IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Susan Rice on The Beat. TRANSCRIPT: 10/29/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Michelle Goldberg, Emily Bazelon, Brittney Cooper, John Flannery,David Frum, Susan Rice

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  Nats. Come on Strasburg, let`s make it happen. Let`s make Game 6 as important in Washington Nationals lore as it is in New York Mets lore way back in `86. That`s all we have for tonight. Please, please Mr. Strasburg, please.

We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY. "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now. Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you so much. We have a lot to get through in tonight`s show. Democrats releasing brand new details on this week`s full House floor vote on impeachment as an army officer details the Ukraine call today.

Later, we have an inside look at how Trump Attorney General Bill Barr is weaponizing the DOJ with a special guest. And Obama National Security Adviser, Susan Rice is on THE BEAT tonight, tackling everything from Ukraine to her beef with Lindsey Graham.

But we begin with breaking news. I can report to you right now for the first time the U.S. Congress is introducing this - formal resolution which outlines the path to Donald Trump`s impeachment. This is Speaker Pelosi barreling ahead on a full House floor vote this Thursday.

And here`s what we know. This actually tells us new things. The resolution lays out where the impeachment probe goes over these next few weeks, a crucial period that could lead to the impeachment of Donald Trump and the Senate trial of Donald Trump.

Now Democrats are using this resolution to create the process and to figure out, to decide, to conclude once and for all whether sufficient grounds exist for the House to impeach Donald J. Trump. And here`s what is key about this news tonight.

First, the resolution confirms the Intelligence Committee will keep driving this process, not a Select Committee as was used in Watergate. Second, this process will eventually land back at the Judiciary Committee, which of course before the Ukraine scandal broke, that was the committee that was probing Presidential obstruction outlined in the Mueller report. This resolution also puts it back in the driver`s seat before this thing ends.

Third, I can tell you the resolution is now the blueprint for taking what has been a confidential investigation of the Ukraine plot into public view. There is a framework now in here for public hearings. Democrats say that will confront the complaints, but the process of today hasn`t been transparent.

There also be rules for who can question these witnesses and rules for how the minority, the GOP can request its witnesses. Today, some of the complaints continued.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I applaud the Speaker for finally admitting it whole - entire sham, but you can`t put the genie back in the bottle.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): It`s clear. Pelosi needs to declare a mistrial. This has been a tainted process from the start--


MELBER: Now this new resolution does something else as well. It provides for security redactions and public release of the deposition of witnesses. So far as you know those depositions have been private. So if you watch the news, of course, you know the drill. A key witness will march into the Congress, like diplomat Bill Taylor, and will get quotes from a statement, clues to some of the key points discussed and lately those alone have been damning to trump.

Or you know the drill. The Trump loyalists that going to Congress like this one, Gordon Sondland, and things dribble out. It wasn`t actually until days after what you see here when he was marching into Congress that his lawyers told the "Wall Street Journal," he actually confirmed there was a quid pro quo.

And it was that same drill, this same damning format for Trump today with what you see here as Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a current White House staffer, went through security and marched in to face this Committee. His opening statement, incriminating for the White House, he`s the first person who was in on Trump`s Ukraine call, who has now testified.

And so as we report on what`s coming out of that, keep in mind how today`s deposition could shift if the House passes this new resolution, because the public won`t be limited to highlights or readouts or someone`s interpretation. You`ll be able to read the whole deposition or whatever isn`t redacted once it`s released.

And let me tell you, of all the depositions today, I will be especially interested to read this army officer`s complete answers, because we`re just hours out of it tonight and we already know it was explosive.

A Purple Heart recipient, wounded in Iraq, corroborating others who`ve testified, this was a quid pro quo bribery plot, his first-hand knowledge reverberating tonight in the Capitol.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --Republicans have complained that there wasn`t anyone who had first-hand knowledge of the call. He was on that call.

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): --a person who`s dedicated his life to the national security of this country.

REP. KATHERINE CLARK (D-MA): --firsthand evidence of the betrayal of this President of his oath of office--


MELBER: Now is there an argument that maybe Vindman, however, honest, however brave, just misunderstood the intricacies here as he was running around the White House? Was he in over his head? Well, keep in mind this is the person the Trump administration put as the top Ukraine expert on the Security Council.

And today he`s telling Congress he was so concerned about what Trump was up to that while he is not the whistleblower, which he states in his statement, he twice reported the plot to White House lawyers.

Having listened in on the call he could see the problem unfolding and he`s telling Congress I didn`t think it was proper to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and it was abusive for Trump to ask Ukraine to make a partisan play, undermining security.

Now that`s just what we know now. If this new resolution passes, everyone will know a lot more about this deposition and all the depositions. So if you`re keeping track of this investigation at home, right along with us, sometimes it might be easy to feel like quid pro quo didn`t we already know that or reported concerns to the lawyers about Ukraine, did didn`t we know that too?

