CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: There is a new - all new Chuck ToddCast ready to download. Get it now wherever you get your podcast. We do a lots of 2020 and breaking down of election night 2019.
"THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you very much. We begin this show with breaking news.
Impeachment investigators releasing full testimony from former Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor for the first time today and it`s providing new details of the bribery plot at the center of the case for impeaching President Trump.
Taylor outlining his clear understanding that security assistance money would not come until Ukraine did Trump`s desired investigations. So that is another insider right now confirming that this money was conditioned on a favor for Trump`s re-election, the quid pro quo bribery.
And then in this newly released interview transcript, Democrats - the point person on impeachment Chairman Adam Schiff follows up. And I want to read you exactly what happened behind closed doors. He asks, "Are you aware that quid pro quo literal literally means this for that?" and Taylor says, "I am."
Now these exchanges are part of what rocked Washington when these first occurred. Now we didn`t have the transcript on that day, just video of lawmakers walking out gasping and saying things like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANDY LEVIN (D-MI): In my 10 short months in Congress, it`s not even noon, right? And this is my most disturbing day in Congress so far. Very troubling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Very troubling. Now we`re reading the lines - the exact exchanges that so moved them. And there`s one other key thing I want to show you tonight. Taylor was diplomat who called out the bribery plot in real-time in the now famous text going back and forth with Trump ally Gordon Sondland.
So back then you can think about it like this. There was Trump and Sondland claiming no bribery. Sondland even typing that out - typing Trump`s denial in that text to Taylor when he had objected. Then of course you have this whistle-blower come forward alleging bribery, blowing this thing open.
But in October Sondland was still in Trump`s corner there. No bribery, playing down this plot to Congress. Then you have Taylor and others testifying that there was bribery and bringing along receipts. And tonight we`re seeing how that full testimony - for the first time, we`re seeing the exchange. We`re seeing what moved members of Congress.
But it didn`t only move Congress. It also moved Sondland himself, because he has just moved over very simply to the bribery side of this equation. He suddenly remembered bribery. He amended his own testimony to show it. And tonight you have Donald Trump over there increasingly on an island of the people involved in the plot, not yet Congress. But the people involved - the diplomats they are on the bribery side.
And we`re not only seeing the details of Taylor`s account tonight, which of course matches the whistleblower account. We`re also seeing this public story from Trump`s own officials move away from Trump and towards Taylor. It`s Taylor`s account that blows the whistle on bribery and bribery in the constitution is an impeachable offense.
I want to begin our coverage with former U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and "New York Times" columnist, Michelle Goldberg. Good to see both of you.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Me too.
MELBER: Senator, what does it mean to you having done so many of these types of investigations and hearings, to not only see what Taylor is saying, but that it`s bringing other officials closer to his account?
FMR. SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO): Well, I think the public hearings - I just urge all of your listeners to tell all of their friends and family to set their DVRs if they`re at work. Become a juror, listen to the fact witnesses, make up your mind who is telling the truth and who is credible.
I think Taylor`s testimony is going to be front and center, and it is going to be compelling when Americans hear what he has to say. It`s very confusing. It`s behind closed doors. And there all the accusations about closed doors, and now there`s a transcript.
MELBER: Is it confusing?
MCCASKILL: It`s not confusing if you`ve pay close attention. But, of course, the other side has tried to really muddy the waters here. But if you watch Taylor testify, put his hand in the air, understand his background, understand he`s a Trump appointee and listened to the facts, then all of a sudden the reason the President is being impeached becomes very clear.
MELBER: Right, and Michelle, you`ve followed this closely, you`ve been writing about it for "The Times." Everyone remembers these texts, because they`re really striking, and they read as certain things do when things get hot. They read like messages people were sending thinking about how they might look later.
But it was Taylor who said, "As I said on the phone," like waving around, hey, I already objected to this, "I think it`s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."
And I want to go back to our simple chart that we opened the evening with, which, if you look at it, Sondland - we`ll put this up. Sondland moving towards Taylor, right? Sondland is now over there, and he wasn`t in response to that text initially.
GOLDBERG: I mean, Sondland is the most kind of ludicrous and pathetic figure in this whole farce. Right? This is someone who paid a million dollars to become a diplomat, because according to most reporting, he was jealous that a bunch of his other friends who had donated money to politicians had become diplomats. He wanted to become one too.
And he`s just kind of so lavishly devoted to serving Trump, he sees these transcripts come out and suddenly, "oh, yes, now I remember there was a quid pro quo. I totally forgot about it." And you know, and so he`s now said, right, his response, that`s the one thing that Trump defenders have been hanging on is that he`s - I just talked to Trump. There is no quid pro quo.
