CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Also lot happening in Washington DC, that`s for sure.
The biggest, most important thing that`s happening in Washington though--
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
TODD: --takes place in Houston. Let`s go Max! C`mon, man. We will be back with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY. Hopefully, we are celebrating a World Series Championship in the nation`s capital. Thank you, Mr. Strasburg, Mr. Scherzer, it`s all on you, brother.
"THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. We are rooting for you.
TODD: Thank you, buddy.
MELBER: And we`re following a lot of big developments right here tonight in this impeachment. Congress preparing for tomorrow`s first-ever floor vote on impeachment issues. Democrats also calling a key witness from inside Trump`s inner circle.
Later tonight, new reporting on testimony emerging from a Trump staff are all about the Ukraine call. And something special we`ve been working on, we`re going to go inside these new rules for impeaching Trump, that`s my breakdown later tonight.
But we begin now with breaking news. House Democrats are calling one of their largest and most significant witnesses yet in this whole impeachment probe. I`m talking to you right now about former Trump National Security Adviser, John Bolton, and they`re not mincing any words or wasting any time. They want him - this is new tonight, in as soon as next week.
Now, Bolton is the man who reportedly said he didn`t want to be part of a "drug deal" in the Ukraine plot and says that he basically was warning people at the White House against doing this. Now, right now we don`t know his response yet, because this is a brand-new summons. Will he try to avoid or delay or narrow the deposition, he`s certainly a big fish.
But what I can tell you is, investigators have been moving up the chain and they`re getting closer to Donald Trump`s inner circle, which is why we`re hearing about the summoning of these key aides. There aren`t many people left when you go above Bolton.
The news comes as the House, of course, is preparing its first ever floor vote on impeachment issues, that`s tomorrow. And at this very moment members are still debating the very resolution that will lay down those official and new rules for potentially impeaching Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA): Article I of the Constitution gives the House the right to investigate the President, and we are taking our responsibilities seriously.
REP. DEBBIE LESKO (R-AZ): If you think this is fair, this is not fair at all--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my view it`s not a fair process, it`s not an open process.
REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): All of the process that I hear you all arguing about doesn`t address the possibility that this President has committed high crimes and misdemeanors--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Congress continuing these investigations today, interviewing two more witnesses in the impeachment probe about Giuliani`s shadow foreign policy. You`re seeing, again, that familiar sight now, these dramatic arrivals as they go into the depositions.
Meanwhile, reverberations continuing from army officer Vindman`s testimony. Now he Congress the mechanisms of the Ukraine plot and he`s also uncorked some very new substantive suspicions of the White House.
If you followed this story and you`re familiar with some of the alleged cover-ups, this may not surprise you, but it is big and bad news for Trump, because Mr. Vindman has given a detailed accounting of this other aspect of the alleged cover-up, altering those key notes of the call itself.
Vindman telling Congress he actually tried to correct the White House notes when they cut crucial words, which could be damning to Trump`s case, including bringing up Biden`s more than once.
And tonight we are on the cusp of the next phase of this impeachment probe. Democrats getting ready to tackle the first official vote on impeachment, which moves closer to the rules setting out the public hearings where Americans may hear directly from these witnesses themselves and assess the details of this case against Trump, which the President now says that he welcomes after Republicans in the House have been criticizing the process.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`d rather go into the details of the case rather than process. Process is good. But I think you ought to look at the case. And the case is very simple, it`s quick. It`s so quick--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Look at the case. Now the President can change his strategy any time, but note the statement you just heard there today contradicts Donald Trump`s White House policy on this entire battle.
The policy is meant to avoid the quote details by demanding that everybody, the diplomats, the army officers, the whistleblowers everybody be prevented from testifying. They failed on that, they`ve fallen on their face, that`s why we keep seeing people report in to testify. And tomorrow`s vote goes further, as I`m going to get into later tonight, it forces President Trump into this debate over the details and if impeached into a Senate trial about the details.
Let`s be clear tonight, if President Donald Trump goes on trial, he will be stuck defending the details, which may be why tonight all of a sudden he appears to be pretending that that reality forced upon him is some sort of choice he`s making.
I`m joined now by Natasha Bertrand, who covers National Security for POLITICO; David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief for Mother Jones and former U.S. Attorney, Joyce Vance. Good evening everybody.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Good evening.
NATASHA BERTRAND, POLITICO, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Hey Ari.
MELBER: Natasha, what`s your reporting finding about what they`re learning on the Hill and how that drives the heat for these floor votes tomorrow?
BERTRAND: Yes. So the testimony that`s been given so far by State Department officials, Pentagon officials, White House officials has been remarkably consistent with, of course, the exception of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to EU.