So if you are thinking that. I`m here to tell you you`re right. Investigations involve painstaking, sometimes repetitive corroboration. That`s true whether they are done by prosecutors or by Congress. You take each claim or fact and you try to match it with as many witnesses who know about it. And the best witnesses are firsthand.

So, yes, several people close to the action have said this was a quid pro quo, you`ve probably heard about that. But let`s be clear, Vindman, who testified today, was there. And here`s how the "Washington Post" reports that extra punch of what it means to have him testify today.

And this is a story that was coming out late today as his testimony emerged. "Vindman is the fifth person to say there was a quid pro quo. But here`s why he`s different than the others though. He`s the first White House official who was on the July 25th call. By contrast, Ambassador Taylor`s most significant allegation is second-hand, relying upon another official telling him Sondland had conveyed that quid pro quo to Ukraine."

And Congress is taking at least four more depositions from witnesses this week alone. Vindman, as of a couple days ago, was not even billed as the most significant witness, and tonight he has in his uniform shredded one of the few defenses President Trump had left.

I want to turn to our power panel to start our coverage tonight, "New York Times" Columnist Michelle Goldberg; Emily Bazelon, Staff Writer for "New York Times Magazine" and Brittney Cooper, Professor at Rutgers. Good evening to each of you.


MELBER: What`s up? A lot happened today I think.


MELBER: I wonder what you think of the evidentiary significance of this witness.

COOPER: You know, what`s most exasperating to me about this, to your point, about the need to have so many witnesses confirm this, is that the theater that the Republican Party engages in as they continue to claim that they`re being victimized, that this is a sham trial, that this is just designed to get their guy out.

And they`re claiming this that they`re powerless to stop all of this from happening and the big bad Democrats are bullies. But the real power lies in the fact that this man, the President, got on TV and admitted that there was a quid pro quo. That he did this. He demanded Ukraine investigate, he demanded China investigate.

And we still have to have this much evidence to prove a thing that we all witnessed with our own eyes. That`s the testament to the power not only of Republican partisanship, but also of Trump`s larger white nationalist project. Of his project to take down this democracy, is that we have people who tell us that the truth is - that they are the victims of a sham and in many ways that is how they feel it.

MELBER: So let me see if I - part of what you`re gesturing at is, in a healthier civic system the facts would be established and there would be a debate over what to do about it and there are arguments against removing a President who has done things that are in the view of many terrible. But you`re saying we`re not even there yet, because there`s - just laying out what happened.

COOPER: I`m literally saying that these people have all the power to determine the narrative, but they are claiming that they are victims, and so this is why we have to engage in this drumbeat with them and we can`t move this process forward.

EMILY BAZELON, THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE STAFF WRITER: Well, I guess we are in some ways moving the process forward. I think you`re right that the fact that our politics is so polarized is putting pressure on this witness testimony to confirm things.

And you`re right about this too, that Trump, in some ways, kind of gestured right on television right in front of us. If you do the crime right on TV, somehow it`s not a crime anymore.

I do think it`s really important to hear from all these witnesses when you have a segment of the public that`s so skeptical. And as Ari was saying, this is how investigations work. You have kind of concentric circles. You have people confirm each other. And especially in this situation--

MELBER: And I`ll hand it back to you. But to that point, when Mueller was doing this - although we did follow it, we didn`t have nearly the real-time readouts.

BAZELON: Exactly. And it`s especially key because the White House is blocking production about the documents that the Democrats want, so they don`t have internal communications. They don`t have records of key meetings. And so hearing from people`s mouths what happened, that`s their way of building a record.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: I think even more than that, what Republicans have been saying up until now, besides these kind of process complaints, is that well it`s just Trump being Trump, which is on the one hand, an incredibly damning admission that you can`t trust the President not to commit crimes.

But the argument was sort of - well, he just made this one phone call. And he is sort of verbally incontinent, and you know he says all sorts of things, nobody takes him seriously.

One of the things that you know Fiona Hill and Bill Taylor and now Vindman have confirmed is that this wasn`t just one phone call. This was a sustained policy of extortion over many, many months.

MELBER: Well isn`t that really damning if you get into whenever it`s going to happen - maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But if they hold this vote on Thursday and if they ultimately impeached Donald Trump, the Senate is going to have to deal with this. And there may be senators who just want to cover their heads and not - his or her heads and not discuss anything.

But there may be other senators would say we got to get into what is acceptable and there may be a defense that a terrible phone call is not impeachable if all you did was have one terrible phone call and then afterward the generals came in and the security advisors came in, and say you can`t do that, don`t do that and the President reassessed. Right?

What you`re speaking about is the evidence. This wasn`t a bad phone call, this wasn`t bad words, this wasn`t a mistake. That this was the alleged criminal foreign policy of the United States.