He`s since basically said, yes, Trump said the words there is no quid pro quo, but there was one anyway. Right? And so the thing that I do think might be confusing for people is - first of all, I don`t know that people kind of understand - the average person, people who kind of can`t spend a day reading a 374-page transcript.
Some of its simple, so kind wanting dirt on Joe Biden, some of it is more confusing, particularly the investigations into the 2016 elections and the precise preposterous nature of the conspiracy theories that they wanted this new government to substantiate.
MELBER: Well, and I want to play a little bit on Sondland of it all, because Taylor exists as the other side of that conversation, and that is the simple part. You`ve got people who are being asked to condition this money until Trump gets what he wants to help him get reelected, and Sondland`s pushing it and Taylor`s pushing back.
And so Sondland giving in now under the threat of perjury and everything is striking. How is it playing in the wide world? Well, of course, Senator as you know, we are often indebted to Stephen Colbert for his view. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE LATE SHOW" HOST: --according to him incriminating testimony from other witnesses like Bill Taylor refreshed my recollection. It made me remember one important detail that I don`t want to go to jail for perjury.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If that`s something you just remembered, just think of all the small stuff you`re forgetting. Somewhere there`s a 40-year-old man still waiting to be picked up from soccer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCCASKILL: Well, if it wasn`t so serious, it`d be hysterically funny. I love it that our comedians do a good job of - and by humor explaining some of this to people who aren`t following it as closely. But what really is going on here is you have a Trump lackey, a Trump donor trying to do everything that Trump wants him to do.
You have a respected diplomat that was called out of retirement by the Secretary of State to come in and handle duties in Ukraine, and he is the one saying, whoa, hold on. This is really wrong. And really what happened here is pretty simple. Sondland got a lawyer.
Sondland lawyered up, and that lawyer did a good job of explaining you can either stick with the story you`ve given, or you can do a cleanup on aisle 5 and maybe escape criminal and other consequences down the line when it becomes obvious that you were not telling the truth the first go-around.
GOLDBERG: Yes. I mean, when you read Sondland`s transcript, side by side with some of these other ones, I mean, it`s just astonishing the amount of contradictions. And it`s not just him contradicting one person, right, it`s him contradicting three or four people - people with kind of impeccable national security credentials.
And one of the sub threads of this whole scandal is that we do have these clownish figures, you know, Sondland and even more so Rudy Giuliani, traipsing around - kind of basically trying to manipulate foreign governments with no notion of what that means for American foreign policy or national security.
MELBER: Well, and to your point, I mean, what we just learned from the Sondland testimony in addition to confirming this and his style of recollections, which has become a national punch line, is that Giuliani was literally trying to ghost write what the Ukrainian President was going to do on a Biden probe.
GOLDBERG: Well, there are couple of things that are really important with Giuliani. I mean, Giuliani just today has been tweeting out has been tweeting out - please never stop tweeting Giuliani.
He`s been tweeting out today everything I did was in my private capacity representing Donald Trump`s interests as his lawyer, which - thank you for that confession, right? None of this had anything to do with the American national interests. This was all about Donald Trump`s personal interests in trying to discredit the Mueller probe.
But the other thing I think that`s really interesting about Giuliani is, he had these two kind of bumbling figures going around Ukraine trying to make some of these introductions, dig up dirt for him Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas who are now in - who since been arrested and Lev Parnas now looks like might cooperate.
I thing, I think is really important to keep in mind is that, they weren`t working for Giuliani. Giuliani was--
MELBER: He was working for them.
GOLDBERG: Giuliani was working for them.
GOLDBERG: Right? And the person who was actually paying them was this oligarch name named Firtash, who, according to our own Justice Department, is a high level - high echelon associate of Russian organized crime.
MELBER: Who while you`re at it, as we`ve been reporting on last night, also employs the two Fox News lawyer analysts who represent Solomon who was writing in "The Hill" about the Ukraine theory to begin with.
GOLDBERG: Right. And so here`s where it does get a little bit complicated, but I hope that people can unpack it enough to understand that part of what`s going on here is that because our President is so insecure and so credulous and so kind of, imperially unbound that he can be manipulated by these sinister forces that have their own agendas and their own reason for wanting to get rid of somebody like Marie Yovanovitch who`s an opponent of corruption in Ukraine.
MELBER: Yes. Well, look, you said before because of the confessions you hope Giuliani never stops tweeting. I want to paraphrase a great film, "Never Stop Never Stopping." Do you know that one? No.
MELBER: But it is a real film, I swear.
MCCASKILL: Listen, if anybody has confidence that you only quote real films, it is, in fact, this former Senator from Missouri.
