Diplomat ties Trump to bribery plot at hearing. TRANSCRIPT: 11/13/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Michelle Goldberg, David Kelly, John Flannery, Val Demings, DanRather

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  Kelly O`Donnell, Richard Engel, I`m sorry we ran out of time. This is obviously an important story to be following. Thank you both. That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY. Obviously, MSNBC`s news coverage continues.

"THE BEAT" with Ari Melber start right now.

Good evening, Ari. Too much to keep up with obviously with Turkey--

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: A lot. A lot going. Thank you, Chuck Todd, appreciate it. And thanks to you at home for joining THE BEAT tonight.

This is obviously the news, but sometimes the news you`re watching also means you`re living through history, and Congress is making history right now, launching these public impeachment hearings that began today with ambassador and army veteran Bill Taylor walking right up Into Congress as the first key fact witness in the center of this Ukraine plot.

Roughly six hours later, Taylor marched right on out of the hearing. And there was no motorcade waiting, no secret service. You can see him right here, a public servant just getting into a red Washington, D.C., taxi to leave.

What happened in between was Taylor and diplomat George Kent laying out what they knew for the Congress and the public watching at home with far more details coming from Taylor, the point person on Ukraine. Both provided damning testimony. And here tonight is the core of their new account.

One, that Trump demanded foreign help for his re-election in exchange for U.S. military funding. Two, Trump`s advisers confirmed that plot several times, these witnesses say.

Three, for the first time ever Taylor revealing how staff heard Trump on a phone call to a different impeachment witness, Ambassador Sondland, where Trump reportedly was demanding those investigations in Ukraine. Now that`s key, because the most crucial evidence Congress gathers today will be pressed on future witnesses in the days to come.

Four, this whole potentially impeachable plot did not come from Trump to the person running the State Department like a normal operation, but through Trump`s adviser Giuliani. That may sound like common knowledge by now. But, remember, Giuliani publically claims he was taking orders from the State Department.

Today`s testimony accuses him and Trump of lying. Why lie? This new testimony suggests the lies were necessary because the truth was so much worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM TAYLOR, ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I think it`s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.

GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: The possibility of a White House meeting was being held contingent to an announcement.

TAYLOR: The meaning of stalemate was the security assistance would not come.

KENT: Giuliani`s efforts to gin up politically motivated investigations--

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The President`s comments were focused on two things, 2016 and the Bidens, am I right?

KENT: I believe so, yes.

SCHIFF: What was communicated to you was that the President wanted investigations into 2016 and the Bidens?

TAYLOR: That was my understanding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Some of those points reinforce what witnesses have told impeachment investigators behind closed doors. Taylor revealed the new account, though, the Trump himself was also heard on this phone call with his then ally Ambassador Sondland and that Trump was demanding the investigations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAYLOR: In the presence of my staff, at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kiev. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone asking Ambassador Sondland about the investigations. Ambassador Sondland told President Trump the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.

Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: These hearings are not a show. It`s not like each one is supposed to end with a formal conclusion or some kind of moral. No, I want to tell you before we turn to our experts what`s happening. Each hearing here is like a search for a brick of evidence. If the witnesses are credible the bricks - they count up, they build on each other over time.

Eventually they`re supposed to make a case alone. There`s no open-and-shut case when you have say the single brick of Taylor saying somebody else heard that Presidential phone call. But then that somebody else is actually going to address this committee on Friday in a private session, providing another potential brick.

Then the former Ukrainian Ambassador targeted by Giuliani and Fox News also speaking on Friday at another public hearing like today`s. More bricks may yet come from army officer Vindman. And then, of course, the person who was just name checked, Ambassador Sondland, who sort of turned on Trump. They speak in other public hearings next week.

If Congress can prove that today`s evidence and those other bricks amount to prove that Donald Trump demanded foreign help for his reelection in exchange for U.S. military funding, well the Chair in charge of impeachment today says that would be case closed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF: Is this what Americans should now expect from their President? If this is not impeachable conduct what is?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What is? We will now put that core question to our experts, including one of Chairman Schiff`s colleagues who`ve led some of today`s questioning. You should also know in tonight`s show we will be joined for the first time ever by a top prosecutor from the Mueller probe, Andrew Weissmann, and by legendary journalist Dan Rather for a wider view on this living history, that`s later on THE BEAT and I wanted you to know that.