GOLDBERG: Right. And I think that they`re already sort of moving to that defense - they`re kind of not - he didn`t do it, but that it`s fine. And it`ll be interesting to see if they can sustain that after a lot of public hearings, after it`s kind of very clear to all of our constituents what exactly has happened. I think that probably most of the Republicans will come down on this is fine.

MELBER: Let me let me push you on that. For you and the panel, have they - they - the Trump defenders in Washington landed on, its fine? I feel like - and I know this is like the craziest part of covering these days in 2019. But I think that it seemed like the Chief of Staff came out with a trial balloon of it`s fine, and then had to walk that back.

GOLDBERG: I think that`s true. But then, I mean, if you look at what`s happened since then, one of the lines of defense they were trying out this morning was this really frightening and a outrageous smear of Vindman that you heard on Fox News and that you heard from some Republicans that you can`t really trust him, because his family is from the former Soviet Union. Right?

Essentially, the kind of Judge Curiel smear, that you can`t really - that an immigrant - necessarily an immigrant who came here when he was three necessarily has dual loyalties, which is a - if the Republican Party is going to get behind that, that is truly terrifying. And I think that they actually had to walk away from that. Right?

You have Liz Cheney back away from that, you had a lot of people - you had a lot of pushback. You know, maybe because they thought that was too indecent even for them or maybe they just thought that was not sustainable argument. They`re not going to stand behind the American - before the American people and say don`t trust this army colonel, he`s an immigrant.

But so - and so - and they`ve also had to somewhat give up on these process questions, because Nancy Pelosi is called their bluff. And then you hear reports from the White House that Trump and Kushner want to debate this on the merits and want that defense to be made on the merits. And so where else are they going to go?

MELBER: Well, Emily, there`s a difference between impeaching the witness and saying, you can`t trust him, so what he`s saying isn`t true. And saying, it doesn`t matter if what he`s saying is true, because to quote Michelle Goldberg and the analysis we`ve come to rely on, it`s fine.

BAZELON: I think that the way in which they still haven`t said it`s fine is the idea that Trump was withholding military aid, freezing this aid that Congress had authorized for the Ukraine in return for digging up dirt on Joe Biden and his family.

That, I think, they have not conceded that that`s a really important point. And William Taylor testified to that level of quid pro quo last week. I`m really interested in whether future witnesses get into that terrain. As the kind of more serious, potential payback that Trump was asking for.

MELBER: And that goes to again new revelations from Vindman, I`m going to read this to you Brittney, because this gets into him versus Ambassador Sondland, who`s your Trump loyalists, you`re Trump donor.

And he says look, "Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver on the quid-pro-quo, i.e. the investigations of 2016 and Bidens." "I stated," this is new today, "Ambassador Sondland, that his statements were inappropriate and the request to investigate Biden had nothing to do with national security and I reported my concerns to the NSC`s lead counsel."

The other thing that comes through here, which is like the third thing, not the first story, the second. But you`ve got a lot of people--


BAZELON: Running to the lawyers--

MELBER: Head into the red phone and the lawyers and the warnings, and it still didn`t get corrected until it went public.

COOPER: This is the thing that I`m trying to get at by talking about the mountains of evidence. Right? That part of what I know being an African- American in this country is that very often when you are a person that doesn`t have power, you`re yelling about in justices that happen and people can keep on dismissing those in justices because of their own agenda.

And so then you need mountains of evidence to prove that the cops are disproportionately targeting African-American men, that you know we have a housing crisis in the country, there`s a black woman`s maternal mortality crisis in the country.

I`m talking about the levels of evidence it is taking to prove something that we already know. So, yes, I believe in process. Yes, I think the process is moving forward. What gives me pause is that you still have the Republicans largely having the power, because they control the Senate, to not hold this man accountable.

So the Democrats will engage in this theater. It is appropriate for them to do so. We will engage in this process. But the fact that we keep on having to reiterate something that we already know gives me real pause. A country that doesn`t have a clear understanding and grasp on the truth, despite all of these officials coming forward and saying this is a problem, is an empire (ph) that it`s dead on arrival.

MELBER: Well, you want to get into it, we`re talking Emily about burden of proof.


MELBER: And you`re saying that while the rules are supposed to be one standard of burden of proof, the system, as it has operated, has different standards for different people based on power and marginalization.

COOPER: And let me say one last thing about that. What I`m saying is that Trump is claiming that he is powerless, but the evidence that he is more powerful that he should be, is that we are requiring so much evidence in the face of brazen skirting and breaking of laws and using the U.S. government as a shakedown for his own personal interest.

MELBER: Right. As a shakedown that that enlisted members of the military who are generally understanding of the use and projection of American power abroad, including to take lives when deemed necessary or justified, are saying, yes, there`s the power to kill. But there isn`t the power to do this. The President`s gone too far.