Now everyone has pretty much testified the same thing that White House aide to - White House meeting with the newly elected Ukrainian President Zelensky, as well as U.S. military assistance aid to Ukraine was contingent upon Ukraine launching these investigations into the Bidens Burisma and 2016 interference.
So what the Democrats are hoping to do now is keep up this momentum by continuing to call witnesses who can further corroborate all of this. But so far, as I mentioned, the only outlier seems to be Sondland, who says that no one raised alarms internally about the back channel that he, Giuliani and Kurt Volker, the Envoy to Ukraine were pursuing.
But what Democrats seem to be doing now is they are focusing all of their attention on this Ukraine scandal as part of the impeachment inquiry, because they know that it`s the simplest story that they can tell to the American people.
And according to every former prosecutor I`ve spoken to this, when you`re telling the simplest story then you`re beating the opposition.
MELBER: Yes, the story is simple, David, and the story has a lot of evidence drawn from people who are Trump loyalists. As Natasha mentions, Mr. Sondland may have some cleaning up to do or may disagree with others. But this army officer, diplomats appointed to key positions by Trump, John Bolton, these are Trump people.
When you look, David, as an expert on Congress at the vote tomorrow, does that make it significantly more likely that Donald Trump will ultimately be impeached?
CORN: I`d be surprised at this point that if he doesn`t end up being impeached. I mean, you have enough Democrat support for it. The Democrats are longer reluctant to move in this direction. The evidence, which is mainly testimony at this point in time, we don`t have a lot of document cites and they`re either trying to get that and there`ll be fights over that.
And maybe out of the State Department as opposed to the White House they can pry some documents out and some personal records. But the evidence is pretty overwhelming. There was not just one quid pro quo. There were three quid pro quos - the White House meeting, the $400 million in military assistance and the Javelin missiles for which Trump was willing to talk about, if you will do me a favor, though.
And so, it`s - Trump keeps talking about substance and now the Republicans keep saying there`s nothing there. I mean, they`re fallback position is going to eventually be, well, yes, maybe this wasn`t so great, but it`s not impeachable. That`s eventually where they`re going to land - the Republicans.
And so if that`s where they are, the Democrats is certainly going to go ahead and impeach. The real question is the timing. How long it`s going to take the public hearings. Some of this stuff is getting bogged down in court decisions. Bolton has been called, but his deputy who was called last week refused to come on Monday citing a White House order not to appear, and that`s being adjudicated now in federal court.
How long it will take to do all these things and how long it would take to get hearings and to have an actual vote in a calendar, that`s very truncated around the holiday season.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So I think David makes an interesting point there about the timing. But really what works into the Democrats favor here is if there are articles of impeachment which are more or less the equivalent of an indictment as we enter into the holiday era.
And then we don`t take up any sort of serious trial proceedings should they occur in the Senate until after the New Year. Prosecutors hate Christmas juries. They`re very forgiving. The result in December would likely be tinged by the spirit of the season.
But to the point that you took up originally, Ari, there are compelling reasons for Democrats to impeach. And Natasha`s right that people love a simple story. And the simple story here is bribery or extortion, a quid pro quo. It is happening in front of our faces with Trump so often he does this in plain sight, and then says well there can`t be anything wrong, because I did it for everyone to see.
But here there`s concealment, there`s misconduct, there`s a bribe and Democrats seem to have finally found their storyline that`s simple, but compelling.
MELBER: Well and to that point David, people who work in administration, who aren`t directly implicated in this, also perhaps like some Republican Senators don`t really want to be on record defending everything that has been basically admitted. Take a look at Trump`s nominee to be the Ambassador to Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): do you think it`s ever appropriate for the President to use his office to solicit investigations into a domestic political opponent?
JOHN J. SULLIVAN, FORMER ACTING UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: Soliciting investigations into a domestic political opponent, I don`t think that would be in accord with our values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CORN: Yes. You see a lot of these career public servants, they call them Deep Staters, Never Trumpers, whatever. I mean, Trump`s you know strategy here is to smear, smear, smear anyone who speaks to this.
But we see these career dedicated public servants who have been told in some instances not to testify, still going up there and testifying, because why? Because they saw what went on or they saw part of what went on. There`s a shadow foreign policy run by a political operative of the President to get political dirt to benefit the President.
Career diplomats know that is wrong and whether it`s illegal or not, they know it`s wrong, and they don`t want to fall on a sword for something that is so beyond the norm. And that might actually even be illegal. They don`t even want to hide behind the White House order not to testify. They want to testify.
And they saw what happened to the Ambassador Yovanovitch and how she was smeared. And I think they feel that she`s been wrong and they want that to be corrected on the record. So this is - back this back to Joyce, here you have a case where you have a lot of not willing witnesses, but I think eager witnesses, who wanted the record to be known.
MELBER: And Natasha would - go ahead--
BERTRAND: No, I was just going to say that another thing about that is that a lot of these witnesses have long careers ahead of them and they don`t want to be forever tainted by their stints in the Trump administration.
People like George Kent who was just starting the first year of a 9-year kind of tenure at the State Department, who was dealing with Ukraine issues. I mean, he testified in part, I`m told, because he wanted to show to the future people that he was going to work with that he was an honest broker in all of this.
And we were just learning that Tim Morrison who of course replaced Fiona Hill on the National Security Council is also resigning and we confirmed that with the administration and we`re told that he wants to pursue opportunities in the private sector.
Timing, of course, is very notable, because he`s due to testify before the congressional committees about Ukraine. But it`s important to note that these people, these career officials they don`t want to have the baggage of the Trump White House linger with them throughout the rest of their careers.
MELBER: Yes. And so take that then to the news sign Natasha that Democrats are summoning but John Bolton. Who, if you looked at this a year ago, let alone six or eight years ago, no one would expect that John Bolton would be something someone that the resistance and liberal Democrats are thrilled about.
And yet, it`s because he`s not there as an ideologue, he`s not there because of his views of the UN or foreign policy. He`s there as someone who is expected, and of course legally obligated, to tell the truth about whether this plot was going down.
BERTRAND: Yes. And John Bolton, were told is, is actually very eager to testify. And one of the main things, of course, that`s holding him back right now is of course his lawyer is the same lawyer for Charlie Kupperman who was his deputy at the National Security Council and Kupperman, of course, has recently launched a lawsuit to determine - to force a court essentially to decide who he should listen to Congress or the White House when determining whether or not he`s going to testify.
But Bolton left the White House on very bad terms. He was very much opposed to this Ukraine foreign policy shadow campaign being run. And of course, he had his policy differences with Trump in in different areas and he`s never been shy about coming out and correcting the record on these things.
So it remains to be seen how he`s going to approach this legally, because we`re told he still wants that shield in order to show the GOP establishment that he has been fighting back against this impeachment inquiry, but at this time, he really kind of wants to get the President back.
CORN: Well and remember that despite all the legal arguments whoever his attorney is, John Bolton as a citizen, as others have done so in the past week or two, can decide on his own to come forward and speak the truth it just gets to the issue to who`s your master. Is it Donald Trump or is it the constitution?
This is not about executive privilege. This is not about I can`t betray my oath of keeping secret advice to the President. This is about whether you start something that Fiona Hill, who worked at the White House says, that you called a "drug deal."
CORN: Drug deals are illegal. Right, they`re illegal.
MELBER: Right, to your point--
CORN: This is something criminal--
MELBER: To your point David, I mean, Mr. Vindman reportedly gave his truthful accounting. He said why he was so concerned. I want to ask certain questions, for example, about what he reported directly to the National Security Council and White House Counsel lawyers. He reportedly said well that`s privileged, I`m not going to get into that. You can fight that out. But even if you recognize a certain privilege, it could be executive, could be lawyers, could be medical, you can always say in the deposition I`m not getting into that yet and still try to otherwise honestly comply.
VANCE: That`s exactly right. And with these former employees, the White House can`t force them to stay away from testifying. We`ve seen in recent days, even with current employees, if they intend to testify they can go ahead and comply with a lawful subpoena.
So for someone like Bolton, it`s far less a question of needing legal protection. Yes, he has the same lawyer as his former deputy. Yes, it`s conceivable that he could ask a court to decide whether he has to testify or not. But if he wants to go he can go.
MELBER: Right. Joyce, I want you to stay with me, because we`re going to turn to an official on the Hill and I`d like your views as a prosecutor. I want to thank Natasha Bertrand and I want to put David Corn on the spot. Did you know about this Christmas jury thing?
CORN: I`ve always called it Hanukkah jury, so same principle.
MELBER: Joyce, I set him up for that. I thought he might go there.
VANCE: I`m glad you did.
MELBER: And the thing about the Hanukkah jury is obviously they always decide the verdict--
CORN: You last longer--
MELBER: --within eight days. All right. I`m sorry, it`s my fault. Natasha and David, thanks to both you. Joyce stay with me, and now I turn to Florida Congresswoman Val Demings who serves on both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committee`s right in the center of this event diagram, and someone with a lot of prosecutorial investigative experience. Thanks for coming on THE BEAT tonight.
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Thank you, Ari, it`s great to be with you.
MELBER: Great to have you. And as mentioned, Joyce is here as well. Walk us through what you think you`re learning. Why are you summoning John Bolton now? Does that mean the Intelligence Committee is nearing the end of the key witnesses in the deposition phase?
DEMINGS: Let me just say this. In a short period of time, I think, has been slightly over a month now a lot has happened. What we do know if we start with whistleblowers report, but then quickly turn to the readout that was released by the White House. And we look at the overwhelming, clear and convincing corroborative testimony from our witnesses that have come before us.
The evidence is pretty clear that the President abused his power. That the President attempted to coerce a foreign power to interfere in our election, that the President really betrayed his oath of office and the American people, that the President also has obstructed justice and continues to try to obstruct justice by trying to get people to not appear. And then is also involved in a cover-up.
The question that still remains as we continue to do our work is really what do we want to do about it? As you well know, tomorrow we will be voting on a resolution that will further carry - advance the ball down the field as we prepare to move into a public arena.
MELBER: Yes. Let`s get into the resolution. It looks like a set of rules and a blueprint for the potential impeachment of President Trump. Do you view tomorrow`s vote, and if it is a majority of Democrats - majority of the Congress as showing that the Speaker has a mass united caucus to ultimately impeach President Trump?
DEMINGS: What I can say is that I am delighted to see this vote happening tomorrow, because I really think it lays out a very clear process for moving forward. Sets the ground were very clearly. As you know, many of them mimic what was done in 1998 when the Republicans actually helped to write the procedures that we will use tomorrow.
As I said, the evidence against the President, no matter how hard the Republicans struggle to defend him, whether you`re looking at the process--
MELBER: Well, let me - I understand Congresswoman--
DEMINGS: --attacking individuals is pretty clear.
MELBER: Let me put you a little. What I`m trying to get out for viewers and the people in the county`s understanding. If they see this resolution passed tomorrow does that mean we are closer to impeaching the President or in your view not necessarily?
DEMINGS: No, I think we are much closer, because the second phase of this process is to move into public hearings. give the President of the United States an opportunity to respond, which we would certainly love to hear from him.
And then we will move to giving the reports from all of the committees with jurisdiction over to the Judiciary Committee. I also sit on that committee and we would be responsible for reviewing it.
DEMINGS: And writing articles of impeachment.
MELBER: Well, that`s - and it`s exactly the next thing I want to ask you about, so we`re syncing up on the same process. As you just said, those rules take the facts as found by the Intelligence Committee and then they go to the Judiciary Committee for the potential articles.
Our fellow panelists here Prosecutor Vance also has testified, we should note, before that committee. My question to you and then Joyce is, do you see the best case for a narrow articles of impeachment around just Ukraine or do you think the Judiciary Committee should consider other potential offenses?
DEMINGS: Well, I certainly think that when you look at the Inspector General`s report, we focus on Ukraine because the Inspector General concluded that this particular complaint was, number one, that whistleblower was credible, but that it was of an urgent nature.
Because it involved our national security, we all now know that it was of an urgent nature. So you see how far we`ve been able to advance the ball down the field by focusing on this issue.
DEMINGS: I don`t think there are any intentions, though, Ari to totally ignore other instances of obstruction of justice.
MELBER: OK. So more than--
DEMINGS: --other instances that have come before the committee--
MELBER: But potentially more than one article of impeachment in your view.
DEMINGS: I certainly believe that the Judiciary Committee will be complete and thorough in the work that we will do.
MELBER: Interesting. And briefly before I go, Joyce your view.
VANCE: I think it`s hard to argue with success and the committees that Congresswoman Demings sits on have been very successful at moving this narrative forward. It`s simple, it`s compelling, although, things may have happened in connection with the Mueller report that are equally abusive, equally sort of actions that would warrant impeachment.
They may be more difficult for people to understand. And because impeachment is essentially a political process simplicity and ease of understanding matters.
MELBER: Very interesting to get at such expertise. And in the case of Congresswoman Demings, someone with a vote on the biggest issue facing the nation and the White House right now, that`s something that separates you from a lot of other people with expertise we speak to it. So Joyce and Congressman Demings, thanks to both of you.
DEMINGS: Thank you.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
Up ahead we have a special report. We`ve been working on this. Going to break down the exact details and clues from these new Democratic rules coming out tomorrow about impeaching Trump and quid pro quo, that`s what a Trump insider says, new reporting on that later.
Meanwhile, diplomat saying Giuliani was an obstacle on national security in Ukraine. And ahead of the impeachment vote tomorrow, new echoes of Watergate, we`ll explain.
I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Breaking news now an impeachment witness, Ukraine expert and Trump staffer saying, we`re learning, that it was a quid pro quo. And this is testimony that we`ve been talking about since the bombshell broke.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman has now dropped another bomb, because he specifically laid out that the millions in military aid at the center of this bribery plot was in his view "contingent" on Ukrainians opening probes into the Bidens and the 2016 election.
Now, Vindman, as you know, if you`ve been following this matters even before he said this piece because he was on the original Trump call with Ukraine`s President. That is why many see him as the most first-hand account that the Congress has gotten to date.
Now Trump defenders have continued to basically argue that whatever happened wasn`t impeachable. Meanwhile, Vindman has also testified that the White House edited or potentially made misleading edits of a Biden reference in those same call notes. He says he tried to correct the record.
All of this looks like another problem for the President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I had a transcript done by very, very talented people, word-for- word, comma-for-comma. Done by people that do it for a living--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Word-for-word and comma-for-comma, it`s so specific it`s almost hanging yourself out to dry, because we knew that wasn`t quite the case from reading the darn thing. Now you have this new pressure. The memo they released, as I mentioned, he says it wasn`t a verbatim transcript to begin with. But now you have them saying, not only was it not verbatim, but you have witnesses saying, no it was totally incorrect.
Now why leave in some Biden and take some Biden out? Why open yourself up to the view that you released and are still hiding? Is this a consciousness that there was some stuff that was still too damning to include, what Trump`s allies are saying no nothing to see.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I`ve read the transcript and if he had his corrections in, it doesn`t change anything for me.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): --unless there`s something that we`ve - none of us have heard anything about, based on what the allegations are so far, I don`t see that rising to the level of an impeachable offense.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): There are a number of individuals listening to the call and they put the transcript together. So if one person disagrees, it`s a collective group that decides, not the President. There is nothing impeachable about this--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is that true what`s the real story Maya Wiley from the Southern District of New York, our special counsel is here when we discuss it in 30 seconds.
MELBER: Breaking news, it`s been coming in fast and furious. We just got the first response from John Bolton`s lawyer. He has told "The New York Times," and we have it written here that his client will not appear voluntarily for the Democrats new summons for Bolton to testify. That was breaking just as we came on the set.
But the response is interesting, because it also says that Bolton stands ready to accept service of a "subpoena from the Democrats." Let`s get right into what that all means with Maya Wiley, a Former Prosecutor from the Southern District and former counsel to the Mayor New York - Mayor of New York City. Good to see you.
MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNSEL TO MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Good to see you.
MELBER: John Bolton, obviously, is key. From the moment that the show started tonight till you walking out to this table we have John Bolton`s lawyer saying something pretty particular. How do you interpret this?
WILEY: I interpret the request for a subpoena as saying he is going to cooperate, just give him the cover that he needs. Nothing stops him from going in and testifying voluntarily, as you all already discussed. So this is really saying make it clear that I have no legal choice, but to go in and testify and I will.
MELBER: So on the scale of say Ambassador Taylor, who was over here, saying I`m ready to rush in, you don`t have to make me do anything. And say what we might call Nunberg 1.0, where even when you`re requested by subpoena you claim you might fight it. You`re saying he`s much closer to lawfully complying?
WILEY: That`s what I hear, because, look, he doesn`t have to invite a subpoena. Inviting a subpoena means you`re saying I`m going to cooperate, otherwise you don`t invite this subpoena.
MELBER: Right. And it sort of protects him. This is beyond the law. But as I always remind folks, you also practice law for a politician, for a mayor and there`s different issues there. This also kind of protects Bolton`s flank with what we might call the traditional conservative establishment in Washington.
He`s saying, look, I`m not running out, I`m not doing interviews, I`m not doing a book tour. But, yes, if I get a subpoena from this building, this Congress, I`m going to go tell the truth.
WILEY: Right. And remember all that - I think that`s absolutely right. And all that we know of John Bolton is - from all of the testimony we`ve heard so far is, he was the adult in the room, he was the national security advocate in the room trying to interrupt this outside around the parameters of how national security and how diplomacy is handled. He`s the one trying to rein it back in and bring it back into the process back into the national interest. So he has nothing to hide based on everything we`ve heard so far.
MELBER: Yes. The other story that I want to get you on is, Vindman, the big news was, oh OK, bribery plot, big quid pro quo. But he`s also getting the details of what many are arguing is part of the alleged cover-up. And in articles of impeachment this is not just a sideshow, this is literally an article potentially all by itself.
Take a look here at all the times we`ve heard from the Trump side about the transcript. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We had an exact transcript.
I released the transcript of my conversation, an exact transcript.
We have an exact copy of the report - of the call.
I released a transcription done by stenographers of the exact conversation I had.
So we have an exact conversation.
There was an exact transcription of the conversation--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILEY: Well, as we know, A, it wasn`t the transcription, it was a summary. B, it wasn`t the entire conversation. And, C, now we know that they actually would not include in the call summary things that the lieutenant colonel felt should be in there.
MELBER: Do you--
WILEY: That`s damning.
MELBER: Yes. Do you have any theory of why they would do that? I get hiding, and I get releasing everything and saying, hey whatever, we`ll defend it. I don`t really get the strategy of the halfway point.
WILEY: It`s not a great strategy, because that call summary in and of itself was a smoking gun. So whatever they left out, either was really bad and it`s actually worse than we`re hearing, or they were trying to thinking that it was basically going to set stay deep-sixed. Because remember, part of the issue was that they moved what is really something that did not have to be in this deepest, darkest server basement of national security secrets.
So they may have thought they were hiding it well enough, but just to be safe we`ll just keep out some of the blatant statements. I don`t know what statements could have been more blatant. But we know we didn`t get the entire call.
WILEY: We also know that if two weeks - for as we know from Lieutenant Colonel Vindman two weeks before that call even happened we have Sondland saying in a meeting with Bolton and Ukrainians, "Yes, you got to do this. You want the meeting with the President, we got to see these investigations."
MELBER: Right, which is - it`s not quite pro quo, it`s like quid, quid, quid, I mean there`s a bunch of things, a bunch of this for that as the lawyers say. Maya, thanks for breaking it down as always.
WILEY: Thank you.
MELBER: When we come back we have something special we`ve been working on. As Congress holds the first impeachment floor vote tomorrow, my special report for you on what these new rules mean, what they do and why they look like a road map to impeaching Donald Trump quickly. That`s next.
MELBER: The House impeachment probe is now moving so fast tonight it`s easy to lose sight of how fundamentally this Ukraine scandal shifted. What congressional Democrats had been doing until all this broke.
Remember, the very speaker who is now barreling towards tomorrow`s key vote on a process to impeach Trump spent months holding back as top committee chairs deferred to that same slow approach.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Not any one issue is going to trigger, oh, now, we`ll go do this. My position has always been that whatever decision we made in that regard would have to be done with our strongest possible hand and we still have some outstanding matters in the courts.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): But we`re not there yet. And I think if it is a close call, close calls go against putting the country through that.
REPORTER: Do you believe President Trump will ultimately leave office being impeached by this House, regardless of timeline?
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): I don`t know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much--
(END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Remember that? Well this changed on two inflection points, one recent, one upcoming. It was barely a month ago when Pelosi announced that Ukraine changed everything, launching the impeachment probe. But no one knew exactly what that meant at the time.
What I can tell you is tonight we now know the House voting tomorrow on Resolution 660. This is the first floor vote on a path to impeaching Trump. Politically this vote will test and show if Pelosi has a United caucus on impeachment.
Constitutionally it creates the blueprint for impeaching Trump, which is what we turn to right now, how this blueprint works, because there`s more going on here than just a party line floor vote tomorrow.
The resolution that they`re voting on delineates a new impeachment process and it empowers who will lead it. So if you want to understand the road to impeaching Trump and what it will tee up in any Senate trial, you have to see what they`re voting on, which means not only the text of the resolution. It actually means what else it sets in motion, which includes rules and protections for the person who may ultimately be put on trial, Donald Trump.
Now here are three key parts of this new impeachment blueprint, which we`ve just gotten a hold of. First, the new rules paved the way for public hearings, which Trump`s Republican defenders have actually said would be more fair and they empower not only member of Congress, but top committee lawyers to do the high-stakes questioning.
Now that could include former prosecutors like Daniel Goldman, who joined Adam Schiff`s committee in March, you may recognize him from this and other news programs, could also mean Barry Berke, a Harvard-educated lawyer who clerked for a judge in the famous SDNY court system.
The Judiciary Committee tapped him to run that tough round of questioning for Corey Lewandowski. This was after the politicians on the panel spoke, a model that actually harkens all the way back to Watergate when staff lawyers like Fred Thompson lead witnesses to important revelations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARRY BERKE, MEMBER HOUSE JUDICIARY STAFF: Did you say that because you wanted to protect the President?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Not to the best of my recollection.
BERKE: Sir, did you deny it, because you wanted to protect yourself?
LEWANDOWSKI: Not to the best of my recollection, Mr. Berke.
BERKE: So why did you lie on national television?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you aware of installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the President? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was aware of listening devices--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Those voices you hear asking the questions are the professionals and deploying them is another sign that the planned hearings now won`t be intended to be Capitol Hill talkathons for sound bites, but rather focus more on getting evidence.
Now second, in these new rules that we have now gotten a hold of, protections for the target, President Trump. Remember, Constitution doesn`t detail how to run an impeachment in the House or a Senate trial. So Congress decides each time, in the rare times it`s happened in America, gets to the point where at. The point we`re reaching tomorrow with this vote.
The precedents only give some ideas. What we now know from this new resolution, if it passes tomorrow, is Democrats plan to give Trump protections and options, which is interesting. Because House Democrats are basically re-invited Trump to a party he keeps blowing off given all his past avoidance, stonewalling and defiance of these probes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler issued subpoenas today for a full unredacted version of the report. The start of what`s likely to be a protracted legal fight--
TRUMP: The subpoena is ridiculous. I say it`s enough.
JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Stonewall is not - is a loaded word. There are constitutional privileges that exist--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House is now openly defying Congress`s power to investigate the president for high crimes and misdemeanors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now the White House has been fighting anyone going down to Congress, going through those metal detectors, tomorrow I want to tell you what this resolution means. The House is saying through its power, basically, Mr. President this is real, and you have one more chance before we impeach to actually send your folks down. Whoever you choose could be your lawyers to make your case, that`s basically what they`re telling him.
Now remember, that is actually what President Clinton did, he sent his personal lawyer down like David Kendall to face the house impeachment probe and Chairman Nadler is now emphasizing that very option in a new statement about these rules, saying his "committee will apply serious procedures that confer rights for the President equal to those provided during the Nixon and Clinton inquiries."
And they mean it. The Judiciary Committee is actually even distributing this handy new chart that shows every protection that Clinton and Nixon got with check marks that the Democrats will give Trump those and even more.
Now, I want to be clear, some of the things they`re listing are automatic, like getting a copy of what the Democrats do in committee. Well, anyone with an internet connection can get that. But others could shape the fights ahead. How the Republican Senate view this and whether a Trump is enabled to not only send lawyers to talk, but to shape these hearings, to question witnesses, to object to whether certain witnesses or evidence can be used against the President.
I want to be clear about this, those are new powers the House is giving to Donald Trump in the spirit of they say fairness that aren`t automatic as the Constitution doesn`t require it. But here`s the thing. To exercise those rights if this resolution passes tomorrow, Trump will have to reverse himself and the stonewalling, kangaroo court strategy which has insisted none of this is legitimate, will he?
Well after weeks of fighting any cooperation with the House or settling on a single straight there are some new reports the Trump aides want to change gears and engage Congress, perhaps before it`s too late.
Then, there`s perhaps the most pivotal thing we are learning about how this will go down. It`s a clue that you actually have to dig out of this resolution. We know the Intel Committee gathers facts and will later release depositions in their report on Ukraine.
Democrats say that Committee is basically playing the role that in the past primary investigators have played, like those prosecutors who did the fact- finding work in the Nixon and Clinton cases, they basically produced facts and reports which Congress then took and reviewed.
This is different when you think about it. On Ukraine, Congress is doing the fact-finding itself, because there`s no special counsel for Ukraine collusion. In fact, just today, the Democrat in charge of the Rules Committee made that point while speaking to the stakes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA): Unlike during the impeachment of President Nixon and Clinton, no special prosecutor has been named to investigate President Trump on this. That`s why the Intelligence Committee has been gathering evidence and hearing testimony.
Five or 10 years from now people will ask each of us, what we did in this moment? We will stand up for the Constitution and defend the rule of law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So if Congress finds the facts and stands up for the Constitution and gets a floor vote impeaching Trump, it does raise the big question of where we`re headed.
What are they impeaching Trump for? One thing, two, three, a whole like interconnected plot of things? Even if you say, OK, for Ukraine, all right, is it one thing the bribery plot? What about the second thing, the alleged cover-up? What about obstruction?
And then think about this, and I discussed this earlier tonight with a member of Congress. If you go after Donald Trump for a few weeks of alleged Ukraine obstruction, why would Congress give him a pass on years of the obstruction alleged in the Mueller report, which again is more independent than a Democrat led committee investigation, Mueller finding "substantial evidence of obstruction in five different incidents."
In fact, you`re probably old enough to remember when top Democrats said that was obstruction it was just a few months ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): --there was a sufficient factual and legal basis to further investigate potential obstruction of justice issues involving the President, is that correct?
ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: Yes.
REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): That could be another basis to allege that the President was obstructing justice, correct?
MUELLER: That is generally, correct. Yes.