MELBER: I`ll take it. And former prosecutor, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, Michelle Goldberg, my thanks to both of you. I`m going to turn to two special guests in Washington. Why? Well, we are about to hear from all these witnesses including Bill Taylor next week in Washington.
Democrats announcing they will have these open hearings. The first of this whole probe, and I want to bring in Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson from "The Washington Post" and Jonathan Swan from "AXIOS". Good evening gentlemen.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Hi Ari.
MELBER: Jonathan, what are these public hearings going to be about?
JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, they`re going to be about building the public case - building the case to move public opinion more in favor of impeachment. And from the Democratic perspective, hopefully break the unity that we`re seeing among Republicans.
Based on my reporting, I was in the Capitol today, talking to Republican Senators. We`ve been talking to them for the last couple of weeks. Based on the facts that we have right now, I think it`s quite possible that you lose zero Republican Senators.
There is a world in which they stay completely unified. Maybe you lose one, two or three. There needs to be a fundamental change in dynamics to new facts, persuasion. The current situation for Democrats is we`re heading towards a purely partisan process, which is not what Nancy Pelosi wants.
MELBER: Right. And that`s something that Mitch McConnell has clearly been trying to organize his folks around. Eugene to do a reverse Gil Scott- Heron, the impeachment revolution will be televised. And I think Jonathan`s reporting is instructive. It`s why he`s here working these sources. But the examples we have from history suggest that there are times where there`s unity, unity, unity, until something breaks open in the national consciousness.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know that`s exactly right, and that`s why next week is going to be really big. It`s going to be a really important week in this whole - the arc of the impeachment drama.
As Michelle Goldberg said, you look into anything relating to Donald Trump and you have to wade through all these clownish figures, I think she said. And on Tuesday - Tuesday, Wednesday, whatever Bill Taylor testifies, I guess it`s Wednesday, we will hear from someone who`s not a clown. We will hear from a--
MELBER: A non-clown.
ROBINSON: A non-clown, a 40 years public servant, who served his country in Vietnam, long-time diplomat, former Ambassador to Ukraine, brought back by Mike Pompeo after Yovanovitch had been booted by - essentially by Trump, to take care of the post, be kind of caretaker.
And he saw something that he just felt to his core was wrong, and he did what an experienced bureaucrat does in that moment. He wrote it down. He made a record of it. And those texts to Gordon Sondland and--
MELBER: Let me read that you--
ROBINSON: --and ultimately in his testimony.
MELBER: Let me read that to you, because it jumped out to us as well, Gene. This is from the new testimony we got tonight. "I`ve always kept careful notes. I keep a little notebook where I take notes on conversations."
ROBINSON: Yes. Exactly. I mean, that`s what you do, because you want to have that record. And, the last thing this White House wants is people who kept good records of what was going on.
There are a lot of people in this administration who are allergic to the written word, and who specifically don`t want things written down. This is a public servant who did write it down and has it there to tell the American public--
MELBER: There is two ways to look at that sort of firewall you described. One is, if it really doesn`t move at all. It frees the House up to make whatever broad case they want that we`ve reported on members of Congress who still think that the President`s racial incidents should be in there, Mueller obstruction, all sorts of other things - emoluments.
Whereas, if they have a different strategy they might go more narrow. Does your reporting tell us yet anything about those strategy disaster discussions?
SWAN: I think it`s being part - well, not partly largely determined by the time line. People close to the Democratic leadership in the House want to get this done by the end of this year. And if that`s the case, you really can`t broaden this out too far.
So my expectation based - again based on the reporting I have today, is that they`re going to try and get this wrapped up by the week before Christmas. And if that`s the case, you really can`t expand this much wider than that.
I think it`s very smart to pick Taylor as their opening witness. He is the person - even though he has secondhand knowledge. He`s relying on conversations with people who had first-hand knowledge. He actually has the most comprehensive view of this whole situation. He was this note taker, sort of diligently trying to figure things out.
And he`s actually - to tell the story and to start with him, I think, is quite smart. He`s also someone that`s very hard to smear even though the President said he`s Never Trump person. Pompeo hand-picked him. He has worked under multiple Presidents. He`s obviously a war hero. It`s very difficult to smear him. So I think that it makes sense that they`re using him first.
MELBER: Fascinating, Jonathan Swan and Eugene Robinson from Washington, thank you so much. Coming up, we a lot more on this show. Lindsey Graham says he won`t even read the evidence. Republicans reeling, though, from these new confirmations. Other fallout and Republican defeats in elections last night. And we have the Fox News archive clip that Trump may not want anyone to see tonight.