COOPER: That`s right.

MELBER: and as you say how much evidence does America need? This is a fascinating conversation. I will be bringing Brittney and Michelle back on future shows, so thank you very much. And I`m bringing Emily back for your reporting on Mr. Barr later this hour.

As we fit in a break, I want to tell you why today`s bombshell could actually mean trouble for a different Trump loyalist, something that we haven`t gotten to yet.

Also, this is unusual, Jared Kushner speaking in public and outlining a defense of yes his father-in-law.

Then later, as promised, Bill Barr has a growing role in this Ukraine scandal. There are new reports that he`s weaponizing the powers of the Justice Department, while everyone focuses on impeachment. We`re going to get into that.

And later, Obama`s former National Security Advisor Susan Rice on "THE BEAT." I`m Ari Melber and we`ll be right back.


MELBER: President Trump led a bribery quid pro quo plot with Ukraine. It was concerning. It was bad for U.S. security.

Each of those statements may sound like the Democrats arguments for impeachment. But each of them are actually from Donald Trump`s own Ukraine point person on the National Security Council.

Army Officer Alexander Vindman, who reported this call to the White House lawyers twice and gave today`s damning testimony to Congress, knowing it puts heat on the President as well as on Trump loyalists Gordon Sondland. That Trump donor and hand-picked Ambassador who is facing questions now from House Democrats over whether he actually committed perjury in his deposition.

This is part of Vindman`s testimony we didn`t even have time to get to yet earlier in this show, because he`s telling Congress that Sondland emphasized the importance of Ukraine investigating the Bidens and how he told Sondland those statements were inappropriate, because a Biden plot had nothing to do with security.

So how does that compare? Well Sondland had testified he recalled no discussions with any White House official about Biden or his son and didn`t recall pushing any such investigation into the Bidens. Now there may be wiggle room there with the word recall. But Vindman is laying out a story that contradicts Sondland.

Meanwhile, Trump allies have not landed on a cohesive plan to combat this avalanche of evidence. An aide and family member, who is usually behind the scenes, meanwhile stepping out with a broad defense today.


JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He hasn`t done anything wrong. And at this point they`ve investigated him over and over and over again. The President`s record of accomplishments is unimpeachable.


MELBER: Kushner, an attorney, should know that impeachment is not about accomplishments in office. Richard Nixon had a very productive accomplishment record on policies ranging from creating the Environmental Protection Agency to the anti-ballistic missile treaty. Congress didn`t think any of that, cancelled out the high crimes they found related to an election.

Meanwhile, Vindman has proven such a devastating witness, both for what he said and as a decorated veteran that some conservatives are rushing to try to sort of cancel that out with a smear, with lies and character assassination.

Now I`m only going to show you a very brief portion of those attacks followed by the condemnation they`ve received as shameful by lawmakers from both parties.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: A U.S. national security official who is advising Ukraine while working inside the White House apparently against the President`s interest--

SEAN DUFFY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense. I don`t know that he is concerned about American policy. His main mission was to make sure that the Ukraine got those weapons.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Look, I`m not going to question the patriotism of any of the people that are coming forward--

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): --and when you have people that basically are willing to put their life on the line for all of us - for us to denigrate in such a manner is just - it`s just not who I am, it`s not how I was raised.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): It is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this nation and we should not be involved in that process.


MELBER: An explosive debate today, and we have two guests here to get into all this when we`re back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: We are joined by Former Federal Prosecutor, John Flannery and David Frum, a former Speechwriter for George W. Bush and a Senior Editor for The Atlantic. Good evening folks.



MELBER: David, your view of what today`s testimony means and whether the backlash to Vindman reflects the strength of what he said?

FRUM: Look, if they had good arguments they wouldn`t make bad ones. People been complaining about the President`s talking points and their weakness, but they`ve got it difficulty - they`ve got a legal difficulty. And the first is that most the people defending the President aren`t very smart. And second the President is very, very guilty. So that puts you - but make - that creates a difficult situation with which to come up with talking points.

This questioning of Vindman`s Americanism is the most astonishing thing though. Because what has drove the Ukraine scandal in the first place is that President Trump himself outsourced the making of American Ukraine policy to Ukrainian born America citizens, Parnas and Fruman. Both of them are - were born in the Ukraine. And both of them were naturalized in United States.

Bow the difference between them and Vindman, of course, is that he - Vindman is an officer and a patriot who was working on the public dollar and they were small-time grifters, trying to make a dishonest buck by paying gratuities to people around Trump like former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

But this is not about the Americans versus the Ukrainians. This is about the honest naturalized Ukrainians in American uniform and the dishonest naturalized Ukrainians who are working for a Russian oligarch.

MELBER: Yes. I mean, you lay that all out there and we`ve been careful about how much we`re going to show of this, John. But take a look Vindman has faced these smears before he even set foot in Congress today about whether he`s a loyal American, because of the immigration.