NADLER: Did the Trump administration will do anything and everything in his power to obstruct the work of the Congress?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Those aren`t just statements from some politicians. We just showed you members of the very committee that will handle impeachment - Judiciary, under these new rules. And they were talking to Mueller about how they think Trump already committed obstruction.
And that brings us to a key part of this resolution Congress is voting on tomorrow. They state that when this is all done, and the intelligence probe is over, the whole thing goes back to the Judiciary Committee decide whether to report to the House "such articles of impeachment it deems proper."
Now look at that word, "articles", plural, not one article. And Congress hands the keys to decide on any article or articles to the Judiciary Committee. Is that one article on Ukrainian or two, is that Ukraine in the cover-up, is that that and obstruction, is it obstruction of Mueller, which is obstruction of Congress as well.
And you know for all the talk lately about what Republicans will do in the Senate, let`s be clear. The facts are there still debates within the Democratic Party and congressional Democrats over whether to focus solely on Ukraine or write a broader indictment of Trump on multiple issues.
Broader could be covering up the Ukraine issues, broader than that could be the obstruction and then there are other Democrats who`ve long been on the record arguing Trump is committed other offenses, this is a point Congressman Green is back reiterating again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. AL GREEN (D-TX): I think the President has also infused bigotry into policy, that`s harmful to society, and I think that we should have an article that deals with his bigotry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We know from history that a party which is united against the President on an impeachment is not always United on which articles of impeachment. House Republicans who took on Clinton openly squabbled over four different articles of impeachment on the floor. They ultimately passed two, while President Johnson`s detractors famously threw 11 different articles at him rather than narrowing their targets.
So as Democrats push towards tomorrow`s vote the key is what they are voting on. It`s not automatic. These new Democratic rules basically make the Intelligence Committee the investigators and they basically make the Judiciary Committee kind of like the prosecutors, deciding whether and what to charge on with, of course Speaker Pelosi overseeing at all.
And the other interesting thing here, I don`t know if this has gotten enough attention yet. These rules, if they pass tomorrow, they call Donald Trump`s bluff. And they say in this process keep stonewalling at your own peril.
We wanted to give you that special breakdown. And coming up, when we talk about impeachment rules, these are right now live pictures of lawmakers still debating them in preparation for the big vote tomorrow. This is historic.
We went digging in the crates to show you something pretty special when we come back.
MELBER: Congress is heading into its first floor vote on impeachment over the Ukraine scandal and some of the details, including the timing remain in flux. But we do know many of you this is historic.
They`ve only been two votes in the past century on these kinds of resolutions that spell out impeachment rules, a precursor to potential impeachment. In 1974, of course, it was for President Nixon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House of Representatives today voted almost unanimously 410 to 4 to grant broad subpoena powers to the House Judiciary Committee in its inquiry into the impeachment of the President.
Barbara Jordan, Democrat of Texas, through the big applause of the day saying it was the quality of the investigation that mattered, not the speed. Judiciary Chairman Rodino said let us act so that the American people and their children after them will say that was the right course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: As that process continued, the impeachment vote proved unnecessary, President Nixon effectively forced out of office by the process. The next time there was an actual floor vote on impeachment was in 1998, the House authorizing the impeachment inquiry into Bill Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s the day for only the third time in American history the House of Representatives will vote to open impeachment hearings against a sitting President today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, no one here on Capitol Hill is talking anymore about if. It`s all about how many, as dozens of Democrats prepared to abandon the President when the house goes today to begin impeachment hearings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would suggest by way of friendly advice to the White House, don`t tamper with this jury.
TIM RUSSERT, MODERATOR OF MEET THE PRESS: The understated message was don`t vote to limit the scope of this message, because you don`t know what else is coming--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Note the warnings there. Our own colleague Tim Russert discussing something that certainly applies, if you think six weeks ago, this White House, this City of Washington no one knew what else was coming, certainly not tomorrow`s vote.
And before that, the senator on the floor, a controversial one, Senator Byrd was in the same party as the President who was being impeached. And I`d repeat again what he said. "Don`t tamper with this jury, because under the Constitution the Senate becomes the jury for the President when you reach this process and when that happens it`s supposed to be all about evidence, not about party."
One more thing when we come back.
MELBER: Members of Congress are still at work late into the night, you see here on the rules for the impeachment vote tomorrow. I want to tell you, this Sunday, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern we`ll be back with a brand new impeachment special. I will be anchoring it. Sunday 9:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC. So we`ll keep an eye on this and tomorrow`s vote and hopefully see you ask well at 6:00 p.m. Eastern for THE BEAT tomorrow.
Don`t go anywhere, though, "HARDBALL" starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END