But we begin right now the "New York Times" Michelle Goldberg and David Kelly, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The same powerful post once held by Rudy Giuliani and James Comey. And former federal prosecutor John Flannery who was special counsel to three congressional investigations as well as Congresswoman Val Demings.

Everyone is here. I start with the prosecutor at my at my right at this table on this big day. How strong was the evidence today?

DAVID KELLY, FORMER US ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Yes. the evidence was quite strong. I don`t think there was any huge surprises other than the diplomat`s testimony about the phone call that he later learned about since the testimony that he initially gave. But I think it`s very compelling.

I think what people need to focus on is - and I think a lot of what the cross-examination was about was like quid pro quo. I mean this is not a criminal proceeding. It`s really a political proceeding about abuse of power and the misappropriation of funds. There may be crimes built into that.

But if everybody is for crimes to be committed, that`s a different proceeding. And so I think that people really need to keep their eye on the ball about what this is all about.

MELBER: Well, and that goes to something else we heard, Michelle, and I want to play a little bit of Bill Taylor talking about how unusual this was.

What we heard under the questioning was, this never happens. This is totally out of the ordinary. And these are people who obviously have seen a lot, whether you talk about Taylor in Vietnam or how many Presidents he`s served. Let`s take a look at that exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL: Have you ever seen another example of foreign aid conditioned on the personal or political interests of the President of the United States?

TAYLOR: No, Mr. Goldman, I`ve not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it seems they still haven`t quite settled - Republicans quite - haven`t quite settled on what their defense is going to be. Some people were trying out, yes, he did it, he was right to do it, because all these conspiracies are true. Right? That was the Devin Nunes approach.

Other people had the kind of no harm, no foul. Well, he stopped doing it, once he got caught, so what`s the problem? And then you have the sort of Mick Mulvaney defense, which is get over it. Right? And I feel like that was a very - "you know, people do this all the time. Get over it. What is foreign aid except for a quid pro quo?"

And so I think it was important to establish upfront how unusual and kind of how shocking this is. Because as Chairman Schiff said if this doesn`t result in Donald Trump`s removal or at least in some significant vote for his removal, and that may very well be true, we`re going to have normalized this kind of intervention in our elections.

I mean, there`s this book ends this week where you had the Roger Stone trial which kind of gave further evidence of cheating in the 2016 election, even as we`re getting new evidence of a plan to cheat in the 2020 election.

MELBER: Congresswoman Demings what`s the most important thing you think Americans could learn from today?

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Well, I think it was very important, Ari, for the American people to hear directly from to long term foreign service officers about what they knew about the President`s abuse of power.

Also the new revelation, if you will, that one of Ambassador Taylor`s aides overheard a conversation between Ambassador Sondland and the President, where the President, again the day after the infamous call on July 25th, asked about investigations.

Once that call was over, my understanding is that the aide asked Ambassador Sondland what did the President think about Ukraine, and the response was, he`s more concerned about investigations of the Bidens.

And let me just say this about the statement that this is not a criminal proceeding, that`s absolutely correct. It is an administrative process. However, my understanding is that a sitting President cannot be indicted. So it does not mean that crimes may not be uncovered during this process. Impeachment is the tool that we have been granted to work with.

KENT: And Congresswoman let`s look at a little bit more from today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEMINGS: Was Mr. Giuliani promoting U.S. national interests or policy in Ukraine, Ambassador?

TAYLOR: I don`t think so ma`am.

DEMINGS: What interest do you believe he was promoting, Mr. Kent?

KENT: I believe he was looking to dig up political dirt against a potential rival in the next election cycle.

TAYLOR: I agree with Mr. Kent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What`s the implication, in your view, of those answers?

DEMINGS: Well what we heard today just further corroborates what was indicated in the call where the President said - when President Zelensky said I`m ready to purchase more Javelins, President Trump said, but I need you to do me a favor though, and then talked about investigations into the 2016 election and into his political rival, interfering in the 2020 election.

So our witnesses the day just further corroborated what we already know from the readout of that call.

MELBER: Stay with me, I want to bring in a former federal prosecutor and congressional investigator John Flannery. Take a listen to one of the hot moments today John that really raised the question of how did we get here.

Whistleblower is an evocative term, we`re way past that, because we have people testifying in public under oath, under their own name with fancy titles. They may outrank the whistleblower, frankly, we don`t know. Does it start with that witness or does it start with the person allegedly perpetuating the plot. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): There is one witness that they won`t bring in front of us, they won`t bring in front of the American people, that`s the guy who started it all, the whistleblower.

REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): I say to my colleague I`d be glad to have the person who started it all come in and testify. President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: John?

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMAL FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, he was absolutely right. I mean, the whistleblower said what he had heard and it turned out that what he heard was absolutely true.

And I thought that Schiff and Taylor at the outset of the hearing, if people only listened to the first hour, had a really good picture of what was going on. And the most important thing I think that the Republicans never dealt with was what we knew before the hearing started.

We had the President, we had Mulvaney, and we had Rudy Giuliani all telling us they basically done this. And the readout also confirmed that. Now what we have here is the most amazing corroborating information by two blameless individuals that can`t be accused of being anti-Trump who have had a history of service to this nation, and who could not be contradicted in any particular.

And what they proved by their corroboration of what we already knew was that the President has committed a high crime and misdemeanor. I disagree that this is political. What the what the discipline is required in this case is to put aside politics, look at the standards of what offenses are impeachable and worthy of removal and consider them as a judge might putting aside any bias.

MELBER: Yes. And John--

FLANNERY: We don`t care whether we like them or not on that.

MELBER: --on point, as Americans watch this, John, I`m curious what you thought of the parts of the hearing that really go back to the person who`s not there, to the President. And all of this, unlike the Mueller probe, where it wasn`t clear where it would end people, were indicted, people were convicted. But there wasn`t a shot really at the President legally in the report in a way the way Ken Starr or others did.

Here it all goes back to Donald Trump. And the public has to sit and consider, do you believe this story that Donald Trump took a deep and abiding interest in cleaning up alleged corruption in another country. Do you think that he took a deep and abiding interest in the specific names of past and current U.S. Ambassadors to that country?

Do you think that he, of all the things on his to-do list thought, I heard about a company inside Ukraine that doesn`t have a big U.S. footprint, Burisma, and that company for the good of the United States, fighting corruption needs to be cleaned up? Or do you think there was what lawyers call the corrupt intent?

Do you think that Donald Trump was doing out of the White House what he was accused of being on the receiving end in 2016, which is saying, "Gosh, if I can get a foreign country to help me tip the balance of the election, I welcome that help. Or as he told ABC News of course I`d look at it?

I put that a rather admittedly lengthy set up in context to this exchange, which ties back to Donald Trump`s interest, Burisma, et cetera. Take a look from today.

FLANNERY: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF: I think you said that after the call when your staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought of Ukraine, his response was that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, is that right?

TAYLOR: And Burisma, yes sir.

SCHIFF: I take the import of that as he cares more about that than he does about Ukraine?

TAYLOR: Yes sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: John, what`s important about that exchange?

FLANNERY: Well, the irony is that the cover story these days is, he`s concerned about the corrupt policies in Ukraine when he is corrupting Ukraine. He is seeking to have him conduct a phony investigation even just a statement on CNN to help him in his Presidential election. And he`s prepared to let people die for the failure to receive the funds that our Congress authorized and that the Defense Department said should go, because they are not--

MELBER: Just to slow it down.

FLANNERY: - corruption.

MELBER: Your reference to TV news is that there was allegedly a request by the President not only to get the investigation going, that wasn`t enough. It had to be announced in the American press about Biden.

FLANNERY: Yes, yes, exactly. And--

MELBER: Go ahead.

FLANNERY: Well, the problem about this that I`m really concerned about is how a Republican with an average IQ be could be in the leadership and to come in and divert our attention from everything they know to be true, to mislead the nation, to believe that this President did not commit a crime - a high crime and misdemeanor, abuse his office, withhold information from the Congress and be continued as if this were him excreting his influence on good policy when he`s not even close to that fact.

That`s a shame and a disgrace. That`s unbelievable I think. Nothing like this happened with the Republicans and Nixon, and his crimes were less than this.

MELBER: And Congresswoman before we lose you, the other question I want to ask is. We heard a lot about whether some witnesses have only secondhand accounts. They`re saying what they saw and who they talked to, but the President was not always in the room.

I wonder if that builds more pressure on the White House in your view to then bring the first-hand accounts in, bring Mulvaney and Bolton and others in, which, as you know, the White House has been fighting.

DEMINGS: Well, a couple of things. It`s hard to believe the President was overly concerned about corruption when if you look at the readout of the call on the 25th not once does the President even mention the word corruption.

Number two, as a former law enforcement officer, I can remember many of the best cases were began with persons who had secondhand or third-hand information. It`s incumbent upon us to take that information and then find corroborating evidence and witnesses.

What we do know is that our witnesses today may not have directly spoke with the President. But they spoke to people who directly spoke with the President. Some of them we`ve heard from, some of them we intend to hear from. But we will get to the bottom of the truth.

MELBER: Congresswomen Demings, after a lengthy day of hearings and questioning, I really appreciate you making time to come on "THE BEAT." We will be checking back in with you. My same thanks to Mr. Flannery out of Washington.

I want to go back to Michelle Goldberg with me here on set. Wrap it all up with where we`re headed. Because, as mentioned, again folks at home saying, OKAY, wow today was a big day, but Sondland will be really key in the upcoming hearings?

GOLDBERG: I think we have the outlines of the story. And to some extent it`s just about shoring it up because you have Republicans trying to poke various holes in it. And it`s not exactly clear where their defense is going to go.

It might just be - they might say, well we didn`t hear Trump say any of this directly, so maybe we can just pin it on Giuliani, on Mulvaney and Sondland. So in that case, hearing Sondland speak directly will be extremely important.

Or it might just be a matter of fleshing out for - with Marie Yovanovitch kind of what anti-corruption policy in Ukraine actually was. And the fact that Trump and Giuliani were not demanding that Ukraine fight corruption, they were demanding that Ukraine become more corrupt. Right?

And so, I think it`s trying to build a somewhat airtight case, I think that you`ll always have Republicans who are willing to kind of spout nonsense about conspiracy theories. But to make it as coherent as possible for the people who haven`t read all of these depositions, and you know haven`t had the chance to do a deep dive on who the various Ukrainian players are.

MELBER: Yes, Michelle Goldberg, for the "New York Times." thank you so much.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

MELBER: Federal prosecutor David Kelly, I want to bring you back near the end of the show for another point, so stay with me. We have so much more on this historic news night, including a special guest who actually served at the top of the Justice Department, Andrew Weissmann. You know you`ve heard the name. He`s debuting on THE BEAT next.

And later legendary journalist Dan Rather, who`s covered previous impeachments twice is here live.

Also I will break down the most crucial lines of questioning that we haven`t gotten to yet, including why it was so important to define the terms stalemate and drug deal.

I`m Ari Melber and you are watching the special edition of THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: We have something special for you in the show right now. But we begin with some context. These public impeachment hearings that launched today, they broke through literally, as networks broadcast hours of this new testimony, driving attention to this story.

Many Americans zooming in on this for the first time. In fact, I can tell you earlier today all five of the top Google searches in the entire country were about this story, not the things they`re usually about. And viewers who we`re looking for typical daytime talk shows were greeted by what you see on your screen. Every news network`s all-star team as these hearings got into gear.

Then viewers were presented with perhaps the only figures more obscure than mid-level diplomats, staff attorneys for the House Intelligence Committee. Former prosecutor Daniel Goldman for the Democrats and Steve Castor for the Republicans, a veteran of Benghazi, both going on before most of their political congressional bosses on the committee and they offered sharp prosecutorial inquisitions.

That`s different from virtually all other hearings. But this prosecution mode actually follows the Constitution, which treats impeachment as the U.S. government`s way to decide, if it must, whether to essentially indict a President.

Well indict a President for what? Bribery is one theory of the case. Goldman even pressing the witness on how sometimes a criminal may tell co- conspirators there`s no crime here, repeating those words regardless of the facts and the action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOLDMAN: Even though President Trump was saying repeatedly that there is no quid pro quo, Ambassador Sondland relayed to you that the facts of the matter were that the White House meeting and the security assistance were conditioned on the announcement of these investigations. Is that your understanding?

TAYLOR: That`s my understanding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Good question. You know Democrats tapped Goldman just this year in case impeachment heated up. He cut his teeth as a federal prosecutor in New York trying defendants like the crime boss of the Genovese crime family and Russian gangsters, the kind of cases that sharpen the nation`s elite prosecutors.

Not unlike another one you`ve probably heard of in the Trump era, Andrew Weissmann, who also prosecuted the Genovese crime family boss, and won the conviction against Paul Manafort as a prosecutor in the Mueller probe. Earning praise for his results from many legal experts and also, because we tell you the whole story here, also drawing scorn from Trump allies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Andrew Weissmann, the prosecutor thug under Mueller--

SIDNEY POWELL, LICENSED TO LIE: EXPOSING CORRUPTION IN THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, AUTHOR: I`ve called Mr. Weissmann the poster boy for prosecutorial misconduct.

JOE DIGENOVA. FORMER US ATTORNEY: He has chosen his "Jack the Ripper" like leader Andrew Weissmann--

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Guess what, Weissmann is a legal nightmare. Weissmann, guess what, is a legal tyrant--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That prosecutor, a veteran of the Mueller probe, the Enron task force and the Eastern District of New York, a former head of the Fraud Section at the Justice Department, Andrew Weissmann joins me for his first ever appearance on "THE BEAT." We also want to welcome him as an NBC News and MSNBC Legal Analysts. Appreciate you sitting down here.

ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Thanks very much. Nice to be here.

MELBER: What is important in your view about the prosecutorial questioning that revealed some evidence today?

WEISSMANN: So I looked at this very much like a trial. I was thinking, OK, how did the - that prosecution do, how did the defense do. Understanding that there`s a lot of things that are similar and things that are not.

So one of the downsides in a trial is that you can`t tell the whole story immediately, and so you sort of are playing for what`s going to happen at the end when you`re summing up to the jury. I don`t think that is - as you know today you needed to be able to sort of understand the whole story quickly.

And so that I think was the challenge for the Democrats making sure that they could tell the whole story and--

MELBER: How would Andrew Weissmann tell this story in one to three sentences?

WEISSMANN: So I think that this - only thing I would have done differently was - the witnesses were terrific. I think that in the opening argument, so to speak, from Adam Schiff, which was excellent, I think I would have spent less time about what it meant for Ukraine and sort of American policy. And a little bit more on the fact that what the President, under his theory, was doing, was cheating on our election.

Notice he wanted to be able to say that the Biden`s are under criminal investigation in the Ukraine.

MELBER: Was he seeking foreign help to steal an election?

WEISSMANN: Yes. That`s what he - that is what the theory of the Democrats are--

MELBER: Which is something you may have some experience investigating. We`re not going to get into that right now. But I want to show you a little bit of more of Goldman. As I mentioned, you`re both New York prosecutors. We`ve cut just some of his questions--

WEISSMANN: Yes.

MELBER: And I`m curious your honest assessment of them. Take a look.

WEISSMANN: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOLDMAN: Have you ever seen another example of foreign aid conditioned on the personal or political interests of the President of the United States?

What else was contingent on Ukraine initiating these investigations?

Did Ukraine owe anything the United States?

President Trump believed that Ukraine owed him something personally is that accurate?

The Ukrainians believed that they needed to announce these public investigations, is that right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What`s he doing there?

WEISSMANN: Those are great. I mean those are really terrific questions. And he also was eliciting them through witnesses who were pretty unimpeachable. These are witnesses, who any fair person, somebody who`s not coming at this with a certain preconceived notion, it`s very hard to think that these witnesses were not being completely honest and completely bipartisan people who are not trying to shade anything.

So I think those were really excellent questions. And you have to deal with each witness. You can`t tell the whole story through one witness. So from getting that from the State Department witnesses was great. And also if you`re in the State Department right now, I would be feeling really terrific. I mean, these were wonderful, wonderful representatives of really important institution.

MELBER: The public are like juries, because juries are made of the public.

WEISSMANN: Yes.

MELBER: What do you think stands out in the presentation today that people who come to this fresh, who aren`t maybe as into it that they`re going to see in the way it was presented.

WEISSMANN: I think that Ambassador Taylor hitting the theme that there was an official and unofficial whole way that policy was being done, I think, would for citizens set off some alarms--

MELBER: Because that`s obviously shady.

WEISSMANN: Yes. I mean, it raises questions about it. OK, so for the unofficial way, the next question you have is why, and what were you trying to seek.

MELBER: And do you think people get at a gut level - we are actually talking about these enormous powers that we give to the United States federal government. I mean, this is a State Department story. It could easily be a pentagon story. Oh, ship those bombs, don`t take the General`s orders. Take my lawyer and my friends` orders, I mean this is kind of scary.

WEISSMANN: It is, and it`s also not that complicated. I mean, this is - if you want $400 million that is actually - that`s 400 million reasons to do what I`m about to tell you and/or the favor that I want, if you want that. And by the way, the reason, which came out loud and clear today is, the reason that you wanted it is, because it is actually going to save lives.

MELBER: So the extortion case, as you say, not complicated.

WEISSMANN: Right.

MELBER: The conspiracy theory is. It`s complicated almost deliberately to the point that someone goes, well, it sounds like something bad happened in Ukraine or why would there be so much smoke? And so I want to play one more thing from today that we teed up explicitly for you.

WEISSMANN: Good.

MELBER: Which is how does a prosecutor get into, and how do witnesses deal with, of what may be propaganda or misinformation. We`ve done some reporting here on reports in "The Hill" and other places that are flatly false, Mr. Solomon`s theories included. Take a look.

WEISSMANN: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENT: Through the good officers of the former Mayor of New York, Yuriy Lutsenko gave an interview to John Solomon then of "The Hill" in early March and the campaign was launched on March 20th.

REP. ANDRE CARSON (D-IN): A corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor gave an interview to a reporter in the United States and made claims that the ambassador provided officials with a "do not prosecute" list. Sir, do you have any reason to believe this is true?"

KENT: I have every reason to believe it is not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: How do you deal with misinformation that is a diversion from the case you want to make?

WEISSMANN: So I think they did it very well, which is, you don`t want to get too distracted, but you have to deal with it. So I thought they were very good at anticipating certain distractions. And then I also thought when the Republicans made some good points, there was a real effort to give a response.

So - I mean - and also they have wonderful witnesses. These are really good witnesses to take advantage of in doing that.

MELBER: We`re hearing a big news tonight you`ve been a part of our coverage, in all candor and sincerity as an attorney, I can say a lot of attorneys view you as a legend and we`re bringing out someone who I can say as a journalist - a lot of journalists view as a legend. Mr. Rather if you want to come on out here, sir. Dan Rather joins the discussion.

Dan Rather when we`re back in just 30 seconds to join the conversation. Sir, good to see you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Back covering today`s historic public impeachment hearing, lawmakers drilling into the testimony and the statements that have been surfacing as new evidence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): The President conditioning security assistance on an investigation into his political opponent, prior to this administration, is this something we would do all the time?

TAYLOR: No sir.

SWALWELL: You described in your text message exchanges that engaging in a scheme like this is "crazy." Can we also agree that it`s just wrong?

TAYLOR: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We are back with Justice Department veteran Andrew Weissmann, and joined by someone with extensive experience as a journalist, looking at the office of the presidency and these scandals, President of News & Guts, Dan Rather. He, of course, covered Watergate and the Clinton impeachment for CBS News, part of a storied career. Thanks for being on THE BEAT on this big night.

DAN RATHER, NEWS & GUTS PRESIDENT: Thanks for having me Ari.

MELBER: What jumped out to you about today`s hearing and any parallels or contrasts with so many of the other White House`s you`ve covered?

RATHER: Well, what jumped out to me today is the effort by the Republicans to sort of say, listen, everybody knows all this. They seek to have people become numb to what we already know, that`s what jumped out to me. Because we already know that the evidence we`re talking about now the solicitation of a foreign power to get involved in our election.

And the evidence is strong. The President`s behavior and what he said has been outrageous. The complicity of the Republicans is depressing and it`s a serious moment for the country. We know that.

What the Republicans sought to do today and others like to judge whether they were successful or not as kind of convince people, "You know what? This is really no big deal. And if you`re saying to yourself you already know all this, yes, that`s the case so we need moving." That`s what jumped out.

In terms of comparison with the Watergate period and the Clinton impeachment, this is completely different for a long list of reasons, which we will not go down the whole list.

But first and foremost, this is the first time in which we`ve had an impeachment proceeding in which it involved a questions of a foreign power involved in the elections or sought to be involved in elections, and very serious military national security issues. That didn`t exist with the Clinton impeachment, it didn`t exist with the impeachment effort against Richard Nixon, who resigned rather--

MELBER: Indeed to your point, the Watergate tapes showed Richard Nixon saying maybe we could get the CIA to back off the FBI and it didn`t get very far. Here, what your point is, these witnesses are saying under oath, $400 million of military funding was already used to extract this foreign meddling.

RATHER: Exactly. And that`s why I think the frame of reference - I hope it will be the frame of reference for people. But naturally this is political in many important ways. Punditry comes into play. Do they have enough votes to get impeachment in the House, would they have enough votes to convict in the Senate? How about the effect in 2020 election?

But in a broader in much more important way, this is fundamentally about our history as a country and the destiny of the country.

MELBER: Wow.

RATHER: Because history is watching and listening and is going to be a very tough chronicler of these events and the people involved in the events of today.

MELBER: I`m watching you and you`re flanked by a prosecutor who`s listening intently. And there is something that two of you have in common, you both do a mean cross-exam, it`s both part of your jobs. And we saw the Republicans do that as well.

So I`m very curious what you both think of a good cross-examination, which can be punchy and can be argumentative and is distinct and separate from how good your case is, because your case is your case. Here was Congressman Jordan doing his cross. For both of your analysis, let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JORDAN: Ambassador you weren`t on the call, were you? You didn`t listen on President Trump`s call and President Zelensky`s call?

TAYLOR: I did not.

JORDAN: You never talked with Chief of Staff Mulvaney?

TAYLOR: I never did.

JORDAN: You never met the President?

TAYLOR: that`s correct.

JORDAN: You had three meetings again with Zelensky and didn`t come up. This is what I can`t believe. And you`re their star witness. You`re their first witness. You`re the guy based on this - based on - I mean, I`ve seen I`ve seen Church prayer change that are easier to understand than this--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RATHER: Well, keeping in mind, that he`s actually doing this for an audience of one, my opinion is, he pursuing this cross examination to impress the President.

MELBER: Did he make any valid points?

RATHER: I don`t think so.

WEISSMANN: I think they`re like a lot of good defense lawyers you do what you can with - if you don`t really have great facts. That sounds good and it is really not a great argument when you have blocked the people with first-hand information from coming in and testifying and you`ve blocked documents from coming in to say, "Gee, you only have second and information."

And it also leaves aside that the President is actually on a call, and that is first-hand information that in - is known as an admission. And there`s still the bombshell from today that sort for people who followed all the details. You have the President on the day after that call on the 26. Presumably we`re going to hear about how the President himself was thinking about what he had demanded on the 25th,

MELBER: You`re referring to something we mentioned earlier in the show, which is the new evidence, new today. Under oath Taylor saying there was this person who heard the President on the call with Sondland, that person currently unnamed, is testifying in private on Friday. And that means what, that means the plot was being further executed the day after?

WEISSMANN: It also means that you`re going to hear what it is that the President was thinking about. In other words, if he was just thinking this was just a favor, but I didn`t really mean it, you`re going to hear that.

I also - the reports are that President today has said that he does not recall that conversation. That is going to make it pretty important, because you`re going to have Sondland presumably testifying about it. You`re going to have the staffer testifying about it, and you have the President on record saying I don`t recall it. So how`s he going to deny it if the evidence comes out that is actually damning.

MELBER: The other difference which is pursuant to that is you covered presidents who really denied the heart of things to the bitter end. They certainly didn`t before the investigation got going say, "Yes, I did that did and not only did I ask for Ukraine`s help. China should get involved and others." I mean, it boggles the mind.

I want to get your views on that and to let you reflect for a moment and let us all take just 20 seconds and think about what you`ve seen. We did dig up some historic reporting you did at the precipice of the Nixon resignation. Let`s take a look.

It`s coming right up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RATHER: According to his staff unless the President has a sudden change of head and heart, his announcement will be resignation. He reached a tentative decision to do so Monday. Under this plan he would leave Washington as President of the United States. He would arrive in California as a former President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RATHER: Long time ago, different country, different time. There are some parallels with what`s happening today. But, I come - there`s a temptation, I think, to draw too many similarities with Watergate.

I come back to having mentioned right near the top and the big difference is Watergate didn`t have in it, the Clinton impeachment didn`t have in it, the Andrew Johnson - one back in the 19th century, didn`t have it - this business of a foreign power being involved in the election and the military and national security questions involved in this present situation separated out.

Also something you said earlier in the program, and he was talking about that, what I see as the building blocks. Earlier in a program you said each succeeding day hopefully what they - House leadership will have is a building blocks put in place--

MELBER: Yes.

RATHER: And he just outlined a long line of building blocks when these other witnesses come up and they can verify things that have been suggested or testified to report.

MELBER: Yes. And I think it`s important to note. When Watergate first started, the first day the Watergate hearing is on television, frankly, it wasn`t that big a deal for that many Americans. It built over time.

MELBER: It built. Right.

RATHER: So it will be this. Although, I do think, this is my opinion that the Democrats would like very much to get the impeachment in the House done before Christmas.

MELBER: Right. But as you say, any snapshot of a single day is different than what it builds. And those are, as I was discussing, bricks of evidence. Mr. Weissmann used to prosecute people for bricks, but they were a different type of brick.

WEISSMANN: That is true.

MELBER: Weren`t they?

WEISSMANN: But, I think, your point, though, about the President`s behavior in not admitting any wrongdoing and saying, OK, I`m now going to ask China for this, is relevant to the Democrats in terms of a critical thing they`re going to have to answer to the American people is, why should there be a vote of conviction on an impeachment now? Why not just leave it to the year from now?

And one of the answers could be, if you have a President who is not in any way chastened, who is actually saying I`m going to continue doing this, and especially when the crime itself, according to the Democratic theory, is interfering with the election. That all seems to be the kind of case you want to build.

MELBER: This is why we`re in the heart of the Constitution, because crime and punishment is always about both the punitive and the deterrent. And the deterrent is not just against the President, although it may deter, it`s also against the entire federal government.

So the next phone call about another foreign meddling plot or the next military operation, as you mentioned, may make more - even more people, even senior people, even the Chief of Staff, who clearly has been - thinking about his legal liability, think a little differently.

Andrew Weissmann and Dan Rather, so interesting to learn from you both tonight. Dan Rather`s latest book is, "What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism." Quite a book for this season.

Next from drug deals to stalemate, we`re going to break down the key words and why they matter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: We are back with former federal prosecutor David Kelly. David, take a look at this key moment from today`s hearing we haven`t played yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOLDMAN: Whether it`s a quid pro quo, bribery extortion, abuse of power of the office of the presidency, the fact of the matter as you understood it, is that security assistance and the White House meeting were not going to be provided unless Ukraine initiated these two investigations--

TAYLOR: Ambassador Sondland, he described conditions for the Security Assistance and the White House meeting in those terms--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: When I first saw you today after hearing, you mentioned this kind of exchange that the prosecutor doesn`t need to get the witness to say the magic word abuse of power bribery, but what`s going on there?

KELLY: So a good a good prosecutor is going to elicit the facts from a witness, not to let the witness make the argument for him, but have facts that he can later use to argue. Now the preface to Dan`s question, I think, was kind of a preemptive strike, anticipating what the Republicans were going to do on cross-examination. Putting that kind of to the side, just tell me what the facts are, I`ll make the argument later.

MELBER: Play one more here, this is so much talk about the "drug deal." John Bolton`s now famous phrase and they really dig into what did that mean. Why say that. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOLDMAN: What did you understand him to mean in hearing that he said that - used this term "drug deal?"

TAYLOR: Ambassador Bolton didn`t want to be associated with this drug deal. So it was - the implication was it was the domestic politics that was being cooked up--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What`s going on there?

KELLY: Well, look, obviously Dan and the witness have spoken beforehand, and he wanted to - anytime you can get a witness to talk about his understanding of what another person had said, particularly someone who`s not going to be testifying, you`re going to take a bite at it.

MELBER: And that bite is basically getting him just confirm, yes. Everyone knows drug deal means a bad thing. He`s saying it specifically meant this bad bribery plot.

David, you are great. We`ve used you multiple times today. You`re going to join me on the Sunday special. Always good to see you and thank you. David Kelly from the U.S. Attorney`s Office of the Southern District.

I should mention David will be back with us at this event in New York. You can go to msnbc.com/sdny on December 5th and join me and David Kelly and several other federal prosecutors in New York - msnbc.com/sdny. And we`ll be back with more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: An impeachment hearing today, another one on Friday, that`s a lot of news. So we are back this Sunday night 9 p.m. Eastern with a brand new impeachment special and some very special guests.

We also want to hear from you, I`m asking you right now what are your questions about these hearings or the whole process? You can send them to us at any platform, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter @THEBEATWITHARI or @AriMelber.

Bonus points if you use the #IMPEACHMENTDEBATE and you might get your question on air. I was giving you the URL earlier, msnbc.com/sdny for our event. Now I`m giving you our social media so we can answer your questions no matter where you live in the country and I hope to see you 9 p.m. Eastern Sunday night. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF: This is the first in a series of public hearings that committee will be holding as part of the House`s impeachment inquiry. Whether President Trump sought to condition official acts such as a White House meeting or U.S. military assistance on Ukraine`s willingness to assist it two political investigations, the matter is as simple and as terrible as that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Those are the stakes laid out by the man Democrats have in charge of this impeachment probe with the next hearing coming by the then of this week on Friday. We`ll keep it locked here on MSNBC, because "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews has a lot more on today on what comes next on "HARDBALL."

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END