And I want to show you something that could be out of a movie. As a child, it turns out, he was actually interviewed in a documentary about a symbol of patriotism, the Statue of Liberty. That`s actually Vindman there with his grandmother and his twin brother, who also works for National Security Council, speaking about their path to the U.S. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We came from Russia--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We came from Kiev.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then we went to--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --our mother died so we went to Italy and then we came here.


MELBER: John, it`s striking what emerges when people come into the public eye. Here we are again talking about not only who makes the calls on U.S. policy, which David just spoke to, but also America`s role in welcoming immigrants.

FLANNERY: Absolutely. I mean, he took a bullet for America in Iraq - actually an explosion. It was an IED. And here he is, doing what, he is fighting for American foreign policy, which is to protect Ukraine from Russia - the aggressor.

And who are the people who are not supporting American foreign policy for Mr. Trump to Giuliani to Volker to Sondland that whole group of people. They`re the enemies of the people. And this person is coming forward to protect Ukraine, but also the integrity of the White House, not to be using our power and withholding $391 million in defense money from Ukraine to protect itself from Russia.

MELBER: Yes. Well put.

FLANNERY: In exchange for personal favor to the President.

MELBER: Well put. Well, look, I think you`ve both nailed it. We reported it. We`re going to move on from the smear, having cashed that out.

I want to get into the other two pieces for both of you and you you`re both in this segment in part because John has worked as a congressional investigator and David you have the insights from being at the White House.

My question to both you is, I`m coming to you here on a news night where we first got the actual resolution for the impeachment of the President. It`s a big deal on the rules and the vote on Thursday, setting up the rules for the impeachment.

Since I came out on the air, the Democrats have released the lengthier underlying rules and we`re getting into the weeds. But the weeds might determine where this whole thing goes, John. And so I wonder what does it mean to you that we are seeing the actual blueprint. This is the constitutional blueprint that the Congress builds when they are going forward. It doesn`t seem like there`s a big off-ramp for the Democrats here from impeaching Trump.

FLANNERY: No it doesn`t. And you know this is ramming speed, finally. We`ve been waiting for the rule of law to be enforced, and finally in the courts and on the Hill, we`re doing that.

The resolution itself set a framework among the caucus and to give notice to everybody how it`s going to run and this is how the Judiciary Committee is going to proceed. And those rules for the Judiciary Committee, which is where it`s going to be referred when the Intelligence Committee finishes its work, are very similar to the rules that we had during the Clinton investigation.

And the presentations and the back-and-forth and the steps by which they could determine whether or not their articles that will be reported to the floor are very similar to what happened during the Clinton--

MELBER: Yes. Well, you see this--

FLANNERY: It`s going to be hard for the Republicans to fight back--

MELBER: You see this is lightning speed at this point?

FLANNERY: Well, lightning on the Hill travels--

MELBER: Lightning for lawyers--

FLANNERY: --in an Einsteinian relativity. But--

MELBER: Let me get in David. David, what you see is important tonight here?

FRUM: Well, I`m going to reveal my age here. I am sitting and talking to you tonight from the very same room in which I spent many, many evenings during the Clinton impeachment now almost 20 years ago.

One of the things that is different between now and then, the Clinton White House had a rule which was that they were not going to let the impeachment get inside their decision cycle. And with extraordinary Presidential discipline - and it`s still kind of weird how Bill Clinton did this. They part - they partitioned off the impeachment inquiry from everything else the White House was doing and that`s one of the reasons that Bill Clinton survived.

Bill Clinton was of course a much younger man than President Trump and much more energetic, but even he had limited numbers of hours in the day. What has clearly happened now and this inquiry is going to drive it, is that the inquiry is completely inside Donald Trump`s head, inside his decision cycle.

And this is a President who doesn`t work so many hours. Who is not in such good physical condition, so he is not going to be able to execute. He`s not of the temperament to execute and he`s not going to be able to execute the Clinton strategy of holding it off, while trying to remind the American people of whatever it is that the American people liked about him.


FLANNERY: Well, I agree basically with that. The thing about the Clinton impeachment and this one is, we among the Democrats, drafted a procedure by which this would be done more deliberately. And I believe that the rules that they put for the Judiciary Committee are similar to those.

The Republicans voted against fair rules in the Clinton impeachment on the floor of the House. And now we`re going to have a fairer process with a more appropriate set of charges - namely crimes that we can identify and misdemeanors and bribery.

MELBER: Yes. Although, in the in the broad outlines - again, we`re just getting this stuff as I said. It`s all flying at us new. But in the broad outlines, we`re seeing the President and his lawyers will be afforded process and appearance in in the House. The Republicans did afford that to Clinton and he engaged it, sending his lawyers down.

