CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: An announcement before we go. NBC News will co-host the fifth Democratic Presidential debate alongside "The Washington Post," It will be November 20th in Georgia. Specific location will be announced at a later date.
"THE BEAT" With Ari Melber starts now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you so much. House Democrats right now dialing up the heat in this impeachment probe today after the Trump administration blocked a key witness from testifying at the very last minute. It`s a huge story, obviously, we have it for you.
House Democrats also clearly have Trump on the defense and that may explain why Republicans are trying to get in on the action. In the Senate they`re now pressing of all people Rudy Giuliani to testify to a Republican committee. But why? We`ll get into that later as well.
We have, of course, a whistleblower scandal unfolding in America, and tonight we have something special for you later this hour. I`m going to tell you this, we`re going to be joined by someone you have almost certainly heard of. He`s one of the most famous pioneering leakers in all American history, Daniel Ellsberg on THE BEAT tonight, talking everything from Pentagon Papers to what these new whistleblowers can expect. So a lot.
But our top story begins here with the new battle lines in this impeachment probe. Very late today just as we were coming out on the air, the White House uncorked its lengthiest and its most legal response to this impeachment probe. They`re sending an eight-page letter tonight to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and they`re detailing basically what is going to be a first draft of the strategy.
It`s an explanation with some legalese of why the White House says they are in the right to defy most of this probe and they`re also accusing the Democrats - get this - of using impeachment oversight for 2020.
Now, meanwhile, the Democrat who has really lately been in the face of this whole fight, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, he`s calling a new move by the Trump administration "Strong evidence of obstruction." That would be another article of impeachment.
Trump`s State Department ordering a key witness in the inquiry not to testify at all to face Democrats in the House. This is someone you`ve probably recently heard about Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland.
Now, when you get a sense of just how much of this is being made up on the fly, the White House - well, Mr. Sondland was flying to Washington from Brussels. He was ready to testify. This is all clearly very last minute and it was going to be behind closed doors, a kind of a substantive thing, and then he was blocked this morning by the Trump State Department.
House Democrats say they`re going to subpoena Sondland to testify, so that this fight only increases. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Pompeo refusing to answer reporters on the basic thing everyone wants to know, if you have a public event with the Secretary of State on a day like today with impeachment hitting a 10, "Why won`t you let Mr. Sondland testify?"
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, why did you instruct Ambassador Sondland not to testify?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is what it looks like when you just walk away to duck questions. Congressman Schiff is saying the State Department is also withholding key information that Sondland has.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We are also aware that the Ambassador has text messages or emails on a personal device, which have been provided to the State Department. Although we have requested those from the Ambassador, and the State Department is withholding those messages as well--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The New York Times also out with a story around new details from the Ukraine Trump call, with a White House official saying - and remember this is someone who worked for Donald Trump, this thing was "crazy" and quote "frightening", and the official was visibly shaken having witnessed the President of United States according to The Times engage in "criminal activity."
Now congressional officials say there are even more text messages between some of these key people that the committee wants to review, but have not been fully released to the public yet. And another thing about the texts that have been released, Sondland was, of course, at the center of that exchange with Ambassador Bill Taylor.
He was the one who famously put in writing something to protect himself, perhaps but also to call out what we now know is a potential road to impeachment kind of act. That it was "crazy" to link the Ukraine assistance to what Donald Trump wanted investigating the Bidens.
He also confirmed Sondland spoke to Trump on the phone during that crucial five hour gap between those texts, because he was then the one who after speaking to Donald Trump, sent the very defensive` text claiming that Trump was crystal clear. There was no quid pro quo.
I want to get right to our panel now. Former federal prosecutor John Flannery who worked with the Democrats during the Clinton impeachment.
David Priess, a former CIA intelligence officer and intelligence briefer at State, he was privy to some of these kind of call readouts in evidence. He`s also the author of " How to Get Rid of a President: History`s Guide to Removing Unpopular, Unable, Or Unfit Chief Executives".
And Katrina Mulligan who represented the DOJ in the National Security Council process and now works at the Center for American Progress. David what do you see is significant and what unfolded today?
DAVID PRIESS, FORMER CIA ANALYST: Well, what we see is the President`s team trying to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks, and that`s not new. What`s new is that it`s escalated. Now it`s an official White House letter saying all of impeachment is invalid you can`t do this.
But they have a fundamental problem, which is it`s in the Constitution. This is a legitimate function of Congress. And trying to say that the entire inquiry is invalid doesn`t really hold water, at best, it`s a stalling tactic.
The more disturbing thing is politically how the White House is leaving Republicans out to dry, because guess what, you`re trying to say at the heart of this is something that is not a problem. There`s no quid pro quo. This was just OK to do.
On the other hand, you`re not allowing anybody to testify about it. Well, if nothing`s wrong with it, you should want them to testify and explain why this is OK. They`re undermining the eventual political arguments Republicans are going to have to make if they want to vote against impeachment when it comes out.
MELBER: Yes, you lay that out. And John Flannery this is the - we have it here. This is the brand-new letter from the White House just came into the newsroom within the last hour. And to David`s point this letter, which makes a series of arguments, some more serious than others, doesn`t come on a great day for them.
It doesn`t come on a calm day or day when they look organized. It comes on, as David says, a day where at the last minute they yanked the guy, who to be clear, was defending the President in those texts.
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMAL FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Right. What they`re doing is their policy is to lie and delay and they`ve done it in various ways. It`s entirely inconsistent, and none of it has worked.
Because unlike the Barr situation when he characterized falsely what was the Mueller report, we have the documents this time, we have the conversation that the President had with Zelensky, we have Rudy Giuliani`s own statements on the air, we have these messages going back and forth, including the one of the charg‚ d`affaires, Taylor, saying what are you guys doing?
Linking this local international problem, that is what`s happening in America and the election with what you`re going to withhold from them if they don`t do what you want to effect the election.
So I think that we have this - and this document they have doesn`t have any legal arguments. In the case of impeachment you are entitled to have a good-faith objection--
MELBER: I got a pushback. John it had some legal arguments in it, and I don`t think it`s accurate to say that it doesn`t. It`s from the White House Counsel and it`s making an array of arguments, some of them are legal in trying to argue that they haven`t formally procedurally begun the impeachment probe. That might be news to Americans who feel like they have, which is what actually makes it such a legal argument that it`s sort of in the weeds.
FLANNERY: Well to say it`s legal when the Congress can start an impeachment just based on a hearing by a committee and doesn`t have to have any formal proceeding, and indeed the Constitution requires none, makes that sounding like a legal argument, but not one at all.
Another one, this is kind of ironic for the White House to be talking about due process when they`re ignoring due process all the time. And the interrelationship between the executive department and the House of Representatives are not responding to formal and proper discovery requests by the House, just as was the case in Richard Nixon`s administration and it became one of the articles of impeachment.
FLANNERY: And we`ve been told today we`re on the way to doing that in this case.
MELBER: Well, let me read to Katrina for your national security expertise more that we`re learning from The Times coverage of the whistleblower account. There was a conversation underway with White House lawyers about how to handle the discussion, because they viewed this, the President had clearly committed a criminal act by urging a foreign power to investigate a U.S. person to advance his re-election bid.
What`s your interpretation? What we`re learning there up in the national security experience you have, Katrina?
KATRINA MULLIGAN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS MANAGING DIRECTOR FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Well, I think, the important thing to remember here is that all of these people work for the American people and for America. They don`t work for Donald Trump.
And despite that, what it seems like has happened time and time again at each step of the way, we learned that people are acting in the interests of the President, even going so far as to violate the interests of the American people and of our national security in the process.
MELBER: So what do you think about this reporting? I mean, that - does that sound to you like something that they`re qualified to say? Have you ever seen a situation like that where the staff in the White House think that contact with a foreign official was a criminal act?
MULLIGAN: I`ve certainly never seen that. And I think, like many things that were starting to see, this is a bit unprecedented. But to be sure - everybody involved had a duty to report to potentially you know seek a criminal referral to investigate and to disclose. And what we`ve seen everybody do is exactly the opposite of that.
MELBER: Right, which is interesting given what you`ve done. David take a listen to Secretary of State Pompeo`s claims this weekend about what is appropriate here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: I feel pressure. When I talk to your foreign minister he pressures me all the time. It`s totally appropriate. Right? Ain`t that right? Yes, it`s totally right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir you don`t--
POMPEO: Go ahead and say it. You can admit it; it`s okay. It`s completely right.
Nations do this. Nations work together and they say, "Boy, goodness gracious, if you can help me with X, we`ll help you achieve Y." This is what partnerships do. Its win-win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: David, as an non-partisan matter given your CIA experience, is that right or not?
PRIESS: You know what? Pompeo is not wrong. He`s not wrong about the fact that diplomacy is about give-and-take. It`s about quid pro quo. You do this for the country, we`ll do this for your country. Or if you do this, we won`t do this, that`s good government, that`s good diplomacy.
There`s one fundamental difference between that and what we`re talking about here. Usually that is done in service of national interests. Usually things worked out through a National Security Council process, but it need not be, it could be the whim of the President, if it is a national security interest.
What we`re seeing now is the same process being used to pressure countries for a partisan and personal purpose, not for the national interests of the United States. That`s the fundamental difference between good diplomacy and an abuse of power that is an impeachable act under high crimes and misdemeanors.
MELBER: Well, I feel like you just used a lot of words. Do we get to yes or no, is Pompeo wrong?
PRIESS: Pompeo is right that that is what diplomacy is. Pompeo is wrong that in this case that`s what`s applying, because it is not traditional diplomacy.
FLANNERY: Well, one of the things that we`re overlooking here are the facts of the case, which is that. We had decided as a matter of our policy to give enormous amounts of funds to Ukraine to protect itself from Russia. And the President on July the 18th put a freeze on those funds just before his July 25th call.
And he made it very clear that those funds weren`t coming until he got what he wanted. And it finally required the Senate to threaten to cut off the budget for the Pentagon in order to release the funds that had already been decided to go to that nation to protect them from Putin, who`s the puppeteer, if you will, for our tragic President, Mr. Trump.
MELBER: I`ve got breaking news right now. I`ve just been handed the official subpoena. This is from the Democrats acting in very, very quick manner from what they threatened earlier today. They have subpoenaed Ambassador Sondland. This was the person that we mentioned at the very top of the broadcast was yanked at the last minute from providing testimony.
I want to bring back in our panel. John, as a advisor to congressional investigations, I think, I know you would agree this is even faster than usual. I`m going to read briefly from it for your analysis. It says, "Pursuant to the impeachment inquiry, we`re transmitting this subpoena. You must appear October 16th and also produce the accompanying documents."
FLANNERY: I think that--
MELBER: What does that mean?
FLANNERY: Well, what it means is, they regret sending a simple request, and I`ll bet you they decided that here we are we treat you well and that you do this. And I have reservations about his statements - Sondland`s statement that oh I wanted to appear. He had several conversations with the President, neither one of them wanted him to appear and talk about those things.
I don`t know what he`s going to do, what he`s going to try to assert. But I hope that the committee goes forward now and doesn`t relax. And if he doesn`t appear that they use their internal powers - their inherent powers to force him to testify or to sit in custody somewhere.
This is - you know, I worry sometimes that we Democrats may be too easy on these things. This is a time for warriors, and I don`t mean this in a terrible way. We have to start looking at how they`re treating us and we have a lot of data points to show us that they`re not dealing straight, they don`t want to cooperate, they think that the President is a king, a monarchical individual and that he can do what he wants.
Well, that is not our Constitution, that is not our inheritance from the founding fathers, and that`s how we have to deal with these people. We`re on notice that they don`t care for our Constitution or our laws and they`ll do anything to keep them in office.
MELBER: A strong rebuke there on a day when, again, if folks are just joining us, the Democrats have now made good on their threat in saying they are subpoenaing Mr. Sondland.
Katrina, we put together a little bit of the available public evidence and it`s rare, I think, we would all agree, to have a secret foreign policy type phone call between heads of states spill out in the public within a matter of months. And then have the call notes and then have the President make admissions.
So it is striking against the backdrop of them pulling Mr. Sondland, because a lot of this is already known and maybe that`s why they`re in free-fall or the White House is struggling. Take a look at this comparison.
You have in the whistleblower complaint the assertion that this was to continue an investigation of Biden and his son. And then look at the White House note. So the whistleblower, you could say is the person who is blowing the whistle on Trump.
And then on the right side you have White House Trump notes himself saying, a lot to talk about Biden`s son, whatever you can do with a AG Barr would be great.
Then in the whistleblower complaint, they say, the request was to speak with Giuliani and Attorney General Barr about this plot. Then in the White House`s own notes, Katrina it says, the President said Giuliani is highly respected. I`ll ask him to call you along with Attorney General Barr if you could speak to him that would be great.
What is it significance to you about the credibility of the whistleblower and really the limited ability of Mr. Sondland, when and if he does testify, to rebut some of this, if it`s that consistent?
MULLIGAN: I mean you`ve hit it exactly on the head. The whistleblower`s credibility is about as well-established as one could imagine at this point. I mean, virtually every fact detailed in the whistleblower complaint has proven to be true, corroborated by information that was released by the White House, corroborated by statements by the President`s personal attorney, by the President himself.
At this point it`s really - there`s almost nothing there to impugn the integrity or credibility of the whistleblower whatsoever.
MELBER: Yes. I want to thank my panel. We have had a lot of news here, including what just came in, which is we started with this White House letter, and it got hit back by the United States House Democrats on this subpoena for this key witness, all here unfolding just in the last hour.
We`ve a lot more to get to. So I`m going to fit in a break. John, David, Katrina, thank you so much.
Coming up, Republicans now - and a whole different story haven`t gotten to yet, they say they want Giuliani to testify under oath. We`re going to tell you all about that. Reports of a paranoid Donald Trump talking about polygraph tests for his own staff.
And then tonight, the most famous whistleblower in U.S. history Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers, he`s on THE BEAT later tonight.
MELBER: Welcome back on a busy news night. We now turn to the material that could determine whether President Trump is impeached - documents, evidence, receipts. I`m talking about the things that establish what Donald Trump did and whether Congress determines what he did is a high-crime, an impeachable offense.
The battle over this evidence would normally be high stakes, but Trump admitted to the core of the Ukraine plot against Biden and released the call notes about it. So it`s striking to see the White House today blocking a key witness from testifying, even though he already turned over private messages to the State Department.
The New York Times reporting that moves signals a White House plan to stonewall the impeachment inquiry. Meanwhile, moments ago, Democrats have this new subpoena for that very witness`s testimony.
This is all about facts. Trump admitted some damning facts. But it appears his team is more worried that there could be more witness testimony that makes it even worse. As one of the Democratic leaders of the impeachment inquiry, Adam Schiff said today.
SCHIFF: By preventing us from hearing from this witness and obtain these documents, the President and Secretary of State are taking actions that prevent us from getting the facts needed to protect the nation`s security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Today`s battle over testimony follows a string of officials that the White House is preventing from cooperating with these lawful subpoenas - you see them here, and this goes even beyond Ukraine.
Did you know that just today Trump`s DOJ lawyers were back in court trying to hold back key information from Mueller`s Russia probe. Now, there are some valid reasons and privileges for holding back information, to be sure. But as we`ve been reporting, the White House is now trying to hold back, what you see on your screen, all this information across basically every major Department.
And whether or not Congress is right to warn that that could technically be obstruction, that`s a debate, think about before you even get to obstruction the most obvious problem for Donald Trump here. All of this suggests that the facts don`t help him when it comes to this alleged abuse of power. It suggests the evidence will hurt him. It suggests he fears the receipts will bury him.
Now we`re not just reporting on that as an inference. I pressed this very point to the President`s lawyer himself, Jay Sekulow, in our interview last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
you think the facts are ultimately on your side? If that`s true--
SEKULOW: I do.
MELBER: If the facts and the evidence are on your side, let me put up on the screen all of the differ individuals who have been stonewalling the Congress in this investigation--
Why withhold the evidence? Forget stonewall. Why without the hold the evidence--
SEKULOW: Because it affects - not only it doesn`t affect this case, it affects the office of the presidency of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: OK. That`s an answer. That is the privilege argument, and that does not explain hiding this evidence from so many different people, let alone Ambassador Sondland today, who, and you don`t need me to tell you this. But just to be as logical as possible, who is obviously not the President. So you don`t have that Presidential privilege argument. And his texts were trying to defend Trump.
Now if you`re afraid of the guy who is defending you. If you`re afraid of what the guy defending you is going to say, well that means you`re more afraid of something beyond just encroachments on Presidential legal privileges. You may be afraid of the receipts or as Aubrey Drake Graham says, so simply, "What`s that? Facts."
Well, we turn to some experts who are all about the facts and have been guiding us, Leah, David nice to see both of you. I want to ask you what comes next when we`re back in 30 seconds.
MELBER: As promised, we`re back with former editor of "Foreign Policy" magazine David Rothkopf; and Harvard professor, Leah Wright Rigueur, nice to see both of you.
I want to mention, Lindsey Graham has also invited Rudy Giuliani to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. So professor I go to you first. What does it tell you that there`s such resistance to having certain people testify and what do you see in the Rudy gambit?
LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Well, Ari, you started this up with a Drake quote, so it`s only fair that I respond with one, which is that. This is going from zero to 100, a real quick.
And I think the Trump administration has made it very, very clear - very clear that they have no intention of cooperating. They have no interest in cooperating. And that their plan is essentially to stonewall moving forward.
MELBER: I feel like what you are getting at is - I feel like what you`re getting at is started from Ukraine and now we hear.
RIGUEUR: All the way - all the way.
MELBER: Wait till David gets involved.
RIGUEUR: All the way.
MELBER: But go on, you`re saying that this really does reveal bigger problems to come?
RIGUEUR: It does. But it also indicates and in some senses it`s essentially pressing the Democrats` position it is suggesting and saying, you know what, you wanted to do an inquiry you wanted to do an investigation, well, I`m saying we`re not cooperating with the investigation, which leads Democrats with very few options.
They can press this and say we`re going to wring our hands and pull our hair out or they can actually move ahead, so they can do things like hold Republicans in contempt or witnesses in contempt. But also, they can move ahead with this impeachment inquiry. So it really feels like we`re moving very, very rapidly into, not just a stalemate, but a faceoff of sorts.
MELBER: Yes. And, well David, as someone who knows foreign policy well, it can be complicated. There can be more than one nuance and shading. This doesn`t look that complicated anymore.
DAVID ROTHKOPF, FOREIGN POLICY EXPERT: This case doesn`t look complicated. The President`s evidence - the evidence he`s put in has already said that he asked for a favor, that he was held something until that favor was provided.
And in fact, even before that there was a quid pro quo before the quid pro quo, because they`d said he couldn`t have a phone conversation with the President of Ukraine until he would agree to deal with this stuff. So the case is very clear on the basis of the evidence that`s there.
The problem is, as was just described, we`re heading rapidly towards a constitutional crisis. We`re heading rapidly towards the point where the President says I don`t believe in legitimacy of the Congress to do this, I don`t believe in past precedent, leave me alone.
And somewhere this is going to have to be tested in a court, be it by the Congress taking an action and putting somebody in jail as a consequence of it or not. And I think that`s the game the Trump administration is playing.
MELBER: Well, you say that, and since we`re here, I`m going to hold up. This is - but we just got this, as I`ve been emphasizing within the last hour so. This is the new White House letter. I`m reading from it. It says, there`s no legitimate basis for your "impeachment inquiry."
I mean the White House is putting impeachment inquiry and scare quotes, like it`s not a thing and then they say, "actually it`s the committee`s actions that raise serious questions," which is an old trick we`ve heard, David, investigate the investigators. You`re saying you see a crisis afoot because of the way they`re handling.
ROTHKOPF: Well, of course, because the Constitution doesn`t give the executive branch the right to make the decision regarding impeachment. The Constitution gives that solely to the Congress. And history gives the right of Congress to pursue this thing.
And what the executive branch is essentially throwing up everything they can, but it`s all lies it`s all fabrications. What they believe is that they can stall. And that maybe some court, perhaps the Supreme Court, at some point might rule in their favor.
They also know that this Congress thus far has taken it a little easy on them. It hasn`t pushed them hard. It hasn`t given consequences for not cooperating, and I think that`s where we`ve got to go very quickly. And the speed with which this subpoena was issued today--
ROTHKOPF: --is a sign that maybe they`re turning up the gas a little.
MELBER: Yes. I definitely noticed that as well, which goes to how this - this one is different, which has been a theme in some of the facts we`ve been assembling.
Leah, when we spoke to the President`s lawyer Jay Sekulow last night, one of the things that we learned - you know, people say why interview these people? Well you can learn new things that they would not necessarily give out in other venues, so it`s not in the press release, it`s not in the tweet.
And I was able to press Mr. Sekulow very clearly on, well, when did you learn about all this and he actually - Ukraine plot. He didn`t seem to want to go there, and then said, well he only learned about it when it became public. Which goes to, I think, part of why we`re seeing them make this up on the fly, some of the strategies. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEKULOW: --it was out of my jurisdiction. It wasn`t anything I was engaged in.
MELBER: When did you learn that Rudy Giuliani was asking these foreign governments to investigate Joe Biden?
SEKULOW: I learned when, I guess, when you did, because I was not involve - that was not in my jurisdiction and was focusing on--
MELBER: Well, you don`t know when I did. So I`m asking you when you did. You don`t know when I learned it.
SEKULOW: Well, I didn`t I didn`t know anything about until all this got really public. I mean, I didn`t know anything of this Joe Biden and Ukraine--
MELBER: --you learnt about it when it spilled into the public reporting?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Leah, what do you think of that, because you have one lawyer in Giuliani who is actually an agent of the plot, whether it`s a impeachable offense or criminal conspiracy its TBD. But who`s an agent of it. Then you have another who says, I knew nothing about it. I just got here. Well, as you can see in these letters today, it`s a little late to just learn about all this, if you`re dealing with an existential threat to the President`s.
RIGUEUR: Right. And I think part of it goes to two different things. The first is that this is - the President is an agent of chaos, and has been an agent of chaos since the second that he stepped foot in the White House - probably even before that.
Meaning that, he does as he sees fit, without regard for rule without regard for law, without regard for precedent in history, and so there`s constantly a game of catch-up and plotting around him.
We`ve heard stories of people who are intervening to try and ensure that these things that the President wants to do on a whim, aren`t in fact criminal that they are legal. And so we`re seeing actually the consequences of that kind of environment, so that`s number one.
Number two, is I think this speaks to a little bit of the chaos on the side of the cleanup team. That the strategy right now is let`s throw everything against the wall. See what sticks and hopefully something will come out that there will allow us to persist and or that Democrats actually don`t have the backbone to act on this.
And so you know you`re seeing these two things intersect, but this has been the case essentially from the beginning, which is, how do you actually deal with the consequences of a President in an executive branch that doesn`t have any regard for rule, for law, for precedent for history and just does as it sees fit. And a Congress that hasn`t really you know held that present accountable until right now, and that`s - this is the cast off of what we`re seeing.
MELBER: When you said quote "cleanup team", which raises the question whether the thing that I`m about to play that you`re going to see from a member of that team can be described in the case of Mr. Giuliani as cleaning up anything.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: No.
CUOMO: So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?
GIULIANI: Of course, I did.
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: All right, Rudy hold that thought.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: No, no. no. Hold on, hold on--
GIULIANI: 20 years of Washington press corps that was--
KURTZ: We, will--
GIULIANI: I say, brother, cut it out, damn it. As opposed to, I don`t know about it, I didn`t hear it. And you all buy that. Bull.
KURTZ: We have the transcript of the call--
GIULIANI: Shhh! Shhh!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I don`t know what can you say.
ROTHKOPF: You know what you can say, today Lindsey Graham did something that the Democrats were happy with. Lindsey Graham said I want to get Rudy up here on the Hill. I want to I want to have Rudy testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
MELBER: Do more of that?
ROTHKOPF: Well that`s the thing the Democrats must be going, OK, get this guy up. He is a hot mess. If he comes out and he starts to talk like he does there, and then you combine that with some tough questioning from some of the people in the Senate Judiciary Committee, this is going to be a disaster for the President.
MELBER: Well, I wonder what you think, Leah, enclosing of David`s point. Because for as frustrating as many people find the farce, if he does some of that same farce under oath. If the Cuomo interview were under oath, it would likely be perjury, because of the false statements in it.
RIGUEUR: So it remains to be seen how far Rudy Giuliani is willing to go to protect the President. It`s quite clear that he is not you know willing to protect other people in this fold, but you know his bread-and-butter right now is the President.
One of the things, though, that I will say that is that is becoming quite apparent is that, in addition to kind of going out there and being Mr. Destructive, Mr. Chaos Agent, and all of these things with Rudy Giuliani and trying to save his own skin, there is also an element of Rudy Giuliani that is dedicated to trying to change the narrative around what we`re talking about.
RIGUEUR: So all of the spoken - all of this focus is on Biden, Biden, Biden and emphasizing that the scandal is really about Biden. It`s to the point that the public is hearing this over and over again.
And so one wonders what he would do if he is in front of Congress and is testifying and perhaps testifying in televised hearings. And it`s an opportunity for him to kind of use this kind of platform for misinformation, for disinformation and to try and change the narrative again back to Biden as opposed to President Trump where - which is where it should be.
MELBER: Yes. Well, and I have to compliment you both at your incredible judgment in your silence, because I`m sure you could have said things that were harsher than your silence in reaction to some of that Giuliani hits. David and Leah, thanks to both of you.
ROTHKOPF: Thank you.
RIGUEUR: Thank you.
MELBER: Up ahead, Donald Trump had this now obsession with polygraphs. He wants to plug the leaks, all of this part of the freak out over impeachment pressure. And tonight a whistleblower who divulged Vietnam secrets in the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg is here on THE BEAT
MELBER: Let`s take a step back and actually consider one thing most people in Washington agree on right now. Donald Trump`s closer to impeachment tonight than he was last month or last year or really any other time. We know that from the whip count.
Here`s another thing most people agree on, that`s not because of Bob Mueller or Nancy Pelosi who`s long resisted this course. Donald Trump closer to impeachment right now because of this anonymous whistleblower who took a major risk working within the system in the law to warn his or her bosses in the intelligence department and ultimately Congress about this now exposed Ukraine plot.
These leakers take major risks to their career or even more. And now you have a formal whistleblower like this, it`s not a conventional leak, because remember, he or she didn`t even leak publicly to the press. He or she followed the rules in federal law.
Now other scandals in government misconduct have also been exposed by wider leaks and there`s a great debate over when it is acceptable to blow the whistle or leak. One of America`s most famous leakers is, of course, Daniel Ellsberg.
He upended the Vietnam War with the Pentagon Papers leaked, which led to a landmark Supreme Court case that protected the right to publish certain leaks. So Ellsberg is, of course, a fitting person for us to consult tonight.
I just spoke with him. And I want to play you some of what he said, including new remarks emphasizing how risky it is to challenge a President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL ELLSBERG, VIETNAM WHISTLEBLOWER: I`d nevertheless congratulate this whistleblower on the success that they`ve had so far in getting that information out and on the courage that she showed or he showed in taking this on. Even following the rules to challenge a President for wrongdoing is not safe, either physically or legally.
And I hope that the Democrats in Congress in the House will take every precaution to keep her identity or his identity secret from the President--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Mr. Ellsberg about Donald Trump`s actions and public threats again this whistleblower, including compared with other Presidents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLSBERG: I don`t think any of the previous Presidents put a target on the back of the whistleblower, calling to armed and violent constituents, in some cases, to say that that person should be treated before trial, before due process, anything else as a spy or a traitor.
He is calling for physical attack, I would say. I think that`s an impeachable offense or a criminal offense in itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: An impeachable or criminal offense, very interesting coming from someone who`s been through these issues to the point of creating precedents that remain to this day.
Now, as part of our reporting here as we dig into this, we also want to point out that of course many leakers pay huge penalties. Consider a former CIA employee who has all kinds of experience here named John Kiriakou. He served in operations pursuing terrorists, he also publicly discussed tactics like torture and waterboarding, and then was convicted later of providing the identity of an undercover officer to a journalist, who ultimately we should note, didn`t publish the name.
Now Mr. Kiriakou almost two years in jail for that offense as a leaker. Now I spoke with him this is new airing for the first time and he said what he thinks about Donald Trump calling the whistleblower as spy and how dangerous it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRIAKOU, FORMER CIA OFFICER: This is a very, very dangerous thing that he`s doing. When I blew the whistle on the CIA`s torture program I got three - what the FBI called, three credible death threats, and I actually had to take my family and leave town for a week.
So when you have the President United States joking and maybe, maybe not joking, about death penalty offenses for someone reporting waste fraud abuse or illegality, I think that`s a very dangerous tack to take.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Very dangerous and that`s coming with someone who`s paid a price for leaking to be sure.
Now House Democrats are going to extra lengths to protect this whistleblower`s identity from what they say are Trump`s Republican allies who might try to expose these whistleblowers. So it`s a lot of context here for these threats. Now I also asked Kiriakou if whistleblowers today need to worry about retaliation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you think they in this climate have to worry about being improperly charged?
KIRIAKOU: I do think they have to worry. And I think that it`s improper and inappropriate that they have to worry. If you see any of that - any of that fraud or illegality, you are compelled by law and by your oath to go to the authorities.
Any whistleblower or potential whistleblower really does have to take into account that this whole thing may fall apart and you may find yourself behind bars, even if you believe you did the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You could find yourself behind bars. Whatever you think of why people do these things that may be chilling for people in government. But that`s not really the dark note that we end on, having consulted some of these very famous people who`ve been in these fights, who`ve made these hard calls who didn`t know how it was going to turn out.
I want to leave you with something that Daniel Ellsberg also told me tonight. It`s his advice for people in government right now who might be concerned about President Trump`s ongoing conduct.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What do you Daniel Ellsberg say to these now two whistleblowers out there tonight?
ELLSBERG: I congratulate them. What I`d like to speak to is the people who like me kept their mouth shut when they knew that the President was doing wrong. I learnt better once I was in Vietnam and I actually experienced a war up close.
MELBER: Do you think there others--
ELLSBERG: --stacks are. I have--
MELBER: Do you think there are others in the Trump administration--
ELLSBERG: I`m absolutely - I`m absolutely sure for one thing the whistleblower revealed that there were more than a dozen people on that program - on that call.
This President is turning out to be a domestic enemy of the Constitution. Every one of them should be a whistleblower right now and it`s not too late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: How does it feel the White House right now? Well there`s new reports, President Trump is rattled and "paranoid" as he faces leaks, whistleblowers and these new subpoenas that just came out tonight, and that`s not all, a shift in public support for impeachment.
I`m going to show it all to you. First Democrats say the Trump administration has been blocking this key witness, which builds on their impeachment case. Second, POLITICO reports Trump`s quote "paranoid and obsessed." He wants to give a lie detector test to his own staff. Here`s what we`re seeing spill out in public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are bad people. These are dishonest people.
The conversation, by the way, was absolutely perfect. It was a beautiful, warm, nice conversation.
Nancy Pelosi and shifty Schiff who should resign in disgrace--
And that`s why they do the impeachment crap, because they know they can`t beat us fairly.
This is a hoax. This is the greatest hoax--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s how some of this is playing out for the White House, and then there`s the reverberations. But I want to show you something. We don`t do a ton of polling on this show and I`ve explained to you previously why.
But when you do real-time polling not, oh, who`s going to be your favorite candidate a year from now, which is hard to answer. But do you support impeaching Donald Trump today? You actually get a reliable metric. So take a look at The Washington Post.
58 pecent of Americans now back an impeachment inquiry. That`s a lot more than used and a lot more than the people who just opposed Trump. Take a look at the context. In the last three months, the overall support has shifted and surged 21 points from July. But that`s not all, when you actually dig into these numbers along party lines, it`s even more striking.
Take a look at this graph where you see summer - July you see where the Democrats and the Republicans and the independents are with, no surprise, more Democrats back impeachment. Now, boom, look at right now, Democrats up 25 points to 86 percent backing it, so whoever was holding back that`s shifted.
Then look at Republicans where a 21-point shift now has over 104 Republicans backing an impeachment probe and then independence - boom, up 20 points all the way to 57 percent. It is a stunning shift in what we`re often told is an immovable polarized country when it comes to views of Donald Trump.
I`m joined now by Mark Thompson, host of "Make it Plain" podcast and the reason why I`m talking to you about this is you are clear. Some people they don`t want to say what it is. When you look at those numbers, whatever one takes to Donald Trump, if you`re disappointed that people weren`t for impeachment three months ago or you think it should be more? What does it tell you to see that movement across all categories of ideology?
MARK THOMPSON, HOST, "MAKE IT PLAIN" PODCAST: Well, it shows that people waking up. But if we did a little deeper, there was - in those polls there was also a question about removal. So we saw the number four if those who support impeachment.
Washington Post posts 49 percent support removal, NBC poll today 43 percent support removal, Quinnipiac poll 45 percent support removal. This is at the beginning of the inquiry, Ari.
When Nixon`s inquiry began in May of `74, he was like in the 20s in terms of percentages of people`s support of removal. He didn`t reached the 40 percentile until they released the edited transcripts of him plotting against his enemies. Then over 40 percent of the public was for Nixon`s removal.
Trump is already at over 40 percent and in terms of removal. And as you indicated, he`s already plotting against his enemies. So he`s right, when Nixon was at the beginning.
MELBER: You lay it out there. We`re going to put this back up on the screen--
MELBER: Because you lay it out and one of the things you hear when you look in the middle - look at the red. We hear over and over, nothing moves Republicans, nothing moves Republicans. That`s not my experience with the facts. I also don`t think that`s fair to millions and tens of millions of people. I always say profiling is bad because it doesn`t deal with individuals - all profiling.
When you look at a 21-point surge among Republicans, what does that tell you about Republican doubts about what the President may or may not have done on Ukraine?
THOMPSON: Well, actually what it tells me is - and I touched on this last week. The fact of the matter is, and we have to be very honest about this. In 2016, he was not the favorite candidate at first for most Republicans, and many Republicans saw him as hijacking their party.
So to me that always leaves an opening for Republicans to say I`m done with this guy, this is embarrassing. Also is very similar with Nixon. Nixon had a scandal before Watergate and that was the ITT - technology scandal. That kind of softened the ground for people to move toward impeachment.
And so Mueller in 2016 and Russia probably has softened the ground--
MELBER: Right, and you--
THOMPSON: --for Republicans to come on board now.
MELBER: And when you look at the examples from the Nixon era, are you`re saying as can get way worse, because they`re not even into the deep part of the fact gathering. Take a listen to someone who`s work with Trump talking about that. Take a look Tony Schwartz.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR "THE ART OF THE DEAL": --it doesn`t take a psychiatrist to recognize, as you just saw in that piece that this is a man who is way, way out there. He`s way off in the in the blue yonder. And to watch this is frightening, particularly because, Ari, it`s going to get way worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You think Donald Trump knows what I just showed the polling and that this is going downhill?
THOMPSON: Yes. But he`s not learning anything from it, because two very important Nixonian things happened today. You broke the news about the subpoena. The subpoena comes, because they announced they`re not going to participate in the impeachment proceedings.
Well, what did Nixon do? He withheld the tapes. It had to go to court. Also in court today Barr`s DOJ made an argument that Sirica was wrong. And Judge Howell was like, "Are you sure you want to make that argument?" I mean, this is this is history. You`re saying that Sirica was wrong.
And once again some people are still fighting the civil war, obviously there are some folks still fighting to acquit Nixon for Watergate--
MELBER: Well, you mentioned that this Sirica who famously pushed and changed the course of history, the Supreme Court backed a lot of that. And of course, this is a night were past this prologue, you`re talking Sirica, you`re talking Nixon, we were hearing from Daniel Ellsberg moments ago--
THOMPSON: That`s right.
MELBER: It all comes up when you get to these constitutional clashes. Mark Thompson always appreciate your wisdom, sir.
THOMPSON: Thank you. Thank you.
MELBER: Thank you. For being here. We`ll be back with "One More Thing".
MELBER: And that does it for me. But don`t go anywhere. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next,
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END