Later we`re going to go live to the Roger Stone federal courthouse. There were some really important things in this opening argument today. I`m going to walk you through them and how they affect whether Donald Trump may have allegedly lied to Bob Mueller himself.
I am Ari Melber. You are watching "THE BEAT" on MSNBC.
MELBER: Tonight, the impeachment inquiry is entering a new phase. Democrats releasing these interview transcripts for the first time that detail in the words of the people involved Trump`s attempt at bribery plot and also new tonight the first ever dates for the public hearings that we`ve been discussing.
Now, some Republicans who had called for this exact type of public information are now saying they won`t even look at the evidence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I`m not going to read these transcripts. The whole process is a joke. What I can tell you about the Trump policy towards the Ukraine, it was incoherent. It depends on who you talk to. They seem to be incapable of performing a quid pro quo. So no, I find the whole process to be a sham and I`m not going to legitimize it.
I don`t care what Sondland presumes. Show many where there`s a quid pro quo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So we`ve reached that phase. Show me where there`s a quid pro quo. Now that is a bit of classic lawyering and Lindsey Graham is a former military attorney. He`s doing something very particular here. He`s trying to remind everyone the burden of proof is on those making an accusation, which is true.
But here`s the other part of that. The House investigators are showing proof of their accusation they have. Trump`s handpicked diplomat, who just reversed himself to admit bribery, Trump`s Chief of Staff who confirmed the quid pro quo. Going "Full Mulvaney" in that moment of televised candor before he tried to walk it back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF: Did he also mentioned to me and past that the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely, no question about that.
REPORTER: But to be clear, you just described is a quid pro quo.
MULVANEY: We do that all the time with foreign policy - That`s it. And that`s why we held up the money--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s why. Add to that on the burden of proof side for evidence, the decorated army officer Alexander Vindman, experts have called him something of an unimpeachable witness in this impeachment probe.
Well, take today`s news, this new full transcript from Bill Taylor and plus Trump aide Tim Morrison, all together that`s at least five officials confirming the bribery plot. Show me the proof, still some of them into denying bribery, because before Trump made the his defense clear they went on record saying that if there was this evidence of a bribery plot - like conditioning money on going after Biden. That would be wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS HOST: If the President said, I`ll give you the money, but you got to investigate Joe Biden, that is really off the rails wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
DOOCY: But if it`s something else, it would be nice to know what it is--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Off the rails wrong. And what does that same Fox anchor say today? Well he`s going full Mulvaney with - "well this is just what we do all the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOOCY: Any time the United States gives money to other countries, aren`t there always strings attached? We`re going to give you this money, but you need to do this. It`s called diplomacy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is it called diplomacy? I want to pause here for a quick and easy legal primer. Crime is always about more than an isolated action. It`s about action and intent - what you mean to do.
Let`s just take a very simple hypothetical. If you push someone so they don`t get hit by an oncoming car, the action is pushing, but not a violent crime. I`m going to get to Blagojevich. Let`s hold off on Blagojevich. Come back. We put it like this and that`s Blagojevich, he`s an example coming up. If you push someone to hurt them, that becomes obviously a violent crime.
Now, the same goes for corruption law. If a U.S. official deploys pentagon money to pressure another country to help the U.S., that example on Fox News, then that`s the action, and that would be just diplomacy, which is not a crime.
Now here`s the legal part. If the same official deploys that money to help themselves, that corrupt intent makes the same action a crime. And that`s how corruption law is landed. Here we go. A guy you might remember Rod Blagojevich, in prison.
And he was a Governor, and he had, of course, the power to take the action of filling a vacant Senate seat. It`s when he tried to abuse the power and enrich himself and take money for the same action of picking a Senator, it was that corrupt intent that made the action a crime.
Now, what I`m telling you may sound pretty straightforward. And you may think, OK, Ari, well, surely members of Congress know this, right? And the answer is yes. 49% of the Senators have law degrees. They`re all steeped in this. They all take an oath pledging to use their power for the public interest. They know all about the difference between strings and diplomacy and legislating or selling those things for themselves. That becomes the crime.
And these arguments have become so clear, that may be why some of Trump`s political defenders are trying to avoid discussing these details at all, and instead just demand somebody else show the proof or saying as Lindsey Graham did, we won`t even look at the evidence.
And tonight that brings us to something extra we wanted to show you. We checked the archives for how the defenses of Nixon began to evolve as the evidence got worst. And it seemed to start to turn away from the evidence and towards more of these blanket proclamations of simple loyalty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: I`m not going to entertain impeaching the President over this matter, period. Done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Watergate, Mr. Nixon`s friends are very few. One still loyal is conservative Indiana Republican Earl Landgrebe who said today, "I`m sticking by my President, even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Wow, when did that Congressman say that? Was it before the tapes came out or before the Supreme Court was ruling against Nixon? No, it was after all of that. It was one day before Richard Nixon resigned, and that very member - basically that member of Congress, his partisanship was punished by the voters. They actually replaced him in a few months later.
Now there aren`t my historical precedents for what happens when you impeach a President. But history does show there can be times where evidence overtakes partisanship and loyalty. That`s true for elected officials and voters alike.
Are we headed for one of those times? Well, we have the perfect experts to get into all of that when we`re back in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: I`m joined now from the White House - by NPR White House reporter Aisha Roscoe and "The Atlantic`s" David Frum, who was a former White House speech writer for George W. Bush. Good evening to both of you.
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR THE ATLANTIC: Good evening.
AISHA ROSCOE, NPR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good evening.
MELBER: David, let me start with you on the box that we saw some people publicly put themselves in. If they want to defend Trump, but they previously said obviously proof of a bribery plot would be bad.
FRUM: Right. Well, they started off with a stupid argument and, partly maybe it was embarrassing. They retreated to a depraved argument. The stupid argument is not to see what`s in front of you. The depraved argument is to justify what`s in front of you.
ROSCOE: Well, it seems like at first they were trying to say that - they were basically focusing on process. They were talking about the whistleblower only had secondhand information. And then when you have all of these people coming out with firsthand information, now you have people on the Hill saying, well, is it really firsthand information?
Does the top diplomat for this administration, Bill Taylor for Ukraine, does he actually know what was going on? He thought that - and from everything that he could see - that this was - that aid was being held up in exchange for these investigations. But now they`re calling even that into question.
MELBER: Well, as they call it into question, I want to turn to some of your expert questioning. This is your first time on "THE BEAT," but we do keep a close eye on which questions that work and don`t. So first for you and then following from David, this incredible moment in the briefing room, obviously several reporters engaged on it. But here you were going back and forth when Mick Mulvaney first went full Mulvaney. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MULVANEY: DNC server.
ROSCOE: --that it`s OK for the U.S. government to hold up aid and require a foreign government to investigate political opponents of the President?
MULVANEY: Now you`re saying that President of the United States, the Chief Law Enforcement person cannot ask somebody to cooperate with an ongoing public investigation into wrongdoing? That`s just bizarre to me.
ROSCOE: Are you saying that the money that was held up, that that had nothing to do with the Bidens?
MULVANEY: Yes. The money held up had absolutely nothing to do with Biden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Over the course of that appearance, he ultimately conceded and defended the bribery plot. We do it all the time, get over it, then walked it back. With the benefit now of some time and you`re in that same very room, how is that playing out for the White House as other officials seem to be going back to full Mulvaney?
ROSCOE: Well, it hasn`t really played out very well for the White House in the sense that they can`t get one message, so Mulvaney had to walk that back. During that - when I was asking him those questions, he said there were three things - that there were three reasons why they held up the money. One of them was that open investigation into the DNC server.
He had to walk that back, but now they`re saying, oh, that would be totally fine if they asked about that. He also said right then that there was nothing about Biden in this. But now we`re hearing testimony that they wanted that statement to mention Burisma, that they wanted the statement that Ukraine would put out to specifically mention that so that Biden would be implicated, that Biden has been all through what they were trying to do.
So all of that stuff is coming back on them, and I think what you`re seeing now is the White House is kind of scrambling. They now have hired two - they`re bringing in two people to join the communications office. One of them is Pam Bondi, a Florida attorney, and so she`s coming in to basically help to do their messaging for impeachment.
And this is a White House that has said they would never set up a war room for impeachment because the president did nothing wrong.
FRUM: When you get into a scandal in the third year of an administration, that scandal takes place across a backdrop where the country has a pretty good fix on what they think of the administration.
And so this is all happening on context where President Trump and his people are saying, look, we`ve got a version of the facts, you have to believe us. And big majorities of Americans say we don`t believe you. We think you`re liars all the time.
Well, you have to understand says the President`s team that when we did this - we`re doing this for a public reason, not for the President`s self- interest. Big majority of the country say, we think Donald Trump puts his self-interest ahead of the country`s interest, we don`t believe you.
And the last thing is, we`re going to mobilize our base and they will defend us. And as we saw from Mississippi where the President`s party just won 53% of the vote in Bellwether, Mississippi and in Kentucky, the President`s base is too small to save him.
MELBER: Yes. I mean, you lay that out, David, as someone who`s worked in and around these Republican politics. Obviously, the White House, whatever their public statement is going to notice that, particularly as you say red states, particularly where the bottom line is they`re losing ground.
And that does go to what the message is and whether even people inclined to want to believe it feel like it`s just too unbelievable or too counter to U.S. national security interests, which is something a lot of people across the spectrum tend to care about. They don`t really want to hear about or believe that the President is actively working for foreign interests or self-interests above our security, because our men and women fight and die for that.
With that in mind, take a look at one of the Fox News arguments we`ve been hearing, David. I showed one person who had moved around. Here`s a guest on Fox. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY MCCARTHY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Should they have been asked to investigate the Bidens for violations of Ukrainian law? No. Should the aid have been dragged out, after Congress passed it and the president signed legislation to give it to them? No. But at the end, I think, you know, their best defense is going to be, "No harm, no foul."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What do you think of that? Give credit where it`s due. That`s a former prosecutor, who is conservative--
FRUM: I know Andy, yes.
MELBER: You know Andy. Tucker Carlson wrote a piece early on that seem to put a marker down, and said, "This stuff actually is bad. It`s just not worth impeaching over."
FRUM: Eight Ukrainian soldiers died in the month of august, because they didn`t have proper weapons. 50 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and wounded in the month of September. There were harms and there were fouls. There are dead people. There a shooting war going on in Ukraine. The United States has undertaken to help Ukraine. Congress voted massively to help Ukraine. Soldiers died while waiting for weapons that President Trump delayed.
MELBER: And we`re out of time, but Aisha what`s the big question you think is important to get at the hearings next week?
ROSCOE: Well, I think the big question will be what exactly did Bill Taylor know and when did he know it, and why does he feel so certain that it was an exchange that the White House wanted for these investigations to give up the aid.
MELBER: All interesting questions, which is how we started this segment. My thanks to both of you. I appreciate it.
FRUM: Thank you
ROSCOE: Thank you.
MELBER: Thank you. Do you remember this person on a bike who flipped off Trump? She actually just won an election last night. We`re going to get into that. Also, with the history and the blue wave and Trump and his allies worried about, what it all means when we come back.
MELBER: We`re turning now to an extraordinary development inside a courtroom in Washington today, featuring opening arguments in the trial of longtime Trump adviser, Roger Stone. Prosecutors with the Trump Justice Department laying out a case, suggesting President Trump may have committed a new crime in office by lying to the Mueller probe.
This was all part of the blockbuster opening statement by former Mueller prosecutor himself Aaron Zelinsky, now a regular DOJ, line prosecutor. He`s telling jurors they can convict Stone for lying to Congress, because Stone lied about the fact that he twice spoke with Trump before the 2016 election, something Trump shot down by telling Mueller I have no recollection of any communication with Stone.
Well, we`ve heard allegations Trump was lying about that before. What`s new here is that it is Trump`s own justice department insisting that it`s false in court and saying they have the evidence to prove it.
POLITICO reporting on that very part of today`s argument by saying, "DOJ was basically committing an extraordinary act of defiance against its own White House there," and that is the Donald Trump part. Then there`s what Stone was allegedly doing for his campaign, and whether he enlisted these men to help him get secret Intel on WikiLeaks.
Prosecutors say, "Stone lied about his dealings with both of them, alleging that he asked radio host Randy Credico and conservative officer Jerome Corsi to get to WikiLeaks. That he had two intermediaries there.
Now long before Stone was ever arrested or charged, there was a huge amount of intrigue about his claims of a WikiLeaks back channel before that arrest that you see on your screen there. We actually interviewed both of these people who may have been the back channels and pressed them on Roger Stone`s claims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The allegation from Mr. Stone is that you are the intermediary between Assange and him.
RANDY CREDICO, RADIO HOST: I have no idea of some of the things I may have said to him, but certainly did not pass any information from Julian Assange to Roger Stone.
MELBER: So you flatly deny that stone allegation? This was Roger Stone saying he had an intermediary. Is that you?
JEROME CORSI, AMERICAN AUTHOR: I don`t know. You`ll have to ask Roger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You`ll have to ask Roger, well they are. We turn to someone now who was inside that very courtroom today, POLITICO Reporter, Darren Samuelsohn, good evening.
DARREN SAMUELSOHN, SENIOR REPORTER AT POLITICO: Good evening, Ari.
MELBER: Busy times. Let`s start with the Trump Justice Department putting forward evidence that reasonably you could infer is meaning Trump lied to Mueller?
SAMUELSOHN: Reasonably you could infer that. Now, they don`t charge Donald Trump, they never have charged Donald Trump. But today in court they did provide evidence that Roger Stone was on the phone talking to Donald Trump in the days after the DNC hack went public and Julian Assange was threatening to drop off manner of material to rock the Hillary Clinton campaign.
It was part - it was a key part, you could say, of the Justice Department opening arguments that they made today. About an hour long presentation was made in a very layman way for the jurors.
MELBER: Right, simple.
SAMUELSOHN: --who are clearly coming into this probably pretty darn--
MELBER: --storyline. For people watching this, though, who may not be that concerned with this case`s outcome, how rare is it for the Justice Department to go out of its way to say something - and this is a Mueller prosecutor speaking, not just anybody, and say something that suggests Trump lied to Mueller?
SAMUELSOHN: Yes, that`s pretty remarkable. I mean, clearly President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have been on a lot of the same pages since the Mueller probe ended, what, about seven or eight months ago now - six, even months ago.
But Aaron Zelinsky who is a key part of the Robert Mueller investigation clearly remembers the investigation and everything. They`ve put together, all the evidence that they collected. He had an opportunity today to lay it all out there. Put all the cards out there.
It felt to me watching this like a CliffsNotes version of the Mueller report--
SAMUELSOHN: --for the general public. For an hour you really got to hear piece by piece.
MELBER: I`m jealous you were inside the courtroom, and we`ve been reading yours and others notes from it. That`s the next thing I want to ask about being in there. How key was it to the government`s case to prove that Roger really was using one or both of these people to actually try to get stuff from WikiLeaks? They have more or less down played that when we`ve interviewed them.
SAMUELSOHN: It was very key. I mean, if they`re talking about trying to get Roger Stone on lying to congress and Roger Stone was saying his intermediary was Randy Credico, today they were presenting evidence that in fact it was Jerome Corsi.
Now this was just the opening argument, we`re going to see a lot more material, e-mails, communications. The Justice Department indicated they`ve got hundreds of e-mails and text messages between Roger Stone and both individuals and are going to explain.
And we`re going to see Randy Credico on the stand too in the coming days, and Randy Credico is going to talk about how he was trying to argue to Roger Stone. Look, I wasn`t your intermediary. I don`t know why you`re pinning this on me. And the back and forth that led to - and ultimately to the witness tampering charge that follows where Roger Stone is urging Randy Credico to plead the Fifth.
MELBER: And briefly, who do you think is the potentially most damaging witness to Stone?
SAMUELSOHN: The most damaging witness to Stone, I think Randy Credico, could be someone that certainly we`ll be watching, because he will provide a lot of that testimony.
Steve Bannon will be coming up in the coming days. Unclear exactly how much Steve Bannon`s going to want to say on the stand. But we understand that he will be there, and he`ll be talking about the communications that he had with Roger Stone over the course of the Trump campaign.
Rick Gates is going to be fascinating to watch too and especially given the way that other defense attorneys have tried to shred Rick Gates` credibility because he obviously pled guilty lying to Congress - excuse me lying to FBI, the way the Paul Manafort attorneys handled him, I think that`s something we`re going to be seeing from the Roger Stone`s attorneys as they go after Rick Gates` credibility.
MELBER: Yes. It`s a fascinating case. It has the 2016 campaign. It has the final leads of the Mueller probe. It`s just so much there, and Darren, thanks for helping us understand it a little better tonight. We appreciate you.
SAMUELSOHN: Thanks so much.
MELBER: Thank you, sir. Still ahead, a very special guest on the Democrats scoring these big election wins and why some Republicans are on edge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you lose, they`re going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. This was the greatest. You can`t let that happen to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Later, the cyclist who went viral for giving Donald Trump the bird, back in the news for a political reason. We`ll explain.
MELBER: Normally we would have gotten to this earlier in the show, but you know there`s a lot of news. We just had the first election since the impeachment probe began. The results out of Kentucky and Virginia have some Republicans concerned, and Donald Trump reportedly, "embarrassed."
Consider the top Republican in red Kentucky faring about 14 points worse than Trump did in 2016, that`s Kentucky`s current Governor, Matt Bevin, a Trump supporter who had slammed impeachment the morning of this vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MATT BEVIN (R-KY): Talk to the average person. Ask the next 100 people who come in here if they care about this impeachment process, and they will tell you almost to a person that they do, because they find it to be a charade. It`s an absolute sham.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: NBC News now projecting Democrat Andy Beshear is the apparent winner, but it is certainly close. Beshear running on, among other things, protecting Obamacare.
The other headline out of Virginia, for the first time in a generation, Democrats have total control of that state`s government potentially paving the way for progressive action on a host of issues, including health care and gun reform.