To both of you, first to John, given that the White House has thus far tried to stonewall everything, do they ever pivot and send Sekulow or Giuliani or others down there, the way the Clinton did to try to move the House?

FLANNERY: We had better counsel from the President`s office in those days. But, yes, they may, and they probably if they`re smart should. And I remember the presentation Abbe Lowell made to set up the case for the defense.

MELBER: Who now represents Jared Kushner.

FLANNERY: Well, you know, but Kushner seems to be free and clear.

MELBER: He is clear. Let me bring it to David then, because - David the same question to you. Donald Trump, as you know, is full of branding contradictions. One of them, as you and I`ve discussed before, would be claiming to fight all the time when actually running away in court settling et cetera. Here they`re stonewalling, do they ever pivot?

FRUM: Well, one of the things that we saw when the President made a statement about Baghdadi with all its fictitious details, there`s a real question of how connected Donald Trump is to reality and it`s hard to make good legal decisions when you won`t accept the truth about your legal jeopardy.

One other difference that I think is going to come up in this process and it`s going to come up later when this affair goes to the Senate. In 1998- 1999, by the time the impeachment got to the Senate, the Republicans wanted to get it over with as rapidly as possible. The Senate process was quite short, because by then Republicans had spoken, Clinton was in polling in the low 70s and the Republicans wanted to get it off their desks. It had backfired upon them.

In this case, this process may get as lightning fast as the House processes. The Senate process may be slow, because I think there will be a lot of demand from Democrats to do a real trial.

MELBER: Fair. Well, I got to fit in a break. And I have a silly question to ask David before I go to break. Is that OK with you John?

FLANNERY: Yes, absolutely, you`re the boss.

MELBER: Well, David, are you going to be using that same room in 20 years from now?

FRUM: Yes. I`ll be doddering my way in and unveiling my see now reminisces. I hope we get this out of our - I hope after Donald Trump this never happens again.

MELBER: Well--

FRUM: There`s never been a President like this before--

MELBER: I certainly didn`t mean that--

FRUM: --there will never be a President like this--

MELBER: I certainly don`t wish any more natural traumas as we`ve discussed around here. The potential trial in, all seriousness as you say, the potential trial the sitting President because of things they`ve done or things they`ve suspected to have done is not a good thing. It`s not a positive. It`s nothing to take joy in. It obviously keeps everyone quite busy in these fields.

But, yes, it`s serious, so we don`t wish that again. But I do wish both of you another good 20 years and 20 more after that. John Flannery, David Frum, good evening, gentlemen.

FLANNERY: Thank you.

MELBER: Coming up, Democrat accusing Bill Barr of taking over the Justice Department, also for Trump`s personal gain, it relates to impeachment and a lot more. I have a very special guest on that.

And later Susan Rice from the Obama administration is on "THE BEAT."


SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: As I do, it seems like six days a week I just put my head in my hands. This is (bleep) crazy--



MELBER: There`s a fair amount of troublesome evidence and bad news for President Trump on Ukraine. But there is one place in Washington where Trump still sees his world view loudly affirmed.

Troublingly, it`s the Justice Department, where Attorney General Barr has given credence to Trump`s favorite conspiracy theories from contacting foreign governments about the origins to Russia probe, to now doing what Trump has long requested and others resisted, Barr opening a criminal probe into the Russia Mueller probe.

The move so controversial, Barr`s now appeared, making a rare television interview appearance to push back against criticism.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: That`s completely wrong and there`s no basis for it. I act on behalf of the United States. But John Durham, who`s the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut is in charge of the investigation and I understand he`s making great progress. But he is in charge of the investigation. I`m not doing the investigation.


MELBER: Ah, someone else is in charge. But the buck actually stops with Barr, as he himself has not only said, but said under oath when it suited him. When there was all that blowback over how he handled the Mueller probe, he was quick to emphasize that he, with his employee, the Deputy Attorney General, are the people who make the ultimate decisions.


BARR: He sent his report to the Attorney General at that point it was my baby.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But it was you who made the charging decision, sir. You made the decision not to charge the President.

BARR: In this case it was the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General who decide on the final decision.


MELBER: So when is it his baby and when is it not we`re going to get into that as a new profile of Barr is making some waves, including reporting on something he said when he was AG two decades ago. When he said the Bush White House appreciated the independence of the Justice Department. And there`s a difference between being a government lawyer and representing an individual in his personal capacity versus what you do at DOJ.

I`m joined by Emily Bazelon, that`s from her thorough piece in "The New York Times" entitled "Who is Bill Barr?" And it looks at how many establishment Republicans have discovered you say they thought he was "one of them," and he`s not.

BAZELON: I think that when Barr was nominated for Attorney General, we were coming out of a period where Jeff Sessions had been the Attorney General. Then he was gone and there was an acting Attorney General Mark Whitaker and a lot of fears that Whitaker, in particular, was kind of a hack and wasn`t really going to be able to stand up to Trump and maintain the independence of the Justice Department.

