious claim which is based on your knowledge of this.  Your concern notwithstanding what we don`t know about the individual is that he could be subject to mistreatment there?

NANCE:  Well, the mistreatment that he`s going to be subjected to, a really bad captive environment, that`s you know, a bad prison cell, bad food, very harsh guards, harsh lights, interrogations.  You know, not at the level we would see from North Korea, but certainly, interrogations that are going to make his life miserable. 

But more importantly they`re going to carry out a psychological operation making him seem like he`s a good guy who has been caught in this position and if he only signs these documents or only says these things on video, he can walk out.  And he just doesn`t understand he`s a pawn in a -- in a game which has been played by nations for years.

MELBER:  Yes.  Malcolm Nance, thank you very much for joining us on this story tonight.  We`ll keep an eye on it.  Up next as promised, 2019 and Bob Mueller moving right ahead in the New Year.  Could there be new indictments?  Why does Roger Stone`s name keep coming up?  Maya Wiley is here to break it down when we come back.


MELBER:  Welcome back to THE BEAT.  I`m about to speak with Maya Wiley, our counselor in residence about the Russia probe.  Think about it like this.  In less than 24 hours, the Democrats will retake control the House, and some of the most high-profile members will be the investigators.  Take a look at this new picture courtesy of Vanity Fair, the chairs of the committees who will investigate Donald Trump.

Investigations run of course in tandem with Mueller`s and already this year there are hints of what Mueller is doing alongside those committee chairs that you see.  He could reveal new details of how Paul Manafort misled prosecutors according to Mueller that will be back in court on March 5th.  There`s also a status update on Michael Flynn`s cooperation in March.

Meanwhile, we do know Mueller has already have gotten dozens of indictments and seven guilty pleas including one from Michael Cohen.  He is scheduled to go to prison on March 6th.  But there is another person who Mueller has not charged, Roger Stone, a longtime Trump advisor whose story about how he contacted WikiLeaks has repeatedly changed.

Now Mueller has combed through Stone`s e-mails according to public accounts as well as conference calls, as well as what he told the House under oath.  That`s -- those other committee chairs I mentioned and witnesses have also told us right here on this program that Mueller`s team has been grilling them specifically about Stone.


MELBER:  How did they react to this other defense that you made on behalf of Roger Stone which is you agreed to help Roger mislead Congress.

JEROME CORSI, ASSOCIATE OF ROGER STONE:  I openly discuss that with him in a minute at all because it was true.  I was telling the truth.

MELBER:  You were telling him the truth about a lie.

CORSI:  No -- well, OK, so it`s yes. 

RANDY CREDICO, RADIO HOST:  It was about Roger Stone.  That was what we talked about most of the time.

MELBER:  What did they want to know?

SAM NUNBERG, CAMPAIGN AIDE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN:  They definitely had Roger Stone`s e-mails.

MELBER:  And so one of the --

NUNBERG:  They asked me questions about Roger Stones e-mails -- they asked me questions about Roger and me that they would only have had Rogers e- mails.


MELBER:  And here`s what`s new tonight.  Roger Stone publicly turning on one of those very witnesses Jerome Corsi.  Stone now saying he believes Corsi is working with Mueller to "sandbag" him.  I`m joined as I mentioned by Maya Wiley.  She worked as a civil prosecutor in the Southern District of New York where Michael Cohen`s case was, and was the former counsel to the mayor of New York and is here on her birthday.  Happy Birthday.


MELBER:  Everyone can weigh in on that once we`re done with the show.  When you see Roger who as we mentioned has changed his story before going from backing up people like Jerome Corsi to publicly attacking him, what does it tell you? 

WILEY:  Well, it tells us that he`s feeling the heat and he`s trying to carve out some space for himself in the spin machine because what we already know is that he tried to get a cover story from Jerome Corsi, right?  Jerome Corsi himself saying that on your show.  And that in trying to do that it was about creating a different picture of e-mails that they were exchanging in the summer of 2016 around Julian Assange and another release of e-mails.  And remember his Podesta e-mail comment about Podesta being the next one in the barrel after Hillary Clinton. 

So obviously all this goes to the question of whether there was collusion and to what extent there was collusion.  That day that Julian Assange, they were trying to get a meeting with Ted Malik and Julian Assange is the day that he gave an interview to RT.  RT which is the Russian station that is considered to be a foreign agent by the U.S. government --

MELBER:  Right.

WILEY:  -- the exact same day that they were exchanging e-mails and trying to get information.  So then there created the question about whether there was a pass of information at that point.  So we don`t know the answer.  I`m not suggesting we know what the facts are, but there`s no question that there`s any range of activity that happened with Roger Stone, with Jerome Corsi.  Jerome Corsi now starting to say Roger Stone wanted a cover story.  That tells us that Roger Stone is feeling the heat.

MELBER:  In that theory of the case, as we say, why would Jerome Corsi want to set up Roger Stone?

WILEY:  Because Jerome Corsi wants to protect Jerome Corsi.  I mean what you really may have here and we again, we don`t know, is Jerome Corsi trying to carve out his own story of I`m not engaged in a conspiracy.  I was just someone having some conversations with some old friends.  They started asking me for things.  I didn`t do anything wrong but they tried to get me to do something wrong.

MELBER:  Or the old deal defense, maybe he tells racist lies but not criminal lies, and they are different types of lies in the eyes of the law, depending.  I guess what I wonder though is, is it enough?  Is it enough if what Bob Mueller ends up with on the Stone front is a debate about falsehoods between two individuals who don`t seem that credible or do you think he really needs more than false statements on Stone?

WILEY:  You know, I -- it depends on what he`s going to charge, right?  First of all, like, if he`s going for a perjury charge and he`s got e-mails that demonstrate that the facts were different from what they have stated, then he`s got enough for perjury.  I think the question is whether there are other additional charges that might be coming his way, but I think what we know is that perjury looks pretty likely.

MELBER:  Right.  And I`ve said in fairness to Roger Stone, that he`s exaggerated all sorts of things.  So getting him only on that, he may -- he may have a case for a jury about hey, this is what I do.  It didn`t mean I break the law.  I didn`t have criminal intent and all that.  We`ll be watching.  Maya Wiley, thank you for joining us on your special day.

Up ahead, Nancy Pelosi will be getting the gavel back again.  We have some special footage to show you when we come right back.



JOHN BOEHNER (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER:  It`s now my privilege to present the gavel of the United States House of Representatives to the first woman Speaker in our history, the Gentlelady from California Nancy Pelosi.


MELBER:  Then speaker Pelosi getting the gavel in 2007, the first and only woman to hold that title.  Well, tomorrow she gets it right back.  The Democrats do take control of the House and with it the power to issue subpoenas and a whole lot more.  I could tell you we`ll have special coverage up and down MSNBC and on THE BEAT.  The one and only Lawrence O`Donnell will be part of that coverage.  You can send us any questions you have for Lawrence @AriMelba --