And we are joined by someone who knows these issues inside and out, former Democratic Senator from Missouri, Claire McCaskill, nice to see you.
MCCASKILL: Thank you.
MELBER: We are always lucky to have you when you are right here in our newsroom. I was with you the morning of the historic Pelosi impeachment vote. The arguments we just heard from Republicans in Kentucky is it would help them in that red state. I think that sounded like a potentially reasonable argument, and yet it didn`t seem to be true.
MCCASKILL: I think the important thing to take out of Kentucky is Trump couldn`t save a very unpopular President - I mean, excuse me, Governor.
MCCASKILL: This is Governor had attacked - I mean, something you don`t do is attack the teachers in your state with the reasonable accusations when they were trying to get better wages and working conditions. He was very unpopular. Trump thought he could save him, he could not.
The bigger story, I think, honestly, is what happened in Virginia, that you have a total domination of that state. When I first got elected to the Senate, I remember Jim Webb in my class being elected to the Senate of Virginia by this much. And it was definitely a purple state back then, not anymore.
MELBER: And you and Webb - were all say it since you might not, you and Webb were seen as real breakout stars of that year, whether you want to call it moderate or just Democrats in redder areas who had shown how to win statewide.
MCCASKILL: And I think Democrats also, especially those running for President look at what Beshear campaigned on. The successful candidate in Kentucky did not campaign on doing away with private health insurance. He campaigned on fixing Obamacare and making sure that Medicaid remains available to people who can`t afford health care.
And it was the kind of the bread and butter issues that our congressional candidates that beat Republicans in 2018 also ran on. It wasn`t some of the big ticket structural change things that are dominating some of the discussions in the presidential.
MELBER: Are you diplomatically saying stay focused on jobs and health care and don`t just talk about reforming democracy?
MCCASKILL: Prescription drugs, jobs and health care, gun safety, making sure that we cleanup campaign finance. These are the issues that people that will decide this presidential election, agree with us on.
MCCASKILL: They do not agree with Republicans. And I think in some ways, he`s right, the impeachment is distracting, but we have to do it, because the facts are there. But I hope that the candidates remember that what families want to hear about is how we`re going to make their lives better, not about plans that probably aren`t going to come true.
MELBER: Yes. And you`re saying that you actually agree with the political analysis of Kentucky Republicans who say the impeachment might help them a bit, you just think it didn`t help them enough. The last thing I want to ask you about is geography.
The Electoral College in its wisdom or in sanity, whatever you want to call it, still has--
MCCASKILL: Looks like insanity now.
MELBER: --still has a lot of pockets that work for Donald Trump more than if you just had one person, one vote. And yet the suburbs are increasingly a weak spot.
Reading to you from a report from "The Washington Post" from Virginia, "Dramatic transition from red to purple" is they say a story of growing support for your party, Democrats in the "Suburban areas of the state." Defeated Republican Bevin there in Kentucky was powered in that state`s suburban counties.
MCCASKILL: I think for women in the suburbs who are sending their children to school for active shooter drills, they do not understand why nothing is happening. The party that is speaking to them on gun safety that is speaking to them on other issues that they care about at their kitchen table is in fact the Democratic Party.
The republicans with Donald Trump and how he is performing in office are losing suburban women in record numbers - women who have typically not said, yes, I`m going to die in the world of Democrat.
MELBER: Senator McCaskill, as mentioned, it was all about this. Thanks for being here.
MCCASKILL: You bet. My pleasure.
MELBER: Do you remember the photo that went viral of a woman just letting loose and telling this President who`s accused of vulgarity, what she really thought? Well, she just won an election. We`ll explain when we come back.
MELBER: Sometimes a moment just goes viral. This was the moments captured in the photo of a cyclist caught simply flipping the bird to Trump`s motorcade, leaving his golf club back in 2017. Then it became a thing because, that person you see there was fired from a job in marketing after it went viral.
Well, tonight that woman is now an elected official. Democrat Juli Briskman winning a county board seat in Virginia. She actually represents the same golf club owned by Donald Trump, and she explained that photo in that moment when we talked to her then right here on "THE BEAT."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULI BRISKMAN, CYCLIST WHO GAVE TRUMP A MIDDLE FINGER: I tried to send a message. The only way knew how with me being on my bike and having bulletproof glass between myself and him that was the only way I knew how to send the message.
I don`t think he respects his office, so I`m not going to respect the office or him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What a time to be alive and now she`s sending a message with formal political power in that Trump area. Talk about going full circle.
That does it for our show tonight. I will be back here, of course, 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. I hope you`ll join me. And we have a little announcement for New Yorkers in tomorrow`s show. Don`t go anywhere. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END