You have Barr who has George H.W. Bush on his resume. That stands for moderate Republicans. And I think there was a desire on the part of a lot of people to imagine that he was going to be a really professional, independent attorney general.

MELBER: And so you`ve been doing this reporting why? Why is this who he is?

BAZELON: Well, I did this reporting partly because before Barr was chosen he wrote to me this striking memo. This is July 2018 and he is talking about how in his view the President alone is the executive branch.

And he was making that quite extraordinary statement in the context of criticizing Mueller`s investigation. Mueller, an old and really good friend of his. Barr says at the beginning of his memo, I`m in the dark about of a lot of the facts. And then he just goes after Mueller. And I thought to myself, well why? Is this a job audition? What is behind this?

And then it turns out in the reporting I did recently, when you go back to Barr`s record in the `80s and `90s you see that he already had this quite remarkable theory of executive power, and also a deep faith in conservative values that make someone like Trump who is appointing so many conservative judges a very appealing President to serve.

MELBER: And that theory as you lay it out goes against one of the conventional wisdoms in the resistance or among some people who criticize Trump, which puts him out as someone who doesn`t understand anything and is outsmarted.

What you`re suggesting is that Donald Trump, at least on the one vector he cares about, which is doing what he wants, understood Bill Barr better than people who`d spent years working with him. I mean, I think that`s a fascinating insight you have in your piece. And I think it is also supported by an exchange I want to show you under oath with Senator Kamala Harris.

Now at the time that this question was posed and Mr. Barr under oath dodged, there wasn`t public reporting that they were trying to get a Biden probe. Right? That would involve Giuliani and Barr, and yet look at his inability to say something that any Attorney General should be able to say, which is no, we`re not abusing the office to go after rivals. Take a look.


HARRIS: Has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone, yes or no, please sir. Perhaps they`ve suggested?

BARR: I don`t know, I wouldn`t say suggested.

HARRIS: Hinted?

BARR: I don`t know.

HARRIS: Inferred? You don`t know. OK.


BAZELON: What`s interesting to me about that goes back to a quote that you put up earlier when Barr was reflecting on his service as Attorney General for George H.W. Bush. He put a lot of value in the fact that nobody in the Bush White House had asked him to take any specific steps or asked him to launch a particular criminal or civil inquiry, he said.

And so, that it`s quite striking to see that now he`s unwilling to say that this presidency is following those same rules.

MELBER: Do you have enough evidence to conclude that a criminal investigation of Mueller probe is an abuse at the DOJ?

BAZELON: I don`t think we know that yet. I want to have faith in John Durham. I live in Connecticut. He`s my U.S. Attorney. He has a reputation for being very careful in these kinds of matters. He spent four years investigating charges against the George W. Bush CIA and in the end he brought no charges. So I want to see where this leads--

MELBER: I mean, there are people who would argue that one goes the opposite direction. That he when he gets a mandate - I`m not trying to give you a hard time--


MELBER: I`m just discussing the concept with you. When he gets a mandate he might be someone who figures out, as many people in government do, what the end game is looking for. And that was not, as I understand, a Mueller special counsel type probe. That was, "hey, make sure we look into this to get to a place where we don`t charge the CIA." That was the bush public position.

BAZELON: Right. It`s true that if you`re thinking about it in purely partisan terms. That could seem more suspicious. I want to him the benefit of the doubt and imagine that he was taking himself where-- taking his investigation where the evidence led.

I do wonder, though, about this interview that Barr gave in which he`s trying to distance himself from this investigation, because he himself flew to both Britain and Italy, looking for evidence to support this investigation.

And we know from the Italian Prime Minister that Barr was asking him questions that go back to a kind of unfounded conspiracy theory that Donald Trump has about some Italian participation in the origins of the Mueller investigation. That all seems pretty fishy.

MELBER: Yes. And at what point do people - you talk about the benefit of the doubt or just keeping an open mind, which we all try to do. But at what point does the public look at this and say, well, Donald Trump has privately and publicly demanded the abuse of these powers - foreign and domestic to go after his rivals.

And it seems that what`s coming into focus is outsourcing some of it at getting Ukraine to try to do it and they are accelerating that probe. Demanding that that Barr do it and for a while it hadn`t happened and now "The New York Times" - your paper breaks this incredible story that they are doing it. That the criminal predicates for investigating the Russia probe is saying that someone like Comey or Mueller or someone else with enough authority to be important to investigate committed a felony.

BAZELON: Right. And what`s troubling about that is we know that these people were in a very fraught moment. Right? These are the months surrounding the election. They have reports that somebody working for Trump is talking to the Australian Ambassador or Australian Embassy attaches (ph) about dirt on Hillary Clinton that the Russians are trying to pass to him.

