CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Brett, thanks for traveling to San Francisco to make me not a lair about that. I appreciate that. I know you didn`t do it for us, but anyway much appreciated.
Thank you all for watching. Back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY. I`m going back east. But we can`t go without wishing our Nationals some good luck tonight in the World Series. Let`s go Nats, let`s steal the game from Houston.
"THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. I didn`t know the World Series was tonight. Is that for real?
TODD: You know out here in LA, you know what they`re talking about? It`s Kauai and LeBron night one, baby. It`s another big thing out there too.
MELBER: All foreign language, but that`s why I rely on you.
TODD: There you go.
MELBER: Yes, sir. Have fun out there.
TODD: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: And on my thanks to Chuck Todd, I thank you for joining us here this hour on "THE BEAT." I am excited to be back I will tell you that and it is a busy news night.
Beginning with the mounting impeachment evidence against President Trump. Today one of the most significant witnesses from inside the administration hitting Capitol Hill with what is truly described as a bombshell piece of testimony. That evidence, our top story, I`m going to walk you through all of it.
Then later this hour, we also report on Donald Trump claiming that the lawful investigation into his conduct is like a quote "lynching." The White House is facing bipartisan combination for that and Brittney Cooper will walk us through as our expert.
And that`s not all, because it`s Rudy Giuliani is investigated by the very prosecutors office he used to lead. Tonight we have an exclusive with a U.S. attorney who ran that same office to Southern District of New York.
Our top story right now, though, is the damning testimony today from one of the few people who was in the room as Donald Trump`s aides and fixers hatched the entire Ukraine plot. Bill Taylor was the top U.S. diplomat for Ukraine.
He objected to any effort at extracting a bride from Ukraine to help Donald Trump get reelected, and he did so at the time in writing, in those now infamous texts saying it was quote "crazy" to condition security assistance on Donald Trump`s political campaign efforts.
So this scene today is certainly not what Donald Trump wanted to see. You`re watching Mr. Taylor go through security and make his way through Capitol Hill to tell his story, to recount his evidence he ultimately spent hours with lawmakers behind closed doors. And how did it land? Well, here`s how one Democrat summed it up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANY LEVIN (D-MI): In my 10 short months in Congress it`s not even noon, right? And this is the most disturbing day in Congress so far. Very troubling--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Very troubling. Other accounts suggest that reaction was shared in the room. Other House Democrats said they recounted disturbing details that Mr. Taylor shared. That as he went through the methodical evidence and notes that he`d taken, it provoked sighs and gasps as he depicted the workings of an alleged criminal conspiracy at the highest levels of the Trump administration.
So right now before we bring in our experts, and as I mentioned we have some great ones tonight, I want to walk through the key points that Taylor made, which have just come in to our newsroom here in this past hour.
One, he drew a direct line between Ukrainians doing this political favor for Trump in exchange for military aid. That was contingent on the bribe that Donald Trump was soliciting, forcing Ukraine to probe the DNC and the Bidens and that he wanted a public declaration they would do it.
Let`s stop right there. That is key. You have someone who was inside this process, saying the process was to extort a bribe from Ukraine. Now, Congress and prosecutors may ultimately decide if that - that evidence leads to a crime or a high crime, so that comes down the road.
But what`s new tonight is that there is an official on the record asserting it, which is significant. And in Mr. Taylor`s 15 page opening statement, which has now just become public, he offers a peek into what he told that room of investigators on impeachment today.
He lays out his background as a diplomat, how he came out of retirement at the request of Secretary Pompeo only to get to Ukraine and find a quote "weird combination of encouraging, confusing and ultimately alarming circumstances and irregular, informal channel of U.S. policymaking on Ukraine that turned on Mr. Giuliani."
That matters, because it is new confirmation of what you`ve already heard about, what we`ve been reporting about, the reason why the President`s close to impeachment that there is the allegation of a shadow foreign policy, doing the bidding of Mr. Trump`s reelection.
It`s also a corroboration of what the whistleblower alleged and what the White House call notes said, depicting Donald Trump assigning Giuliani to extort political favors from Ukraine. Giuliani, of course, is now under criminal investigation as well. And I have more on that later tonight.
Now here`s another point you have to understand to see why today was so big. Taylor, today, has new details of incriminating evidence against Trump that he says as Ambassador he personally heard an unidentified voice on the phone stating that Ukraine`s aid would be held up at Trump`s direction - more evidence of the plot.
And then later he learned that a key official directly told the Ukrainian leaders the security assistance money would not come until their President committed to pursue the Biden probe Trump wanted, that`s bad.
Now if at this point in the broadcast you think is this kind of stuff we`ve heard before? The answer is yes, but a special kind of yes. This incriminating evidence is repetitive in the worst possible way for President Trump.
This is the same damning plot money for Biden probe, repeated by different people, at different times, which Taylor says ultimately made him "very concerned." So concerned he sent the text that we all know about in the whole debate that everyone`s been having about what it means when someone says don`t condition aid on re-election favors.
So today Congress gets the context for that whole series of exchanges, which alternately led to a phone call with Donald Trump`s loyalists - his appointee Gordon Sondland. And here`s what Taylor told the Congress today. "During that phone call Ambassador Sondland said Trump told him he wants Zelensky, the Ukrainian leader, to state publicly Ukraine will investigate their Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in 2016." That`s the whole DNC Biden stuff.
And he said, "Everything was dependent on such announcement, including security assistance." Quid meet quo. There it is - the Biden stuff for the money. Now things were obviously bad for Donald Trump before today.
Donald Trump admitted he wanted to Biden probe from Ukraine. His Chief of Staff admitted to a quid pro quo last week, tried to walk it back. So if you say, OK, Ari what is different about this today, this repetition, if you will? Well, it is worse, because this is the person on the inside detailing the facts and the time and the place of the quid pro quo.
And what happened next, we know a little bit about this as well today. Taylor then told the Congress that he asked Sondland, the Trump loyalist, to push back and try to stop this whole money for investigation idea. And Sondland allegedly said he would try, but then later said trump was adamant that Zelensky himself had to clear things up and do it in public.
And despite silent texting a Trumpian denial, the plan was still either Ukraine and Zelensky did this and commit to clear things up in public or there would be a stalemate. So Trump admits to the goal, get the probe to help him in 2020, and Mulvaney admits to the method, demand a quid pro quo bribe.
What`s new tonight, why this is a bombshell? Is that today Ambassador Taylor confirmed the incriminating how - exact conversation and timing and details for getting it done. Rarely do you see this in the light of day in black and white. The operational details for what many experts believe is a crime or what Mulvaney insists is just foreign policy, get over it.
And there`s one more difference between Donald Trump and Mulvaney over here and Ambassador Taylor here today. They admitted incriminating things and then still defend them. Taylor`s detailing some of the same things. He`s not defending them today. He`s against them. He`s sounding an alarm. He is trying to stop that plot. He tried at the time and writing and he`s trying to stop any further such plots today. You might say he`s blowing the whistle.
And finally, here is how he told Congress about his now-famous warning in those text messages. "I said withholding security assistance in exchange for help with a domestic political campaign would be crazy. I believe that then and I still believe that." He`s staking his whole career and integrity on that. Believe that. The diplomat has spoken, who believes him could decide the future of this entire impeachment debate.
I turn now on this a big news night to former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance; Washington Bureau Chief for "Mother Jones," David Corn and Betsy Woodruff Swan, Reporter for "The Daily Beast."
Good evening, everyone. David on the scale of zero - nothing to it to 10, bombshell, where do you put today`s testimony?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: A spinal tap 11. You know, in some ways Trump is good at getting his pursuers to chase their own tail. It is a quid pro, it`s not a quid pro quo. Mulvaney comes out and says it is, and it isn`t in all this.
And the words themselves in the White House transcript clearly say, if you want Javelin missiles you have to give us this favor and the favors investigating the DNC server and investigating Biden. The favor has two parts to it, equally important in fact. I think the DNC`s server is more important to Trump because it gets them off the hook on the 2016 Russian attack.
And so we know that but, now we have somebody who kept meticulous notes throughout his whole career, giving us the chronology. And you know and prosecutors know there`s nothing better than a chronology. Right? You have notes to back them up, you have text. He talks about cables and this chronology.
Well, you can get those cables. They exist within the State Department logs. And it clearly shows that even when they say it`s not going to quit pro quo, in that one conversation you cited, it is a quid pro quo. We`re not calling it that, but unless he does what we want. Which is to publicly say, not just to do an investigation, but to publicly say that they`re investigating the Biden`s which would taint the Biden`s.
It`s a stalemate, meaning, the aid is not coming and it`s important to note the aid doesn`t get out by I think mid-September or so it disappears. It goes back to Congress. So this was a real muscling operation, very mob- like. And, while Taylor was - saw Giuliani as the mixer in all this and wanted out, and he`s - you know we don`t know what he told beyond the statement too. It`s a very detailed story about a very crooked operation.
MELBER: Joyce how important is it that this testimony comes from someone in the room where it happened?
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: He`s a great witness, Ari. His statement indicates that he began his service in the State Department in 1985 and he served Presidents from both parties. In other words, he`s the ultimate disinterested witness. He`s a career guy. He doesn`t have a political axe to grind.
And his testimony makes it really even more stunning. We talked about it at the time, absolutely jaw-dropping that DOJ did not investigate the referral from the whistleblower, which what we see here and Ambassador Taylor says that it`s crazy - his characterization to withhold aid in exchange for favors for a political campaign.
I would call it a crime. It`s a really clear instance of bribery or extortion. DOJ gave it a pass and is instead putting the burden on Congress to investigate - and I think Congress is finding frankly a lot of evidence that DOJ and this President wish had not come to light, because it is damaging.
MELBER: Let`s have you build a little bit on that point. Viewers know that you`re a former federal prosecutor and U.S. Attorney and so you`ve looked at hard cases and sometimes something looks bad and there`s not enough evidence.
Often what tips over the edge is, whether you have the corroboration. Not just one person or one story, but the real evidence of it going down. And so you`re saying what you see today, Joyce, regardless of whether Mr. Barr`s DOJ is investigating it fully or not, is you see enough of that evidence that says this was actually in illegal bribery plot?
Meaning, before you even get to what the Congress thinks is impeachable, you see Mr. Taylor outlining potential crimes committed inside the United States?
VANCE: He is clearly outlining conduct and there are other witnesses who`ve talked about it, perhaps most notably the President`s Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, you got on national television a few days ago and seemed to concede that there was a quid pro quo.
But the reality here is, we have a credible witness. There is a lot of other evidence that comes into the mix that indicates that a crime was committed. And of course, as you point out, Congress doesn`t need a crime for impeachment. They`re looking at an abuse of trust.
But when you have a crime that is almost just a clear instance of the abuse of trust. It makes it much easier to establish it, and that`s what we`ve got here.
MELBER: Betsy, take a listen to Congressman Kapur (ph) today on all of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARRETT HAAKE, MSNBC WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: What do you make of these incredulous text messages that have come out from him, questioning the administration policy on Ukraine from after he got back into the country?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, he walked into a rat`s nest. And I think that - and the rats there are very bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, THE DAILY BEAST: It`s a tough moment. It`s a really tough moment for Congressional Republicans and for the President. And what`s especially noteworthy about the testimony from Bill Taylor today is the extent to which he details a roadmap for where the rest of the investigation might fruitfully go.
One thing that numerous Democratic Representatives who I chatted with on The Hill today brought up concerns that Gordon Sondland could have given bad information to Congress when he testified several days ago.
Of course, he was the administration`s Ambassador to the EU. He was part of this effort, according to Taylor, to pressure the Ukrainians to publicly announce an investigation of the Biden - of the company connected to the Biden family. And many Democrats now believe that Sondland might have potentially either lied to them or in defensively given them information that would have been bad another.
Person who`s an important character that shows up throughout bill Taylor`s testimony is Tim Morrison. Morrison is the Head of the Eurasia desk at the National Security Council. He has the job that used to belong to Fiona Hill. Taylor sites extensively conversations that he had with Morrison in this testimony.
At one point he says that Morrison told him the Trump-Zelensky call, "Could have gone better," AKA not the perfect phone call. And it`s pretty clear just from looking at this initial statement that Democrats are also going to want to bring him in.
SWAN: He is another new person who would have a ton of information that would be relevant to what they`re looking at.
MELBER: Well, you had great details there. And, of course, we started discussing this about the spectrum of zero to bombshell, on the spectrum of perfect to impeachable, I think we`re nearing impeachable according to these witnesses and far from perfect.
Joyce, I want to read to you the Ukraine side of all this, because again we`re talking about diplomacy and what people were concerned and what message was received. Mr. Taylor here saying President Zelensky is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, and not as an instrument in Washington domestic re-election politics.
What does that tell you as a prosecutor or a fact-finder that if you`re pushing a bride - you`re trying to extort a bride from Ukraine to help you get reelection, what does it tell you that Mr. Taylor, if he`s credible, and we haven`t heard otherwise that he`s not, is saying the fact is Ukraine thinks it is that quid pro quo.
VANCE: Taylor is expressing concern throughout about national security, that`s his wheelhouse. He`s talking about the importance of Ukraine to our national security, to Europe to combating the threat from Russia.
And then we have this interesting piece of information where we learned that Trump`s perfect phone call - the call where Trump tells us the Ukrainians never felt any pressure to provide any favors.
We have this conversation where Taylor says the Ukrainian President has conveyed to us through one of one of his advisers that he feels like he is being used as a tool in this reelection campaign that the President is waging in the United States.
That I think is really the kicker in these 15 pages of testimony, this notion that the Ukrainians perceived this as a quid pro quo, as a bribery and extortion situation.
MELBER: Yes. And I think that`s very interesting. Betsy, does the pile of allegations and facts here making it harder for some Republicans to defend or want to defend this?
SWAN: It certainly does. I chatted with one Republican today before the statement was released publicly. Or not released, but leaked, I guess, technically.
SWAN: But after people started realizing the gist of it. Who said that the only thing that mattered to him was what Trump himself actually said to Zelensky, and that since Taylor wasn`t on that call, Taylor wasn`t relevant to the to the efforts that Democrats have moving forward to impeach the President. If that`s the best argument that Republicans have, they`re in a really tight spot.
The reality is Taylor has detailed knowledge of very much of how this has played out. And in addition to that, part of his - and part of what he describes in this event is showing the extent to which he was worried about the Ukrainians being betrayed by the United States.
He talks about trying to make sure that Zelensky wasn`t going to go on TV and promised to provide that - promised to investigate Biden in 2016. And then potentially see the United States failed to ultimately provide the aid that they had promised.
In other words, Taylor was worried that the U.S. would break its promise to Zelensky, humiliating Ukraine and providing a boon to the Russian government. The fact that a career experienced diplomat had that level of concern about the willingness of the Trump administration to keep its word, is something that`s going to chill many Republicans in Congress.
MELBER: Yes. You lay it all out there and a lot of it is the national security implications as well as what has become a consuming scandal for the White House. Betsy Woodruff Swan, and Joyce Vance, thanks to both of you. David, I`m going to give you a break and come back you later in the hour for something else.
I`m going to fit in this break. But I want to tell you what we up coming up, we`re diving deeper into the revelations, including, I`m going to show you some other of the key take-home points that are most damning for President Trump in this material.
Then an exclusive with the former United States attorney from the very powerful and independent SDNY currently probing Giuliani. And later we look inside both criminal and counterintelligence probes that touch on the President`s lawyer and perhaps fixer.
And then the outrage over Donald Trump`s offensive comments trying to compare the impeachment investigation to a "lynching." All that tonight, I`m Ari Melber. You are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Breaking news tonight with the fallout from these new details pouring in for today`s explosive impeachment testimony from former Trump diplomat, Bill Taylor, laying out these new details of an incriminating quid pro quo plot between the Trump administration and Ukraine.
We`ve been going through the details and here`s another that we haven`t aired yet. Taylor recounting how that now-famous Trump loyalist Gordon Sondland, was trying to defend the premise of this transactional foreign policy. Saying that, "Because Trump is a businessman, when he`s about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he asked that person to pay up before signing the check."
I want to get into this with two prosecutors who are real experts on these kind of cases. David Kelley is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, often in the news and Berit Berger is a former federal prosecutor, serving in that office as well as the Eastern District. Good day to both you.
BERIT BERGER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Hello.
DAVID KELLEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Hello, Ari.
MELBER: David, also as I always mentioned, is a former boss of mine. And if we were in the U.S. Attorney`s Office you would be more senior in rank. We`ll start with you, although I prize both of your analysis. What kind of evidence did we hear today?
Well you heard a lot of damning evidence, both for the President and those folks around him. The question is, from a criminal perspective, what does that do? Is this really a criminal issue is that is it really an issue for a constitutional of impeachment. So you really have a misappropriation of money that`s appropriated by Congress.
And if this was in the President who was directing it, I would think that you have from a criminal perspective you have federal election law violations, and you might even have violations of making bribes to foreign officials.
MELBER: So you just listed--
KELLEY: --FCPA violation--
MELBER: Well, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. So you just listed off, as a prosecutor might, several felonies that could have been committed that you`d at least want to investigate.
MELBER: What does it tell you that under Bill Barr the Justice Department`s immediate public response to this was that there was nothing to investigate?
KELLEY: It sounds to me - and not really having all the facts. But on at a glance, it certainly was enough in the whistleblower complaint to dig deeper than they did - then they apparently did. So I don`t if it was sloppiness or intentionality that they didn`t they didn`t pursue it further.
MELBER: Spoken like a very careful attorney. He doesn`t know if it was sloppiness or intentional. But he`s saying and I wonder if you could build on the point that we keep learning more information that suggests, at a minimum, there was an effort at extorting a bribe. And to the extent that foreign officials were involved and may be also other laws. Your view.
BERGER: Yes. I mean, Taylor`s testimony today, I think, there`s no way that Congress can`t find this significant. The quote that you just put up where he was you know describing how Sondland was saying, the businessmen writing the check.
I mean, if we were in front of a jury and we`re trying to explain the concept of a quid pro quo that may be the very example I would use, right - the businessman wanting to get the payout before he signs the check.
I think Taylor really went--
MELBER: And let`s pause on that just and then you go.
MELBER: The businessman writing the check is spending his money in a transaction. Here the allegation is that the President is stealing money that`s not his, it`s U.S. taxpayer appropriated funds to get a personal benefit.
BERGER: Right. And the conduct is clearly worse than what is set out in that hypothetical. But just to exemplify that for an administration that has really gone to great lengths to say there was no quid pro right from the get-go, this was a pretty startling description of exactly that.
MELBER: Yes. And some of this news is coming up so fast today that we don`t have it already and - when we produced it up, so I have something here I want to read that I know we don`t have yet. But it is also from the Taylor`s testimony, because we`re getting it as we go.
He describes the first time that he heard from government officials "That the money" the security assistance was quote "conditioned on the investigations that Trump wanted." We do it now, great. Let me read the whole thing.
"This was the first time I had heard the security assistance, not just the White House meeting with Zelensky, was conditioned on the investigations Trump wanted." Is that good or bad?
KELLEY: That`s - well, from a criminal (ph) perspective it`s really bad, because it`s the quid pro quo. It`s just conveying a thing of value. From a constitutional perspective it shows an abuse of power which was a very thing that`s contemplated in the impeachment provision of the Constitution.
BERGER: Yes. I mean, I couldn`t agree more. One thing that really struck me with the reporting from Taylor`s testimony today was how important it seemed to be that Ukrainian President made these announcements publicly. That really speaks to me to this idea of how you say this was a thing of value.
It wasn`t necessarily even that the investigation was going to be conducted by the Ukraine or that they were looking into it. It seemed that the import was that this proclamation was made publicly, so that it was to get sort of the full bang for the buck. So that it could clearly be used as an advantage in running a political campaign.
MELBER: Right. And you`re suggesting that Donald Trump whose rise to power and whose troubles have come in part from his obsession with the use and abuse of publicity was keenly, according to this allegation, was keenly interested in getting it out public and boxing in that they would do this Biden probe and say they do it, so it would ensnare Biden before - again, before even the primaries were up.
BERGER: That`s one fact I think that, for example, like a prosecutor could use if you were trying to show that what they were after was something of value that could be used in the context of an election, making it very clear that this needed to be a public proclamation that they were going to be conducting this investigation, would be a factor that I think would be significant in trying to draw that conclusion.
MELBER: And so--
KELLEY: Let me just once--
KELLEY: --if this was a criminal case, we`re talking in terms of the criminal case, which it likely wouldn`t be. It would be really an issue for Constitution, begin the evidence - lots of cases don`t go to trial in a criminal case because the evidence is overwhelming or sufficient enough to have a conviction. So I doubt that this is a case that would really go to trial. When confronted with all the evidence a reasonable defendant would likely take a plea.
MELBER: You`re saying some of defendant with this evidence--
KELLEY: It`s pretty - it`s pretty damning evidence.
MELBER: Damning slam dunk evidence.
BERGER: I mean, it`s far better for me to agree to secure the former U.S. Attorney here. But, yes, it`s a strong case.
MELBER: Well, Mr. Kelley, who, as I mentioned, I know and I`ve worked with, is going a little farther than usual. And I think we`re in this moment where we`re all kind of saying, oh the bribe, that they admitted to that the Chief of Staff admitted to, and now we`re getting the actual particulars. It is it is really overwhelming.
I`m going to come back to in the show, because I didn`t get to ask you anything about the guy who used to run the office that you ran.
KELLEY: I doubt it will be so explosive when we get to that. But let`s talk about it.
MELBER: That`s a great tease for people to keep watching. It`s going to be what dry?
KELLEY: No, it wouldn`t be dry.
MELBER: Its two people who work these kind of cases its fascinating. I appreciate both you, David Kelley and Berit Berger. As promised, we`re going to have more on this explosive story and what it means for impeachment. And we`re back on THE BEAT in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: Turning to more reporting on this explosive testimony today. I`m want to bring in Commentary`s John Podhoretz. He`s a conservative writer and a former speechwriter for President Reagan; as well as "Mother Jones`" David Corn, the author of several books, including "Russian Roulette." Good evening to both of you.
JOHN PODHORETZ, COMMENTARY MAGAZINE EDITOR: Good evening.
CORN: Good evening.
MELBER: David, I think you just heard and our viewers may have just heard, we had two careful prosecutors on saying that if Mr. Taylor`s evidence and allegations today, combined with the rest of the case, we`re facing a civilian defendant - Mr. Kelley who`s prosecuted many cases said you`d probably plea. You wouldn`t go to trial on this evidence.
CORN: Yes. That was very interesting. Yet we - also Berit also said that - she said, no way Congress can`t find it significant. Now I disagree.
CORN: I think there`s a lot of ways that Republicans in Congress will continue to put on their blinders and say there`s nothing here. They say - they said that before when there was evidence of a quid pro quo. I don`t think they`re going to change their tune.
What are the responses that we`ve gotten out of them? No quid pro quo, well, Mick Mulvaney in the transcript said there was good pro quo and now we have this impeccable eyewitness with meticulous notes saying it directly.
Then they said it was about corruption. I read the 15 pages of Taylor`s testimony that was leaked, I`m sure you have too. How many times is the word corruption appeared in that? None. It`s all about putting pressure on Zelensky directly from Trump. He`s a mob boss, they are lieutenants.
And as Betsey said earlier in the show, there is a road map here, they can bring in all these people who are named in this testimony. There are a lot of names there. And the interesting thing is going to be whether the White House at some point says, no, you can`t testify and they try - after the horse has run out of the barn is, over the hill and is out of the county, to lock the door behind it.
MELBER: Wow. Mixed metaphors with the horsing and the locking, but I followed. David?
CORN: OK. There you go.
MELBER: John Podhoretz, as you may know, we turn to make sure we`re hearing all views. And on this program we`ve had Mr. Sekulow come on, we`ve had Corey Lewandowski come on. We`ve had a lot of officials come on and they`ve tried out different views of this.
Do you think, as a conservative who might be sympathetic to some of these individuals, into at least a robust foreign policy power, certainly the President can do foreign policy. Do you think today was negative for the Trump White House?
PODHORETZ: Oh, yes. Was it negative? I don`t know that it could be any more negative. I mean, Taylor says in his testimony that Gordon Sondland said to him that Trump said we have to withhold the aid unless Zelensky comes out and talks about Burisma, that`s the company that hunter Biden got the contract from.
So, I mean, that`s - it`s not a quid pro quo. It is literally a statement by someone close to Trump that Trump said we`re cutting off money that Trump does not legitimately have the right to cut off from what I can tell. That is the money was authorized and appropriated by Congress. And with one tiny loophole - right--
PODHORETZ: --and not a tiny loophole, which is that you can withhold the money if you have evidence that the money was going to be corruptly spent in the country to which it`s going. Otherwise you cannot suspend the aid.
MELBER: So is it impeachable?
PODHORETZ: Sure. I mean, what we have here is a piece of evidence layered on top of the three other things. And now - so we have a contemporaneous report at the time that Trump`s intimate, the person that he turned to help do this sort of back to our quiet - quieter diplomacy, saying to him, we`re holding up the aid unless Zelensky does this for us.
MELBER: So I--
PODHORETZ: Impeachable? Absolutely. Now--
MELBER: Now, let me get - I`m going to let you - go back to you. But you say, yes, impeachable, very interesting. I want to show you where Lindsey Graham is. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): What`s going on in the House is behind closed doors deposition that are being selectively leaned according to our Republican colleagues that tell half the story. We still don`t know who the whistleblower is. And nobody can have a (inaudible) and serve 15 minutes in jail based on an anonymous accusation that`s full of hearsay.
So I think we should be telling the American people that what`s going on the House is un-American and quite frankly dangerous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: He`s arguing process not facts.
PODHORETZ: Yes, but the whistleblower it doesn`t matter--
MELBER: Well, let me ask you, is that a good argument for conservatives or not?
PODHORETZ: No, I mean it`s an OK argument if you`re trying to, like, not deal with the central fact. But I mean the whistleblower it doesn`t matter anymore. We have here an American official who went to work for Mike Pompeo at his - at Pompeo`s request, going to Ukraine to represent American interests, and a supporter of Ukrainian democracy and efforts there.
Saying, that a Trump intimate told him that they were going to withhold military aid authorized and appropriated by Congress for this unless Zelensky did what he wanted him to do and made a public announcement about Burisma.
PODHORETZ: So forget the whistleblower.
MELBER: Right, way past it.
PODHORETZ: We are way - we have names, we have Taylor, we have Sondland, we have Mulvaney and we have Trump. So they could mention the whistleblower from here until next until next century--
MELBER: Until they run out of whistles.
PODHORETZ: We`re way beyond that now.
MELBER: Yes. I`m over on time. I give you both one sentence, David Corn and John Podhoretz. Today the worst day for Trump impeachment since the whistleblower news broke, David, do you say that?
CORN: Yes, I think so. I`m kind of flabbergasted after decades of disagreeing with John we firmly agree it`s a terrible day for the Trump presidency.
PODHORETZ: "It`s the worst day for the Trump presidency period." And I mean maybe Charlottesville followed by this or this--
CORN: Exclamation point.
MELBER: David Corn and John Podhoretz, as they put it, not always agreeing, but agreeing on the facts here and really great to get some extra views on this. I appreciate both of you.
After the break, as promised, these new details about a story that would be the top of the show in any normal day, because Rudy Giuliani is under criminal investigation and there are new links back to the impeachment probe.
And then later a story that we are going to get to - the bipartisan outrage over Donald Trump comparing his own impeachment investigation to quote "lynching."
MELBER: Breaking news tonight as the top Trump diplomat testifies. There was indeed a quid pro quo on Ukraine. Trump linking the funding for Ukraine to investigating the Bidens. Bill Taylor testified it was "Clear the extortion plot was driven by none other than Rudy Giuliani." Who is under investigation by the office he used to lead, the Southern District of New York.
That is the same office, of course, you may recall that sent Donald Trump`s other lawyer, Michael Cohen, to jail. It also has indicted two Giuliani associates who are linked to Ukraine. Back with me as promised is David Kelley, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and my former boss and an exclusive here on THE BEAT tonight. Thanks for being here.
KELLEY: My pleasure.
MELBER: When the Southern District takes up a case like this of a prominent individual who`s a lawyer for the President and used to run the Southern District office, does that change the probe in any way?
KELLEY: No. Look, there`s no one in the office involved in this investigation who was there when Rudy was, at least I don`t think so.
KELLEY: I mean, his picture hangs on the wall as do all former US Attorney`s, but beyond that, I don`t think they`ll see much of a connection. And they`ll look well beyond that, and really just dive into the facts of the case as they would in any other instance.
MELBER: When you look at what they`re dealing with, they`ve indicted these other associates, they are reportedly investigating financial and business activities as well as potential corruption, however you want to define that.
But it looks like was there access or lobbying abuses or failure to register? How does the case like this proceed? How long does it take?
KELLEY: It`s so hard to say. Some cases move very quickly, particularly as they cooperate or some cases move very slow depending on how many documents are and so forth. This case looks like it could move pretty quickly. It doesn`t look to be too complicated. But you know we only know what we see in the indictment.
The interesting thing here is, they didn`t mention in the indictment as they often would, that there are unnamed co-conspirators. But they did say the investigation is ongoing. It`s also interesting to see the connections that were drawn out of the media between these folks who were indicted in Rudy Giuliani.
And I haven`t seen anybody else who has emerged in the public record who would be a conduit to make connections between these defendants, and for instance, the committee one and the committee two, which may be political action committees as well as with political figures with whom they had contact.
So it`s an interesting case it certainly raises some eyebrows and be really love to be a fly on the wall in Southern District and see what they`re looking at.
MELBER: Well - and you used to habituate with those flies. I want to ask you this. A lot of people have seen Bill Barr`s Justice Department as defending the President. You said earlier very carefully that it was at least sloppy for them to in rush out a statement that they weren`t going to investigate any crime related to Ukraine before getting the facts.
And then you have the SDNY being so independent and the Mueller report referred to multiple unnamed referrals. They said the office "Identified evidence of potential criminal activity that was outside the scope of special counsel Mueller`s jurisdiction and "referred that evidence to appropriate law enforcement authorities." This is what we pulled from the Mueller report. Is it possible that the Giuliani probe was referred by Mueller?
KELLEY: Sure, it`s possible. At least there could be leads that led to this case. One thing is interesting here. You mentioned about Barr and the Justice Department. One thing I think we should keep an eye on here is that. When Presidents have looked to the Attorney General or to the Justice Department to be their law firm, it`s always created problems.
Look at Attorney General Gonzalez, for example, and I think the same thing is happening here. It never worked. It`s - there`s never a good story in the end.
MELBER: It might backfire on President--
KELLEY: Absolutely. And it also had worked against Nixon when you try to coop the Justice Department.
KELLEY: And from the perspective a lot of people who have been in the Justice Department they see the same thing now in the sense that it`s being co-opted. That it`s not - I heard somebody on TV not long ago a former prosecutor so that she used to always go out and say that the Justice Department was apolitical, and now she`s sick to her stomach.
And I think that`s a sentiment that`s shared by a lot of folks, because they feel the same thing as going on now. Certainly looks that way from the outside going in. Fortunately, the Southern District has - appears to remain outside the--
MELBER: Standing up to the pressure. I`m almost at a time. My final question for you, and I want a straight answer, sir.
KELLEY: I always give a straight answer.
MELBER: What happened to Rudy?
KELLEY: Look, Rudy is either a Greek tragedy or a Greek comedy or maybe a little bit of both, and it`s - and we really have to see how the facts play out. The man that I worked for and I was proud that he hired me twice back in the 80s, and I worked for him. And I was very proud to be with and then.
Really the transformation is pretty incredible from a hardcore prosecutor to a politician to I`m not quite sure how you characterize him now. And it`s - it would be interesting to see how these facts play out.
MELBER: Well, as you say, I`m sure it brings you no joy to honestly chart that that shift and we`ve talked to a lot of folks around there who are either concerned with what they think he`s up to or concern for him.
David Kelley, as always, thanks for coming on "THE BEAT."
KELLEY: Thank you.
MELBER: Absolutely. We`re going to be right back with a very special guest on Donald Trump`s attempt to bring lynching into the news tonight.
MELBER: Some Republicans criticizing President Trump tonight over what he tried out as a new impeachment defense, claiming that the impeachment probe is similar to a "lynching." Top allies breaking with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Given the history in our country, I would not compare this to a lynching. That was an unfortunate choice of words.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): That`s not the language I would use.
REPORTER: Mr. Leader if you said it`s not the language you would use, why wouldn`t you use that language?
MCCARTHY: i don`t agree with that language, pretty simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Lynching or mob murderers are a traumatic relic of American racism, and a little context tonight. Over 3,900 black men, women and children have been lynched through 1950, including over a 100 in South Carolina.
So think about that as you look at South Carolina`s two U.S. Senators today. They`re both Republicans, Tim Scott, the first black senator to be elected in the Southern U.S. since reconstruction was ending in the late 1800s. the other is Lindsey Graham, who once declared Trump a "Race baiting bigot" in 2015. But today defended Trump`s lynch comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: What does lynching mean, that mob grabs you, they don`t give you a chance to defend yourself. This is a joke. This is a sham and this is a political lynching.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Meanwhile, the former head of the RNC, Michael Steele went to Twitter showing that lynching is, as he put it, and I want to warn you this image is disturbing, a reality. He posted this documentary picture of a black man hanging from a tree, pressing Donald Trump to understand that is what an actual lynching looks like. I`m joined now by Rutgers Professor, Brittney Cooper. Your view of this.
BRITTNEY COOPER, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: I`m so deeply offended as the descendant of African-Americans who were enslaved. But also what is so interesting is the way that Trump is invoking spectacular violence - the spectacular violence of lynching as a way to argue that this is what the state is doing to him.
That he is so privileged in his white masculinity that he thinks that the simple act of being held accountable for committing crimes in full view of the American public is the same thing as having your life stolen away by state actors, who think that the simple color of your skin is the reason to rob you of your right.
It`s completely insane and offensive and I think we shouldn`t allow him to flip the script here. Donald Trump is the violent white nationalist who has presided over the unleashing in this country of racial sentiments that we have not seen in my lifetime.
We have seen an uptick in violent hate crimes since his presidency. And so the idea that he would invoke that history is a way to say that he is being victimized is something that all folks should be calling him out for. And Lindsey Graham is just absolutely ridiculous.
MELBER: And I wonder, as we look at this, there are politicians in both parties who at times have used this language.
MELBER: And I wonder if you could give us your views on whether it`s also not strictly racial? Because many people remember that Clarence Thomas when he was facing credible accusations, wherever the investigation went, was criticized for what he said in this vein. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARENCE THOMAS, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a black American, as far as I`m concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree- -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You know, I`m so glad you brought up Clarence Thomas, because he too was ridiculous. He invoked a history of African-American men being lynched as a way to get past Anita Hill`s accusations of him. And we see how he has decimated the Civil Rights program and legacy of this country from that perch.
And I believe women when they say they have been abused, I believe in Anita Hill and I was appalled to listen to him. As I`ve gotten older and listen to him invoke that history. It`s so deeply disturbing.
And, no, lynching is not a thing that only happened to African-Americans, but it was certainly one of the primary ways that the state enforced its supreme power to determine African-American life. And Trump is doing the same thing again.
He is presiding over the terrorizing of people of color at the border. We have ICE raids on communities of color, Latinos, black immigrants. He is presiding over a campaign of state violence and now he`s trying to argue that the state holding him accountable is a form of violence.
And one of the ways that Trump is most effective is that he is able to flip our media scripts and pretend to be the victim. And we should not allow him to do that, because America has not - has yet to reckon with the blood on its hands from all of the things that it is done.
This is why the left is getting so much traction with young voters of color when they talk about issues like reparations, because the left is actually having a conversation where they`re trying to reckon with these histories of state violence and Trump comes in as the sort of imposter President that he is and tries to pimp this history for his own good.
And I am offended. I`m glad that some Republicans stood up to him, but there should be national outrage about this. I know that he wants an outrage campaign. But I`m interested in giving him that outrage--
COOPER: --I`m serving it up to him and he deserves it.
MELBER: And we turn to you on this, we didn`t let it cloud out a lot of the bigger breaking news stories that are different.
COOPER: That`s right.
MELBER: But we also weren`t going to have it go without some comment and expertise. And you got is some historical expertise that`s so relevant. Professor Cooper, thank you so much.
COOPER: Thank you for having me.
MELBER: Absolutely. We have one more thing when we come back.
MELBER: We had a lot to get through. But we did it together. Thanks for watching "THE BEAT." I will be back at 6:00 Eastern tomorrow. And "HARDBALL" is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END