They had reason to be concerned. And so the notion that we would then go back and say that these same intelligence agencies and their bosses potentially committed a felony, that seems troubling.

MELBER: Yes. And as you say the investigative predicate is they were worried that Trump the candidate then, before they knew more, would do the very things that Trump the President has now openly admitted to, welcoming foreign collusion. And that many officials around him accused him of doing a foreign bribery plot that might lead to his impeachment. If anything, they look more clairvoyant than felonious. But we`ll see where it goes.

Emily, I always you appreciate coming on "THE BEAT." I`m glad we got you in two segments tonight.

BAZELON: Thank you. I appreciate it.

MELBER: Thank you. Up ahead, as promised, President Obama`s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, is on THE BEAT for the very first time, getting Ukraine and a lot more.

Also, we`re going to talk about why she called Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham a piece of something I can`t say.


MELBER: There have been bombshells all over the Capitol today. A current national security official, who was actually in listening on the infamous Ukraine call, testifying all about the concerns in real-time about Donald Trump`s plot.

There have been several officials and diplomats who testify now against the sitting President, confronting what they see as an attempt to hijack foreign policy for his gain. Well, there have also been concerns raised by Ambassador Susan Rice. She played critical roles in the Clinton and Obama administrations on national security.

Recently Rice has been actually cutting loose a little bit letting people know exactly what she thinks, even departing from diplomatic terminology.


RICE: It seems like six days a week I just put my head in my hands. This is (bleep) crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --understand Benghazi to understand Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Is Lindsey Graham isn`t just a piece of (bleep) now?

RICE: He`s a piece of (bleep). I said it to damn it finally, he is a piece of (bleep).


MELBER: Said it twice. Well, Ambassador Rice joins me here on THE BEAT and I just sat down with her and played her Lindsey Graham`s response to that comment.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Everything she touched turned to a piece of crap national security wise. It does bother me that the person who lied about Benghazi is still relevant. Here`s her Greatest Hits. The Iran nuclear deal, withdrawal from Iraq, the rise of ISIS--

RICE: You know, Lindsey Graham`s been lying about me since 2012. I think the American people have come to judge Lindsey Graham by his own actions and words and I don`t need to add to it anymore.


MELBER: As for the White House`s actions, Rice weighed in on her view of this unfolding Ukraine scandal.


RICE: I`ve never heard of any President before this one, Democrat or Republican, who would basically hold the hostage the United States interest in a key partner like Ukraine in supporting them against Russian aggression for personal political gain. So this is really an extraordinary development and an extraordinary breach of the powers of the presidency. It`s a blatant abuse--


MELBER: Rice is on THE BEAT as part of her book tour for "Tough Love," her new book, which she writes about foreign policy challenges, including serving in that Obama administration. She dealt with many issues, including Syria, and I asked her about Trump`s withdrawal of forces there.


RICE: I think it`s a strategic catastrophe, the President`s decision to withdraw a very small number of U.S. forces that were in Syria supporting the Kurds. The biggest beneficiaries are Putin, Iran and Assad along with Turkey, who now are controlling territory and our bases that we abandoned.


MELBER: As for President Trump, Rice says quite clearly, she thinks he`s abusing his powers. But she`s also optimistic about the ability of Americans and our system to counter all of that.


RICE: We have a President who has broken every rule, norm and several laws it appears. And I think it`s appropriate that it be investigated and that the investigation lead where it does. I think we`ve seen ample evidence of behavior from blatant lying to obstruction to abuse of power.

But the most troubling thing to me, Ari, is that we have a President, unlike any of his predecessors, at least in our lifetime, that seems to be using the office for purely personal gain, even when it comes to the most sensitive national security decision-making.

I think the hope lies in the American people and the American voter--


MELBER: In the American voter, Susan Rice gives the last word on that. But when we come back we have another development internationally that relates to impeachment, after this.


MELBER: The witness who gave last week`s bombshell testimony in Ukraine probe, Ambassador Bill Taylor, today was back at work in Ukraine. NBC was actually there reporting. He got quite the "Rock star reception."

his was a conference that also featured the Ukraine President, that`s the same leader on the receiving end of the pressure from the Trump administration. Now NBC`s Anna Schecter asked President Zelensky all about it.


ANNA SCHECTER, NBC NEWS PRODUCER: Did you feel any pressure from President Trump?

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: It`s not the first question about Mr. Trump and I have no new answers about this - no more answers than I`ve said already. That`s it. Thank you very much.


MELBER: No more answer. But thank you for asking the question. Zelensky, clearly not interested in talking about it in that forum, in that way, which itself suggests that there may still be issues between these two countries and what has become an open foreign policy crisis.

And it`s also led to, what we`re going to track for you tomorrow on Thursday, which is this coming floor vote on impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives, so a lot going on all around the world.

I`ll see you back here tomorrow night 6 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews--